How old is your helmet?
How old is your helmet? Do you ever wash it? Inspect it? Have you ever dropped it? Had a crash and hit your head in it? Left it in your car on a hot day?
How many of us have ever even answered these questions?
You might get asked some of these if you walk into a bike shop with a neon relic from the '80s or have some old helmet that looks like it's been to war and back. Otherwise, when does anybody question your helmet choice? We recently began to question our clients in this vein after hearing a story that was a bit of an eye opener.
The story goes as follows: a friend of a good Studio Velo client was the victim of a hit and run accident on the roads of rural Maine earlier in the year. He was badly injured and left in a ditch on the side of the road, with broken bones, and a bad concussion. The doctor informed him and his friends that the only reason he was alive was his helmet was new and uncompromised. He had recently retired his old helmet in favor of a new more comfortable one.
The doctor, who was also a cyclist, went on to say that it is common to hear that you need to replace your helmet ever five years or so. He strongly disagreed with this, saying that three years is the longest you should ever keep a helmet for. While it varies from brand to brand, most helmet companies recommend replacement every 3-4 seasons.
There are a number of important reasons why one a helmet’s integrity is compromised over time, not just wear.
1) The most important factor is the exposure to Ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Helmets are made from micro-cellular urethane. This is essentially fancy Styrofoam. Exposure to UV breaks down a helmet slowly until when you do have an impact, the helmet shatters too easily and does not absorb the force the way it was designed to.
2) Sweat also causes Styrofoam in the helmet to degrade and reduce impact protection to unsafe levels.
3) Dropped helmets. The time frame noted above assumes a helmet has not been dropped, left in a hot car or been involved in any accidents (i.e. small crashes) Scott was recently “rear ended” in a cross race on his first lap, ignored the impact at the time, got angry and went on to win the race. He later replaced his helmet after a close inspection found a long crack along the rear of the helmet). Even though it may not outwardly look like it, sometimes-small crashes/impacts can also damage things to a point where to helmet is unsafe.
So ask yourself, what is my head worth to me? We here at Studio Velo err on the side of caution. New helmet = cheap; head injury = expensive.
When in doubt, replace it. Some brands (Lazer included) offer a crash replacement program to make replacement a little more affordable.
Labels: Lazer helmets