Comfortable, undoubtably slippery through the air and packed to the rafters with safety features. Smith's Ignite should certainly be a first choice helmet for those riders looking for a bit of an aero advantage without the drawbacks.
Matte finish gets grubby quickly
By James Bracey
The Smith Ignite helmet was selected for an Editor's Choice award in 2020. This year's list contains 78 items which scored a 9 or 10/10 with our tech team - this gear is the best of the best, and has received the Cycling Weekly stamp of approval.
Smith's Ignite helmet fills the brand's aero road race segment and features the most wind cheating, minimalist shaping of the entire range; barring of course, Smith's TT specific Podium model.
Its smooth outer shell incorporates just six forward facing vents plus four exhaust ports to channel air across the head and out the back of the Ignite as efficiently as possible, whilst still providing effective cooling.
Smith use a pretty complex construction method to create the Ignite. The obligatory in-moulding process seamlessly bonds the shell to the main polystyrene body but then Smith also add in it's distinctive Koroyd material to two large areas of the helmet.
For those unfamiliar with this technology, Koroyd is the stuff that looks superficially like lots of plastic straws glued together. It supposedly provides better impact absorption and ventilation than standard EPS (polystyrene) for a given area but fortunately I am yet to test that theory in anger. It's also lighter and adds a different look to the Ignite over other aero helmets.
To further enhance safety the Ignite also incorporates a MIPS layer to reduce rotational forces in case of an accident. So all in the Ignite is hot on safety.
The VaporFit retention system makes use of a simple to use dial to adjust tension. This dial provides great feedback and is easily adjusted when even in thick winter gloves. The retention cradle can be adjusted vertically and horizontally to allow for a degree of customisation to fit it comfortably to differing head shapes. A simple two piece pad set further increases comfort.
Smith helmets have always suited my head shape (slightly oval with flatter sides) and the Ignite is no different. It felt comfortable from the initial try out and has needed very little adjustment to get it to practically disappear when riding. The thin straps are soft and very flexible so feel great against the skin. The complicated looking 'Y' bracket allows for some adjustment around the ears but it can't be adjusted for height.
It's also not too bulbous in terms of the outside shape so an extra mark goes to the aesthetics. It is one of those helmets that you actually want to wear over and above its performance benefits. I especially like the split colour scheme too, it makes the helmet look even smaller and adds an extra touch of class to the design. I do have a little gripe about the way the matte finish of all the colours tends to look a little grubby quite quickly.
Riding in the Ignite is a very pleasant affair. The air flow allowed by the venting is actually pretty good although I could imagine it getting a little stuffy on really hot rides. The upside to this is it works exceptionally well during the rest of the typical UK year. Comfort is exceptionally good with zero pinch points and as an additional bonus the straps are yet to annoy me or come loose. It's hard to judge the aero credentials of the Ignite properly without heading to do some proper testing (something I will be doing very soon). However it felt like it provided very little extra resistance in the wind when moving my head around and there was minimal wind noise compared to some other similar helmets.
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