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Old 04-20-07, 10:05 AM   #1
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The Lifespan of a Helmet

Do helmets, if not involved in crashes, have a predictable lifespan? In other words, should one replace a helmet "just because" periodically even though one hasn't crashed? And if so, how often? My helmet is coming up on two years, and seems fine but what do I know?
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Old 04-20-07, 10:14 AM   #2
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No knocks- No scratches and nothing nesting in it? Then it will be OK. Mind you- seeing how OCP you are- a 2 year old helmet will not be of the latest fashion.
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Old 04-20-07, 10:18 AM   #3
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No knocks- No scratches and nothing nesting in it? Then it will be OK. Mind you- seeing how OCP you are- a 2 year old helmet will not be of the latest fashion.
Yeah, but it's black so it goes with everything.
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Old 04-20-07, 10:22 AM   #4
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DeeGee, Your question got me wondering so I did a Google search and this is the first site I got a hit on: http://www.helmets.org/stats.htm . It doesn't answer your question, but I thought it was quite interesting and worth sharing. Steve
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Old 04-20-07, 10:38 AM   #5
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DeeGee, Your question got me wondering so I did a Google search and this is the first site I got a hit on: http://www.helmets.org/stats.htm . It doesn't answer your question, but I thought it was quite interesting and worth sharing. Steve
This is a good site. Gear guy suggests around 5 years.

http://outside.away.com/outside/gear.../20060504.html
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Old 04-20-07, 10:47 AM   #6
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But you regularly need to rinse out all the pads and straps and such or they get seriously grungy
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Old 04-20-07, 10:52 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by dbg
But you regularly need to rinse out all the pads and straps and such or they get seriously grungy
Rut roh.
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Old 04-20-07, 10:55 AM   #8
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At one point when I was racing cars I took the time to learn from the folks at Bell some of those things that would be of importance to me with regard to my helmet.

Aside from the importance of keeping objects from penetrating the helmet and thus the head (auto racing helmets have much thicker outer layers and more weight), the point of the helmet is to slow down the sudden stop that your head makes when it strikes something fixed in place.

The foam inner liner in your helmet is designed to crush at a pre defined rate allowing the head to decelerate at a much slower rate then the outside of the helmet (relatively of course as all of this happens in small fractions of a second) I no longer remember the exact numbers but it on the order of hundreds of g's of deceleration reduced to mere tens of g's.

Those things which degrade the designed in "crushness" of the foam are bad for the helmet and therefor bad for your head.

A crash involving the helmet uses it up. The foam has crushed, replace it.
Dropping the helmet is a mini crash.
Abusing the helmet by throwing it into an improper storage place or storing other things in it (gloves are probably ok) degrades the foam. Carrying it hanging by the strap on the back of your bike is the same.
Helmets age and the foam dries out. I believe that the industry thinks that a 3 year replacement term is recomended.
The UV (ultra violet) portion of sunlight degrades the foam.

What does all this mean. That call is up to you to make.
I keep the helmet in a "pod" when not in use. I replace helmets every 3 years or more often if I find any symptoms of damage. Am I parinoid? Possibly my attitude is colored by a past life at 200mph but I have actually hit my head harder in a very low speed bicycle crash then I ever did while racing.

I think its cheap insurance.

Besides I have to color match the new helmet to the new bike!!!!!

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Old 04-20-07, 10:55 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by swan652
DeeGee, Your question got me wondering so I did a Google search and this is the first site I got a hit on: http://www.helmets.org/stats.htm . It doesn't answer your question, but I thought it was quite interesting and worth sharing. Steve
Fascinating site. Thanks!
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Old 04-20-07, 11:19 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by maddmaxx
A crash involving the helmet uses it up. The foam has crushed, replace it.
Dropping the helmet is a mini crash.
Uh oh... we hang our our new helmets by the straps on the bars of our new bikes. Last week I accidently bumped Hubby's helmet onto the tile floor, about 2 feet down. I told him and he didn't seem phased. I can't imagine replacing it just for that???

I have a background in rehab nursing and I take head injuries very seriously. They are very recoverable, but many times it takes many long years of patient, hard work and even then things aren't quite the same. In some cases, young lives are ruined. Protecting our brain isn't something to take lightly. Yesterday I saw a kid wearing his helmet with the straps unhooked and hanging down to the sides. What's the point???

