How To Care For Your Bicycle Helmet

Published on October 23rd 2017


In association with KASK. All opinions expressed at the presenter's own.

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Bike helmets do not last forever. If you look at the safety manual, or indeed, inside the box, you will see that you need to replace them in the event of an accident, or regardless, just every few years, which a lot of people do not do. People do not replace their bike helmets often enough. And I completely sympathise with that. It can be incredibly frustrating to have to throw something in the bin when to all intents and purposes it looks absolutely fine.

So, with that question at the forefront of our minds, I though I'd take advantage of a long time relationship with our friends at Kask, and actually ask them why you do actually need to replace your helmet every few years, and then perhaps most importantly, how can we better look after our helmets in order to try and extend their life spans?

Most bike helmets are made out of EPS, which is the kind of polystyrene substance on the inside here. Cheap ones and expensive ones alike. And it is currently the best material available with which to make bike helmets out of. However, it does have its limitations. Firstly, what you need to know is that actually it's the EPS that absorbs the energy of the impact in the event of a crash. But, according to Kask, and this was completely new to me, there is a linear relationship between the thickness of the EPS at the point of impact, and its ability to absorb energy, which is fine, until you start looking at all the little dents over your helmet. Because, just a one millimetre deep dent on a 20 millimetre thick section of EPS will mean that it will have lost 5% of its ability to absorb impact. It, of course, depends on where the dent is, and the direction of the impact. But, I think that's kinda freaky. Especially when you then start to look at the helmet in this newfound light. So, point number one about trying to make your helmet last longer is actually to protect it from wear and tear, bumps and knocks. So that means particularly, I think, when storing it, and also transporting it. Bear in mind what we just learned about EPS.

What about larger impacts then, like actually falling off your bike, or dropping your helmet from a height? Well, one of the other things that we need to know about EPS is that damage can actually be completely invisible. So Kask said that in testing over the years, they've actually witnessed the helmet failing what's called the chinstrap test. As a result of invisible cracks in the shell that were sustained through a previous impact test, which is actually, you'll be pleased to hear, a standard testing procedure. 

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Watch more on GCN...
7 ways to hang your helmet 📹 
Cycling helmet safety standards 📹 

Photos: © Bettiniphoto / & ©Tim De Waele /

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