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Thread: helmet age

  1. #1
    Senior Member neguypdx's Avatar
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    helmet age

    My Giro helmet is about 5 years old and seems to be still in fine shape.

    A cycling friend of mine mentioned that there was a report about helmet age and that after several years, the styrofoam develops small invisible fissures from exposure to the elements, sweat and all that.

    He suggested I get a new one. Can anyone point me to that study, and are old helmets bad helmets?

    :confused:

  2. #2
    Senior Member dirtsqueezer's Avatar
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    My gut instinct is that yes, we should replace our helmets frequently. Because of degradation of the polystyrene due to ultra-violet light and ozone (exceeded my limit on $2.00 words today).At work our hard hats are supposed to be replaced annually for these reasons (doesn't happen). Personally, I go about 3-4 years for my helmets and hard hats. (I am cheap).

    A more cynical person would say manufacturers push this for constant sales.
    -DS-

    The plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

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    Dances with Rocks Dirtgrinder's Avatar
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    I read in last months bicycling magazine that most manufacturers recommend replacing your helmet every 7 years. But that it's a generalization. It depends also on how roughly you handle your helmet and how much it's exposed to heat and sunlight.
    If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough...

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    grouchy bookseller HillaryRose's Avatar
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    I look at it this way- even an expensive helmet is less than the cost of my insurance co-pay and deductible for an emergency room visit for a head injury.
    Nothing is so good that somebody, somewhere, will not hate it.

    Pohl's Law

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    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    I'm going to replace my helmet immediately after this year's magpie season. That will be three years and I think that's quite enough.

    Chris
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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    BikeForums Founder Joe Gardner's Avatar
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    This got me thinking, i have owned a total of 5 helmets in the last 8 years, i have never had the used same helmet for more then two years, however i have also never replaced a helmet due to age

    Joe "Crash" Gardner

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    Senior Member neguypdx's Avatar
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    Hey, I was doing a little research (damn slow day at work and wish I were outside riding instead of in front of this monitor) and came upon the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. Here's what they have to say:

    Somebody is spreading rumors that sweat and Ultraviolet exposure will cause your helmet to degrade. Sweat will not do that. The standards do not permit you 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. Manufacturers 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 might consider replacing 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.
    So, looks like since I have yet to crash in my helmet after several thousand miles (unlike Joe) I may stick with my helmet for a while longer. Even though it isn't the most sylish, I can keep a few $$ in my pocketbook.

    No wait, I want a CamelBak, and new Time pedals, and etc. etc. etc.

  8. #8
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Joe Gardner
    This got me thinking, i have owned a total of 5 helmets in the last 8 years, i have never had the used same helmet for more then two years, however i have also never replaced a helmet due to age

    Joe "Crash" Gardner
    And I thought I was the wildman of this forum

    Chris
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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    BikeForums Founder Joe Gardner's Avatar
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    Chris, you will always be the wildman of this forum I just dont know my limits. i dont crash alot... just one big crash every other year, not sure why, but thats been the trend for the last ~8 years.

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    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    The funny thing is, in all my crashes so far, I have never hurt my head (except for the day when I chipped three front teeth, fat lot of good my helmet did that day!), but I still don't have the guts/bravery/stupidity (strike out whichever doesn't apply) to ride without one. I'm afraid of Murphy's law striking!

    Chris
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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    Senior Member dirtsqueezer's Avatar
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    Good stuff neguypdx - thanks for the link.
    -DS-

    The plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

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    Senior Member pat5319's Avatar
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    If you crash and have ANY sign of contact on the helmet, ( scratches, dents, scuff marks etc.) REPLACE it- if the polystyrene is compacted at all, even a little bit, it has lost it's shock absorbing capacity and that's what saves your life.
    Ride covered well
    Pat
    Pat5319


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    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Joe Gardner
    This got me thinking, i have owned a total of 5 helmets in the last 8 years, i have never had the used same helmet for more then two years, however i have also never replaced a helmet due to age

    Joe "Crash" Gardner
    We're going to have to get you a full-body polystyrene skinsuit.
    If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

  14. #14
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    Even though it isn't the most sylish, I can keep a few $$ in my pocketbook.
    I have to agree with HillaryRose about the cost of a new helmet vs. a trip to the ER.

    Both Nashbar and Performance have helmets on sale right now. I bought a second Giro helmet for commuting for under $20. Who cares if it's last year's model. I wasn't looking for the Pneumo anyway.
    My bikes --> 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---2013 Cannondale CAAD 10 2 (5) "Racing Edition"

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    Senior Member neguypdx's Avatar
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    Who cares if it's last year's model. I wasn't looking for the Pneumo anyway
    Though, have you tried on the Pneumo? That was a big mistake. What comfort, and I looked in the mirror and thought I looked just like Lance.

