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First ride: Smith’s new Overtake road helmet

  • By Logan VonBokel
  • Published Jun. 24, 2014
On the left, Smith's entrance into the bicycle helmet world, the Forefront, and on the right, its cutting edge Overtake road helmet. Is it an aero road helmet? Smith claims it is. Photo: Logan VonBokel | VeloNews.com

PARK CITY, Utah (VN) — What’s the difference between a road helmet and a mountain bike helmet? A mountain bike helmet gets a bump in overall size, visors, and the ability to snap on your GoPro before a ride. Smith’s first foray into cycling helmets, the mountain bike-oriented Forefront, is a perfect example. Now, the company has taken a stab at the road world — but it didn’t simply downsize and ditch the visor on its Forefront. The all-new Smith Overtake was designed from the ground up for the road, and it’s light enough, cool enough, aero enough, and simply clever enough to compete with the best.

View the complete photo gallery of the new Overtake.

Koroyd calls in reinforcements

Smith’s Forefront mountain bike helmet is now famous for its use of novel protective materials, most notably the Koroyd honeycomb structure, which sits in close contact with the head and replaces some of the usual EPS foam.

Koroyd and more traditional EPS foam are both found on the new Overtake. Smith is still calling the combination of the two Aerocore.

In terms of protection, the Overtake differs from the Forefront in a few straightforward ways. A road helmet like the Overtake does not need as much ventilation, or at least it requires a different sort of ventilation, relative to a mountain bike helmet. Mountain bike helmets tend to have larger top vents to help move air at low speeds. A road rider goes faster, and thus airflow is automatically increased; that air speed is also why road helmets tend to have larger entry and exit vents at the front and back, but less ventilation overall. The challenge is channeling the airflow.

Manufacturers can use fewer and smaller vents on a road helmet. That means Smith can use more material, specifically more Koroyd, to better protect the head, without creating a helmet that is too hot. Using more Koroyd allows Smith to use less EPS foam — the black stuff inside every other helmet. More Koroyd and less EPS allowed Smith to decrease the helmet’s overall size.

An aero helmet? Sure

Less material makes the Overtake more aerodynamic, Smith says. “20mm of Koroyd passes testing the same as 25mm of EPS. The No. 1 rule in aerodynamics is smaller is better. Smaller cars are faster. Smaller helmets are faster,” said Drew Chilson, Smith’s Director of Development.

Smith tested the Overtake against the Specialized Evade, Giro Air Attack, and Giro Aeon. According to this testing, the Specialized Evade was the fastest and the Overtake came in second. It is important to note that Smith tested these helmets with the head and helmet at a constant tilt — basically, at a perfect head angle. Changing that angle could absolutely change the results. Smith says it tested at multiple angles, and tested several prototype helmets, but is keeping that data to itself.

Can the Overtake compete in the weight game against seasoned veterans like Giro and Specialized? Again, the answer is that it certainly can. A size large Overtake weighs 286 grams. The Giro Aeon is 48grams lighter, the aero Air Attack is 295g, and the aero Specialized Evade is a chunky 347g, all size large.

Smith Overtake and safety

In addition to Smith’s Aerocore protection, it will be offering Mips anti-concussion inserts in every helmet in its line, making Smith the first brand to offer a full line of Mips-equipped helmets and, to our knowledge, the first to put Mips into a high-end road racing helmet. Smith told us a version of the Overtake with Mips will add between 28 and 30 grams, and a $60 bump in price.

This approach of Smith offering an aero road helmet first, and trying to make it as versatile and above all as safe as it is fast, is welcome. Since the Evade and Air Attack were introduced, we have been asking what protection benefits these helmets can offer. We have discovered that no one, not even Smith, is prepared to say that any one helmet is safer than the other.

“Until the standards catch up, we are between a rock and a hard place on impact, lower impact, and multi-impact testing,” Chilson said. “It’s kind of a bummer that marketing improved helmet technology is at a hold, due to liability, because the standard hasn’t caught up.”

Smith claims that its new Overtake is as fast as the other leading aero helmets, and the company is extremely proud of the Koroyd material. But nobody, Smith included, is prepared to say that this helmet is safer than anything else out there. Helmets all have to pass the same CPSC standards here in the U.S., and CE standards in Europe. Some might argue that those standards are outdated and do little to prevent low-speed impacts, but that’s a story for another day.

First rides

I’m currently training for a mountain bike race, the 40-mile Forty in the Fort, which is this weekend, so at press time I had only ridden in the Overtake on a few mountain bike rides, which is part of the helmet’s target audience. Smith refers to it as a road and cross-country helmet. After all, when you look at the World Cup cross-country riders, they’re wearing the lightest helmets they can find.

On my head, the Overtake looks smaller than other size large helmets. Again, the thinner design, with the use of Koroyd, makes a visual difference, in addition to the purported aerodynamic benefits. The straps are a soft weave material, not unlike Giro’s straps, and are adjusted easily with tri-glides, a feature that some helmet makers do away with in an attempt to claim a lower weight.

At $250, and an extra $60 for the Mips version, the Overtake is reserved for the riders seeking a top-of-the-line helmet. It competes with the Giro Aeon, Specialized Evade and Prevail, and Bell Gage, and it certainly belongs in such respected company.

The Overtake will be available later this summer in 12 colors, so if black and bright green isn’t your thing, there are other options. For a rider looking for a safe, fast, but still breathable helmet, the Overtake could be your lid.

FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech / Quick Look TAGS:

Logan VonBokel

Logan VonBokel

Equally at home on a mountain bike above treeline and chasing down moves in the heat and humidity of a Midwest criterium, Logan Vonbokel is something of an oddity in cycling. Since he first swung a leg over a road bike as a freshman in high school, Logan has been a lover of both cutting-edge technological innovations and the clean lines of classic handmade bikes. Logan joined the tech team in May 2012, bringing with him nearly a decade of high-caliber road racing experience and his undying love for the mud, cowbells, and culture of cyclocross. Logan still races at the Cat. 2 level on the road and in cyclocross, and carries a seldom-used Cat. 1 mountain bike license.

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