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Old 04-11-2012, 07:57 AM   #1
jbhawley OP
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Helmet Replacment after 5 years...WHY?

Something to ponder for a Wednesday... This will take a few minutes, so go take a piss, get another cup of coffee and sit back...

I have recently bought another new Arai helmet. It seems I am/was purchasing a new helmet every couple years or so. For whatever reason: wanted a new style, new color, better ventilation, etc, etc, etc. Previously I was spending 150$ or less per helmet. Since moving up in price and hopefully quality, crash-worthiness, etc my 500$ + lid should serve me for several years.

NOTE::: I do not want to hear your dribble on why you would never buy a used helmet...and this is sort of the point on my post here...determining how to evaluate a used helmet. Remember as soon as you wear your brand new helmet on a ride..it is used!I have scoured the flea market for a used helmet to have as a spare for rough and tumble days as to prolong my new Arai lid a few more miles. I have fell into the trap of asking when was the helmet manufactured, how long have you owned it, any damage, and the usual other relevant questions. I say trap, but with a disclaimer...more on that in a bit. The rule-of-thumb is to replace a non-crashed helmet every 5 years...

According to Web Bike World and the Snell Foundation:


Why should you replace your helmet every five years?
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.

I am going to break this statement down ---way down--- in a minute so bear with me while I throw some numbers in your face.

That sounds reasonable enough on the onset but take into consideration a few items that may increase or reduce the "life" of a helmet. I preface my examples that are assumed the helmet has not been involved in any type of crash and been taken care of as any average motorcyclist should.

Say for instance a helmet was manufactured in January 2007. With the "5 year plan" that helmet would, by default, be ready for the scrap heap by now. However, consider that the same helmet was made in 01/2007, sat in its original box on a shelf in a store or warehouse until 01/2008. So that's one year that the helmet was not in use or exposed to any perceivable damaging effects. Would this helmet have an extended life expectancy of greater than 5 years since the first year of its life was spend in isolation.

Now take it a step further and look at the actual road (in use) hours of a helmet.
I did some quick stats and figure I have my helmet on my 'noggin for nearly 700 hours per year. Taking into consideration that I ride/commute every day, all year plus weekend jaunts, and 4 weeks vacation time per year...I wear my helmet quite a bit in all types of weather.

Now analyze a more typical rider and say he may wear his helmet 350 hours a year. He commutes to work only in the warmer months, April - October, and takes a two weekend rides per month and then one week with the boys per year. Let us call him Sam.

Final example...a fair-weather rider and logs only 150 hours a year since he rides only on Saturday and Sunday during May - September when there is no chance of rain, and then only to the local beer joint and back home...a long day in the saddle for this guy is an hour. We will call him Joe.

See...my point...???? There are too many variables, IMO, to have a blanket statement to scrap a helmet after 5 years. My 5 years will have a conservative 3500 hours versus Sam that may have only 1750 hours or even fair-weather Joe that has 750 hours. WOW!...I put nearly as many hours in one year than Joe does in five years.

Now, I do realize that in theory, my 700 hours/year lid should be replaced more often than Joe's 150 h/y lid. But, conversely, in theory, shouldn't' Joe's lid last him much, much longer than mine...maybe 8-10 years? And what about Sam? Is he the typical rider that the "5 year plan" is relevant?

So would more relevant questions to ask a initial owner about a used helmet be:
How many hours have you worn the helmet?
What are your riding styles? Dual Sport, Street, Track, Bar hopping, touring???
What bike do you ride?
Where do you store the helmet when not in use? In its bag on a shelf? Thrown in the same garage corner where you store your lawn mower gas? In the attic where its 150Fin the summer and 20F in the winter?

...lost of variables come into play when determining the actual life of a helmet.

I understand that the helmet manufacture folks are in the business of selling helmets. The Snell Foundation is not. I also understand that there has to be some "price-tag" put on the life expectancy of everything. Even an anvil will wear out sooner or later. Realistically, who keeps a helmet 5 years and then trashes it for a new one? Most of us...yours truly included...want newer, better, etc and will, most likely, buy a new lid before the 5 years are expired. But for the sake of argument...and back to my original point...what is the real life-expectancy of a helmet that has been taken care of?

Now let me break down the statement I copied from the Snell Foundation web site.
My break-down will be noted in yellow color font...hi-viz font...that is...

The five-year replacement recommendation is based on a consensus by both helmet manufacturers and the Snell Foundation. Consensus according to Merriam-Webster: general agreement : unanimity; the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned : group solidarity in sentiment and belief. With consensus there is no scientific fact or basis. Consensus is just a group of people agreeing on an item. So the consensus is that Snell and the helmet mfgs agree to replace at 5 years. HMMM!

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.
This makes sense and I agree (this part has my consensus). However there is no backing data to support this statement either. "Possibly" degrading performance...shit a brick, I could possibly fly to the moon if I had a rocket on my back. This, IMO, is where I would like to see some data to back up this statement. Do a test on Joe's helmet after 5 years and compare it to mine. See if mine had degraded more. In theory my helmet, if based on this statement, should be ready for the sanitation department after only a couple years as compared to Joe's helmet that may last into the next decade. And would a female rider's helmet have be more degraded since she may have hair care products, make-up, perfume, etc, etc, that most real men frown upon wearing. Hey you metro-sexual blokes...step away at this point...I am not talking to you...drink your latte and get your pedicure. You have no business reading this forum anyhow.


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.HMMM now this is very interesting...I do agree that most mfgs improve their helmets as time goes on plus with market research and field testing new styles are made and improvements over existing styles. But IMO...this is the catch 22 that we as motorcyclist are in. Is the helmet REALLY degraded to a point that it MUST be replaced or "should" it be replaced because better, faster, nicer, etc is now available?

I know there is a lot of food-for-thought in this post. But these things are on my mind today...now they are on yours as well.
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jbhawley screwed with this post 04-11-2012 at 08:58 AM
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Old 04-11-2012, 08:08 AM   #2
Joey Stalin
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Was discussing this same subject in another forum, concerning a guy who bought a used Arai. Used is the first warning flag, but also it was manufactured in 1997. Taking into account the unknown history and the age, I would not recommend that helmet. But, I do agree with you that it is NOT a hard and fast rule, and you will have to decide for yourself. When I first started riding, I used my sister's full face helmet that was made in probably 1987 or 1988. This was in 2004-2005 or so. So it was at least a 17 year old helmet. The interior materials were starting to crack and flake off and you'd be left with flecks of vinyl and plastic in your hair after removing the helmet. I bought a new one quickly. Petroleum products (read, plastics, vinyls) also degrade when exposed to UV rays, depending on the type of plastic. Sweat and salts from the body definitely aren't good for the materials, either.

So my rule is, I will evaluate my own helmets and decide for myself when I think it needs replacing. I would not hesitate to wear a new-old-stock helmet that had been sitting on the shelf since 2003, if it was up to the safety and comfort standards that I'm looking for. A used helmet, I would be vary weary of in general since I don't know the history of it. The EPS liner is good for one impact with the pavement (which is not the same as a helmet drop), and people are not trustworthy. It's really a case by case basis.

Do as thou wilt.
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Old 04-11-2012, 01:56 PM   #3
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i'm lucky if I go two years before destroying mine.
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Old 04-11-2012, 02:23 PM   #4
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I have never seen any testing of a 5 yr or older helmet proving that it doesn't provide protection anymore.
So all I conclude at this time is that they want to sell helmets.

styrofoam is listed as degrading in 1+ million yrs. The problem is that the numbers never suggest the mechanism of decomposition. There are several - heat, biochemical, mechanical, irradiation. In the case of styrofoam, that material is biologically inert (microorganisms have a hard time eating it) so a long decomposition time is expected. However it is subject to degradation when exposed to sunlight (UV radiation), thermal energy (the bonds break when it gets hot enough), mechanical degradation (it erodes and wears away) and chemical attack (it burns). Under these conditions the decomposition time is much shorter.
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Old 04-26-2014, 11:54 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trailrider200 View Post
I have never seen any testing of a 5 yr or older helmet proving that it doesn't provide protection anymore.
So all I conclude at this time is that they want to sell helmets.
.
as a late comer to this topic, thanks to all past posters that have contributed to the discussion. Lots of good points are made from different perspectives. In the end, it is up to each person, each rider to follow his or her own feelings as to how to protect themselves in the "most prudent or statistically sound" manner......
So why am I dredging this up..... it's old news..... OK, I guess I am bored.
As a person who totally thinks the "5 year rule" is the biggest crock of horse pucky I ever heard...... I will also be the first to say "knock yourself out" if you want to drop 2, 3, 4, 5, 600 $ on a new lid every 5 years ( or maybe less for you hardcore " I ride every day of the year" types) . It is fine with me if that makes you feel safer.
Personally, and I am basing this on my personal riding habits, the amount of time I spend actually using a helmet any given year, and my storage and care habits of the helmet when not being used, that it would be an absolute total waste of my money to follow the so called "rule of thumb"...... but then, I waste money every day...... ( Just not to the tune of $500)

If helmet manufacturer's had any real evidence via testing , etc..... don't you think it would be splattered all over the media to help sell even more helmets? Damn right it would be. In fact, I would venture to say there would be a lobbyist in Washington making sure that our federal government in its wisdom and glory, was regulating the use of and overseeing via legislation that we all were "properly" protecting ourselves.......
I'm not saying they aren't concerned about your and my safety, ........ I'm sure they are, they had better be, right ? but I'm quite sure they are doing what they do for the money in the end ( don't we all ? ) ....... and heck I really can't blame them.... when all you have to do is insinuate and not really prove something..... well, why not do it ? If its a lie, it is a "white lie" and the only thing it's costing anyone is a little money.... so what .......
1-Sunlight, UV .... breaking down a shell ? say what ? How many helmets are bare on the exterior, no paint, no decal , etc....? How does this UV get to the inside to "break it down" . ? More horse pucky.....
2-the liners.... well heck yes they can age, start to dry rot, stink , etc.... if you leave it in the heat and humidty 365 days a year, you're damn skippy it will stink, ....break down...etc..... so....learn to take better care of the equipment..... or buy a new liner once in a while.. ....... , is it that hard.?
3-new construction is better ? So the helmet I had 10 years ago was a piece of crap, and I am just lucky I never needed it to do it's job ? Bull crap...... OK, improvements in, and usage of new materials, reduced weight, better ventilation, etc.... I am not arguing that helmets haven't progressed tremendously even over the past 5 years .... It's nothing short of amazing.... but to say that my 2003 Shoei RF1000 or whatever the hell it is, is no longer any good just because it is 11 years old ? It looks much like the day I bought it..... it has been stored inside my home ( climate controlled ) when not used riding, and I'd trust it today..... even though I have also picked up an Arai XD3 ( used BTW), an HJC off road style helmet which I have no idea the model, and last year, I bought an open face helmet at a Harley dealership ( oh my god, I said the "O" word didn't I, and in the same sentence with the "H" word !!!!? ) with a flip shield, the tinted visor that flips down from inside ..... great ventilation, and it is my favorite helmet out of all of them...... so go figure.
Hey so everyone ride safe, do what makes you feel OK.... that's what I intend to do..... but right now I am going to sleep..... way too late for posting to a 3 year old thread....anyway.... right?
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Old 05-03-2014, 11:41 PM   #6
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I have personally witnessed aged linear and high density cross linked polyethylene (LPE & HDXPE) chemical storage tanks break down over time and eventually fail.

Caveats: UV exposure is on a daily basis, all day long in many cases. Time frames were dramatically longer, with manufacturers often recommending replacement every ten years.

I have no idea how that material compares with the stuff our helmets are made of. I have no idea the amount of liability associated with severe head trauma resulting in death versus a chemical tank failing, floods a stream with nitrates and kills a bunch of fish but I assure you the difference will be significant.

I also have no idea how the above helps your discussion but think of it in terms of economics. Purchase a $1,000.00 helmet and use it for only five years. If you can actually afford this helmet you can afford to save $200.00 per year for the life of that helmet to pay for the next one.

PPE, no matter how expensive, has proven to be cheap insurance in my lifetime. You have to decide for you.
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Old 05-04-2014, 04:40 AM   #7
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Is saving $100 worth ANY risk?

