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The Smith Optics Persist replaces the Portal tested by Steve in 2018 – and gets some decent upgrades, yet the price remains basically the same. Pleasingly, the updates address the two main issues Steve found: weight and heat. It keeps the reassuring MIPS liner, too.
The Persist from Smith Optics is its upper-mid-range option aimed at the everyday rider. It conforms to CPSC, CE EN 1078, AS/NZS2063 safety standards and hosts a MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) liner – now not uncommonly found at these somewhat lower price points.
If you're not familiar, MIPS is a web-like plastic layer between the expanded foam and inner padding, designed to reduce the rotational motion transferred to the brain in the event of an impact. The layer is often bright yellow, which I don't love personally, so it's nice to see a black version here.
My husband tried to nick this helmet in the first week thanks to its appealing looks – a good start for the Persist. You can't help but be struck by its dazzling colour; this is the only brave choice of three options that include matte black and matte white. It's a great option for cyclists wanting to be visible but look stylish; it's easier on the eye than some day-glo options out there.
The next thing to note is the high quality finish, with its expanded polystyrene covered completely by the attractive matte polycarbonate shell. Its in-mold construction means the two layers are permanently bonded together. The outer is super-silky, the only downside being that it doesn't hide minor scrapes as easily as a gloss shell. Ours picked up marks after just a few weeks of testing.
The smooth contoured shape – achieved without any tails or pointy bits – bolsters this helmet's classy look. There's a horizontal exhaust port which creates a slightly boxy feel to the rear, but overall it's pleasing to the eye – its gentle waves somewhat reminiscent of a Kask Mojito.
The result is more premium-looking than Smith's cheaper stablemate, the Signal, which features some exposed EPS.
Fit and comfort
The Persist includes XL amongst its four sizing options (S-XL) – an upgrade to previous Smith models. Size is adjustable for a 'tailor-made' fit, says Smith – the VaporFit dial offers 270-degrees of adjustment, and the inner harness has three positions.
I tested a Medium (55-59cm) and my 55cm bonce needed the smallest setting available. Unfortunately, at this setting the space becomes marginal between the dial and shell, forcing me to wear my hair at the nape of my neck which I find uncomfortable.
Nonetheless I prefer this to women-specific helmets which move the dial to the top of the head, as with this Lazer Elle, because to me, they don't feel as secure.
It possible the Small (51-55cm) would have worked for me better, but competitors like the £80 Specialized Echelon II feature more space above the dial to start with.
Hair aside, the adjustability allowed me to find a snug, secure fit without any pressure points. It's also worth noting that the mechanism to adjust the inner harness is much fiddlier than on some other helmets, as it uses a snap rather than slide system. That said, it's not much of an issue because you'll probably only do it once. And on the upside, it feels more secure than sliding versions.
I found the wide, flat chinstrap sits comfortably with a tidy-looking fit, thanks to the rubber O-ring and sliding clips. They allowed the join in the straps to sit neatly instead of flapping about. I did need the manual though, to figure it all out properly... (don't judge). It's all finished by the standard quick-release buckle.
The black straps hide wear well – I've had lighter-coloured versions go manky well before their time, but these still look fresh out of the box at the end of the test period.
The inner is impressive on the Persist. Smith's Comfort Lining hosts an antibacterial padding finished with wide, flat, neat edges. While it's early days, these look robust enough to stand the test of time (and sweat). Over the test period it didn't develop any musty smells. And when you want to wash them, they're easily removed from the velcro.
The only downside is there's no padding to the top central area – a departure from my other helmets (but the difference is minimal).
The Persist gets a ventilation upgrade over the Portal with three more strategically-placed vents across front and rear. These are an integral part of the AirEvac design used in Smith Optics' helmets, and designed to drive warm air away and keep glasses steam-free.
This worked well for me, even in a recent heatwave. The vents are also slimmer and longer than on the Portal, which may help reduce uninvited winged passengers.
Smith says the vents double up as eyewear channels, but while they dock easily, they feel less secure than I'd like – no problem in the cafe, but for stowing mid-ride, you want a bit of a snugger fit. Bit of a surprise given this helmet is made by a glasses company...
That said, Smith Optics says its own glasses are designed to work with its helmets, should you be very brand-loyal.
At 300g for size M, the Persist isn't the lightest on the market but shaves 9g off the Portal. While that's not a lot to write home about – especially with Specialized now using MIPS SL, a 'superlight' version – it still fits in with the market at this spec, purpose and price. Take the £105 Abus Urban-I 3.0 MIPS which is 4g more, or the £100 Giro Syntax MIPS which is 4g less... it's much of a muchness.
Recently tested helmets that significantly lighter (as in around 50g) are also around fifty quid more, too.
Finally, the Smith logos adorning each side have a high quality finish. I've had motifs peel away from shells over time (my Echelon is now by Seshalized) but I don't see that happening here.
The Smith Persist retails at £94.99, which means that despite its improvements over the Portal it's only a quid more. I would have liked more thought for long-haired folk, but overall it's a good price for a great looking helmet with high-spec safety tech, easily adjustable straps, a secure fit, effective ventilation and a comfortable inner.
In short, it packs in a lot of pluses topped off by – at least in my opinion – head-turning looks.
Good price for a premium-finish helmet with excellent adjustability, a secure feel, a comfortable inner and generous vents
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Smith Persist 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 says: "The Persist was created for cyclist that looks for a stylish helmet with a tailor-made fit."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lightweight in-mold construction
AirEvac™ ventilation system integrates with Smith eyewear for fog-free lenses
VaporFit™ dial adjustment system offers 270-degree fit adjustment with the turn of a dial
21 fixed vents for consistent airflow
Excellent all-round comfort and protection, smooth and classy finish. Annoying lack of space for long hair, though.
Excellent: comfortable, stays cool, feels light. Glasses tend to feel a bit loose if you dock them in the vents, though.
A few scratches already on that lovely matte finish.
Not a bad weight at this price.
Very comfortable bar the lack of space for my hair, which is an issue for me.
Packs in a lot of excellent features for the price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The colour and matte finish. Okay, aside from aesthetics... the easy-to-use adjustability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of hair space.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's a comparatively good price for a great looking helmet with high-spec safety tech, easily adjustable straps, secure fit and effective ventilation with a comfy inner.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No – it doesn't work well with my hair
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Short haired ones...
Use this box to explain your overall score
There are so many excellent functional aspects to the Persist. The lack of hair space and the slight docking issues lower its overall score, but these won't be a problem for all. It's still very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: My Scott Foil My best bike is: Oldie but the goldie, CAAD 8
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Triathlon, Audax