How old is far too old for a helmet... - BMW Luxury Touring Community
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post #1 of 20 Old Mar 28th, 2019, 5:52 pm Thread Starter
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How old is far too old for a helmet...

Ok real world truth telling now, how old is your helmet? General advice is to replace after 3-5 years, but honestly how old is yours? I’m asking because I’ve just replaced my BMW System V (Schuberth) of 13 years with a Shoei Neotec II, and to be honest I still think my System V was fine. It’s had heavy use for the first 3 years then light use over the past 10. The washable head gasket is falling apart but the helmet is as solid as the day I bought it. Thoughts?

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post #2 of 20 Old Mar 28th, 2019, 6:28 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

The thing with helmets is that it's not so much to do with the shell but the lining. Unless the helmet has had a hard impact that has damaged the outside it is pretty solid for many years.
The reason why they say to always buy a properly fitting helmet is because the components of the lining are what absorb the impact. Over the years due to sweat and compression that lining starts to fit looser on your head. I recently threw away an old NAVA helmet I had thirty years ago. I found it in a cupboard at my mothers house and the lining was actually falling apart. It was fine when it was put in the cupboard but time wounds all heals.
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post #3 of 20 Old Mar 28th, 2019, 7:01 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Replaced my 5 years old (at the time) Neotec with Neotec 2 at the beginning of last year! My personal philosophy is that I wear a helmet for "just in case", and absolutely do everything that I can to make that "just in case" not happen! So, if it does happen, and my helmet didn't do its job because it is "worn out" from age, then I would have very much wasted my money . . . along with other very important things! So, even though all of my helmets looks great, they are all just sits on a shelf while I use the new one. Somehow, I find it very difficult to throw away what looks like good helmets!!!!

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post #4 of 20 Old Mar 29th, 2019, 3:50 am
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Modern fibreglass helmets last a good long time. The 3-5 years recommendation came in when polycarbonate helmets became popular, the UV was thought to degrade them over time. Same reason that painting them was discouraged. As long as the helmet fits well and has not had any knocks then I would be happy to keep using it.

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post #5 of 20 Old Mar 29th, 2019, 7:20 am
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scimitar View Post
Modern fibreglass helmets last a good long time. The 3-5 years recommendation came in when polycarbonate helmets became popular, the UV was thought to degrade them over time. Same reason that painting them was discouraged. As long as the helmet fits well and has not had any knocks then I would be happy to keep using it.
Even though what you said have some truth to it, it really isn't the cause that have manufacturer give the life of their helmet as being just 5 - 6 years. The real reason was given earlier, by Wazza:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Wazza View Post
The thing with helmets is that it's not so much to do with the shell but the lining. Unless the helmet has had a hard impact that has damaged the outside it is pretty solid for many years.
The reason why they say to always buy a properly fitting helmet is because the components of the lining are what absorb the impact. Over the years due to sweat and compression that lining starts to fit looser on your head. I recently threw away an old NAVA helmet I had thirty years ago. I found it in a cupboard at my mothers house and the lining was actually falling apart. It was fine when it was put in the cupboard but time wounds all heals.

Neither of you had answered the OP's question though!!!!!!

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post #6 of 20 Old Mar 29th, 2019, 8:37 am
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Like lots of things in life, not all questions have a hard & set answer. Nearly all composite materials containing flexing agent chemicals, (tires, hose, tubing, plastics, polymers, etc., etc.) degrade over time. Subjected to natural occurring degradation of exposure to ozone, UV light, and cold/heat cycles. There's this term called "plasticizing." It is kind of a term beyond my understanding as it seems to be used to describe how composites are formulated for flexibility (in a positive way) and also used as a negative term to describe how certain composites degrade over time.

One of my (too many) hobbies is old cars. In the car hobby, we collect and cherish NOS (New Old Stock) parts. I have had some old plastic parts literally crumble in my hands due to the flexing agents outgassing and the parts cracking (shrinking) as the flexing agents vaporize to the atmosphere over time. A good example is vintage steering wheels, vinyl seat covers, dash pads, etc. I have some unheated utility buildings where some of my parts are stored. For NOS parts I want to protect, I keep them in my home where the environment is better controlled for heat, humidity, UV, and ozone exposure. Those items seem to survive much better than the ones in the utility buildings.

So, in my opinion, as long as you keep your helmet stored in a controlled environment, (not in your barn, unheated garage, or in the sunlight behind a window) it should last longer. If you are a casual rider (like me) and bring your helmet inside after a ride, I think it should last much longer than a daily rider, with an open garage/barn, who daily hangs his helmet outside, on his handlebars, in the hot sun every day.

So...my answer to the original question is that it is a judgment call. Probably not what you are looking for, but I would also suggest that you buy a new helmet when you become uncomfortable and lose confidence in the one you are using. The peace of mind is worth the expense.

