The Smith Portal becomes considerably more expensive in its MIPS variant – is it worth the extra outlay?
The Smith Portal bears a strong family resemblance to the Smith Route helmet, which we tested a couple of years ago. But gone are the Route’s koroyd inserts, designed to provide better impact adsorption than expanded polystyrene, in favour of an all-EPS construction.
The Smith Portal’s weight has also decreased relative to the Route, shedding over 40g for the size large. Nevertheless, the Portal feels like quite a bulky helmet compared to the best in its class. That’s probably down to the quite large shell profile, so that the Smith Portal and its straps don’t fit as close to the sides of the head as many helmets.
It does benefit from a MIPS liner though, designed to help reduce impact stresses on the brain in the case of a glancing impact. You can buy the Portal without MIPS too, bringing the price down to £68. £25.50 is quite a high price for MIPS – other makers have it as an option without such a jump in cost.
Ventilation is good from the 18 vents, although not up to the standard of higher priced helmets. I found that the XT2 internal padding got quite damp after a ride, even at moderate intensity.
Fit adjustment is good, with a pop-out three-position vertically adjustable cradle and a rear dial for fit adjustment around the head circumference. Smith’s wide straps help keep everything in place well, although you can feel the helmet’s weight and its deep brim is noticeable when riding.
The plastic outer shell does wrap over the EPS lining well, covering it around the bottom and into the vents, thus reducing the chance of damaging the polystyrene when handling the helmet.
If you are prepared to forego the MIPS liner, at £68 the non-MIPS Portal helmet looks like reasonable value. But the additional cost of the MIPS layer makes the Smith Portal difficult to recommend over other helmets priced at around £100.
The Smith Portal is a competent budget helmet, although it’s slightly on the heavy side and a bit bulky. Without MIPS it’s well priced, but the premium for MIPS puts it in a price bracket where there’s a lot of competitors, some of which are better options.