Should I Replace My Bell Biker? Yes!
An email message from BHSI in April, 2005 responded to that question
Your old Bell Biker was originally fine, but it is not as good as the newer helmets on the market now, and it is starting to deteriorate. If you are still using it you probably have formed an attachment to it, but I would recommend that you replace it now and upgrade your protection.
The Biker shape was a little 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 fine still, unless you were unlucky enough to get one of the 1977 ones shipped with the plastic d-rings. In that case I would recommend that you buy a new helmet and pitch the Bell Biker immediately. In a really hard yank the plastic fails, and one ring will pull inside the other. Bell was replacing them on request for a while, and I think they should have done a recall, but that was in the days before the Feds got involved, and we had no reports of injuries when a plastic d-ring failed. 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 (it can be 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. Bear in mind that 20 additional years have passed, and Bikers are likely to have gone downhill in the interim! We have not tested one that was any older than that, and Snell doesn't test for us any more, so you are on your own as to whether or not the EPS foam and Lexan shell have hardened or become brittle with age. I would guess that the EPS foam has not changed much if at all. But the Lexan has probably aged more, and probably is becoming more brittle. 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 somewhat less protective than a helmet built to today's CPSC standard. Aside from the age question, I would recommend replacing it with a helmet meeting that standard. There are lots of them on the market, and they start as low as $7.14 in discount stores--less than you paid for your Biker! They don't have that same old look, and they don't have hard shells any more, but they are a lot lighter and they will protect you in a harder impact. Many of them are also cooler. 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 Lance Armstrong would be wearing it in a race. We have those rounder models identified in our helmets for the current season page. You will also find that the less expensive discount store models are often rounder and smoother than those you see in bike shops.
Hope this helps. I will post this on our page and revise it from time to time.
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
This page was last revised on: April 26, 2007.