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Damean

When is a helmet too old to be safe?

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Damean

I picked up a pair of older helmets off of craigslist this week, a Nolan and a BMW. I'm guessing that they are at least 10 years old. The shells are still in near perfect shape, as well as the foam on the inside. The only thing that "appears" to be wrong is that they both need new liners. But the question is, are they safe? I got them cheap enough that if they are not, they will make fine decorations. But retro is kinda cool too. Advice? Cautions? Pics below if anyone wants to guess at how old they really are. Thanks in advance!

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Edited by Damean

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vizhip

Per the Shoei site...

 

Helmet Replacement

 

Ultimately, the useful service life of a safety helmet is dependent on the intensity and frequency of its use. Helmet replacement is recommended even if only one of the under-mentioned points applies:

 

1. The helmet was subjected to an impact.

2. The comfort padding or the retention system has become loose due to heavy use or display signs of deterioration.

3. The synthetic foam padding displays signs of heavy use and the helmet feels too loose. Test: with the retention system fastened, the helmet turns to the side when you gently shake your head.

4. There are indentations in the EPS liner and/or white scratches can be seen on surfaces with black paint.

5. Even if none of these is applied, we, SHOEI, recommend replacement in 5 years after it's first purchased at retail.

 

Regards -

-Bob

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Tony_K

They are shelf ornaments.

 

Age, atospheres and foam don't go together.

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CoarsegoldKid
They are shelf ornaments.

 

Age, atospheres and foam don't go together.

 

Or yard!

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vizhip
They are shelf ornaments.

 

You know... he could hang them up on posts outside his house... and make everyone wonder about him... )))

 

Regards -

-Bob

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Jon_M

The generally expressed view is that five years is the reasonable interval for replacement. I generally observe that rule, even though it means discarding helmets that often still look nearly new. Amortized over five years, even the cost of an expensive helmet like an Arai is not exorbitant. Still, I wish someone would report some research that actually calibrates the rate of deterioration of the materials in the impact layer. Has any manufacturer or government agency ever actually tested a sample of five, six, and seven-year-old helmets?

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bmw_rider

That BMW one is nearer to 20 years old than 10. I quit using mine about 2 shoei's and about 8 years ago. I had used it for over 5 years, and the foam had started to compress. Make a fountain out of them, and post the pictures.

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eddd
...Still, I wish someone would report some research that actually calibrates the rate of deterioration of the materials in the impact layer. Has any manufacturer or government agency ever actually tested a sample of five, six, and seven-year-old helmets?

 

 

I'd sure like to see something like that as well. Don't hold your breath waiting for the manufacturers or any motorcycle magazine to do it.

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Damean

It seems official then. Thanks for the info, fellas

 

Make a fountain out of them, and post the pictures.

Actually, I think I'm going to try to make beer come out of it :thumbsup:

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tallman

If you ask the question, you already know the answer.

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Selden
...Still, I wish someone would report some research that actually calibrates the rate of deterioration of the materials in the impact layer. Has any manufacturer or government agency ever actually tested a sample of five, six, and seven-year-old helmets?

There are too many variables for a meaningful result: heat, humidity, light (especially UV), ozone, shock. An unworn helmet in its original packing, kept in a cool closet in a rural area of Alaska with low ozone levels is probably OK even at 10 years. A helmet exposed to Los Angeles UV and ozone daily may be toast after a year. A long time ago, I used natural rubber tubing instead of bungee cords. When I moved to LA, I was astonished to see the rubber turn to goo in a week.

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Nice n Easy Rider

I guess it depends on whose head is going to be riding in it and how much value you put on that particular head. :/

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Jon_M
There are too many variables for a meaningful result: heat, humidity, light (especially UV), ozone, shock.

But a test in a controlled environment, or across a series of environments, would give at least some parameters. In the present situation, there is always the suspicion that the "rules" may serve primarily to keep the stock moving off the shelves.

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NonComp

Regarding testing:

 

When I got back into riding two years ago, I dug out my old helmet that had been used for only one year, and stored in its original box for about 20 years. No light and no heat.

 

The visor was so brittle that it shattered into extremely sharp shards when I tried to open it.

 

The foam liner had broken down so much that it turned into powder when compressed.

 

I took it outside and threw it up into the air. The shell cracked on impact on the driveway.

 

But I'm still wearing it!!! (just kidding)

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Selden
But a test in a controlled environment, or across a series of environments, would give at least some parameters. In the present situation, there is always the suspicion that the "rules" may serve primarily to keep the stock moving off the shelves.

Helmets are a lot cheaper than heads. Which would you rather pay for?

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Jon_M
Helmets are a lot cheaper than heads. Which would you rather pay for?

I understand the value of caution, and I have never worn a helmet longer than five years. Still, it would be good to have hard data on deterioration. When a manufacturer says that a helmet should be replaced after X years, it should be possible to say why with some degree of certainty. Assume that nothing else changes, and helmets start displaying labels that say, "Replace after eighteen months." Would you want to know what's behind that?

