If you’re a cyclist you’ve probably heard many different points of view on the subject of when to replace your helmet. Most manufacturers recommend replacing them every 3 to 5 years, while on the other side of the discussion there are some people believe this is just a way for brands to sell more products.
Believe it or not, there is actually some science behind all of the talk.
The very first point to seriously consider is: have you dropped or crashed your helmet in the past?… If you answered yes, even though there might not be any visual damage you should replace it immediately.
The inner shock absorbing layer of a helmet is only designed for one-time use, once it has been compressed or absorbed any impact it will never be as protective as it was when it was new. Keep in mind that if there is a ‘weak spot’ in your helmet, the next time you need it most (if you crash) it may not be able to protect your head the way it was originally designed to, or worse it could shatter on impact and cause further injury.
Secondly, how old is your helmet? Inside your helmet you should be able to see a manufacturing date sticker, there should also be an Australian standards sticker. It’s the date of manufacture that matters most here, not when it was purchased.
If it is approaching 3 years old it’s definitely worth giving it a thorough inspection (including the straps, clips and buckles) to see how it is holding up, or bring it in and we’ll check it for you. This is due to the eventual breakdown of materials such as foam, glues or resins, but also because a lot of the materials used in helmet manufacturing can react to chemicals (such as sunscreen or lotions), environmental exposure and temperature cycles (chances are, your helmet has seen a lot of sun in its life).
Did you know that Specialized helmets are covered by their crash replacement program? Any Specialized helmet that has been crashed and is less than 3 years from the date of purchase can be replaced at 20% off the retail price. So make sure you hang on to your receipts.
Lastly, does it still fit you properly? If your helmet doesn’t sit snug on your head anymore, it’s time to replace it. It’s not a pretty picture to imagine coming off your bike head-first under any circumstance, but it’s not made any easier to think about a poorly fitting helmet that could move or fly off, offering no protection at all.
The bottom line is, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting your noggin, after-all what price can you put on properly looking after that big brain of yours?