Review: Smith Route helmet

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When Smith launched its first helmet a few years ago, two things stood out: the unique use of Koroyd protection material in the lining and the steep price tag approaching $300. Perhaps thanks to the former and in spite of the latter, the popularity of Smith helmets was instantaneous. Almost overnight, every POC-headed rider here in Colorado switched to a white or black Smith with the telltale green honeycomb Koroyd material showing through the air vents. The Smith was on trend, but it was still expensive.

This spring, Smith launched two new helmets that still feature Koroyd and a MIPS option but that start at $150 ($180 for MIPS). The new Route (road) and Rover (mountain) are very similar to the flagship Overtake and Forefront but use Koroyd sparingly—only in the locations where Smith determined your head and helmet are most likely to impact the ground, should you crash, instead of all over the interior of the lid.

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What is Koroyd? In short, it’s a whole bunch of small polymer tubes thermally welded together in a honeycomb pattern—a shape has been found to be incredibly strong. It provides extra impact protection and is intended to reduce the severity of skull fractures that can lead to traumatic brain injuries. When the honeycomb gets hit, it crumples like the front bumper of a modern car, reducing the force that ultimately makes it to your noggin. Koroyd can’t eliminate impact fractures, just as MIPS is only supposed to lessen the severity of concussions, but it’s a noteworthy leap in helmet protection technology.

Not only does the streamlined use of Koroyd cut the price, it actually makes the new helmets more breathable. A common complaint has been that the all-over honeycomb makes the first-generation Smith helmets extra-warm, especially when riding slow. The new arrangement, plus 18 large vents on the Route (the Rover gets 20 vents, plus a visor and more rear coverage) definitely helps with breathability. Otherwise, Koroyd is extremely lightweight. You don’t really notice it’s there.

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The Route’s fit is spot on, but I can only say that for myself. Helmet fit is about as personal as blue jeans (if that doesn’t make sense to you, turn to the woman in your life and ask her how she likes shopping for jeans), so I cannot tell you that this helmet has a “perfect” fit in general. For some reference, my head used to like Bell helmets (mid 2000s) but not the current models. I can wear some Giros but not all (and I need a bigger size than in other brands). I dig the fit of POC helmets. The Smith helmet fits me the best of all. That said, try before you buy. We can’t stress that enough.

Where I have found some helmet strap placements are too far back for a truly tight fight under my chin (rather than on my jugular), the Smith straps are forward enough, and spaced apart enough, for me to get this lid nice and tight without choking or rubbing my ears. The straps and buckles are otherwise straightforward—nothing you wouldn’t recognize.

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The dial-adjusted fit tightens small arms inside the helmet that reach as far forward as your temple on either side. It’s a fairly simple adjustment system, but the big difference is how far down the back of your head the fit system extends. That allows the helmet coverage to be minimal, as many road lids are, while still ensuring it fully grabs your melon.

Notably, the placement of the fit system and straps allowed me to comfortably wear a wide range of sunglasses styles and brands. That’s a huge plus for me—with a small head, I find that the vast majority of helmets interfere with many sunglasses. I applaud Smith for succeeding here, especially since it sells its own sports shades and could have easily made this helmet to only work with its product.

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Looks-wise, I appreciate that the Route doesn’t have an exclusively go-fast look. Unlike Smith’s high-end road helmet, the Overtake, the company doesn’t bill the Route as “aero,” which is just fine with me. (Nothing about me is aero…) The Route is very much an all-around-appearing lid, good for road cycling, adventure travel and commuting. It’s not too bulky, bulbous or alien-like. It even comes in camo print, damn! Finally, if you have a light with a long strap, you can attach it fairly easily to the back of the helmet, and the vents are plenty big enough to snake a cable lock through.

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Admittedly, the $180 price tag for the MIPS equipped model is still high in the face of many brands bringing down the prices of their MIPS helmets, but Koroyd is still a space-agey material and it carries a price tag to match. After sitting through a presentation put on by the Koroyd team, I am mostly convinced that it’s worth the extra coin. As a result, I actively sought out Koroyd options when buying a new ski helmet for my hell-bent husband last year. It’s a free market society so we have to put a price on safety. It’s up to you what’s acceptable.

 

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