Unlike other safety precautions, replacing your bike helmet is more of a judgment call than an immediate necessity. If you haven’t had a crash or dropped it during use, you must still keep in mind the environmental exposure and chemicals that can lead to degradation.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), if looked after well, cyclists only need to buy a new helmet every five to ten years.
Some manufacturers advise switching them out after three years if the helmet is under regular use.
How to know when you need a replacement?
If you find yourself still on the bench about replacing your helmet, here are a few indicators that will point you in the right direction;
A rule most safety supervisors and manufacturers emphasize on following strictly is replacing a bike helmet immediately after a crash. One should remember that bike helmets are designed to absorb force upon impact, which may cause the inner foam to be damaged even if the exterior bounces back to its usual appearance.
Thus, it is often best not to risk your safety margin being reduced and toss out the helmet for a new one even after a seemingly minor mishap.
Considerable Environmental Exposure
A misconception believed by many is that the EPS foam fitted inside the helmet wears out easily due to sweat or saltwater. However, before the foam gives in to chemicals, the shell becomes brittle as a result of constant exposure to sunlight.
A clear indication of this is the color of your shell fading due to being under the harsh UV rays for too long.
In case of an accident, it is important for your helmet not to budge from your head in order to keep you safe. Thus if the foam inserts lose their incline, the slide adjusters are damaged, a blade breaks off the buckle, or the helmet can generally not stay in place, a new one is in order.
If you have been sitting out getting your helmet replaced for a while, the right time to do so would be when a newer technology comes along. Advanced models fit better, are more comfortable, last long under the sun, have excess features like lights, and help reduce rotational forces upon impact (which contribute to concussions). The latest in safety technology is definitely a helmet you can trust.
How to take care of your bike helmet?
Here are a few tips to help you make the best use of your helmet before you switch it out:
- Clean your helmet with soap and water using a soft cloth or sponge. Wash any removable pads separately and void using any chemicals.
- Store your helmets in a cool place away from heat. Heat-damaged helmets can be spotted with bubbles on their exterior.
- Avoid sharing your helmet with others so you can keep track of its use and not risk any damage to the foam.
- While customization is often encouraged, you should say no to stickers on your bike helmet as the glue may damage the polycarbonate exterior.
What should you be aware of when looking for a bike helmet?
When you are in the market for a replacement, this guide will help you look into the right features for both protection and long-term use:
Recreational, road, and mountain bike helmets differ by sizing, ventilation, safety features as well as weight. Therefore, it is important to know if you will need rear head coverage on the mountains, aerodynamic designs for being on the road, or go easy on your budget with casual riding.
Fit and Comfort
A good helmet fit is important for its effectiveness in a crash as well as comfort for long hours of riding. As a customer, you should know your head circumference as sizing varies from brand to brand.
A good fit should be stable but not annoyingly tight; the front edge should be one inch or less above your eyebrows. Wearing a beanie or cycling cap can help make up for a couple of inches too.
There are three main specialized technologies when it comes to impact resistance and reducing rotational forces during a crash; MIPS, Wavecel, and SPIN. Common among most brands, MIPS helps redirect forces by rotating the foam liner slightly during impact.
Restricted to certain brands, Wavecel features a honeycombed liner that creates a crumple zone while SPIN counters rotational forces by silicone-injected pads.
Styling and Looks
The market offers a variety of options to cater to your custom needs, like visors to keep out the sun, vents for lightweight preferences, full-face protection for those who can never be too cautious, and mounts for adding your own lights and action cameras.
Which bike helmets provide maximum safety?
Endura Pro SL Helmet
Available in multiple colors, this helmet features an aerodynamic and lightweight design. The Koroyd core helps you accelerate without endangering your safety. Mostly for professionals, it does not offer many options in sizing and ventilation.
Bontrager Starvos Wavecel Cycling Helmet
It provides a one-hand adjustment system being both comfortable and washable. Being on the low end of products as well as having a crash replacement policy, this helmet is perfect for the road and preferred by regular cyclists.
Giro Radix MIPS Helmet
Designed for mountain bikers, this helmet offers good ventilation and rear-end coverage. One can easily tune fit tension using a single band as well as keep the sun out of their eyes to remain focused when on the rugged lands.
Cyclists should be aware that wearing any helmet is better than wearing none, but if the budget allows you, replacing your helmet according to your needs is the way to go.
Carrying out regular inspections for wear and tear and trusting your gut will help you make the right decisions for your protection.
If you are still unsure, stick to the five to ten-year replacement rule. Lastly, a helmet should fit you well, offer maximum safety and match your style.
I am Luis Pedraza, Spanish engineer based in Poland for work right now. I used to take place in BTT races in my region when I was younger and now I enjoy the Sierra de gredos and El pielago on my Orbea MX when I visit my hometown. Addicted to Cycling Manager, I used to write about football and cycling on the Internet.