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  1. #1
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    Helmet lifespan, time to dispell the myth!

    Many of us believe that bike helmets have a limited lifespan before they become unsafe to use. This myth was put forth by the helmet companies themselves as a way to sell more helmets. As long as a helmet has not been involved in a crash, there is no reason to replace it. Sweat and sunlight have NO affect on a helmet. If the pads are worn out, they should be replaced, but the helmet itself should be good for as long as you own it. Here is some info I found on the subject.

    Occasionally somebody spreads rumors that sweat and ultraviolet (UV) exposure will cause your helmet to degrade. Sweat will not do that. The standards do not permit manufacturers to make a helmet that degrades from sweat, and the EPS, EPP or EPU foam is remarkably unaffected by salt water. Your helmet will get a terminal case of grunge before it dies of sweat. UV can affect the strength of the shell material, though. Since helmets spend a lot of time in the sun, manufacturers usually put UV inhibitors in the plastic for their shells that control UV degradation. If your helmet is fading, maybe the UV inhibitors are failing, so you probably should replace it. Chances are it has seen an awful lot of sun to have that happen. Otherwise, try another brand next time and let us know what brand faded on you.

    At least one shop told a customer that the EPS in his three year old helmet was now "dried out." That is highly unlikely, unless the EPS is placed in an oven for some period of time and baked. The interior of your car, for example, will not do that, based on helmets we have seen and at least one lab crash test of a helmet always kept in a car in Virginia over many summers. EPS is a long-lived material little affected by normal environmental factors. Unless you mistreat it we would not expect it to "dry out" enough to alter its performance for many years.

    In sum, we don't find the case for replacing a helmet that meets the ASTM or Snell standards that compelling if the helmet is still in good shape and fits you well...

  2. #2
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    Thanks for the useful info, but who is the "we" you refer to? Are you a helmet expert? Not being sarcastic, I just want to know if you're speaking as an authority or representing an agency or test company.

  3. #3
    Hoopy Frod
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    You provided no data, no sources, and are playing with words in a field that impacts rider safety. I'm not saying you're wrong, but how would we know if you don't provide a way to back up your claims.

  4. #4
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    I'm just sharing some info I found on the topic of helmet lifespans that I found last night while doing some research. I always doubted the 3-5 year time frame helmet companies said a helmet was good for. Think about it, if you think that the styrofoam is effected by sunlight, how does it get exposed to sunlight? It's covered by a plastic shell, and you're wearing it. It has no exposure to the sun. If you left it outside upsidedown in the Arizona sun all the time, I could see that having an affect on it. It's usually bike shops that tell you helmets need replacing, of course, they want to sell you one! So no, I'm nothing more than a bike rider who always wears a helmet, and I was just looking for more info on when to replace a helmet and found the information I posted. If someone has a compelling arguement in favor of helmet replacement, I'd be interested in hearing it. But as far as I can tell, helmet replacement suggestions come from the companies that want to sell more helmets, and that's about it. Here's another myth I'm going to dispell, when you die, your finger nails and hair do not continue to grow.

  5. #5
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    OK, here is where I got my information from, the Bicycle Helmet safety Institute. Check it out for yourself.
    When to Replace a Helmet?

  6. #6
    Save Jesus
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    The MET company in the link provided said "8 years". So what goes bad after 8 years? I think if you poke at the foam with your fingernails and it isn't crumbly, you should still be ok. A Bell/Giro rep I spoke to at Sea Otter admitted that their helmets don't expire unless you really cook it.

  7. #7
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    Under normal use, I don't think a helmet will ever go bad to the point where it shouldn't be worn. Because of possible litigations, no helmet company will tell you that. Besides, if people continue to believe the 3-5 year replacement myth, they sell more helmets.

  8. #8
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    My Giro is going on 15 years. Hasn't been used a whole lot, has never had an impact, the shell and foam are in good shape. Time to replace?

  9. #9
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    I would start to get concerned after repeated smaller hits.
    You could over time be compressing the foam via many small hits to a degree that would not protect you in a large crash, and would also not be visable to naked eye inspection.

    So, if you have had your helmet for a few years; given yourself a few wallops from ducking under trees/limbs, have had a few offs where you have given yourself a small knock, dropped your helmet a few too many times - it may be time to consider replacing it.

