Road safety expert and principal of several Harley-Davidson dealerships weighs in
April is National ‘Check Your Helmet’ Month. The average life cycle of a helmet is 3 to 5 years. However, many riders neglect helmet maintenance or falsely assume that if it ‘looks okay,’ then there is no reason to worry.
“The number of motorcycle crash fatalities has more than doubled since 1997,” says Ozzie Giglio, Principal of Windy City Motorcycle Company and avid Harley-Davidson rider. “We know that helmets save lives and reduce health care costs. In fact, according to Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety, motorcycle helmets are currently preventing $17 billion in societal harm annually…but $8 billion in harm could be prevented if all motorcyclists wore helmets.”
That is why April is a crucial reminder for motorcyclists to stay abreast of their helmet’s condition.
“It’s not just enough to wear a helmet,” says Giglio. “You have to make sure that is functional, well-fitting and able to do its job properly. Additionally, it’s important to be sure that riders properly maintain their helmets, otherwise, they could greatly diminish its lifespan and performance ability.”
Spring is the ideal time for this reminder, as Giglio says that many riders make unsafe choices about their helmets during the weather. “Many people leave their helmets in their garage, but if you live in a place like the Midwest that has fluctuating climates, that can be terrible for your helmet. We can swing from 100 degrees in summer to -20 in the winter, and helmets integrity gets questioned as it swells and shrinks in the Midwest weather pattern.
It is strongly recommended to always keep your helmet indoors (where the temperature stays more constant) and if you’ve mistakenly left yours in the garage instead of wondering if it’ll work if/when you might need it to, its best to get a new one.”
Here are some of Giglio’s other tips for how to check your helmet’s functionality and perform maintenance. Please contact me more of his invaluable tips.
- Make sure that your helmet is not older than 5 years. “Check the ‘date of birth’ inside your helmet’s EPS liner,” says Giglio. “If it’s older than 5 years, it’s in need of replacement.”
- Consider the state of your liner. “Speaking of your liner,” says Giglio, “Make sure that you are cleaning it appropriately. Follow the instructions for care and make sure to wash it after long rides. Sweat, rain and the elements can make your liner warp or lose its shape, which in turn will impact the fit of your helmet.”
- Look at your EPS. “Check out the EPS foam on the top of your inner helmet. This foam is basically plastic beads with air bubbles, packed together very tightly. Even an ‘insignificant’ hit can cause some of these beads to pop, which will then impact the all-over safety of your helmet,” says Giglio. “So check out the EPS regularly. How is it holding up? Does it show wear or tear? Is it cracking, ripping or does it otherwise appear compromised? If so, it’s time for a new helmet.”
- Talk to a true professional. “At our locations, we take our time and truly pay attention to your specific needs,” says Giglio, who owns and operates 13 Harley-Davidson dealerships in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin (including 10 dealerships and 3 retail centers). “We won’t just measure you, we want to know the type of riding you do, as well as the way you plan to care for your helmet. The simplest thing like hanging your helmet from a hook can impact the quality of your lining, so at Windy City Motorcycle Company, we pride ourselves on not just sizing the customer, but educating them and empowering them to make safer choices. We can also work with you if you have neck pain, shoulder injuries, or other physical ailments that might impact the fit and feel of a helmet.”
- Consider your hair products. “This sounds strange, but if you use a lot of hair product, over time the grease and oils can impact your inner lining. Again, washing it will help with this issue, but overall, just keep in mind that someone with longer hair or someone who uses lots of hair gel might need to replace their helmet more regularly. Your lifestyle will impact your helmet.”
- Realize that technology improves every day. “Sometimes riders complain that buying a new helmet every few years is an annoyance,” says Giglio, “Yet most people don’t think twice about upgrading their phones or buying a new laptop. Not only is buying a new helmet a life-saving necessity, but the technology surrounding helmet construction is improving every year. Hence, the new helmets on the market offer much better protection and comfort than what was offered even just a few years ago.”
About The Windy City Motorcycle Company:
The Windy City Motorcycle Company was founded in 2001 by Ozzie and Jill Giglio. The pair began with Wild Fire Harley-Davidson in Villa Park, Illinois and just 14 employees. To date, they now have 10 dealerships in Illinois and in Wisconsin and they employ over 400 people. WCMC teaches over 1000 students to ride per year, delivers more than 3000 bikes around the country, and is one of the nation’s largest OEM motorcycle retailers. The Windy City Motorcycle Company is devoted to community service and philanthropy, and WCMC riders have raised substantial donations for charities such as Autism, Lymphoma, and LymeAid. The humanitarian work of WCMC and its riders is felt on a global scale as they contribute greatly to Operation Support Our Troops. WCMC employs veterans from all military services, a number of whom are combat veterans of the Middle East.