Helmets are nowadays the most important element to ride a bike. Apart from being mandatory on interurban roads in most countries, it’s really helpful in case of an accident, and can even prevent fatalities when there’s a really strong impact. Keep in mind that blows to the head can end up being fatal in the worst scenario, and wearing a helmet that doesn’t offer the right protection is as useful as going bareheaded. This is why you should consider the helmet’s useful life, as well as doing the right maintenance, as it can be a real lifesaver.
One of the most discussed and debated issues by cyclists is how often they have to change their bike helmet. It is clear that it must be changed if it has been hit hard or if it shows any signs of damage. Not only a strong blow can damage it, but also when it is transported from one place to another or has fallen off the shelf or out of your hands. In all these cases you will be able to notice it quickly as you will see some signs or marks on the outer shell of the helmet.
Other factors, however, must be taken into account regarding your helmet’s lifespan. When you’ve been wearing the same helmet for a while, you get the feeling that it has already adapted to the shape of your head and that you won’t find anything better. You must bear in mind that over time the helmet deteriorates and the padding loses its cushioning and protective function. Helmets have a sort of expiry date and manufacturers suggest changing it every 3 or 5 years depending on the use you make of it.
Do bike helmets have a “Best Before” date?
Helmets are not everlasting and they are exposed to many factors such as temperature changes, sun or rain, which end up affecting their performance and security even though they have never been hit.
Helmet manufacturers assure that a helmet must be changed approximately every 3 years if they’re used intensely; if it’s used less frequently and with more care, it can last up to 5 years, as a standard maximum time. Every helmet has a label inside with each model’s quality seals and manufacturing date. Considering this date, you can estimate how long it will last without losing any of its protective qualities.
Helmets are not like food, which as a very specific “best before” date. However, it’s advisable to change them according to the advice above.
Four tips on care and maintenance
Keep reading to find some advice as to extend your helmet’s useful life, and also to check whether the helmet is in a good condition or it must be replaced with a new one.
1. Care and maintenance
As with every other product, if you care for your helmet you’ll be able to extend its useful life and enjoy it longer, in better condition and performance. One key aspect for this is a good cleaning after every ride. Seat is highly corrosive, and if the helmet is not properly washed, parts such as the padding or straps can end up damaged.
It’s necessary to change the padding if it’s damaged or very flat. Each helmet model has its own padding. Brands normally manufacture spare pads for each model, as they are the part that suffers the most wear and tear, due to being in continuous contact with the cyclist’s head and sweat.
2. Manufacture date
It’s important to know when your helmet was manufactured in order to estimate for how long you can use it – and when you must change it. Most helmets have a sticker inside (some of them, attached to the EN 1708 standard label) that states the manufacture date. Knowing this date, you’ll also know when it’s time to change the helmet.
Remember that helmet manufacturers set a limit of 5 years, which can be shorter depending on its condition and the use it has endured.
3. Outer shell and fastening system
In order to check the condition of a helmet, take a look at the outer shell first. Make sure there are no blows, scratches or dents, and also that the outer shell is correctly attached to the inner structure everywhere.
Once the external shell has been checked, focus on the fastening system: straps, buckles, links, both on the front and on the rear side. If the straps are significantly worn, fraying or even partially torn, they must be immediately replaced. The same applies to buckles, they must function properly in order to keep the helmet in place during each whole ride.
4. Internal structure
Last but not least, after having thoroughly checked the outside structure and fastening parts, focus on the inside. Examine it carefully, making sure the whole inner structure is correctly attached to the whole perimeter of the helmet. As with the external shell, make sure there are no blows, cracks or important wear and tear signs.
It’s crucial to take into account each and every factor so that the helmet is properly preserved and, if they time has come, replace it with a new one.