There are a number of misconceptions about bike helmets. One such misconception is that they expire, like food or medicine. In reality, helmets do not expire. They may need to be replaced after a crash or impact because they can become too damaged to provide enough protection but that doesn’t make them expired, it just means they need to be replaced.
Here, are some tips for making sure your helmet is always up-to-date and ready for any kind of situation:
What is a bike helmet?
A helmet is a protective covering worn on a bike rider’s head to reduce the risk of head injury in a crash. The most important parts of a bike helmet are the chin strap, the chin guard and the visor. All three must be comfortable and not slip off when a bike rider shifts positions during a ride or to take in the scenery.
The more expensive the helmet, the more protection it provides. More expensive helmets can also have many extra features to protect the cyclist from the environment and the road. Helmets have a wide range of different uses, from racing and touring to off-roading and touring. Because a helmet is required when on a bike, it should fit you and you should be comfortable wearing it.
Do bike helmets expire?
Most cycle helmets will be used by cyclists for many years and therefore their lifespan depends on a number of factors. Some helmets are designed to be used with all kinds of cycling and all kinds of terrain while others are intended for mountain biking and therefore need a different design to absorb impact when dropping into a root.
One feature in particular that determines lifespan is the foam used in the helmet. Sometimes there can be a certain level of sweat built up in the helmet which can create a sticky residue. If this is the case then even if the helmet has not been on the saddle for a few months it may not be appropriate to continue wearing it.
The same can happen to bike helmets that have been through normal usage but may be a little stiff after a few months.
How do I know if my helmet needs to be replaced?
When a helmet is properly worn, there is almost no degradation of its impact resistance. However, you should make sure it is put through rigorous testing and that there are no scratches on the shell. Your helmet should have the “seasoning” removed by pressing firmly against it with a soft hammer. (And if you’ve only worn it a couple of times, you may be lucky.
The quicker a bike helmet can be cleaned, the longer it can be used.) You can also clean your helmet with a vinegar-water mix (in the usual order of a greasy black helmet, a lighter blue one, a green one, a pink one and so on) or you can use regular soap and water to clean it. How long does it take a helmet to get ruined? It depends on how badly you crash.
How can I store my helmet for long periods of time?
This depends on your situation and the helmet’s material. For a bike helmet made of plastic, the only way to extend its life is to treat it with a water-based lacquer and leave it indoors. You can also put the helmet in the freezer and let it melt gradually.
On the other hand, if your helmet is made from a more durable material such as fiberglass or Kevlar, you can let it breathe as long as you live in a fairly temperate climate. If you’re in hot weather, make sure the helmet is completely sealed and the wind can’t penetrate.
When can a helmet be replaced? You can typically replace a helmet after three years but this time frame can be more flexible. Does a helmet make me look silly?
The bottom line is that it’s your responsibility to make sure your bike helmet is always up to date and ready for any type of situation. After all, no one wants a nasty new brain bleed on top of all the other injuries you had in that crash. If you live in a state that requires helmet use, make sure to use one on every ride, not just your planned weekend rides.