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post #7 of 20 Old Mar 29th, 2019, 8:45 am
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Like many things in life, if you are not sure, the answer is no. In relation to the cost of the bike, insurance, and farkles that we add, the cost of a new helmet is not too much. I'd error on the side of being cautious and go for the new helmet. I generally replace mine about every 6-7 years.

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post #8 of 20 Old Mar 29th, 2019, 9:03 am
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dpmitche View Post
Ok real world truth telling now, how old is your helmet? General advice is to replace after 3-5 years, but honestly how old is yours? Iím asking because Iíve just replaced my BMW System V (Schuberth) of 13 years with a Shoei Neotec II, and to be honest I still think my System V was fine. Itís had heavy use for the first 3 years then light use over the past 10. The washable head gasket is falling apart but the helmet is as solid as the day I bought it. Thoughts?
Good question and timely post, because just this week I retired my Nolan N102 of 12 years. Was in great shape, chipped paint in a few places, but otherwise still going strong. I'm keeping for a spare just in case. As pointed out in another post, given all the other costs of motorcycle ownership, a new helmet is not that much. However, I tend to think those doing the hard sell for replacing every 5 years are the manufacturers and dealers/shops

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post #9 of 20 Old Mar 29th, 2019, 11:12 am
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

"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." - The Snell Foundation
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post #10 of 20 Old Mar 29th, 2019, 4:42 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Not worth much because it is just hearsay but several years ago a friend crashed her bike far from home, in the opinion of somebody (never got a clear confirmation of who, I think the doctor on the case) her brain injury was worsened by her very old helmet. Like I said, the flimsiest of hearsay but I'm very fond of my brain, as Woody Allen said, it is second favorite organ.

Based on that I follow the industry's five year rule. I also keep most chemicals away from my helmet and only clean it with stuff rated for that job. Back in the old days we sprayed shop chemicals on an old, polycarbonate helmet. Most had no obvious effect. We hit the right one (a cleaner) and were able to stick a tire iron through the helmet shell with the resistance you'd expect from warm butter. It is my understand that just the fumes from some chemicals can cause weakening of a polycarbonate helmet, no direct contact required, be careful.

Finally, I still have the Bell Star I was wearing when I crashed in turn 8 at Sears Point (now Sonoma Raceway) in 1980. I flipped ass over teakettle three times, you can see each flip from the scratches in the helmet from it meeting the asphalt. One set of scratches runs from the chin area, across the face shield and to the forehead area. Thinking about what that would be like makes buying good quality, full face helmets easy, even when my cheap Scott side tries to get me to save money.
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post #11 of 20 Old Mar 29th, 2019, 4:42 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

There is an old adage: If you have a second-hand head, buy a second-hand helmet.

I use this sort of thinking with the helmet.

The rule I grew up with was 3 years plastic helmet 5 years fibreglass.

I have amended this to 5-7 years for composite helmets.

I will replace my current helmet (Arai Chaser) next year (I bought it in 2015) It is a bit earlier than expected, but it was somewhat of a misbuy (for me).

There is nothing wrong with it, except once you go Flip Helmet, it is difficult to go back. Also, the size of the shell gives me too much room, and the shell size down is too small.

Another factor in the replacement schedule is if it has been dropped. A drop will mean immediate replacement.

I have one head and have tested a helmet against concrete when I was rear-ended, so I will not risk anything. Better to lose money than even more brain cells.

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post #12 of 20 Old Mar 29th, 2019, 5:15 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

That depends on what you mean by drop. I read an interesting article from a rep from Aria a few ago saying the "drop and empty helmet, it is junk" belief I've heard so many times. He said that was a myth, the reason you ALWAYS replace a helmet that has been in a crash is you can't see compression on the safety styrofoam inside the helmet. If there is nothing in the helmet and no external evidence of damage there can be no damage to the safety liner because there was nothing in the helmet to compress the styrofoam. If in doubt, replace, but I found the Aria guy's comments really interesting.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleuth View Post
Another factor in the replacement schedule is if it has been dropped. A drop will mean immediate replacement.


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post #13 of 20 Old Mar 30th, 2019, 3:07 am
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goose11 View Post
That depends on what you mean by drop. I read an interesting article from a rep from Aria a few ago saying the "drop and empty helmet, it is junk" belief I've heard so many times. He said that was a myth, the reason you ALWAYS replace a helmet that has been in a crash is you can't see compression on the safety styrofoam inside the helmet. If there is nothing in the helmet and no external evidence of damage there can be no damage to the safety liner because there was nothing in the helmet to compress the styrofoam. If in doubt, replace, but I found the Aria guy's comments really interesting.
For myself, a drop is when the Helmet falls from waist height. I understand it might be a tad on the paranoid side to assume it is useless or dangerous. The Arai rep is probably correct, however, do you want to risk your life for some money? I would rather replace the helmet than hope for safety in an accident.

