Ethics and decommissioning old motorcycle helmets

'Retiring' elderly motorcycle helmets so they can't be re-used by the uninformed

How to ‘retire’ old motorcycle helmets so they can’t be re-used by the uninformed

How do you ‘retire’ old motorcycle helmets?

This dilemma has been haunting me for some time.  I’ve been on a household declutter minor rampage for a few days.  In my collection of precious ‘stuff’ has been every single motorcycle helmet I’ve worn or acquired for my kids since I started motorcycling umpteen years ago.

That helmet collection has included a British trials helmet and a number of fullface helmets, including 2 Shoeis, 1 Simpson, and 1 Uvex.

Each one has been sitting on a basement closet shelf for well beyond the 4-5 year usable lifespan that most helmet manufacturers specify as the maximum time recommended for the safe use of the helmet.

Some motorcyclists sneer at this recommended timespan, thinking that this seemingly short period is merely a scare tactic to compel riders to upgrade to new helmets sooner than needed.  But discussing this ‘evergreen’ policy of decommissioning safety helmets after five years’ use with a former Fire Chief friend, he confirmed that firefighters’ helmets are similarly taken out of service after five years.

At a motorcycle rally last year, I heard Steve Dick (former Canadian Superbike motorcycle racer and now Arai representative in Canada) explain that sweat causes the material used in helmets, particularly the Styrofoam liner, to chemically degrade, and that’s why helmet replacement is recommended after a specified number of years.

The moral dilemma is how to throw out what appears to be a good helmet?  From appearance, the helmets look to still be usable when they are not.  I bit the bullet and decided to neatly drill a large hole in the rear of each helmet, making it obvious it had been physically compromised and not usable.

If somebody picks the helmet out of the garbage and wants to use it for display purposes, they are more than welcome to it.  But my conscious is clear.

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