Replacing ageing helmets

The Wirecutter (a reputable site which aggregates reviews about various stuff and makes money using affiliate links to their reccomended items) has posted opinion about helmet replacement. Their conclusion is that as long as it has no visible damage, has not been crashed and can be firmly fixed to your head, it is safe to use even if it is 10 years old.

The foam degrading is the last thing to worry about. Straps and retention system will most likely fail sooner.

Any more opinions on this?


Innnnnteresting. I’ve always heard you should replace your helmet every three years because of “foam degradation.” But I also trust Wirecutter on pretty much any matter they cover, so I’m going to have to dig into that a bit more.

Thanks for sharing, this could potentially save me some coin, haha.

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I found some similar info when I thought I “needed” to replace my helmet not too long ago. Crashing or visible degradation of foam aside, it’s likely still safe. I have though washed straps and replace pads and retention buckle system for only a few $ compared to hundreds.

Having worked in a bike shop, we had manufacturers recommend replacing helmets every 2-3 years. That said, they are supposed to not “age” until 5-8 years after the manufacture date.

However, if you crash in a helmet and hit your head, throw your helmet away and cut the straps. The helmet has done its job and cannot be expected to protect anyone in a second impact. Also, if your helmet doesn’t meet certain updated safety standards, or have MIPS or another slip plane system, it would be a good idea to replace it.

You might also want to replace your helmet for a different size, a lighter or more comfortable one, or even a more visible helmet. I’ve had more concussions than I can remember (get it?), and have bought about 2-3 helmets/year (but that’s MTB/road/full face/snowsports). The money spent on a good helmet is worth it to me to protect my brain.


Its a marketing myth. Check out biomechanical.asmedigitalcollection and search "Age does not affect Material properties of Expanded Polystyrene liners in bicycle helmets.
Basically ASME who developed and assess the original tests - the standards body - tested old, used helmets that were in use and found their performance was not impinged by age.

Aesthetically old helmets could do you real harm though!


Truth! After about 3-4 years I just need something new, old helmet goes to backup status.

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Age may not affect material properties of EPS, but uv light, sweat, oil, sunscreen, etc do. If you wear your helmet and sweat a lot, I think replacing every 2-3 years is just common sense. It’s your head and a new helmet really isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things.

I thought exactly the same, however the ASME assessment ran with helmets that had been used by real cyclists for up to 20 years. The result was that there was no material performance change.
So sadly change is not essential, I’ve not told my wife that though! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

The link

Yeah, avoiding the fashion police is an important factor.

My helmets start breaking down with sweat and sunscreen use (yep, bald…). So I replace them every few seasons… or when I crash (also every few seasons) :slight_smile:


If you are not sure and it’s about safety, better be on the safe side.

I just changed my helmet after 5 years, just for better feeling.

So it’s been ~2.5 years since this article/thread, any new updates or info out there? I’ve got a Velocis from late 2017 and recently replaced the pads and it’s like new. Straps get washed regularly too.

Wondering if there’s any sense replacing it after _ years or not.

Physics and chemistry still hasn’t changed. Styrofoam still does not degrade over time. Don’t buy the BS put out by manufacturers.

I’ve been riding bikes for 40 years now. I’ve had styro helmets in some form or another for decades. I’ve never seen the foam break down on any of them. I have helmets of various ages, even a 25 year old Giro Lemond Air Attack - no degradation.

Replace a helmet when damaged or when you want a fashion upgrade.


What about this concept of straps degrading? Any merit?

I really doubt it. Ever seen an old nylon rope that has been attached to a boat exposed to sun and water constantly for years and years?

Just use good judgement - if your helmet is damaged or the strap isn’t working well, then replace it.

There was a pretty interesting magazine article about motorcycle helmets about 2 decades ago now (damn I feel old). They tested a bunch of different helmets and came up with some interesting results. Applicable to bicycles:

-The foam didn’t degrade. They tested a helmet that was about 20 years old (at that time) and it still passed the standards for the time.
-Replace the padding when it degrades. A poor fit doesn’t protect you properly.
-Inspect it
-Dropping it doesn’t break it. BUT, dropping it with something INSIDE (like your head) might. Either get it x-rayed or replace it when you wreck.

Not applicable:
-Snell standard was pretty extreme and probably more likely to cause brain damage in a typical wreck.
-Don’t put your helmet on the gas tank, the vapors can degrade the foam.

All I remember. I tend to wreck helmets before they are “worn” out. I inspect my helmets every wreck (happens often enough) and toss them when I find damage to the foam. I don’t hit my head very often, and when I do it is usually a gentle touch. But if it is hard enough for me to question it, to the trash it goes.

Yeah, when I first took up cycling about 7 years ago, I picked up a red helmet. When the shell had faded through pink to white after about 4 years, I figured it had received enough UV to be replaced.

I tossed all my helmets this year (3 of them) and bought new ones. Nothing major, mostly some small plastic bits broke that retained my head in the helmet, and just tired of it.

I’ve never seen the foam fall apart, but the plastic bits crack or break like the little plastic clicks straps/dials at the back of the head.

I also wanted to try out some MIPS helmets with more coverage and the like. I also wanted a real roadie helmet instead of a 15 year old MTB helmet with the visor removed. I’m sure I still look like a dork.

Point being, if in doubt, toss them out!

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Congrats on the upgrade probably much lighter on your neck. For most of the helmets out there now you can get replacement parts, they sell the entire BOA assembly for my helmet, as well as pads and little bits

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I haven’t washed or replaced my one pair of bib shorts in over 5 years. Why on earth would I replace my helmet within a shorter period of time?

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