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  1. #1
    Senior Member balto charlie's Avatar
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    When to retire a helmet

    First you may ask why in the commuting forum? Because we are the cheapest bikers here and this is part of the question. I was recently told by a local LBS that helmets should be replaced every 3-5 years as the styrofoam dries out. (dryrot???). He also said that if you commute everyday that you should replace it yearly(or every 6 months) because of all the banging around it receives. I am going into my 7th year of commuting w/ 2 helmets. 1 is 5-6yo and the other is 2yo. I just ordered new pads for both. So I ask you commuters, do you replace this often? I know my younger one ain't going nowhere but am thinking about pitching the older one. But I am cheap so they both will probably stick around. Later charlie

  2. #2
    Recumbent Evangelist
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    If you haven't been in an accident with a helmet, it's be just fine after 7 years. But, it may be that more modern helmets have been tested to stricter standards...
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  3. #3
    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    I would say give it a feel test on the helmet padding. Does it feel dry-rotted? Does it crumble under your firm thumb? Does it appear to be splitting anywhere? If so, then dump it, otherwise, I'd keep using it.

    I just started commuting, so I haven't used mine "daily" for years, but I've only had my current helmet 2 years (maybe less) and I thought I saw some splitting in the padding the other day. It might be time for a new helmet for me too.
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    - it's pretty well established that Hitler was an *******.

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    You have to remember that the material that provides the protection in a helmet is expanded polystyrene (AKA styrofoam). If you have ever played with an old styrofoam cup you have experienced just how brittle and nasty the stuff gets with age. Considering the cost of a new helmet vs the value of your head, every three to five years sounds about right.

    Scott

  5. #5
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    After a couple of years my helmet is usually grungy enough that I just want a new one, but I would expect they could go for longer. I recommend that one replace their helmet after any crash; I think prudence trumps cost when it comes to protecting gray matter.

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    Giro recommends replacement three years from "purchase". Although I have noticed the helmets I have owned have a date stamp, which I assume is the production date. I guess the helmet doesn't start aging until the cash is set down. I try and buy a newer helmet, less than a year from production then follow the manufacturers guideline. I know that motorcycle helmets are commonly recommended to be replaced at five years.

  7. #7
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Here's an informational page:
    http://www.helmets.org/guide.htm
    From that page:
    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.

    I agree with this assessment. My helmet never gets dropped, and it's properly sized so I'm not warping it when I put it on my head or anything, so it's probably good for a long time.

    What would be interesting would be to set up the same safety tests that they use for initial testing of the design, and put some 5 year old helmets through it. I'd be willing to bet money that those helmets work every bit as well as they did when new, if they haven't taken a crash impact. Sure it's a destructive test, but on a helmet I was going to retire anyway I'd do it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by balto charlie
    He also said that if you commute everyday that you should replace it yearly(or every 6 months) because of all the banging around it receives.
    What banging? I try to stay on my bike while commuting, thanks!

  9. #9
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by balto charlie
    I was recently told by a local LBS that helmets should be replaced every 3-5 years as the styrofoam dries out.
    If that is true, I would expect for the retailer to provide a date of manufacture and to regularly mark the price down as the helmet "ages" while sitting in warehouse or shop inventory.

    Like karasek said, funny how helmet deterioration only starts after the retail sale.

    TCS
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

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    Quote Originally Posted by balto charlie
    He also said that if you commute everyday that you should replace it yearly(or every 6 months) because of all the banging around it receives.
    Unreal. How did s/he have the nerve to say that with a straight face?

  11. #11
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    Part of the three-year recommendation has to do with the fact that sweat and UV radiation both have degratative properties (sweat is corrosive and UV radiation ages the material more quickly). I don't know about you, but I sweat like crazy when I ride, so after this season, I will be replacing my now three-year old helmet. Trust me, once you've crashed hard enough to nearly kill you WITH a helmet, you don't want to gamble on your safety.

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    Don't you know that most cyclists hang their helmets from the handlebar?

  13. #13
    Senior Member lil brown bat's Avatar
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    When I asked my lbs dude the same question, he said every 6-7 years as a rule of thumb, barring physical damage. He then took a look at my 6-year-old helmet and said, "Nah, that's fine." I'm thinking maybe he was telling me a straighter story than the OP's lbs dude.

