A rider should never leave home without a helmet on his or her head. It's common knowledge that helmets are integral to safe riding. Having one on your head keeps you safe on the road. It protects you from weather and the elements, and it's a lifesaver during a crash. Whether it's a classically styled bucket for your cafe racer, or a race-ready lid for your sportbike, safety should be top of mind and on your head. So how do you know if it’s time to change your motorcycle helmet? Consider the questions below to find out.
How old is your helmet?
The first thing you have to take note of is your helmet's age. As much as we'd like to think that our motorcycle helmets last forever, they don't. If you weren't aware, manufacturers typically include expiration dates on their helmets. Helmets are usually good for about 5 years, after which the materials begin to degrade. Constant exposure to the sun, weather, and dirt take a toll on the components of your helmet. At a certain point, the materials could be compromised and fail to protect you in an accident. Ideally, you can only keep a helmet for up to 5 years, and probably less than that depending on your usage, but probably more if you keep it relatively fresh.
Remember, the shelf life of a helmet is about 7 years, and after your first ride, your helmet will be good for about 5 years after that or less depending on use. It is important to always inspect the expanded polystyrene (EPS) layer of your lid, because that layer will determine if it will be able to protect you in the event of a crash.
How often do you wear your helmet?
The state of your helmet also depends on how often you wear it. If you're a weekend rider, then your helmet may be in better shape than someone who commutes daily. Regular riding causes wear and tear that degrades the helmet's inner EPS layer. and hampers its ability to stay in one piece.
Also note that pads play an important role in protection as well, as it keeps your skull in place and the helmet firmly secured on your head. Everyday riding will wear out the foam pads, however, you may be able to get replacements if the original pads do happen to wear out.
Is the helmet deteriorating?
If you know how to take care of your helmet, it should be several years before it starts to deteriorate. The first to go would be the interior. The inside of your helmet includes foam and lining material. Over time, the foam can start to go brittle and come off from the helmet. Some helmets have replaceable linings, but if yours doesn't have one, then that's a good sign you should change your helmet.
Has your helmet been involved in an accident?
If you've been in an accident and your helmet made significant contact and impact on a solid object, it may have to be replaced. Even if the helmet survived and looks serviceable, the risk isn't worth it. The helmet could have small cracks or other damage that might not be readily visible. These types of damage can grow larger over time and compromise your safety. Riding with a damaged helmet is simply not advisable, so be sure to retire it and get a new one if this applies to you.
However, if you do happen to drop your helmet without anything in it, a scratch shouldn’t hamper its ability to protect your head. The issue of dropping it arises when a helmet falls with weight inside it. If this happens, remove the pads and inspect the inner EPS foam layer for any dents and cracks. If this layer is seamless, then the helmet should still be good to protect you as long as it is not past its best-before date.
Motorcycle helmets are generally durable, and they can indeed last up to 5 years. However, this figure depends on how well you take care of your helmet and how often you use it. Take care of your helmet by following preventative and maintenance procedures. When riding, you can wear a balaclava on your head to minimize the sweat and dirt accumulating on the lining material. You can also clean the liner regularly with mild soaps and wipe the interior with a microfiber cloth. Well-maintained helmets can serve you for a long time and are well worth the investment.