I have been rocking the same bike helmet for the last 3 years. It doesn’t matter if I’m taking a casual stroll on my local greenway or tearing it up at my local bike trail, my bike helmet has seemed to hold up just fine.
Since the helmet was used when I bought it, I have started to notice it looking a little outdated compared to others.
Appearance, coupled with my concerns for safety have had me wondering, “How often should you replace a bike helmet?”.
While some manufacturers recommend a new bike helmet every 3-5 years, you may never need to replace yours. Modern bike helmets are built to last 20+ years and should only really be replaced after a crash or when its integrity has been compromised. Barring any major advancements in helmet safety, you may never find the need for a new bike helmet.
But, there may be more facts to consider when assessing how often you should replace a bike helmet. Check out the rest of the article below to see some commonly asked questions and myths surrounding this topic.
Do bike helmets degrade?
A common myth in the industry, is that you need to replace your bike helmet often, as the materials degrade from sun exposure, sweat, and general use.
While this can be true on a scientific level, you’re going to need a lot more information to get the whole picture. So, do bike helmets degrade?
The short answer is yes. Just like all plastic materials, bike helmets do eventually degrade. But the rate at which bike helmets degrade, is so insignificant, you will most likely never notice.
And other than making for a stinky environment, sweat does not burn through your helmets plastic like some may think. Your helmet is made form some of the most high-tech plastic on the market and the straps are made from the same material as seatbelts.
It’s going to take quite a bit more to wear one down than you think. Helmets don’t wear down as fast as tires mentiones in my post “How long do Mountain Bike Tires last?“.
Do bike helmets expire?
Another debate surrounding the topic of How often should you replace a bike helmet, is the question of expiration.
Like car seats, bike helmets must adhere to a specific code of safety to be sold on the market. While most are aware of the expiration dates on car seats, it is not as clear when it comes to bike helmets. So, do bike helmets expire?
The good news is that bike helmets do not expire. Unless you have a bike helmet from the 70’s to mid-80’s, your helmet is still up to the latest safety standards.
There have been no major advancements in helmet technology in the last 40 years to warrant an expiration on any helmets and it does not look like this will change any time soon. Still, if you feel your bike helmet is outdated, it couldn’t hurt to get a replacement.
How long do bicycle helmets last?
Stealing a bit from the previous point on degradation, bike helmets are built to last way beyond their recommended lifetime. If you’re still satisfied with your helmet and see no reason for an upgrade, you may be wondering how long bike helmets last.
Your bike helmet will most likely last you your entire riding career.
When Should I Replace My Bicycle Helmet?
So far, you may not see any reason to replace your bike helmet, but there are a few situations in which you will definitely need a new one.
Since they are the most important safety features, you should start looking for a new helmet if you encounter any of these situations:
A Crash -
A common question people ask is, “should I replace my bike chain after a crash?”.
If your helmet was involved in the crash, you should replace it immediately. Though you may not see any visible damage, the integrity of your bike helmet could still be compromised. Since a new bike helmet is a lot cheaper than your health and wellbeing, it is definitely worth it to buy a new one.
Visible Damage -
Another common question asked is, “should I replace my helmet if I drop it?”.
While bike helmets can withstand rough handling, you should replace it if it starts to show signs of visible damage.
It is easy to forget about your bike helmet when it’s no longer on your head. We toss them in the back of cars, truck beds and storage closets. Just to be on the safe side, replace your bike helmet any time its integrity could be compromised.
Bad Fit -
This one can be a no-brainer, but it’s still important to go over.
You should replace your bike helmet as soon as it no longer safely fits on your head.
To be effective, a bike helmet must fit properly on your head. Your helmet could be too big or too small, either way, it will not behave the way it’s supposed to in event of a crash.
Avoid any unnecessary injuries and make sure you have a bike helmet that fits.
What are signs my bike helmet is compromised?
We mentioned the integrity of your bike helmet quite a bit in this article, you may be wondering, “what are the signs my bike helmet is compromised?”.
Luckily, it is really easy to spot the signs of a damaged helmet.
Signs that your helmet is compromised include; a cracked outer shell or foam padding, bumps in the outer shell, or even torn or frayed straps.
If your bike helmet has any of these symptoms, it is time to get a new one.
How to get the most from your helmet/preventative care?
Even though bike helmets last pretty long, there are still ways to make sure you get the most out of yours.
Clean It -
Like most things, you will get the most out of your bike helmet by making sure you keep it clean. This doesn’t really affect the integrity of the helmet but prevents you from having a really smelly helmet on your hands.
Store It -
This is the real stickler. Like I mentioned earlier, it is easy to forget your helmet when it’s off your head.
To make sure it doesn’t get banged up in the back of your truck or crushed in the bottom of a closet, always store your helmet in a cool and secure place. This can be in your backpack or in your car. Either way, make sure you don’t let any unnecessary damage cause you for replacement, especially when its not even on the trail.
In conclusion, you should only change your bike helmet when its involved in a crash or when you feel like its just time for an upgrade.
If a new safety update is released, you should definitely stay up to date, until then, stay safe out there on two wheels. If you have any questions or concerns of your own, please comment below.