I'm a FF/EMT with 20+ years in the field and have seen some M/C fatalities and TBI's. Neither of these is a good thing!

I think it is stupid to argue about helmet replacement. JUST DO IT!

My thinking is this: if you replace your helmet every five years (even if based on "scanty" evidence), and it costs $500 for a new one (of course you can get a DOT/SNELL approved for much less $$), you are paying $100 a year to ride with a decent, clean, possibly state-of-the-art, allegedly safer, helmet. You likely spend more than $100 a year to buy other unnecessary items to wear or for the bike. Why would you NOT be willing to spend that on your head?
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Old 05-04-2014, 01:23 PM   #8
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useful life of a helmet

I've been going around and around on this the past week after re-reading a MCN article where the writer related that neither the helmet manufacturers or Snell would provide any data regarding the "five year rule" and, in fact, shot down his suggestion that an experiment be done.

It would seem that anybody who was going to say "do this" might have some data to back it up. But then you get into the variables: storage and treatment of the helmet, the types of cleaners used, the amount of use in a year, etc. etc. And then there's the liability issue. So all that adds up to an unwillingness to make a firm statement regarding things that they can't control and would probably be sued over.

Then there's the fear factor, or risk management, or whatever. I've got a Shoei Multitec and my wife an HJC. We had older Shoei XSP-II and an RF900. Those had the liners fall apart to the point where they were a nuisance to wear. Tossed them in the trash. But the HJC and Multitec are going strong, apparently. We've decided to keep on going with those. Might be putting money ahead of sense here but two Neotecs would set us back $1200 and we aren't going there right now. Then again Helmet Shop has a deal on Multitecs so $400 might be OK. But then how long have the Multitecs been sitting on the shelf. Too many factors to consider....
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Old 11-07-2014, 05:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trailrider200 View Post
I have never seen any testing of a 5 yr or older helmet proving that it doesn't provide protection anymore.
So all I conclude at this time is that they want to sell helmets.

styrofoam is listed as degrading in 1+ million yrs. The problem is that the numbers never suggest the mechanism of decomposition. There are several - heat, biochemical, mechanical, irradiation. In the case of styrofoam, that material is biologically inert (microorganisms have a hard time eating it) so a long decomposition time is expected. However it is subject to degradation when exposed to sunlight (UV radiation), thermal energy (the bonds break when it gets hot enough), mechanical degradation (it erodes and wears away) and chemical attack (it burns). Under these conditions the decomposition time is much shorter.
I have and did. I used to work in the lab that tested helmets, one day, just for a laugh we all brought in the old helmets that were never going to be used again and ran them through. Now admitted, most were probably crap new :), but none would pass the current safety tests and by solid margins.

Mostly, the polystyrene inner had degraded to the point where a bandanna would have been near as useful.

That's a far step from '5 years', but yes there's a point at which they'll be crap, and being lawsuit averse the manufacturers pick a point that's conservative. I'd be O.K. with a helmet that's a few years old but been in the box, second hand, not so much.

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Old 11-20-2014, 09:09 AM   #10
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I make my living with my head (don't we all?), so I'm going with the 5 years of use or 7 years from date of manufacture, whichever comes first.

Just discovered my current helmet was made nearly 8 (!) years ago , so it's fortunate that a new Neotech is on the UPS truck for delivery today. The ride home from work will be the last time for the current helmet--it's going straight to the trash can.

[BTW, if I don't have a proper-fitting, up-to-date helmet for somebody who wants to be a passenger on my bike, they don't ride.]

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Old 11-20-2014, 10:05 AM   #11
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Key point for the EPS liner - chemical fume and UV exposure.
  • Keep helmets in the house, a closet would be good for sure.
  • Don't sit helmets on tanks in the garage, talk about a direct path for possible fumes, even if the seal is supposed to be tight.
  • Think about where you are sitting your helmet - not on a bar or something that might dig into the liner.
  • Consider the wear time. A helmet kept inside out of UV and fumes that is worn infrequently certainly would last better than the helmet left sitting on the bench in the garage or one that is worn with high frequency. Remember, EPS is the big enemy of environmentalists because it doesn't break down easily in natural (no chemical fumes) environments, so it should last a long time with good care.
Just some food for thought. My daily rider helmets when I was riding nearly daily got replaced every couple years. I have had helmets in the box in the closet that were five years old before being worn. I wasn't concerned, knowing what causes the degradation of the materials. The foam was essentially new. It ain't time, it's chemicals.

