High-end sunglass brands have built an industry around getting us to spend an extra hundred bucks for fancier plastic. But the helmets made by Smith Optics actually happen to be worth it. Instead of traditional EPS foam, the Rover uses the Koroyd honeycomb structure, whose energy-absorption properties are designed to reduce impact to the brain in a crash.
Until now, Smith's $220 Forefront was the least-expensive way to wrap this technology around your head. The Rover is priced at $120. Our size large weighs in at 380 grams, and for another $30 and a few more grams you can have a Rover with MIPS.
The new lid looks more traditional than the Forefront because most of it is more traditional. But a generous region along each front side of the helmet is filled with a Koroyd panel. The now heavily studied science of brain injury shows these regions are the most sensitive and most likely to suffer an impact, so we'll take it where we can get it.
The rest of the helmet is remarkably breathable and comfortable. Its large vents are fed by deep, cross-ventilating channels, and the retention mechanism can be adjusted especially low for a deep fit. The also-low-but-non-adjustable visor was our only complaint. If you value seeing the trail far ahead of you, the Rover looks pretty sleek visor-less.