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NonComp

We live by these rules every day. Almost everything you buy that you put into your mouth has an expiry date: food, medicine, you name it. Expiry date is probably set to reduce liability.

 

What you ask is impossible to answer. It is essentially the same question as, "If I spend $1000 on a BMW helmet, is my head better protected than if I spend $250 on a HJC helmet? If the answer is yes, then shouldn't it be illegal to sell the cheaper helmet?

 

Make a choice that you are comfortable with and sleep well at night. But say a prayer before you close your eyes, that you will never need to use your helmet, be it old or new, cheap or expensive.

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motoguy128
We live by these rules every day. Almost everything you buy that you put into your mouth has an expiry date: food, medicine, you name it. Expiry date is probably set to reduce liability.

 

What you ask is impossible to answer. It is essentially the same question as, "If I spend $1000 on a BMW helmet, is my head better protected than if I spend $250 on a HJC helmet? If the answer is yes, then shouldn't it be illegal to sell the cheaper helmet?

 

Make a choice that you are comfortable with and sleep well at night. But say a prayer before you close your eyes, that you will never need to use your helmet, be it old or new, cheap or expensive.

 

Personally, I found the cheaper helmets...well, cheap. I have a 20k bike, why ride around in a $150 helmet??? OTOH, I don't buy BMW gear. But I'm not convinced that I won't be protected adequately with a $120 Joe Rocket Jacket. So I guess there's compromise in everything you buy.... unless you're a billionare and have nearly unlimted funds. But the again, the confort and quality of the helmet is more noticeable to me at least, then the quality of a riding jacket. I'm also still one of those that only wears just jeans instead of overpants. But I live in a area wher even helmet use is scarce, so I don't fee so bad. I at least have my torso, spine and head protected. I saw my nighbor pull away on his Vulcan with his 15 y/o daughter on hte bakc. Both wwere well rotected in shorts, t-shirt and sandles. :(

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NonComp

You make a good point. It's all relative. Is wearing ANY helmet better than wearing no helmet? Is wearing a full-face helmet better than wearing an open face helmet? Is wearing a system helmet worse than wearing a full-face helmet? Is wearing an expensive system helmet better than wearing a cheap full-face helmet?

 

Then you get into the ethical/theoretical arguments. Suppose you are in an accident where you come off your bike at speed and your head hits a fixed object such as a telephone pole. Let's say that the speed and trajectory are such that it is impossible for you to escape serious head injury, no matter what helmet you are wearing. So in this case, were you better off to have been wearing an old helmet, or a cheap helmet, or no helmet and die, or are you better off wearing the best helmet available, and lived, but you spend the rest of your life with severe brain damage?

 

It's impossible to answer these questions. If someone could guarantee me that the more money I spend, the safer I am, then I would probably buy the best quality helmets and riding gear available. But, of course, no one can guarantee that. So I make compromises based on what I can afford and what I feel comfortable with, and as you point out, what I feel comfortable wearing.

 

At the end of the day, I am an ATGATT rider. I have 4 jackets and 4 pairs of riding pants and two helmets and four pairs of gloves and one pair of boots. And I am a value buyer. That means that nothing I own cost more than about $250 for any one piece of gear. And when I compare my Joe Rocket or Teknic stuff against the BMW stuff, I just don't see it being any safer. Maybe better quality or more comfortable, or better features, but not safer.

 

And I just wish I rode a Goldwing or a Harley. Those guys seem to have it made, because they don't seem to fall off their bikes. How else to explain the tee shirts and shorts and open faced helmets and no gloves?

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tallman
But a test in a controlled environment, or across a series of environments, would give at least some parameters. In the present situation, there is always the suspicion that the "rules" may serve primarily to keep the stock moving off the shelves.

Helmets are a lot cheaper than heads. Which would you rather pay for?

 

Depends.

Can you get me a good deal on a head?

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Selden

Call Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

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vizhip
Depends.

Can you get me a good deal on a head?

 

Heads come in all sizes... the mannequin heads are fairly cheap... but not so sure they would meet your body's needs... something about a brain, neuro path, eyes, nose, mouth...

 

Think I will stick with a helmet... though... when I took the rider's edge course to determine if I wanted to ride a bike or could handle a bike, I went cheap and got a full-face for $150...

 

It served me very well at slow speeds... and managed to protect my chin and face from damage... as the abrasions on the helmet prove... (the instructor took LOTS of pictures and the class members with the brain buckets started investing lots of money in full face helmets after that spill)...

 

So... a new $325 helmet and better gear and higher speeds... and I still hope I don't ever fall again... that HURT and I am much slower to recover these days than I was back in the 50's and 60's... and 70's for that matter...

 

Regards -

-Bob

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der Wanderer

I don't fully understand the debate about not being able to test aging on helmets in a standardize manner.

 

There are tests for new helmets. They are worth what they are worth but they are standardized and reproducible and used everyday to put labels on helmets, etc.

 

There are standardized, very well known, very frequently used aging procedures for engineering stuff (from electronics to tires to automotive components). Nothing new there. These procedures are generally considered valid.

