Smith has always made some of the best ski and snowboard helmets on the market and a few years ago they entered the discussion for best mountain bike helmet with the Forefront. The Forefront is a full-featured, top of the line helmet that many riders from all-mountain/enduro to cross country fell in love with for its lightweight, excellent fit, and unique Koroyd honeycomb protection material. The Smith Rover helmet is the company’s attempt to bring some of that success to a more mid-range part of the market with pared-down features and a reduced price tag to match. Read the rest of our Smith Rover helmet review to see how it fared in real world testing.
Smith Rover Mountain Bike Helmet: The Forefront’s less talented little brother
From a feature standpoint, the Rover loses a few of its $250 [$130 more than the standard Rover] brother’s trademarks but holds onto some parts that made the Forefront a success. While the Forefront is constructed with copious amounts of Koroyd (a unique honeycomb patterned protection material), the Rover uses a combination of traditional hard foam in less critical areas and Koroyd in the places most likely to suffer an impact. Obviously, this trade-off was done for cost-savings to make the Rover more affordable. As someone who has had a crash with the Forefront on my head and found the protection of the Koroyd to be exceptional, I’m glad that Smith found a way to keep some element of that in this more accessible model.
Another change from the Forefront, the Smith Rover comes with a non-tiltable visor. As someone who never tilts up my visor on my other helmets, I didn’t really notice this as an issue. You can always remove the visor if it bothers you. Also, the Rover does not have a built-in helmet cam mount with a threaded attachment for something like a GoPro. Again, not an issue for me personally but you’ll have to make that decision yourself.
A feature that IS a big deal is the option of MIPS protection. MIPS has been around for a little while now and there is pretty solid science that it helps prevent CTE from repetitive impacts. For me, this is a crucial feature that I make sure is in all of my helmets. Fortunately, the Smith Rover helmet is available in two versions, a $120 non-MIPS version and a $150 MIPS version. Glad that they found a way to give you this added level of protection for a little more money.
Fit and Adjustment
Fit of a helmet is always going to be personal and you need to try it on for yourself to know how it will work for you. That said, the Smith Rover helmet is very nicely designed and it worked pretty well for my head. The one thing I noticed is that the helmet has a tendency to be lower down in the front than the back and I had to adjust it to make it fit more evenly. I think this has to do with the depth of the helmet and will definitely vary depending on your head shape. For me, I had to loosen the rear adjustment dial to make it feel right.
Speaking of the adjustment dial, the Smith Rover has an easily accessible spinning wheel that allows you to fine-tune the fit. I had no problems adjusting it with gloves on in the middle of a ride. One thing to note is that the adjustment cage has two pieces of plastic that stick out of the bottom that may bother you, depending on your head. Another positive to note is the well made buckles and straps, which are all of a high quality and construction.
Smith Rover: Real-world performance
My first test of the Smith Rover was a 2.5 hour, 13 mile ride in Moab, UT on one of my favorite trail systems, the Magnificent Seven. It was a hot day and we were pushing pretty hard on the climb back since we had taken it easy with some less-experienced friends on the descent. What I look for in a helmet is something that I forget is there and the Smith Rover did a pretty good job passing this benchmark. The huge vents (called AirEvac by Smith) allow great air flow into the helmet and the big rear vent in the back give the air an escape route. Keeping cool while pumping up the trail is paramount and I was happy with how the Rover performed. I did notice that because of the fit issue I had, I occasionally felt like the helmet was pushing down a little on my sunglasses and I was bummed that I didn’t have the perfect fit I have with the Smith Forefront helmet. When comparing the two, the other thing I noticed was that the Rover doesn’t come down as far in back of head coverage. This was a bit more comfortable but also makes me consider where I ride a little more since a rearward fall wouldn’t be as well protected.
Smith Rover Helmet Review Summary
The Smith Rover mountain bike helmet is a great option for anyone looking to get in on the action that makes the company’s Forefront helmet such a success. With the innovative and highly protective Koroyd material in key areas, the Rover offers excellent coverage for most riding conditions, while its more limited use helps keep the cost down. The fit system is very nice and adjustable but it is important to try it on, as I had a bit of trouble with my head shape. While the visor isn’t tiltable, it is removable should you find it in your way on long descents. The Rover doesn’t come down the back of the head quite as far as a lot of enduro-style helmets, but it should be enough for cross country and more restrained all-mountain riders. At $120 for the non-MIPS version and $150 for the MIPS version, Smith has created a viable option for riders looking for a nice helmet at a reasonable price. Check it out in a range of colors at smithoptics.com.