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On one of our latest trips, a friend crashed hard. To the point that it shook us to the core. She suffered a concussion and bruised her shoulder. The essence of a good helmet is to make it seem as if you never hit your head or at least not as severely. Reflecting on the incident, we couldn’t help but consider the possibility that if she had been wearing a newer helmet, she might have spared herself the agony of a concussion. This made us reconsider: Do bike helmets expire? And if so, is it time for us to invest in a new helmet?

One Hit Wonders

mountain bike crash bike helmetThe golden rule for mountain bike helmets is simple: if you crash, the helmet is trash. These helmets are engineered for one-time use. Once the foam beneath the helmet’s plastic shell is compressed, its protective ability diminishes. This holds true regardless of whether your helmet is two decades old or you just bought it yesterday.

Older Than Time

For us, it was less about a crash and more about how old the helmet was. No matter how good it looks on the outside, it’s how it works that matters. Even if the protective foam doesn’t visibly decay, those minor dings from various things like hitting your truck bed can create microscopic vulnerabilities. If you do accidentally drop it on the ground be sure to check to see if there are any cracks on the shell or inside. Additionally, prolonged exposure to the sun can cause gradual, unseen deterioration in bike helmets. UV rays affect the helmet’s shell, potentially making it more brittle over time. Even too much time time in a hot car can make the helmet degrade. Similar to a dog don’t leave your helmet inside the car if you don’t have to. Depending on your riding frequency, it’s advisable to replace your helmet every 3-5 years. Upon inspecting ours, we discovered they were manufactured in 2014.

The Technology Keeps Improving

bike helmets technologySimilar to the mountain bike and its components, mountain bike helmets are constantly improving. Back in 2014, the helmet I got didn’t even have what is called MIPS or the equivalent. The Swedish “brain protection” company MIPS is the pinnacle of keeping your noggin safe. Standing for Multiple Impact Protection System, more than 100 brands use their liner inside of their models.

If you haven’t got yourself a new helmet in a while, it might be time to take a look and see how old your helmet is. As they say, it’s better be safe than sorry!