How long does a helmet last?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    How long does a helmet last?

    I've got a Bell Nemesis helmet from 1999. It has not taken any overly hard hits and still looks in great shape. Is it still safe to use or should I be looking for a new helmet.
    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    The Notorious S.L.O
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    Good Question....

    I have a specialized mtn man that I got in 2000, pretty sure it was a 99 model.
    I have always been told that unless it has been subject to an impact significant enough to compact the foam, it is still good.

    But I do recall a thread that surfaced within the last 6 mo that stated that the foam losing its ability to absorb impact over time, and the helmet should be pitched after 3-5 years.

    I still am wearing my specialized anyhow.
    BT
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  3. #3
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    3-5 years is probably a good time frame. As the styrofoam ages it can get more brittle. Also, the little bumps that the helmet receives day to day add up.

  4. #4
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    I have been told that 5 years is the max time frame as the foam does lose it's ability to absorb the impact properly (as designed). I have a couple helmets (some of which are older then 5 years) and they still seem fine. The funny thing is that my old helmet (from 2000) actually matches my new bike so I was thinking of wearing it. My buddy who works at my local lbs said I need to replace it since it is so old and reminded me of the 5 year rule and said is your head worth a $100 or so. Well, we all know the answer to that question. The other side of this equation is with many more people doing downhills we need better protection and the newer helmets give you that.

  5. #5
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    A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a new one after realizing my current helmet was 10 years old (seems like I just bought it). When I got the new one I did a very unscientific test of trying to push my thumbnail into the foam in both helmets to see if there was any noticeable difference in the foam, and they seemed the same to me. Again, this is about as unscientific as you can get, but I'm a little skeptical when the guys that make their money from manufacturing and selling helmets tell you you need a new one every 3 years. If your helmet takes a lot of abuse and is left out in the elements constantly (like leaving it in your car where it may be exposed to sun and heat), I can see that the foam may deteriorate and it may need to be replaced more often.

    Anyway, my new helmet fits better so I'm happy I have it, but I'm not going to start worrying about it in 3 years. And actually, since I purchased last year's model helmet (good deals to be had), does this mean I'm supposed to replace it in 2 years since it's already a year old? I don't think so.

    Plus, if I think I can test a helmet by sticking my thumbnail into it, maybe my head isn't worth a $100.

  6. #6
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    I've got a black Bell Vipro (I think, scratched off) from, I'm guessing, late 80's. My main lid. Best fitting and most comfortable helmet I own (out of 4). No dents or dings and I'll keep rockin' it until, well I'll just keep rockin' it thank you.
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  7. #7
    Nature Rider, Not MTBer
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    I replace after denting or cracking the old one, or after leaving it on top of the car as I drive off. None of mine last more than a year or two.

    Plastics have volatile components that offgas and make the material more brittle with their absence, so your helmet probably does get less effective with age. I'd replace a helmet that got a few years old even if it looked in good shape.
    This is no time for levity. - Oliver Hardy

  8. #8
    Incredulous bastard
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    Well, we all like to hope that our helmet will last a good long while. But mountain biking tends to be hard on your helmet. You have to pay proper attention to it and give it the care it deserves. For example, regularly cleaning your helmet is a good way to keep an eye on it to assure proper functionality. Otherwise, you may not even notice when something goes wrong.

    I like to clean my helmet, on average, about two to three times a week. While doing so, I can easily inspect it for damage. Whether caused by impact or simply by overuse, I keep a good eye out for evidence of damage.

    But itís not like in the old days, you know. When I was younger I used to be really obsessive about cleaning my helmet. Iíd probably clean my helmet two to four times as often as I do now. As you grow up and gain responsibilities, you lose sight of the things that used to matter to you, the things you used to find important. And although I doubt Iíd ever go through wit it, now that Iím older Iíll admit to showing interest in cleaning some other folksí helmet. Or perhaps even cleaning several helmets at a time.

    Wait, what was this thread about?
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  9. #9
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    Under normal usage, a CSPC certified helmet should last about 6 years- which includes the safety factor. Without the safety factor, its 4 years. CSPC certified helmets use expanded polystyrene (which is just a more harder version of styrofoam). The regular styrofoam is treated with serveral chemical procedures which yeilds the final polystyrene. In order to maintain its physical properties, it needs to be constantly chemically treated. If not, it gradually starts to degrade over time. The degradation takes at least four years to cause any significant change in performance.

    Once the four years have gone by, the polystyrene loses the smoothness- which decreases its ability to skid well on the ground. It also loses the internal molecular bonding/reinforcements, which causes it to become very brittle, and might breakup on initial contact during a crash.

    One more place to replace the helmet is when there is visual evidence of degradation caused by UV rays. This is very rare, but I have seen a couple of buddies who have had the helmets out in the sun for too long.... usually manufacturers put UV coating on the outer plastic shell of helmet- if the helmet shows signs of fading, probably the coating has worn out and then its time to replace!

