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Testing has been carried out on expanded polystyrene foam used in bicycle helmets (which is same material used in motorcycle helmets) to determine if the impact attenuation properties change with age.

You can read here about the testing and the results which show the foam liner does not degrade with age. (not to be confused with the cloth liner)

For years shops have been telling riders that helmets need to be replaced every 5 years. I challenged a sales rep to show some empirical evidence to support this and his response was he would love to but the data was restricted. Bullshit. If it was true the manufacturers would have an expiry date on helmets and be pushing governments to pass laws on out of date use and have police inspect and fine people.

You are going to replace helmets over the course of time regardless if they get worn and parts cannot be replaced but you might also have a helmet that is low usage or that you replaced the liner and visor and it otherwise is in good condition. No need to think you have to stop using this. Additionally if you love a certain model helmet then there is nothing wrong with buying a couple and leaving one not used in cupboard or buying an old stock helmet, both of which I have read helmet sales staff say is unsafe.

All not true and means I need not worry about my favourite Nolan N43 Air which otherwise would have already been past retirement age.


  1. I would be inclined to agree…. that if it were true they were harmed with age, all manufacturers would put expiry dates on their helmets, as more sales are their goal…. (well safety too). I understand hair products and your natural oils can break down linings, but that is why we replace and wash them.

    • The cloth inside a helmet wears out in about 5 years and for me it was easy to think that extends to the foam as well but the testing says otherwise. Which is what an insider told me years ago also but there was never any science to confirm until now.

      A new liner and visor from my experience will cost 1/2 as much as a new helmet so I doubt many people will choose this path however if someone had a favourite helmet, limited edition or one autographed then it need not be retired.

  2. Interestin article Warren. I've never replaced my helmets at the 5 year mark, the last one was about 8 or 9 years old and the liner had deteriorated so I purchased a new one.
    Manufacturers are in the business of selling helmets so from their side they have to stipulate something so 5 years must be it, good for sales I guess. If that stated helmets last for 20 years they would probably go out of business due to lack of sales.

    • The cost of a new cloth liner and visor is considerable so most people may choose to buy a new helmet when the cloth is worn out or even just for fun with new designs and fashions so really not important but it slightly bugged me that sales staff keep telling people this so glad there is now some science that proves otherwise.

  3. Marty Sawinski

    Is far as my 2 cents go I just took a 15 year old helmet I purchase from eBay…(an Arai RX-7) pressed firmly on the hard foam liner..got the same result as pressing firmly my two yr old spec 1 Suomy. Felt exactly the same…firm but able
    to leave small indentation

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