Smith Rover Helmet Review
Smith emerged as a player on the helmet scene in 2013 with the release of the Forefront. With visuals straight out of Tron and employing Koroyd, an unusual drinking straw-like structure to absorb shock, it was an immediate attention grabber. The Smith Rover is their more recently introduced version that costs less, but is also its own design and will appeal to riders that may have been turned off by the looks or the cost of the Forefront.
Matt Dennison modelling the Smith Optics Forefront.
The Rover doesn’t look as space-age as the Forefront and the aesthetics are bound to be less polarizing. Koroyd is used much more sparingly which partly explains the lower cost.
The new Smith Rover helmet is available in standard and MIPS versions in a huge range of colours. It’s a very neutral looking, neutral fitting, helmet and that’s intended absolutely as a compliment.
Like the Forefront, the Rover is available in both standard and MIPS versions. I’ve been testing the MIPS version since the end of September. It sells for $210 US compared to $175 for the non-MIPS version. The Forefront costs $220 or $260 with MIPS. The grey colour I’ve been riding is available in both versions but be aware that some of the colour options are only available with MIPS.
Smith Rover Helmet
I suppose the Rover wouldn’t be a Smith helmet without some unique styling elements. I’ve heard a lot of suggestions on what the ‘pocket’ at the back could be for including storing an energy bar, and strapping on a spare tube. Note – this is not recommended if you want your helmet to do its job in a crash.
I found that the Forefront didn’t breathe anywhere near well enough for this furnace. The ‘unique’ look wasn’t for me either.
Sunny, cloudy, clear, or raining the Smith Rover always seems to come out darker in photos than it is in person. Photo: Jaclyn Delacroix
The Rover is a lot more neutral in appearance. It looks like a high-end mountain bike helmet. The fit, comparing two mediums, is a little more generous than my Giro Montaro. Prior to use, I handed the helmet off to a number of medium-wearing friends to try on. The feedback from everyone was “I would wear this.” Coming from riders who prefer a plethora of different brands I think that’s a ringing endorsement on fit.
The Rover walks the line between the head coverage of an XC lid and a more aggressive half-shell, like the Montaro. That is to say my head doesn’t feel as ‘enveloped’ as with an Enduro half lid but also better protected than with a roadie exoskeleton with visor attached.
MIPS liner. Smith is one among many companies that mounts their helmet straps in the shell which I find more comfortable. The thin and lightweight strap material is excellent.
The Smith Rover’s strap arrangement is not unique. I believe Specialized was actually the first company to mount helmet straps into the shell with their S-Works line going back a decade. Now similar webbing systems are employed by POC, Giro, Troy Lee, Leatt and others.
While I’m not complaining about these systems, some riders note they make noise at higher speeds on the road. Smith has executed their webbing at least as well as any other brand. The thin, lightweight material used for the straps doesn’t get nasty on a sweaty day and the harness is easy to adjust.
Koroyd. Polymer tubes engineered to absorb impacts but remain breathable. I’m not imaginative enough to come up with a better description of the appearance than a ‘honeycomb’ or a collection of ‘straws’.
For anyone interested, Smith has a detailed write up on Koroyd construction on their website. The basics are that the material absorbs impacts while facilitating airflow. Smith can use it to fill in vents for an increase in impact absorption without compromising comfort.
I found the Smith Rover to be an excellent helmet for airflow at low speeds. Passive airflow if you will, which you might want climbing single track. That was not my experience with the Forefront. The Rover has more open venting for unimpeded airflow while the Forefront has more Koroyd filled venting.
The Smith Rover’s MIPS liner is visible through the generous venting.
A lot has been written about MIPS. Does it only actually help prevent brain injuries for folks as bald as a test dummy? How much should it add to the price of a helmet? The premium charged for MIPS varies significantly from brand to brand.
I don’t have any answers about which haircuts or brand of volumizing hairspray duplicate the benefits of MIPS. However, I will say that for most brands’ lids the MIPS versions seem to fit me better. I haven’t tried on a non-MIPS Rover but based on other experiences I’d guess that the extra $35, over the lifespan of my helmet (knock on wood), would be worthwhile to me for the improved connection.
Who Am I?
The Smith Rover was easily adjustable to fit great with, or without, a thin hat underneath. It isn’t an XC-lid or an Enduro half-shell. Smith says it’s “for the wanderer in everyone”. Photo: Jaclyn Delacroix
It isn’t an XC race lid. It isn’t an Enduro lid. Everyone who tries it on, according to my unscientific study, is happy with the fit. It comes in a wide range of solid colours. The straps are excellent. The venting is very good. It’s expensive but not outrageously so compared to other helmets in its class.
Smith Rover helmet colour options in MIPS and non-MIPS versions.
Smith says the Rover is “for the wanderer in everyone.” I think that is marketing-guru for “this helmet is for people that do mountain biking rather than a category of mountain biking.” That fits me perfectly.
For more on the Rover head click here…
Forefront or Rover?