Smith Forefront II Long Term review

Smith Forefront II  Long Term review

From a humble beginning in 1965 selling garage made goggles on weekend ski trips, Smith has expanded beyond their wildest dreams to become one of the most well known and respected helmet and eyewear brands out there. In 2013 Smith entered the bike market with the launch of the original Forefront helmet and has gone from strength to strength ever since. The first bike helmet to use Koroyd reinforcement to improve performance and protection, the Forefront marked arguably the biggest step forward for helmet construction since the move to EPS lids.

Andy guiding in the Forefront II

 The original Forefront was a brilliant design way ahead of its time and has only improved over the years. Now in its second iteration, the Forefront II has been protecting the heads of our shop staff, guides and Dirt Schools coaches for the past year, and in that time we’ve logged a huge amount of riding time in these helmets. From short, high intensity post-work rides to all day outings, we’ve put them through the wringer in every possible condition. Read on to hear our thoughts.

Fit, Adjustability and Features

Safety is obviously a major concern when buying a helmet, and the Forefront II is the highest protection open face helmet Smith produces. With a deep rear section it covers as much of the head as possible, but the stand out feature is the full coverage Koroyd layer, used to increase the safety and predictability of the helmet's compression in an impact. 

Koroyd insert in Smith Forefront II

Easy to spot in a helmet and looking superficially like a load of straws glued together, Koroyd outperforms traditional expanded Polystyrene in a number of ways. Not only is it massively more puncture resistant to a single point blow, but unlike EPS where the force transmitted to the wearer ramps up as it compresses in an impact, Koroyd deforms in a much more linear manner keeping the peak forces on the head lower in a big shunt. Additionally Koyroyd also stays crumpled after damage, effectively storing and dissipating the energy from a crash. In contrast EPS springs back, potentially increasing the severity of movement to the head.

Now commonplace on many high end bike helmets, a MIPS (Mulit-directional Impact Protection System) layer is used to add a low friction element to the liner of the helmet, allowing the head to move slightly within the helmet during a crash event. With oblique and multi-directional impacts so common in mountain biking this is a crucial safety aspect to reduce the rotational forces going to the head and brain, helping to mitigate the risk of neck injury and concussion. 

Andy riding the Forefront II at Glentress

As with most modern helmets, the Forefront II uses a dial on the rear cradle to adjust the fit of the helmet. Less common however is the level of adjustability to tune how the cradle fits and where it attaches within the helmet. The Forefront allows vertical adjustment over three positions, letting you choose where the helmet makes contact with the back of your head, noticeably changing the fit and feel. There is then even more adjustment possible with the forward attachment points of the cradle having four further positions to choose from, again this has a noticeable effect on the fit of the helmet with big variations in the preferred setup between our guides and coaches. 

Padding inside the Forefront II is fairly minimal with one large front mounted pad covering the forehead round to the temple, and a second smaller pad on the crown of the head. This simple padding gives a really secure fit; with less soft foam to wobble around on the trail the helmet stays solidly in place, but it does mean you might have to spend a bit of time experimenting with the various cradle adjustments to find the best fit for you.

For a company like Smith with such a long history in eyewear, goggles and glasses storage was never going to be an afterthought and it’s clear that secure, easy to use eyewear storage was considered during the design of the Forefront II from the off. Goggles are well catered for, with a wide band at the rear of the helmet to give the strap a solid grip and plenty of space up front under the visor to keep them out of the way whilst climbing.  

Smith Forefront II Glasses carry

It’s when stowing glasses however, that the clever design of the Forefront II really shines. Take a closer look at the helmet and you’ll see a recessed channel running from under the visor all the way round to the back of the helmet, this isn’t just there for aesthetics but also provides two mounting options for your riding glasses. With the visor up, simply flip your glasses upside down and push the arms into the channel between the visor and the helmet. This front mounted option is quick and easy to use and can be done with one hand after a bit of practice, making it ideal for short climbs between descents. Alternatively, flip your glasses as before but this time mount them rear facing at the back of the helmet, again slotting the arms into the channel. This placement keeps them totally out of your eyeline and in our experience is the most secure of the two mounting positions, just don’t forget to put them back on before you descend!

Innes riding the Forefront II at Innerleithen DH trails
Further adding to the Smith’s feature list is a camera and light mount on the top of the helmet which gives a solid and removable mount for your favoured action camera or headlight for night rides. 20 vents across the shell give decent ventilation and keep sweat at bay over longer rides. There are more ventilated helmets out there, but none that also offer the exceptional level of protection that the Forefront does. 

On the trail

Our team Forefront IIs have been put thoroughly to the test over the last 12 months. After some experimentation with fit and adjustment everyone has landed on a different setup for the cradle, speaking volumes to the versatility of the Forefront’s fit. 

Andy guiding in the Forefront II at Innerleithen

The adjustment dial is easy to use and stays tight all day. What's been nice about the Forefront II is the security of the fit over rough ground, negating the need to overtighten the ratchet which can create hotspots of pressure. Ventilation and heat management has also been good through the different seasons. The full Koroyd insert stops wind and rain whistling through the vents which has been a surprising benefit in winter while still allowing heat to exit on warmer days. Overall the Forefront is slightly warmer on hot days than some more open ‘XC’ helmet designs but then it’s also massively safer. 

When riding in wet and muddy or bright and sunny conditions where eyewear is most useful, the built-in glasses storage has been put to good use by everyone. It’s easy to use, doesn’t affect the comfort of the helmet, and is really secure. When it’s so simple to carry your glasses when you’re not using them, it makes it easier to bring them on every ride and reap the benefits on the descents without having to worry about where to put them.

Matthew riding the Forefront II at Glentress

Most of our helmets have made it through the year unscathed, holding up well to the rigours of riding your bike full time. Nothing has come loose or fallen off and all our helmets, though now looking well used, all function as they did the first time we put them on. These are high quality helmets, built to last. Only one has had to be retired after one of our staff gave it the ultimate test. It may not have survived the crash but it stayed in place perfectly, held up and kept the wearer protected which is all that can really be asked. 

We have a great range of Smith helmets in stock, including the Forefront II. On the hunt for a proper trail riding lid? Come along to our shop on Innerleithen’s High Street and try one on for size.

☎️01896 831 429


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