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Smith Network helmet review

18 Jul 2018
Verdict:

Multiple new technologies and bold styling make for a forward-thinking helmet

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£140
For 
• Koroyd and MIPS technology • Crossover appeal
Against 
• Styling might not suit everyone • Not the plushest fitting

Sell ‘em how you like, most helmets are just a bit of plastic containing some expanded polystyrene. Cheap to employ, and pretty much universal in its use, I’ve yet to see an independent test where increased cost has equated to a boost in the protection on offer.

So, if you want to look after your head the good news is you probably don't need to shell out big money. This fact is partly why helmet design has been largely static for decades.

Yet while most helmets still deal with blunt impacts in the same way they have since Bell introduced the first expanded polystyrene helmet back in 1975, some new technology has started to trickle into the market.

Buy the Smith Network helmet from Wiggle here

In creating its new Network helmet, Smith has included two of them. First up the vivid green Koroyd straws that make up the lid’s side panels. These hollow tubes are designed to absorb energy.

When impacted the Koroyd cores crush homogeneously, decelerating the energy from the impact and reducing final trauma levels versus more traditional materials.

Secondly, there’s the MIPS system. Aimed at mitigating the glancing impacts that can cause concussive injury to the brain, in a helmet with the MIPS brain protection system the shell and liner are separated by a low friction layer.

When subjected to an angled impact, the low friction layer allows the helmet to slide relative to the head. This, in turn, can prevent the jelly-bowl effect, whereby the brain rotates in the skull, and potentially reduce the chance of damage.

Since its launch a few years ago the system has been picked up by almost all major helmet makers and typically adds £20-30 to the cost of the helmet.

Obviously, this presents a problem, in that it’s well beyond the means of most magazines to independently test. Still, there’s good evidence out there for its efficacy, along with even more data on the danger of concussive injuries.

Enough about the tech, what about the rest?

Two of the latest bits of helmet technology that could potentially elevate the Network’s protective qualities above those of a standard expanded polystyrene lid.

But what about fit, ventilation, and styling? 

Using Smith’s AirEvac ventilation system and employing 20 separate vents the Network is breezy.

Placed along the sides of the helmet, Smith claims the Koroyd straws will actually funnel air through the helmet more efficiently than if there was a gap left.

Although cool to wear, I can’t see this being true. Still, given that the straws are potentially taking the place of a solid protective element, there’s probably a net benefit.

Hauling up mountains in the blazing sun I never found myself wishing I was wearing a different lid.

Being produced by a sunglasses company there’s also a spot to store your eyewear built in, while the air channels at the front of the lid aim to stop them fogging when being worn.

Keeping the whole lot in place, the VaporFit adjustable fit system is skinny and provides for plenty of flexibility. Twisting a dial on the back locks it down, ensuring the only slight movement is that afforded by the MIPS system.

Very light on the head, nevertheless, I didn’t find the Smith quite as superlatively comfortable as my favourite Giro or Kask models.

Not that there’s anything unusual going on with its shape, and it’s still very comfy. Most likely it’s the quirks of my skull and a preference for slightly more plentiful padding than that featured on the Network.

 On to looks.

Compared to the brand’s angular, and stylistically divisive, top-tier Overtake model the Network will likely have more universal appeal.

Still, in terms of looks, it presents a slightly more rugged silhouette that some rivals. In matt black and grey it’s pretty tough looking.

Not that it’s ill at home on the road, but I can see it being popular with gravel riders and bike packers too. 

This fact is aided by the inclusion of an unobtrusive and removable cycling cap-style peak, which slots in between the inside of the helmet and the padding. Made of fabric it’s unlikely to upset style-pedants, even when used on the tarmac.

Conclusion

Having previously traded on the strength of its capable but odd-looking and expensive Overtake helmet, I can see the Network winning over a host more roadies to the Smith brand.

Buy the Smith Network helmet from Wiggle here

Undercutting much of the competition, and sporting two new technologies designed to reduce the impact of a crash, it works hard given the budget. I also dig the styling, which provides a distinct identity.

With crossover appeal for commuters and off-road users, I found myself reaching for it when undertaking a whole gamut of different rides.

Subtly different and technologically advanced, it might protect your head more, and certainly looks good. With the Network, Smith is now right in the mix.

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