Smith Optics, long known for their snow goggles, ski helmets, and superb eyewear, finally delved into the bike helmet world this spring with the much-hyped Forefront, a mountain bike helmet geared towards Enduro racers and all-mountain enthusiasts.
So what’s all the type about? The funky material. Traditional bike helmets are made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam. It’s designed to be crushed on hard impact – the crushing process is what saves your noggin, as it slows the acceleration of your head into the ground, tree, or rock. There are variables within EPS construction with regards to different densities, layering, additives, etc, but the basics are the same for most.
Fortunately, like all good innovators, Smith pays no attention to the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They combined traditional EPS foam with their own construction, which they dubbed Aerocore, featuring Koroyd material. If you peek inside the vents of a Forefront or look at it from the inside, the liner looks like a slice of honeycomb. Smith claims that this design results in a 30% improvement to lowering the impact to your head. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I didn’t get to test this out on my test ride, so I’ll take their word for it.
Two advantages that you can tangibly see off the bat are that the Forefront is lighter and more ventilated than other Enduro-style helmets. Koroyd looks like hundreds of straws stacked together, so it’s no surprise that this helmet lets air flow through it like a champ. EPS is solid, so traditional helmets made solely of this material require larger vents and more of them to get decent airflow.
The numbers don’t lie – the Forefront is the lightest Enduro helmet on the market. Weighing in at 285 grams, it’s almost on par with the lightest road helmets. For comparison, the Bell Gage and Giro Aeon tip the scale at 240 grams and 222 grams, respectively. These are worn by weight-conscious road racers, mind you. At the other end of the spectrum, comparable Enduro helmets such as the POC Trabec Race and Bell Super rack up 340 grams and 390 grams, respectively.
Perhaps due to their snow background, Smith designed goggle compatibility perfectly with this bike helmet. My Smith goggles fit seamlessly when in the descend (a.k.a. rally) position, and flipped up nicely above the visor. Sunglasses fit comfortably with the helmet, and perched nicely on a vent slot in the back when you wanted them out of the way.
Because of the funky vent pattern on the Forefront, mounting a light or GoPro looked to be an issue, until Smith worked with both GoPro and Light & Motion to develop mounts. The new system is seamless – the plastic mount clips directly to the helmet, and my Light & Motion Seca 800 slid on and stayed in place. The word on the street is that Smith is also working with other bike light companies to develop compatible mounts.
The visor was my only gripe with this helmet. It left me wanting more, because it’s a tad short of my ideal visor. Tricky evening light in the trees called for more coverage to cut into the glare.
I’ve got a bobble head (round, larger circumference), so I usually wear a larger helmet than expected. I own a size medium Smith Valence ski helmet which fits like a glove, so I tried a medium Forefront. Perfect. I imagine most women will go with a size small, while guys will find the medium or large a better fit.
Smith’s three-point retention system is cinched down by a dial in the back. Simple, but it works exceptionally well – no extraneous movement at any point during my ride. The padding looks minimal, and sure, it’s no cozy beanie on your head, but it feels great. Because the helmet is so light, you don’t need much padding.
Coverage-wise, the Forefront extends much further in the back than a road helmet, but not quite as far as helmets such as the Bell Super or Troy Lee Designs. It was certainly enough to give me peace of mind, though, again, I didn’t try to back flop into a rock garden to test this out.
Was I impressed? Yes. I’d definitely wear this helmet anytime on the trails. Light, vented, and with a perfect fit, the Forefront doesn’t compromise on anything, although, like I mentioned above, I’d prefer a longer visor. If I’d gotten my hands on the Dr. Bob model (the red, white, and blue), I probably would have tried to smuggle it away for a few more rides.
Even though the Smith Forefront Helmet isn’t available for purchase online until June 1st, 2014, we already have a number of these lightweight beauties in stock at our Park Avenue location. So head into Jans to see, feel, try on and even purchase the Smith Forefront. And if you’re not coming to Park City anytime soon, click here after June 1st when you’ll be able to buy your very own online.
By Evelyn Dong, content writer
Technical Features: 4.2/5 – Sunglass and goggle compatibility was spot on, ventilation left nothing to be asked for, and light and POV camera mounts were secure and well-designed, but a larger visor would be more functional.
The Fit: 4.5/5 – The easily adjustable three-point retention system cinched down snugly on my head, and could easily adapt to any head shape, while the medium felt true to size.