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post #14 of 20 Old Mar 30th, 2019, 10:22 am
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Seems like a poor time to save money, doesn't it? OTOH, if my mind really worked logically I'd have dropped $3K on a quality air vest and a pricey jacket/suit to support it. We all make our choices and hope we guessed right.


Quote:
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For myself, a drop is when the Helmet falls from waist height. I understand it might be a tad on the paranoid side to assume it is useless or dangerous. The Arai rep is probably correct, however, do you want to risk your life for some money? I would rather replace the helmet than hope for safety in an accident.

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post #15 of 20 Old Mar 30th, 2019, 1:30 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dpmitche View Post
Ok real world truth telling now, how old is your helmet? General advice is to replace after 3-5 years, but honestly how old is yours? Iím asking because Iíve just replaced my BMW System V (Schuberth) of 13 years with a Shoei Neotec II, and to be honest I still think my System V was fine. Itís had heavy use for the first 3 years then light use over the past 10. The washable head gasket is falling apart but the helmet is as solid as the day I bought it. Thoughts?
The answer is: it depends.

If you store your helmet in your garage above your vented gas cans, it may be trash in 12 months or less as the EPS does not like gasoline vapors and some other solvents.


If you store it properly and keep it clean, it may last a long time. Part of it depends on your risk tolerance. I personally have no issue riding with a 10 year-old full-face helmet. Actually, I am currently riding with a 12 year old helmet I bought with my LT and fitted with the intercom. I probably will wear it until I get rid of the LT. I clean the comfort liner quit often and check the EPS impact absorbing liner as well. As long as the EPS is still firm and showing no signs of damage or distress, I will continue to wear the helmet. I have some old styrofoam coolers that are probably 20 years old with no signs of distress.

I agree 100% with the comment someone conveyed from Arai (I assume Aria was a simple type). Disposing of a helmet because it was dropped, assuming the outer shell has no damage, is nuts. I also laugh at people who carry their helmets on airplanes as they believe that packing them in checked luggage will cause them to be ruined by the baggage handlers. If I had a helmet that I thought a Delta baggage handler could ruin with it inside of my checked bag, I would get rid of that helmet and get one I trusted. Do you really think a typical baggage handler will stress a helmet more than will contact with the pavement from 5í high at 60 MPH?

There are many other things that have a greater impact on your riding safety than does the age of your helmet. Proper tires in good shape and good brakes are far more important. Wearing the gear is more important than the age of the gear. Iíd rather wear a 15 year old FF helmet than a 5 year old 3/4 helmet or than a brand new half helmet.

If you are really paranoid, buy a new helmet every 5 years as most manufacturers recommend. That has passed muster with their lawyers so it is a super conservative recommendation and you wonít go wrong, unless you abuse the helmet by exposing it to gasoline vapor or do things like rest it on mirrors or other relatively ďsharpĒ objects that can point load the EPS and locally damage it. If you are moderately risk averse, I would replace every 8 years or so. If you have a higher risk tolerance like me, and understand a little about EPS and how to care for it, then 10+ years is not an issue, in my opinion ... which is worth every penny you paid for it.
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post #16 of 20 Old Mar 30th, 2019, 1:36 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

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Not worth much because it is just hearsay but several years ago a friend crashed her bike far from home, in the opinion of somebody (never got a clear confirmation of who, I think the doctor on the case) her brain injury was worsened by her very old helmet. Like I said, the flimsiest of hearsay but I'm very fond of my brain, as Woody Allen said, it is second favorite organ.

Based on that I follow the industry's five year rule. I also keep most chemicals away from my helmet and only clean it with stuff rated for that job. Back in the old days we sprayed shop chemicals on an old, polycarbonate helmet. Most had no obvious effect. We hit the right one (a cleaner) and were able to stick a tire iron through the helmet shell with the resistance you'd expect from warm butter. It is my understand that just the fumes from some chemicals can cause weakening of a polycarbonate helmet, no direct contact required, be careful.

Finally, I still have the Bell Star I was wearing when I crashed in turn 8 at Sears Point (now Sonoma Raceway) in 1980. I flipped ass over teakettle three times, you can see each flip from the scratches in the helmet from it meeting the asphalt. One set of scratches runs from the chin area, across the face shield and to the forehead area. Thinking about what that would be like makes buying good quality, full face helmets easy, even when my cheap Scott side tries to get me to save money.
Yes, I am sure a doctor is the most qualified person to comment on helmet performance just as a helmet designer is the right person to have do your brain surgery.

