Mechanic Tip: Your helmet’s shelf life

Each week during National Bike Month, we will offer tips for maintaining your bike and related equipment.

Photo: lancelevee, cc
Photo: lancelevee, cc

What’s the point of giving yourself helmet hair if you aren’t even protecting your skull? To enjoy the full protection your helmet has to offer, there are a few things you should know.

Helmets deteriorate over time. Helmets have a shelf life of about 5 years. This is because the plastic shell breaks down under UV light. The slick, colorful plastic outer shell is not just for good looks; it is an important safety feature, helping your head to skid rather than catch on pavement. If your helmet is showing signs of wear, or is at least 5 years old, it’s time for a new one.

Photo: giusorti, cc
Photo: giusorti, cc

One Crash and it’s Trash. If your helmet is old, you don’t necessarily know if it’s been in a crash. One significant impact, and your helmet should be replaced. The foam core is designed to crush on impact, absorbing the force that would otherwise go straight to your head. If you have a collision or take a bad fall, even if you don’t see cracks in the foam, replace your helmet immediately.

Helmet Fit matters. Make sure the helmet you have fits you well. The rule of thumb for helmet fit is Eyes, Ears, Mouth.

Eyes: When you roll your eyes upward you should see the edge of the helmet.
Ears: The straps should form a “Y” shape right under your earlobes, not down under your chin.
Chin: When you open your jaw wide as though you are yawning, you should feel the helmet press down on the top of your head.

by Sarah Bronstein


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