review

Smith Signal MIPS helmet

7
£64.99

VERDICT:

7
10
Decent quality helmet for general riding with some nice touches, and reasonably priced
Versatile
Lightweight
Relatively airy
MIPS system
Exposed EPS lining at rim
Weight: 
304g

The Smith Signal MIPS helmet has apparently been 'built for the everyday rider', and while that might sound a bit vague, the styling seems surprisingly genre-fluid, working with technical and more casually themed clothing. Crucially, it has performed surprisingly well on and off-road.

The specification is pretty good, especially for the price point. There's the standard in-mould construction (where liner and shell are fused together simultaneously) and it's neatly executed. I always prefer shells that cover the EPS liner, but at this end of the market I wasn't surprised to find it exposed.

> Find your nearest dealer here

Its 21 vents are pretty good going for an 'everyday' design. Smith calls it its AirEvac system. Crudely, this is an 'inlet/exhaust' system: those at the front are designed to scoop cooling air inside, while warm air is expelled from the rear vents. It's also designed to prevent close-fitting eyewear from fogging.

Smith Signal MIPS helmet - back.jpg

There's also a slot for holding glasses when removed from your face – at a rest stop, say, or when mending a flat or rummaging through a pannier. Some LEDs will also mount through the rear vents – another definite plus.

Smith Signal Xeccon LED .JPG

More impressive for me is the MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) lining. This is designed to protect the brain from potentially damaging twisting forces experienced in a crash. A few years back it was the preserve of high-end models, but I'm pleased to see it becoming more prevalent at this end of the market.

> All you need to know about MIPS

The Smith also conforms to CPSC, CE EN1078, AS/NZS2063 standards.

Fitting/adjustment

Staying inside, we have the usual anti-bacterial pads and the 'VaporFit' system. This uses a dial, allowing it to be moved up/down/fore/aft to achieve optimal fit, regardless of head shape.

Smith Signal MIPS helmet - tension system.jpg

There are three sizes (51-55cm, 55-59 and 59-61cm), which should cater for most riders. The familiar buckle and strap system are equally intuitive to use.

Performance

I was initially conscious of the Signal's wider profile, but this vanished within a few minutes. Its 304g isn't feathery but I have a couple of racier designs around this weight, including the Giant Strive Mips Aero Road, so wasn't really aware of it, even on rides around the 40 to 50-mile mark.

February's milder side saw temperatures around 13°C in my far-flung corner of the South East. No call for a thermal skull cap, but even at 12mph I could feel a decent flow of cooling air through the follicles. Winding things up to a racier 20-odd, it kept pace with my own tempo but without becoming overly fierce. At the other extreme, winching up a long, torturous climb, I haven't had a clammy head, suggesting the exhaust vents perform on a par with others in my collection.

Some helmets can ram so much cooling air inside that they induce painful 'ice cream' headaches, even on very warm days. Descending at 30mph or so, the airflow remained uniformly good and without any annoying whistling or similar wind-noise that can impair conversation or even general road awareness.

Smith Signal MIPS helmet - side.jpg

It wasn't long before temperatures began tumbling to their seasonal norms, so back on with the Buff or fleece-lined skullcap, the adjustment wheel meaning you can tweak to accommodate these in a trice, mid-ride.

Given the seasonal temperatures I wasn't surprised to discover the pads remaining socially acceptable. I tend to take my lids into the shower with me, to subvert any funk and clean the outer shell. However, the pads here are easily whipped off and bunged in the machine should you prefer. Being gloss, the shell is easily spruced with a quick shot of furniture polish.

I have a Buff with integral peak, which comes in handy for shielding eyes from unexpectedly intense winter sun, dust and the like, but I was surprised to discover the Signal's brim also does a decent job of keeping things at bay.

Smith Signal MIPS helmet - front.jpg

Though closer to what I'd describe as a 'commu-tour' (commuting/touring) model, the Signal has performed rather well on my off-road exclusions, too, offering reasonable protection against brambles.

Its shape is also fairly conducive to mounting lights and lightweight cameras. I found my TomTom Bandit a touch on the weighty side but the Go-Pro (and its emulators) were a better bet.

Value

Given the Mips system and overall specification, I reckon £69.99 is pretty good going.

Like for like, at this end of the market there's not much giving the Smith a run for your hard-earned. Bontrager's Quantum uses similar technology and seems well made, but the tester found its overall performance distinctly average. It's also a tenner more than the Smith.

> Buyer's Guide: Cycling helmets — everything you need to know

Bell's Tempo Mips is the same price as the Smith and another decent 'do all' design. Admittedly, it's gender-specific (in name, anyway), but the range of sizes is refreshingly inclusive.

Conclusion

I've been pleasantly surprised by the Signal and, minor grumbles re the exposed rim aside, I reckon it's a good choice for general riding. It does most things very well and offers a decent spec for middling money.

Verdict

Decent quality helmet for general riding with some nice touches, and reasonably priced

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Smith Signal MIPS 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: "SMITH Signal helmet - only £64.99! Ideal for daily protection in a super lightweight silhouette that contours to the head the Signal has been built for the everyday rider. It's offered in four unique shell sizes, the Signal provides an exceptional custom fit with elevated protection wrapped in Smith's signature style.

"To efficiently absorb direct impacts the helmet has a MIPS lining. Each model also includes an ultralight single layer webbing, VaporFit adjustable fit system and SMITH's proprietary AirEvac system for ventilation and to prevent fogging when worn with performance eyewear. Thanks to SMITH's ultimate eyewear inetgeration, eyewear storage has been added to hold glasses in place when removed from the face."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Smith lists:

Lightweight in-mold construction

MIPS system available in all colors

VaporFit adjustable fit system

21 optimized vents

Performance comfort lining

Ultra-light single layer webbing

AirEvac ventilation

Ultimate eyewear integration

WEIGHT (Size M MIPS) 11 OZ / 300 grams

CERTIFICATION: CPSC, CE EN 1078, AS/NZS2063

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
7/10

Generally well made, although I would have preferred the shell to extend around the rim.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Performs very well, especially for an "everyday" model. Ventilation is impressive, ensuring decent airflow and a temperate inner climate. Shape is very conducive to mounting action cams and some lights.

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

Seems well made and standing up to the typical accidental, everyday carelessness. However, I would have preferred the shell to encompass the rim.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
6/10

Heavier than some road lids but very unobtrusive.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
7/10

Unobtrusive, with very good airflow.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

It's good value – there's not much at this price point meeting the Smith's specification.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Well ventilated, it's very unobtrusive and feels comfortable for longer periods. Mounting lighting and other accessories is very straightforward. Anti-bacterial pads seem on a par with everyone else's and are easily washed, should the funk strike.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Understated yet attractive design, good specification for the money.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Hardly a deal-breaker but it would be nice if the shell extended around the rim, protecting the EPS liner from everyday carelessness.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Like for like, there's not much giving the Smith a run for your hard-earned. Bontrager's Quantum is a tenner more and uses similar technology and seems well made, but the tester found its overall performance distinctly average.

Bell's Tempo Mips is another decent 'do all' design and the same price. Admittedly, it's gender-specific (in name, anyway), but the range of sizes is refreshingly inclusive.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Generally speaking, yes.

Use this box to explain your overall score

It's a good everyday helmet with decent specification relative to price.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 46  Height: 1m 81cm  Weight: 70kg

I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset  My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)

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