  14. #14
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie
    Don't you know that most cyclists hang their helmets from the handlebar?
    I certainly do, when not riding. I'm not sure where this "banging around" comes from. I put my helmet on, I ride, I take it off, I hang it on my handlebar. It never gets dropped or anything.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  15. #15
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    Just looked at the tag in my helmet, Aug 2007 ....The plastic shell is a little cracked. I think I'm going to replace it this week.
    <<This Signature Intentionally Left Blank.>>

  16. #16
    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meldex
    Just looked at the tag in my helmet, Aug 2007 ....The plastic shell is a little cracked. I think I'm going to replace it this week.
    Good Idea.
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    - it's pretty well established that Hitler was an *******.

  17. #17
    Raving looney
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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie
    Don't you know that most cyclists hang their helmets from the handlebar?
    Hahaha, I've seen a bunch of people riding like that - I wonder if they plan to dip their head into it upon an accident...

    I replaced a helmet last year due to some damage received while my bike was taken from my back yard and later recovered (the helmet was locked into the u-lock, too).

    I can see the foam being degraded by sweat/UV - that I buy... Unless it's been in an accident, I'd be wary of this 6-month talk. I've only had my current helmet for about 10 months but I sweat like a hog, I'm not even close to considering replacing it.

    The way mine is going, the straps are going to go before the foam - sweat seems to be making the tell-tale salt-markings on them, I'm concerned they'll rot through eventually.

  18. #18
    Senior Member acroy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by balto charlie
    So I ask you commuters, do you replace this often?
    I figure that if and when the time comes for my helmet to protect my noggin, I want it to work as well as it can.

    So I go ahead and replace it every 18 mo or so.

    I do NOT "bang it around", in fact I take good care of it. The styro can only compress once - and then it's done. Some folks beat em up: throw them in the back of the truck, toss them around - I try to take good care of it.

    I stick with the 18mo interval because the price of last year's models isn't bad, and by then, my pads are going south, the straps are often a bit frayed, I've sweated hundreds of gallons of salt water onto it, and it gets baked in the salty solution in the garage in the summer

    cheers
    beer-bottle target

  19. #19
    Fan of the Crave Case!
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    Great images, especially the stock photo of the doctor with the family member!

    But seriously, it's better to be safe than sorry. My head had a run-in with the support structure for a bridge a few years ago. I don't know how, since I lost about 30 minutes of memory and suffered a level 3 concussion (severe head trauma with loss of consciousness and at least 15 minutes of memory loss), and I was wearing a brand new (two months old) Bell helmet at the time. The helmet was destroyed beyond recognition, of course, and if I hadn't been wearing it, it would have been my head destroyed beyond recognition. Moral of the story-BEST $100 I EVER SPENT IN MY LIFE!! If the thing's five or seven years old, thank it for the memories, put it to pasture, and pony up the cash for a new helmet. My interval is three seasons, then replace (unless I crash it sooner, then I replace immediately).

  20. #20
    Mmmmm potatoes idcruiserman's Avatar
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    I replace mine when I can't stand the stink anymore, or the plastic adjustment piece cracks. My helmet is about due.
    Idaho

  21. #21
    Junior Member bibliogrrl's Avatar
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    I think I'll get a new one at the end of the summer.

    I got mine in 02, BUT - it spent a good part (ok most of the time with the exception of about 10 rides until Feb of this year) in storage until I got a bike and really started RIDING.

    The helmet was in perfect, out of the box shape, too.

    Now it looks used. I'd love to get a new one now, but since I keep working on my bike, it will wait. The foam isn't dry or crumbly at all, the pads are in good shape... so I'll wait until the end of the summer for a new swanky lid.

  22. #22
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Underbridge
    What banging? I try to stay on my bike while commuting, thanks!
    Every day when I get to work, I drop kick mine from the front door into my cubicle.



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  23. #23
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whatsmyname
    Unreal. How did s/he have the nerve to say that with a straight face?
    Easy: $$$$ on the mind.

  24. #24
    Senior Member adrien's Avatar
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    once a year. I have very caustic sweat (like it eats through plastic steering wheels...i had a car where i had to replace the wheel 3 times!), and it aint worth it.

    The guys at my lbs said every 1-3 depending on how much you use it (combination of sweat and UV).

  25. #25
    steel lover
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    What they probably meant by a commuter helmet getting knocked around was that it gets use daily, versus a helmet that just gets used twice a week. You'd be looking at 2.5 times as much use, which means that many more times it gets moved around... just how gentle you are with it, the lbs can't really say.

    Mine is OLD, almost 10 years probably. I'll be replacing it mainly cause the fabric covered foam straps are deteriorating. The helmet itself still looks perfect... not a scratch, chip, dent.... I treat it like a fragile commodity.

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