When And How Often Should You Replace a Bike Helmet – Do Helmets Expire?

A Detailed Guide On The Right Time To Replace Your Bike Helmet

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A question that tickles many bikers about a helmet is “When to replace bike helmets?”

While the answer depends upon many factors, “You must replace a helmet as soon as possible after a crash. If the helmet is too old, replace it. Generally, the lifespan of a new helmet is about 5 to 10 years, so you should replace it accordingly.”

Here’s a deep dive into the topic so you have an even better idea about it.

How Long Do Bike Helmets Last and Do They Expire?

A bike helmet doesn’t have to last forever. In fact, the average lifespan is only between 5 years but could vary depending on how well it’s cared for. Even brand new bike helmets could pose some safety risks, especially if they’re not cleaned properly. Some helmets have special coatings that get damaged easily and need to be replaced over time.

Bike helmets, like any other product, also see development making them more secure and lighter. So replacing your helmet will also be beneficial in the perspective that you’re likely to be upgrading to a better more secure helmet.

When to Replace a Bike Helmet in Different Scenarios

If It Lacks CPSC, Snell, or ASTM Stickers?

CPSCSnell, and ASTM are the standards with which we measure how tough a helmet is. Before wearing or purchasing any helmet, make sure that you find the CPSC, ASTM, and Snell stickers on it.

That would mean that your helmet is now certified to bear harsh and uncanny accidents. You can then ride uphill, downhill, or on gravel terrains according to your will and wish.

If the helmet lacks any of the stickers, it’s time to choose a new helmet just for the sake of your protection.

After a Crash

If you crash while riding on a mountain bike with a helmet on your head, you should not use it again. The formula in this situation is to “Replace the bike helmet as soon as possible”.

Now, one might disagree with this answer considering the impact of the crash and that’s completely justified. But, the thing is we are talking about your SAFETY and PROTECTION here!

You cannot jeopardize your life just because you want to use a crashed helmet again.

Rich Handel, a test manager for helmets at Consumer Reports says that “Even though the outer shell of the helmet will look just fine, the inner foam either made up of EPS (Extended Polystyrene) or EPU (Extended Polyurethane) will get damaged.”

What he simply wants to imply is that once the helmet foam gets compressed, it cannot bear the shock and impact of an upcoming crash.

So, we rest our case here with the advice that “Replace your helmet with a major or minor sign of damage as soon as you can after you get involved in a crash.”

Related: Learn to Clean Your Bike Helmet Correctly

If the Helmet is Too Old

Old bike helmets from the 70s and 90s do not contain helmet liners, especially the Styrofoam liner in them and they could pose a protection threat to a biker’s head easily.

That said, many helmet manufacturers are of the view that “You should replace a helmet every 5 years.”

Keeping that POV in mind, you cannot rely on old helmets even if they offer a thick and heavy outer shell.

Many old helmet models are not ideal according to ASTM or Snell Safety Standards. They have got thin foam padding on the inside, which cannot survive crashes thus compromising your safety and protection.

All in all, if the helmet’s way too old, simply replace it with a new one and you are good to go.

If You Drop It Hard Enough

Sometimes mountain bike riders could be the reason for helmet degradation and they should not blame themselves during the helmet for damage incident.

If you’ve been through the same scenario and you see that the helmet has visible damage, replace it.

You see with the shell already cracked open, it’s evident that your current helmet won’t keep your head protected even if you are involved in a minor crash.

Get it replaced as soon as possible and throw the cracked one right into the trash can.

If You Are Facing Difficulties Adjusting It?

A bike helmet should fit in the correct position and not the other way around. While keeping the safety factor in mind, bikers should not compromise on their comfort as well.

If you adjust the helmet and it still doesn’t feel comfortable, you should consider replacing it with an improved size. This will not only make you comfortable, but you will be able to focus on the way ahead instead of adjusting the helmet again and again.

When to Replace a New Helmet As Per CPSC?

According to guidelines mentioned by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), you should replace a new bike helmet after using it for at least three to 5 years.

Many helmet manufacturers recommend using a durable model for about 10 years, but we all know that with the kind of environmental exposure and sun exposure, it cannot survive this time easily.

Snell Foundation, on the other hand, is of the same view about replacing a new helmet. It recommends a five-year helmet replacement period.

All in all, we could deduce that the ideal lifespan of a helmet (no matter how durable it is), is not more than 5 years. But, there’s a twist in the story as well.

What if you like your old helmet more and are comfortable with it?

The answer to this question is perfectly summed up by Randy Swart who worked at ATSM-International for quite some time. Randy says that “My own personal helmet is much older than the 5 years and I still wear it while biking on different terrains.”

From this exception, we could assume that if you are comfortable in your old helmet and it does not show any signs of foam thinning or wear, you should keep using it even after 5 years.

Randy also continues by saying that “We should consider getting new helmets with noticeable improvements, safety features, and with latest protection technologies.”

In short, what she wants to imply is that replacing an older helmet is still necessary even if you are using it for a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions:

When should you replace your cycling helmet?

Although it depends upon different scenarios, ATSM, and CPSC recommend replacing a cycling helmet after three to five years.

Snell Foundation is of the view that due to the impact on helmet production, it should be replaced after five years. However, you should replace it ASAP after getting into a crash or if you are not comfortable wearing it.

How do I know if I need to replace my helmet?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you crash the helmet recently? Replace it!
  • Are you using a helmet from the 70s and 80s? Replace it!
  • Does the helmet lack important certification stickers? Replace it!
  • Can you not adjust it with comfort? Replace it!

Final Takeaways: When to Replace Bike Helmet?

Replacing a bike helmet actually depends on multiple scenarios that we have already talked about above.

Always remember that your safety and protection come first and every other thing comes afterward.

Don’t be a miser in choosing the right and comfortable new helmet for yourself. Invest after serious consideration to keep yourself away from any serious head injuries or concussions.

Last but not the least, replace your bike helmet after five years of use and enjoy the adventurous rides without any worries.

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Written By

From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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