Helmets: when to replace, and what with

Helmet wearing, or not wearing, is a contentious issue – but we’re not here to debate whether you should or should not wear one. If you do choose to wear one, we’re here to offer some guidance on when to replace a helmet, and what’s available when you do go to buy a new lid.

How often to replace a helmet?

Advice on how often you should replace a helmet is mixed. What isn’t mixed is that you should definitely replace it once it’s taken a bash. The foam on the inside is designed to work for one impact only, so if you’re unsure, buy a new one as a pre-banged helmet isn’t much better than no helmet.

Other than that, manufacturers tend to suggest every 2-3 years – reasoning that sweat and ultraviolet exposure can reduce the level of protection. I’ve heard it said that this is purely a marketing ploy, but since actually I’d place a bet on me crashing at least once every few years (what can I say… but black ice, the odd unseeing driver and sometimes my own stupidity on descents in the dark have all taken me out over the last 24 months) – so 2-3 years seems like a reasonable time frame to me.

If you don’t want to replace your helmet that frequently, do bear in mind that those manufactured before the 1980s used different technology, so they aren’t as safe – and you should check that your helmet adheres to current British Standards.

What’s available?

There is  a wide range of choice available on the market at the moment – here are some of the top lids I’ve spotted recently:

Giro Revirb (2014 model: £56.99, 2013 model, £27.49)

Helmets designed specifically for commuters are more and more popular these days. Bern have been at it for a while, having broadened out from their snowboarding roots – but the Giro Revirb has some great features.

Firstly – the plastic outer is permanently fused to the EPS liner, as opposed to the two being separate constructions – this makes it lightweight and durable. A removable brim is helpful for sunny days, and rainy days, and the band that goes around the back of the head is self adjusting, so you don’t need to fiddle with straps and dials to get the fit spot on.

Commuters are often moving in traffic, thus moving slower, so 9 wide vents are used to ensure circulation still takes place, without the rider moving quickly. The cherry on top is that the Revirb has some cool urban styling, and is available in a range of colours.

There are less girly ones, of course – but I actually quite like the black and pink..  however, if you fancy getting the reduced 2013 model, it’s available with 45% off here.

The Giro Veverb

The Giro Veverb

Specialized Propero II Helmet (RRP, £70, now £44.99)

I mention this one because I’ve tested it pretty thoroughly. I’m on my second Propero – and I know it works on impact, because I’ve tried that. Previous to getting the Propero, I had the Specialized Echelon, and I was amazed by the difference when I upgraded.

The Propero costs a little more, but in return you get a helmet that feels so much lighter, and has soft fabric straps which are notably different to the rough fastenings of cheaper helmets. On top of that, I also notice Evans Cycles are selling it at 35 per cent off, so it’s currently on a good deal.

Specialized Prepero II

Specialized Propero II

If you’re after a slightly less pricey road helmet, the MET Gavilan is on sale £31.49 — it has an RRP of £34.99, and will provide all the safety that you need.

The MET Gavilan

The MET Gavilan


The aero helmet which looks relatively normal:

Louis Garneau Course Helmet (RRP £159.99, now £109.99)

Aero helmets are designed to reduce one of the most draggy parts of the human anatomy when placed on a bike: the head.

Aero helmets for time trials and triathlons are really only for racing, but recently aero road helmets have started to creep into the market, and they’re even appearing at sportives. These helmets do reduce drag, but in doing so, many also cut out almost all ventilation, resulting in a very hot and sweaty head.

The Louis Garneau Course is one of the most normal looking aero helmets around, if not the most – partly because it has a normal amount of ventilation. LG did this by maximizing the frontal area of the helmet, optimizing air flow, and molding it to fit the shape of a riders head when in the riding position.

The helmet has been wind tunnel tested, and the brand claim it can save 2mins 40seconds over a 25mile time trial, when the rider is averaging 28mph. That seems quite a stretch to me, and I wonder what the comparative normal helmet looked like – but regardless, that’s a pretty big time saving.

Louis Garneau Course Helmet

Louis Garneau Course Helmet

Those are just a few examples of cool helmets on the market – do you have a favourite?

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7 Responses to Helmets: when to replace, and what with

  1. Kellyman17 13/03/2014 at 9:51 pm #

    Specialised echelon 2. I bought it after a near miss with a truck at about 65 miles an hour. Wouldn’t have made much difference then I’d imagine but I felt safer with it afterwards. Before it I only used <£25 helmets or nothing. Spending that extra makes a hell of a difference. It fits much better with no rattling around and is much more comfortable for longer journeys. My advice would be to try a helmet on. It's as important as having a bike fitted to you that a helmet fits you correctly. I didn't know I needed a large size or some foam pieces could be added or removed otherwise.

  2. Peter Ernst 14/03/2014 at 7:22 am #

    I think after a near miss with a truck going 65 miles an hour I would feel nearly as safe wearing a lampshade as anything.

  3. David Huntsman 14/03/2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Oh god.

  4. Peter 14/03/2014 at 8:16 pm #

    lampshade would definitely be my favourite of the suggestions on this page

  5. Phil 16/03/2014 at 8:39 am #

    I use a Lazer Cityzen with a khaki cover: I didn’t want a helmet that looked like I was being attacked by a giant plastic insect, and this was the first one I found with a decent peak, which keeps rain and direct sunlight out of my eyes. I tend towards the “piss pot” ( LBS term ) style in general. I’m not getting into the helmet/no helmet debate- on the road I’m wearing one, end of.

  6. Mik 19/03/2014 at 10:01 am #

    MET Parachute. I know it looks weird road riding in a lid with a chin guard, but all the vents mean you don’t overheat and if I’m going to faceplant I’d like the extra protection. Plus if drivers are looking at the bizarre guy riding in the full face lid it means at least they’ve seen me.

    No idea what I’ll replace it with as MET don’t make them any more and no-one seems to have filled the hole, so it’s unlikely to get the 2-3 year replacement.

    I’m a bit sketchy on that anyway. I come from a motorbiking background and we used to say 5 years or an accident and that was because of sweat soaking in to the foam and general use compressing it. Cycle helmets have nowhere near the same amount of padding as motorbike ones and I’d be surprised if it’s really making that much difference over the years. Plus, surely if you were giving a time constraint that made sense it would be based on usage not existence. 3 years might be 10,000 miles for you and 200 miles for someone else. Providing the lid is kept out of direct sunlight, why would it need replacing?

  7. Jarek 24/03/2014 at 10:36 pm #

    I cannot even count, how many times my old helmet saved my head. Reading your post just made me realize its time to get a new one as my old Specialized helmet does not owe me anything now. I am very keen to get the Propero II. Shame the promotion is over though 🙁

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