A bike helmet is arguably one of the most important accessories to have when bike riding. It protects the head in case of falls or crashes, and can save your life. It’s sound sense to always use one, whether you’re just riding on your street or you’re mountain biking long distances. In fact, some states have passed laws requiring children to wear bike helmets, and failure to comply with these laws can result in tickets and citations.
Just how often you should replace a bike helmet depends on several factors. For kids under the age of 18, the standard recommendation is that the bike helmet be replaced once yearly. Over time, the stability of the helmet may degrade, and moreover, a child’s head can grow, making the helmet a poor fit. For both adults and children, a bike helmet should always be replaced immediately if you are involved in a crash that might damage the internal structure of exterior structure of the helmet. Moreover, any bike helmet that looks damaged should be replaced with a new helmet.
Some helmets are sold with instructions that give you a replacement guide. If a company recommends replacement of adult helmets every two to three years, you may need to weigh that against use. Another way of figuring when bike helmets need replacement is to calculate the hours you use your bike. Many adult helmets are rated at 500 hours of use. If you consistently ride your bike every day for an hour, you’d need to buy a new helmet in roughly a year and a half.
Bike helmets can degrade over time, especially if they are not stored in a proper manner. When you buy a boxed helmet, keep the box. Use it to store the bike helmet safely, away from light, heat, and the potential for other objects crushing it, when you’ve returned home. With safe storage, you can extend the life of a helmet, because even when one is rated for a certain amount of years or hours, damage can occur if the helmet is improperly stored. Always give helmets a thorough inspection to look for any cracks, breaks in the protective foam material, or other obvious defects before using them.
When a company does rate their helmets, you shouldn’t rely on the naked eye alone for this inspection. Instead, rely on the company’s recommendations for replacement. You may have a bike helmet that looks perfectly fine, but because it is older, it can lose some structural integrity that you can’t see. This is especially the case when you haven’t followed directions for safe storage, or if the bike helmet has been abused, dropped, left out in the sun for long periods of time, or been on your head when you crashed your bike.