Here at Bikebiz, we like to see our stock moving.
There's always a new helmet, new graphic, new colour, new jacket. We don't like having stock sit around for long.
We're also believers in the 5 year rule.
Back in the day, helmets that passed the Australian Standard had a date of manufacture on them, so it was simple to know how old a helmet was.
European Standard helmets are only mandated to have a production serial number, and not a date of manufacture. This makes it a bit harder for riders to know how old a helmet is.
European standard helmets only became legal for use in Australia in late 2015/early 2016 (state depending). It would've then taken a bit of time until Australia actually received stock from overseas. By process of elimination , you can determine that no ECE helmet sold in Australia is more than 5 years old.
However, as they years trickle on, you'll no longer have a definite way to determine how old a motorcycle helmet is. This raises the question, how do you ensure your helmet is still safe? Let's chat.
Does the 5 years start from the moment the helmet comes off the production line?
Yes and no.
Both Shoei and Arai state that their manufacturers warranty is either 7 years from manufacture date, or 5 years from purchase from a retailer, whichever comes first.
So if you ever need to use the manufacturers warranty, replace your helmet every 5 years.
Whilst SNELL is a helmet standard that is not currently legal in Australia, it still has a high reputation. Below is an except from their website in regards to replacing 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. Petroleum based products present in cleaners, paints, fuels and other commonly encountered materials may also degrade materials used in many helmets possibly degrading performance. Additionally, experience indicates there will be a noticeable improvement in the protective characteristic of helmets over a five-year period due to advances in materials, designs, production methods and the standards. Thus, the recommendation for five-year helmet replacement is a judgment call stemming from a prudent safety philosophy."
So how do I know if a helmet is current?
If the helmet is still on the brands website, then chances are it is still a current helmet. Check for the graphic you are after as well. Often helmets remain current for many years, but the graphics will change.
If it's on sale at a crazy discount, half of the time it's an older helmet. No one is going to buy an older helmet or older graphic at a retail price.
However, that doesn't mean that every helmet that is on sale is super old. Sometimes a supplier may grant the buyer a bulk discount, which means the savings can be passed onto the customer. Maybe there is a new graphic that they want to make way for so they need to make room. Maybe there's a new brand being brought out and they just simply have no storage room until they clear some helmets.
I know riders who commute to and from work each day. At the 3 year mark, they are very much on their way to needing a new helmet already. So keep in mind, if you know you ride that much, your helmet may not even last to 5 years.
How else to tell that it's time to replace your helmet?
You've dropped it.
Road helmets are designed for one impact and one impact alone. Just because the EPS lining looks intact, doesn't mean it is. Some people argue that a small drop is fine...personally that is a risk I wouldn't take. Avoid leaving your helmet in high-risk areas such as just hanging off your mirror or handlebar without something to secure it, or within the reach of small children who may think i's a toy. When carrying your helmet, do up the strap and use as a handle, or just thread your arm through the helmet.
You crashed in it.
Again, road helmets are designed for one impact only. If you crash in it, the likely hood of the helmet being compromised it's much much higher. It'll do it's job and then it's time for it to retire. Especially if your head hits the ground more than once in the one incident. It's just not worth a head injury because you thought the helmet could last for longer.
You suddenly have black dandruff.
The lining of the helmet is starting to deteriorate and come out on your head and shoulders when you take your helmet off. Especially if it's the EPS liner and not just the comfort liner, the helmet should be replaced. Sweat and hair products can help deteriorate the internals of a helmet faster than usual. This can be combated by ensuring you wash the inside of your helmet by either removing and washing your liners, or using a foam cleaner that is sprayed directly into the helmet.
(Check out my article on cleaning your helmet).
This can occur when the helmet has been in storage for a while as well. If you are going to store your helmet, ensure the helmet is thoroughly cleaned before going away. Place it in a dry bag, or airtight box if possible, and store in a cool dry place. Oh and don't store anything inside your stored your helmet, like gloves or balaclavas. If pressed into the helmet they could slowly change the shape of the EPS liner, or just any sweat/chemicals on the items in the helmet will affect the helmet.
I stored a helmet for a couple of years and I could see superficial deterioration of bottom of the cheek pads. Time to think about a new one!
Your EPS lining looks cracked
A lot of EPS liners are now painted black, so if you remove the helmet padding, you can inspect the EPS lining easily. If there are any cracks on the black paint, chances are that the EPS lining has been compromised, and the helmet should be replaced.
The helmet is loose.
If you wear your helmet every day, all the lining will bed in a lot faster than if you wear it every couple of weekends. You can replace the liners to restore the original fit and prolong the life of the helmet to the 5 years, however the helmet would have been exposed to a lot of sweat and UV rays by then so keep that in mind.
The chin strap is compromised
A chin strap in good working order is a requirement for a road helmet to be legal on the roads. If the chin strap and buckle mechanism, (if applicable) is torn or broken in anyway, replace it.
A helmet that was crashed in at a low speed - note the scratches on the side
A helmet that was in storage for 2 years. You can see where the bottom of the cheek liner is starting to deteriorate. The helmet was properly cleaned before storage in a sealed bag.
Miguel Oliveira's helmet after crashing at 300km/h in 2019
Keep in mind how fast our world changes and advances. There's always some new technology coming out to keep us safer than the technology before. A 10 year old helmet is probably heavier and bulkier than a new one, and wouldn't protect you in its new state as a current helmet would.
Helmets do deteriorate over time due to many different factors.
Cheaper helmets will deteriorate faster in general over time.
Manufacturers warranty is in general a maximum of 5 years, after that the helmet isn't covered if it falls apart.
If your helmet is compromised in anyway, it should be replaced.
You only have one head, you may as well take care of it.
Ride safe and have a good one!
Got questions? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This advice is a guide only. It is general in nature. It cannot be relied upon for you to make decisions.