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Helmet - 5 Years (Or So)
Yeah, this might sound like a marketing sham to get you to spend money on one of the most expensive pieces of equipment of your collection on a regular basis. While I’m not saying that there’s some truth behind the theory, there are also facts to back it up.
How often do you sweat in your helmet? Do you wear makeup or hair products or both? Have you exposed your lid to the sun, to rain, and to dust? These are all factors and elements that contribute to the deterioration of a helmet over time. The materials used in the manufacturing process of helmets are not time and weatherproof. Every ride takes a small toll on them.
Over time, the glue evaporates, the lining loses its efficiency, and the EPS foam inside the shell becomes more brittle and loses its ability to absorb impacts. Even if you wash the pads and lining diligently and wear a beanie to protect the inside of your helmet from the oil and sweat on your skin, you’re helping extend the helmet’s life, but not make it eternal. Like we ultimately die of old age, so does a helmet. Companies and Snell state that 5 years of use is the average lifespan of a helmet.
Of course, if you’ve taken a tumble with your helmet on, chances are its integrity has already been compromised. As Ryan F9 succinctly puts it, the whole “helmet having to be automatically replaced if you drop it” myth isn’t true. If an empty helmet topples and falls, you’ll scratch the shell, die a little on the inside, but the protective EPS foam isn’t damaged. The problem is when there’s weight inside the helmet (including your head)—that’s when the EPS gets dented and loses its shock absorption properties.
Of course, 5 years is objective—if you take good care of your helmet and use it only once in a while, you might be able to keep it for a few additional years. As FortNine says, we’re looking at “5 years of active usage”.
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How To Check If Your Helmet Is Good To Go Another Season?
Give your helmet a look over every so often. Look at the lining and pads, make sure they’re in good shape. Lift the lining and look at the EPS—the surface has to be smooth and even. If it’s becoming porous or if there are noticeable dents, you might want to consider changing lids. Same goes if the outer shell is badly dented and/or cracked.
When you wear the helmet, if it wiggles freely when you move and doesn’t follow the motions of your head, that’s also a sign it’s time to go helmet shopping.
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Jacket And Pants - 7 Years (Or So)
It’s easy to believe that jackets are immortal. Stories of people having the same jacket for a decade or two aren’t rare. We get it, all the fancy chemicals in a helmet can go bad, but there’s nothing that goes bad in a jacket, right?
Wrong! Well, sort of. It isn’t so much that things “go bad”—a jacket doesn’t use EPS with glue and linings. What does happen, however, is that usage wears some of the components down. Unlike with helmets, there is no “industry standard” when it comes to estimating the lifespan of jackets and pants—so it’s all about the state of affairs.
With time, the foam of the armor can crease and become thinner which obviously reduces its efficiency. Velcro, snaps, and zippers can also break or tear. Unlike the pads, they don’t actively protect you from an impact but they ensure a good fit and keep the protectors in place.
Depending on the materials used in the armor (foam, silicone, plastic, viscoelastic pad, etc.), each has a different lifespan. For instance, the hard plastic and silicone shells can last a very long time provided you don’t crash with them. As Ryan F9 explains, viscoelastic armor has an expiry date and manufacturers guarantee optimal protection for a limited number of years as the molecules eventually start disintegrating—something you should look into if your jacket uses that technology.
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How To Check If Your Jacket And Pants Are Good To Go Another Season?
Have a look at the armor inside your jacket. Is the foam creasing? Is the hard plastic shell damaged? Have you had your jacket with viscoelastic protectors for longer than the suggested time? Is the velcro worn out? Is your waterproof jacket letting water in? If you answer yes to any or all of these questions, chances are it’s probably time for a change.
Ryan F9 also points to the reflective components of your jacket as an indicator. If they become dull and lose their capacity to reflect light and make you visible, you should change jacket.
The good news is that in some cases, if the fabric and the fasteners on your jacket are still in tip-top shape, you might be able to buy new pieces of armor instead of replacing the entire jacket. If the jacket is damaged, scratched or if the seams are coming undone, then you might want to consider doing a little switch-a-roo.
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Gloves - 12,000 Miles (Or So)
Gloves are probably the piece of equipment that live the toughest life. Our hands are constantly engaged while riding, which means that gloves face more wear and tear than a helmet or a pair of pants do. As you grip the handlebar and activate the levers, this puts your gloves through a decent amount of wear.
With time and usage, the materials (leather, cordura, etc.) tend to gradually become thinner, especially on the palm of the hand. The double stitching and the padding slowly wear down and lose their protective thickness and integrity. The stitching can even come undone—it's happened to me! The thinner the material, the less protection it offers in case of a slip and slide.
If you get very little use out of your gloves or have a number of pairs you swap depending on the weather or on your mood, then obviously, a pair will go a long way. According to Ryan F9, you will get roughly 12,000 miles of usage out of a good pair of gloves. There’s no ticking clock for gloves as they usually don’t contain materials that degrade while the gloves are sitting in a drawer.
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Boots - To Infinity And Beyond
Good news, everyone! Unless you’ve actually crashed with your boots and damaged them, they can last you a really long time. A bit like gloves, riding boots normally don’t use perishable materials. Most protectors are made of metal and hard plastics which don’t tend to deteriorate on their own.
If you care for your boots well, they will last you a lifetime—or for as long as a new model won’t tickle your fancy.
Materials and technologies evolve so treating yourself to a new pair of boots every decade or so isn’t a luxury, but definitely isn’t a necessity. Plus, unlike jackets, your boots will still fit after having two kids or after turning 40.