Why Do Motorcycle Helmets Get Sticky?

Andrew Roberts

Andrew Roberts

As a seasoned motorcyclist, I’ve ridden thousands of miles, attended countless motorcycle rallies, and have seen almost every possible quirk a rider can experience with their gear. Today, I want to address an unusual, yet surprisingly common problem we occasionally face: sticky motorcycle helmets. You might have wondered why, over time, your trusty helmet starts to develop a tacky surface. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Let’s get to the bottom of this mystery.

Tackling the Tacky Predicament: Why Do Motorcycle Helmets Get Sticky?

To understand why motorcycle helmets get sticky, we need to appreciate their intricate design and the materials used in their production. Most helmets are made of a combination of polycarbonate, fiberglass composite, and sometimes even carbon fiber for the shell. The inside is usually padded with EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam, designed to absorb impact, while the interior lining is typically a blend of materials intended to offer comfort, moisture-wicking properties, and sometimes antimicrobial features.

So, why does your helmet start to feel like an old, forgotten sticker? There are several factors at play.

1. Degradation of Outer Shell Coating

A motorcycle helmet’s outer shell is often coated with protective substances to safeguard it against the elements, scratches, and UV radiation. These coatings can include paints, clear coats, or specialized UV-protective layers. Over time, exposure to the elements – the sun, rain, heat, cold, and yes, UV radiation – can degrade this coating, leading to it breaking down and becoming sticky. This process can be accelerated if you frequently ride in harsh weather conditions, leave your helmet out in the sun, or simply due to the passage of time.

2. Sweat and Body Oil

As motorcyclists, we understand better than anyone that riding is a physically engaging activity. With physical exertion comes sweat, which can soak into the helmet lining and even reach the outer shell. Our sweat and natural body oils can slowly degrade both the internal and external materials of the helmet, contributing to a sticky residue on the surface. This is particularly likely if the helmet is not regularly cleaned or is often left in a warm environment where bacteria can thrive, causing further material breakdown.

3. Cleaning Products

As counterintuitive as it might seem, the very products used to clean and maintain a helmet could be causing stickiness. Some cleaning products, particularly those not specifically designed for helmets, can react with the helmet materials and degrade them over time. Always remember to use only manufacturer-recommended cleaning products on your helmet to avoid unintentional damage.

4. Manufacturing Defects or Low-Quality Materials

Sometimes, the issue isn’t how we’re using or caring for our helmets but an inherent flaw from the manufacturing process or the use of subpar materials. Some helmets may have been coated with a substandard protective layer that breaks down and becomes sticky over time. In these cases, it’s best to reach out to the manufacturer if the helmet is still under warranty.

Addressing the issue of a sticky helmet can range from simple maintenance practices to the replacement of the helmet itself. Regular cleaning, proper storage, and care can slow down the degradation process of helmet materials. However, remember that a helmet, sticky or not, that’s been in use for about five years, or has suffered a substantial impact, should be replaced for safety reasons.

In conclusion, it’s essential to remember that our helmets aren’t just gear; they’re an investment in our safety. We should treat them as such, providing the care they need to keep us protected on every ride. A sticky helmet isn’t just a nuisance—it’s potentially a signal that your helmet is degrading and might not provide the safety you need. As always, ride safe, and take care of your gear, and it will take care of you.


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