PinkBike give us the lowdown on the new helmet……
Smith Forefront Helmet
When Smith’s Forefront helmet was first announced, it wasn’t the company’s use of a new material for better impact protection, or the remarkably light claimed weight that lit up the comments section – it was how it looked. The design and overall shape of the helmet turned out to be incredibly polarizing, a love-it or hate-it style with no apparent middle ground. However, out in the real world the helmet doesn’t look nearly as outlandish as the original press release images made it seem, and fits right in with the current crop of extended coverage helmets intended for all-mountain usage. Plus, there’s a good chance that it comes in your favorite color, since there are 10 different options to choose from.
• Polycarbonate shell, EPS and Koroyd liner
• CPSC certified
• Weight: 332 grams (actual, M)
• Integrated camera / light mount area
• Ten colors, sizes S, M, L
• Available March 2014
• MSRP: $220
Construction and Features
The Forefront uses what Smith calls Aerocore construction to provide its impact protection. A plastic shell and inner
EPS layer forms the helmet’s exoskeleton, and three sections of Koroyd (the bright green material in the photos) are situated underneath this shell, directly above the rider’s head. Koroyd is made using thousands of co-polymer tubes that are thermally welded together, forming a honeycomb like structure claimed to offer up to 30% more impact absorption than EPS. The material’s straw-like hollow tubes are also claimed to allow for much greater breathability than EPS or foam.
Smith’s Vaporfit retention system uses a ratcheting dial at the back of the helmet to adjust the helmet’s fit around the head, and the positioning of the strap can be further customized by choosing from three different height options at the back of the helmet and four options on each side. A low profile, removable liner uses X-static fabric to help ward off bacteria and the general helmet-funk that can be caused by hours of sweat buildup. There are three positions for the Forefront’s compact, removable visor, and it can be adjusted without fiddling around with tiny screws that inevitably get dropped onto the forest floor. Hidden under a plastic cap at the top of the helmet is a small threaded insert that can accept a helmet camera or a light mount, which Smith will be selling as an aftermarket accessory for $14.99.
Fit / On Trail Performance
The multiple adjustments on the Forefront make it easy to dial in the perfect fit after a few minutes of tinkering, and the rear retention strap dial has a nice solid, positive click at each position. Despite the minimal amount of padding, the Forefront was quite comfortable, and although it doesn’t reach the pillow-like level of cushioning found in Troy Lee’s A1 helmet, it faded into the background nicely, becoming barely noticeable over the course of a ride. As would be expected from a helmet made by a company that has the word ‘Optics’ in their name, the Forefront worked well with both sunglasses and goggles, providing enough room over the brow and around the ears to prevent any interference. Regarding ventilation, we never felt overheated on any of our rides, although the bulk of our testing did take place during the more mild fall and winter months. Still, we did take the helmet on numerous warm rides in the Arizona desert, and Forefront proved to be up to the task. The helmet doesn’t feel quite as airy as the large external vents would suggest, since the inner Koroyd layer dissipates the wind a bit, but the ventilation and breathability are still excellent – the open structure of the Koroyd gives the heat rising from a rider’s head plenty of channels for escape.
One minor issue we ran into was related to the rear retention system. If the retention strap is set into the highest position, the dial becomes a little more challenging to use with one hand because the upper portion sits within a few millimeters of the helmet shell. This is only an issue in this one setting, and we’d imagine most riders will end up using the middle or lower strap position.
|Smith has made quite the entrance into the world of cycling helmets, taking a route that’s a little riskier than just slapping a visor and coat of baby blue paint onto a traditional EPS helmet and calling it ‘enduro-specific.’ The unique styling and the use of Koroyd sets the Forefront apart from the competition, but the new technology comes at a price, and the $220 price tag makes this one of the more expensive half-shell mountain bike helmets around. At 332 grams the actual weight of our helmet wasn’t as ultra-light as we’d expected either, making it a little harder to justify the cost. That being said, the Forefront does bring new technology and the full gamut of today’s must-have features (extra coverage, goggle compatibility, a light and camera mount) to the table, which certainly makes it worth considering in you’re in the market for a new lid. – Mike Kazimer|