The Smith Route Mips helmet is a robust adventure lid featuring top tech to keep your noggin safe. It's a bit too bulky, hot and heavy for road use, though it should suit shorter commutes.
The first time I saw one of Smith's helmets, I was at a cyclo-cross race. In my oxygen-deprived state, I must say I was very confused as to why the chap had drinking straws in his helmet. Had I missed a novelty feature on the course? As far as design goes, the Koroyd sections that feature in the Route Mips create a look that can take a little getting used to. But for anyone who wants premium safety, it's a quirkiness that will be easy to love.
Helmets with Mips technology have been appearing more frequently, adding another safety feature for those who want it. The Mips system is simply a plastic liner that is loosely attached to the main shell. Its job is to reduce linear and rotational forces in a crash which have, according to Mips, been associated with the majority of brain injuries. Read more here.
Smith helmets are distinctive for their use of "patented Koroyd™ material". It's the stuff that looks like a bunch of drinking straws and is supposed to absorb impact force, thus "limiting the risk of skull fractures and traumatic brain injury".
Out of the box, the bulk of the helmet gives it a robust feel and instantly led me to thinking it would make for the perfect adventure or touring lid. At 343g it's not light, but this isn't a big problem. The straps are thin yet soft and attach inside the shell, protecting them from damage. The helmet is then secured at the back of your head by the VaporFit Adjustable Fit System. I wasn't able to adjust the height of the system but it wasn't in any way uncomfortable, even when tightened fully.
Although the Route Mips features 18 vents, my head did get quite hot when conditions were a little warm. The Koroyd isn't brilliantly breathable and the added bulk seems to block a lot of the airflow. For the guy in my mid-November 'cross race, mentioned at the start of the review, it wasn't an issue, nor would it be for commuting and gravel/adventure rides, but it certainly limits its road appeal.
As a commuting and adventure helmet, then, the Route Mips is a very good package with plenty of safety tech for peace of mind. However, the bulk, weight and low airflow could be an issue for road riding, especially in warmer conditions.
Extra-tough lid, but limited venting means it's best reserved for cooler days and more casual riding
road.cc test report
Make and model: Smith Route Mips
Size tested: 55-59cm
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: "Getting you from any point to your destination, the Route road helmet raises the bar when it comes to comfort and protection out on the road. Using Smith's proven Aerocore™ Construction featuring Koroyd®, the Route's clean design targets in on important zonal impact areas, offering better protection where and when it matters most. We combine this with our AirEvac ventilation and VaporFit™ adjustable fit system, creating the perfect balance of comfort and confidence for any ride."
In essence, and without Smith stating it, I believe this has been aimed at adventure riding with possibly an eye on commuting. The Mips system certainly adds an extra safety element for heavy traffic riding and the robustness of the outer shell will make this idea for gravel riding.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lightweight Aerocore™ In-Mold Construction
Zonal Ventilated Protection Featuring Patented Koroyd™ Material
MIPS system available in all colors
VaporFit™ Adjustable Fit System
18 Optimized Vents
X-Static with Reactive Cooling Performance Lining
Ultra-Light Single Layer Webbing
Sturdy construction is ideal for adventure riding. I would be happy to pack this away and not worry about it getting crushed.
While the helmet fits comfortably, it isn't the lightest and also loses marks as it can get a little hot. The Route also feels bulky, giving a slight mushroom-head appearance.
Even in a relatively short test period, the Route is really shining. It is made of strong stuff and hasn't dented or marked. Everything on this helmet was made to last.
If you're looking for a light lid, this isn't it. However, I'd imagine it'll stand up to a lot more abuse than a standard featherweight lid.
I had no problems with pressure points and no irritation from the straps. My problem was with the heat that the helmet retains in warm conditions.
Yes, £130 is a fair chunk of cash to throw at a helmet, but I reckon the Route will last a good amount of time, making this quite a good investment for adventure riders.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. Thankfully, I didn't have to test the Mips system, but it was nice to know about the added safety. The venting could be improved though.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The robustness of the shell withstood a lot of abuse without complaint, keeping the Route looking smart and fresh.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The bulkiness and inadequate venting in warm conditions meant this got quite sweaty as soon as I rode harder.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? For a commuting helmet, yes. As a road helmet, no.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Route Mips scores well on robustness, but the reduced airflow limits its use. It's good, deserving 7, but not quite up to an 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rose Xeon RS My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. Liam spends his time plodding his way through cyclocross races, very busy not winning. As an advocate for perfectly clean chains, he can be found cleaning his bike instead of training. A shop mechanic, Liam has many helpful skills, such as being able to identify 'cross tubs by the tread pattern alone. If you bump into him, he'll probably be eating.