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  1. #1
    blithering idiot jhota's Avatar
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    how often should one replace one's helmet?

    i'm asking because my helmet is 11 years old. it's got a few miles on it, but i've never been in a crash wearing it, and it's been stored inside in a climate-controlled environment when not being worn.

    are there any reasons why it might not be safe? or should i replace it just because the style is so ten years ago?

  2. #2
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    every three years - spoke to someone at Giro - plastic + foam will become more brittle with age

    ...but I used the last one for five before replacing it.
    shameless POWERCRANK plug
    Recommended reading for all cyclists - Cyclecraft - Effective Cycling
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    Don't run red lights, wear a helmet, use hand signals, get some cycle lights(front and rear) and, FFS, don't run red lights!

  3. #3
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    Wow. I know someone at work who's commuting with a 30 year old helmet. I'll let her know.

    For that matter, my helmet is about 5 years old.

  4. #4
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    They also start to fall apart with use and exposure to the elements. I find 500 hours of use is about the practical limit.

  5. #5
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Is this the thousandth time this topic has come up??

    from http://www.helmets.org/replace.htm

    Most manufacturers now recommend that helmets be replaced after five years, but some of that may be just marketing. (Bell now recommends every three years, which seems to us too short. They base it partially on updating your helmet technology, but they have not been improving their helmets that much over three year periods, and we consider some of their helmets since the late 1990's to be a step backwards, so we would take that with a grain of salt.) Deterioration depends on usage, care, and abuse.

    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. 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. EPS is a long-lived material little affected by normal environmental factors.

    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.

    I should add that Randy Swart (the individual most responsible for the content on the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institues' website) uses a helmet that is 13 years old. He emailed me in March and said,

    "The helmet I wore today was made in 1992. I believe its smooth round profile, impact performance and coverage are better than anything on the market at the moment. I am not concerned about the EPS deteriorating."

    I can't help but think helmet manafacturers are just trying to move more stock by recomending frequent repacement.

    About the recomendation of manafactures for frequent replacement Randy said,

    "CPSC are probably being told by their lawyers not to recommend longer use for fear sombody with a beat-up helmet may get injured and sue them. I don't know anything more about their position than that bit of speculation. There are millions of riders out there using older helmets and we have not seen any evidence of a problem with the older ones. And I don't think anything on the market outperforms the older helmets in impact protection or coverage, since the designers are just designing to the standard. We don't care if others want to recommend replacement more often--most riders won't do it anyway."
    Last edited by closetbiker; 09-11-05 at 07:38 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCCommuter
    They also start to fall apart with use and exposure to the elements. I find 500 hours of use is about the practical limit.
    Doesn't sound very practical to me. I would have to buy nearly two helmets per year at that rate.

  7. #7
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger
    Doesn't sound very practical to me. I would have to buy nearly two helmets per year at that rate.
    Yeah, it's not practicle for anyone except those that have a vested interest in selling helmets.

    The replacement idea would only fly with those who do not investigate exactly why a helmet would need to be replaced, they just do what they're told.

    If it's damaged, replace it. Otherwise, a well cared for helmet can last for years and years. (Not a very good business strategy for a helmet company - unless, of course, you can convince those that buy your product to buy some more of your product on a regular basis )
    Last edited by closetbiker; 09-12-05 at 12:30 PM.

  8. #8
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    Just to clarify, I'm not advocating replacing a helmet unless it's damaged. But I ride every day, and every 18 to 24 months or so my helmet starts falling apart so I buy a new one. That's about 500 hours of use for me. Maybe if I were more careful with them they would last longer.

  9. #9
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Hey, buy one every 5 hours if you have to. I'm sure Bell will love you.

  10. #10
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    It's also been suggested that a helmet be replaced after someone wearing it has gone through one accident. For example, a friend of mine fell off her bike and landed on her head on some railroad tracks. Although she was unharmed and the helmet appeared not to have any damage, several people told her to buy another one.

    I would advise that when we aren't using our helmets, we put them away where they cannot be exposed to the elements - including sunlight. Over time, even the sun gradually expands, changes, and warps the plastic.

  11. #11
    That darn Yankee TexasGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCCommuter
    They also start to fall apart with use and exposure to the elements. I find 500 hours of use is about the practical limit.
    500 hours Dang, if i followed that I would be replacing my helmet every 1/2 of a year.
    Life is about hanging onto what you think is important and finding out what really is important.
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  12. #12
    Certifiable Bike "Expert"
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    I replace my helmet when it gets so nasty that putting it on is like putting my head in a piece of dog food.



    PS - It's time for me to buy a new helmet...

  13. #13
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by powerhouse
    It's also been suggested that a helmet be replaced after someone wearing it has gone through one accident. For example, a friend of mine fell off her bike and landed on her head on some railroad tracks. Although she was unharmed and the helmet appeared not to have any damage, several people told her to buy another one.

    I would advise that when we aren't using our helmets, we put them away where they cannot be exposed to the elements - including sunlight. Over time, even the sun gradually expands, changes, and warps the plastic.
    The warnings that come with the helmets are pretty daunting.