I hope they continue making my pink helmet for many years to come.
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Old 04-20-07, 11:34 AM   #11
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You probably don't have to be completely parinoid about your helmet. The point is not to take it for granted and throw it around.
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Old 04-20-07, 11:35 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbg
But you regularly need to rinse out all the pads and straps and such or they get seriously grungy
That may explain the bathtub ring on my forehead...
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Old 04-20-07, 11:37 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by dbg
But you regularly need to rinse out all the pads and straps and such or they get seriously grungy
Seriously grungy
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Old 04-20-07, 11:37 AM   #14
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Gary,

Let's see, you don't ride hills, don't ride in the dirt, and the most dangerous thing around you are young ladies riding in bikinis. I guess I wouldn't worry about helmets.
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Old 04-20-07, 12:19 PM   #15
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Gary,

Let's see, you don't ride hills, don't ride in the dirt, and the most dangerous thing around you are young ladies riding in bikinis. I guess I wouldn't worry about helmets.
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Old 04-20-07, 12:39 PM   #16
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Young ladies riding in bikinis could cause a crash?
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Old 04-20-07, 12:43 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HopedaleHills
Gary,

Let's see, you don't ride hills, don't ride in the dirt, and the most dangerous thing around you are young ladies riding in bikinis. I guess I wouldn't worry about helmets.
PYT's in bikinis create a real risk of crashing if you ask me.
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Old 04-20-07, 02:08 PM   #18
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I wear mine to bed now.
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Old 04-20-07, 02:45 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbg
But you regularly need to rinse out all the pads and straps and such or they get seriously grungy
I admit that I had a mental block about wearing my helmet because it fit the profile. I've got a thing about putting dirty sweaty stuff on. To the point that I was going helmetless and wearing a hat and throwing it in the washing machine after every ride or two. Somehow I finally saw the light emenating from those odd looking little skull caps and realized it was flashing "Hey! YOU! If you wore one of us under your helmet, you could wash us just like a ball cap!" And so now I do. They help with the sweat from my bald head running across my forehead and into my eyes too. They are not even hot, at least so far into the year.
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Old 04-20-07, 02:50 PM   #20
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Giro suggests 3 years.
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Old 04-20-07, 02:52 PM   #21
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I wear mine to bed now.
Hmmm. Do I detect the presence of young women in bikinis somewhere nearby?
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Old 04-20-07, 03:23 PM   #22
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Helmet manufacturers & bike shops have been pushing a theory that the foam outgasses and becomes more brittle & less shock absorbent after about 3 years.

I think this claim is a good subject for a Penn & Teller B*llsh*t program. I've seen studies that showed no significant degradation in tests conducted on 7 year old helmets. I wouldn't be surprised if they were still just fine after 10 or more years. As long as they have no significant damage.

I'm sure everyone would love to sell you a new bike helmet every 3 years. And why not one shaped like curved lightning bolts for $150?
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Old 04-20-07, 03:37 PM   #23
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I wear mine to bed now.
Tell her not to be so dern rough!
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Old 04-20-07, 04:11 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrierman
I admit that I had a mental block about wearing my helmet because it fit the profile. I've got a thing about putting dirty sweaty stuff on. To the point that I was going helmetless and wearing a hat and throwing it in the washing machine after every ride or two. Somehow I finally saw the light emenating from those odd looking little skull caps and realized it was flashing "Hey! YOU! If you wore one of us under your helmet, you could wash us just like a ball cap!" And so now I do. They help with the sweat from my bald head running across my forehead and into my eyes too. They are not even hot, at least so far into the year.
+1 here...

- head smegma killed my next to last helmet, but now my helmets will last a *LOT* longer...

- i slip a cycling cap underneath and the pads stay nice and clean! if i wear my Giro Atmos i wear the cap forward... if i wear my Bell Metropolis (which has a bill), i wear the cap backwards and have built-in neck sun protection!

:-)
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Old 04-20-07, 04:19 PM   #25
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REQUIRED READING! - MOST OF WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD OR READ ABOUT HELMETS IS STRAIGHT BS

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

Newer helmets from the late 1980's and the 90's may or may not need replacement. First look to see what standards sticker is inside. If it's ASTM or Snell, the helmet was designed to meet today's standards for impact protection, and you may even find that Consumer Reports tested it in one of their articles. 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. But if you ride thousands of miles every year, five years may be a realistic estimate of helmet life. And helmets have actually been improving enough over time to make it a reasonable bet that you can find a better one than you did five years ago. It may fit better, look better, and in some cases may even be more protective. For an alternate view that agrees with the manufacturers, check out the helmet FAQ of the Snell Foundation. Snell knows a lot about helmets and their views on this subject should not be dismissed lightly, even though we disagree with them. 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.

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