Smart helmets. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably been a little sceptical. I’ve been on the fence here for a long time. Resisting the tech. I was the same when ABS first came onto the market and in the early days was still a bit rubbish. And again with traction control.
Let’s be honest, the first couple of generations of both performed below what an experienced rider could achieve without them, but that’s now changed. They’ve both evolved to the point where I’m a firm yes. They increase the bikes performance and safety, adding to the ride – and more importantly they don’t intrude.
Likewise I was never one for listening to music while riding, or taking phone calls. