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Crash Tested: The Smith Forefront Helmet Works as Promised

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Smith Forefront mountain bike helmet review (3)

It was a stupid little crash. A worst case scenario brought on by a silly mistake accentuated by fatigue. After managing to fully clean the Hiline Chute after only my second ever attempt I was feeling pretty good about my technical skills. Leave it to the universe to put me in my place with a crash on a completely flat section while cruising down a wash at 15mph or so. After getting a bit too relaxed and focusing more on trying to find the ideal line than the line I was on, a root or a rock swatted my front tire just hard enough to make me lose my grip on the bar with my right hand. In slow motion I watched as the grip got father and farther away until I was tumbling through the red dirt wondering what just happened?

I distinctly remember hitting my head during the crash and thinking, that should have hurt a lot worse…

Smith Forefront mountain bike helmet review (4)

Smith forefront crash sedona (2) Smith forefront crash sedona (1)

 

Just to be clear, the photo of my head above shows the dirt, not blood. 

After the typical systems check we all go through after a crash, I dusted myself off, straightened my handlebar with a few swift blows, and got back on the bike. Using a childhood of shots to the head from hockey as a baseline, I thought to myself, huh, that wasn’t as bad as I thought. It wasn’t until we got back to camp that I started to find all the tell tale signs of a solid crash. Between the red dust covering half of my body (including the back of my head), I started noticing what eventually turned out to be a helmet that was destroyed doing what it was supposed to do – protecting my brain.

Smith Forefront mountain bike helmet review (6)

Smith Forefront mountain bike helmet review (2) Smith Forefront mountain bike helmet review (1)

Smith Forefront mountain bike helmet review (5)

Closer inspection revealed what was likely a much more violent, rolling impact than my lack of injuries suggested. The outer shell shows a few impacts including a flattened rear deck, and more concerning – a mushroomed dimple on the lowest part of the rear of the helmet. When you hear companies extolling the virtues of lower coverage at the back of the head, this is exactly why. Without that dip behind the temple, whatever smacked into the back of my helmet probably would have caused some serious damage.

Forefront crash

The coup de grâce for the helmet so to speak comes when you look at the inside of the helmet. In addition to some of the Koroyd Aerocore material showing signs of deformation near the impacts, the EPS liner also has a few cracks as well as a broken mounting point for the chin strap. Yeah, I guess it was worse than I thought. It’s interesting that the Koroyd material didn’t crush much at all, though that could have been just due to the nature of my crash. What did seem to happen though was the Koroyd appears to have dispersed the energy around the helmet rather than focusing it on the site of impact. Now there are even MIPS versions of the helmet as well potentially adding another layer of protection.

If I hadn’t found the damage on the helmet though, I would have never guessed. Honestly, I thought for sure that in a crash the honeycomb shape would be permanently embedded into my scalp. Instead, I was left mildly irritated for crashing in the first place, but without any signs of a concussion. And without a sweet helmet.

Before the crash, the Forefront was one of my favorite helmets due to the fit. Fairly light at 310g, the helmet cradled my head without any hot spots and a comfy pad set. The indexable visor worked well, though it could stand to use a few extra positions if we’re getting really picky. Add in the integrated mount for lights or an action camera plus the sunglass and goggle channels, and you have a very well thought out lid.

Verdict:

Is the Smith Forefront helmet perfect? It’s close, but for riders like myself who sweat profusely I’d like to see slightly improved ventilation. Out in the desert, the helmet just feels hot. However, based on the level of protection evidently afforded by the Forefront, the unique looks, and the fantastic fit the helmet comes highly recommended.

smithoptics.com

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ThatGuy
ThatGuy
7 years ago

Pffft. I show no love for a company that shows no love to industry employees. This helmet has been widely popular, good for Smith. So popular they feel industry employees who sell their product should pay the same thing as customers.

funny
funny
7 years ago

Looks like a cheese grater to me.

