The Forefront 2 is the recently updated version of Smith's top of the line Forefront mountain bike helmet. The new version shares a similar unique look, but several notable design improvements set the Forefront 2 apart from its predecessor. First, the Forefront 2 has a bit less of a space-age look to it with a new vent layout and a slimmer and lower profile all around. Smith also improved ventilation dramatically with a new vent layout, larger vent holes, and an open channel down the center of the helmet that allows air to flow more freely. It also has a sturdier 3-position adjustable visor that flips up high to accommodate goggles and low to keep the sun out of your eyes. Combine all that with everything we loved about the old version, and you've got one of our new favorite mountain bike helmets. The Forefront 2 is available with or without the MIPS rotation protection system. We tested it with.
Smith Forefront 2 MIPS Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Adjustable visor, MIPS, Koroyd protection, improved ventilation, good coverage
Cons: Expensive, still not as ventilated as the competition
Manufacturer: Smith Optics
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Our Analysis and Test Results
When the original Forefront helmet hit the market several years ago, its futuristic look and Koroyd material set it apart from the competition. Koroyd is a proprietary impact protection material that looks a lot like a honeycomb or a bunch of cross sections of straws packed tightly together. The claimed benefits of using this material are that it's lightweight and provides impact resistance while still allowing for ventilation. Opinions on the original Forefront were mixed, with the primary complaint being that the Koroyd didn't allow for the same level of airflow as larger open ventilation holes. Enter the Forefront 2, Smith's recently updated version of the Forefront that attempts to address some of the issues with the original version. Read on to find out more about the changes and how it compares to the competition.
In the world of mountain bike helmets, protection is the name of the game, and the Forefront 2 came to play. It has a high degree of head coverage, with a shape that comes down low on the back of the head. It doesn't have quite as much coverage as the POC Tectal Race SPIN, which has a slightly deeper fit that dips lower by the ears and the temporal lobe, but it isn't that far off. That said, it has as much or more coverage than all of the other helmets in our test. We put it on par with other helmets like the Smith Session, the Troy Lee A2, and the Bell Hela Joy Ride.
The Forefront 2 we tested is equipped with an industry standard MIPS liner. The idea behind the MIPS liner is that it helps to reduce the rotational forces of an impact by providing a slip-plane that deflects some of the impact through movement. Smith has been using MIPS liners in their helmets for years and in the Forefront 2 it isn't really noticeable, nor does it affect the way the helmet fits.
Smith has designed the Forefront 2 with strips of foam on the inside that run fore and aft and side to side. These line the edges of the large Koroyd panels inside the helmet. The outer shell sits around the outside of the Koroyd panels and consists of a thin layer of foam with holes for ventilation that is covered in a protective polycarbonate layer.
As mentioned above, one of the things that really sets the Forefront 2 apart from the competition is their use of Koroyd. Koroyd's honeycomb structure features lots of tightly packed little tubes creating an impact absorbing protective layer. The unique thing about the Koroyd is that it can absorb impact and allow air to pass through it at the same time. This means that you can cover more of the head with this material while keeping the weight low and still maintaining a reasonable level of ventilation. The tubes of the Koroyd are small enough that it prevents most bugs from flying in, and prevent intrusion from sticks, rocks, and other hazards in the event of a crash.
The Koroyd in the Forefront 2 is split into four large panels, one on either side of the top of the head and two on either side of the back of the head. All but the three vents in the center of the helmet have Koroyd visible underneath them. Smith has designed a helmet that has only three completely open vent holes. As a result, it covers more of your head than any other helmet in our test. Other helmets have open vent holes that may allow hazards to penetrate through the helmet and into your head.
Much like the original, the Forefront 2 has a comfortable and crowd-pleasing fit. This starts with the length and width, which fits a broad range of head shapes and sizes and are very similar to the previous version. Smith has also employed their Vaporfit adjustment system in the Forefront 2 so you can quickly and easily tighten and loosen it. Inside the helmet, you'll find minimal but well-placed padding from the temples across the forehead, with just a little on the top of the head. We'll go into more detail below, but the Forefront 2's ventilation is better than the original, and it increases this helmet's comfort as the temperatures rise.
