I had a lot of mountain bike helmets. The reason why I have lots of mountain bike helmets is because I love collecting them. I know this is irrational because it is a waste of money to buy a mountain bike helmet when your current mountain bike helmet is still healthy. So, when should you replace your mountain bike helmet?
When to replace a mountain bike helmet? Manufacturers say that, on average, you should get a new mountain bike helmet every 5 years. But if you hit your head while wearing the helmet during a crash, if the shell is damaged or worn, or if the EPS foam has cracks, you should get a new one right away.
Most of us know how important helmets are for safety when mountain biking, but when it comes to replacing helmets, I see a lot of people trying to take short cuts. Funny thing is, we don’t mind spending thousands of dollars to upgrade frames and parts. But we think twice before spending a couple hundred dollars on a new helmet.
When To Replace A Mountain Bike Helmet?
Consumer Reports says that head injuries are the cause of two-thirds of hospitalizations and three-quarters of deaths caused by bicycle accidents. Now that we know this, it’s even more important to make sure that our helmets are replaced at the right times.
Let’s look at a few reasons why you might need a new mountain bike helmet.
Crash Or Accidents
Most people know that a mountain bike helmet needs to be replaced after a crash. But not every crash means that the helmet needs to be replaced. Just the ones in which your head actually hits the ground, a rock, a tree, etc.
Sometimes, you might not even be able to tell that your helmet was in a crash after the fact. The foam inside mountain bike helmets isn’t made to take hits over and over. It’s made to be used just once, like the cup your to-go coffee comes in.
The foam inside the helmet will have been compressed by the impact, taking the force that would have gone to your head. If you didn’t get a new helmet and crashed again, the foam wouldn’t be able to take the same amount of force. This means that it would be sent to your head instead.
This one can be hard to figure out, since sometimes there is no damage to see after a crash. That doesn’t mean there isn’t damage in the foam that is too small to see with the naked eye. You felt fine when you left, and you wondered if you could save money by not replacing it.
It kept your head from getting hit, so you didn’t get hurt (or at least free of a head injury). The helmet probably won’t be able to do the same job again.
You should check the outside shell of your mountain bike helmet from time to time. If the surface is worn or has cracks, it’s time to get a new one. The same is true if the shell has cracks around the edges or if the color is clearly fading.
If you can press anywhere on the shell and see or feel it pop in and out, the foam underneath has been squashed. When the foam is compressed, it won’t be able to absorb the force of a crash as well as it should, which means it needs to be replaced.
You should also take time to look at the inside of the helmet as well as the outside. In the end, the foam is doing most of the work to protect your head. Look for signs of damage like cracks or dents. If your helmet lets you, take off any pads that keep it in place so you can check it thoroughly.
Check the buckles and straps while you’re at it. They are the parts of the helmet that keep it on your head during a crash. So make sure they aren’t worn, faded, or coming apart at the seams.
Make sure that the buckles still work and are not broken or missing any parts. If you notice any of these things, it’s a sign that it’s time to get a new one.
By age, I don’t just mean the date that the manufacturer puts on the package. Honestly, if you haven’t been in an accident or found other signs that it needs to be replaced, it’s probably fine to keep using a helmet past its expiration date.
But there must still be a balance between risk and reward. Sure, you could try to get a few more years out of the helmet so you don’t have to spend that $100–$200. But is it worth the chance?
The most important part of your body is your brain. We are nothing without it. Not being careful enough here won’t kill you. In fact, it might help you stay alive.
I should also say that I’m talking about the date that a modern bike helmet goes bad. If you’re still wearing a helmet from the 1970s or 1980s, it’s time to put it away for good.
In this case, the phrase “oldie but goodie” doesn’t work! If you love it so much, put it in a frame and hang it up like an old piece of art.
Even though the helmets weren’t necessarily bad, they aren’t up to par with what we expect today.
How To Take Care Of Your Mountain Bike Helmet?
The best place to store your mountain bike helmet is somewhere cool and dark. Make sure it’s not sitting in the direct sun. It also shouldn’t be kept in a place where it will get too hot or too cold.
