There’s a handful of motorcycle myths out there. One is that dropping your helmet ruins it.
This seems to be a ridiculous assumption, since manufacturers make helmets to take a hit, but is there truth to this rumor?
I’ll explain all about dropping your helmet in this article.
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Does Dropping a Motorcycle Helmet Ruin It?
Dropping a helmet from a short height causes minor damage to your helmet. Major drops or an accident can damage the EPS liner of your helmet. Damage to the EPS liner, which absorbs the energy, can compromise the safety ability of your helmet.
What Exactly Happens When You Drop a Motorcycle Helmet?
To understand what happens when you drop your helmet, we first need to understand how a helmet works.
How Helmets Work
Three layers make up your motorcycle helmet; the comfort liner, the EPS liner, and the shell. Each of these components are made of different materials, and they can even have unique densities, but every helmet has these three key pieces.
The most important part of the helmet is the EPS, or expanded polystyrene. This is the layer that looks like styrofoam. But don’t worry, this stuff is not the same material used to make your cooler. It’s much cooler.
EPS is actually an energy absorbing material. The EPS liner of your helmet is made of tiny polystyrene beads that are expanded then compressed into the shape of your helmet.
When the EPS endures impact, it absorbs and distributes the energy from the impact. Think of the energy absorption as a rock that falls into still water and creates a ripple.
If you’re wearing your helmet during an accident, the EPS liner takes an extensive amount of the impact before the energy reaches your head.
What Happens When You Drop Your Helmet?
Now that we have a better understanding of how a helmet works, we can discuss what happens when you drop it.
Every time you drop your helmet, areas of the EPS liner collapse. The harder a helmet falls, or the more times you drop it, more beads collapse. Once the beads collapse, they cannot expand again and cannot absorb shock.
This means that if you’ve been letting your helmet fall, you may have unknowingly spent the EPS liner and rendered it useless in an accident.
What Could Break From a Drop to the Ground?
Dropping your helmet not only compromises the integrity of the EPS liner, but you could also break pieces on the outside of your helmet. The visor or components of the visor could break as well as vent pieces and scoops.
These pieces contribute more to comfort than to safety. Broken visor components can cause whistle sounds. Broken visor pieces can reduce the amount of airflow coming into your helmet as well.
Please also read our article about the differences between men vs. women’s helmets.
How Can I Check If a Motorcycle Helmet Is Fully Intact?
There is no trick or easy way of telling if a helmet is fully intact. The only way to tell if your helmet is still safe without tearing it apart is to put it through an MRI machine.
MRI machines can “see through” the helmet shell and show any damage done to the EPS liner.
However, most people do not have easy access to this multi-million dollar machine and the cost your doctor would charge you to borrow theirs would be the same, if not more, than purchasing a new helmet.
Since there isn’t an easy way of telling if a helmet is fully intact, it’s best not to buy second hand helmets. Even if the helmet looks pristine, you literally have no way of knowing if the seller dropped or crashed in the helmet.
How Often Should You Change Your Motorcycle Helmet?
You should change your helmet every 3-5 years or after a major accident, whichever comes first.
Like anything else, helmets have expiration dates. The shell and EPS liner of helmets weren’t designed to last forever and begin to break down over time.
As we’ve been discussing, when the EPS becomes compromised, the entire helmet becomes ineffective. This is why helmet manufacturers recommend replacing it every five years. Even helmets that have never been worn should not be used if they’re over seven years old.
Make sure to also read our article about whether you can use motorcycle helmets for mountain biking.
4 Tips to Make Your Helmet Last Longer
There are other factors that contribute to helmets breaking down. Oils from our head, sweat, the sun and debris can also expedite the breakdown of helmets.
If you want to prolong the life of your helmet and keep it in the best shape, try some of these tips:
1. Wash Your Helmet
The best way to keep your helmet looking and feeling fresh is to wash it inside and out.
A soft towel and warm water goes a long way in removing bugs and dirt from the outside of your helmet. If you’ve got some stubborn spots on your helmet, try using a drop or two of dish soap.
Avoid using harsh chemicals on your helmet, as these substances can leak under the shell of your helmet and deteriorate that precious EPS liner.
Most manufacturers now make the comfort liner removable, allowing for easy cleaning. Just pull out the interior cushions of your helmet and hand wash in the sink with your dishes. Lay the pieces out in an open space so that they can dry thoroughly.
2. Wear a Helmet Liner or Bandana
Some riders opt to wear liners or bandanas under their helmet to help keep it fresher longer. This also helps keep your oil and sweat from seeping into the helmet.
If you also choose this option, make sure the liner does not reduce the fit of your helmet.
3. Store Your Helmet in a Dry, Cool Place
The worst place to store your helmet is outside with your bike. Not only is it more susceptible to theft, but the UV rays from the sun and dirt will quickly fade the exterior and break down the materials.
If you can, store your helmet in a closet or on a shelf in the garage. Storing your gear in a cool, dry place will prevent premature breakdown.
4. Don’t Drop It!
In case you scrolled straight to the bottom of this article, don’t drop your helmet. Dropping your helmet damages the EPS liner, which is the part of the helmet that keeps your brain from scrambling in an accident.
Also read our article about reasons motorcycle dies when put in gear.
Accidents are unpredictable and we can’t determine if, when, or how we’ll crash. We can, however, prepare for a fall to decrease the risk of injury.
Part of that preparation is making sure our gear is in working condition. If you take care of your gear, it will take care of you.