 

Repeat the same tests as new after aging and you have a standardized test. This is done in pretty much every industry. It will give you a measure of degradation of performance against aging.

 

Do this for a statistical population at various ages and you get a curve. The curve is generally flat for a while and then falls off catastrophically at some point. Easy to pick a threshold.

 

This does not mean every helmet would age the same way. It is however a normalized metric, using standardized procedures and tests that are used every day in myriads of places. Gives a picture of aging - can be used to compare materials, etc. and can guide in establishing policies on retiring helmets (there are statistical approaches to make probabilistic decisions around that once those tests results are known).

 

Lots of industrial products you use every day are tested in this manner... why not helmets?

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EffBee

I remember some data from the MSF and MIC. The human had cannot survive blunt trauma in excess of about a 13mph impact.

 

Holy Cow! I always ride faster than that!

 

True, but your impact speed in a fall is usually about 6mph, from the height where your head resides, to the pavement. Even at 300mph, of you lowsided, your impact speed might be as low as 3-4mph.

 

Where injuries occur is when the head takes the full force of an impact at anywhere above 13mph. So if you fall down at 30 and your helmeted head directly hits a curb in such a manner that it stops cold, it's likely that all function would cease. Glancing blows, bouncing off curbs, etc. etc. all mitigate the damage. This is why we so often survive falls at great speed. We are not an arrow spearing a wall. We are flexible, bendable, soft, glancing, bouncing beings. And all of that absorbs energy.

 

Witness when a MotoGP rider slides into the gravel and through it. Butt or feet first, then tumble with arms flailing (usually costs someone a wrist break), then the legs start to extend as the energy subsides and if the last impact isn't enough to snap a bone, then the guy gets up. The energy has been absorbed every inch along the way during the fall/tumble. If the head was part of that, you hope it was a glancing blow and not at the end of a flipping body whip.

 

So, helmet condition has something to do with the gravity of injury. Older helmets have styrene that has hardened some. It may not be able to absorb as much energy. Is it enough to turn a 10mph concussion into a 13mph fatality? Don't know. And I'm not willing to find out.

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Selden
I don't fully understand the debate about not being able to test aging on helmets in a standardize manner....

 

There are standardized, very well known, very frequently used aging procedures for engineering stuff (from electronics to tires to automotive components). Nothing new there. These procedures are generally considered valid.

 

Repeat the same tests as new after aging and you have a standardized test. This is done in pretty much every industry. It will give you a measure of degradation of performance against aging....

The only practical use I can see for this testing would be to generate a "sell by" label to go on the helmet box, as is done with pharmaceuticals and many foods. Such testing is virtually useless for determining the amount of deterioration of an individual helmet used in the real world.

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der Wanderer

The only practical use I can see for this testing would be to generate a "sell by" label to go on the helmet box, as is done with pharmaceuticals and many foods. Such testing is virtually useless for determining the amount of deterioration of an individual helmet used in the real world

 

Not quite in my opinion.

 

Again such testing is done on pretty much every significant engineering component. Standardized aging tests (together with environment tests, fog tests, drop tests, vibration tests, etc) are part of what electronics manufacturers will subject things like your mobile or desk phone to. Rubber used in tires is subject to similar tests. I have seen both done quite a few times.

 

This does not always result in a sell by (or replace by) date (even though that does occur for some products, see tires), but certainly it increases the engineer's knowledge of what statistical aging profile (and in the case of warranty, what product failure/return profile, hence economic/liability exposure) to anticipate for the product.

 

In addition it would help inform the user. After all, some people seem to not just choose a helmet by its design and color and to find helmet ratings and labeling (when new) useful. They may be able to process additional information that shows that brand X maintains its test property for 10 years while brand Y does not pass the test after 3.

 

I cannot see how this would be worthless.

 

BTW, I am pretty sure that has being done by some manufacturers. It may not be done systematically, and most importantly it is not communicated.

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TandemGeek
....why not helmets?

 

Probably because it's not in the best interest of the helmet industry, i.e., don't ask the question if you can't stand the answer.

 

I'm no expert, but having worn all kinds of helmets for 40+ years, e.g., football, motorcycle, hockey, bicycle, flight, etc., while I do believe that helmets have a finite useful service life I still struggle with the 'shelf-life' premise for better quality motorcycle helmets.

 

Looked at another way, if a new helmet sits unused on a shelf for 5 years what would cause it to loose any of it's crash absorbing properties? It's certainly not the aging process as none of the crash protection materials biodegrades; polystyrene in particular. If those materials were rubber, foam or some of the other materials that do biodegrade that would be different, e.g., the foam padding glued onto a hockey or skateboarder's helmet and early cycling helmets. That said, if someone uses their better quality motorcycle helmet on a regular basis the interior, foam comfort padding and lining materials will break down and unless they are removable / replaceable that part of the aging process will limit a helmet's service life just as will any actual impacts while being worn.

