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OneEighth
03-29-2012, 10:15 PM
Just a quick reminder, folks, if you don't wear it correctly, the helmet won't protect you properly.
So, for starters, make sure you've got it on with the front of the helmet facing...forward. Most helmets are adjustable at the back, so if you've got that in front, spin it round.
Now, here's the bit I see loads of folks get wrong---the front of the helmet should sit right above your brow. That way, when you crash, the helmet will take the hit rather than your forehead. But don't worry, helmets are designed to protect the back of your head even when you've got them down nice and low over your forehead.
One more thing---strap it down properly. If you don't secure the straps at all, the helmet will come off in an accident instead of staying put and absorbing the shock. Same deal if the straps are sloppy loose. Properly adjusted straps also help you make sure that your helmet is sitting properly on your head (by which I mean right above your brow).
If your helmet is old (as in more than 5 years), replace it.
If you've smacked it into the pavement, replace it.
Cheers.

mstone
03-30-2012, 07:03 AM
And my favorite pet peeve--No jaunty angle!

CCrew
03-30-2012, 07:34 AM
And my favorite pet peeve--No jaunty angle!

I love the soccer moms that wear a baseball cap underneath. They rock :)

aflapr
03-30-2012, 08:51 AM
...So, for starters, make sure you've got it on with the front of the helmet facing...forward. Most helmets are adjustable at the back, so if you've got that in front, spin it round...One more thing---strap it down properly. If you don't secure the straps at all, the helmet will come off in an accident instead of staying put and absorbing the shock...

About once I week I see someone wearing a helmet backwards with the straps dangling. I never know if I should offer to help or if this is yet another fashion trend that has passed me by.

pfunkallstar
03-30-2012, 08:57 AM
I love the soccer moms that wear a baseball cap underneath. They rock :)

My cousin did that once, took a spill, and ended up with the craziest looking bruise ever from that little metal thing on the inside.

rcannon100
03-30-2012, 09:15 AM
If your helmet is old (as in more than 5 years), replace it.

This is not meant as a challenge. This is an honest question. Why?? The helmet - the functional part that protects you - is styrofoam. It doesnt age. Its an artificial substance. As long as the integrity of the helmet remains, I dont understand the "styrofoam is old" argument. Is there any actual real research on why a helmet goes bad over time?

Thanks

americancyclo
03-30-2012, 09:24 AM
This is not meant as a challenge. This is an honest question. Why?? The helmet - the functional part that protects you - is styrofoam. It doesnt age. Its an artificial substance. As long as the integrity of the helmet remains, I dont understand the "styrofoam is old" argument. Is there any actual real research on why a helmet goes bad over time?

Thanks

I've often heard this at bike shops too, that helmets should be replaced every year or two, but I did find this, although I've never heard of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (website revised last in 2010)
(http://www.bhsi.org/replace.htm)
The Italian company MET says in their 2010 catalog (http://www.met-helmets.com/home.jsp?idrub=2192): "We are often asked 'For how long is a helmet safe?', or 'how often should I replace my helmet?”' Until now it has been difficult to find any reliable figures to help answer these queries. MET have now developed a series of tests which are conducted on aged helmets to determine a 'best before' date (unless the helmet is involved in an accident. In that case it should be replaced immediately.). The results indicate that, if used properly accordingly to our owner manual, our helmets will still do their job up to eight years after they have been made. Not only is that good news for the customer, it’s great news for the environment!"

We applaud MET for undertaking an actual testing program on helmet life and for making that statement. We regard it as a triumph of integrity over marketing. MET's helmets are made with industry standard shells and liners, so there is no reason we can see that their recommendation should not be good for many other helmet brands as well. If another manufacturer comes up with a testing program that shows earlier deterioration in the protection from their products we will review this page.
In sum, we don't find the case for replacing a helmet that meets the ASTM or Snell standards that compelling if the helmet is still in good shape and fits you well.

off2ride
03-30-2012, 09:27 AM
The one that took the cake for me was this rider wearing her HELMET on BACKWARDS plus the FORK on her bike was facing the rear of the bike while she was riding it. Now that's a WTOP Knuckle head.


About once I week I see someone wearing a helmet backwards with the straps dangling. I never know if I should offer to help or if this is yet another fashion trend that has passed me by.

baiskeli
03-30-2012, 09:44 AM
This is not meant as a challenge. This is an honest question. Why?? The helmet - the functional part that protects you - is styrofoam. It doesnt age. Its an artificial substance. As long as the integrity of the helmet remains, I dont understand the "styrofoam is old" argument. Is there any actual real research on why a helmet goes bad over time?

