Some things just go together. Like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, salt and pepper, and even Batman and Robin. The Smith Optics Forefront bike helmet and Pivlock Arena Max sunglasses are another example of a dynamic duo. On their own each is an important part of your summer bike kit, but when you put the two together you can really see and feel the difference. I recently tested the Forefront helmet with Smith’s Arena Max sunglasses while riding one of Salt Lake’s legendary mountain bike trails. Read on to see my first-hand impressions.
The Shoreline Trail
Even though the Salt Lake valley is technically a desert, it was once part of an ancient lake called Lake Bonneville. Today you can ride your bike along what once were the shores of Lake Bonneville, all the way from the Idaho border down to Nephi, a distance of about 280 miles. It’s called the Shoreline Trail, and is a great place to ride in mud season before the higher-elevation trails have dried out.
Fortunately you don’t have to ride this epic trail all at once. One of my favorite parts is the section from the University of Utah down to the state capital. A few steep climbs break up otherwise endless stretches of cross-mountain rips, and the views are simply amazing. Look one way and you’ll see the Great Salt Lake and downtown, look the other way and soak in the snow-peaked mountains of the Wasatch front.
How to See Better
When I tested the Smith Forefront helmet and Pivlock Arena Max sunglasses, I rode this section of the Shoreline Trail with a co-worker from jans.com. Since we were coming from work, we weren’t able to get to the trailhead until just before 7pm, so I knew the light was going to be challenging. Thankfully, just like your favorite pair of Smith ski goggles, the Arena sunglasses feature easy-to-change lenses so that you can be prepared in varied light conditions.
As we unhitched the bikes, checked tire pressure and went through our pre-ride mental checklists, I kept looking at the sun to see which lenses to wear. Knowing that the Shoreline Trail winds into little finger canyons that get dark earlier than the rest of the valley, I decided it would be best to pack my spare lenses, just in case I needed to swap them out on while on the go.
How to Keep Your Cool
Climbing up the trail weaving around and over rocks was easier than ever in the variable light conditions thanks to Smith’s ChromaPop lenses. The additional contrast between light and dark was helpful, and I was able to pick smooth lines that required a minimal grunt factor. Meanwhile, the plethora of vents in the Forefront helmet and the integrated AirEvac vent system of both the shades and helmet meant that my head stayed nice and cool and my glasses never fogged up, even as I huffed and puffed the final push to the top. Hey, it’s still early in the season and I’m not fully in bike shape, so cut me some slack.
When you first look at the Forefront helmet, it kind of resembles a space helmet, but in a good way. Gone are the traditional buckets of dense foam that used to protect our noggins, thanks to the new space-age Aerocore technology. Not only does Aerocore make the Forefront look cooler than the helmets of yesteryear, but it also keeps your head cooler, thanks to the cylindrical construction that allows hot air to escape.
Stopping at the top for a quick sip of water and a look around, I easily popped the Arena glasses on top of the Forefront since the vents on the helmet are designed to securely hold your sunglasses when you aren’t wearing them. Cruising along the trail and bouncing over the countless rocks was not a problem either thanks to the compatible fit of both the helmet and the glasses. The lightweight design and superior ventilation might make you forget that you’re even wearing a helmet.
As we neared the end of the ride, the shadows were getting longer as the sun was approaching the horizon, so we stopped again and I swapped to the low-light lens. It took maybe a minute to switch lenses before I could start pedaling again. Being able to see is a wonderful thing and really gives you the edge over your friends who only brought along a single tint lens.
Before we knew it we were back at the car and loading up just as the streetlights started to turn on. New gear is always a plus and it was easy to see why the Arena sunglasses and Forefront helmet were designed to be worn together, including everything from the vents to the gripper arms. And even though the large, one-piece lenses and futuristic helmet might make you look and feel like Robocop, they can make even a short post-work ride as fun as a full-day epic ride.
Scott Eliot, Production Coordinator, jans.com