5851620454_6cc550af41_oHave you crashed on your bike? Do you have the same helmet you’ve used for decades? Does your helmet meet today’s safety standards? How often should you replace your helmet? While bike helmet manufacturers offer their opinions, the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute offers the following five important circumstances for when you should replace your bike helmet:

1.) After a Crash

It is common sense to replace your helmet after you have been in a crash. Oftentimes, however, it is difficult to tell whether a helmet is damaged enough to merit a replacement. If you see the helmet is altered in any way, you should replace it. The foam in the helmet is designed for a one-time use, and if it is crushed or flattened in anyway, it should be replaced. Maybe you won’t be able to tell at first glance that there has been damage done, but you should still exercise caution. The thin shell on the outside of the helmet is designed to hide scrapes and scratches and can also hide any dents there might be in the foam. Even if you have dropped your helmet or cracked it without crashing, you may have compromised the helmet’s protection. Carefully examine after your crash and use your best judgment.

Many helmet manufacturers offer bike replacements at low or no cost. Bell, for instance, offers a one-time free replacement program.

2.) How old is your helmet?

If you bought your helmet before the mid 1980s, you should replace it. Some of the late 80s and early 90s models should also be thrown away and replaced. You can know that you are safe using your helmet if it has an ATSM or Snell sticker inside.

Beware of some of the manufacturer’s recommendations that recommend replacing your helmet after certain amounts of time. Bell, for instance, recommends replacing your helmet every three years, but this may be too often for your riding circumstances. Replacing your helmet should be determined by the helmet’s age and how often you use it.

3.) Do you use it for something other than cycling?

If you have used your helmet for other activities such as skateboarding, rollerblading, or other activities that typically involve more crashing, you should probably replace your helmet.

4.) Do you like wearing your helmet?

Studies show that riders do not wear helmets because they do not like the way they look. While safety is obviously more important than appearance, it is important to feel good about yourself while riding. If you feel like your helmet doesn’t look good, replace it! Better to find something that you like than own a helmet you never wear.

5.) Does your helmet fit?

If you find that you cannot adjust your helmet properly or if the helmet does not fit, you need to replace it! After many years, a helmet that once fit perfectly may no longer be the right size.

Final Thought

While you may wonder if bicycle helmets really protect you if you get into an accident, it is important to remember that you cannot be too careful when it comes to preventing injury or death while riding a bike. Keeping your helmet in good shape and replacing it when needed will go a long way to keeping you safe. Taking the time to prepare may save your life!

Photo Courtesy of Gordon.