Five Reasons to Throw Your Motorcycle Helmet Out Right Now

Old Helmet

Spring is officially over, autumn is on its way. You’re probably beginning to count down the last few motorcycle rides of your season, tearing up at the prospect of winterizing your pride and joy and settling in for a long, boring winter on four wheels.

Now, then, is a perfect time to revisit the other old faithful you’ll miss this winter – your motorcycle helmet.

Here are five very strong reasons you should throw your motorcycle helmet out, right now.

It’s Old

Old Helmet

Maybe you’re a seasoned rider with years and years of riding under your belt, maybe even decades. You love your helmet, it fits your head right, you remember the time you let your five-year-old son try it on and how happy he was.

But he just started high school, and that old helmet has too many memories. Over time the foam and adhesive material inside it, all designed to save your noggin, degrades and deforms. Your helmet, at five years old, is nowhere near as effective as it was new.

Put this one on the shelf, grab a new one.

You Crashed


Did you have a perfect season of riding? No drops, no falls, no crashes? If so, fantastic! That’s the best type of riding season. But if you didn’t, no matter. Next year you’ll have a better time of it, probably having learned some new lessons.

One thing that shouldn’t join you next year though – your helmet. Impacts aren’t supposed to be happen repeatedly on helmets, the invisible damage done in even minor drops can have serious repercussions.

My much-loved AGV helmet is now a cactus after my crash in the Kawasaki Ninja 300 Series. It’s now a shelf ornament despite bearing very little physical damage.

Use your head, save your head. Get a new lid.

 You Bought it Second Hand

Second Hand Helmet

If this was your first season of riding there’s a good chance your bike was second-hand. Maybe the seller threw in a helmet. If they did, and you’re still wearing it: stop. You don’t know the age or the history of that helmet. The only helmet you can trust is the one you bought new yourself.

If your helmet was a second-hand job, turf it. Now.

It Doesn’t Fit You

This Helmet is Too Big

There are too many people out there buying improperly fitted helmets. This is especially true in the world of e-commerce and online shopping. Not all helmets are created equal, not all helmet shapes fit everyone. I personally feel most comfortable in an AGV helmet, one of my closest friends refuses to wear anything but a Shoei.

Regardless of the brand, the helmet should fit snugly against your forehead, should not move forward or back on your head, nor twist side-to-side. A little pressure on your head is normal when you first buy a helmet, remembering that helmets bed in a little over time. A lot of pressure is not normal, maybe try a helmet a size up. But if your helmet feels too loose, or too tight, it’s time to buy a new one.

It’s Not a Full Face – and Especially If It’s a Half Shell

German Helmet Study

This might be where I lose a lot of you, but bear with me. Dr. Dietmar Otte’s research into helmet impacts revealed what many of us who have crashed already know: 49 percent of helmet impacts happen in the visor or below – space not protected by an open-face helmet.

If you look at the area unprotected by half-shell helmets, those leave 61.4 percent of impacts unprotected.

If you enjoy looking at your face in the mirror, or chewing food, it’s time to throw out your open-face and get yourself a full-face helmet.

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Jacob Black

Jacob Black

Jacob is a writer and a journalist who enjoys cars, driving and jokes. Sometimes he writes a series of jokes and loosely connects them to a car he was driving. Jacob Black is not a werewolf.
  • Michael Kirney

    “Did you have a perfect season of riding? No drops, no falls, no crashes?
    If so, fantastic! That’s the best type of riding season.”

    Lol, are there riders out there so clumsy that they can’t even get through one season without dropping their bike? What the author calls a “perfect” season, I call an ordinary season. If you are crashing or dropping your bike once every season, it’s probably time for you to think about giving up riding. At least get a lighter bike that you can handle properly.

  • Peter Toth

    Other than “you crashed” all the other reasons are complete bullshit!

  • Peter Toth

    Agreed, the only time I have EVER laid a bike down while moving, has been on the race track. I’ve been riding since 1977, have had countless close calls on the road, but I call a season without crashing or dropping my ride, a normal season! This article is complete BS!

