You’ll read in many places that motorcycle helmets have a shelf life, and there are even some experts who feel they need to be replaced after only a year of use.
But most experts will also agree that the condition of a helmet depends on how well it’s maintained and where it’s stored when not in use. So which is it? Are you supposed to replace your helmet after a precise period of time or is it more subtle than that?
Well, if you’re wondering when to replace your motorcycle helmet we have just the article for you. First of all, the answer to this question was provided by Francois Bernie, one of Shark’s export managers:
How often should you replace a motorcycle helmet?
As for the shelf life and recommended time interval for changing the helmet, Bernie stated the following:
The helmet has no shelf life. Outer armor, if maintained and properly guarded, can last a long time, while the visor most commonly suffers from impact, e.g. insects, bits of soil and the like, so it is more susceptible to outside influences.
Shark, at least when it comes to their helmets, recommends that they change every five years. Even when the internal structure is preserved, changing certain parts such as visors and air openings can be very costly.
As technology constantly advances, and as safety aspects improve, a new helmet is always a better choice, even when more expensive than repairing or tidying up an old one.
Asked if the helmet could be damaged even though there was no visible damage, Francois Bernie replied:
The fall can lead to damage to the so-called ‘Expanded Polystyrene’ (EPS), which may not be visible to the naked eye. So damaged EPS in the event of a subsequent fall or impact will not behave properly and the consequences can be dramatic.
Bernie recommends replacing the helmet in such cases so that the driver is 100% safe.
When to replace a motorcycle helmet:
When it comes to replacing a helmet, it can be worn for up to five years, but this is only in theory given that there are additional factors that affect its lifespan.
What is crucial for helmet lifetime is first and foremost the condition of the helmet. Frequent use, excessive sweating, and even greasy hair can be factors that will accelerate the deterioration of the inside of a helmet.
If your helmet suffers a major fall and is seriously damaged, has a visible crack, a replacement is mandatory. But if it fell out of your hand or from the bike seat that doesn’t necessarily mean that a replacement is required.
Of course, in the event of any fall, it should be thoroughly checked that there are no cracks, but keep in mind that the helmets are very robust and are designed to protect you in the event of an accident. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the helmet should be played with like a basketball. 🙂
How to take care of your helmet and prevent damage
For a helmet to last as long as possible, proper maintenance is essential. Take care where you keep it, away from products that can damage the outer parts. Primarily the parts made of plastic, fiberglass or carbon fiber. The inner part also absorbs a lot of impact, protecting the head. So care should be taken to avoid damaging it, both while driving and while it’s in storage.
First of all it should be stored in a dry and clean place. It is not recommended to leave it in the winter in a garage that has no heating, for example, or in places where there is moisture.
When you put your helmet to storage, don’t hold any heavy items in it, as it can cause serious damage and deformation of the inner pads and lining over time.
Make sure that your helmet fits well on your head. If it’s too tight, the wear and tear on the inner, soft cushions can be rather quick. The same is true if the helmet is too large and it’s constantly moving as your drive. Even small movements can be irritating for your skin and for the soft inner padding.
Make sure that any extra technological gadgets such as earbuds or headphones can fit well before you opt for using them. Another important factor is sweat.
Sweat can also destroy the soft padding, especially in lower quality helmets. It can also make the helmet smelly. I recommend cleaning the helmet from the inside and leaving it in a cool and windy place from time to time just like you would with a jacket.
Not all helmets are made equal. There’s a big difference between a $50 and a $400 helmet. That’s not to say that the price tag is always justified, but it’s also true that you often get what you pay for. I really hate to bargain with my life, so I got one of the safest helmets out there. Shoei RF-1200. It scored great on multiple safety tests, including:
Impact Testing – The impact test uses controlled impacts to simulate different impact surfaces. The object is to measure gravitational (G) force or acceleration. If the peak acceleration in any test exceeds a value, the helmet is rejected.
Positional Stability (Roll-Off) Test – A head form is mounted so that it points face downward at an angle of 135 degrees. The helmet is placed on the head form and the straps and buckles adjusted to obtain a best fit condition. A weight is connected via wire rope and dropped from a determined height. The helmet is turned 180 degree and the test conducted again. The helmet may shift, but must not roll off the head form to pass the test.
Dynamic Retention Test – The helmet is placed on a head form with the chin strap fastened under a device representing the jaw. The jaw piece has a 23 kg weight applied for around one minute. The retention system is tested by simultaneously removing the 23 kg weight and applying a 38 kg mass in an abrupt guided fall. The retention system fails if it cannot support the mechanical loads or if the maximum instantaneous deflection (stretch) exceeds 30 mm (1.18 inches).
Chin Bar Test – The test helmet is attached to a base with the chin bar facing upward. A 5 kg weight is dropped to hit the central portion of the chin bar. Maximum downward deflection of the chin bar must not exceed the stated distance.
Shell Penetration Test – The test helmet is attached to a base. A sharp pointed 3-kg object is dropped from a prescribed height. The test striker must not penetrate the helmet or even achieve momentary contact with the head form inside the helmet.
Faceshield Penetration Test – The face shield (also called a visor) is attached to a test helmet and shot along the center line in three separate places with an air rifle. The rifle shoots sharp soft lead pellets at speeds approximately at 500 kph (310 miles per hour). The pellets must not penetrate the visor for it to pass the test. (source)
You can also check out the always entertaining RevZilla’s video review of my helmet:
Of course, not everyone can dish out $500 or so on a super-helmet. Previously I wore the Scorpion EXO-R710, which also did well on tests but is more than half the price, at around $200. It has a dual-density EPS layer for extra impact resistance and protection and an excellent fog-free visor.
Both of these helmets fell out of my hands multiple times because, well, I’m pretty clumsy to the annoyance of my girlfriend. 🙂 There isn’t a single noticeable crack or even a scratch on either of them.
I also wore them during long road trips throughout the years and the inner layers are still almost as good as new. So obviously with a quality helmet you won’t need to replace it as frequently.
In either case, if you need to replace your helmet any time soon, these two are solid options to consider.
Why does a motorcycle helmet expire?
The rule, which states that the normal lifespan of a helmet is five years, is only a theory. It refers to the life and property of the material in the event that the helmet is not worn but is in the shop. After five years, many of the materials used in the construction are beginning to lose their effectiveness, and there is a wear on the inner lining from standing.
The bottom line is that the helmet changes primarily if it has a crack or is severely damaged during a fall, as well as when the inside of the helmet is worn out and the head inside the helmet is gone. Depending on the wearing and use of the helmet, the helmet should be reduced every or every other year.
In addition to the condition of the helmet, one of the replacement factors may be the advancement of technologies. The technologies used in helmet making are changing at an incredible rate. so helmets can change a lot in five years, so this aspect needs to be taken into account.
In any case, real safety and a sense of peace that comes from knowing that your helmet is fully functional is priceless, so always make sure to replace it in time. Hope this helps!