Bicyclists are always encouraged to purchase and wear bicycle helmets, but once you buy one, that’s not the end of the story. Most helmet manufacturers and industry groups recommend replacing one’s bicycle helmet every 3-5 years, provided the helmet has not been subjected to a crash. However, if a helmet has served its role and defended your noggin from a crash, it should be replaced immediately!
With that said, it is important to note that the useful life of a bike helmet will vary depending on how it has been used and the types of materials to which the helmet has been exposed. A bicycle helmet isn’t one singular product. The various glues, resins and other products used to make the helmet, break down over time.
Some industry groups point out that certain chemicals used in consumer products may also impact upon the useful life of a helmet. Examples cited by some include hair formulations and DEET, which is a chemical used in certain bug repellants that has been shown to degrade some plastics. One’s individual skin chemistry and their frequency of use are also thought to play a role in “wearing out” one’s helmet quicker than the average.
Alternately, other groups, such as the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, a non-profit out of Washington State, argue that helmets have a longer life than industry groups suggest.
However, as a bicycle accident attorney and avid cyclist myself, I say, “Why take the chance?” Few pieces of gear are as important to your safety while riding as your helmet. They are readily available and fairly cheap, so why skimp? Replace your helmet at least every 3-5 years, and any time following a bicycle accident.
More detailed information on this important topic can be found via the following links: