Over the last couple of years we have reported on all kinds of exciting new helmet technologies and written quite a few helmet reviews, trusting the science put into these vital pieces of gear. But, on a recent trip to the Bellingham area, I was able to put one of my favorite fitting helmets to the ultimate test. The Smith Forefront 2 saved me from what could have been a very serious brain injury.
After a long week of pedaling and shuttling some of the best trails the PNW has to offer, we were grabbing a few pedal laps to finish up the trip. One of the trails has an optional 10-ish foot drop to a steep, rock armored landing. I have hit this drop several times before and did not think twice about the setup or roll in. What I forgot, is the end of the drop fades away and you either need to pop early or carry significantly more speed than it appears.
I knew things weren’t going well when I insta-bottomed the new SID fork we were testing and catapulted myself to my head and face. Details are hazy but I do remember rolling out of the crash and coming up with the wind knocked out of me and blood oozing from every hole in my face.
A very painful few minutes followed that reminded me of how old I am and how I should not try to take XC bikes off the biggest drops I can find. After the world came back into focus, I took my Smith helmet off to find it completely destroyed.
I should interject at this point that I have worked in trauma medicine my entire professional career and am usually on the other side of these situations. I have seen some devastating injuries from similar injury patterns and I am truly lucky to have been wearing a good helmet and been riding with other medical providers.
After what felt like an hour-long walk out to the car, we stopped for some imaging which confirmed I had broken my nose, separated my shoulder, and fractured my left hand. My buddy did a quick neurological exam and continued to monitor me throughout the night for any changes. While I did suffer a minor concussion, no major head or neck trauma was sustained.
As you can see, the Forefront 2 took the brunt of the impact. It was my initial point of contact with the ground and I’m convinced that the MIPS liner and Koroyd did a superb job of energy dissipation and absorption. One of the MIPS attachment points snapped, showing that it was at the very limit of its movement range on impact. The roll cage that Smith has engineered stayed together while the Koroyd completely crushed around it.
I cannot thank Smith enough for creating a solid helmet and incorporating technologies such as MIPS. The rotational impact of this fall could have caused a significant axonal injury along with C-spine flexion injury patterns. I am confident that the Forefront 2 saved me from a significantly worse outcome.
I will definitely be riding at 70% for the next few weeks and putting a bit more thought into my line choice. Oh, and getting another Smith Forefront 2 on order.
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