When Should I Replace My Bike Helmet?

When Should I Replace My Bike Helmet?

Everyone knows to replace their bike helmet after a crash.  But, there are other times you should replace your helmet too. 

Cyclist riding with helmet. When Should I Replace My Bike Helmet?

There are all kinds of reasons to ride bikes.  They are great exercise.  They get you some fresh air.  They make your commute healthier.  They reduce your carbon footprint.  No matter where, or why, you ride, you should always wear a bike helmet. 

Wearing a bike helmet reduces the risk of serious head injury in a bike crash by about 70%.  70%?!?!?!

Experts agree that you need to replace your bike helmet immediately if you have been in a crash.  A helmet can look fine after a crash.  The outer plastic shell may bounce back to a normal appearance.  But, the interior foam can be damaged in ways you cannot even detect.  Once that foam is compressed, you’re exposing yourself to significantly greater risk that the helmet just won’t protect you anywhere near as well.  

If you haven’t ridden in a while, and you have that old helmet just sitting around the garage, now might be a good time to consider replacing it.  Most manufacturers recommend replacing your helmet every three to five years.  But, there’s no universally agreed upon standard.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that unless manufacturers recommend otherwise, you should plan on getting a new helmet every five to ten years.  The Snell Foundation, which is known to be one of the strictest in terms of helmet safety, says to replace a regularly used helmet every five years.  Consumer Reports recommends roughly the same.  If you regularly use your helmet, you should replace it anytime you crash, or every five years, whichever occurs first.

You may be asking, “Why should I get a new helmet if I haven’t been in a crash?” A heavily used helmet is exposed to a lot of ultraviolet light from the sun, which makes plastic more brittle.  Similarly, a heavily used helmet gets tossed in lockers, cars, and desk drawers.  Is it is getting left in cars, summer temperatures can easily top 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes the plastic more brittle and more susceptible to cracking.    

There may be other good reasons for getting a new helmet.  For example, some newer models have significantly more safety technology.  Newer helmets may fit better, and be more comfortable.  They may come with technology designed to reduce rotational forces, which contribute to concussions.  

But, age alone might not warrant a new helmet.  MEA Forensic is an engineering firm that ran a whole bunch of tests on hundreds of helmets.  They found that age alone did not significantly affect performance of the protective foam in helmets up to 26 years old.  But, while the foam may not wear out all that quickly, other parts might.  The straps and adjusters that help you tighten your helmet, can all degrade in less time.  You need those is tip-top shape to ensure a proper fit.  If the color of the helmet is fading, that is a good sign that the helmet has been exposed to a lot of ultraviolet light, and should be replaced. 

Millions of new helmets are sold every year, which means millions of old helmets probably end up in landfills.  If you really like your old helmet, and it’s in good condition, holding on to it for longer probably won’t put you at significantly greater risk.  Just make sure it’s actually in good condition.  It probably doesn’t hurt to replace them every five years.  After all many of the top-rated bike helmets are $50 or less.  $50 to significantly increase your chances of avoiding a serious head injury seems like a worthwhile investment. 

If you want to learn more about bike safety, bike laws, and what to do if you’re in a bike accident check out our website for more information.  If you are injured in an accident you should fill out our free, confidential, case evaluation form.  We make it a point to review and respond to every inquiry within 24-48 hours.  If we decide we can represent you, we’ll schedule a free consultation.  We do almost all of our work on a contingency fee, which means you don’t owe us anything unless we recover something for you.  Even if we can’t represent you we should be able to get you pointed in the right direction.      



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