    I'm thinking of doing that to my Hex - it is now a 5 or 6 years old and has suffered many many small falls, headbutting hanging tree limbs, and clumbsyness.

    So, for a hundred bucks every few years, I would rather be safe than sorry.

    michael

  10. #10
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    I think the key is here, what is “normal” use?

    My helmet seems to last a long time. My daughters helmets last just a few years.

    When I went to school, we had lockers… now they don’t. Their “normal” use is to keep the helmet out in the California sun all day with the bike Monday through Friday during the school year. On the wknds, they ride with me… From junior high through high school where they ride their bikes to school most days, I get about three years of use…

    I figure I’d be replacing them anyway as a helmet I bought for them in junior high school would not be cool to wear to school in high school.
    Mine? I couldn’t tell you how old it is… been a while…


    One person’s normal is another person’s abuse…

  11. #11
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    You don't need 5 tablespoons of dishwasher detergent in your automatic dish washer either. Only dishwasher companies and the dishsoap makers recommend filling "both your pre-rinse AND your main wash compartment fully". I've ruined two dishwashers using this 'recommendation'. Any long time service rep will tell you 1 tblsp is more than enough, even in super hard water cities like where I live.
    Oh!!!...and a dash of TSP goes a long way for greasy dishes. Yes, I know....banned in many states but that's how I roll! I also tread on cryptobiotic soil when given the chance...... What the heck were we talking about?

  12. #12
    Beer Me!
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    I had a giro pnumo last me 5 years untill I noticed cracks going completely through the foam prior to a ride. It had never been wrecked, but was used about twice a week during spring summer fall. Replaced it. I also had a giro Xen for 6 years, then the straps gave out. Replaced it.

    Both of these helmets were never abused, or baked in a car, just a lot of sweat, water, mud, dirt, etc...

    My question: is it really worth the risk? if its the bucket protecting your brain, isn't $100 after 5 years worth it? yea, maybe if you only ride a couple times a month, no need to get a new one, but i bet in some cases 5 years is too long.
    My Bike: FORM Cycles Titanium Prevail 29er

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  13. #13
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    Believe what you want to believe. My head is important, I'm not risking my brain because of a stranger's post on the internet. I replace all my helmets every 3 years, if its a scam by the helmet companies, so be it, my head is safe.
    2013 Transition TransAM 29er
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by eatdrinkride View Post
    You don't need 5 tablespoons of dishwasher detergent in your automatic dish washer either. Only dishwasher companies and the dishsoap makers recommend filling "both your pre-rinse AND your main wash compartment fully". I've ruined two dishwashers using this 'recommendation'. Any long time service rep will tell you 1 tblsp is more than enough, even in super hard water cities like where I live.
    Oh!!!...and a dash of TSP goes a long way for greasy dishes. Yes, I know....banned in many states but that's how I roll! I also tread on cryptobiotic soil when given the chance...... What the heck were we talking about?
    Try a cup of vinegar, not quite TriSodiumPhosphate, but helps cut the grease, and also aids in leaving yer glassware spot-free.

    and next on the Home Cleaning Tips Forum........


    michael
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  15. #15
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    Depending on the manufacturer it's recommended to replace your helmet between three and eight years of age. I personally replace mine every year or two depending on how beat up it is and how many dents it has from being dropped. Of course if it's taken a hit in an accident it should be replaced immediately.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mykel View Post
    I would start to get concerned after repeated smaller hits.
    You could over time be compressing the foam via many small hits to a degree that would not protect you in a large crash, and would also not be visable to naked eye inspection.

    So, if you have had your helmet for a few years; given yourself a few wallops from ducking under trees/limbs, have had a few offs where you have given yourself a small knock, dropped your helmet a few too many times - it may be time to consider replacing it.

    I'm thinking of doing that to my Hex - it is now a 5 or 6 years old and has suffered many many small falls, headbutting hanging tree limbs, and clumbsyness.

    So, for a hundred bucks every few years, I would rather be safe than sorry.

    michael
    exactly how i feel. what you say may very well be true but after a year or so my helmet has been dropped countless times, ducked a few branches, and has even seen a direct hit or two. i can spare $100 for my head every year or so.

