Smith is one of the most sought-after head protection brands out there, which is a little ironic to me considering the last time I reviewed a Smith helmet in 2015 I commented on how new they were to the bike helmet game. Now, they have killer offerings like the Forefront 2 which are at the bleeding edge of safety technology (and style). I rocked the Forefront 2 all summer throughout the Northwest’s epic trails, ranging north to Nelson and south to Bend, and now it’s review time.
Sith Forefront 2 Helmet Features:
- Complete KOROYD® coverage for lightweight, energy-absorbing and ventilated impact protection
- Mips® Brain Protection System reduces rotational forces caused by angled impacts to the head
- Integrated skeletal structure creates a roll cage for added strength and impact protection
- AirEvac ventilation system integrates with Smith goggles and eyewear for fog-free lenses
- VaporFit dial adjustment system offers 270-degree fit adjustment with the turn of a dial
- 20 fixed vents for consistent airflow
- Three-position adjustable visor
- Ionic+® antimicrobial lining offers sweat-activated odor control
- Front and rear eyewear storage channels
- Camera and light mount compatible
- Weight (Size M, Mips®): 14 oz / 380 g
- MSRP: $125-250
MIPS protection: it’s not neurosurgery
Long-time readers of Feed the Habit know that I’m nearly through medical school, and one of the more eye-opening experiences this past year has been a month on a neurosurgical service. Through ER consults for trauma, tumor debulking and craniotomies, I got an intimate acquaintance with the squishy grey organ up top that keeps us going. I’ve always valued head protection, but this experience really made me think differently about how I invest in it and it actually prompted me upgrading to the Forefront 2 from my old helmet.
When the neurosurgery team is called to a trauma case, one of the most discouraging findings on head imaging is what’s called diffuse axonal injury, or DAI. It’s basically a shearing injury from either acceleration/deceleration or rotational forces to the head, where the different densities of the grey and white matter get sheared apart. It’s like watching a layer cake slide apart on a layer of buttercream frosting, and it has a bad prognosis.
The concept behind MIPS is to reduce rotational force transferred to the skull (and brain) in a crash. The MIPS lining acts a bit like a bungie cord, giving your head more time to decelerate in a rotational impact, and lessening the force. In conjunction with Koroyd, you get a helmet that’s lighter and more protective. According to Smith, the Koroyd honeycomb absorbs more energy on impact than traditional EPS foam, and the most noticeable difference is that it excels at transferring heat and moisture. It basically means that all of the vents on a helmet are still providing some amount of protection, while on a traditional helmet those vents are just holes.
The Forefront 2 is more-or-less Smith’s premium mountain bike helmet right now, short of the full-face options. It’s a big, full-coverage helmet with their latest technologies. Weighing in at 380g for a Medium (with MIPS), it feels substantial without being too heavy. Quick head movements left and right remind you of its heft, but mostly it disappears. The VaporFit knob at the back gives you a really granular ability to fine tune the fit.
One of my favorite features of Smith helmets, and a reason to go Smith-on-Smith, is the integrated storage channels for your Smith glasses. You can stash your glasses under the visor or on the rear of your helmet, and for some muggy climbs this was a good option to keep me from fogging up. I say ‘good’ option: at least on the front of the helmet, they’ll rattle out over time. I haven’t been brave enough to climb with them on the back of my helmet, because I won’t know if they’ll fall out. It would be nice to see this connection made more secure somehow.
The ventilation on the Forefront 2 is really excellent, thanks in part to the Koroyd. 20 large vents mean that air has plenty of places to go. I also absolutely love the Ionic+ antimicrobial padded liner. It is really absorbent, and after a long climb I can horrify my riding partners by pressing on the pad and releasing drips of sweat like a sponge. Yeah, it’s gross, but I’m stoked that the sweat is going there rather than down into my eyes. Smith built in AirEvac channels directly above where your glasses sit to wick air away, but sometimes my body heat overcame that and I got some fogging.
One of my few gripes about the Forefront 2 is just the visor design, and I’m not actually convinced it’s not just my own problem. When the visor is down, it feels like it sits too close in my upper peripheral vision. I really try and keep my eyes 20-30 feet out on the trail, and the visor looms into that space. To compensate, I’ll click the visor up a notch or two. This gets it out of the way, but I feel like a goober.
- Killer aesthetics and excellent protection
- Vents coupled with Koroyd means great protection and ventilation
- Love the integration for storage and ventilation with Smith glasses
- Fit is overall really good, at least for my giant and fairly round noggin
- VaporFit knob is great for dialing in the right fit
- MIPS is, in my view, a great safety bonus
- Overall the Forefront 2 feels a bit heavy on the head
- MIPS can make a helmet feel ‘wobbly’ as the liner moves
- Hope they keep refining the glasses keeper channels for tighter fit
The Bottom Line: Smith Forefront 2 Helmet
Smith is making some of the most high tech and protective helmets on the market right now. The Forefront 2 is their premiere offering. It lives up to the hype as a comfortable, breathable, protective helmet that has killer aesthetics. If you wear Smith glasses, it’s a win-win. This is an easy helmet to recommend, especially currently as past-season models go on sale for the low $100’s. Even full price, I think the protection factor is worth it.
Buy Now: Available from SmithOptics.com