    Probably going to go look at a Louis Garneau. Best Consumer Report ratings.

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    If your helmet has been in use for 3-4 years, it has been exposed to ultra violet and infra red light, exhaust fumes, and sweat. These along with usual wear and tear, can effect the reliability and dependability of a helmet

  17. #17
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Listen caefully:

    The people telling you to replace your helmet are 1) the LBS and 2) the helmet manufacturers.

    How do both of them make money??

    This has been going around for a number of years, and is one of those urban legends with no basis in fact. Yes, if your helmet has been crashed, replace it. If it is falling apart, replace it. Otherwise, it should be fine.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  18. #18
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    Even the helmet manufacturers don't believe their own BS about helmet decay any more. They've switched tactics now and went with the fashion angle. Every year, there's a "new" model with more holes and freakier design for those who need to be seen in the latest gear. Seems to work - some of my riding friends show up with a new lid every year or so.


    BTW, how do you get infrared light into this helmet thing? Very few people store their helmets under KFC chicken thighs warming lamps, ha ha ha. And what about cosmic rays? Aren't we bombarded by those all the time?

  19. #19
    Senior Member Nobby's Avatar
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    Originally posted by jaques
    Very few people store their helmets under KFC chicken thighs warming lamps
    And a what a good thing THAT is!

    Jacques...do you know who those very few people are? I recommend that you avoid them, even if they are very wealthy...they ain't right!!
    Bill (Nobby) Clark
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    I'm a mechanical engineer who deals with a lot of materials. I have only spent 3 hrs researching this so far, but I have found no data to support the need for a helmet change in 5 yrs, or any amount of time given a helmet with no structural damage. The idea of sweat and UV degrading the EPS is not supported by fact or testing (still looking). They are made with UV inhibitors, I've read, and it is resistent to sweat.

    Does anyone have any REAL data? It's sort of in the mfg's best interest that it remain vague, because, well, it's better to be safe then sorry and if a new helmet is only $40 (a nice low price) then who wants to argue and take a chance.

    But I'm skeptical. This would be an incredibly inexpensive, easy, and quick test to perform. Just test helmets at 0, 5, 10, and 20 yrs, and compare the actual strength and fracture data. One of the reasons this material causes so many issues environmentally is it's incredibly slow degradation curve through time. So I'm smelling something fishy.

    It's a perfect marketing position: We sell the best; we don't know how long they will last, but we recommend changing after 5 yrs. So they can say "ours are the best" without having to quantify it.

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    Snell has said that older helmets are often just as capable as when new, but the 5 year rule has been suggested as a general good practice. Some of that relates more to other activities where the standards are updated every 5 years, which may provide better, more protective options. That hasn't happened within bicycling helmet standards though as the shift was in the other direction about 15 years ago with the inception of CPSC requirements. So Snell B90 is still the basic latest standard next to the mandatory CPSC standard which hasn't been updated at all and likely will never be due to industry pushback against stricter levels of protection. So, after all that a 5 year old helmet is probably fine if it has been treated properly. Most damage can only really occur if a head has been dropped inside of a helmet. A helmet dropped from a shelf with only its own weight should be basically unaffected from real damage to either the shell or the EPS underneath it. Spidering cracks and soft spots are something to check for, and with plastic outer shells, a lighter streak where the plastic may have stretched would be a sign of damage.

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    Senior Member spinbackle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DouglasinAustin View Post
    I'm a mechanical engineer who deals with a lot of materials. I have only spent 3 hrs researching this so far, but I have found no data to support the need for a helmet change in 5 yrs, or any amount of time given a helmet with no structural damage. The idea of sweat and UV degrading the EPS is not supported by fact or testing (still looking). They are made with UV inhibitors, I've read, and it is resistent to sweat.

    Does anyone have any REAL data? It's sort of in the mfg's best interest that it remain vague, because, well, it's better to be safe then sorry and if a new helmet is only $40 (a nice low price) then who wants to argue and take a chance.

    But I'm skeptical. This would be an incredibly inexpensive, easy, and quick test to perform. Just test helmets at 0, 5, 10, and 20 yrs, and compare the actual strength and fracture data. One of the reasons this material causes so many issues environmentally is it's incredibly slow degradation curve through time. So I'm smelling something fishy.

    It's a perfect marketing position: We sell the best; we don't know how long they will last, but we recommend changing after 5 yrs. So they can say "ours are the best" without having to quantify it.
    Wow, you may now hold the record for digging up the oldest zombie thread! I do agree with you that something smells awfully fishy about recommendations to replace helmets so often.
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