In general, experts recommend to replace a bike helmet every 3 to 5 years, although some might last even 5 to 10 years if properly maintained.


A helmet is a vital piece of equipment for a cyclist. It has the ability to protect you in the event of an accident and comes with a few other benefits as well. A common question we get asked by many of our amazing readers and subscribers is, “When do bike helmets expire?”.

What a lot of cyclists don’t know is helmets have a shelf life, and it’s important to understand when they will need to be changed. In this article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know by discussing:

What Are Bike Helmets Made Of?

bike helmet

Bike helmets are made up of various layers, and that is what creates its strength. Here’s how a typical bike helmet is put together.

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The outer shell of a bike helmet is generally made of either fiberglass or tough plastic. When the helmet takes impact, it’s designed to break and distribute the force across the whole helmet.

Foam Layer

Next, we have the foam layer. This sits under the outer shell and is made of either Polypropylene or Expanded Polystyrene. The foam absorbs the force of the impact when you are in an accident.

Inside Padding

Then we have the inside padding, made of a soft foam. This is what is attached to the foam and ensures that it stays comfortable when you’re wearing the helmet. It also adds to the protection by helping distribute the force further after the foam layer.

Retention System

Finally, we have the retention system, which holds the helmet to your head. It’s the straps and buckles. They often have a system called MIPS, which retains the helmet to your head and moves inside the helmet, further reducing impact.

bike helmet

What Factors Affect Bike Helmet Life?

Many factors affect the life of a helmet. Some might not last as long as others, and here’s why.


Poor-quality helmets don’t last very long, whereas high-quality helmets will go on for many years. We highly recommend going for better-known brands over cheaper, unknown ones.


As soon as your helmet has taken one solid hit, it’s broken and shouldn’t be used again. After they have had a single hit, the structure becomes compromised, and it doesn’t have the strength it used to have.

UV Damage And Conditions

Surprisingly, helmets can only take a certain amount of sunlight and poor conditions. When storing a helmet, it’s important not to leave it in direct sunlight or very cold places. Hence why you will never see bike shops display helmets in shop windows.


Helmets should be regularly cleaned to ensure they last as long as possible. It’s also important that they don’t get harsh chemicals on them that can break down the foam and weaken the structure.

When Do Bike Helmets Expire?

bike helmet

Bike helmets should be replaced every 3 to 5 years. However, it might not say that on the box or the helmet. That’s what experts recommend. Some helmets can be 5 to 10 years old, but they must be properly maintained.

Although this might sound extreme, it’s good to keep on top of your helmet as in the unfortunate occurrence of an accident, it’s going to be incredibly important for protecting your head. The difference between wearing a helmet and not wearing a helmet is huge.

How Do You Know When A Bike Helmet Has Expired?

The difficulty for many cyclists is knowing when to change bike helmets. You don’t know how long the helmet might have been sitting in a store or if it has been stored correctly. Here’s what I personally look out for.

Brittle Outer Shell Or Foam

If you start to see the helmet’s outer shell or the foam start to go brittle, it needs replacing. This means the materials are breaking down and no longer have any strength. Look for small cracks or foam breaking off to confirm this is an issue.


If you start to notice that your helmet is changing color and the paint is wearing down, then there’s a good chance that it’s had too much UV exposure. Although you could restore the color, the foam is not repairable.


When asked about helmet replacement, I always tell people to look up what helmet they have and when it was manufactured. If it was 10 years ago, although you might have only used it for two, it could need changing.

bike helmet

Should You Buy Secondhand Bike Helmets?

This is a question we often get asked. Often, cyclists want to save money buying secondhand or get given a secondhand helmet and ask us if it’s okay to use. In my opinion, don’t use secondhand helmets.

Although they might look fine, you don’t know the history. They could have been dropped or damaged, and although it might not show on the surface, they could be structurally broken. This means they might not protect you if you were to have an accident.

When someone gives you a helmet for free, you need to know the history and know it will be okay to want to use it. I have seen some riders with pretty awful helmets over the years that wouldn’t do much in an accident.

A Final Note

Safety should always be your main concern when it comes to cycling. Wearing a helmet, being visible, and not riding dangerously.

Wearing a helmet isn’t just about ticking a box. It’s about protection and ensuring you are going to be fully protected in the event of an accident.

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