A motorcycle helmet is like the head’s body armor. It protects the motorcyclist from major and potentially fatal head injuries under various riding conditions. Be it a ride to the workplace, an adventure expedition, a cruise in the countryside or even a race, the helmet ensures safety of the head and brain in case of mishaps or accidents. As such, it is important to know how often should you replace a motorcycle helmet so that its performance is not compromised due to aging, wear-and-tear, material degradation and other factors.
Table Of Contents
- How Does a Helmet Work to Avert or Minimize Head and Brain Injuries?
- Is there a Need to Replace a Motorcycle Helmet Periodically?
- Signs Your Motorcycle Helmet Is Getting Old
- How Often Should You Replace a Motorcycle Helmet?
- Where to Buy a New Motorcycle Helmet?
How Does a Helmet Work to Avert or Minimize Head and Brain Injuries?
In case of an accident, a mishap, a fall or a sudden stop, the helmet preempts damage or injury to the head and brain in two ways.
Firstly, it is important to understand that the sudden and unexpected halt causes the damage more than the impact of a fall. The situation is comparable with a car mishap. Even as the vehicle stops due to the accident, the body does not. It keeps moving forward until it bangs with the dashboard. This is why seatbelts are provided—to stop the forward body movement and bring it in sync with the vehicle’s stationary position. Similarly, the helmet retards the forward motion of the head and gives it a few seconds’ time to break its motion.
Secondly, the helmet also acts as an airbag in accident situations. It distributes the raw force of a crash along the surface of the helmet to reduce its impact. It also acts as a cushion to soften the thud of a fall. To realize the safety value of a helmet, consider these stats: while airbags save 33% lives and seat belts, 39%, helmets save 50% of lives in accidents.
Is there a Need to Replace a Motorcycle Helmet Periodically?
Yes, there is. A helmet is a mortal product with finite service life. Besides, rough use, non-maintenance and the motorcyclist’s body sweat and hair oil also wither the helmet.
Signs Your Motorcycle Helmet Is Getting Old
Everything, including our bodies, ages, and that’s how it is with motorcycle helmets. Natural aging is one of the causes of reduced helmet performance, especially because it is made from a combination of materials. These materials have different constitutions, properties, characteristics and typicality. Also, different brands use different types of materials, which may affect the aging process of the product.
However, there are some universal factors that contribute to a motorcycle helmet’s aging. These are:
The Extent of Use
The motorcycle helmet is a wearable product. It is made of multiple layers; each layer has different materials, and they are exposed to different elements during a single use. The exterior shell is exposed to the atmospheric and climatic elements while the innermost layer has to face alkaline body sweat, greasy hair, dandruff and more. There is also the “human factor,” meaning the user’s body emissions, their hair gels or hair oils and their make-ups that tell on the helmet’s life. The helmet also gets more “suffocated” and heated due to the enclosed shell. Obviously, the extent of usage has a tangible impact on the basic question, How often should you replace a motorcycle helmet.
Care and maintenance have a clear impact on the quality and life of a helmet. Rough handling can also affect the longevity of a helmet. For example, it can cause denting which can cause damage to its cushioning or wear off chin straps faster. It should also be considered that modern lifestyle has put the motorcycle helmet in the vanity products’ category. Owners pride themselves in the style of their helmets as much as in their motorcycles and love to show them off.Ultimately, good maintenance of helmets equate with their longer life, better performance and good looks.
The two important layers of a motorcycle helmet are the outer shell and the inner cushion compartment; these are made from very different materials. The exterior is usually made from polycarbonate plastic, Kevlar or fiberglass while the inner compartment is usually made of expanded polystyrene synthetic foam. The other materials include glues, paint, resins, shell liners and straps. As seen earlier, these materials have varying tolerance and resistance properties, and they affect the product’s health and longevity.
This brings us to the main topic of the article: how often should you replace a motorcycle helmet.
How Often Should You Replace a Motorcycle Helmet?
All stakeholders agree that as a crucial safety gear, motorcycle helmets should be replaced periodically. However, the “when” factor was of concern for the manufacturers as well as the users. To address this concern, the Snell Foundation, a helmet safety research facility of the Snell brand, and a consortium of manufacturers undertook extensive research on how often should you replace a motorcycle helmet. The research took into account all usability factors, the extent of use, different materials, care and maintenance paradigms, the overall surface safety conditions and various other relevant factors.
Replace Your Motorcycle Helmet in 5 Years
This research concluded that a motorcycle helmet should be replaced every five years. This has now become a universally-accepted consensus by the industry and the consumers. Apart from industry research, there is also a legal dimension to the matter of the 5-year helmet replacement timeframe. This legal angle is brought forth by the insurance companies who insure motorcycle racers and racing organizations. As a result, several organizations have mandated that the racers wear helmets that are less than 5 years “old.” Note: a helmet can grow “old” even if not in use.
Interestingly, Arai, a top-line premium motorcycle helmet brand, has also said a helmet can degenerate even if it is not in use. This is mainly due to the natural wearing of materials and climatic and atmospheric phenomena. As such, a helmet’s life should be considered for a period of seven years from the date of manufacture and 5 years from the sale date. This is very relevant and concerning for the more adventurous users such as racers, for whom helmet quality and performance is literally a question of life and death. For them the answer to the question, How often should you replace a motorcycle helmet, obviously is, 5 years!
Other Reasons to Replace your Helmet
Notwithstanding this consensus on how often should you replace a motorcycle helmet, there are some out-of-norm situations when experts recommend an immediate new purchase. These are:
- Damage to the helmet due to an accident, mishap or other reasons
- Deformed or shrunken inner cushion due to heavy usage
- Loose chin strap
- Loose helmet (If the helmet turns from side to side even after tying the chin fastener when you shake the head)
- Dented helmet exterior
The above recommendations are made by the experts at SHOEI, one of the most reputed motorcycle helmet brands. So, it may be time for many to replace their motorcycle helmets. The following points will help you make the right choice.
Recommendations When Purchasing Helmet
It is recommended that you try the helmet on your head before buying one. This is because your head contour is unique; nobody else on this planet is likely to have the same head as yours! A trial will ensure that the gear fits snugly without causing any discomfort. While trying out the helmet, see to it that it ‘sits’ firmly on your head without moving from one side to the other. Ensure that the helmet has a secure buckle. This secondary fastener will not let the helmet fall off your head if unfortunately, you face a sudden impact and will still be securely fastened on your head at the time of the actual fall.
Make sure that the helmet is not too heavy on your head. Remember, the weight of the helmet has a long-term bearing on the neck and spinal health.
Look for the model and features that suffice your motorcycling needs. It is no point over-spending on a racer’s gear if you are going to be biking mostly on city roads. Also, make sure the chin fastener is adjustable.
Where to Buy a New Motorcycle Helmet?
As just mentioned, it is advisable to buy your next motorcycle helmet after a good trial. The first choice should be the retail outlet of your preferred brand. Apart from the trust and confidence that you have in the brand, such a visit will also let you check out the entire range. After all, you want to buy not only the safest but the best-looking gear too! If such a retail outlet is not easily accessible, your second and third options should be the motorcycle retail stores and the automobile accessory stores, respectively.
The consensus answer to the question, how often should you replace a motorcycle helmet, is clear: within or upon five years of usage. Exceptions apply to this universal consensus, but as a rule, it is an excellent pointer derived after extensive industry research. So try your best to stick to it. After all, you don’t have a spare head!