how long does a helmet last?- Mtbr.com
Results 1 to 29 of 29
  1. #1
    Thread Killer
    Reputation: bucksaw87's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    762

    how long does a helmet last?

    i own a helmet (bell forza 2 pro) that i purchased in 2001...haven't wrecked in it, the helmet is still in really good condition...well, except for the scuffs and age. but, how long is a helmet good for? i've heard that the styrofoam in the shell can degrade over time and make the helmet rather unsafe to ride in.
    I ride a 26'er with tubes and rim brakes.
    Yeah, I'm basically living in the stone age.

  2. #2
    What could go wrong ...
    Reputation: Zoke2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    1,996
    I replace my helmet every three years or after a crash.
    I used to ride to Win ... Now I ride to Grin

    While my guitar gently weeps, my bike sits there mocking me

  3. #3
    bi-winning
    Reputation: rkj__'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    11,108
    I've typically damaged mine before they pass the 5 year mark. Sure, UV rays ans sweat will degrade the materials, but I don't think you will see anybody here bring forth evidence which displays how greatly the helmets protection level degrades over the years.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.

  4. #4
    Self Appointed Judge&Jury
    Reputation: DIRTJUNKIE's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    34,798
    Mainly after a hard hit you “must” replace it. But if you are such a good rider that the helmet never gets a good wack 5 years [I never make it that far ] would be a good rule of thumb due to degrading.

  5. #5
    TLL
    TLL is offline

    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    3,060
    5 years, 4 months, 11 days. Or so.

  6. #6
    Self Appointed Judge&Jury
    Reputation: DIRTJUNKIE's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    34,798
    Quote Originally Posted by TLL
    5 years, 4 months, 11 days. Or so.
    I would say you're pushing your luck with that extra 4 months and 11 days.
    Last edited by DIRTJUNKIE; 07-09-2008 at 03:54 PM.

  7. #7
    OnTheTrailAgain
    Reputation: 2ndgen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    2,165
    Some good related reading...
    __________________________________________________ ______________________

    The Two Minute Summary

    You always need a helmet wherever you ride. You can expect to crash in your next 4,500 miles of riding, or maybe much sooner than that!

    Even a low-speed fall on a bicycle path can scramble your brains.

    Laws in 21 states and over 145 localities require helmets.

    Make sure your helmet fits to get all the protection you are paying for. A good fit means level on your head, touching all around, comfortably snug but not tight. The helmet should not move more than about an inch in any direction, and must not pull off no matter how hard you try.

    Standards are no longer a big issue in the US market, but check inside for a CPSC sticker.

    Pick white or a bright color for visibility to be sure that motorists and other cyclists can see you.

    Common sense tells you to avoid a helmet with snag points sticking out, a squared-off shell, inadequate vents, excessive vents, an extreme "aero" shape, dark colors, thin straps, complicated adjustments or a rigid visor that could snag in a fall.


    Consumer Reports has some recommendations for brands.


    If you have six minutes, please read on!



    Six Minutes More
    Your brain is probably worth reading this!

    Need One? Yes!!
    The average careful bike rider may still crash about every 4,500 miles. Head injuries cause 75% of our 750+ annual bicycle deaths. Medical research shows that bike helmets can prevent 85% of cyclists' head injuries. And helmets may be required by law in your area.


    How Does a Helmet Work?
    A helmet reduces the peak energy of a sharp impact. This requires a layer of stiff foam to cushion the blow by crushing. Most bicycle helmets do this with expanded polystyrene (EPS), the white picnic cooler foam. Once crushed, EPS does not recover. Another foam, expanded polypropylene (EPP), does recover, but is much less common. A stronger EPS called GECET appeared in 1992 and is widely used now. Another foam called EPU (expanded polyurethane) is used in Taiwan. It has a uniform cell structure and crushes without rebound, but is heavier and requires a manufacturing process that is not environmentally friendly. The spongy foam inside a helmet is for comfort and fit, not for impact.
    The helmet must stay on your head even when you hit more than once--usually a car first, and then the road. So it needs a strong strap and an equally strong fastener. The helmet should sit level on your head and cover as much as possible. Above all, with the strap fastened you should not be able to get the helmet off your head by any combination of pulling or twisting. If it comes off or slips enough to leave large areas of your head unprotected, adjust the straps again or try another helmet. Keep the strap comfortably snug when riding.



