When to Replace Your Bike Helmet

A helmet lies on concrete in front of a damaged bike after an accident.

Bike helmets don’t last forever. Even if you aren’t in a crash, your helmet becomes less protective over time, reducing its ability to keep you safe. 

It’s no surprise that wearing a proper helmet is the most significant aspect of bike safety. There’s no more reliable way to prevent cyclists from experiencing head and brain injuries. A January 2023 report found that wearing the right bicycle helmet:

  • Reduces serious head injuries by 60%
  • Reduces traumatic brain injury by 53%
  • Reduces the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured by 34%

Still, over 130,000 riders are injured every year in the US following bike crashes. An estimated four out of five cyclists don’t wear a helmet while riding, and an even higher percentage is unaware of their helmet’s lifespan. 

So, how do you know it’s time to replace your old helmet? Here are a few pointers:

  • Replace your helmet every three to five years, depending on helmet manufacturers’ guidelines. 
  • Always replace your helmet after a crash.
  • Buy a new one if you notice cracks or dents. 
  • If the straps or adjusters are worn out and the helmet no longer fits, it’s time to replace it. 

Read on for more warning signs that your helmet may be outdated, guidelines for finding the best bike helmet for you, and tips on how to achieve optimal helmet safety.

Replace your helmet after a crash or if you notice visible signs of damage.

Signs Your Helmet Needs Replacing

It might sound obvious, but you should replace your helmet immediately after a crash. Helmets are designed to sustain only one major impact, so even if you don’t see dents, cracks, or other signs of damage after an accident, the materials (like the foam that absorbs any impacts) are likely still affected.

But there are other warning signs, too:

  • Is there visible damage to the outer shell or lining? Even small things like dropping the helmet may impair its structural integrity. 
  • Are there signs of wear and tear? Seemingly minor things like faded colors and loose padding may be signs that the helmet’s glue, resins, and foam have deteriorated. 
  • Is the helmet over five years old? Just like the produce in your refrigerator, bike helmets have an expiration. They’re made of foam (often polystyrene) in a plastic shell, but over time the foam dries out and becomes brittle, making the helmet less protective. 

Guidelines for Helmet Replacing

It’s important to follow your helmet manufacturer’s recommendations as well as advice from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This is especially true since newer helmets take advantage of advanced technologies and materials that reduce what are known as rotational forces, which contribute to concussion risk.

Also consider exactly how you use and store your helmet: 

  • Do you ride a road bike, mountain bike, commuter bike, etc.?
  • How often do you ride? Every day? Once a week?
  • Do you ride in sweltering heat or freezing cold?
  • Do you store your helmet in the garage? In direct sunlight? In your home?

These are all considerations that can impact the lifespan of your helmet. The outer shell, for example, is vulnerable to ultraviolet light, so it’s easy for it to crack if it’s exposed to heavy sunlight. Ideally, you should store your helmet in your home, where it’s out of the way of the sun and extreme weather conditions.

A family rides bikes together on a sunlit trail, all of them wearing helmets.

Safety First

Remember, wearing a helmet during a bicycle crash can lower the chance of serious head injury almost 70%. That percentage decreases, though, if you’re wearing an old or damaged helmet. Compressed foam, a cracked shell, or a poor fit (like chin straps or adjusters that don’t stay in place) greatly increase the risk of serious head injury. 

The risks of traumatic brain injury (TBI) are numerous and severe—from short-term impacts like loss of consciousness, headaches, and nausea to long-term impacts like memory loss, communication problems, behavioral changes, and worse—so this is one area where you don’t want to cut corners! Prioritize safety over cost and make sure you and your fellow cyclists are well-protected.

How to Choose a New Helmet

Bicycle helmets are more advanced, comfortable, and stylish than ever before. If your helmet no longer fits—or if you don’t like the look of it anymore—it’s time for an upgrade!

First, you’ll want to consider what kind of helmet you need: road, mountain, or recreational. The distinctions between them are minor (extra protection, aerodynamics, ventilation, etc.), but they can help you get the most out of your ride. 

Next, you’ll want to ensure that the helmet fits properly. Here are six tips for getting a proper fit:

  1. When the chin strap is buckled, the helmet should be snug but comfortable. You shouldn’t be able to move it from side to side or up and down.
  2. The helmet should sit level on your head without tilting to the front or back.
  3. The bottom edge of the helmet should be one to two finger widths above your eyebrow.
  4. Your eyes should be able to see the edge of the helmet when looking upward.
  5. The straps of the helmet should be even and form a “Y” that comes together right at the bottom of your earlobe.
  6. The buckled chin strap should leave only enough room for a single finger to be inserted between the buckle and chin.

Last but definitely not least, pay attention to the special features your helmet offers. As helmet engineering advances, new technologies protect you better than ever before. 

Graphic displaying multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS).

Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS)

A good example is multi-dimensional impact protection system (MIPS) technology. This new helmet feature has been scientifically proven to reduce rotational motion by absorbing and redirecting rotational energies transferred to the brain from angled impacts to the head. 

We’re also excited about the Specialized ANGi sensor, which will literally call for help if you’re in an accident. Read more in our ANGi sensor guide

Long story short, bike helmet technology is advancing faster than ever before. Stop into an ERIK’S bike shop to see the newest available features!

Bike Helmets at ERIK’S

It’s important to make sure your helmet is still effective and is the perfect fit for you. Just remember:

  • Replace your helmet at least every three to five years, especially if there are signs of visible damage or immediately after a crash. 
  • Find the right helmet for your kind of riding and make sure it fits properly and snugly. 
  • Take advantage of the newest safety technologies to make sure you’re as protected as you can be. 

Before you get out to enjoy the roads or trails, make sure you’re staying safe! Shop all helmets here and check out our helmet buying guide if you need more information. 

Still have questions? Stop by an ERIK’S store today or reach out through one of the methods below!

Text with a Human: 952-243-5476
Live Chat: Click the chat icon in the lower right-hand corner of this screen.
Phone: 952-351-9148
Email: braintrust@eriksbikeshop.com
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Toll-Free: 877-885-2453