  • Sinbad 1

    A dirt bike is a completely different machine on a different terrain . Your comparing apples and oranges.

  • Michael Kirney

    I had a KLR650 for 8 years and only dropped it once. Does that count?

  • SuperLogic

    If you didnt drop your bike at least once a season dirt biking, you’re not doing it right. ?

  • Mark Stevens

    Brought to you by Arai 🙂

  • Paul Johnston

    If half helmets are so unsafe, why are they DOT approved?

  • Paul

    That just may be the question of the day. I don’t think they should be. There’s a lot more to your head than just the top half. Personally I don’t care if they are DOT approved, you won’t see me wearing one. Just google some images of crash results with half face helmets. Warning though if you just ate lunch, it isn’t pretty. Of course, a full face doesn’t make you invincible, but if you’re on two wheels why give yourself even worse odds (should the worst happen) and wear a half face?

  • PeterLT

    My full face helmet saved my life this summer when I hit a deer at 50 mph. Don’t skimp om gear…ever! I needed brain surgery and and still convalescing but I am alive and I will ride again. A friend had the same thing happening wearing a beanie helmet so popular with Harley riders, he is dead. He. hit around 60 mph like me, hit the road after the hit and slide. I was wearing kevlar jeans with pads, a proper padded riding jacket, gloves and full helmet. I survived. He looked cool on his Harley with the beanie cap, white t-shirt and a cute Harley vest and no gloves, a manly man and he’s dead. Gear up folks and do it right, because when it happens you won’t have time to wish you did….

  • Mark Husereau

    ATGATT, Dress for the slide, not for the ride

  • Murray Hamm

    Perhaps it was a reference to track days or some more aggressive dual sport riding. Both have some opportunity for spills.

  • iguana

    Not 1, as in zero, as in nadda, as in zip bit of empirical research exists that shows helmets degrade over time and their safety is compromised. Not one peer reviewed report exists that states, based on clinical research, that helmet safety features degrade “X” amount, over “X” amount of time. The only comment from helmet manufacturers on helmet safety re any degradation over time/use, is that it is “prudent” to replace them no longer than every 10 years. YMMV.

  • Dan Diak

    The helmet started degrading the second it was manufactured. Same as everything. Absolutely everything begins to deteriorate the second its made. Buildings, products, people…everything. Including helmets sitting on a shelf. Now add, wind, rain, dust, sweat, bumps and bangs. These will obviously speed up the process. It doesnt take a rocket scientist, or any kind of study or clinical research to prove this. Just common sense.

  • Jesse Braun Tyas

    There’s two types of riders, those that have dumped their bikes, and those that will.

  • iguana

    Yes, of course, you’re right about that, all things degrade…but the point you miss is there is no empirically researched evidence whatsoever as to when a helmet is no longer safe to use. As far as we know, it will be safe to a certain standard of use for 20 years. Helmet “safety” marketing boils down to “shaming” people into replacing helmets after 5 years, because if they don’t, it means they’re dumb, and I resent that type of nonsense. Show me the the hard evidence that proves helmets degrade beyond a usable life span in x amount of time, if you’re going to say a usable lifespan for a helmet exists. Otherwise, that type of marketing ploy, “shaming”, is just a sleazy way to increase the sales of slow selling, durable goods. Not to say helmets shouldn’t be replaced, but if the industry wants to set a time length standard, like 5 years, give us the research to back it up.

  • Dan Diak

    Nobody is saying its mandatory to replace your helmet at certain intervals. They are only suggesting it as it makes sense. Ok, they are very strongly suggesting it. I can definitely see that a new helmet is considerably more effective than one that is 20 years old,
    not just because of degrading materials but also because of technological advances that have been made in that time. Also not sure at which point it makes sense to replace a helmet…5 years? 7 years? Certainly by 10 years your helmet is outdated no matter how well you took care of it. Many products have a. “Usable life span”. Baby car seats and strollers, smoke detectors, etc. Just because we dont know about any helmet life expectancy studies, doesnt mean that none have been done. And just because there is no known proof that helmets detriorate, doesnt mean they dont. Saying that youre not going to replace your helmet until there is scientific proof that it cant succesfully do its job any more is a personal choice and a chance that most consciencious riders are not willing to take.

