When Do Bicycle Helmets Expire and How to Make Them Last Longer?

In this article you will find out when do bicycle helmets expire - how their lifespan is calculated and what might influence it shortening
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Last updatedLast updated: March 27, 2022
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Sometimes it’s obvious to replace your helmet. Other times a minor crash may force you to get a new helmet. However, a lot of people cannot answer the question about the lifespan of a helmet. This could be because it isn’t a serious concern, or because they don’t use it until expiry. So, when do bicycle helmets expire? First off, it’s important to pay attention to factors like wear and tear and the nature of a crash.

Some crashes are worse than others, and each crash affects different helmets differently. Regardless of the impact, all crashes negatively affect the lifespan of a bicycle helmet. Sometimes you may not notice the crack on the helmet after a crash, but the result is hastened expiration. With that in mind, always ensure what you’re buying meets all the safety standards; this may also affect the lifespan since bike helmets are not all equal.

What are Bike Helmet Standards?

When you buy a bike helmet you may, like me, assume that it’s going to protect your head when riding and more importantly, during a crash. This is because you trust the seller. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t pay attention to some little sticker on the inside of the helmet.

The sticker indicates what the helmet is really like, and what you should expect as far as your safety is concerned. It’s essential to know helmet safety standards particularly if you are a beginner or you hope to ride on rough terrain, in which case you might need to focus on both bike helmets and knee pads as well. Still on safety and standards, I feel like ladies should opt for women’s road bikes as they’re fitted with women-specific frames and top tubes.

How are they tested?

Before a manufacturer is allowed to sell bike helmets, they must fulfill a few strict requirements such as testing. All the tests are conducted on helmets while they are wet, hit, cold, and after they’ve been aged artificially. In Europe, the most sought-after accreditation is the General Product Safety Regulations – EN 1078.

The American accreditation for helmets is the American Society for Testing and Materials – F1952-15. Helmets with this accreditation are expected to withstand greater impact than those with the European accreditation.

The process of testing helmets follows the following steps:

  • Sample submission: Testing labs get 16 samples from manufacturers for compliance testing.
  • Marking: Lab technician places the helmet on a funny headform to test if it is the right size. Helmet foam compression and overall performance are also tested in this step.
  • Conditioning: This test focuses on the construction, materials, field of vision, shock absorption, and strap effectiveness. The helmet shouldn’t react with sweat, skin, and cosmetic products. These tests are carried out in four phases- four heated samples, four cold samples, four soaked samples, and four samples under dry/room temperature.
  • Strap test: After conditioning, the lab technician tests the strength of the helmet. The strap is pulled to test for displacement, elastic limit, etc.
  • Drop test: The last step is drop testing. Here, the helmet is strapped onto a dummy headform and dropped onto an anvil in a free fall. This crucial test tells the technician about the possible outcome in the event of a crash.
  • Records: Finally, the lab technician reports on their findings, of course derived from overall performance and data obtained.

How to inspect your helmet?

When Do Bicycle Helmets Expire and How to Make Them Last Longer?

Chances are your bike helmet is outdated or busted, but don’t be worried because we’re about to discuss how to check it to ensure it will guarantee your safety during the next ride.

You need to look at:

  • The shell: You need to inspect the shell regularly to see if it has cracks that need repair or replacement. Most helmets are made of delicate polycarbonates or fiberglass, which are highly fibrous materials. If you feel like your helmet is allowing in a lot of UV light or there are serious cracks on it, that’s a sign of aging.
  • The liner: Inspect the liner for cracks and check if the foam is compressed. If you notice any great damage, you may need to replace it for the foam to perform well in the next crash. Sometimes it is difficult to spot damage, but always replace your helmet after an impact.
  • Stabilizer: The stabilizer on the rear side holds the helmet on the head to ensure comfort and stability. If it is now working as it should, it’s likely expired or has outlived its usefulness. Stretch it a little to test for its structural integrity.
  • Strap: Ensure the straps are not faded or worn. You should also inspect the buckle and replace the helmet if there are any missing or broken parts. The best option would be to buy a Smith Bike-Helmets Convoy MIPS whose strong and well-designed straps offer comfort while riding.

