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5 ways to make sure your bike helmet protects you

Treating it right will keep it in good condition

Published: May 08, 2015 06:00 AM

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For something that protects you so solidly, a bike helmet needs to be treated with a surprising amount of TLC. Although the thin outer shell keeps the liner (which absorbs the impact) from being subjected to normal wear and tear, a helmet can still get minor dents or other damage if it's not handled carefully. To help make sure your bike helmet safeguards your head and brain the way it should, keep the following tips in mind:

1. Use only mild, soapy water to clean your helmet

Harsh cleaning products can damage the shell or the liner. Soap and water should be enough to remove any dirt from the shell, or to clean the straps, pads, and liners if they get a little funky.

2. Store it properly

Don't store a bike helmet in a place where it's likely to get knocked around or fall to the floor. Even damage that isn't visible can affect the ability of the liner to do its job.

Follow our advice for finding the best bike helmet for you and fitting your helmet properly.

3. Keep your bike helmet cool

Heat is a helmet's enemy. Many manufacturers warn against exposing helmets to temps above 150° F. The interior or trunk of a car can easily exceed that on a hot summer day.

4. Replace your helmet every 5 to 10 years

Replace it sooner if it is gouged or cracked or has been involved in an accident, even if you can’t see any damage. A bike helmet isn't designed to absorb multiple impacts, so yours will only protect you once.

5. Think twice about buying a used bike helmet

As tempting as it may be to save some cash by buying a helmet at a yard sale or taking hand-me-downs for your kids from friends, you don't know how the helmet has been handled. Even if it looks fine, it may be damaged. A new bike helmet doesn't have to cost a lot of money. In our tests, we found ones that performed well for as little at $12.

—Sue Byrne

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the June 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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