The straps could be improved though. They are fixed in the shell of the helmet and come together in a V at a locking strap splitter below the ear. They aren't very comfortable. Admittedly, this strap adjustment system works fine, but the POC Tectal Race SPIN does it better. Its superior strap yoke prevents unwanted contact between the straps and your ears.
The Forefront 2 has several adjustments to dial in the fit and accommodate eyewear. The Vaporfit adjustment system is well designed, allowing one-handed size adjustment using the dial at the back of the head. Turning the dial pulls tension evenly from both sides on the adjustment straps for a snug and secure fit. The entire Vaporfit system can also be adjusted at its attachment points, found at the temples and the back of the head. Each attachment point has four holes, allowing you to adjust strap length to adjust the system for your comfort further.
Locking strap splitters at the bottom of each ear allow you to adjust the nylon ear and chin straps. The chin strap is adjusted and secured below the chin with a standard plastic buckle. This strap system works just fine, but the straps occasionally conflict with testers' ears and never sit quite as flat as we would like.
The visor on the Forefront 2 adjusts into three positions and feels much sturdier than the one on the previous version. In its low position, the visor is a good length to block the sun from your eyes without obscuring your view of the trail ahead. It has a middle position for those who don't like to see the visor at all when descending. In the high position, it flips way up out of the way to accommodate goggles when not in use. The visor rotates on metal hardware by the temples and has well-defined stopping points for each position. In both the middle and high positions, the visor directs more airflow into the helmet as a bonus. Testers feel this is one of the best-executed visor designs we tested. It feels sturdier than the Smith Session's visor and doesn't require the user to loosen or tighten a screw like the POC Tectal.
Weighing in at 13.19 oz, the Forefront 2 falls into the same weight range as several other helmets in our test. The Smith Session, Leatt DBX 3.0, Giro Chronicle, and the Troy Lee A2 all weigh between 0.14 oz to 0.32 oz more than the Forefront 2. Our Editor's Choice Award winner, the POC Tectal Race SPIN managed to come in at 12.87oz, which is just 0.32 oz lighter. Differences in weight that small are hardly noticeable, but all other things being equal, we feel that lighter is better.
One of the biggest improvements made in the new Forefront 2 is increased ventilation. Smith accomplished this in a couple of ways. The first and most obvious difference is the size of the vent holes in the outermost part of the shell. Pretty much every vent is much larger than before, which allows more air to pass through. There is also a row of three vents in the center of the helmet that doesn't have any Koroyd underneath it. These open vents also have a small channel that allows air to flow from the front to the back. These changes may seem minor, but they make a huge difference in the way this helmet vents.
There are 20 total vents on the outside of the Forefront 2, 17 of which have Koroyd underneath them. While the Koroyd does allow air to pass through, most of the holes don't face the direction of travel, and moving air, as you ride. For example, the Koroyd over the forehead faces straight forward allowing for air to pass directly to the forehead. However, the Koroyd holes on top of the head face straight up and don't necessarily catch the air as you move in a forward direction.
The majority of our time spent testing the Forefront 2 was in Lake Tahoe in late summer. It rarely breaks the 90-degree mark in these parts, but at elevation the intense sun often makes it feel much warmer than it actually is. Our test rides ranged primarily between 70 and 85 degrees, with more than our fair share of that California sunshine. In that temperature range, our testers found the Forefront 2 to feel cooler than the previous version, and fairly cool in general.
During side by side ventilation testing, however, we found that helmets with fully open vents did feel slightly cooler, though it wasn't by much. Yes, the POC Tectal and the Troy Lee A2, do allow slightly more air to flow around the head than the Forefront 2, but the difference is almost negligible. Not surprisingly, we found our Top Pick for Ventilation Award winner, the Smith Session, to provide much more ventilation, even with its strategic Koroyd placements around the sides of the helmet.