Does it have an expiration date?

It’s okay to replace your helmet after a crash but, how long do bicycle helmets last?

If you want to know how long it takes for helmets to degrade, think about how long it takes for plastics, fiberglass, or plastics to decompose. The answer is – it may take decades for a bike helmet to degrade in the same manner as wood. That said, it’s safe to conclude that helmets don’t actually expire but they fade, wear, and crack.

Bike helmet expiration date

How long are bicycle helmets good for? You may wonder. While these helmets really don’t expire, it’s always a good idea to know when to replace yours.

The rule of thumb is that you should replace your helmet after you’ve had a crash, but you may need to replace it before then especially if you notice some damage on the foam, straps, and buckle.

According to the Snell Foundation Trusted Source Snell helmets certification - FAQ Everything you might want to know about helmets in general and why Snell certification is important. Read on, download audio-version of the whole set directly. smf.org , it’s important to replace your helmet every five years. The foundation tests and recommends standards for helmets and other safety gears. So, why five years?

  • Industry standards are constantly changing. This means that it’s not uncommon for safety standards to improve every year.
  • Most of the materials used in designing bike helmets get damaged over time.
  • In five years, a helmet will have been severely affected by weather and other external factors.

When to Replace Bike Helmet

When Do Bicycle Helmets Expire and How to Make Them Last Longer?

To lead you down the right path, figure out whether you need to replace your helmet. After the helmet has taken an impact during a crash, it’s important to replace it as doing so will enhance your safety in the next ride. According to Stanford Children’s Health Trusted Source Accident Statistics Injury is the leading cause of death in children and young adults. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for children. www.stanfordchildrens.org , about 250,000 children suffer bike-related injuries every year. So, replacing helmets for your kids is a good idea especially if they use bmx bikes for jumping and performing other tricks. There are multiple instances when you should replace your bike helmet:

Old item

Some materials in the helmet begin to fade or wear after a few years, and this is usually a sign the weather is taking a toll on it. Extreme UV exposure may cause cracks on the shell, so watch out for that. If the strap no longer allows you to comfortably keep the helmet in its right position, replace it or better still, buy a new helmet right away.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission Trusted Source Which Helmet for Which Activity? It takes brains to be safe — Be smart and wear a helmet! www.cpsc.gov , it’s important to replace your bike helmet after every five or ten years. This is because within that time, most items will have started to show signs of aging, such as cracks and foam compression.

Crash

Bicycle helmets are supposed to protect you from just a single crash. The foam in the helmet compresses to absorb the impact, but it won’t protect you against impact in the next fall. With that in mind, it’s prudent to replace it regardless of the severity of the fall. Whenever you want to replace, it’s always a good idea to choose a high performance helmet such as the Zacro Adult Bike Helmet Lightweight; it is CPSC-approved and comes with high-density foam for maximum shock absorption.

Improper storage

When you stop using your bike for a while, don’t leave your riding gear unattended. Helmets are prone to damage thanks to the foam and other delicate materials used in making them. However, if you didn’t store your helmet properly and it cracked or developed unwanted substances such as dirt or mold, just buy another one.

Final Thoughts

Millions of people die every year from road crashes, and bikers make up a large percentage of that number. Although two-wheeler users are at an increased risk of crashing, riding with a helmet on your head can help avert this risk. Unfortunately, you may need to keep replacing your helmet since it is supposed to take in a single impact. Even without crashing, you should replace it at least every five or ten years at most. Never mess around with a lifesaver!

References

1.
Snell helmets certification - FAQ
Everything you might want to know about helmets in general and why Snell certification is important. Read on, download audio-version of the whole set directly.
2.
Accident Statistics
Injury is the leading cause of death in children and young adults. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for children.
3.
Which Helmet for Which Activity?
It takes brains to be safe — Be smart and wear a helmet!
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