Author Topic: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?  (Read 3664 times)

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Offline jwrushman

Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« on: December 29, 2017, 11:22:37 pm »
I've been reading some of the posts on bicycle helmets and wondered if I should be replacing mine.   I've never had a fall where the helmet's hit the ground.  The Styrofoam or whatever's inside seems to be in good condition.  I'm guessing it's 10 years old.  The felt-like stuff that comes in contact with the scalp is a little smelly and grungy but is otherwise okay.  But I like the fit just fine.  Should I just retire it?  Does the padding give out just because of exposure to sunlight and oxygen.  I'm cheap, no, make that frugal, but don't want to be stupid!

2nd question.  I once saw a rider whose helmet had a clear, integrated "shield".  More than a visor, but not a full face covering.  I like the idea because it would protect my eyes without needing to wear glasses.  And it looked like a touring helmet.  The only other ones I've seen on line look like something a downhill racer would wear.  I'm a bicycle tourist, not a racer and don't want to look too outlandish!

Offline John Nettles

Re: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2017, 11:32:04 pm »
First question:  I have "heard" that helmets should be replaced after about 2-3 years use as the styrofoam hardens and reduces the "cushioning" effect in a crash.  My question is what is 2-3 years "use"?  If I go on a 90-day tour where I ride an average of 6 hours a day that is probably probably almost 2 years typical use right there compared to a 3-hour ride, twice a week for a year.

Since my wife is a safety freak, she insists I replace mine every two years.  I have noticed that twice I have dropped my helmet from waist high and it has cracked the shell and styrofoam. Even though it gets periodically dropped over the helmet's 2 year life (typically when putting on or taking off the handlebar after during a stop), both times they cracked in the latter part of its second year.

You might contact Bell, Giro, etc. and ask them????

Can't help with the second question.  John

Offline Molly88

Re: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2017, 07:24:11 am »
You can Google and find tons of opinions.  Here's one https://www.livestrong.com/article/362543-when-do-bicycle-helmets-expire/

Offline DanE

Re: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2017, 07:58:00 am »
Bicycle helmets are constructed from different types of plastic. When I look at the other bits of plastic in my life they all seem to degrade over time. My Tupperware containers look rather bad but consequences of them cracking open is rather small. I am sure that UV exposure is a degradation factor with bicycle helmets. Is a two year replacement cycle prudent, probably not for the majority of us. I suspect ten years is a bit too long for all helmets.

Offline DaveB

Re: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2017, 08:22:11 am »
I've read that bike helmets do not really deterioriate in normal use unless you store them out in the sun all day every day.  The helmet makers obviously want you to replace them frequently but they have an incentive to sell more helmets. 

That said, I usually replace mine at no more than 5 year intervals as a precaution although I have several helmets no single one is used daily.  I also wear is "Headsweats" light beanie under mine so the liner and padding aren't exposed to moisture as much. 

One other reason for periodic replacement is that safety standards evolve and newer helmets provide better protection than those several years old.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2017, 04:05:54 pm »
That styrofoam you're worried about is the same stuff that's going to show up in a thousand years when somebody starts digging through a landfill, unchanged.  Yes, a small fraction of an inch of the surface material may deteriorate in sunshine or ozone, but remember, that's also the stuff used to make coolers.  It's an insulator, and waterproof (remember when it was common in disposable coffee cups?).  As long as you haven't poured gasoline on the inner shell or dropped it onto a hard surface with a heavy weight inside (like your head), it's OK.

The outer shell only exists to hold the styrofoam together until it takes a "severe" impact.  (And, of course, to bear the advertising and logos.)  It protects the inner foam from things like tree branches, scuffing when you drag it on the sidewalk, dings from dropping keys on it, etc.  If that outer shell is intact when you go for a ride, it's good to go.

Safety standards evolving?  March 10 of next year will mark the 20 year anniversary of the CPSC standard that's still in effect.  All that MIPS advertising?  It's a gimmick based on a theory that has NOT been demonstrated in scientific experiments.  (And no, you can't put on a white coat and hit helmets with random things and call that a scientific test.)

I use mine until one of the following occurs: (1) I'm wearing it in a wreck.  (2) The pads fall apart and I can't keep it where it needs to be on my head.  (3) Straps or buckles fail.  And new the other year, (4) the outer shell detaches and is lost on a wonderfully fast descent.

Offline Molly88

Re: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2017, 04:18:22 pm »
Mine have always been replaced because of impact damage, never age.  I'd prefer them to age, however.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2017, 05:59:50 pm »
Mine have always been replaced because of impact damage, never age.  I'd prefer them to age, however.
I really, really, really wish I could keep a helmet intact long enough for it to be old enough to worry about.

Offline Molly88

Re: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2018, 10:41:18 am »
I think I'll just consider time limits marketing BS until some agency or organization w/o a dog in the fight shows otherwise. OTH, no need to have just one, so many color choices!

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Should bicycle helmets be retired after a certain age?
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2018, 03:03:26 pm »
I replace my helmets every 5-10 years or so.  Almost always because the inside sizing system that fits around your head and is adjustable becomes unstuck from the helmet itself.  So the helmet stops fitting right.  I think the material helmets are made of, Styrofoam and plastic, are pretty much impervious to everything on earth and time too.  Its just the darn fitting, sizing systems tend to break after awhile.