Thanks

You've already received a great answer, so I'll just add my mindless speculation. Exposure to the sun and heat, even the part under a liner, probably breaks down styrofoam a bit.

txgoonie
03-30-2012, 10:09 AM
There's definitely wear and tear to consider with your helmet. I know I abuse mine pretty bad - I drop it all the time, which can cause small dents over time. I chain it to my bike at work so the adjustable cradle in the back gets beat up. The straps get gross after a while. I want all of those parts working all the time, not just the foam, so getting a new one after a few years of near daily use seems pretty reasonable.

brendan
03-30-2012, 10:22 AM
The one that took the cake for me was this rider wearing her HELMET on BACKWARDS plus the FORK on her bike was facing the rear of the bike while she was riding it. Now that's a WTOP Knuckle head.

How was the bike not falling over? My gut feeling is that would be extremely unstable...

OneEighth
03-30-2012, 10:32 AM
This is not meant as a challenge. This is an honest question. Why?? The helmet - the functional part that protects you - is styrofoam. It doesnt age. Its an artificial substance. As long as the integrity of the helmet remains, I dont understand the "styrofoam is old" argument. Is there any actual real research on why a helmet goes bad over time?

Thanks

It's a valid question and I appreciate it and americancyclo's info, too.
I'll be honest, I've never questioned it. When I used to work in a motorcycle shop, regular replacement of helmets was accepted practice among the riders (and racers) who worked there. The explanation I heard is that your sweat, etc., affects the styrofoam and degrades its shock-dissipation properties over time. Again, I've never sought a reason not to replace my helmets frequently because I accepted the underlyng idea that is a good practice to regularly replace wear and tear items. What indicator you use is beside the point to me.
Look at it this way, the longer you have a helmet, the more likely you are to have dropped it, scuffed it, exposed it to loads of sunlight (not kind to the plastic shell that holds the styrofoam in place when you hit), whatever---all things that produce impact on the helmet and, however slightly, degrade its shock-dissipation capacity. I want my helmet as close to 100% when I really need it. Regular replacement just ups my odds as I see it.
I would also note that in the excerpt that americancyclo posted, the helmet manufacturer still felt compelled to qualify their statements about the life-span of the helmet---note the reference to 8 years.

off2ride
03-30-2012, 10:38 AM
It's still ride-able. Provided the cables are not binding but the handling will be twitchy. I'm sure she noticed something was not right but she carried on anyway. I hope she operates a motor car normally.

CCrew
03-30-2012, 10:46 AM
I would also note that in the excerpt that americancyclo posted, the helmet manufacturer still felt compelled to qualify their statements about the life-span of the helmet---note the reference to 8 years.

The 5 years more than anything comes from almost all the racing venues. Helmets, safety harnesses, firesuits, etc are only certified from 5 years from the tagged date. No tag or expired tag can mean disqualification. IIRC, UCI may have the 5 year rule on Helmets, and I know USAT does.

DSalovesh
03-30-2012, 11:09 AM
The other part is that over "a number" of years the condition of a used helmet is unpredictable and untestable.

That time it fell off the table once? Probably still fine. The one that's fallen off a table on average once a week for five years, that got banged on a door frame once or twice a month, that got smushed by the bag in the closet, that has no sharp corners anywhere anymore and got a couple of gouges along the way? Still effective? Nobody really knows, and nobody could say which of those minor defects did or didn't put it over the line.

If it was then involved in a crash and it failed to protect as intended, the folks who design them - and sell them too, of course - are saying they wouldn't be surprised. I trust them in the first place or I wouldn't wear their helmets at all, so I don't really have much reason to disagree when they tell me there's a limit.

And helmets are pretty inexpensive overall. Basic commuter helmets are $45-65, enthusiast helmets are $100-120, and it's hard to spend over $200 on any helmet. With a five year expected lifetime, for daily riders, that's at least 1,200 uses, so it's under $0.20 per day even for the most costly ones. At that cost, considering the purpose, it's hard to worry about squeezing extra life out of an old or uncertain one.

