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What's the lifespan of a helmet?

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What's the lifespan of a helmet?

Old 04-21-20, 04:48 AM
  #1  
streetartmadrid
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What's the lifespan of a helmet?

In general terms, how long should they be used? Have you ever bought a new one?
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Old 04-21-20, 09:41 AM
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I personally have never bought a new helmet. I moved to Oregon in 2008 and my wife and I joined a tandem club which insisted on helmets on their group rides. I bought us both close-out Giro helmets from a previous model year and I have been using mine ever since. My wife left hers in her gym locker last year and was forced to buy a new one. I 'may' buy one like it so we match again on the tandem but it is not a priority. Until it is 'used', a helmet should not need replacement. Ours have never been 'used' despite the fact that we are on a bike every single day, rain or shine, while wearing a helmet. As you can see, I make a distinction between using (wearing) a helmet, and 'using' (crushing) a helmet. Try not to 'use' your helmet, if at all possible, and it can serve you well for a very long time. Mine is very handy for mounting a rearview mirror. I might not bother using it at all were it not for that feature since we no longer ride in a club.
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Old 04-21-20, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by streetartmadrid View Post
In general terms, how long should they be used? Have you ever bought a new one?

There was a long contentious thread a couple months back on whether manufacturers' recommendations that your helmet should be replaced every 3-5 years should be taken seriously.

I take the position that if they don't put sell-by dates on their helmets, then they're acknowledging that the materials don't really have a significant rate of deterioration, and if your helmet appears to be ok, it almost certainly is.
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Old 04-21-20, 12:41 PM
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Tony P.
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Years ago helmet materials deteriorated over time but that hasn't been the case for 20 years. Helmets purchased somewhat recently should be good to go for a long time with a few exceptions:
  • Check your helmet for issues from time to time. Even dropping a helmet can cause issues so it's best to look it over.
  • If you've been in an accident (even minor in nature) the helmet should be replaced.
  • If you're into BMX or single track riding be particularly mindful of anything that could damage the helmet.
  • The life of your helmet will be considerably shorter if you keep it in a car or garage where it could be subject to considerable climate changes.

Last edited by Tony P.; 04-21-20 at 02:19 PM.
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Old 04-22-20, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Tony P. View Post
Years ago helmet materials deteriorated over time but that hasn't been the case for 20 years. Helmets purchased somewhat recently should be good to go for a long time with a few exceptions:
  • Check your helmet for issues from time to time. Even dropping a helmet can cause issues so it's best to look it over.
  • If you've been in an accident (even minor in nature) the helmet should be replaced.
  • If you're into BMX or single track riding be particularly mindful of anything that could damage the helmet.
  • The life of your helmet will be considerably shorter if you keep it in a car or garage where it could be subject to considerable climate changes.
It can be quite surprising that fall from a bicycle handlebar standing still can break a chunk off a helmet. I had that happen once. It really made me wonder about helmet materials. I forget what make of helmet that was.

When riding off-road I wear my hardshell helmet.

Cheers
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Old 04-28-20, 06:23 PM
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I've been using a 10 year old helmet. Other than the pads that wear out I have replaced there is no obvious signs of wear. I hope it is still good.
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Old 04-29-20, 05:48 PM
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I'd like to find new pads for my helmet. The previous helmet wore out because the plastic outer skin began getting brittle and cracking apart. The new one is probably 10 years old, and still just fine except that the pads are nearly gone.
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Old 04-29-20, 05:52 PM
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I've bought 3 in the last 2 years, all Lazers: Z1, Bullet, and G1 MIPS. (My team keeps changing colors unfortunately)
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Old 04-29-20, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
I'd like to find new pads for my helmet. The previous helmet wore out because the plastic outer skin began getting brittle and cracking apart. The new one is probably 10 years old, and still just fine except that the pads are nearly gone.
I was able to locate replacement pads for my Bell on Amazon. That was a few years ago now and I need new ones again. Not sure if they are still available.
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Old 04-30-20, 01:53 PM
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I generally replace every 5 years or so. By that time they are usually somewhat beaten up, and I know plastics do oxidize and deteriorate. But honestly I don't think you'd lose much effectiveness going past recommendations.
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Old 05-08-20, 12:06 PM
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Interesting question, I'd also be interested in the lifespan of the helmet wearer
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Old 05-10-20, 08:25 PM
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Helmets do wear out and should be replaced, probably every 3-5 years. All plastics degrade with exposure to UV. There are UV blockers that can help, but none are permanent. Want to see an example of this, headlight lenses that have yellowed. This is a direct result of UV exposure. My hard hats at work are only good for a certain number of years. If memory is correct 5 for plastic and 7 for fiberglass.

