It’s great when a new piece of gear becomes a new favourite, and Smith’s Mainline full-face helmet just claimed its place at the top of my pile. While offering high-tech crash protection, the Mainline remains a very lightweight lid that offers class-leading ventilation. For the Mainline’s construction features and specs check out my First Look article. Since then I’ve been riding and making notes for this complete review.
Like most clothing and gear companies Smith likes to ensure their pieces work well together, so they also sent me a pair of their Squad MTB goggles. The Squads were designed to fit perfectly into the Mainline helmet, and the two definitely make a good combo.
Smith Mainline full-face helmet review
There’s nothing more important than fit when it comes to helmets, and my skull happens to jive with the Mainline. My head is 56cm around, and their size Medium (55-59cm) fit me perfectly. I didn’t even swap out any of the interior pads (I stuck with the medium cheeks and thicker neck roll), but thumbs up to Smith for providing three sets of cheek pads, two different neck rolls, and two sets of liner pads so you can customize your fit.
My first test with the Mainline was a three hour ride on a hot, sunny 85°F day. While Bell’s Super Air R comes close, the Mainline is the best ventilated full-face helmet I’ve ever worn. As you pedal along or bomb downhill air flows very freely through the sides, top and back of the helmet. The chin bar’s large cut-outs let tons of air through, never hampering my ability to draw a deep breath as I cranked up a climb.
As long as you have a little wind passing through (even at climbing speeds) the only thing that makes the Mainline a bit warmer than an open faced lid is the padding on the neck and cheeks. Between the hollow Koyord layer and many large, well-placed vents you’ll be hard pressed to find a cooler full face than the Mainline.
The other thing I immediately appreciated about the Mainline is its super wide field-of-view. Again I have to give Smith my ‘best yet’ rating, as no helmet I’ve worn matches the Mainline in terms of peripheral visibility. While climbing (without goggles) the generous side-to-side visibility was immediately noticeable; you have to look for the sides of the helmet in your peripheral vision, so while riding your vision feels totally unobstructed.
The visor has a good range of adjustment – in its highest position it’s just visible, and at the lowest it still doesn’t block much of your view. The Mainline’s chin bar sits low enough that it stays out of your way visually too.
For those who ride with a hydration pack (like I usually do), I found the Mainline’s chin bar didn’t make getting a drink too difficult. It sits just far enough from my face that I could squeeze my bite valve in behind it, but then I realized you can stick your hose right through the front hole to grab a drink!
Despite hitting my scale well over its claimed weight of 770g (size medium, as tested), the Mainline is still an impressively light helmet at 816g. I usually ride open faced helmets which are half the Mainline’s weight, yet my first test ride with the full-face was a pretty long one and I didn’t notice any excess fatigue in my neck afterwards.
I do have one complaint about the Mainline: It’s noisy! A few years back I discovered a similar issue with Bell’s Super DH convertible full-face. I noticed their Spherical MIPS system would make squeaking noises whenever the helmet shook and the MIPS layers shifted around.
The Mainline does the same thing, and frankly, I could see some people getting annoyed by it. The squeaking is pretty constant throughout a ride, as every little shake will produce a squeak. I’m still riding it, but some riders might find the noise hard to ignore.
The Mainline full-face helmet retails for $300 and is now available at retailers and online. Sizes are S/M/L, and color choices are Matte Black, Matte Sage/Red Rock or the green-on-green Rocky Mountain Enduro Team model.
Smith Squad MTB goggles review
Smith sent a pair of their Squad MTB goggles along with the Mainline, as the two pieces were designed to work well together. Indeed the goggles fit into the helmet’s face port like a puzzle piece, and the strap sits at a comfortable angle.
The Mainline’s strap channel is wide and easy to find by feel, so positioning your goggle strap is a cinch. Between the channel and the Squad’s silicone-lined strap, I had no issues with the goggles shifting around (and I don’t wear mine very tight).
The Squads offer a medium fit, which is comfortable and suitably sized for my face. The field-of-view is very good: Even though they appear smaller than the Six Six One Radia goggles I recently reviewed, they offer about the same view up top and to the sides, and allow a bit more downward vision.
I did notice the Squads sit rather high up on my face, and then found they will not fit with either of my go-to open faced helmets (an Oakley DRT5 and a POC Tectal Race SPIN). In both cases the helmets sit too low on my forehead, so the goggles push the shells right up off my skull.
The Squads have very well vented frames and I never got them to fog up on me during a ride. These goggles don’t have any sophisticated lens swapping system: It takes a bit of finger-wrestling to line up and pop in the tabs, but there’s nothing particularly tricky about removing or replacing the Squad’s lenses.
My goggles came with the Chromapop Everyday Red Mirror lens installed, and a spare Clear AF (I laughed, but apparently AF just means anti-fog!) lens.
While I assumed that tint would be ideal for low light conditions, I wore them one bright sunny day and found the Red Mirror lens quite helpful – It shades the sun a little bit, but also casts an orange glow that brightens up dark areas. I found this lens fine for overcast days as well, but they don’t significantly amplify light. When it starts to get dark in the woods I’d pop in the clear lens.
The Squad MTB goggles are available in a rainbow of colors, and with five different Chromapop lenses or a clear option. Prices range from $42-85.