    What Type do I Need?
    Most helmets are made of EPS foam with a thin plastic outer shell. The shell helps the helmet skid easily on rough pavement to avoid jerking your neck. The shell also holds the EPS together after the first impact. Some excellent helmets are made by molding EPS in the shell rather than adding the shell later.
    Beware of gimmicks. You want a smoothly rounded outer shell, with no sharp ribs or snag points. Excessive vents mean less area contacting your head, which could concentrate force on one point. "Aero" helmets are not noticeably faster, and in a crash the "tail" could snag or knock the helmet aside. Skinny straps are less comfortable. Dark helmets are hard for motorists to see. Rigid visors can snag or shatter in a fall. Helmet standards do not address these problems--it's up to you!



    Standards
    A sticker inside the helmet tells what standard it meets. Helmets made for U.S. sale must meet the US Consumer Product Safety Commission standard, so look for a CPSC sticker. ASTM's standard is comparable. Snell's B-95 and N-94 standards are tougher but seldom used. The weak ANSI Z90.4 standard is dead.
    Fit is not certified by any standard, so test that on your own head. Visors are not tested for shattering or snagging in a fall, so you are on your own there.



    Comfort Requirements
    Coolness, ventilation, fit and sweat control are the most critical comfort needs. Air flow over the head determines coolness, and larger front vents provide better air flow. Most current helmets have adequate cooling for most riders. Sweat control can require a brow pad or separate sweatband. A snug fit with no pressure points ensures comfort and correct position on the head when you crash. Weight is not an issue with today's helmets.


    Special Problems
    Some head shapes require more fiddling with fitting pads and straps. Extra small heads may need thick fitting pads. Extra large heads require an XXL or the huge Bell Kinghead. Ponytail ports can improve fit for those with long hair. Bald riders may want to avoid helmets with big top vents to prevent funny tan lines. For a softer landing, seniors should pick a thicker, less dense model without huge vents.



    How to Buy
    We always recommend checking out the latest Consumer Reports article, but they can't cover all of the available brands and models. We have a review up on helmets for the current season, but it has no impact ratings.
    When you pick up a helmet, look first for a CPSC sticker inside and a smooth shell with a bright color outside. Put it on, adjust the pads and straps or the one-size-fits-all head ring, and then try hard to tear it off. Look for vents and sweat control. Helmets sell in bike shops or by mail order from $20 up, or in discount stores for less. A good shop helps with fitting, and fit is important for safety. A discount helmet can be equally protective if you take the time to fit it carefully. Helmets are cheap now, so don't wait for a sale. Many of us bought our helmets after a crash. You can be smarter than that.




    Kids Helmets
    Check out our pamphlet on child helmets.

    When Must I Replace a Helmet?
    Replace any helmet if you crash. Impact crushes some of the foam, although the damage may not be visible. Helmets work so well that you need to examine them for marks or dents to know if you hit. Most manufacturers recommend replacement after five years. We think that depends on usage, and most helmets given reasonable care are good for longer than that. But if your helmet is from the 70's, it's time to replace it. Replace the buckle if it cracks or a piece breaks off. No one requires you to replace your helmet, so give it some individual thought.


    Bike Helmets for Skating?
    The ASTM standards for biking and inline skating are identical. But aggressive skating and skateboard helmets have their own ASTM standard, designed for multiple hits with lesser impact severity. Those helmets do not have to be designed for bicycling. Do not use a skate helmet for bicycling unless it has a CPSC sticker!

    Warning! No Helmets on Playgrounds!
    Warning: Children must remove helmets before climbing on playground equipment or trees, where a helmet can snag and choke them. Here is more information on that problem.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------




    The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
    BHSI is the helmet advocacy program of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Our volunteers provide helmet information and work on the ASTM national helmet standard committee. In 1983 we published in Bicycling Magazine the first bicycle helmet article including actual lab test results (based on testing done for us by the Snell Foundation). We are funded by small consumer donations of about $12,000 a year. We do not accept funds from manufacturers or anyone involved in helmet sales.

    BHSI is located at 4611 Seventh Street South, Arlington, VA 22204-1419, tel. 703-486-0100. Our Web server where you found this page is at www.helmets.org. Our email address is [email protected].

    Our parent organization (WABA) is a local non-profit founded in 1972 to improve bicycling conditions in the Washington, DC area and encourage the use of bicycles for transportation. BHSI is an outgrowth of the WABA Helmet Committee, which began ride testing helmets in 1974. WABA has a Web page at www.waba.org.


    This pamphlet was produced with donations from those who read it earlier. We welcome your tax-deductible donation to make it available to the next rider or parent who will need it. Checks can be made payable to WABA/BHSI. Thanks!

    Copyright 2008 by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
    A program of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association

    http://www.helmets.org/guide.htm

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Anonymous's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    2,797
    How do ya'll keep from crashing for that long?
    Your fear of looking stupid is holding you back.

