Smith Forefront II Helmet Review
Some time ago I tested the Smith Rover cycling helmet and it's still in regular use (please check out that review here). It has proved to be a top quality, comfortable and very protective lid offered at a good price. At the time there was another Smith helmet that I was also keen to review but it was out of stock. Their Forefront II is the more fully featured big brother to the Rover and has many innovative features. It has been on my list every since. Fortunately, Smith recently contacted me to see if I was up for reviewing one and I jumped at the chance. Here are my findings....
Smith describe the Forefront II as a ‘full coverage helmet designed for all mountain riders who demand superior protection, ventilation and eyewear integration’. Let’s look at the incorporated features for each of these aspects in turn.
In terms of protection, Smith have sought to offer the maximum benefits available. The Aerocore shell is modelled to fit low over the back and sides of the head. There is the widely respected MIPS (Multiple Impact Protection System) system available in all colours although a non MIPS version is also available. The cradle design utilises Smith’s VaporFit adjustment system. The other big part of the protection system is the use of Smith’s Koroyd impact absorption material which Smith have wrapped all around the shell for full coverage.
In terms of ventilation, Smith have utilised 20 vents to maximise air flow and their AirEvac system is designed to force air through which helps to keep eyewear from fogging. The honeycomb structure of the Koroyd material is also designed to aid air flow.
Smith began life as an eyewear manufacturer and so it is little surprise that eyewear integration is a big consideration. For mountain bikers the use of both (or either) goggles or sunglasses may be the order of the day and both are considered. The front visor can be flipped well out of the way via 3 position adjustment to allow goggles to sit comfortably when not in use and side channels allow glasses to be stored securely.
So, apart from protection, ventilation and eyewear integration being ticked, what else? Smith have incorporated an attachment point into the top of the helmet for securing lights or GoPros (a separate attachment accessory will be needed) and they have used their lightweight single layer webbing for the chin strap. The lining is made from their XT2 anti bacterial material.
The helmet is available in a selection of colours and sizes and weighs 380 grams for a MIPS size medium and 36O grams for a non MIPS medium. Price is £180 for MIPS and £160 for non MIPS.
The Forefront is very much designed as an all mountain mountain biking helmet and will therefore suit a broad range of users. It will work just as well for trail centre riding, enduro and general cross country use. There are helmets focussed on specific disciplines and you may want to specialise, but for a one lid fits most situations type helmet, you’d be hard pushed to find a more accommodating multi discipline option.
If weight is a serious factor you may also want to choose something lighter, but I think 380 grams is actually a very reasonable weight considering the features and level of protection offered. You may actually choose to lighten the load (and pay about £20 less) by choosing the non MIPS version (I’ll discuss in more detail what MIPS is below), but I think this is well worth the slight extra cost and small 20 gram weight penalty.
As with all helmets, it is best to try before buying as every head is slightly different and you may/not find the fit to suit you. Having said that, I have found the fit to be perfect for me. It stays put, is well padded and, despite the full coverage design, feels light on the head. This is helped by Smith’s excellent XT2 lining material which I find to be both very comfortable and it also wicks effectively.
The VaporFit cradle also works a treat. Some helmets can be inclined to bob about on the head (particularly on rough ground) but with the Forefront II, on my head at least, there is none of that. The VaporFit system is very quick and simple to adjust (even with gloves on). Finally, but importantly, unlike some adjustment systems this system stays adjusted where you want it - set it and it won’t creep undone.
In some impacts a helmet striking the ground will create a rotational motion which may transfer force to the brain. The Multi Impact Protection System (MIPS) is designed to help mitigate these rotational forces. The company describe it as a Brain Protection System (BPS) and it works by having a cradle inside the helmet that can twist independently of the shell to offer 10-15mm of rotational compensation in all directions. It has been subjected to over 20,000 test cycles and is the choice of many respected helmet manufacturers. I would always advise people to purchase helmets with this system if they can - why not give yourself that added safety benefit. The Forefront II is available both in a MIPS and none MIPS version and the difference with MIPS added is £20 and 20gms - but that £20 investment might make a big difference in an impact.
The Forefront II also benefits from Koroyd. This is clever. To look at, Koroyd looks like a green honeycomb sheet which sits between the helmet liner and the open structure of the shell. It is constructed from thousands of co-polymer extruded and thermally welded tubes which are designed to crush uniformly on impact. Koroyd, says Smith, converts and absorbs more kinetic energy than traditional protection materials. I can’t say I’ve tested that claim with my own helmet, but their is plenty of test data to back up the claim.
Having the honeycomb structure also allows good venting performance - the hollow tubes will allow the passage of air. I will say that there are some limitations to that. For the tube orientated to the wind there is an excellent flow of air, but less so on other parts of the helmet. I will happily put up with this to enjoy the impact protection benefits Koroyd offers, but it is worth mentioning. It is actually a really clever innovation.
Beyond all that, there are plenty of other clever additions to the Forefront II. The front visor pivots to three positions allowing it to either be quickly adjusted as you ride or to allow space for goggles or sunglasses to be stored. For sunglasses, Smith have incorporated channels along each side so glasses can be easily pushed in. This works especially well with Smith glasses but actually works well with various other brands too. It is a really good facility especially when riding in those variable sunny then quickly becoming more cloudy conditions we get a lot of in the U.K.
On top of the Forefront II there is an attachment point that can be used for action cameras or lights. I have only just ordered the attachment for this (available only as an optional extra costing about £12) but I love having the facility to fasten items like this securely. I have read some comments on various sites about how these work and it seems the feeling is that they hold things securely and are simple to attach. That’s good enough for me!
So, after all that, just a couple of other things to mention. The Forefront II is available in various colours. I received one in black with the Koroyd in green. I really like the look of this helmet. It is beefy and offers full coverage, but still manages to look really aesthetically pleasing and doesn’t feel at all cumbersome on the head. I also really like the striking contrast between the black and green Koroyd colour ways. Lastly, the Forefront II comes with a neat storage bag.
It looks great, fits well (but check this for your own head, has intelligent features to make your rides more efficient and the Forefront II has efficient ventilation designed in. It also has several elements which add up to a superb level of protection. This is a really great helmet with every single feature you could wish for. It is at the pricier end of the market for an all mountain lid, but given the features and quality construction I actually think it is very good value. A sure fire winner for Smith and I’ve loved testing it.
Posted by Paul