Shoei and Arai, among others, have to feel confident this is right considering they give you a long warranty against defects and they don't know when a helmet might be sold. They're nearly sealed up in a bag in the box, so decent storage keeps them in saleable shape.
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Old 11-20-2014, 10:38 AM   #12
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My Scoprion EXO 1000 has decided to instate its own 5 year rule. This is year 5 with the lid, about 40,000 miles, and over the summer one of the liner clips broke (now I have to move the cheek pad into place every time I put it on) and the bottom of the liner is starting to crack. What a good helmet this has been though! I feel like the seals on the visor aren't what they used to be either, and the internal visor is showing its age as well. Scorpion no longer produces parts for these, so even if I wanted to wring out every bit of life it has left, I can't get parts. Boo hoo, time for another one!

I feel like if you're riding a lot, 5 years out of a helmet is a LOT of abuse.
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Old 04-11-2012, 02:26 PM   #13
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a great deal of typing and a fair amount of opinions . . . not bad, mind you, but light on facts, data, and information ;-}

I've had old helmet liners simply disintegrate -- granted, they were 10+ years old . . . but, given that the foam didn't loose it's energy absorbing properties literally overnight, they likely started to do so a couple of years before it fell to pieces . . . .

so, the question is, how LONG before, yes?

I have no idea, and I'm guessing you don't either --

If nothing else, the helmet comanies have a vested interest in selling product, for certain -- they also have a vested interest in their products working up to spec -- will a good quality lid work up to spec after 5 years?

I have no idea, and I'm guessing you don't either --

If you want to look for a conspiricy, ask yourself why the instructions on a bottle of shampoo tells you to do the whole thing twice.
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:44 AM   #14
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a great deal of typing and a fair amount of opinions . . . not bad, mind you, but light on facts, data, and information ;-}

I have no idea, and I'm guessing you don't either --

If you want to look for a conspiricy, ask yourself why the instructions on a bottle of shampoo tells you to do the whole thing twice.
You got it correct Captain...I have no idea...thus the reason for my post. It also seems that the helmet mfgs do not have any idea as well. See my follow up investigation.

Conspiracy theory. HMM Maybe? But not really am I posing a conspiracy, but questioning the status quo. Its the helmet mfg, Snell etc that should post hard-cold data and not some friggin' "CONSENSUS". Do you agree?
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Old 04-17-2012, 10:32 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by jbhawley View Post
Conspiracy theory. HMM Maybe? But not really am I posing a conspiracy, but questioning the status quo. Its the helmet mfg, Snell etc that should post hard-cold data and not some friggin' "CONSENSUS". Do you agree?
I'm trying to figure out what you are expecting. A 200 page report with data for 50 different head types and 1000 different usage patterns? Maybe a 100 question form where you add up the points at the end and that determines how long your helmet will last?

It would be inane or useless, and most likely would only open the manufacturers up to lawsuits, and that would hurt all of us. I think Snell said it well. Only YOU know what your helmet has been through. THERE ARE NO HARD AND FAST RULES, yet you seem to want to pretend there are.


Quote:
This sort of post usage testing is what I would like to see from Snell. Take a helmet that has actually been worn by an average rider that is 2, 5, 7 etc years old and see if it still hold to the initial testing criteria.
What is an "average rider"?
Does this average rider have oily hair or dry hair?
Does the rider sweat much? How much is "much"?
What was the average length of continuous helmet usage?
What was the longest length of continuous helmet usage?
How many hours was the helmet used annually?
How tight was the helmet initially? (exact head size vs helmet size)
What temperature was the helmet stored at (usually)?
What humidity was the helmet stored at (usually)?
What part of the world did the rider live in?

Given the VERY LARGE number of variables in the above answers, how would any testing be useful for ANYONE except that "average rider"?

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