The Smith Portal helmet offers the extra crash protection of the Mips system, plus strong construction and a very tidy, stylish finish, but it's pretty heavy and a bit sweaty on the hottest days.
- Pros: Very comfy, secure, includes Mips, lovely finish
- Cons: High weight, warm, can feel noisy at speed
Mips stands for 'Multi-directional Impact Protection System,' and comes from a Swedish company that works with helmet makers across all sports. It's essentially a floating layer between the helmet shell and the part that grips your head, and it's there to allow the shell to twist slightly under impact.
That's desirable because – according to the man behind the idea, brain surgeon Hans von Holst – rotational acceleration is actually responsible for a lot of brain injuries. The Mips layer can reduce and redirect twisting forces, which are common in crashes. Though I personally haven't (yet) tested it under impact, it makes sense that if you're going to wear a helmet that mimics a skull, it might as well have a liner that mimics the brain's own protection system. (You can buy the Portal without Mips for £68.)
As Mips is completely unobtrusive it's – pardon the pun – a no-brainer, and while it adds a small amount of weight, it's not the sole reason the Portal is so heavy.
At 309g in Medium the Portal is heavier than most helmets at this price, and that's thanks to its substantial build (and despite using 'in-mould' construction, which fuses the shell and liner together, and is lighter than older methods).
Its bulk, allied to an excellent Vapourfit cradle that reaches low on the back of your head for brilliant security, means the Portal feels almost like a mountain bike helmet once on. At least, it does until you reach up to tweak the dial and find the coverage stops much higher up than it feels. That's fine for the road, though if you're looking for a lid to double off-road, you may want more actual rear protection for this level of heat and weight.
On warm, humid days, I found the Portal got quite hot, despite the 18 large vents and some deep channelling inside. The antibacterial pads stayed comfortable even when soaked (and have yet to start smelling) however, and four rubbery grippers at the back of your head keep it firmly in place no matter how slippery you get. Overall sizing is spot on.
The wide, thin straps are comfy wet or dry, while the adjusters are neat and can be used even in gloves. There's a silicone-type loop to tidy up excess strap, and in a neat touch the ends have little stoppers of a similar material bonded on to prevent fraying.
Given the size of the front vents, however, the Portal could really do with some mesh 'bee strainers' to save you from surprised insects breakdancing on your skull. More welcome are the large open spaces above your ears, which easily accommodate glasses (and not just Smith Optics glasses) without putting any pressure on the arms.
The Portal does seem to generate a little more wind roar than some, which I assume is a result of this sculpting allowing turbulent air to batter at your earlobes very freely. The difference is marginal, but it was enough that I noticed it and tried other helmets for comparison.
The general finish is impressively neat and tidy, with crisp, accurate moulding and an expensive-looking satin finish to the shell. It definitely looks worth the asking price. This white option is a little prone to gathering dirty marks, but it cleans up easily and there are blue, black and fluoro yellow options too.
Your options elsewhere are varied. If you want Mips and a potentially quieter design, the Giant Strive Mips Aero Road is worth a look, although it's slightly heavier still, and while it's almost £10 cheaper, the finish isn't quite as impressive. If price is not an issue, then Smith's own Overtake Mips helmet is comfortably under 300g, very stylish and pretty much immune to divebombing insects for £220.
Back around the £90 mark, you can arguably get more bang (literally, if Hans von Holst is right) for your buck with a non-Mips helmet such as the Met Strale, which offers a strong blend of cooling, comfort and aero performance for just £80.
Given the obvious quality of its design and build, the Portal is an excellent, confidence-inspiring helmet for general road riding and commuting – especially during the cooler parts of the year. It's heavy on the scales, but once on it just feels very comfy, secure and reassuring.
Excellent spec, construction and comfort, if a little warm on summer days
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Smith Portal Helmet
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Smith describes the Portal as "For the everyday rider that is ready for a stylish helmet with a tailor-made fit," adding that it "features 18 optimally placed vents that work with internal air channels to keep you cool and comfortable."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Portal features the MIPS system. "MIPS is used to reduce the rotational forces to the brain in the case of an oblique impact. Smith helmets are created to absorb direct impacts very efficiently and when combined with MIPS, Smith helmets absorb oblique forces better by allowing a small rotation of the outer shell relative to the liner."
Smith also lists:
Lightweight in-mold construction
MIPS system available in all colors
VaporFit adjustable fit system
18 optimized vents
XT2 anti-bacterial performance lining
Ultra-light single layer webbing
Excellent finish and detail.
Very comfortable and secure, if a little warm.
Solid build and materials promise a long life.
At comfortably over 300g, it's quite chunky.
Excellent cradle and strap adjustment – the only issue is heat build-up on sunny days.
Great construction and looks, plus the promise of strong protection, for a good price. Better still, it's easily found for around £60.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent fit, adjustability and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The comfort, the inclusion of MIPS, impressive build and low-key style.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The weight, its warmth on hot days, no insect-stopping mesh. The shape is a little worse for wind-roar than some.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Compares well, even before you factor in the inclusion of Mips.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The spec, design and build all befit the price, while the Portal is particularly stylish too. If it were just a little lighter and cooled a little better it would be a 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: GT GTR Series 3 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mountain biking