Last edited by Melvang; 05-10-20 at 08:26 PM. Reason: Autocorrect error
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Old 05-11-20, 04:55 PM
  #13  
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I have bought a bunch of new helmets fairly recently I typically replace every 5 years or so. I typically wear a cycling cap and take care of my helmets. I currently own a Laser Z1, Lazer Revolution, ABUS Gamechanger and still have my old Giro Synthe which I rarely ride with and more just keep around because it was my first really nice helmet. I would never buy a used helmet from anyone ever for any reason no matter what the deal was. I will never know what that person has done with that helmet, if they have dropped it or crashed in it or even taken care of it. It is a risk I have no interest in taking.
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Old 05-13-20, 05:02 PM
  #14  
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Generally I replaced helmets because they become "scuzzy" from use and sweat. Heck even the paint on my bike suffers from my sweat... It seems to eat through a particular place on the top tube. Acid Sweat! Yikes. So yes, every 5-7 years I generally buy a new helmet... Although the last one is about 13 years old now... (got a manufactured date in it) I don't daily commute any more.
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Old 05-14-20, 05:50 AM
  #15  
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1,247 days.
Unless ofc you crash and it takes damage.
In that case, 1,244 days.
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Old 05-15-20, 01:10 AM
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Here is an article on this: When Do Bicycle Helmets Expire?
It says about 5 years.

Why choose 5 years?

The Snell Foundation came up with this number based on their own findings and those of helmet manufacturers. They came to this number based on three general factors. Factor #1 is that some of the materials used to build the helmet naturally begin to degrade over time. Factor #2 is that over the course of 5 years a helmet will come into contact with sunblock, hair oils, cleaners, body fluids, and other cosmetics that attribute to the wear and tear of a helmet. Factor #3 is that the industry is constantly improving helmets in design, materials, and standards. A helmet from this year is more likely to be safer than a never worn helmet from five years ago.
My question is: What about a brand new helmet that one stores in the original box intact at home and has never used? I suppose it will be fine to use it after more than 5 years since it's not exposed to UV light or impact? (the reason I ask is that I have several brand new helmets that I like and will keep)
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Old 05-18-20, 05:55 AM
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Tony P.
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Originally Posted by vol View Post
Here is an article on this: When Do Bicycle Helmets Expire?
It says about 5 years.


My question is: What about a brand new helmet that one stores in the original box intact at home and has never used? I suppose it will be fine to use it after more than 5 years since it's not exposed to UV light or impact? (the reason I ask is that I have several brand new helmets that I like and will keep)
Here's some information published in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering. Basically, it shows that old helmets (up to 26 years old) without damage provided protection.

Helmet Impact Performance Proven to Hold Up for Decades


There are reasons to replace your helmet, but simple age is not one of them.

Extensive testing of used (but not crashed) bicycle helmets shows that the foam liners retain their performance over many years. MEA Forensic announced at a May ASTM F08.53 technical meeting the results of their testing of 675 bicycle helmets, some as old as 26 years. "There is no justification for two to ten year replacement recommendations based on impact performance," said MEA's Alyssa DeMarco.

MEA and collaborator Collision Analysis collected 1,500 used helmets from consumers and eliminated any that showed damage or did not have date of manufacture stickers. The helmets studied had dates that ranged from 1987 to 2013. They crash tested them at 3 m/s (a drop of 1.5 ft.) and 6.2 m/s (a drop of 2 meters--the CPSC standard drop) on a flat anvil in the dry ambient condition. There were only four that exceeded the 300g maximum threshold: three of the oldest models made to meet only the old ANSI standard, and one newer model that had been recalled. So 671 of the helmets passed the current CPSC impact performance standard.

MEA's analysis showed that there was no significant impact performance change with age. Their 26 year data including all 675 helmets tested produced only a 0.7g per year increase in impact readings at the higher drop height. On average, road helmet models produced results 40g lower than skate-style models, and extra-small helmets were 21g lower than large helmets. Lower g's registered in the headform means less shock passed through to the head, but since they are averages they may not apply for a particular helmet model.

