We were pretty excited when we first saw the Smith Podium TT at Interbike. This was the aero helmet that United Health Care had been using for a while, but it baffled us. The helmet was badged Smith on the side, but we were never able to figure out what it was. When we walked by the Smith booth that day, we finally got our answer. Although, we also had some concerns. While there was plenty of ventilation in the back, those two little vents in the front left us thinking this was a helmet for the spring and fall months, but come summer (or Kona), it would be left back in the garage. But as we’ve said before, you cannot judge books by their covers or aero helmets by the number of vents. A long-term review was called for, and Smith happily answered the challenge.
The Smith Podium TT
The Podium TT starts with the tailless shape that has become common in transition. Underneath is Smith’s Aerocore in-mold construction. After testing out the Overtake, we were pretty familiar with Aerocore. For those who are not, lets recover the basics.
Smith’s philosophy behind Aerocore construction is to increase airflow and improve temperature regulation, resulting in fog-free vision and improved impact resistance. This objective was achieved through the combination of materials such as EPS and Koroyd (the green honeycomb-like material at the back of the Podium TT), a material that absorbs more energy upon impact (compared to international standards), while also increasing airflow. Koroyd is an energy absorber by nature, which is fully breathable and doesn’t compromise impact performance. Its open cell construction allows cool air in, while expelling hot air from the rider’s head. The completely open cell construction integrates with internal channels to create the full Aerocore construction, providing ventilated protection.
The Podium TT also gets MIPS – one of only a handful of aero helmets so far equipped. When you fall to the ground at an angle, rotational forces are generated. A helmet integrating MIPS technology creates a sliding layer between the outer shell and the head. This allows the helmet’s outer shell to slide relative to the head when hitting the ground, decreasing the rotational force and reducing the potential to damage your brain. (Because yes, helmets are actually intended to protect your head above all else, not make you faster).
Up front, the Podium TT comes with two magnetically affixed lenses. A clear lens for dark and cloudy conditions, and a ChromaPop lens for all others. ChromaPop filters two specific wavelengths of light that cause color confusion. By doing this, the lens delivers greater definition, more natural color, and unmatched clarity to allow you to see more detail. The ChromaPop Sun Red Mirror lens is tuned for full sun and partially cloudy conditions to provide you the clearest view of the road ahead as possible.
Inside is Smith’s VaporFit adjustable fit system combined with an X-Static with reactive cooling performance lining.
Up top there are two intake vents (plus three in the lens itself), while at the back are two oversized exhaust vents.
While full aero data was not available, Smith did tell us that, based on the data their designer engineers have from the Univ. of Washington testing sessions, the Smith Podium TT is 30 seconds faster than a Smith Overtake over a 40 Km time trial at 30 mph (13.4 m/s).
The Podium TT retails for $350 and includes the helmet, two lenses (ChromaPop and Clear) and a ventilated and padded carrying case (that can carry both lenses). Our size medium with visor weighed in at 408g.
Since ventilation was our biggest concern, let’s start there. Our fears definitely were not warranted. This is one cool (you see what we did there?) helmet. We were fairly shocked at how much air travels over your face and head. We completed training rides with the Smith up to three hours and never felt we would have been better off with another helmet.
Our primary tester has a 57cm head and wore the size medium (55-59cm) – right in the sweet spot. He found that the helmet was a bit on the tight side to get on and off around the ears, and that on the longest rides he would need a slight ear adjustment to keep himself comfortable. The panels of the Podium TT that cover the ears are padded, so our assumption is that this tightness is intentional. A quick helmet adjustment dealt with any discomfort.
The strap and fit system are extremely comfortable. The Podium does not offer any adjustment at the ear cinch point; however, we did not find this to be an issue. One thing that we appreciated is that the rotary dial adjuster at the back of the helmet was easily accessed when the helmet was on, which helps for quick tightening as you get out of T1.
The magnets for the lens are located on the sides of the lens (not up top), and hold the lens on extremely securely. In the past, we have had challenges with other helmets where the magnets may not hold as securely as we had hoped. The Podium TT does not suffer from this malady in the slightest. One of the challenges we sometimes face in the hot and muggy conditions of South Florida is lens fogging, and we are happy to report that the Podium TT never suffered from this at all. Additionally, while other lenses sometimes are close enough to our face to have sweat get on them, again the Podium TT didn’t disappoint.
Our one complaint about the ChromaPop lens is that when we encountered bright light sources (street lights and oncoming headlights being good examples) we would get a second ghost image on the lens. At first, we actually thought it was our eyes. But when we pulled the lens off, the ghost images disappeared.
Aero helmets are highly individual choices. Not all helmets work for everyone’s position and morphology. But for those the Smith Podium TT works for, we are going to have to recommend it. It was comfortable for our long rides and had more than enough ventilation to handle Miami in July. We are finding that Smith’s aero testing is starting to be validated by additional third-party tests as well. At $350, it’s not cheap, but the addition of the carrying case and two lenses puts its price in line with what you would expect. No, you cannot judge an aero helmet by the number of vents it has, but once you survive three hours under the Florida sun, you know you have found a winner.