OneEighth
03-30-2012, 11:30 AM
Even with a good helmet, worn properly, you can still end up with an injury. This is all about reducing the risk and severity of injury.
Case in point, I flipped early this February while going roughly 25 mph. Point of initial impact was my left temple before I rolled onto my back and slid. The styrofoam broke in several places and separated from the plastic skeleton that covers the helmet at the left temple and at the top rear of the helmet (thereby protecting the back of my skull).
The helmet functioned as designed. No complaint there whatsoever.
And yet, I still ended up with a lovely concussion that lasted the better part of four weeks.
Now who are you people and get off my lawn.

pfunkallstar
03-30-2012, 11:47 AM
I replace my helmet just about every two years or so - but that is mostly due to the smell and chinstrap goo. Even if you buy an expensive helmet, which you should because the keep your head way cooler, $100 or so over two years is a small price to pay for having a round, or in my case semi-round, skull.

eminva
03-30-2012, 11:47 AM
Basic commuter helmets are $45-65, enthusiast helmets are $100-120, and it's hard to spend over $200 on any helmet.

I've always wondered: what does the more expensive helmet get you? I've always bought the cheaper models -- I'm not setting the world on fire with my blazing speed and I have little hope of winning any style contests. What I have seems remarkably light. My only complaint is that the straps are cumbersome to adjust. What would an upgraded model add?

Liz

jrenaut
03-30-2012, 11:54 AM
I've always wondered: what does the more expensive helmet get you? I've always bought the cheaper models -- I'm not setting the world on fire with my blazing speed and I have little hope of winning any style contests. What I have seems remarkably light. My only complaint is that the straps are cumbersome to adjust. What would an upgraded model add?

Liz
Easier strap adjustment is definitely one of the things that the nicer helmets add over the cheap ones.

OneEighth
03-30-2012, 11:58 AM
More expensive cycling helmets generally give you lighter weight and better venting.
Fit can also vary between manufacturers and models.
Pick what fits you best and is intended for your activity.

Greenbelt
03-30-2012, 12:02 PM
My mid-price commuter helmet (see avatar) has built-in rear-facing blinky lights! The GoPro and helmet strap are not included.

PotomacCyclist
03-30-2012, 01:00 PM
About once I week I see someone wearing a helmet backwards with the straps dangling. I never know if I should offer to help or if this is yet another fashion trend that has passed me by.

Just be glad they aren't doing that baseball upside-down rally cap thing. That would be interesting to see with a bike helmet, but not too safe.

CCrew
03-30-2012, 01:19 PM
I pretty much have a bit different mindset about helmets and their cost vs replacement.

Buy a $100 helmet once every two years. That's a mere $50 a year or just over $4 a month. Is your brain not worth that?

Buy a Trek Helmet and crash it they'll replace it free inside the first year. Dunno about other brands.

acc
03-30-2012, 01:29 PM
And that other thing on your head....

I usually have the good sense to wear a scarf over my hair under my helmet, BUT not yesterday.

I was coming home from work and riding the sidewalk with traffic along Lee Highway near Fairfax Circle. (After some deliberation, I decided rush hour and that road were not compatible with me on a bike.) I had to duck underneath a row of cherry trees. The fact I had to duck tells you how seldom anyone walks on the sidewalks there. I came in the door, started sorting the mail and absently fluffed my hair. That's when I discovered one of those little inchworm sort of creatures clinging to the back of my hand.

After a little squealing freakout I'm feeling much better.

I will not forget my scarf again.

ann

DSalovesh
03-30-2012, 01:39 PM
I don't disagree, and I did okay with basic helmets for a long time. I'd usually wear them, but I'd also find excuses not to - it's TOO hot, it's a short and / or casual ride, I had a meeting and didn't want helmet head, you know.

One year I couldn't find a basic one that felt right, so I upgraded. Not only was the fit better but the adjustability and comfort were too. I was done with basic helmets.

Next time there was a sale so a higher end helmet was the same price, and I preferred it over the others because it was lighter and more ventilated. And sure enough, though I wasn't closely tracking it, I realized that I wasn't finding those excuses as often. Putting on a helmet was less of a chore, so I did it more.

Next time I went all the way to the top, and what I got was no longer something where I felt it was remarkably light or extremely comfortable - it was like it weighed absolutely nothing on my head and I could hardly feel it. No excuse needed.

I don't know what that's worth, but I know what it costs. In the end I did the math and realized that across a few years the cost difference was negligible. If "spending" $0.16 a day got me a helmet I'd use, and "saving" $0.08 a day got me one I'd hate, there might come a day when using a helmet was better than hating it.

(The only claim a helmet can make for protection is that it passes the applicable certification tests. I know one super-light helmet maker has - well, they can't publicly announce the testing and results, but they have provided them as training materials for retailers - tested the lightest ones and demonstrated just how much they exceed the standards. It's pretty amazing, really, though the answer they give in the shops is always "these all meet all applicable standards".)

rcannon100
03-30-2012, 09:08 PM
According to Bart Simpson...

