Futuristic looking brain box from Smith Optics offers pyjama-like all day comfort with a huge list of features. Warmth and high price will deter some.
Dec 8 2017
On the warm side when sweating
Futuristic look won’t suit all tastes
You want a premium trail lid with good coverage and build quality but don’t mind it warm and at a premium price
The Smith Forefront with MIPS is a lid that wouldn’t look out of place in a Star Wars movie. However, despite its marmite aesthetics and its ability to hold in heat a little more than ideal, its one ‘helluva’ a head wrap - lightweight, all day comfortable and packed with features.
Smith Optics has become a brand synonymous with aesthetically cool and quirky products that aren’t just pleasing to the eyes but function very well too. You’ll note I’ve mentioned the decorative element of this lid more than once already, and for good reason. It's the first thing anyone comments on when they see me don it from my kit bag - ‘that’s a different looking helmet’!
Clever of Smith really, where many helmets go unnoticed, the Forefront strikes a conversation nearly every time. Alternative brands, take note - it doesn’t always have to look generically beautiful to still be, beautiful.
The Forefront MIPS is bang on trend currently, its coverage is great, it comes with an adjustable and removable peak, has a built-in light and camera mount, includes a goggle retention strap on the rear, is available in an array of sexy colourways and of course, has MIPS. Smith use the patented Koroyd system (think glued together drinking straws) as their main protection element in the Forefront, a system that is being seen on a few other brands more recently and one which I cannot comment on in terms of its safety level, other than of course their lids pass all of the tests much the same as any others are required to. Smith claims it can absorb up to 30% more force than a standard shell, if true, your grey matter will thank you for it.
The peak is a very lightweight affair with 2 positions available, I’ve kept it in the ‘up’ position so goggles can be stored easily back-to-front. Ha, who am I kidding, I’m rarely that enduro and next to never use goggs with an open face! Glasses are my mode of attack which also fit comfortably underneath, the thin single layer webbing straps and discreet Vaporfit retention cage preventing any discomfort or interference. If said glasses use straight stems, the incorporated grooves on the outer shell are there to store glasses securely on top during prolonged climbs which is neat. That aforementioned retention system is also a dream to use but where it really shines, is how comfortable it is, even on a shaved head. I’ve had no end of issues with pressure points on my bald noggin over the years, the Forefront however, is one of the single most comfy brain boxes I’ve ever used.
Coverage is decent if not as extreme as other helmets, but ensures the vital areas are protected for the gnarlier of trail riding. Real carbon fibre inserts are also used for vital areas and where increased strength is required. The shell comes in three sizes (S, M, L) and in a whopping ten different colourways.
Another somewhat novel benefit of the Koroyd system is that insects and debris cannot get into the lid when riding along. I know, I know, how often does that happen? Not that regularly I agree however, having had a bee fly into my lid and get stuck inside, once is all it takes to appreciate a system that may prevent it!
So, five stars then? Not quite, unfortunately - the only place the Forefront falls short is on airflow. Its particularly breathable when standing around or when you haven’t developed a ‘sweat-on’ yet, almost chilly at times, but get that heart rate up and the heat building and it gets warm, real quick. On prolonged climbs, what with being bald and all, sweat production becomes high, fortunately the helmet pads and channelling mean I’ve rarely got any drips but still, in warmer climates, it could be an issue. I suspect the angle of the straws, sorry Koroyd, has something to do with it in that air cannot directly flow in and out at slow speeds. An opportunity/cost scenario, opportunity to make something a little different and potentially stronger means a cost in the airflow department. Not a deal breaker, but a definite consideration.
Speaking of cost, the MIPS Forefront is expensive, in fact it should be called ‘Stella’ rather than Forefront - at £169.99, it’ll cost ya. When all of that is said and done though, I’d still buy one, its all-day comfortable, packed with features and could offer a little more protection than its competition. Either way, my Forefront sweat box is my go-to lid and will be until it wears out or (said dismissively), I break it.
A self confessed bike geek, Adam has been riding bikes for over two decades and breaking things for nearly as long. With more facial hair than on his head, his appearance is one of a hard paper round! He's friendly, approachable, critical and fair - loves a good stoppie and a turnbar tuesday, real ale and long bikes.