Smith Network MIPS Review
Cons: Somewhat heavy, not as comfortable as others
Manufacturer: Smith Optics
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Smith Network MIPS is a solid helmet with a reasonable price tag, but its average performance in a number of areas gets overshadowed by several of its competitors. While our testers think this is a very handsome looking helmet that will likely be durable for years to come, it gets outperformed in some of the most important areas like comfort and ventilation. Riders who love the Smith style might be willing to look past its average performance, but those looking for the best in terms of comfort, ventilation, and weight will find higher-performing products elsewhere.
The Network MIPS receives average scores in our comfort ratings. While it has sufficient padding, the adjustable headband system only extends part-way around the helmet, so if your head isn't the same shape as the foam liner, you may be feeling some uncomfortable or awkward pressure points. We've found that no matter what kind of padding is used, the most comfortable helmets have a full circumference headband system that cradles the head ever so slightly away from the helmet's shell material. While our crew didn't experience any discomfort during the testing period, we did note that several other helmets are noticeably more comfortable with their plusher padding or higher-end headband systems.
The Network MIPS also lands in the middle of the pack with its adjustability scores. It does have some nice features like one of our favorite Y-buckle designs with a simple quick-release buckle, and has fore/aft adjustment tabs, but lacks other features like a full circumference headband system. Our testers found a full circumference adjustable headband to be one of the most important features that enhances the comfort and fit of a helmet.
The headband system on the Network MIPS extends part-way around the head and is anchored to the shell near the temples, and has one of the largest and most convenient adjustment dials at the back of the helmet. The size Large helmet we tested is adjustable from 59-62 cm, which is a slightly smaller range by 1 cm than most of the other size Large helmets on the market.
Registering in at 348 g in a size Large by our measurements, the Network MIPS finds itself on the heavier end of our lineup. Part of the reason for this is that it has one of the most extensive polycarbonate shell material coverages of any helmet we tested. While this is certainly a positive attribute when it comes to the overall durability of this model, it does create a slight weight penalty that, while not overwhelming, is slightly noticeable.
This model from Smith also features Koroyd material that is strategically placed in different zones throughout the helmet. Koroyd provides a honeycomb-like structure within some of the vents in the helmet liner, and is intended to enhance crash protection and ventilation, but may contribute to the heavier weight of the Network MIPS.
Everyone certainly has their tastes, and our testers don't claim to be style gurus, but we think this helmet has some aesthetic features that will make it appealing to a wide range of users. It has a low profile shape that looks modern and attractive and seems to sit well on the head without looking too big or bulky. It also comes in a variety of matte colors that are unique compared to the glossy finishes of most road bike helmets. We really like the matte gray color we tested, which looks sleek and stealthy. The honeycomb-like Koroyd material that is present within this lid comes in contrasting colors with some of the available color schemes, which adds to the unique and modern look.
The Network MIPS clocks in with 20 vents across the helmet, yet only ranks in the middle of our lineup with its ventilation scores for a couple of reasons. The internal MIPS liner, which is a thin plastic sheet that sits inside the helmet liner against the head, doesn't seem to align exactly with the vents, seemingly blocking some of the potential airflow. The Koroyd material that is intended to enhance safety and ventilation also seems to block potential airflow. The open cell structure is oriented in a way that doesn't align with the direction of airflow when you're on the move. Because of these design features, this particular model was noticeably warmer than the best-ventilated offerings in the lineup.
Since our testing period doesn't span the multiple years that you will likely own your helmet, we can't make any statements regarding long term durability with absolute certainty, but can observe features that will likely withstand the daily wear and abuse that helmets typically see. The Network MIPS shines in this department with its full-coverage polycarbonate shell material. Many other models skimp in this area to reduce weight and end up leaving a good amount of EPS foam material exposed and vulnerable to dents and abrasion. The Network MIPS is one of the best-armored helmets in our lineup, doing a good job of protecting any fragile materials or parts, and giving the impression of excellent long term durability.
More extensive polycarbonate shell material on a helmet typically leads to more weight, and the Network MIPS is no different. However, since we're only talking about differences on the order of tens of grams, riders looking for an absolutely solid helmet will likely be ok with the weight penalty.
Typically earning scores that fall near the middle of our lineup, and having a $160 list price that's a little on the lower end of our lineup, the Network MIPS provides a good value to the right user. It is a solid performer across the board, but is outpaced by other competitors in several metrics, and doesn't have any overwhelming features that really stand out. Riders who appreciate the modern stealthy style and enhanced durability with the extensive shell material will likely find this a great value. Others who are looking for extreme comfort or ventilation will likely be better served looking elsewhere but will be paying a premium for those improvements in most cases.
The Smith Network MIPS is a stylish and solidly built bike helmet that will please users looking to try something different than the traditional cycling brands. With average performance across the board, the Network MIPS doesn't impress or disappoint in any category, getting somewhat buried in the lineup full of fancy features. While other helmets have higher-end comfort, ventilation, and adjustability, the Network has no glaring weaknesses, and we think it is one of the coolest looking helmets we tested.
— Nick Bruckbauer