I suspect the more meaningful reason to replace an old helmet is the latter part of what was mentioned in the Snell Foundation quote - the advance in technology. I suspect most new helmets outperform older helmets not because the old helmet has deteriorated, but because the new helmet simply has better design and materials. To me, that is the most rational justification to get rid of a perfectly good 5 year old helmet.

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post #17 of 20 Old Mar 30th, 2019, 1:45 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

So...how far do you have to drop your bike to require it to be replaced???

Never declare a cherished memory as "the best day of my life"...it will forever diminish the possibility for "Tomorrow" being the "Best Day!"
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post #18 of 20 Old Mar 30th, 2019, 2:57 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

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So...how far do you have to drop your bike to require it to be replaced???
Are you talking BMW or Harley?

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post #19 of 20 Old Mar 30th, 2019, 8:24 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Well, your opinion is as valid as mine since we are both not experts here but as he was doing brain surgery on her and, apparently, did that for a living so yes, I think his opinion was pretty significant. People who see damaged bodies a lot for work tend to develop and pretty good understanding of the cause of damage.

I don't know any brain surgeons but I do occasionally hang out with a cardiologist and a regularly with a guy who runs a PT consulting company. I value their opinion on medical matters in their specialty pretty highly. I also know a chemical engineer, based on his masters degree and 40 years in the bis plus having known him for years I value his opinion on organic chemistry pretty highly too, I guess I'm just a sucker for a fancy degree.

QUOTE=Voyager;1906137]Yes, I am sure a doctor is the most qualified person to comment on helmet performance just as a helmet designer is the right person to have do your brain surgery.

I suspect the more meaningful reason to replace an old helmet is the latter part of what was mentioned in the Snell Foundation quote - the advance in technology. I suspect most new helmets outperform older helmets not because the old helmet has deteriorated, but because the new helmet simply has better design and materials. To me, that is the most rational justification to get rid of a perfectly good 5 year old helmet.[/QUOTE]

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post #20 of 20 Old Mar 30th, 2019, 8:41 pm
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Re: How old is far too old for a helmet...

Quote:
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Well, your opinion is as valid as mine since we are both not experts here but as he was doing brain surgery on her and, apparently, did that for a living so yes, I think his opinion was pretty significant. People who see damaged bodies a lot for work tend to develop and pretty good understanding of the cause of damage.

I don't know any brain surgeons but I do occasionally hang out with a cardiologist and a regularly with a guy who runs a PT consulting company. I value their opinion on medical matters in their specialty pretty highly. I also know a chemical engineer, based on his masters degree and 40 years in the bis plus having known him for years I value his opinion on organic chemistry pretty highly too, I guess I'm just a sucker for a fancy degree.

QUOTE=Voyager;1906137]Yes, I am sure a doctor is the most qualified person to comment on helmet performance just as a helmet designer is the right person to have do your brain surgery.

I suspect the more meaningful reason to replace an old helmet is the latter part of what was mentioned in the Snell Foundation quote - the advance in technology. I suspect most new helmets outperform older helmets not because the old helmet has deteriorated, but because the new helmet simply has better design and materials. To me, that is the most rational justification to get rid of a perfectly good 5 year old helmet.
[/QUOTE]


Well, if degrees and such are what floats your boat, I have several: BSCS, BSEE, MSCE (structural engineering specialization). I was Valedictorian in every graduating class with 4.00 in my CS and CE degrees and 3.97 in my EE (one nasty prof gave me a B+ on one test). I am also a licensed professional engineer in two states, hold 20 patents at last count and have over 35 years of engineering and R&D experience. Impressed yet?

I stand by my opinion that an MD is very unlikely to be qualified to assess the performance of a helmet, particularly in regard to old vs. new. The exception are those with both MD and engineering degrees, but they are few and far between and typically work in artificial joint and prosthetic development or other research areas and seldom work in an ER. And if you hit your head on something hard at more than about 20 MPH, it doesnít matter much what kind of helmet you are wearing.

Yes, the MD can say that the head injury was from a severe impact, but they canít say that the damage was due to an old helmet vs a new one. Nobody can say that with certainty as every impact is unique and unless you can recreate the impact and test at least 20 old and 20 new helmets to get statistically valid data, it is all just opinion and speculation.

My wife worked for two pathologists in a local hospital, one of whom was the county coroner, and they always chided us for even riding motorcycles. Many MDs are hugely biased agiainst motorcycles in general and they often make all sorts of unsupported statements about motorcycle safety or lack thereof.

Deciding when to retire a helmet is simply not an objective decision. It is very subjective and depends on a huge range of factors with some of the key ones being: initial quality of the helmet, its environment of use and storage, the care given to it (not setting it on mirrors and such), and the risk tolerance of the wearer. It is simply not reasonable to expect anyone to tell you to retire your helmet after X years and some helmets may be trash after two years and some may be perfectly serviceable after 10 years
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