869

So I read everyone's answer.... and I'm not buying. It's styrofoam. I made styrofoam in the lab during college. It's not affected by sweat. It doesnt dry out. It doesnt age, well at least in terms of 3 to 5 years. So I thought I would see if I could find something authoritative. This is from the Bike Safety Helmet Institute .... it's probably not a credible group. According to its "about us" page, "We are the helmet advocacy program of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association." Probably an astro-turf front group. Anyway, they say.....



Newer helmets from the late 1980's and the 90's may or may not need replacement. First look to see what standards sticker is inside. If it's ASTM or Snell, the helmet was designed to meet today's standards for impact protection, and you may even find that Consumer Reports tested it in one of their articles. Most manufacturers now recommend that helmets be replaced after five years, but some of that may be just marketing. (Bell now recommends every three years, which seems to us too short. They base it partially on updating your helmet technology, but they have not been improving their helmets that much over three year periods, and we consider some of their helmets since the late 1990's to be a step backwards, so we would take that with a grain of salt.) Deterioration depends on usage, care, and abuse. But if you ride thousands of miles every year, five years may be a realistic estimate of helmet life. And helmets have actually been improving enough over time to make it a reasonable bet that you can find a better one than you did five years ago. It may fit better, look better, and in some cases may even be more protective. For an alternate view that agrees with the manufacturers, check out the helmet FAQ of the Snell Foundation. Snell knows a lot about helmets and their views on this subject should not be dismissed lightly, even though we disagree with them.

Occasionally somebody spreads rumors that sweat and ultraviolet (UV) exposure will cause your helmet to degrade. Sweat will not do that. The standards do not permit manufacturers to make a helmet that degrades from sweat, and the EPS, EPP or EPU foam is remarkably unaffected by salt water. Your helmet will get a terminal case of grunge before it dies of sweat. Sunlight can affect the strength of the shell material, though. Since helmets spend a lot of time in the sun, manufacturers usually put UV inhibitors in the plastic for their shells that control UV degradation. If your helmet is fading or showing small cracks around the vents, the UV inhibitors may be failing, so you probably should replace it. Chances are it has seen an awful lot of sun to have that happen. Otherwise, try another brand next time and let us know what brand faded on you.

At least one shop told a customer that the EPS in his three year old helmet was now "dried out." Other sales people refer to "outgassing" and say that the foam loses gas and impact performance is affected. Still others claim that helmets lose a percentage of their effectiveness each year, with the percentage growing with age. All of that is nothing but marketing hype to sell a replacement helmet before you need it. There is some loss of aromatics in the first hours and days after molding, and helmet designers take account of that for standards testing. But after that the foam stabilizes and does not change for many years, unless the EPS is placed in an oven for some period of time and baked. The interior of your car, for example, will not do that, based on helmets we have seen and at least one lab crash test of a helmet always kept in a car in Virginia over many summers. Helmet shells can be affected by car heat, but not the foam. The Snell Memorial Foundation has tested motorcycle helmets held in storage for more than 20 years and found that they still meet the original standard. EPS is a long-lived material little affected by normal environmental factors. Unless you mistreat it we would not expect it to "dry out" enough to alter its performance for many years.

I had a local bike shop tell me my helmet had "dried out." I did not bite. You wanna replace your undamaged helmet every 3 to 5 years? It may look sharp - but its doubtful you are buying any additional protection.

CCrew
03-30-2012, 09:41 PM
I had a local bike shop tell me my helmet had "dried out." I did not bite. You wanna replace your undamaged helmet every 3 to 5 years? It may look sharp - but its doubtful you are buying any additional protection.

Really tho. All scientific studies aside.. if you can't get a definitive answer, What's your head worth to you?

Personally I'd risk being $100 lighter in the wallet if indeed it breaks down, which clearly no one really knows. Clearly beats the cheaper alternative where it really does break down and someones wiping your chin when you drool. But dayumm, ya saved a few bux :)

acc
03-30-2012, 09:49 PM
Disclaimer: I feel naked without my helmet.

However, the best evidence out there does not indicate that helmets save lives. Go figure.

A majority of the world's cyclists do not wear helmets and they manage to get through just fine.

Kids: Wear your helmets. Someday your parents want to transform your room into a study.

Adults: It's your choice.

For me, I need gloves. I fall enough that gloves and long bike shorts save my skin. As for my helmet, only once in two years have I hit hard enough to hear *Pop* *Pop*. That one time probably saved me some stitches and a concussion. Do I wear my helmet every time? No. I don't. But I've made the tough decision. And if something happens to me, it's my fault.

ann

PotomacCyclist
03-31-2012, 03:14 AM
According to Bart Simpson...