 

Case in point: As my helmets have aged and the comfort padding compresses through wear they no longer fit as snuggly as they need to to retain their crash protective qualities. The nylon straps also wear at the attachment points. In fact, this has been easy for me to validate as I've usually purchased two identical helmets at a time over the years... one for me that I use almost daily and one for my wife that's rarely used. After only 3 years or so I can 'borrow' my wife's helmet (we both wear XS) and quickly discover how tight it fits compared to my own. At or before that magic 5-year point I usually chuck my helmet and either adopt my wife's or buy a new one because of the poor fitmet. Now, if the interior liner parts and straps were replaceable for a reasonable cost... it might have a second life, but that's rarely the case.

 

So, in that respect and even though the shell and polystyrene materials most likely retain most if not all of their original their crash absorbing properties, if the helmet is no longer held securely in place on my head (and Jay Leno has done a great video shot with Arai on proper helmet fitting to drive this point home) and will shift or rotate on impact and/or if the retention straps fail on impact, the helmet will not provide the protection it was designed to afford the wearer.

 

Of course, if someone buys a new helmet that's too big and/or doesn't cinch-up the chin straps tightly that helmet won't provide the protection it was designed to afford the wearer either... and I'd bet that's even a bigger problem than the threat posed by 'old helmets'.

 

But, getting back to the testing thing, I'm pretty sure if I was a motorcycle helmet manufacturer I wouldn't want to fund a study that provided data suggesting a new old stock, 5 or 10 year old helmet still retained most or all of it's original crash protective qualities if only because that data could be miscontrued to imply that a helmet in use will have an infinite service life as that is certainly not true. Again, just think about how your own helmets show their wear and tear over time.

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tallman
I don't fully understand the debate about not being able to test aging on helmets in a standardize manner....

 

There are standardized, very well known, very frequently used aging procedures for engineering stuff (from electronics to tires to automotive components). Nothing new there. These procedures are generally considered valid.

 

Repeat the same tests as new after aging and you have a standardized test. This is done in pretty much every industry. It will give you a measure of degradation of performance against aging....

The only practical use I can see for this testing would be to generate a "sell by" label to go on the helmet box, as is done with pharmaceuticals and many foods. Such testing is virtually useless for determining the amount of deterioration of an individual helmet used in the real world.

 

Because helmets are used, stored, exposed to different environments, and dropped, sometimes more than once, any age related use is worthless.

For liability purposes no manufacturer would ever guarantee a helmet for a specific time.

I've seen people drop their helmets, more than once, and probably when they aren't around me, and still wear it.

A helmet can be compromised by the actions of the purchaser. Even in ideal conditions, deterioration happens.

Seems pointless to want information that isn't going to be relevant to any helmet but the specific one tested.

 

Another note, studies have shown that price is not a gurantee of better quality.

Helmets are disposable.

When depends on use and time, sort of like tires.

 

Helmet info from SHARP

 

Edited by tallman

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TandemGeek
I've seen people drop their helmets, more than once, and probably when they aren't around me, and still wear it.

 

Just a data point.

 

Bruce Porter from Arai addresses this situation in the aforementioned Jay Leno's Garage piece beginning at the 3:10 to go mark:

http://2wheeltuesday.com/2008/10/jay-leno-talks-about-arai-helmets-with-bruce-porter/

 

In short, dropping a helmet causes cosmetic damage (period). Unless there's 13lbs of mass inside the helmet when it strikes something -- not just the weight of the helmet -- the impact from being dropped or falling off a motorcycle's seat will not diminish the crash protection afforded by a quality helmet from Arai or presumably their peers.

Edited by TandemGeek

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NonComp
Looked at another way, if a new helmet sits unused on a shelf for 5 years what would cause it to loose any of it's crash absorbing properties? It's certainly not the aging process as none of the crash protection materials biodegrades; polystyrene in particular.
This assumption is completely wrong. Look at the deterioration that my helmet experienced after 20 years sitting in its original box (mentioned in a previous post). The materials DO degrade with time, even when not exposed to UV or excessive heat. My theory on why my helmet deteriorated so badly is that it was IN its original box. The off-gassing of some materials was trapped in the box, affecting the other components. The visor, for example, was yellow when I took it out of the box, not clear. It shattered like cheap glass when I handled it.

 

I don't understand the arguments of those who say that helmets should be tested for degradation and a standard developed. For one, do you not realize that in order to do the testing, the manufacturer would have to actually store today's helmet models for 10 years using controlled conditions, and then submit them for testing? So you wouldn't get the test results until ten years after the helmet was on the market!

 

The only way that you could reliably say that any given helmet was safe, would be test that individual helmet and then recertify it. Unfortunately, you would have to destroy the helmet during the testing process!

 

Imagine the cost of testing each new model that uses new materials for 10 years to rate its deterioration and safety. The manufacturer could do it, but the consumer would pay for it. So instead of paying $350 for helmet that is rated to last five years, you might pay $1000 for a helmet that is rated to last 10 years. But wouldn't you rather have had a new helmet after 5 years for less total outlay of money?

