The generally acknowledged frontrunners in the flashy, high-dollar helmet game have come from Japan (Arai, Shoei), Germany (Schuberth), and here in the U.S. (Bell). As far as we can recall, the Australians haven’t put a helmet on our market, much less a flashy, high-dollar helmet. That’s changed with the Forcite MK1S, a so-called “smart helmet” that just arrived here, approved by the DOT and all. It does what Kickstarter helmets like the Skully were trying — but failed — to do ten years ago: Incorporate a range of connected convenience and safety features into a sleek shell.
Outside, the Forcite starts with a T400 carbon fiber shell that can be had in matte or gloss finishes. Inside comes a moisture-wicking foam liner fitted with a chin curtain and neck roll to minimize noise inside the lid. Then there’s a Pinlock 120 lens in the polycarbonate visor, the Pinlock’s moisture-absorbing properties to keep the visor from fogging up. The visor’s attached to the helmet with a quick-release pull and locking switch.
The helmet’s most obvious tech feature is a camera in the chin area behind a clear cover. It records at 1080p wide-angle high-resolution at a maximum 60 frames per second, writing video to an SD card in the helmet. The Sony IMX sensor is said to provide good low-light capability. We’re not sure which IMX sensor the helmet uses, but Sony’s little chip family is featured in million of quality smartphones and dash cams.
The helmet’s most useful tech feature might be the accompanying app and in-helmet GPS integration. The Forcite comes with a small, triangular remote control that attaches to the handlebars and controls the volume, the camera, and navigation. After pairing the remote to one’s phone and the helmet, a destination can be entered into Forcite’s GPS application. An LED bar at the base of the visor opening provides the same kinds of light cues that certain automakers are building into vehicle interiors to go beyond voice cues. Red, and green LEDs illuminate to provide quick indications of upcoming turns as well as hazards like accidents, traffic, and speed traps.
Harmon-Kardon supplies the 40-mm speaker that plays all incoming sounds like music and turn-by-turn directions, and the dual microphone. This version of the lid doesn’t include any rider-to-rider comm features, though, so any group ride enjoyers will need to clip devices to the outside. The company said it’s in talks with an action camera company about getting a 4K camera and and integrated comms.
This being all about tech, the helmet needs to be charged to get the connected features working. That’s done with a USB cable, as is watching video, by hooking the phone up to the helmet and viewing in the app.
The Forcite costs $1,099.99 in the States, sold through the Tucker Powersports network. Of course, your brain is priceless when it’s in your skull doing what’s it supposed to be doing. Still, that’s premium money for protection that’s only going to survive one odd fall at a stop light, and we’d like to see SNELL certification as well for that kind of dosh. However, Forcite offers a shell replacement policy that can change the math. A rider can send in a damaged helmet, and if engineers determine the electronics haven’t been damaged by the impact, they’ll transfer the tech bits to a new shell and return the helmet for less than the price of a new one. Yes, that could still be just under $550, enough to buy a very good “dumb” helmet. But for now, there’s nowhere else to get this combination of integrated features at any price.