What is your helmet telling you?

Is it time to retire your helmet?

mx helmets


Let’s be honest with ourselves here, unlike most folks our favourite pastime is life threatening to us. We risk life and limb for this dirt bike dopamine and I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, some of us could be overlooking a few things about our most important piece of equipment.

Back in 2001, I suffered a severe traumatic brain injury while riding. I was knocked unconscious and suffered from amnesia in the days and months following. Although my memory did return eventually, not a single day goes by I don’t live with some type of fallout from this blow to the head. It was a life changing injury and to this day I credit my helmet for saving my life and not for causing the injury in question. This past weekend I took another good blow to the head that forced me to get a new helmet and I wondered how many of my fellow riders are following the same protocol.

broken helmet
This is the helmet I was wearing when I suffered a traumatic brain injury. It’s clear this helmet is trash but it’s not always this obvious.

Your helmet is the most important piece of equipment you have. You should spare no expense when purchasing a helmet. Be sure to consider things like fit and safety features above colours, graphics and energy drink logos. Try to avoid buying online unless you’re 100% confident with the fit. Never buy a used helmet unless it’s from someone you’d trust with your life. I encourage you to go grab your helmet after reading this and check it out. Maybe instead of that new pipe or graphic kit, you may want look into a new helmet.

How old is your helmet?

Did you know that your helmet has an expiry date? Just like canned ham, your helmet can cause major damage if used after expiration. I get it, Jeremy Mcgrath is your favourite rider and your 1996 Bell replica is the coolest helmet ever but at this point your super cool lid is protecting your brain about as well as Uncle Ricos Tupperware.

The most important part of your helmet is the EPS liner. This is the styrofoam looking stuff underneath the comfy part. This material is designed to absorb the impact between your skull and the ground, bike or tree. Just like most materials, this stuff loses it’s effectiveness every year after its initial production. You wouldn’t build a new house using old brittle lumber would you? Then why protect your head with a compromised helmet.

Most helmet brands have been putting manufacturing dates on their product since the 1970s. You better not be wearing a 40 year old helmet! If your helmet does not have a date printed on it at all, take it back to the flea market and get a new one from a reputable shop. Every manufacturer has a different standard and life expectancy for their helmets but I’ve always considered 5 years from the date of manufacturing to be the last day you should wear your helmet. Most date stickers can be found underneath the comfort lining directly on the EPS liner.

Here are a few examples of dates and how to read them if you’ve never seen them before.

helmet date
This Fly F2 carbon was manufactured in September of 2015.
helmet date
The round silver sticker on this Bell Moto 9 tells us it was built in December of 2014.
helmet date
This old Shoei Was built in February of 2008.
helmet date
Arai engraves their build date right onto the D-rings. Hard to see in the photo but this one was built in January of 2017.

Have any good crashes lately?

So you just smashed your face into the dirt and it was a good one. Maybe you were knocked out or just saw some stars. It could have just made you shake your head. Either way your helmet did its job and may have been compromised. If you were knocked out or concussed in any way, your helmet is done, decommission it and get a new one. If it was just a good hit to the head, you can play it safe and scrap the helmet or you can do a quick physical inspection of the helmet. Obvious cracks and fractures of the exterior shell are a dead giveaway that it’s toast. You can take a look at the EPS liner to see if it has been crushed or compressed but this can be hard to see. Some manufacturers will allow you to send the helmet back to them for inspection but in most cases you’ll have to make an educated guess.

mx helmets
These are all helmets I’ve decided to decommission over the past 10 years. Some lasted multiple years, others only a few races.

I get it, you just spent anywhere from $200-$900 on a helmet and now its trash… That’s true but I’d rather spend several hundred dollars than get another head injury.

Does your helmet actually fit you?

After years of selling helmets, I find that most consumers on their own will buy a helmet that is 1 or 2 sizes too large. You’ll tend to go larger and larger until you find one that is “comfortable”. Unfortunately “comfortable” usually means loose. In order to work properly your helmet should fit snugly. Look for consistent pressure around your crown and some pushing in on your cheeks. If you’re tightening up your goggle strap to keep your helmet from moving around, it’s too big. I’ve even seen professional racers on the starting line with their helmets spinning around like something out of the exorcist, C’mon!

Your helmet ONLY works if it fits you properly, even the certifications are void if you’re not wearing the right size.┬áIf you find yourself in between sizes, always go with the smaller size provided you can wear it without getting a headache. If you’re still uncertain about fit, talk to your local shop and have them check it for you.

mx helmets
This Bell Moto 9 enjoyed it’s last ride this past weekend. It may have left quite the impression on my forehead and knocked a tooth out but it served me well and now gets to enjoy its retirement.

I hope you are able to take something away from this article, although if you already knew these things…I’m happier with that.

Thank you for your continued support! Hit me up with any questions you might have.