 

Besides, the industry has already done this. Liability suggests that after five years, there is a significant enough increase in potential failure to warrant the 5 year limited lifespan of helmets. But you should notice that no helmet is currently branded with an expiry date. In fact, its hard to figure out what the date of manufacture is. So contrary to those who are arguing that manufacturers are arbitrarily forcing people to buy new helmets after five years, this is only a guideline.

 

Would you rather force helmet makers to put an expiry date on each helmet or leave it the best judgement of the person who buys it and uses it?

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der Wanderer

I don't understand the arguments of those who say that helmets should be tested for degradation and a standard developed. For one, do you not realize that in order to do the testing, the manufacturer would have to actually store today's helmet models for 10 years using controlled conditions, and then submit them for testing? So you wouldn't get the test results until ten years after the helmet was on the market!

 

I thought I covered that. There are standardized, well known and broadly used accelerated aging procedures. It's more like weeks, not 10 years :D

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ragtoplvr

Once the helmet is worn, it is exposed to body fluids of various sorts, skin acids, salt, bacteria, who knows what else. If you wear it for a bit, then put it on the shelf, it is very likely to degrade much faster, than one factory sealed. You could argue, successfully, that while stored it will degrade slower than one worn regularly.

 

You have to be pragmatic, otherwise you will get a new helmet for every ride, because even 1 use degrades it. And I thought tires were expensive! If you ride a lot, a new helmet every year is not out of the question. If you ride some, maybe every 3 years. If you ride a little, doubt if you are reading this forum.

 

Rod

 

 

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NonComp

[quote name=der WandererI thought I covered that. There are standardized, well known and broadly used accelerated aging procedures. It's more like weeks, not 10 years :D [/quote]The volatility of individual materials doesn't count. You have to establish a baseline for the unit has a whole. How does the glue that holds the polystyrene in the shell affect the poly and the shell material? How does the off-gassing from the foam liner effect everything else, if it is trapped inside a box?

 

You would have to test all combinations of current materials and new materials under varying conditions in order to establish a baseline for a helmet as a complete system.

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NonComp
Once the helmet is worn, it is exposed to body fluids of various sorts, skin acids, salt, bacteria, who knows what else. If you wear it for a bit, then put it on the shelf, it is very likely to degrade much faster, than one factory sealed. You could argue, successfully, that while stored it will degrade slower than one worn regularly.
Case in point: sun block. In my case, I think it is possible that prolonged storage in the original box may have accelerated degradation.

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der Wanderer

Because helmets are used, stored, exposed to different environments, and dropped, sometimes more than once, any age related use is worthless.

 

Well, tires do suffer a lot of abuse, but aging tests were regularly performed where I worked and they were very useful and quite statistically correlated with distribution of returns from the market place. I can assure you that was not worthless. I can see no engineering reason why this would not be statistically useful for helmets as well.

 

For liability purposes no manufacturer would ever guarantee a helmet for a specific time.

 

Different point and certainly not something I suggested.

 

Seems pointless to want information that isn't going to be relevant to any helmet but the specific one tested.

 

Well, maybe so in your view. But statistical models based on test results enable engineers to understand how the result of their work affects the distribution across the entire population. I can assure you it is useful. It won't tell you that your own helmet will last exactly 6.34 years, but it may be able to tell you that the population of helmets from manufacturer X on average has a life expectancy 2 years longer than manufacturer Y. Of course some helmets from X will last less some of Y's.

 

 

You realize of course that these ratings are based on tests that you could dismiss with the same types of arguments you use for aging tests (i.e. everybody's helmet will have been subject to different conditions and none will react exactly as in the test)? ;)

Edited by der Wanderer

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NonComp

Another aspect not mentioned, is improvements in technology over time. Despite the arguments of planned obsolecence, a helmet today is probably safer, lighter, has better ventilation and new features when compared to a 10 year old helmet. So, wouldn't you rather have a new helmet with an integrated drop-down sun visor?

 

You could argue that we could all be driving our parent's cars. But would the world be a better place as a result. New cars are far cleaner, far more fuel efficient and far safer than cars made 20 years ago.

 

I think that the same arguments could be made for improving helmet technology.

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TandemGeek
Look at the deterioration that my helmet experienced after 20 years sitting in its original box (mentioned in a previous post). The materials DO degrade with time, even when not exposed to UV or excessive heat.

 

Ok, I've got to know: what brand and model helmet was this?

 

My point of reference is a Shoei RJ-Air helmet that I bought in May '00 that's been sitting in my un-heated/conditioned garage here in Atlanta stored only in the soft Shoei helmet bag that it came in. I pulled it off the shelf the other day to make room for a new helmet for my wife and there is no visible or tactile degredation. The plastic visor is still pliable, the foam padding & inner liner are still soft and resiliant, the shell rubber seals are still 'fresh', the leather chin straps are soft and pliable and the fit is the same was it was for the one-time it was worn back in May '00: nice and snug (see photos below). I also have another Shoei on the shelf from '00 that has been worn a few times but is otherwise in like new condition with, once again, no visible or tactile signs of degredation: in fact, I just installed an Autocom system in it and the materials felt and responded very much like the ones in my 2-year old Shoei. Now, before anyone gets too excited, my wife's new Shoei will be here on Tuesday as she's just now getting ready to rejoin me on the bike.

