Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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Should I replace my old Bell Biker? Yes!

Summary: Although helmets can last a long time, the Bell Biker is not quite up to today's standard, and should be replaced if you can bear to part with it.

This question arises less frequently now than it did 20 years ago when we first posted this page!

Your old Bell Biker was originally fine, but it is not as good as the newer helmets on the market now and is probably starting to deteriorate. If you are still using it you have formed an attachment to it, but we would recommend that you replace it now and upgrade your protection.

Bike helmets actually last a lot longer than marketers would want you to think. This study showed with lab testing that helmets can last for decades. But the Biker shape was less than optimal, since it sticks out farther than it needs to at the corners. That was a style thing, since the best shape for a helmet is essentially round. The straps and d-rings are likely to be strong still, unless you were unlucky enough to get one of the 1977 ones shipped with the plastic d-rings. In a really hard yank the plastic fails, and one ring will pull inside the other. If you have used your Biker a lot, the straps are probably fraying by now, indicating a need to replace, and the fitting foam has long since crumbled or been replaced.

Way back in the 1980's the Snell Foundation tested a Biker for us that was about ten years old, and had yellowed from the sun. It still performed essentially like a new one at that time. Although it seems likely that the helmet would not have lost a lot of protective capacity over the years, the Biker just did not perform quite as well when new as today's helmets do. When tested by the Snell Foundation for our 1983 Bicycling Magazine article (so many years ago!) the Bell Biker placed among the best, but was somewhat less protective than a helmet built to today's CPSC standard.

Aside from the age question, we would recommend replacing a Biker with a helmet meeting the CPSC standard. There are lots of them on the market, and they cost less than you paid for your Biker. They don't have that same old look, and most of them don't have hard shells any more, but they are lighter and cooler, and they will protect you in a harder impact. Be sure to pick one that fits you well, and be prepared to spend a few minutes getting the straps adjusted correctly. You will probably also have to lock the straps with rubber bands snugged up under the lower edge of the buckles or by sewing to eliminate "strap creep" under use from loosening the straps.

There are now newer helmet models available with very nicely rounded shapes and good vents. You can check them out if you prize the round shape of your Biker and want something that does not look like a racer would be wearing it. We have those rounder models identified in our helmets for the current season page.