When was the last time you replaced your helmet? Generally the rule of thumb in the motorcycling world is every 5 years. But why? Is this just a conspiracy constructed by motorcycling retailers or is there legitimate safety reasons for it?
The most academic explanation for the rule comes from the Snell Memorial Foundation, a highly credible organisation that does extensive research into safety lifespans and quality of all types of riding helmets.
“The five-year replacement recommendation is based on a consensus by both helmet manufacturers and the Snell Foundation. Glues, resins and other materials used in helmet production can affect liner materials. Hair oils, body fluids and cosmetics, as well as normal “wear and tear” all contribute to helmet degradation....” (Snell Memorial Foundation)
AS 1698-1988, AS/NZS 1698:2006 and ECE certificates are the 3 certified standards Australia accepts on the roads. Of these, ECE certification is the most widely used and recognisable certification standard for motorcycle helmets. Accepted in over 50 countries, ECE certification combines many elements of both DOT and Snell procedures, to access the longevity and safety of the helmets. It’s one of the most acclaimed certifications a helmet can receive, and benchmarks the most prestigious safety endurance testing. However, even ECE certified helmets can’t dodge the inevitable truth that all helmets will eventually degrade, again pushing the “helmet rule” of 5 years.
Deterioration of a helmet isn’t only seen on the surface of the lid but can be within the lining and shell. Although not present to the naked eye, the truth is all helmets wear gradually over time, breaking down safety features and the integrity of the helmet. With so many different factors that contribute to accessing if a helmet needs replacing, it's hard to justify a specific amount of time as every case will vary.
Inspect how the helmet is fitting. It should be snug. Over time, the padding in the helmet can wear out, allowing more room inside the helmet. This isn't ideal. The interior lining will tend to fade and sweat moisture will begin to build up. Foam and lining tend to flake off into your hair and onto your shoulders, which is a relatively good time to organise a replacement. As the EPS liner is usually painted black inside your helmet, users can see if any tiny white cracks are forming. This is a sign of the interior weakening, and will not be able to absorb impact effectively.
The exterior of the helmet becomes brittle and forms small cracks, over time. This clearly shows the aging condition of the helmet. After all, the shell is the first point of contact with the pavement, therefore, you’d hope it's the strongest and most durable it can be.
With technology in helmets advancing rapidly, purchasing a new helmet every couple of years isn’t a bad idea, to keep up with the latest innovations. I value my head greatly and would want the safest, most modern technology to protect it. As recommended by Snell Memorial Foundation, the 5-year rule is a solid estimate, however, factors such as usage, maintenance, and build quality all can contribute to replacing it sooner. Not to mention, it is a rather joyful experience wearing a brand new, freshly unboxed helmet. Riders often build an extra sense of confidence and security when rocking a new lid, which only enhances your riding endeavours. Visit us in-store and see our diverse helmet range today! Harley Davidson® Canberra, 281 CANBERRA AVE, FYSHWICK, ACT 2606. Call (02) 6185 0516 today!