It’s taken a while, but helmet manufacturers seem to have finally stumbled onto the novel idea that trail riders may have different needs than their road brethren. And yeah, just slapping a visor on a road helmet doesn’t make it trail worthy. Now almost everyone is producing a trail or “enduro-specific” helmet that has increased coverage, especially on the back of the head. I’ve been wearing and crashing these trail helmets for the past couple of years, and I don’t miss the smaller road-style helmets at all.
Smith has been making snow helmets for some time, but the Forefront is it’s first real foray into bike helmets. Fortunately, they didn’t mess around and make another generic lid. With an atypical venting arrangement, and a mid layer of this crazy honeycomb structure called Koroyd, the Forefront is striking, and possibly polarizing, at first glance. I’ll admit to not being wild about its look when I first saw photos, but in person it’s really grown on me. Smith provided the neon orange version for testing and it’s gotten plenty of compliments and questions on the trail. It’s also perfect for riding during deer season.
Looking on the inside of the helmet, all you see is the honeycomb Koroyd and a lot less of the foam EPS you see in most helmets. Smith claims the Koroyd offers more protection and better venting than EPS. While slogging up long, unshaded climbs the Forefront felt just as cool and ventilated as any other helmet, but nothing special. However, as soon as the trail pointed down and speeds increased, it was like an AC unit had fired up on my head—sucking the hot air and sweat off my head immediately.
The fit is similar to any other helmet, with the ubiquitous racheting wheel on the back. The straps seemed more fidgety than most, and it took me a few more rides than usual to get them dialed-in. Smith claims full integration with glasses, goggles, lights and POV cameras. My Oakley glasses fit fine and the adjustable visor was great.
It can be tough, if not impossible, to evaluate any helmet’s protection claims. Lab tests are just that—a sterile set-up in a lab—and it can be difficult to draw real-world conclusions. On the flip side, reviewers are not going to voluntarily spear themselves down a rocky trail in the name of testing. But a few weeks ago, in a moment of hero dirt hubris, I took an ill-advised line choice and ended up slamming my Forefront-encased noggin into a pile of sharp shale and down an embankment. I was able to ride out safely and took a quick trip to the ER. Four stitches to the face, but no concussion and almost no bruising on my head. The EPS on the right temple cracked all the way through and a few rows of the Koroyd honeycomb were deformed. In other words, the helmet did its job. Every crash is different, but I’ve taken similar crashes in road-style lids and the helmet was in pieces. The Smith totally held together and could have provided protection in a bigger wreck that involved multiple impacts or another crash entirely. Of course, like any helmet with crash damage, it’s been retired. And I already miss it.