Look after your helmet, and your helmet will look after you, that’s what I was always taught. And nothing could be more true. No, I’m not talking about your penis, I’m talking about your crash helmet. Because a well-cared-for lid could be the difference between a crash causing serious damage to your grey matter, and not (causing damage to it). So if you want to look after your head, look after your helmet. And if you want to do that, follow these simple tips.
Yep, polishing your helmet is, and always will be, of the utmost importance. And it’s not that hard to do. In fact, it’s really easy. A simple damp cloth (I use a moistened sheet of kitchen roll) will remove most kinds of detritus, as long as it hasn’t been left to bake for too long. If it gas, leave your damp cloth draped over the offending area for a little while to soften it up.
There are loads of helmet and visor cleaning products that are dead good at removing bugs and such, but plain water is pretty good at it too. And a lot cheaper.
Don’t be tempted to use anything too aggressive on your helmet or visor. Certain chemicals can, and will, affect the integrity of the materials. I found this out the hard way when I cleaned my helmet with some ‘traffic film remover’ stuff I found in my dad’s garage, which absolutely destroyed my visor, and probably didn’t do the rest of the shell any good, either.
It’s not just the visor and the shell that needs a good clean every now and then. Every once in a while, it’s worth removing the lining (if you can) and giving that a good wash. In summer, when I’m riding quite a bit, or if I’ve been racing, I’ll do this every week. All I do is fill the kitchen sink up with warm water, soak all of the padding, squeeze some baby shampoo through it all, rinse it, and then hang it up to dry. If you don’t clean your inner lining once in a while, the dirt and sweat from your face will build up, you’ll start seeing mould, and you’re helmet won’t be a very nice place to put your head.
Don’t drop it
A crash helmet is designed to protect your brain, skull and face, should you decide to headbutt the floor. But they’re only really designed to do that once. The EPS liner (the polystyrene bit, between the shell and the padding) is effectively a crumple zone that absorbs as much of an impact as it can, so your head doesn’t have to. But once your crumple zone has crumpled, it isn’t a crumple zone any more. That’s why they’re only fully effective once. And if you give your helmet a big enough bash, it doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing it at the time or not, you can quite easily ruin it.
If you drop it onto a hard floor, from a reasonable height, it might not look knackered from the outside, but it may well be. You might have crumpled the uncrumplable crumple zone. And whilst it looks like a good helmet, it probably isn’t. So being careful never to drop your helmet on the floor is one of the best ways you can look after it.
Store it properly
If you read the little booklet of owner’s information when you buy yourself a helmet, it will tell you all about how you should be storing it. But let’s face it, who actually reads that stuff? But maybe we should, because there’s good information in there about how you can look after you helmet, that might help you keep it in tip-top nick for a bit longer. Most of us won’t have to worry about extremes of temperature affecting out helmets, but some, who leave their kit in the garage might want to think about taking their helmets into the house over the winter as sub-zero temperatures can affect certain materials in your helmet, especially if there’s moisture in there.
Keeping your helmet out of extreme heat and sunlight is also a good idea. Definitely don’t be tempted to dry your helmet on top of a radiator or next to the fire after a long, cold ride in the rain. I have seen one bloke literally melt his helmet by trying to dry it out too quickly by the fire. It looked like one of those clocks that Salvador Dali paints.
If you air your lid out each time you use it, stick in in it’s bag and put it safe in a dark cupboard in the house, you won’t go far wrong.
Don’t put your gloves in it
Some say I’m a bit anal about the whole gloves in the helmet thing, but it really bothers me. If you want to put your gloves in your own helmet, then that’s fine, but remember it’s not good for your lid. Or your visor. Or probably your gloves, for that matter, all squashed up like that.
If you put your gloves inside your helmet, the rough Velcro from your glove straps will start to tear the soft fabric of you helmet liner. You’ll also contaminate every surface in there with whatever you’ve touched whilst wearing your gloves; surely you don’t want to do that when you’re about to put your head in it. Heavens, no.
And then of course there is the inside of your visor (or Pinlock) which your gloves will, without doubt scratch. Putting your gloves in your helmet is not a good idea. I know it’s some times really handy, but it’s not good for your lid. So if you do need to put them in there, try not to leave them in there.
There’s a lot of debate over when you should replace your helmet. Some say it’s after three years regardless, others say five years. Some say you need only replace a helmet after it’s been crashed in. Others are happy to ride in a crashed in, smashed up, ten-year-old helmet. Really the correct thing to do in that regard depends on a lot of things.
Official advice is to replace a crash helmet after no longer than five years, but that’s not to say you can’t get a little bit longer out of a really well-looked after helmet; as long as it hasn’t been dropped, crashed in or anything like that. Because obviously helmets don’t just become useless after their fifth birthday. But certain elements of them do degrade over time, and even a lightly used, well looked after helmet isn’t going to be the same as it was new, after five years of wear and tear.
And then of course there is the fact that an old helmet isn’t going to have the latest and greatest technology. I’m not saying helmets now are head and shoulders safer than they were five years ago (because let’s face it, the general design hasn’t really changed much in the past 30 or more years), but there may well be something safer, quieter and more comfortable available now, compared to what there was when you bought your last one fifteen years ago.
So if you’re wondering whether or not you need a new helmet, it’s probably because you do.