After crash testing the helmets on a standard test rig, MEA took core samples from an uncrashed area of 63 of the helmets and tested them at the equivalent of a 6.2 m/s helmet impact. This generated data based solely on the foam performance. They collected stress and strain data related to aging of the foam. Again, the findings indicate that helmet liner foam does not deteriorate with age.

MEA usually publishes their studies in a peer-reviewed journal, but that can be a slow process.

This is the first time anyone has applied rigorous science to assessing the effects of age on helmet foam liners. It is a welcome antidote to the strident marketing claims that foam deteriorates with age. There are other reasons to replace a helmet--crash damage, strap deterioration, improving fit--but simple aging of the foam liner is not one of them.

April, 2016 - the study is now published in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.
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Old 05-18-20, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Tony P. View Post
Here's some information published in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering. Basically, it shows that old helmets (up to 26 years old) without damage provided protection.
Thanks. Good to know, and good to see some input from sources not motivated by sales.
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Old 05-18-20, 09:29 PM
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I have two road helmets. One sticker says 2004, the other says 2018. I can’t tell the difference in condition between them other than 2004 is a bit more scratched up. Please don’t tell the helmet police.
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Old 05-24-20, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Tony P. View Post
Here's some information published in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering. Basically, it shows that old helmets (up to 26 years old) without damage provided protection.

Helmet Impact Performance Proven to Hold Up for Decades


There are reasons to replace your helmet, but simple age is not one of them.

Extensive testing of used (but not crashed) bicycle helmets shows that the foam liners retain their performance over many years. MEA Forensic announced at a May ASTM F08.53 technical meeting the results of their testing of 675 bicycle helmets, some as old as 26 years. "There is no justification for two to ten year replacement recommendations based on impact performance," said MEA's Alyssa DeMarco.

MEA and collaborator Collision Analysis collected 1,500 used helmets from consumers and eliminated any that showed damage or did not have date of manufacture stickers. The helmets studied had dates that ranged from 1987 to 2013. They crash tested them at 3 m/s (a drop of 1.5 ft.) and 6.2 m/s (a drop of 2 meters--the CPSC standard drop) on a flat anvil in the dry ambient condition. There were only four that exceeded the 300g maximum threshold: three of the oldest models made to meet only the old ANSI standard, and one newer model that had been recalled. So 671 of the helmets passed the current CPSC impact performance standard.

MEA's analysis showed that there was no significant impact performance change with age. Their 26 year data including all 675 helmets tested produced only a 0.7g per year increase in impact readings at the higher drop height. On average, road helmet models produced results 40g lower than skate-style models, and extra-small helmets were 21g lower than large helmets. Lower g's registered in the headform means less shock passed through to the head, but since they are averages they may not apply for a particular helmet model.

After crash testing the helmets on a standard test rig, MEA took core samples from an uncrashed area of 63 of the helmets and tested them at the equivalent of a 6.2 m/s helmet impact. This generated data based solely on the foam performance. They collected stress and strain data related to aging of the foam. Again, the findings indicate that helmet liner foam does not deteriorate with age.

MEA usually publishes their studies in a peer-reviewed journal, but that can be a slow process.

This is the first time anyone has applied rigorous science to assessing the effects of age on helmet foam liners. It is a welcome antidote to the strident marketing claims that foam deteriorates with age. There are other reasons to replace a helmet--crash damage, strap deterioration, improving fit--but simple aging of the foam liner is not one of them.

April, 2016 - the study is now published in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.

Thanks for sharing that Tony. That's about what I would have suspected.
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Old 05-24-20, 11:35 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
Thanks for sharing that Tony. That's about what I would have suspected.
Glad to do it. There's a lot of unsupported information out there.

I looked over my post and realized I should have provided some background. The article I provided from the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering says the information was presented to the ASTM FO8.53 Technical Meeting. For those not familiar, ASTM is an international standards and testing organization headquartered in Pennsylvania. They are organized by specialty and FO8 is the segment related to sports equipment. FO8.53 is the sports equipment sub-committee for helmets and headgear. Thus, the presentation was given before experts in the field of helmet protection.

Last edited by Tony P.; 05-24-20 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 05-24-20, 05:46 PM
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You don't need to replace a helmet every 3 to 5 years, that's just a way for manufacturers to take more money from you. There three ways to know it's time to replace your helmet; one is if you had an accident and hit your head get another helmet even if you can't see any damage to the foam, it may be compressed and not noticeable; second is the foam as it gets to its end of its useful life it will begin to deposit small bits of the foam onto your forehead; third is if the padding gets worn out and there is no replacement padding available.
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