869

So I read everyone's answer.... and I'm not buying. It's styrofoam. I made styrofoam in the lab during college. It's not affected by sweat. It doesnt dry out. It doesnt age, well at least in terms of 3 to 5 years. So I thought I would see if I could find something authoritative. This is from the Bike Safety Helmet Institute .... it's probably not a credible group. According to its "about us" page, "We are the helmet advocacy program of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association." Probably an astro-turf front group. Anyway, they say.....

I had a local bike shop tell me my helmet had "dried out." I did not bite. You wanna replace your undamaged helmet every 3 to 5 years? It may look sharp - but its doubtful you are buying any additional protection.

You may not be buying additional protection, but would you really want to put anything that is 5-years-old and not easily cleaned on your head? As the quoted statement indicates, helmets will definitely get very nasty after riding a lot in hot weather. I plan to replace helmets occasionally just for that reason.

OneEighth
03-31-2012, 10:22 AM
According to Bart Simpson...

869

So I read everyone's answer.... and I'm not buying. It's styrofoam. I made styrofoam in the lab during college. It's not affected by sweat. It doesnt dry out. It doesnt age, well at least in terms of 3 to 5 years. So I thought I would see if I could find something authoritative. This is from the Bike Safety Helmet Institute .... it's probably not a credible group. According to its "about us" page, "We are the helmet advocacy program of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association." Probably an astro-turf front group. Anyway, they say.....

I had a local bike shop tell me my helmet had "dried out." I did not bite. You wanna replace your undamaged helmet every 3 to 5 years? It may look sharp - but its doubtful you are buying any additional protection.

When I started this thread I had a primary and a secondary goal.
The primary goal was to make sure that folks understood how to wear their helmets correctly so that their helmets would function as designed and protect them as much as possible.
The secondary goal was to give folks some practical and generally applicable advice to help ensure that the helmet they are relying on actually does what they need it to do.
Thankfully, there doesn't seem to be much debate about the right way to wear a helmet.
As for the second point...
Given the intent to provide general advice about helmet replacement, what would you recommend? Or, if you would rather not make a recommendation but want folks to each assess the risk for themselves, how often do you think you ought to replace your own helmet? And, what basis do you use for determining when to replace your helmet?
Thanks.

brendan
03-31-2012, 01:11 PM
Gotta ask: are helmets dishwasher-safe?

Brendan

CCrew
03-31-2012, 01:35 PM
Gotta ask: are helmets dishwasher-safe?

Brendan

Probably, as long as you stay away from the high heat dry cycle.

I always heard the best way to clean them was wear it in the shower. Makes sense really.

Riley Casey
03-31-2012, 04:24 PM
Immersing and soaking for an hour in a kitchen sink full of Dr Bronners ( non-detergent ) dish soapy water then squeezing out the little foam pads before wearing again every fall has always worked for me. Makes me feel better anyway since it smells like pine needles and perception is what counts after all. :p



Probably, as long as you stay away from the high heat dry cycle.

I always heard the best way to clean them was wear it in the shower. Makes sense really.

mrkenny83
04-02-2012, 10:11 AM
Am I only one who gets a little a helmet-strap-burn under my chin? It's definitely worse on the days that I shave.... so it's obviously related to razor-burn..... any ideas?

dasgeh
04-02-2012, 02:04 PM
I always heard the best way to clean them was wear it in the shower. Makes sense really.

I find riding in a nice, strong rain helps clean the helmet and the bike.

I think there's a difference between wear and tear on a helmet worn for commuting (i.e. not a lot of sweat) and on one worn for working out (stinky, stinky). I also worry less about the Styrofoam itself, and more about the stuff holding the styrofoam in place, and the straps. My advice, once a year or so take a hard look at your helmet, and all your bike gear. Try to move things that aren't supposed to move. If they don't seem to work as designed, fix them or get new ones.

5555624
04-02-2012, 05:02 PM
Thankfully, there doesn't seem to be much debate about the right way to wear a helmet.

In this group, I wouldn't expect much, if any. The riders here, even if they are not pro-helmet, know how to wear one. The people I see who don't wear them correctly -- backwards, floppy hats underneath, unstrapped, etc. -- are not usually the type of riders I'd expect to see here.

On the other hand, my pet peeve -- people who ride with their helmets hanging by the straps, from their handlebars -- may be found here. I don't care if people wear one or not -- it's their choice -- but don't carry it for show.