It’s fairly self-evident that you should replace a bike helmet after a crash. Even though it may appear to be intact and fine, the interior foam may be damaged in an undetectable way, thus lowering vital protection. Crashes aside, many bike helmet manufacturers recommend replacing a helmet every three to five years. But that’s not a universally agreed upon standard.
If you’re fond of your not overly used helmet and have stored it under good conditions, you might use it longer than five or even ten years. The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises getting a new helmet every five years or so because the helmet is going to be exposed to UV light from the sun and probably has been tossed into a locker or car or garage shelf where summer temperatures and humidity can damage it.
A Virginia Tech Helmet Lab expert says, “We would all assume performance degrades a bit over time … but the more important reason to upgrade your helmet is due to the technology advances.” Newer designs have reduced rotational forces that, on impact, contribute to concussions. Also, even if the foam in an older helmet isn’t necessarily worn out, the helmet’s component parts may be stressed – things like the strap, the adjusters that tighten it, and the hard plastic exterior shell.
So if you want to upgrade your helmet to include newer safety technology, feel free to make the investment. But landfills shouldn’t be graveyards for perfectly good, tried and true gear. Do some research and make a decision that’s best for you. I recently wrote an article on four types of bicycle helmets that are five-star rated, which would be a good place to start your research.