Smith move to the Forefront with straw-tech helmet

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Smith Forefront Image 1If you’ve ever looked at Smith’s range of snowsports helmets and wondered why they don’t have cycling offerings to go with their riding glasses, you’re not alone. In fact, the good folks in Idaho wondered the same thing. To their credit, Smith fought the urge to slap their name on just another styrofoam hat: the company’s cycling debut worthy of the effort- and of your attention.

It sure looks as though they’ve succeeded. First shown (under threat of excommunication if shared) at PressCamp in June, the Forefront is Smith’s new trail helmet. And it’s pretty impressive in person. While the appealing Tron-like styling first catches the eye, under the skin lies what may be the first fundamental change in cycling helmet materials technology since the co-molder plastic shell: Koroyd. Looking for all the world like a bunch of plastic drinking straws stuck together, the material consists of tens of thousands of extruded co-polymer tubes, thermally welded into a sort of honeycomb. When compared to the EPS inside most of our helmets, Koroyd is said to dissipate impact both more effectively and more consistently, while requiring less thickness.

Nifty stuff, that Koroyd.
Nifty stuff, that Koroyd.

But what to do with the stuff? A trail/enduro model, the Forefront is designed with a bit more coverage than traditional XC helmets. As can be seen from the images, Koroyd’s open construction allows for extremely high levels of breathability, aided by Smith’s use of internal channels and a design that sits the material just off of the rider’s head. Fittingly for an optics company, the helmet is designed to play very well with Smith goggles and glasses, while the snowsports-derived AirEvac system is designed to maximise airflow across lenses in order to minimise fogging. The retention system avoids earstems and there is a goggle strap and indentation ’round the back to keep everything in its right place.

FOREFRONT Image 2Having extensively benchmarked the competition, the Smith design team made an internal requirement of matching or improving upon the best in class for each and every aspect of the helmet. Taken individually, each and every detail would have to be as good as or better than the best that they could find. From the pad materials to the straps to the removable visor’s adjustment mechanism, they’re happy to compare their helmet to anything on the market. The new VaporFit™ retention system uses DuPont Hytrel, a somewhat stretchy, flexible thermoplastic in order to keep the helmet stable without needing to be overly tight. This is especially critical given the camera- and light-mounting hardpoint at the top of the helmet (mounts for GoPro cameras and Light & Motion lights should be available shortly from their respective distributors).

Though both CPSC (US) and EN1078 (EU) certifications are in the bag, the Forefront will be a US- (or, ahem, mail order-) only to start, with international distribution down the road a bit. Claimed weight is 285g- not bad given the helmet’s coverage.  The first riding samples will be available at Interbike next month and production helmets will be in shops around March first. Ten – ten! – colours (some aimed at the ladies) will be available from launch in three sizes. The asking price? $200 $220. If Smith have managed even half of what they claim, the Forefront will be an impressive trail lid. Start saving now…

Just like a lot of drinking straws then…

edit 15 August:  Target price has increased since PressCamp, from $200 to $220.

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