Smith debuted the Forefront Helmet a few seasons ago, and it was polarizing. After all, it didn’t really look like any other mountain bike helmet on the market. It was less bike helmet and more Storm Trooper helmet. I was firmly in the “meh” camp, at least until I tried it on. Hands down, it’s the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever put on my head.
Aesthetically, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but even if you don’t like the looks, you have to admit that Smith has done some pretty cool things with the design of this helmet. Most notable are the tiny, connected cylinders, which Smith calls Koroyd. Think about gluing a shit ton of straws together, and then forming them into the shape of the helmet. This Koroyd material makes up the bulk of the interior. The exterior shell–almost an exoskeleton–is made from EPS foam, with a protective plastic layer over the top.
Like the majority of high-end mountain bike helmets on the market, Smith uses a dial at the back of the helmet to fine-tune the fit, which they call VaporFit. With around 40 clicks, there’s plenty of adjustment. The basket that the dial attaches to can be adjusted to one of three positions, depending on how tall your head is.
With 21 vents, I found the Forefront to breathe well. I wouldn’t say it was cooler than a similarly-vented helmet, but overheating was never an issue for me, even on 90+ degree days here in Georgia.
Other design features include a visor, a convenient groove that will hold some sunglasses in place when you’re not wearing them (designed to be compatible with Smith sunglasses), an elastic strap to keep your goggles from flying off, and a spot for their optional camera/light mount. That piece will cost you an extra $15. I didn’t use the goggle strap because #idontevenendurobro.
Smith offers the Forefront helmet in a bunch of different colors from black to camo. I opted for the Matte Neon Orange, since orange is kinda my color. Compared to the picture of the helmet on their website, the color is much closer to safety cone orange than I had expected. It’s all good, though–I certainly don’t mind the extra visibility on the trails or–especially–riding to work. If nothing else, it’ll definitely come in handy this hunting season!
Finding a well-fitting helmet has always been a struggle for me. I’ve got a big noggin, but it’s also narrow. Often, that puts me in between helmet sizes. I’ll max out a medium, which makes it uncomfortable during long rides. On the flip side, with large helmets, I have to crank the retention mechanisms down all the way to keep the helmet in place. Even then, some have a tendency to bounce around when the trail gets rough.
Before trying the Forefront, the closest to finding my ideal mountain bike helmet came last year with the Lazer Oasiz. As I mentioned in that review, the shell fit well circumferentially, but I was left wanting for something a little deeper. The Forefront is that helmet.
Padding is minimal, but the lack of ridges on the interior means the weight of the helmet is distributed evenly over your entire head. Never once did I feel any pressure points while wearing the Forefront. Dialing in the VaporFit to a snug position made the helmet feel rock-solid on my head. The helmet sits low, just above my brow, and there is ample rear protection. Having a helmet that fits my head so well makes me feel more secure and confident.
Smith Forefront Bike Helmet, Matte Reactor Split, Small
$102.50 CampSaver.com AD
I’ve had my fair share of crashes since receiving the Forefront, but fortunately, none of them have involved my head. Because of that I can’t speak to it’s durability in a crash. In terms of day-to-day durability, though, it’s held up great. There are plenty of small scratches, but they aren’t noticeable from 5 feet away. The straps are in good shape, the buckle works, and the VaporFit dial still feels solid.
With the web of tiny straws comprising most of the helmet, there’s no way for bees, wasps, spiders, or other critters to get in and bite you. That same impenetrability also allows you to use your head like a wrecking ball on low-hanging branches. When riding infrequently travelled trails, I would simply lower my head and smash my way through. You don’t have to worry about getting poked in the head.
The converse to the protection of the Koroyd is the fact you can’t scratch an itchy head. You’ll have to take off the helmet for that. I’ll gladly take that compromise, considering all the other benefits of the Forefront.
Really the only other drawback to the helmet is the optional light and camera mounting system. Sure, you can buy Smith’s mount for a reasonable price, but the helmet already costs $220 by itself. It would be nice to see that included. Also, it appears that the light mount only works with lights that use a system similar to Light & Motion’s bands, meaning your current light may not be compatible.
Wrapping it Up
I’m still not the biggest fan of the way it looks, but you know what? With a helmet that fits this well, I don’t give a shit how it looks. Factor in the quality build and this, to me, is the helmet to beat. If you’ve had a hard time finding an ideal fit, check out the Smith Forefront. It’s well-worth the asking price if it fits you anything like it does me.
Thanks to Smith for providing the Forefront mountain bike helmet for review.