 

Anyway, back to your example and experience... I don't believe Shoei's come in plastic of any sort, so your presumption about your helmet's woes being caused by the sealed bag sounds reasonable. Moreover and more to the point, perhaps this once again underscores the challenge of answering the question "how old" given the extreme variables -- vintage, technology, materials and environmental factors -- and potential consequences of making 'assumptions' about how well a given helmet has weathered the years.

 

shoei_rj1.jpg

 

shoei_rj2.jpg

 

 

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NonComp

I believe that it was an Arai, but I'm not sure. I don't remember the model. It was a convertable full-face helmet that could be used with a visor or with an attachable peak (like the visor on a ball cap) that turned it into more of off-road style helmet. Note that it was not stored in a bag, just the cardboard box it came in, which was closed.

 

I think your are right: the point is that it would be impossible to set a standard by which all used helmets could be judged. You'll never get more than a rule of thumb, which is what we have now.

 

You have, by virtue of comparison with newer helmets, assessed your older helmets to be in comparably good condition. So they probably are in good condition. Mine sure wasn't. Doesn't mean your's will be the same.

 

Let's take it one step further. There is general agreement that if anything is going to degrade, it might be the foam padding in the liner. So we might assume that most helmets beyond a certain age would need the liner replaced.

 

But unless the manfacturer is willing to continue to make new (and replaceable) liners -- note I said NEW because liners made at the same time as the helmet might degrade the same way sitting on a shelf in a warehouse -- then point of using an old helmet becomes moot. If any one component fails, it renders the whole helmet system worthless, unless that component is changed.

 

But what would it cost to keep making replacement parts for 10 year old helmets?

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tallman

Because helmets are used, stored, exposed to different environments, and dropped, sometimes more than once, any age related use is worthless.

 

Well, tires do suffer a lot of abuse, but aging tests were regularly performed where I worked and they were very useful and quite statistically correlated with distribution of returns from the market place. I can assure you that was not worthless. I can see no engineering reason why this would not be statistically useful for helmets as well.

 

For liability purposes no manufacturer would ever guarantee a helmet for a specific time.

 

Different point and certainly not something I suggested.

 

Seems pointless to want information that isn't going to be relevant to any helmet but the specific one tested.

 

Well, maybe so in your view. But statistical models based on test results enable engineers to understand how the result of their work affects the distribution across the entire population. I can assure you it is useful. It won't tell you that your own helmet will last exactly 6.34 years, but it may be able to tell you that the population of helmets from manufacturer X on average has a life expectancy 2 years longer than manufacturer Y. Of course some helmets from X will last less some of Y's.

 

 

You realize of course that these ratings are based on tests that you could dismiss with the same types of arguments you use for aging tests (i.e. everybody's helmet will have been subject to different conditions and none will react exactly as in the test)? ;)

 

 

If you're comfortable comparing tire compounds to helmets, be my guest.

I don't wear my tires.

Apples and oranges.

SHARP?

I provided the link for information only.

What you do, or don't do w/the info is up to you.

 

MSF makes some good points.

Helmat technology improves, so a new one may have advantages.

There are areas, such as retention, where deterioration may be less noticeable.

www.msf-usa.org/downloads/helmet_CSI.pdf

From the Snell website:

 

"Helmets are normally comprised of four elements; a rigid outer shell, a crushable liner, chin straps or a retaining system and fit or comfort padding. The rigid outer shell when present adds a load-spreading capability, and prevents objects from penetrating the helmet. It's kind of like an additional skull. The liner, usually made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) or similar types of materials absorbs the energy of an impact by crushing. The chin strap when properly buckled and adjusted along with the fit padding helps the helmet remain in position during a crash. Helmets work kind of like a brake or shock absorber. During a fall or crash a head is traveling at a certain speed. Since the head has weight, and is moving there is a certain amount of energy associated with the moving head. When the helmet along with the accompanying head impact an unyielding object; a rock, a wall, a curb or the ground the hard shell starts by taking the energy generated by the falling helmet (head) and spreads it over a larger portion of the helmet, specifically the internal foam liner. The foam liner then starts to crush and break which uses up a lot of the energy, keeping it from reaching the head inside. Depending on how fast the head is traveling, and how big, heavy and immovable the object is the faster the head slows down, and the more energy is present. In short everything slows down really quickly. A helmet will effectively reduce the speed of the head by breaking and crushing which reduces the amount of energy transferred to the brain. The whole process take only milliseconds to turn a potentially lethal blow into a survivable one."

Because of the different layers involved in how a helmet reduces the impact of an accident, coupled with the fact that the part that absorbs most of the impact is not even visible, a drop of anything higher than 1 - 2 feet onto a hard surface can, effectively, render a helmet useless as protection in an accident - even if there is no visible damage

 

Edited by tallman

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Paul Mihalka
I've seen people drop their helmets, more than once, and probably when they aren't around me, and still wear it.

