When should you replace your bike or electric scooter helmet?January 20th 2021
At Pure Electric, we believe that a helmet is a truly essential accessory. A helmet protects your head from accidental impact, and in the event of a crash or fall can be the difference between negligible injuries and a full, speedy recovery, or much worse.
Helmets age just like any e-bike and e-scooter, and while you can maintain them with careful washing and storage, it’s sensible to replace yours regularly to ensure that you’re protected properly. But how often should you replace it? Does it change if you’ve had a crash wearing yours? Or what if you’re dusting it off from a few years spent in the shed?
Here, we answer these key questions.
How long does a helmet last?
This question doesn’t have an exact answer, as some helmets can age differently depending on their construction, their overall quality, and how they’re used and taken care of.
Firstly, ALL helmets sold by Pure Electric meet the safety standards set out by the EU, which at present time, remains the standard by which helmets sold in the UK are designed. This guarantees a minimum amount of protection and coverage around your head. That means, all new helmets are safe to use (as long as they fit and are worn properly).
While there is some variation, the good rule of thumb is to replace a helmet that hasn’t been involved in a crash, impact, or otherwise not looked after, at least once every five years . This is because damage from the sun’s rays, sun cream and sweat, hair oils, repeated changes in temperature and general wear and tear all contribute to the ageing of the high-density ‘EPS’ foam that makes up the shell of most helmets, reducing its ability to absorb and disperse energy effectively.
Some helmets are constructed using multiple pieces of EPS foam, while others are made of fewer (or even out of one piece). While all of these helmets are absolutely safe to use and meet safety standards, helmets made of more pieces tend to be bonded together with some form of glue, which is super strong, but which can degrade faster over time.
This type of construction is often chosen for cheaper production, which usually results in a cheaper cost to you when buying. The upshot is that it can be even more important to ensure that you replace your helmet within this five-year guideline if it was a cheaper model, or if you can observe any degradation.
What if I haven’t worn it for years?
Even if a helmet hasn’t been worn for a few years (and was used for significantly less than five years), you should still look to replace it.
To demonstrate with a common example, imagine that you bought a new helmet six years ago. You used it for six months before it got put into your shed, along with your bike, and you’ve recently brought both out to start riding again. In this situation, you should strongly consider replacing the helmet.
This might seem unnecessary given that it has only been used for six months, but even the highest quality foam constructions degrade when they’re not used. In this case, temperature, light and humidity fluctuations will all have played their part in reducing the strength of the helmet. Plus, other unforeseen factors like accidental denting from prolonged pressure against a surface, or bugs that may have made the helmet a home, add more wear.
What if I’ve been in a crash?
If you’ve been involved in an accident while wearing your helmet, you should also think strongly about replacing it.
With every impact, even a light knock, a helmet has to absorb and dissipate energy. That energy inevitably causes damage to the helmet, and the problem is that that damage is not always visible.
For example, you may have had what felt like a glancing blow to your helmet, and walked away thankfully unscathed. Your helmet might have a few localised scratches on the outer shell, but otherwise it looks absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, you can’t see under the scratches or assess the inside of the foam – but to all intents and purposes, there appears to be nothing other than light superficial damage.
In this case, we strongly advise replacing your helmet. Because helmets are designed to absorb and disperse energy, it’s unlikely that you would have felt the full force of the blow and could easily dismiss it as a “scrape” or “knock”.
In fact, the helmet did its job by minimising the impact on your head, but in doing so, absorbed it itself. It’s this energy that can cause damage to the construction that you can’t see, which could render the helmet practically useless if you were to be unfortunate enough to have another crash.
What if I’ve dropped it?
This can happen to everyone – we’re all human! But to paint the worst-case scenario here, if you’ve dropped your helmet onto a hard stone floor by accident, then it’s unlikely that there was enough energy present to cause compromising damage.
Helmets are tested in laboratories with dummies inside them designed to simulate the mass and energy of an impact in the real world – a typical test is to drop a helmet at a representative speed onto a solid metal anvil, with a weight inside it. But if an empty 300g helmet were to fall from a tabletop to a stone floor, then this represents much less energy on impact than if your 12-15kg head were inside it, moving at speed, with some additional weight from your body added in too.
While you might be able to see some superficial scratches, the likelihood is that your helmet will be fine – as long as you’re not dropping it daily, for example! We recommend that you give your helmet a once-over visual check if you have dropped it, checking for any abnormalities before riding with it again.
 Snell Motorcycle Foundation. https://smf.org/faq