    Another time to change the helmet is when you are tired with the look! (ok this one is lame, but I admit I have done it!)

    Just to be on the safe side, I replace my helmet every 5 years.
    "Winners never quit. Quitters never win. But those who never win and never quit are idiots."

  10. #10
    Double-metric mtb man
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    I've always heard 3-5 years to be safe. UV light, pollutants in the air and so forth can break down the foam and reduce the helmet's effectiveness. Besides, with folks changing/adding bikes on a regular basis, it gives you an excuse to color coordinate
    As if four times wasn't enough-> Psycho Mike's 2013 Ride to Conquer Cancer Page

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  11. #11
    The Martian
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    A typical bike helmet should be replaced after ANY fall where it hits the ground technically. The foam compresses even when there may not be visible damage. Now, I grant I've dropped mine once or twice and I'm sure banged it against something carrying it around, but if I ever come off the bike and hit my head it's going in the garbage and I'm counting it as money well spent.

    If you don't crash it is recommended that helmets be replaced after no more than 5yrs. This is because the foam degrades with weather, time, and all the little dings we put in them and ignore. I replace mine every 3 at most at this point because I carry it around a lot (ride the bike to class, then carry the helmet with me all day) and so it gets beat around more than I'd like, and well....I've seen the end results of head injury so I'm a little gun shy.

    I have no experience with the full face or skate type helmets that have the hard plastic shells on them. You may be able to find info on the manufacturer's website though.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by no one in particular
    Well, we all like to hope that our helmet will last a good long while. But mountain biking tends to be hard on your helmet. You have to pay proper attention to it and give it the care it deserves. For example, regularly cleaning your helmet is a good way to keep an eye on it to assure proper functionality. Otherwise, you may not even notice when something goes wrong.

    I like to clean my helmet, on average, about two to three times a week. While doing so, I can easily inspect it for damage. Whether caused by impact or simply by overuse, I keep a good eye out for evidence of damage.

    But itís not like in the old days, you know. When I was younger I used to be really obsessive about cleaning my helmet. Iíd probably clean my helmet two to four times as often as I do now. As you grow up and gain responsibilities, you lose sight of the things that used to matter to you, the things you used to find important. And although I doubt Iíd ever go through wit it, now that Iím older Iíll admit to showing interest in cleaning some other folksí helmet. Or perhaps even cleaning several helmets at a time.

    Wait, what was this thread about?





    I'd say can it after 3-4 years, or whenever you crash it, whichever happens first.

  13. #13
    Nice no rass
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    I would say 5 years is a good length of time before retiring a helmet, unless it has any major impact that causes a dent or crack before that time.

    I see this happen all the time in the ski industry: People have ski boots that they use a few times a year. The boots are now in the 6-10 year old range (or worse) and they literally explode into pieces from the stress of use while coming down the hill. The ones that are 10+ years often do it while walking out to the slopes...they just crack right open.

    Plastics and styrofoams get brittle with age. After 5 years, I wouldn't want my helmet busting into pieces when I need it to stay intact during a crash or low branch smack at speed.

    At the rate I crash, I won't get 5 years anyway.

  14. #14
    exacerbated member
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    Longer that a loaf of bread, but not as long as a promise.

  15. #15

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    Mostly urban rumors here. Foam is just fine

    Well, we see the usual urban rumors here. The foam will degrade.....off gas.........uv rays will ruin it.........it will lose its strength........

    Here is what the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute says....

    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.
    But some folks should replace their saddles to avoid structural failure....Depends on your weight and the stress you place on the saddle.
    So, if you look like this, check your saddle rails and replace as needed.


  16. #16

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    It may also depend on when you hit that nexus in time when you're starting to think it may need replacing in the future, and you find an insane deal. I had actually been wearing one of the $20 Ironman ones I picked up from Walmart. It's a lot more solid than the Bell ones sold there, but because of the limited venting it was very hot. Last month I found a Specialized M1 marked down from $100 to $45. It's definitely made a difference.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailville
    Plus, if I think I can test a helmet by sticking my thumbnail into it, maybe my head isn't worth a $100.

    Not much for a man to ask I dare say.. the simple maturity to ensure a limitless supply of clean socks.

  18. #18
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    Thanks for all the info. I don't mind spending the money on a helmet, just not if I don't need to.


    I think I can hear that new Fox helmet calling my name

  19. #19
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    depends what type of ridin you do. Cross country i would say that the helmet should be fine until it is dropped. But if your doing more agressive stuff like freeride or downhill then i'd replace it.
    i ride my bi*ch hard

  20. #20
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    I'm almost sure motorcycle helmets have an expiration date whether involved in an accident or not.

    On the inside of my mtb helmet the production date is clearly made visible. Surely there is a reason for this ?!
    Not much for a man to ask I dare say.. the simple maturity to ensure a limitless supply of clean socks.

  21. #21

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    A helmet will last right up until it bounces off a car, and then the shoulder of the road, and then you give up on commuting and go back to MTBiking since it never hurt that much!


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