The Forefront 2 is a top of the line helmet offered at a premium price that comes with virtually all the features you'd expect. Optics integration is something that Smith has hung their hat on with their cycling helmets, and that continues with the Forefront 2.
The visor goggle-friendly, flip it into its highest position and there is ample room to store the goggles underneath. It also has a large channel designed to securely store your sunglasses on the helmet, either front or rear, when not in use. The Forefront 2 uses Smith's Vaporfit adjustment system dials in a snug and secure fit. The helmet's padding is minimal, but well placed and treated with XT2 anti-bacterial.
The primary safety features of the Forefront 2 are the MIPS liner and the Koroyd material used throughout. MIPS adds additional protection from the rotational forces associated with impacts, and we feel it is worth the extra cost. Smith is the only helmet brand using Koroyd, and as far as we know, it's the only impact resistant material that also allows for ventilation on the market.
It also has an integrated camera and light mount on the top of the helmet. This mount is a small threaded metal insert that hides under a small plastic cover. Use of the mount requires a special mounting kit that is available as an aftermarket purchase.
Throughout testing, the Forefront 2 proved to be a highly durable helmet. All of the adjustable components like the Vaporfit system, the straps, and the visor continue to work well. The foam is covered with a dense layer of plastic that wraps around the edges in all the places that are susceptible to damage. The plastic outer shell shows no signs of denting, although there are a couple of incredibly minor scratches in the matte finish from unexpected low hanging branches. Beyond that, the Forefront 2 still looks as new as the day we got it.
The Forefront 2 has a huge bandwidth and is suitable for a variety of types of riding. Everything from everyday trail riding to enduro racing is in this helmet's wheelhouse. If you were turned off by the ventilation of the original Forefront, trust us when we say this is an improvement. XC racers and weight conscious riders may want to look elsewhere. The extended coverage and numberous features give this helmet a little more heft than an XC race or road bike lid. People living in very hot climates may also be better off looking into airier helmets. The Koroyd ventilation is a huge improvement but may not be enough for some.
With a retail price of $230, the Forefront 2 is the most expensive helmet in our test selection. It comes in just $10 more than the POC Tectal Race SPIN. No matter how you look at it, these helmets are expensive. If there's one piece of protective equipment you should splurge on, however, we feel that a quality helmet is it. The Forefront 2 is most definitely a high-quality mountain bike helmet with protective features like a MIPS liner and Koroyd, a great fit, quality adjustments, and a unique look. It also comes with a lifetime warranty. Considering the all-around performance and protection that this helmet offers, we feel that it is a good value assuming you can justify the expense.
It's not cheap, but the Smith Forefront 2 MIPS is one of those products that we feel is worth the added expense. This updated version maintains all of the things we liked about the old version while addressing its weaknesses. It still has the same great fit and coverage but with a slimmer and lower profile shape all around. The most notable improvements are in the helmet's ventilation. With an updated vent layout that includes 20 vents, 3 of which are wide open down the middle, the Forefront 2 has much better airflow than the old version and now performs nearly as well as much of the competition. A new design also resulted in a sturdier and more robust visor that works better with goggles. Overall, we are incredibly impressed with the Forefront 2 and it quickly became one the favorite models in our test. It doesn't have quite as much coverage or ventilation as our Editor's Choice Award winner, the POC Tectal Race SPIN, but it isn't very far off.
Other Versions and Accessories
Smith makes a full line of cycling helmets including the Forefront 2 MIPS reviewed here. The Forefront 2 is also available without the MIPS liner for $200.
The Session is another great helmet in Smith's lineup that provides a similar level of coverage with better ventilation and a retail price of $160.
To use the integrated camera and light mount on the Forefront 2 you'll need to purchase the Forefront 2 Mount Kit. This mount kit retails for $15 and works on both the original Forefront and Forefront 2 models.
— Jeremy Benson