  • Mjohn Hayes

    Yawn. If I wanted safety I wouldn’t have bought a fuckin motorcycle,I’d ve bought a volvo

  • iguana

    Actually, the name of the article is “Five Reasons to Throw Your Helmet out Right Now” so that seems a bit more than a suggestion to me. More like a warning. Too follow your logic, and as Bertrand Russell would say to point out false reasoning, and I’m paraphrasing, “Just because we can’t prove that a tea cup is orbiting the sun, doesn’t mean one is”. What else do you believe in that can’t be proved? That’s your business, I’m just saying for some people and for some issues, more information is needed for them to believe, as in this case, that I need to throw my helmet out “right now”. But really, that’s not my point, which you make rather well in your last response. My point is helmet marketers “shame” people into buying more helmets than may be needed, by equating their early, as far as we know, replacement with “rider intelligence”, and it appears you have “drank the kool-aid” as the expression goes, by resorting exactly as helmet manufacturers have “conditioned” your mind to think. Review your last response and you will see how, to defend your position, you called my position senseless, and me nonconscientious. Sorry, I’m neither. I just don’t belong to the flock of mindless, and most often younger inexperienced riders who believe everything they’re told about “must have” safety technologies because I’m too experienced in both, life and motorcycling to drink every ounce of kool-aid put out there as truth, unless of course, bold statements are followed by bold truths, based on evidence, not suggestions, and this article has no empirical research to back up its claim, because it doesn’t exist. YMMV.

  • Dan Diak

    “Five Reasons to Throw your Helmet out Right Now” is not telling you that you should….only giving you their side of the argument. Someone could easily counter with 5 more reasons to keep your old helmet, or how to make your helmet last for years. They do make some good points though and I dont see it as a “shaming” tactic. Maybe a fear tactic. I too, have 30 years plus riding experience and like the helmet I have had for the past 8 years and plan on keep using. No Kool Aid drinker here, thank you. My point is that you cant expect a older helmet to offer the same protection as a brand new one. Thats all.

  • iguana

    I don’t think the article makes any good points, but “warns” people to change their helmets “right now”, which means you should, that’s not a suggestion, if any of the conditions listed thereafter exist, and those conditions are rather weak to say the least. Who keeps his helmet after it’s been crashed and damaged? Who buys or keeps a helmet if it doesn’t fit? Who would buy a second hand helmet if it’s been crashed or doesn’t fit? Okay, I’m sure some riders might or do, but what are the percentages? Maybe the same people who in spite of clear warning signs and visual evidence of a wet floor, still decide to walk on it? And, if shorties and 3/4’s are that unsafe, why do they get DOT and at times Snell foundation passes? That’s just an opinion about full face helmets, not a “reason”. And finally, just how old is too old? Nothing stated or suggested at all, just a warning to get a new one if yours is “old”, no mention if it was even ever used. The industry could, very easily, create and conduct testing on helmets that measure their efficacy after X amount of use, under X type of conditions, but they haven’t or won’t. Maybe they don’t want to publish the findings that helmets remain safe for long periods of time. Can’t sell more helmets that way. YMMV.

  • Dan Diak

    The Non profit, Snell foundation has indeed done the studies and have found this: Why should you replace your helmet every five years?

    The five-year replacement recommendation is based on a consensus by both helmet manufacturers and the Snell Foundation. Glues, resins and other materials used in helmet production can affect liner materials. Hair oils, body fluids and cosmetics, as well as normal “wear and tear” all contribute to helmet degradation. Petroleum based products present in cleaners, paints, fuels and other commonly encountered materials may also degrade materials used in many helmets possibly degrading performance. Additionally, experience indicates there will be a noticeable improvement in the protective characteristic of helmets over a five-year period due to advances in materials, designs, production methods and the standards. Thus, the recommendation for five-year helmet replacement is a judgment call stemming from a prudent safety philosophy.