Smith move to the Forefront with straw-tech helmet

by Marc Basiliere 12

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…

smithoptics.com

smithoptics.eu

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

Comments (12)

  1. $200?!!!

    That’s a pricey lid

  2. My head is easily worth $200! If the quality difference is similar to that between the motorcycle brands (think Shoei to AGV) then that’s not a bad price. How it compares to a POC may be interesting though.

  3. Interesting idea – and nice looks – but my main thought is that those “drinking straws” will very quickly be full of sweat, mud. sheep poo, dead flies, etc and will be a right pain to clean.

  4. Very clever. Very, very ugly. Possibly even worse than Urge helmets…

  5. Has he got it on the right way round?

  6. Can a helmet light be easily fitted?

  7. I’m not one to comment on another man’s helmet, but this one’s particularly fugly.

  8. Brainflex,

    Yes- there is a threaded insert at the top for light and camera mounting. Mounts won’t come in the box, but will be available from their respective distributors (GoPro and Light & Motion were mentioned and I’d imagine that Exposure could whip something up without too much trouble).

  9. I’m not much to look at myself but jeez that hit every drinking straw in the big pile of ugly looking drinking straws, me thinks with those looks and that price they may have done better to just ‘slap their name on just another styrofoam hat’

  10. I’d like TJ’s thoughts.

  11. I would wear mirror googles with that lid.
    If only not to be recognised.

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