The helmet is the element of protection and safety that we must always wear when riding a motorcycle.
There are no excuses to go without it, no matter how good your hairstyles are. The damage that our head would suffer if it was hit at more than 11 mph (17km/h) would be very serious.
An impact on the skull at 18mph (29 km/h) would mean death in 98% of cases.
According to DGT data, head injuries are the main factor in death due to motorcycle accidents, and the helmet reduces deaths by 42% and serious injuries in motorcycle accidents by 69%.
In fact, motorcyclists who do not wear helmets are 40% more likely to die in the event of a motorcycle accident.
Given the importance of the helmet for a motorcyclist, there is a question that assails many of them cyclically:
Is a motorcycle helmet for life? The answer is NO.
Read our ultimate buying guide for best dirt bike helmets
Do Motorcycle Helmets Have An Expiration Date?
Like most manufactured products, motorcycle helmets have a useful life and we will have to replace it when it reaches its end.
Here you will all ask us, when does this end come?
Well, there is no single answer. It depends on the material with which the helmet is made plus the sum of a series of external factors such as the use it has been given, the treatment it has received, the degree of exposure to the climatological elements it has suffered, and so on.
We should not overlook the fact that the materials with which a helmet is made lose their properties over the years, the polymers weaken, the straps stretch, the pads deform, the plastic joints glass, the mechanisms break down, the resins dry up?
To specify, if the shell of the helmet is made of polycarbonate the useful life recommended by manufacturers moves around 5 years from its date of manufacture, and if it is made of fiberglass or carbon reaches 8.
This does not mean that on the exact day that the years are fulfilled the helmet stops protecting us.
But that, from this date, the loss of properties of the materials is accelerated and will protect us less and less.
In the past, motorcycle helmets had the date of manufacture printed on a point on the shell, but now the regulations do not oblige.
It is difficult to find a manufacturer who informs of this fact.
Under normal circumstances, a helmet takes between 6 and 9 months, or even 12 months, to travel from the point of manufacture to the head of the end-user. Then everyone does their calculations.
Dates apart, the main reason for changing it is that it has already fulfilled its function, which in the case of the helmet is to protect our head in an accident.
If you live this unfortunate situation, don’t doubt it for a moment and get a new one.
Most of the times the external consequences of a blow on a helmet are difficult to assess with the naked eye, imagine internally.
The helmet is designed to absorb the energy generated in an impact.
And it is the internal part which is made of polystyrene that has this function, not the shell, and detecting damage in this part of the helmet is very complicated.
It is for this reason that, for a precautionary principle, we recommend you change your helmet after an accident or if the helmet falls to the ground from a considerable height, greater than 1.70m.
Anyway, if you have reasonable doubts about the condition of your helmet, we are going to give you some advice to try to detect possible structural damage.
How To Check If Motorcycle Helmet Is Damaged
- Inspect the hull for cracks, crevices, deep scratches or major knocks on the outer shell. If you find them, go to the shelf with it. On the other hand, keep in mind that losing a little paint is no reason for the helmet to be thrown away.
- Check that the inner polymer of the hull has no slack by putting on the hull tightly and at the same time holding it tightly with both hands, shaking your head on both sides. If you notice that the inside moves, discard it immediately.
- Check carefully with your fingers if there are areas of polystyrene inside the hull that have lost their original shape, have been compressed, do not regain their shape if pressed or are too soft. This indicates that the helmet is no longer working.
- In short, if you have doubts about the safety of your helmet, replace it and live without distress.
These arguments also serve to advise you never to buy a second-hand helmet because you will never know if it has a blow with internal damage.
When Should You Change Your Helmet
- The inner padding is worn by use, sweat, washing, and so on. If the foam is undone by rubbing it, or the pads no longer fit, or simply come off when we take it off.
- The locks get stuck or just don’t work right.
- Parts made of plastic or resin have dried or glazed and no longer fit.
- You can no longer find replacement screens and mechanisms on the market.
In addition to those already talked about, there are multiple reasons or motivations for us to change the helmet.
These are not so important but still, something people take into consideration such as no longer liking the graphics it has, wanting one with a built-in intercom, or more ventilated, or lighter, or quieter, or simply you feel like it.
The important thing is that we are clear that we are talking about the most important safety element that a motorcyclist should wear and that a good helmet is always better than a low-quality one.
How Do You Take Care Of A Helmet?
During the useful life of our helmet, we have the obligation to take good care of it.
Because if it is in perfect magazine state our head will be safer.
In addition, good maintenance will give it an extra few months of useful life.
To do so, follow these guidelines.
- Carry it properly, with the fabric bag supplied by most manufacturers or with specific backpacks for helmets. It is not advisable to wear it all day, holding the neckband or hanging from the elbow as if it were a carrycot.
- Do not leave the helmet tied to the bike with the padlock outdoors. The dirt they accumulate in an hour outdoors in the city is enormous. We are not just talking about pollution. We’ve seen dogs peeing on helmets chained to a motorcycle and then the biker has locked them so you get the idea!
- Avoid storing keys or gloves inside the helmet. Keys damage the inner liner and gloves dirty it and can also impregnate it with sweat and bad smells.
- Don’t hang it from the rearview mirror or the handlebars of the bike if you don’t want to pick it up from the ground. It always happens. It’s mathematical. And these blows, in the long run, seriously damage the helmet. Also, weatherstripping mirrors are prone to tearing the inner fabric.
- Keep away from paints, varnishes, solvents, and fuels. These products accelerate the deterioration of the shell and, on the other hand, can impregnate the interior fabric with an unbearable smell.
- It is advisable to keep it upside down so that the interior breathes and is ventilated. The round cushions of Tucano Urbano, among others, are very useful. But if there is someone at home who is fond of handicrafts, you can make one with a cloth and fill it with sand, rice or small plastic balls.
- Thoroughly clean the helmet at least once a year, and do it correctly with products suitable for both interior and exterior use. When disassembling the helmet, be careful not to break the mechanisms or force the pieces that do not seem to fit the first time.
- If you have cleaned it or got it wet from rain, dry it at room temperature. Even if it takes a whole day.
- Keep it away from heat sources such as radiators or stoves, which could deform it and render it unusable. Keep in mind that polystyrene melts at 240 degrees. Similarly, on the motorcycle, be as far away as possible from the tank, engine, and exhaust.
Lawrence of Arabia, An Unfortunate Precursor Of The Helmet
The helmet is a fairly recent invention.
In 1935, neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns was the first to consider the benefits of wearing a helmet after the death of T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) in a motorcycle accident.
In 1941, Dr. Cairns recommended that motorcyclists in the British army should wear helmets.
In 1946 he published a study in which he certified that motorcyclists who had worn helmets had suffered fewer injuries and of less consideration than those who did not wear helmets.
In 1953, Charles F. Lombard, a researcher at the University of Southern California, patented the helmet design with a lightweight outer shell and a softer, shock-absorbing inner part.