Is Your Helmet Safe ?

Close to 400,000 motorcyclists in the UK are wearing crash helmets that need to be replaced, according to industry experts and new figures from Carole Nash. The scary number is based on its survey of over 1000 active UK riders, extrapolated to the one million UK licence holders.

The Snell Foundation (a not-for-profit organization dedicated to research, education, testing and development of helmet standards since 1957) shares a commonly-held opinion that lids should be replaced after five years due to the degradation of the glues and resins used in their production, along with normal wear and tear.

A majority of those surveyed, 62%, said they wouldn’t replace a helmet unless it had been involved in an accident, and a further 22% said they wouldn’t if the current one still looked fine. The survey also found that 63% would continue to use a lid they had dropped, despite the possibility of it having suffered unseen, internal damage.

Here at Real-Riders, we agree that it’s very important to ensure your head is well protected, but ultimately it is your choice; Nick Baker, products and marketing director at Carole Nash told us:

“While experts at SHARP, Snell and most helmet manufacturers recommend that you replace your helmet after five years of use we would encourage motorcyclists to take care with all their equipment to ensure it is safely fitted, not defective, complies with any EU and UK legislation and therefore provides them with the utmost protection. A motorcycle insurer would have no grounds to refuse a claim based on the age of the helmet.”

We spoke to several UK importers of motorcycle helmets, all of whom offer five-year warranties on their lids. Mark Sawyer, sales director at Tran Am – Schuberth and Scorpion’s distributors – said:

“Assuming the helmet is well maintained, glues and resins can degrade over time and any exposure to
petrol (e.g. putting petrol-exposed gloves into the helmet) will accelerate the process. It’s possible to wear a helmet out with enough use, even within five years, but in general, that period would be a good point to consider a replacement.”

Is a good condition five-year old helmet that fits correctly a worse choice than a five-week-old helmet that’s too big? Distributors, dealers and the media invest time and energy in trying to educate users about correctly fitting helmets, but a substantial percentage are wearing a lid that’s just too big. Get a well-trained, authorised dealer to help you make the right choice.

Damage to the structure can be invisible unless the helmet is cut open, making it difficult to accurately assess.

Mark went on to point out that a £300 helmet worn for 4000 miles a year would equate to just 1.5p per mile over five years. Riding 10,000 miles a year would make it 0.6p.

Shark’s racing and technical manager, Mark Eilledge, said: “People often think that because a helmet looks ‘okay’ from the outside then it’s fine, however it’s the deterioration of the inside that can have an impact on its efficiency. All of our helmets have removable, washable and replaceable interiors, but a helmet starts to wear out the moment you begin to use it… and even when you’re not using it, because the bacteria are still in there.”

A spokesperson for Shoei UK told us: “There is no hard and fast rule… As a safety brand, we at Shoei recommend that the life of a helmet should be around five to seven years, depending on usage and how the helmet has been stored. Of course, if the helmet is dropped or crash damaged in any way then we strongly recommend that it be replaced immediately to ensure full safety.

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