Following on the heels of their Approach cycling sunglasses, Smith Optics also sent over their new Forefront helmet for review. Although Smith has years of experience in making helmets for snow sports, this is their first foray into mountain bike head protection.
There are so many innovative features here, it’s difficult to know where to begin!
I won’t lie, the Forefront mountain bike helmet has a distinctive look reminiscent of wearing a turtle shell on your head. All kidding aside, Smith offers the new lid in colorways to match their existing sunglasses and goggle lines. When viewed from the side, it has a little lower profile than the POC line of helmets, and is less “motocross” looking than the Bell Super.
The design and construction of the Forefront are where things really get interesting. Smith essentially threw out everything we think we know about helmets and started from scratch. Smith uses some made-up trademarked words to describe what is essentially a bunch of polymer tubes thermo-welded into a honeycomb pattern. This allows for the material to crumple in a controlled manner and provides excellent impact protection with substantially less weight than traditional helmet designs. Another benefit of this material is the ability to construct vents for optimal airflow rather than having them tied to the protective design.
The Forefront uses a standard rotary dial to, um, dial in the fit, and it is easily accessible with one hand while riding. The dial is mated to a plastic inner harness that is itself able to be attached to the helmet shell in three places to fit a variety of head shapes. The inner padding looks very minimal, but is plenty comfortable when wearing the helmet. There is adequate room for a headband or bandana, and it also comfortably accommodates my Halo Antifreeze headwear for cold weather use.
In addition to all of the functional innovation, Smith has rounded out the Forefront with some cool features that are incredibly practical for daily use.
On the front is a dedicated channel for sunglasses storage. It is designed for the complementary Smith Optics models, but most brands should fit there snugly. On top is a dedicated threaded insert for mounting an optional camera and light mount, and around back is a bungee cord for keeping your goggle strap secure.
Out on the Trail
The Forefront mountain bike helmet has a light and easy fit that doesn’t interfere with glasses or goggles. The ventilation, while not sending airflow directly, creates a sort of chimney effect where cool air is pulled in through the front and heat is expelled out the back. Another neat feature of the construction of this helmet is the fact that the inner core blocks out most of the sun. This means that bald riders like myself can go with just a sweat band, rather than a whole bandana, which really helps the overall cooling!
Speaking of ventilation, the visor includes a built-in air dam that redirects airflow straight down, over glasses or goggles, in order to keep them from fogging up. As with most MTB helmets, the visor is easily removable.
With routinely switching between helmet cam and lights, the integrated accessory mount is invaluable. A small plastic clip mounts permanently to the helmet, while accessories attach to the other half of the mount. This half then clips into the base like a quick release buckle. It’s brilliant! I can’t stress enough the benefit of not having to fiddle with velcro straps!
Smith Forefront Bike Helmet, Matte Reactor Split, Small
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Ever since I tried the prototype of this helmet at last year’s Outerbike, I couldn’t wait to get my head into one for a long term test. With some minor modifications from Smith, the production model did not disappoint. It fits great, has excellent sunglasses and goggles compatibility, and a well-rounded set of features that make it a great piece of gear.
Thanks to the folks at Smith Optics for sending over the Forefront Helmet and Accessory Mount for review!