  17. #17
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    How could anyone buy into something said by the Bicycle Hemlet Safety Institute? What do they know about bike helmet safety anyway? Not replacing your helmet exactly at the three year mark, would be like driving your car after the warranty runs out! The OP must be making money off this some how.

  18. #18
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    Every time you put on your helmet you are compressing the foam. Not very much, but you are doing it, and it's difficult if not impossible to measure.

    Here's what I do know-- I want maximum performance from my helmet when I crash. I replace my helmets after every direct impact or every three years, whichever comes first. My brain is worth the money. I could give a **** about The Great Helmet Company Conspiracy. Good God.

    Your head, your decision.

    M-
    I'll be along... eventually.

  19. #19
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    My ATV helmets usually last a year or less, because I wouldn't think of riding without it. Unfortunatly, I have ridden my bikes without a helmet many times. I grew up in a time when it was uncool unless you were riding ramps on your bmx.
    When is the last time you did something for the first time! -David Lee Roth-

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by msylvan View Post
    Every time you put on your helmet you are compressing the foam. Not very much, but you are doing it,

    M-
    No you're not.

    I have no empirical data to support my stance, and either do you. Just say'n..we can all make net statements, that doesn't make them true. I'll ride my 3.5 year old helmet with 3/4'' thick foam without a concern for the nano-meters of compression I may or may not have caused over the years. Others will buy a new one on day 1,095 because they are told it's spoiled on that day. My wife thinks milk and yogurt is inedible the day after the date stamped on the carton. I'll drink/eat it if it's 10 days later and smells good. We all have a different tone on life.
    Last edited by eatdrinkride; 06-04-2012 at 09:22 PM.

  21. #21
    26 for life.
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    If you haven't crashed your brains out in 3-5 years, you're not trying hard enough.

    Sent via carrier pigeon.
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  22. #22
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    I was just trying to share info from a reliable source that states there is no reason to replace your helmet if it hasn't been damaged. If you want to buy a new one each year, by all means, it's your money, spend it how you want. I was just letting it be known you don't have to for safety reasons.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by beanbag View Post
    The MET company in the link provided said "8 years". So what goes bad after 8 years? I think if you poke at the foam with your fingernails and it isn't crumbly, you should still be ok. A Bell/Giro rep I spoke to at Sea Otter admitted that their helmets don't expire unless you really cook it.
    I've been leaving my helmet in the car and it probably isn't a good idea but I will end up replacing it around every five years,

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by 83stumpjumper View Post
    I was just trying to share info from a reliable source that states there is no reason to replace your helmet if it hasn't been damaged. If you want to buy a new one each year, by all means, it's your money, spend it how you want. I was just letting it be known you don't have to for safety reasons.
    This was interesting,

    Conclusion

    We would still avoid applying any hair product, sunscreen or insect repellant directly to a helmet as we did in these tests. And if you use sunscreen or insect repellant on your head before riding you would always want to wash it off the helmet with dishwashing detergent and water afterward, or just take it in the shower with you. But the lab tests demonstrated that minor surface effects from incidental contact are not likely to significantly degrade a helmet's impact performance.
    Testing cosmetics for damage to helmets

  25. #25
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    Just tightening the straps and gravity...

    ...and 35 years of using bicycle and motorcycle helmets...nothing empirical.

    If I wanted to be patronizing like you I would type something like, "Your helmet that magically floats above your head and is immune to nano-meters of compression is incredible. I just can't afford one like it."



    Quote Originally Posted by eatdrinkride View Post
    No you're not.

    I have no empirical data to support my stance, and either do you. Just say'n..we can all make net statements, that doesn't make them true. I'll ride my 3.5 year old helmet with 3/4'' thick foam without a concern for the nano-meters of compression I may or may not have caused over the years. Others will buy a new one on day 1,095 because they are told it's spoiled on that day. My wife thinks milk and yogurt is inedible the day after the date stamped on the carton. I'll drink/eat it if it's 10 days later and smells good. We all have a different tone on life.
    Last edited by portnoy; 06-06-2012 at 11:19 AM.
    I'll be along... eventually.

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