  9. #9
    .
    Reputation: Timon's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    1,533
    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous
    How do ya'll keep from crashing for that long?
    i'll crash ~2 times a ride... and sometimes pretty hard.
    but i don't slam my head into a tree/rock/stump/the ground every time i go down. usually will break the fall with my arms and my head won't even touch. doesn't mean i should replace my helmet.

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation: jervana's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    109
    I read somewhere that 2 years is a good mark. Don't know really why, just remember reading that.

    I've replaced mine after a good year's use, mostly because the pads have become really gnarly with dirt and sweat. And they're falling off.

  11. #11
    Five is right out
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    3,174
    From my own reading, UV and sweat do NOT degrade the foam in helmets. Barring collision damage, I'd trust a helmet under ten years old. I think that the 2-3 year recommendations are generated through lawyer CYA statements or a society that is used to disposable Ikea/Wal-Mart crap falling apart on a frequent basis.

    This site has a lot of good helmet info: http://www.helmets.org/guide.htm

  12. #12
    Bikecurious
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    301
    I have also read that helmets should be replaced about every 3 years. But I figure that styrofoam is probably one of those thing that will survive after an H-bomb (along with Keith Richards, Twinkies, and cockroaches). I have a friend who wants to start riding but is pretty broke and is helmetless. I found one of my first helmets which I think was only worn 2-3 times, but is probably over 16 years old. Seems to be in great condition except for the foam. Any reason not to let her use it with some new pads? I figure it's better than nothing, right?
    Howdy Doody's past the House of Aquarius

  13. #13
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    2,495
    Its a good rule of thumb to replace your helmets every 3 seasons. Always buy new helmets.

    Even "left over" new helmets aren't the best idea. The material in helmets do have a shelf life.....they break down even just sitting on shelf in a shop.
    Vermonter - bikes, beers and skis.

  14. #14
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    2,533
    Quote Originally Posted by nomit
    i'll crash ~2 times a ride... and sometimes pretty hard.
    but i don't slam my head into a tree/rock/stump/the ground every time i go down. usually will break the fall with my arms and my head won't even touch. doesn't mean i should replace my helmet.
    Yeah a hard crash that doesn't involve your head won't require you to replace a helmet. Just be careful breaking the fall with your arms. I know it's easy to say "tuck and roll" - I fell just right this winter and tore a rotator cuff. Had I just taken the fall with my chest let my helmet hit the snow, probably would have been fine.

  15. #15
    OnTheTrailAgain
    Reputation: 2ndgen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    2,165
    And might I suggest that the old helmets be donated to a poor child who otherwise wouldn't be able to own one.
    A good used helmet is better than no helmet at all.


  16. #16
    ...idios...
    Reputation: SteveUK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    5,662
    "but i don't slam my head into a tree/rock/stump/the ground every time i go down. usually will break the fall with my arms and my head won't even touch. doesn't mean i should replace my helmet."

    (I was writing this as emtnate was posting, so pardon me for repeating some of what he said)

    It's actually good practice to land on your head. Well, sort of. Although putting your hands out is something of a natural reaction, the height you'd fall from when you come off a bike is not a natural height to fall from, nor is the angle from which you fall. By aiming for a hands first landing, even at relatively low speeds, you run an increased risk of breaking your wrist(s) and/or clavical. Rather than aim to use hands to stop your fall, in some (many) instances you should really be considering them part of the body group you want to protect in a fall. Hit and roll, with the helmet being the first point of contact (and also most likely the only part of you wiht any additional protection), is good technique. Being able to fall off your bike is as important as any skill you develop to keep you on it.

    What use is a philosopher who doesn't hurt anybody's feelings? -
    Diogenes


  17. #17
    Founder: Dirty3hirties
    Reputation: ddraewwg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    2,023
    I don't buy the whole "helmets break down" theory....more like marketing BS to me. Styrofoam would take hundreds, thousands of years to disintegrate. I highly doubt that sweat/dirt/UV rays are going to accelerate that enough to make it dangerous.

    However, I wouldn't put it beyond these companies to engineer foam with some organic materials (i.e. corn). There are foam "hybrids" in the food industry that use corn to significantly accelerate the degradation process. That would be pretty shady in my book but hey....they're a business....they can do whatever they want. But to purposely accelerate that to promote more sales is pretty lowhanded. I'm probably wrong of course so given that, I say ride your helmet and if you never crash/ding it, then I wouldn't worry about it. But at about $130 max for the piece of mind you may have, maybe it's worth it to you. But a "new" helmet doesn't necessarily mean it's better either.

