Skiing has a lot in common with mountain biking: high speeds, variable terrain, and decent odds you're going to mash your melon no matter how careful you are. So it makes sense that Smith, the go-to helmet maker for freestyle skiers and aggressive snowboarders, has taken an interest in off-road. Using many of the same materials that make its snow helmets both comfortable and tough, Smith has created the Forefront Bike Helmet, which offers all-mountain protection and road-race weight.
The secret to the Forefront's feather weight and monster strength is a patented tubular core structure (what Smith calls Aerocore), which is formed using a material called Koroyd. These toppers absorb 30 percent more energy from an impact than standard expanding polystyrene helmets, while providing incredible ventilation and reduced volume at just 285 grams – the weight of about three smart phones.
"In our effort to reduce volume and weight while increasing ventilation and impact protection for ski and snowboard helmets, we came across Koroyd," says Eric Carlson, VP of product and design for Smith. "Through a little bit of luck and good fortune, we found it met all of our goals. After a full year of testing, we were able to gather massive amounts of impact data and design flexibility that made this helmet possible."
A goggle retention strap and modern accoutrements like camera and light mounts are integrated into the Forefront, which comes in 10 colors and three adult sizes. In our tests, it was equally suited to intense downhill sessions and slow climbs up switchbacks. But you don't have to take our word for it: Professional mountain biker Lars Sternberg has entrusted his noggin to the Forefront and calls it "the lightest, most comfortable helmet I've ever worn." [$220; smithoptics.com]