Sardinien
Sardinien
7 years ago

Glad it worked out for you ! That bee hive like thing should keep branches at bay too,I’m sick of getting my head cut during low trees passages. Totally forgot about this cool helmet ,just told wife to get me a Specialized lid for my incoming birthday…

craigsj
craigsj
7 years ago

One anecdotal experience does not define a helmet as “close to perfect”. I’ve had a couple such experiences myself and blacked out on one of them; I would never assume that my helmet was anywhere near perfect just because I escaped relatively unharmed.

bub
bub
7 years ago

I has a 50kph crash and my helmet looked similar. I hit head first. It was a more traditional giro helmet. I broke bones but head was totally fine. Must be the best helmet in the world then!

I doubt your crash was severe because you had red dust all over… It sound like a small crash and yes helmet works, now to make it appear as fantastic…perfect… Thats a strecht! Or hum you know, an ad.

Sully
Sully
7 years ago

Even bad accidents can happen at 0 MPH!
Doing rear wheel hops (trials style) down some stairs, bike slipped out from under me. I flew backward and whacked the back of my head on the edge of a stair. My Giro helmet took the blunt. Otherwise, I could have been a vegetable.
Yay for helmets (all of them)!

Chris
Chris
7 years ago

Helmets are great at preventing superficial injuries and skull fractures. If you think an inch of rigid foam and some plastic is going to prevent your brain from sloshing around inside your skull, maybe you are concussed.

Taylor
Taylor
7 years ago

@ ThatGuy – Odd…we have had the exact opposite experience and received nothing but love and support from Smith. Kudos for an amazing product, and more amazing team.

SketchyD
SketchyD
7 years ago

That chute on Hi-Line is so great… The rest down is blissful too.

tirider
tirider
7 years ago

Zach, let me be the 2nd in the gallery to say “I’m glad you are healthy” hate to hear when anyone goes base over apex.

Collin
Collin
7 years ago

Some of my worst crashes are from doing the most minor things at like 2mph, right after doing ridiculously fast hot laps with trees wizing by. Glad your okay.

I have the Smith Road helmet. I will agree that the fit is great. It sits perfectly on my head, where my last helmet (Lazer) when you put it on, it would sit too far back and you’d have the play around with the positioning before you cranked the tensioner system down. This one sits naturally in the perfect spot. My gripe is the sun glass channels. I have smith Pivlock glasses and they don’t stay in the groves. I’ve tried every position but they just don’t sit very firm. I was coaching a riding clinic and as I’m looking over and giving instructions, the wind ripped my glasses off my helmet, and it wasn’t that windy, nor was I going that fast. I like how project rudy put little arches to put the glasses under instead of relying on the spring force and friction from the arms.

Psi Squared
Psi Squared
7 years ago

I’m glad you’re ok, Zach, but it looks like the crash did horrible things to your hair.

JBikes
JBikes
7 years ago

Weird comments.
No helmet is perfect. Its impossible. But this one did what is was suppose to do.

Read up on Koroyd. It wasn’t design to better EPS under hard impact situations. It excels at low impact velocity while maintain EPS high impact velocity attributes. Combined with MIPS, it is a step change in helmet design that should be welcome.
EPS helmets, for all the industry talk, have largely gone without any real innovation for a long time.

JBikes
JBikes
7 years ago

Just following up – low speed impacts in which EPS is not a great material have been shown to result in both superficial injury as well as increased potential for brain injury. Again, Koroyd material expands the protective range of the old EPS material.

JBikes
JBikes
7 years ago

This is a good article on the material and its advantages.

http://indefinitelywild.gizmodo.com/helmet-safety-is-being-revolutionized-right-now-1692246906

If your buying a helmet, and the Smith ones fit well, it is something to really consider. Sorry for all the posts, but believe it or not, humans improve things. This seems to be a big improvement over old EPS technology.

Eric Hansen
Eric Hansen
7 years ago

Wow. I already wanted a Smith for their white/green color and the ability to mount a camera or helmet light, but breaking a helmet without a concussion is pretty boss!

Matthew
Matthew
7 years ago

@ThatGuy: I agree with Taylor. I’m a ski patroller and they participate in at least two of the bigger “pro-deal” collectives. But even if they didn’t, who cares? Just because you’re in the industry doesn’t make you better than the “civilians” and therefore deserving of a discount.