Don’t let it come in contact with chemicals or other solvents, because they can damage the helmet’s structure.
The same is true for getting around. Don’t just throw your helmet in the back of your truck where it will bounce around. Instead, put it somewhere safer, like in the cab.
Wash it with cool water and a mild soap to get rid of any sweat, mud, or dirt that has built up on it or inside it. The fit pads can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle (cold) spin cycle, but don’t put them in the dryer.
Let the helmet and pads dry out in the air before putting them away.
What Is MIPS In A Bike Helmet?
Multi-directional Impact Protection System is what MIPS stands for. A group of scientists and brain surgeons came up with MIPS to reduce the amount of rotational force on the brain when the head is hit at an angle.
A slip-plane system inside the helmet can spin during an impact to reduce the amount of rotational force that is transferred to the head.
Most companies that make mountain bike helmets say if their helmets have MIPS or not.
But you can tell for sure by looking for a small yellow MIPS logo on the outside of the helmet or by flipping it over and looking for a thin yellow liner that sits below the pads on the inside.
A MIPS helmet doesn’t feel any different on the head than a helmet that doesn’t have MIPS. Here are some well-known mountain bike helmets that have MIPS built in.
- Giro Chronicle MIPS
- Troy Lee Designs A2
- Giro Fixture MIPS
- Bell 4Forty MIPS
Why Do Mountain Bike Helmets Have Visors?
The most obvious answer to this question is that visors are for safety on mountain bike helmets. They help protect the rider’s face from things like rain, mud, and branches that they might run into on the trail.
Protection from the sun is also important, but not as much as protection from physical things.
With a visor, you can wear glasses that don’t block all of the light but instead focus on making contrasts stand out. This helps you understand the ground better and choose better paths.
What To Look For In A New Mountain Bike Helmet?
When choosing a new mountain biking helmet, there are a few things you should think about before making your final choice. Most of the time, it’s better to buy a helmet at a bike shop where you can see and touch the different options. However, you can still get a good helmet if you don’t do this.
If you can, the first thing you should do is press all over the shell. The goal is to look for places where there might be what is sometimes called the “beer can” effect. This is where you can push a spot in and hear a dull click. When you let up on the pressure, the spot pops back out.
Some cheap helmets have the beer can effect even when they are brand new, but you should check the foam underneath carefully to make sure it is not affected in any way. No matter where you push on the shell, this should never happen with a more expensive helmet with a thicker shell.
To make sure you get a good helmet, you should also look inside for a sticker. All helmets that pass safety tests by Snell and/or ASTM will have a CPSC sticker on the inside that says so. Mountain bike helmets that don’t meet these standards or haven’t been tested may not have a sticker on the inside, or if they do, the sticker must say “This is not a helmet.”
Some companies take advantage of the fact that most buyers won’t look for a sticker and sell helmets that look and feel just like normal biking helmets, but you should never buy these because they don’t meet safety standards.
You should also always get a good-fitting bike helmet. Even without the chin strap, you should be able to move your head up and down and side to side while the helmet is on your head without it moving or coming off. You should also think about what kind of helmet frame you want. Full-face and half-shell are the two main types of frames. Full-face bike helmets protect your whole head, face, and chin. Half-shell bike helmets, on the other hand, usually only protect your head.
Expanded PolyPropylene (EPP) or EPS foam is something that can be added to a mountain bike helmet, and it can be a really nice thing to have. This kind of foam is made to survive more than one crash and regain some of its thickness, but it should still be replaced if it gets hit more than once.
How many vents you want in your helmet is another thing that is more or less up to you. A helmet with a lot of vents is less stable and can’t take as much of a hit, but it can keep your head cooler in hot weather than one with only a few small vents.
Cyclists should know that wearing any helmet is better than not wearing one at all, but if they have the money, they should get a helmet that fits their needs.
Keeping an eye out for wear and tear and going with your gut will help you make decisions that will keep you safe.
If you’re still not sure, the rule of thumb is to replace things every five to ten years. Last, a helmet should fit you well, keep you as safe as possible, and look good.