Replace your lid every ‘X’ years? Is it Marketing BS?

As most of you will be aware, most helmet manufacturers tell us that we’re meant to replace our lids every 5 years.  We went and spoke to a few bikers out and about this weekend to see how many people follow the rules, how many think its all some kind of great conspiracy and how many just didn’t have a clue.

The good news is, that most of you knew the 5 year rule, the bad news is, most of you ignore it!  The vast majority of bikers that we spoke to knew of the rule, but were convinced that they could continue wearing their trusted lids until they either had an off, or they dropped it.  That, worryingly, was the main consensus.

So, is it a conspiracy theory dreamt up by the marketing department of the likes of Arai and Shoei?  Well…. no.  There are solid facts to back up the need to replace a lid every 5 years.  We’re going to share with you the views of Shoei and Arai, Then once we’ve done that, we’re going to question everything we just learned, and then likely leave you more confused than when you started. 😄

So, we’ll start with one of the top dog brands, “Shoei”, they in fact have now decided that 7 year replacement is adequate.

For safety reasons, we recommend replacing a helmet after about seven years. The outer shell (fiberglass) is relatively resistant against aging. However, the material of the inner shell (EPS), which is substantially involved in the safety (shock absorption), hardens with time. So the inner shell no longer has those important absorption characteristics. There has also been much work on the development of helmets in recent years. Improved helmet shells, advanced materials, better comfort, changeable inner lining, more efficient ventilation systems, higher requirements also in the official test standards such as the E22 homologation, visor quick-change systems, etc. – in summary it can be said that helmets have simply become safer.

Arai have also now adopted the ‘7 Year Rule’, albeit more cautiously, they stipulate 7 years from manufacture, not from purchase.  Here’s what they have to say on the matter.

Arai helmets are handmade to the highest possible standard, and although after many years the outside shell can look as good as new, it’s the EPS polystyrene liner that loses its ability to absorb impact over time.

Arai recommend replacing your helmet 7 years after date of manufacture and 5 years after date of purchase to maintain the maximum levels of protection.

The EPS liner is effectively the shock absorber of your helmet, absorbing the force of an impact onto the shell. This is done by the cells in the poly styrene being expanded (EPS = Expanded Polystyrene) and filled with air to absorb impacts. Over time, even when not in use, these liners lose their air pockets incrementally, after 7 years, dropping the shock absorbing ability of the liner below Arai’s safety standards. This is why we declare the helmet due for replacement so it can properly protect you against impacts.

So both manufacturers are aligned, you should replace your lid sometime between 5 and 7 years after purchase.  Now here comes the “You’ve got a point” moment…

If the main issue is that the EPS liner loses its air pockets over time to the point that they’re classified as useless 7 years later (Without any human interaction that is).  Then surely it stands to reason, the more that we use our lids and put pressure on the EPS liner through wearing it, the faster those air pockets are going to dissipate?  It would be completely illogical to believe that the amount of air pockets dissipated in a lid that’s been sitting in its box, on a warehouse shelf for 7 years, and the amount of air pockets dissipated in my lid that’s done 15k miles per year for the past 7 years would be the same?  Right?

So, surely ‘when to replace your helmet’, can’t be summed up in a statement like ‘Every 7 years’, and should in fact take account of the usage of it?

Lets really think about this for a little while.  Lets say we have a ‘proper’ biker, he commutes to work every day, he’s out on the bike at the weekend, goes on the odd trip across to Europe, he’s probably going to rack up a good 600-700 hours of riding time per year.

Then you’ve got your more average biker, probably doing more like 300-350 hours a year. He’s driving the car to work in the winter, doesn’t spend every weekend on the bike, maybe goes for a weekend trip down to the coast a couple of times a year with his buddies.

And lastly…the fair weather rider, probably at a more conservative 150 hours a year.

Now, you can’t convince us that if after 3 years of use, we tested our proper bikers lid, and Mr Fair Weather’s lids that they’d be equally as effective at protecting our heads.  Our bikers lid would have racked up 1800-2100 hours of riding time, compared to 450 hours of riding time for Mr. Fair weather.

So that’s where we are.  We personally think that for the vast majority of bikers 7 years is far too long, in fact we think that 5 years is too long.  We replace ours every 2-3 years, by that point they tend to start looking a bit shabby, and to be honest we’ve probably already had our eye on the next one we want for a while by then!

How about you? What are your thoughts?

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