 

Just a data point.

 

Bruce Porter from Arai addresses this situation in the aforementioned Jay Leno's Garage piece beginning at the 3:10 to go mark:

http://2wheeltuesday.com/2008/10/jay-leno-talks-about-arai-helmets-with-bruce-porter/

 

In short, dropping a helmet causes cosmetic damage (period). Unless there's 13lbs of mass inside the helmet when it strikes something -- not just the weight of the helmet -- the impact from being dropped or falling off a motorcycle's seat will not diminish the crash protection afforded by a quality helmet from Arai or presumably their peers.

Says ARAI

 

Now SNELL:

"Because of the different layers involved in how a helmet reduces the impact of an accident, coupled with the fact that the part that absorbs most of the impact is not even visible, a drop of anything higher than 1 - 2 feet onto a hard surface can, effectively, render a helmet useless as protection in an accident - even if there is no visible damage"

 

Go figure...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TandemGeek
"Because of the different layers involved in how a helmet reduces the impact of an accident, coupled with the fact that the part that absorbs most of the impact is not even visible, a drop of anything higher than 1 - 2 feet onto a hard surface can, effectively, render a helmet useless as protection in an accident - even if there is no visible damage"

 

Useless?? Wow, that's some pretty fragile stuff: makes you wonder how the heck it works when it hits the side of a car or the ground with your head in it at 25 mph.

 

Frankly, I find the Arai comments to be more credible if only because the Snell statement is so over the top. If any helmet's shell is that fragile then it truly is pretty useless.

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Jon_M
Useless?? Wow, that's some pretty fragile stuff: makes you wonder how the heck it works when it hits the side of a car or the ground with your head in it at 25 mph.

 

... If any helmet's shell is that fragile then it truly is pretty useless.

As I understand it, it's about controlled rates of collapse, with layers of absorption being calibrated to slow the travel of the brain significantly and gradually before total stop. The materials at any given region of the absorption layer do not recover after they've done their job, i.e., after they've collapsed; therefore, if you use it once, replace it.

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TandemGeek
[As I understand it, it's about controlled rates of collapse, with layers of absorption being calibrated to slow the travel of the brain significantly and gradually before total stop. The materials at any given region of the absorption layer do not recover after they've done their job, i.e., after they've collapsed; therefore, if you use it once, replace it.

 

Yeah, I understand the concept and have 'been there, done that' with a few helmets. The latter is from where my astonishment comes from with regard to the statement that a 1' to 2' static drop of a 3lb helmet makes it "useless".

 

Just looking at my helmets post-crash there were always two, and in a few cases 3 impact points. Thankfully, all of those pre-accident bumps, bangs and drops of those helmets didn't make them useless and, moreover, the helmets were actually resilient enough to deal with multiple impacts of significantly higher magnitude with my head in the bucket.

 

Again, going back to the Jay Leno interview with Porter, if you go to the '4:20 to go point' in the video you'll see an excellent real-world example of the multiple impact crash: 9 impacts all told.

 

http://2wheeltuesday.com/2008/10/jay-leno-talks-about-arai-helmets-with-bruce-porter/

 

So, yes... after a helmet has had a crash impact it definitely should be replaced: no argument there. However, IMHO if a helmet isn't designed to be robust enough to deal with the normal bumps and drops that occur when it's not on the rider's head there ain't no way it's going to do it's job in a real crash and I'd venture a guess that we'd all be buying a lot more helmets.

 

As I said, living in the real world and not the lab or theoretical, I find the Snell statement just doesn't pass the reality test.

 

Parting shot: Good thing a Snell endorsement isn't needed on a NFL player's helmet: they'd have to replace about 18 of those after every play in every game based on their assessment.

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vizhip
But you should notice that no helmet is currently branded with an expiry date. In fact, its hard to figure out what the date of manufacture is.

 

Actually, many manufacturers stamp the date of manufacture inside the helmet... at least my co-worker's ARAI and my Scorpion both have dates of manufacture stamped in them...

 

It is interesting to see how long the helmet has been sitting on a merchants shelf... fortunately mine was less than a year...

 

Regards -

-Bob

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der Wanderer

Wow, you can't seriously take my comments about engineering procedures as meaning that I see no difference between tires and helmets? Belittling someone whose opinion we don't share is not civil debate in my book.

 

That said, as an engineer that has done a lot of work on materials resistance (not limited to tires), albeit many years ago, I am puzzled at what I consider blind trust in manufacturers and opposition to basic testing aimed at comparison and understanding. Not wanting to know (and even worse, pretending without rational basis that attempting to know is futile and makes no sense) reminds me of those who thought the sun revolved around the earth...

 

I have never said I would blindly use old helmets or compel users to anything. My only point has been that it is easy and meaningful to test for aging with well known, standard tests, and given that, I'd rather know how fast the helmet I wear degrades - 1 year, 5, 10? Since there is no test, neither you not I have the slightest idea; we don't know if we are at risk or throwing perfectly good helmets away. I wish you had (as I did) offered a suggestion on how to improve this, rather than attempting to pass me for stupid...

