The Forefront turned heads when it launched in 2013. Its construction–which utilizes a honeycomb layer of what look like straws–was completely novel. Last year, the Forefront received the MIPS (Multidirectional Impact Protection System) treatment, adding a plastic liner designed to allow the helmet to slide relative to the head during an angled impact, theoretically reducing forces believed to be a factor in causing concussions. Today, more than 200 helmets from over 50 brands are built with the Swedish-designed MIPS system.
Behind the Forefront
The Forefront's sleek lines are a stark contrast to the often bulbous-looking helmets seen on the trail today. Traditionally, bike helmets have a couple layers and densities of EPS foam inside the construction. A softer foam is usually used closer to the head to absorb lower-speed impacts, while more forceful impacts will compress the outer layer, gradually transferring and decelerating the energy through thicker density foam underneath. Smith takes a different approach to padding our neurological hard drives, integrating Koroyd into the EPS layers, which looks more like a fistful of cocktail straws than an innovative form of helmet construction. Smith says that, upon impact, the Koroyd cores crush in a completely controlled manner, decelerating the energy from the impact far beyond international testing standards.
The Forefront's fit is adjusted with a small dial in the rear. Hidden underneath the thin, gray MIPS layer are three height-adjustment locations where the retention system snaps into the inner helmet. The removable visor has two positions, and the Forefront's integrated light and POV-camera mount is sure to please midnight ramblers and YouTube superstars alike. Most riders don’t wear goggles with their open-face, cross-country style helmets, but those who do will be glad to find the included goggle-strap retention cord.
Riding with the Forefront
Despite its unconventional appearance and honeycomb-like construction, the Forefront is very comfortable and the Koroyd holes are undetectable. The plastic MIPS layer–and the interior padding–acts as a buffer between the head and the Koroyd, and, for me, keeps the "honeycombs" a few millimeters above my hair. I can't say the Forefront kept my head the coolest of any helmet I've worn, though with 21 vents there are plenty of openings to keep air flowing from all directions.
A helmet designed with all-mountain-worthy levels of protection often means material is added for increased coverage. At 340g (size medium), the MIPS-equipped Forefront is 25g lighter than a very popular non-MIPS all-mountain helmet I'd been running previously, and is certainly on the lighter end of the spectrum.
Despite all of the Forefront's technical features, its most endearing quality is, unsurprisingly, its high level of comfort. From the initial setup to the most recent ride, the Forefront rarely, if ever, required mid-ride adjustments, and despite the minimalist padding never presented irritating pressure points. The Forefront’s $260 price tag will deter many riders, but Smith also offers a non-MIPS-equipped Forefront for the admittedly still high price of $220. There’s no shortage of deep-coverage lids to choose from these days, but riders pursuing a lightweight, cutting edge all-mountain helmet equipped with the latest safety features, plus integrated light and camera mounts would be remiss not to consider the Forefront a category frontrunner.