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The SMITH Payroll MIPS Helmet is Well Vented, Protective and eMTB Certified

SMITH Payroll helmet, SF, title
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With great ventilation, advanced crash protection, and a comfortable interior, SMITH’s Payroll helmet ticks all the essential boxes. It also offers a well-designed visor, and options for sunglass and goggle storage.

I’ve been riding the Payroll MIPS helmet since mid-March. The helmet feels quite large, but the retention system holds it snugly and I find it perfectly comfortable. The Payroll isn’t super light but is quite reasonable given its head coverage and certification for eMTB as well as trail and enduro riding.

SMITH Payroll MIPS – Construction and Features:

SMITH Payroll helmet, side

For full details on the Payroll MIPS helmets check out our launch article, but here’s a quick rundown on the key specs.

SMITH’s Payroll helmet is made using In-mold construction and has an internal skeletal structure to add strength. For advanced protection, it includes a MIPS Evolve Core liner, and the side areas feature zonal Koroyd reinforcements.

The Payroll MIPS helmet I tested does not come with an Aleck crash sensor, but for $20 more the Payroll MIPS Aleck Edition includes it. The Aleck sensor detects impact forces and can notify emergency contacts with your GPS location if you crash. The sensor will also alert any other Aleck users within a 1.8 mile radius in case someone nearby can provide help. No subscription is required.

SMITH Payroll helmet, front vents

SMITH’s AirEvac ventilation system offers 19 vents, plus airflow channels along the top of your head to keep you cool. The Payroll’s visor is cleverly designed to keep the vents wide open. The MIPS Core liner partially covers the side vents, but the liner itself is full of vent holes.

SMITH Payroll helmet, interior

The Payroll’s Vaporfit retention system and Ionic+ antimicrobial interior padding keep things snug, comfortable, and not stinky. SMITH kept the hardware simple with Y-buckles on the side straps and a traditional chin buckle.

A three-position height adjustable visor offers sun protection but lifts to carry goggles or sunglasses on the forehead area. SMITH’s Payroll helmet video shows how you can stash sunglasses under the visor by flipping them upside down and putting the arms into the forehead side vents. 

SMITH Payroll helmet, on scale

My scale shows my size medium helmet at exactly what Smith claims – 400g.

Ride Impressions:

SMITH Payroll helmet, SF, rockline

Due to SMITH’s sizing, I wind up just fitting into a medium helmet, so the Payroll’s shell is a bit bigger than it needs to be for me. My 56cm head is on the lower end of the medium’s 55-59cm range, so with the retention system dialed in there is room to spare in the rear of the shell. I tried squeezing into a size small, but the medium was ultimately the better choice as it offered a deeper fit and more head coverage. Despite the deep fit, my ears fit into the cutouts perfectly.

The medium Payroll sits pretty low on my forehead, but aside from limiting eyewear compatibility the shell size is not problematic. Fortunately, the Vaporfit retention system provides a snug fit on me, and with it cinched in the helmet stays in position perfectly well.

SMITH Payroll helmet, SF. climbing

The Payroll’s interior padding is thin but well-distributed and substantial enough to ensure comfort. There are no hard or uncomfortable bits touching my head, yet the padding is trim enough that the helmet stays nice and cool.

From all angles, the Payroll helmet provides great ventilation (no doubt the hollow Koyord on the sides helps). I never noticed any areas of my head getting particularly hot while riding. I also found the MIPS Core liner does not hamper airflow in any noticeable way.

Eyewear Compatibility:

SMITH Payroll helmet, with Julbo sunglasses

This will vary depending on the size and shape of your skull, but for me, the Payroll was not very compatible with sunglasses due to the deep fit. Unfortunately, I was not able to ride it with SMITH’s Motive or Wildcat sunglasses, as there is not enough room on my forehead. Thankfully this helmet does work with my Julbo Edge sunglasses! There is ample room at the forehead, and these glasses aren’t super wide so the arms fit inside the Payroll’s shell.

SMITH Payroll helmet, with Wildcat sunglasses

As for eyewear storage, I tried stashing both SMITH’s Motive and Wildcat sunglasses into the vents as their instructional video shows. I was not a fan of how the sunglasses hang down in front of the helmet, and found myself tilting my head upwards trying to look below the glasses when I rode with them. I’d say this feature works well for pre or post-ride convenience (or with smaller shades), but blocked my view too much for riding purposes. The sunglasses did remain secure on the helmet, so if you have a taller head you could climb with them stashed without worry.

With the visor lifted, I had no trouble fitting goggles on the forehead of the Payroll. That said, the lack of room on my forehead makes it impossible for me to wear goggles with this helmet. Even the smallest pair I have (SMITH Squads) pushed the helmet upwards considerably.


SMITH Payroll helmet, SF, side

SMITH did a good job with the Payroll’s visor. In its lowest position, it will keep sunlight off your eyes. In the middle and highest position, the visor is completely out of view, but I did use the middle setting for a few climbs when I didn’t need shade from the sun. This opened up a little more upper peripheral vision. I like how the shape of the visor lines up with the shell nicely, so it doesn’t look silly when lifted into its higher positions.

Another Take

Like Steve, I’ve been a medium Payroll since returning from Sea Otter. I’m firmly in the middle of most medium helmets, and the Payroll is no different. Physically, it feels like a big helmet, seemingly with a larger volume than something like a Forefront 2. In terms of size and volume, it feels on par with the Specialized Tactic 4 which is the only other helmet that I have at the moment which is NTA-8776 e-bike certified. The Dutch e-bike helmet standard requires additional protection for the back and sides of the head, and protects against higher impact speeds (up to 45 km/h). As a result, it seems you end up with a noticeably deeper fit that has additional material on the back and sides of the helmet.

I find the helmet to be perfectly comfortable and well-ventilated. The Koroyd panels are only on the sides of the front of the helmet, leaving the center vents free and clear to funnel air over your head. Due to having a slightly larger head than Steve, I haven’t had any issues with sunglass fit, but goggles do push up against the front of the helmet.

This wouldn’t be my choice for a daily MTB helmet (nor would the Tactic 4), but for ebike use, it does the trick – and that’s exactly what I’ve been using it for.

Pricing, Sizing and Options:

SMITH Payroll helmet, rear

The Smith Payroll MIPS helmet sells for $200. It comes in S/M/L/XL sizes covering heads from 48-65cm. Five matte color options are available – Sedona Red/Pacific Blue (as tested), Black, Dusk Pink, White/Cement Grey, and Green Trail Camo.

For $220 Smith sells the Payroll MIPS Aleck edition, which comes in Matte Black/Topo Grey. This model boasts an Aleck crash sensor integrated with the retention system.


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24 days ago

“eMTB Certified” … Can someone enlighten me as to what’s special about an eMTB that requires a unique certification? Enduro, sure. Downhill, yep. but eMTB?

24 days ago
Reply to  Tim

Heavier bikes, potential faster speeds (especially in what would typically be slower speed areas, switchback climbing) less experienced riders, older maybe less mobile riders, heavier riders

19 days ago
Reply to  Tim

Taken from Smith’s website:

NTA-8776 or “eBike” helmet certification is a Dutch-created safety agreement that protects against higher impact speeds and covers a larger part of the head. The US and the EU have yet to set a standard for this which is why we certify to the Dutch standard NTA-8776 in our eBike helmets, in addition to standard bike helmet certifications like CPSC, CE EN 1078, and AS/NZS2063.


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