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NonComp

der Wanderer, I don't think that anyone is trying to pass you off for stupid. But, I believe it is a lot more complex than you realize to age a helmet system with any kind of reasonable accuracy.

 

You do realize that if it were undertaken, then the worst case scenario or the lowest common denominator if you prefer, would rule the day. That would probably mean all materials exposed to excessive amounts of UV, corrosive cleaners, excessive heat, etc. etc. Would it serve your purposes if the resulting degradation rating were to be 3 years instead of 5?

 

And what would happen if manufacturers competed to use materials with the longest lifespans, rather than focusing on safety or reduced weight? Would you buy a helmet that was rated to last 10 years, but had a crash rating of 1?

 

My associate, who is a chemical engineer, makes the point that many plastics break down with time, and emit a variety of gasses when they do. They become brittle. Some plastics that were made 20 years ago are not longer made because of these problems.

 

There is a long history of materials rating in the building trades. You would think that everything that needs to be known about the lifespan of concrete and steel when it is exposed to water, temperature, salt and corrosives, etc. is accurate and available. And it is, for the most part.

 

Yet, we still have catastrophic failures like the overpass in Montreal that collapsed and killed several people. Why? Because they had failed to maintain the road surface and repair cracks in the concrete that allowed water and road salt to corrode the re-bar until the system failed, long before its projected lifespan.

 

As a consumer, I don't see what is to be gained from trying to rate the half-life of helmets. Turn the lawyers loose on this and you'd have helmets with a three year lifespan, not 10.

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NonComp

I don't buy the 1' to 2' drop policy. That would only effect the integrity of the shell. As was mentioned earlier, it has nothing to do with the crush layers, because there is no weigh in the helmet.

 

On the other hand, if you are walking home from the bar with your helmet on and you trip and smack your head on the ground, there would be a case for replacing your helmet.

 

Of if you store coconuts in your helmets...

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vizhip
I don't buy the 1' to 2' drop policy. That would only effect the integrity of the shell. As was mentioned earlier, it has nothing to do with the crush layers, because there is no weigh in the helmet.

 

It really depends on how hard the helmet hits and if anything internal shifted...

 

That is also why the chin strap has to be tight... to keep things from shifting and thus allow the helmet to do its job... if something shifted during the drop, or loosened up a little... that could affect the helmet during a crash...

 

And while none of us plan on crashing, we still spend the money for the gear and dress to protect ourselves in case something happens... so... I prefer not to take any chances and thus will spend the money to replace the helmet...

 

However, many of the manufacturers will test the helmet for you to determine if there are any problems with it for a nominal fee...

 

Regards -

-Bob

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NonComp

My wife dropped her new Shark helmet on the very first outing. It fell off the seat (30 inches). One of the plastic vents took the hit (broken).

 

Did we replace the helmet? No. Would most people replace a dropped $300 helmet that had been worn once? Probably not. Do I think the helmet has been compromised by the fall? No.

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der Wanderer

Glen, those are valid comments. Artificial aging is in itself a science/engineering specialty. It is not easy, and it will not in itself give you a magic number. What it will do is give you rankings and statistical distributions that you can correlate with field results.

 

As someone who was very familiar with it, I can assure you it is feasible and no, I am not underestimating the complexity. To do the correlation, it is good to have a population of actual samples from the field. That's how we built the model for tire aging, and that worked very well. A very simple program where old helmets (with proof of date of purchase) are exchanged against a $30 voucher against the purchase of a new one can get you the few hundred or so samples needed to test using the same (or similar) DOT tests done new. There is really nothing complex in the engineering associated with that. Once you have the correlation between field and the artificial aging, you don't need to test that many field helmets anymore - mostly if technology changes.

 

As to your other points: every engineering product is a compromise between performance and cost and durability (or similar parameters). Nothing new here. Tests are always introducing bias - to some extent they ensure some minimal performance, but they also bias product development to pass the test rather than produce the best product. In this case the DOT test on new helmets already does that, and nobody seems to consider it's a bad thing. Why would using the same DOT test on aged helmets be so different?

 

Testing for helmet lifespan is not contrary to the focus on safety - it is exactly the same thing. I don't think it's good to have a product that is safe new but gives no information whatsoever on how safe it is as soon as it is not new - that's the current situation.

 

Would you like to be on a plane that has not gone through the aging and fatigue testing that is part of the qualification of any plane today? I could use each and every one of your arguments and apply them to planes: it's hard to do and complex; the worst case scenario may rule the day in practice; designers may design to the test, etc.

 

The point is, if it's feasible to have aging models for a plane structure, it should be as well for helmets, and it should really not be that controversial.

 

PS: and before somebody goes there - yes, I fully realize planes and helmets and tires and whatever are different in many ways. But they are all objects that need to perform over time and it is absolutely feasible to build models that describe the effects of aging and serve to improve safety.

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