Life of a Helmet

Discussion in 'Bicycle Mechanics and Repairs' started by jethro10, 18 May 2010.

  1. jethro10

    jethro10 Über Member

    Lake District, UK
    I read recently, but can't remember where, that a helmet should be replaced every 3 years even if undamaged.

    Does anyone know why it becomes, unsafe I guess, after approx. 3 years?

  2. oliglynn

    oliglynn Über Member

    ... had my helmet for around 9 years :S If this is true perhaps a new one should be on the cards!
  3. siadwell

    siadwell Veteran

    From Snell memorial Foundation website:

    "Why should you replace your helmet every five years?
    The five year replacement recommendation is based on a consensus by both the helmet manufacturers and the Snell Foundation. Glues, resins and other materials used in helmet production over can affect liner materials. Hair oils, body fluids and cosmetics, as well as normal "wear and tear" all contribute to helmet degradation. Petroleum based products present in cleaners, paints, fuels and other commonly encountered materials may also degrade materials used in many helmets possibly degrading performance. Additionally, experience indicates there will be a noticeable improvement in the protective characteristic of helmets over a five year period due to advances in materials, designs, production methods and the standards. Thus, the recommendation for five year helmet replacement is a judgment call stemming from a prudent safety philosophy. "
  4. Norm

    Norm Guest

    Further to siadwell's excellent post, a few other factors can also affect performance, the main one I don't see there is sunlight, which can affect both the shell and the protective inner of a helmet. So a helmet which is 5 years old and has been stored in a cool dark place all that time might be ok, but a helmet which is stored on a south facing window sill may need replacing in less than 5 years.

    I use 3 years as the gauge for my motorbike helmets. The oldest cycling helmet I've got is still under a year old.
  5. Steve Austin

    Steve Austin The Marmalade Kid

    also, technology moves fast. the older the helmet, the older the technology.

    Not to say that the newest helmets are better, but its worth adding that into the equation
  6. Kestevan

    Kestevan Last of the Summer Winos

    And of course, if you don't keep giving the helmet manufacturers lots of your money at regular intervals, their share holders will have to switch to cheaper brands of champaigne and caviar.
  7. GilesM

    GilesM Guru

    East Lothian
    I wish I could get a helmet to last 3 years without a major impact, on my fourth one since July 2007. I should add these are all off road impacts, I don't usually wear one on the road.
  8. Shorinjidude

    Shorinjidude Über Member

    I'm with Kestavan, it's styro foam for gods sake!
  9. Mark_Robson

    Mark_Robson Senior Member

    According to Wiki ( the font of all knowledge :tongue: ) styro takes 500 years to decompose, so a five year shelf life seems a little low to me. Saying that I've no doubt that Cunobelin will be along with some fascinating statistics about effective helmet life, which in the case of a EN1078 helmet will no doubt be 30 seconds. :tongue:
  10. Steve Austin

    Steve Austin The Marmalade Kid

    I don't think this thread should turn into 'is it worth wearing a helmet?' or 'will a helmet save my life?'
    but i always reckon if you are going to wear something that 'might' help you in the event of an accident, then it is worth using a helmet that isn't knackered from old age
  11. Mark_Robson

    Mark_Robson Senior Member

    I work in the chemical industry and hard helmets are mandatory for travelling around the site and my company runs a policy of replacing them every two years. This figure is based upon average wear and tear on a helmet in every day use. Saying that I only replaced my helmet after five years because it looked old, it had had very little use and had never been used in anger. I would imagine that the same applies with cycling helmets. As far as I am aware cycling helmets do not have a sell by date so as long as they are properly stored they should be fine. The deciding factor should be based around much wear and tear that they receive in everyday use.
    Obviously it goes without saying that they need to re replaced if they receive a blow caused by a hard impact.
  12. ufkacbln

    ufkacbln Guest

    There are suggestions that newer designs are far from "better" and older helmet designs are safer!

    One example (Evidence to the ASTM helmet standards committee)

  13. ufkacbln

    ufkacbln Guest

    Anyway back to the topic:

    The standard advice is that on the Snell site, but varies between manafacturers. but there is another angle - the Crash Replacement Policies.

    Many manafacturers will replace a helmet damaged in an accident at reduced cost.


    What is interesting is that the programmes only covers two or three years...... is this because they feel that the helmet is only useful in the first two or three years and therefore should have been replaced at this stage.

    However only a very very naughty person would deliberately damage a two year old helmet and then claim it was a crash so they could get a subsidised replacement!
  14. Trumpettom001

    Trumpettom001 Well-Known Member

    Might hijack this thread myself a little - I have a helmet that I've used fairly regularly for 2 years... I quite often get spots where the front of the helmet meets the forehead... not a great place for a spot or 6...

    anyway - I've found that washing the helmet in water helps significantly... But does an excess of water weaken the thing? shouldn't have thought so but, you never know....
  15. HJ

    HJ Cycling in Scotland

    Auld Reekie
    The official reason is that the polystyrene hardens with time, so it no longer absorbs energy as it collapse on impact.

    The unofficial reason is to sell more helmets...
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