    One of my favorites is a warning to the user that the helmet can be damaged by contact with common substances and that this damage may not be visible to the user.

    This damage may not be visible to the user?? No visable signs of damage, and the helmet may not work because of invisable damage.

    Use common sense. If the helmet has been hit and is cracked, buy a new one. If you've fallen and the helmet didn't make contact with anything, why replace it?

  14. #14
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhota
    i'm asking because my helmet is 11 years old. it's got a few miles on it, but i've never been in a crash wearing it, and it's been stored inside in a climate-controlled environment when not being worn.

    are there any reasons why it might not be safe? or should i replace it just because the style is so ten years ago?
    What kind of mushroom-looking toadie helmet are you wearing?
    ClickMe
    Seriously, the longest I recommend people go on a skid lid is 5 years MAXIMUM. I normally suggest replacing them every three years or so as the ventilation and other tech trickles down to the lower price points

  15. #15
    Velocipedic Practitioner
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    The helmet should be replaced when you find one in a cooler color....especially if it's available in purple. *wink*
    For some reason, the "guidelines" for helmet replacement remind me of shampoo directions...wash, rinse, repeat. The more you repeat, the more shampoo you buy....or the guideline of how many months salary should be devoted to the purchase of an engagement diamond.....where on earth did THAT come from?
    ANYHOOOO, back to the original question. Like most anything else, a helmet can begin to lose effectiveness as it ages. I always followed the five year plan, though I still wear some helmets older than that.
    Other forms of transportation grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart. - Iris Murdoch

  16. #16
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raiyn
    Seriously, the longest I recommend people go on a skid lid is 5 years MAXIMUM. I normally suggest replacing them every three years or so as the ventilation and other tech trickles down to the lower price points
    I'd still take the word of one of the most the most vocal advocates of helmet use in North America.

    If he claims his helmet from '92 is better than a more recent model, I'd not feel so bad wearing one from '93 and wonder what motovation there is in telling someone to buy a new helmet and throw away a helmet that is perfectly good.

  17. #17
    blithering idiot jhota's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raiyn
    What kind of mushroom-looking toadie helmet are you wearing?
    old Specialized AirFoil. 8 whole vents!

  18. #18
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    Once the thing looks beat up as hell, replace it.

    Mine is getting about time to replace it, the foam has some marks from where te locker at work has slammed into it a few times, has a cracked vent where something from above hit my head....I still don't know what...and the list goes on.

    If you get into a crash where it impacted the road...I'd play on the safe side and replace it.

    Oh, and if the plastic shell is missing...replace it...that shell is part of the protective design of the helmet, and not having it will affect how the helmet works. There are some ancient foam only ones that I would replace anyways....heck a comparable new helmet to those old "foamies" are about $20 at target....go for it!

    Only thing you get with higher prices is better fit and better ventilation.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member gear's Avatar
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    when it smells so bad that girls won't talk to you.

  20. #20
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PurpleK
    the "guidelines" for helmet replacement remind me of shampoo directions...The more you repeat, the more shampoo you buy....a helmet can begin to lose effectiveness as it ages. I always followed the five year plan, though I still wear some helmets older than that.
    The only thing that loses it's effectiveness is your purchasing power.

    Helmet materials and designs have not changed much since the early 90's. Doesn't anyone remember there were no recomended replacement guidlines in the early 90's, then the guidelines were every 7 years, then every 5 years, now it's every 3 years?

    Doesn't it make sense that if a company sells a product that doesn't need to be replaced frequently it won't be in business long or that a company can't expand unless it manages to keep on expanding it's sales? Helmet usage has been stagnet for the last several years after explosive growth early on. IMHO, replacement looks to be more of a business move than a safety move.

  21. #21
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by closetbiker
    I'd still take the word of one of the most the most vocal advocates of helmet use in North America.
    This coming from the most vocal ANTI-helmet crusader on Bike Forums?

    I'd rather have Pol Pot give me cooking tips thanks.

  22. #22
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raiyn
    This coming from the most vocal ANTI-helmet crusader on Bike Forums?

    I'd rather have Pol Pot give me cooking tips thanks.
    Yeah, riiiight. Anti- helmet crusader. Isn't that a little like calling pro-choice, anti-baby? Is that what this comes down to? Ask any questions, and you're anti-whatever? Goes to show who understands what (and shows why I've given up the argument).

    Stick to the issue. Encouragement of needless replacement is a scam.
    Last edited by closetbiker; 09-16-05 at 02:35 PM.

  23. #23
    blithering idiot jhota's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by catatonic
    Once the thing looks beat up as hell, replace it.
    except for the pads, it looks like new.

  24. #24
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhota
    except for the pads, it looks like new.
    then there is no reason to replace it , unless you want to be a slave to fashion, and lets face it, we're not the cutting edge of fashion to those who don't ride, and even if we were cool for a while, to those who don't ride, this years model, last years model, what's the difference?
    Last edited by closetbiker; 09-14-05 at 07:39 PM.

  25. #25
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhota
    except for the pads, it looks like new.
    Looks are deceiving. Taking advice from closetbiker on helmets is like asking a FEMA director about Arabian Horses (oh wait bad example sorry)

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