Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Marks asks: I have an old HJC helmet that’s super comfortable! It’s lightweight, easy to put on, and feels like an old, well worn baseball cap. Unfortunately, it’s 10-12 years old, and the helmet makers recommend replacement after 3-5 years. While I understand that everything wears out eventually; while I understand that almost everything has to replaced eventually; I can’ t help but wonder if the helmet makers are being self-serving. After all it’s in their interest for motorcycle riders to buy more helmets. Having said that, I have newer helmets, but I still like that old HJC.
My reply: This is one of those pros and cons, shades-of-gray things. Older helmets with non-styrofoam liners or other materials that shrink over time might not fit properly (leading to fatigue and other issues) and that’s always a good reason to replace the thing. But other than that – unless it struck the pavement hard (as during a wreck) – it is mostly a question of whether you like it vs. a newer one.
The standards are, of course, regularly changing. And on account of that, your helmet probably (almost certainly) doesn’t meet the current/latest saaaaafety standards. Does that mean it’s “unsafe”? I don’t think it does – for the same reason I don’t think a 2005 Mercedes S-Class that doesn’t meet the latest saaaaaaafety standards is “unsafe.”
For me, the primary considerations are: Does it fit well? Does it not feel heavy? Does it provide decent visibility? Does it ventilate well? If it does, I keep it until I feel the need for a new one that does a better job.
Here’s some good additional info on this topic.
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Eric is right. They are probably ‘safe’ for a long time. I would think it’s mostly a visual inspection thing. Like when you see/find a helmet from the 60-70’s and it’s got surface cracks and the inside is ratted out, probably not a good idea to wear that one.
Whenever I have done roadracing stuff, they require Snell approved helmets that are not older than 10 years. There is a Snell sticker with a date on it. Probably due to lawyer speak.
For me personally, I only wear Snell stuff on the street, but it’s probably been ingrained into me from years of roadracing. I believe it is a much better standard than DOT.