  18. #18
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    2,533
    I would advise against people donating old helmets to anyone for the same reason I oppose the proposed helmet laws at ski resorts in Michigan. When given an old helmet (or rental at ski resorts) you do not know the history of the helmet. Like mentioned, one good crash can cause internal damage to the helmet, reducing its effectiveness. I could just picture someone donating a helmet after a crash thinking it's "good enough for Goodwill". I would never put my family at that risk for that false sense of security.

  19. #19
    wanna dance?
    Reputation: HotBlack's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    1,073
    The myth (LBS Myth #685816) that helmets degrade over a period of a few years is a gross exaggeration.

    Constant exposure to sweat and UV, shows deterioration of the foam that is directly exposed to the solution and light. The corrosive elements do not "tunnel" into your helmet and weaken its structure from the inside out. The plastic shell shields the foam from UV, and the velcro pads isolate the it from your sweat.

    Look at your helmet. If the foam in your helmet looks melted, then you are either the worlds sweatiest person, or you've been wearing it inside out, and it is time for a replacement.

    Otherwise, replace your helmet when it's suffered an impact sufficient to crack it.

    Just a case of Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

  20. #20
    bi-winning
    Reputation: rkj__'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    11,108
    Quote Originally Posted by VTSession
    Even "left over" new helmets aren't the best idea. The material in helmets do have a shelf life.....they break down even just sitting on shelf in a shop.
    I gotta admit, that really does sound a bit like BS to me. Even if this is "true" that they break down by just sitting on a shelf, I'd think that the magnitude of this break down would be so tiny over a period of 5 years, that it would make the effect negligible.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.

  21. #21
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    4,003
    I've been trying to figure helmet life out too. someone once told me exposure to the sun affects helmet material.

  22. #22
    Founder: Dirty3hirties
    Reputation: ddraewwg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    2,023
    Quote Originally Posted by zarr
    I've been trying to figure helmet life out too. someone once told me exposure to the sun affects helmet material.

    Don't believe the propoganda

  23. #23
    mtbr member
    Reputation: khill821's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    50
    Okay... Now this thread has me concerned. I just got back on the bike after about a 10 year layoff. I'm using my old helmet which is about 12 years old. Am I gonna die?

  24. #24
    bi-winning
    Reputation: rkj__'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    11,108
    Quote Originally Posted by khill821
    Okay... Now this thread has me concerned. I just got back on the bike after about a 10 year layoff. I'm using my old helmet which is about 12 years old. Am I gonna die?
    If you are concerned, spring for a new one. A helmet does not have to be expensive. I payed $38 for mine - though i was really tempted by a $150 one.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.

  25. #25
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    787
    I don't know. Somehow I don't really buy that "change it every 3-5 years". Those materials won't get bad that easy, and sun and sweat shouldn't influence them. If nothing else, if helmets want to get certification, they should be made from materials which sweat and sun doesn't influence. That's what says in those standards and certifications.
    But on the other side... 100-200eur for helmet is too little money to try and test with my own head, if that's true or not. I like my head more, so I rather still change it every 4-5 years.
    Primoz

  26. #26
    OnTheTrailAgain
    Reputation: 2ndgen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    2,165
    I guess the internal components (foam) would be what breaks down over time and even that would depend on how much it's used or a matter of time or a combination of both.

    Not to mention under which conditions it's used (season, high heat areas, etc...).

  27. #27
    Five is right out
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    3,174
    From some guys who are completely obsessed with helmet safety: http://www.helmets.org/replace.htm:

    "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. "

    From Wikipedia: "Expanded polystyrene foam takes 900 years to decompose in the environment"

    EPS is tough. It is barely affected by humidity, normal heat ranges, UV or sweat. There are plenty of good, sensible reasons to replace a helmet already- impact, grunge, style, colour, because you like buying new toys, because you accidentally stored your helmet in a closet full of volatile household chemicals.

    Don't go around inventing vague, undefined, nonsensical reasons or seeing the manufacturer "3 year replacement" recommendations as other than marketing propganda or "cover your a**" legalese.

  28. #28

    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    270
    You should replace your helmet as soon as you see a newer one that matches your bike better than your old one! Actually, a tree branch punched a hole in the side of my Bell Ukon a couple years ago, so I know I should replace it.

  29. #29
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    4,003
    The only real steadfast rule (made up by me) that I'm willing to go along with is (1) use a helmet with many vents to keep cool in the hot weather. (2) use one with few vents during the cold weather. (3) put a plastc shower cap over the helmet to keep the rain out and block cold wind. I know there are helmet covers for this purpose, but I'd rather save that money for a new ride!

Members who have read this thread: 1

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

THE SITE

ABOUT MTBR

VISIT US AT

© Copyright 2020 VerticalScope Inc. All rights reserved.