Glad you’re okay, Zach.

Mark Lancaster
7 years ago

Very helpful for an aged novice. At 58 I ended up with 2 subdural hematomas and several hours of unconsciousness after carelessly riding off a cliff. The Giro road helmet probably saved my life but was crushed. Slowing down on same trails but sporting a POC Trabec MIPS. Feeling safer.

Brian
Brian
7 years ago

I also crashed hard with this helmet. Broken helmet, separated shoulder, no concussion. I actually stopped at the shop on my way home and bought a new one.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
7 years ago

If you’re an employee and can’t get a Smith discount, you’re doing it wrong. I’ve worked at 4 bike shops and EPed Smith gear at three of them(biking glasses, ski stuff, helmets) and only one was a stocking Smith Dealer

Mike D
Mike D
7 years ago

Gotta weigh in on Smith being good to retailers–because they are! Our Smith rep(s) were stellar, and the quality of their optics is excellent. Never had an issue when I was at a shop that carried Smith.

This is what a helmet is designed to do. Glad to see you walk away from it in one piece!

UsedParts
7 years ago

Very happy to hear you’re OK, Zach! The real question now is what color you choose next. Hit us up and let’s get that lid replaced. Best wishes from the Smith crew.

Wil
Wil
7 years ago

Great article Zach, and glad to hear you’re ok!
Always good to see a product do as it’s intended, and I think most people appreciate your story!

SV
SV
7 years ago

I think what @ThatGuy is referring to is that they weren’t available to through some of their pro deals at least as of a year ago when I last checked. Which makes sense because their pro deals on sunglasses are pretty substantial, and I doubt the helmets operate on the same margins. If home boy can’t get it at least cost as a “dealer” then something isn’t quite right. I agree with most everyone else. Smith is a great company that supports their dealers and customers very well in my experience.

ThatGuy
ThatGuy
7 years ago

@SV – Exactly. Everyone is commenting on ski helmet pro deals. That is NOT extended to their bike helmets. I can’t get them at dealer cost as an industry employee…?

@Matthew – I never said I was “better” than anyone. But when you work in the industry and sell and rep certain product and brands, it’s common practice to offer employee purchase programs. What I’m saying isn’t crazy. None of us work here because we make tons of money…

When I asked a rep what the deal was, he essentially told me “It’s a hot product, so if we can get full retail out of industry employees we’re going to.”

quickgeezer
quickgeezer
7 years ago

I’ve broken three helmets, though just minor breaks (yes, I then got new ones), in the last 13 years, but never without at least a minor concussion, I’m pretty sure, even in the mildest of those three crashes. So if this was a broken helmet with no concussion, I say good work, helmet!

I’d like to note that ThatGuy’s comments are completely unrelated to the actual helmet, only his kvetch at not getting a discount.

Bikeronhiatus
Bikeronhiatus
7 years ago

I used to work at (insert big box bike shop) and had a very generous Smith Pro Deal for employers, so good they didn’t cancel my discounts. I love smith stuff.

Milesrides
Milesrides
7 years ago

@zach- I hope after this hit you have field destroyed this helmet. The EPS has been compromised and should not be ridden.
@thatguy- this lid is on their website w pro price ready to go…not sure why you can’t get it. I know several SMITH reps and factory reps. If your a nice guy and ask nicely…meaning not like your entitled to it…I know for sure they’d help you get what you need. And yup sometimes product is hot and not available for shop kids and pro. After Interbike the was a limited stock of available lids, so it all depended on where you sat on the food chain for your rep.

Joe Mama
Joe Mama
7 years ago

This sounds like an advertisement for Smith…
Anyway, a good crash, impact and result. I’ll wait until I see a more severe direct impact to decide if the ‘cheese grater’ material cores out the scalp before I endorse that helmet material. I like the part when he states “It’s interesting that the Koroyd material didn’t crush much at all”. The material HAS to crush in order to absorb the impact, meaning that the impact was not too severe.

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