A riding helmet has many uses that concern more than just protection. For example, you can use your helmet to mount small cameras and record your travels – you can access more information here. Motorcycle helmets are without a doubt the most important pieces of protective gear a rider has to wear in order to ride safely and fully enjoy the biker experience.
It’s no wonder that people take good care of these pieces of equipment. However, many wonder exactly when they should acquire a new helmet or what must happen to a helmet so that riders replace their existing one.
How long before replacing?
The general rule is to replace your motorcycle helmet once every five years, assuming that it doesn’t sustain any damage during this time. These five years take into account that the materials used in manufacturing the helmet are also degrading.
Binders, such as glue or resin do not possess the same properties as when the helmet was brand new. This puts you at risk, as the helmet does not protect your head as well anymore.
Because it is constantly being used, the inner lining is also deteriorating. In addition, its exterior shell may come into contact with petroleum-based products that harm the plastic, the carbon fiber or the fiberglass out of which the helmet is manufactured.
Another strong argument for replacing your helmet after 5 years of use, even if you have not used it so much, is the progress in technology. Scientists are always developing new materials and new functionalities regarding motorcycle helmets. New models of helmets prove to be extremely comfortable, light and at the same time manage to give you great protection.
A professional helmet that you buy today is certainly better than a professional helmet that was on sale five years ago.
Treating and storing a helmet
Even though helmets are manufactured to be resilient and tough, this doesn’t mean you should not be careful when handling or storing them. If you take good care of your helmet, then it will take care of you. As mentioned previously, keep it away from any harmful substances that may corrode or damage in any way its exterior surface.
If the shell of a helmet is intact, this doesn’t mean that the helmet is going to do its job. During a crash, the helmet foam, found on the interior, is meant to deform in order to absorb the impact forces. This is why you should protect the interior of your helmet as well. Never store heavy items inside your helmet as they may deform the foam in time.
This is also true if you drop the helmet onto a hard surface while having a heavy object inside. Regarding this same aspect, take care when you hang this piece of gear on a hook. Again, you risk deforming the interior foam and lowering its protection rating. Never place your helmet onto a coat hanger or on top of the bike’s mirror. These will create an indentation in the foam as well.
If you are a passionate biker and you wear your helmet on a daily basis, keep in mind that sweat, greasy hair and even hair products can deteriorate the inner materials. The foam gets compacted and as a result, it degenerates at a much faster rate than usual.
To prevent this from happening, you could add to the inside of your helmet a helmet liner, or wear a scarf on your head to prevent the foam from getting wet.
When winter comes or you simply do not use the helmet for a longer period of time, make sure to store it in a dry and cool place, preferably away from direct sunlight. In addition, you should place the helmet in its original bag to further decrease the chances of it being damaged.
Dropping a helmet
Most people change their helmets after they have been involved in a collision. This is a simple decision. The helmet has obviously suffered some damage both on the exterior and on the interior. You can see and feel the shell and the foam and you can determine without any hesitation that it’s time to change your helmet.
This having been said, there are those cases when you simply drop your helmet on the ground. It wasn’t involved in an accident, but the helmet has collided with the ground. This time around the answer is not as simple because there are many variables. It depends on what surface you drop it, from what height, how professional the helmet is, etc.
In this scenario, you most likely will not see anything wrong on the interior of the helmet. The foam is probably intact as there was nothing inside the helmet to deform it. However, the exterior shell has a high risk of being visibly damaged.
Many times, because it’s used on a daily basis, a helmet is likely to get scratches and minor imperfections as you bump it against the motorcycle, or you drop light things on it, like your keys and such. In these cases, you are not required to go and buy a new one.
These minor damages do not affect the integrity of the helmet at all and it will still protect you as designed in case of an accident. However, if you ever find yourself in that scenario we talked earlier where you have dropped it on the ground, you need to carefully examine your helmet because you have to make an important decision.
After you have dropped your motorcycle helmet, the outer shell should disintegrate from the point of impact in order to dissipate the impact forces, similar to what it would do in the case of a real accident. You would notice after that little fractures on it, especially if you drop it on something hard or sharp, like pebble stones, where the impact area is small.
If your scenario is similar to the ones described above, you should consider acquiring a new helmet. Although it’s unintuitively, the more expensive your helmet is, the higher the chances are that you must get a new one. This happens because expensive brands, that manufacture high-quality, professional motorcycle helmets, design their products to shatter.
By shattering, a helmet absorbs the impact forces and protects your head. People who think that a hard helmet is better than one that breaks more easily are wrong. A hard helmet retains its shape during a collision and transfers all the force directly to your skull.
By that logic, you wouldn’t want to drop an expensive helmet from a great height, or onto a hard surface as it will surely break its outer shell. This happens because this is how it’s supposed to work.
There is no definitive answer to this matter. It all depends on the circumstances. If you dropped your helmet from a low height and the helmet is not professional-level, then you might be all right and it would be safe to still use it. However, if you dropped it on sharp objects from a big height, and the helmet is a high-quality one, then you should better get a new one.