Smith's Network helmet really looks the part, managing to straddle the space between a pure road and commuter-style helmet, but some shortcomings mean that it's not without compromise.
- Pros: Stylish, Koroyd and MIPS protection benefits
- Cons: Not the lightest or airiest for a road lid
When I first got my hands on the Network helmet in the road.cc offices, I was immediately taken with its sleek matt black styling, with green Koroyd underlayering. We'd reviewed a Smith helmet featuring the energy-absorbing Koroyd before – the Overtake – and while Mat was glad of the extra safety thinking, he wasn't too hot on the ventilation properties, given that you need air to travel directly down each straw-like funnel.
The same weakness applies here, but less so in that it's only installed in the flanking holes, leaving the inner three channels open to greater air intake. Handily, for these intakes the MIPS structure (Multi-directional Impact Protection System – see here for more details) almost uniformly conforms to the vents themselves, so it doesn't form an extra barrier to air intake.
The vents pull air off your forehead and over the top, exhausting it out the upper rear slot, the effect of which has a secondary benefit of 'sucking' warm, moist air away from your shades (Smith calls this AirEvac). My older Oakley Radarlock frames occasionally knocked against the lid over rougher surfaces, but with Smith being an optics brand first and foremost, you can bet that this has been tested with its own eyewear in mind.
The open channels also function as ports if you want to fit your sunglasses there for storage. Again, my Radarlocks fitted, but it took a bit of jiggling to get them to stay secure; I would suspect that this system works better with Smith's own sunglasses.
Back to ventilation, and the same decent performance can't be said of the flanking vents, which do feature Koroyd and MIPS combined, creating something of a ventilation dead zone. I found sweat gathered in this area very easily when I was hammering along, and with the particularly warm and dry summer we've been enjoying, I've certainly missed the more open ventilation of my Kask Mojito at times.
Added to this is the weight penalty of carrying not only two 'extra' safety features, but also a relatively bulky (to behold, at least) construction. It comes in at a fairly chunky 303g for a medium – and that's noticeable against other lids in this price range, MIPS-equipped or otherwise, such as Bell's Stratus Mips and Abus's Aventor.
I'm not turning my nose up at added safety, though, and – depending on your priorities (read: accident-proneness?) – it's not a bad thing to have a helmet that goes above and beyond in this regard.
As well as testing the helmet on long road rides, I've also been using it as my go-to lid for commuting and town-hopping, and here it arguably performs at its best. The benefits of added safety in busy traffic are clear, while weight isn't anywhere near as big an issue. In fact, a little bulk in a helmet that you pop on and off around town can feel reassuring.
Adjustability is fairly good thanks to a rear clickwheel system that can pull the helmet tighter around your head, and it can be adjusted for height through a three-choice pop-in system. The trouble with this is that you need to take the helmet off to adjust it in this way, but I suppose this isn't too much of an issue once you find the right fit. Nevertheless, only the fit around the head can be adjusted on the move.
There's enough X-Static padding to keep things comfortable, and the straps are fine; occasionally I found they liked to tangle on themselves and twist, but that's certainly not a problem unique to the Network.
You also get a little peak cap accessory that attaches to the front of the helmet.
At £136, comparing it against highly rated performance helmets such as the £110 Mojito, £119 Bell Stratus or £130 Abus Aventor, value doesn't look that great. However, when you consider the added safety benefits of Koroyd and MIPS combined, it starts to look a little better. Certainly, it looks like a £136 helmet, and to many who want a new workhorse lid for commuting and the like, it'll be worth its weight in gold.
A decent helmet for commuting and more leisurely outings but lacking ventilation for faster-paced road rides
road.cc test report
Make and model: Smith Network helmet
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Smith says: "New for 2018, the Network helmet is the perfect blend of style, versatility and performance. Cyclists will welcome the clean, modern design combined with the superior protection and ventilation properties that only Koroyd is featured in strategic, zonal impact areas offering increased protection where it matters most.
"As eyewear integration is mandatory for this rider, the AirEvac system works to pull air off of your eyewear to prevent fogging. Pass-through channels allow eyewear to be easily stored on the front of the helmet."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Koroyd protection
- Dial cranial adjustment
- AirVac ventilation
- Ports for eyewear storage
Can't fault it here – and the finish is very good too.
It's good for certain types of riding, but it's not the lightest or the coolest.
My commuter use means it's got bashed around a bit and it's held up superbly.
I'd say any helmet over 300g in a medium these days raises eyebrows, regardless of safety tech.
Padding is satisfactory, but the fit system is a bit basic, and the straps are a little flimsy – something a little thicker would feel more comfortable I think.
There are helmets that are lighter and better ventilated yet cost about the same if not less, though it does include Mips and Koroyd technology.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Style, Koroyd and MIPS protection benefits.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Weight and overall ventilation.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, for commuting, but not especially on my longer road rides.
Would you consider buying the product? Personally, no.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, depending on their needs.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Smith Network has its plus points, but they're somewhat countered by downsides for pure roadies. I wouldn't rate it as high for pure road riding, but for more leisurely paced outings and for commuting it's a good 7.
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding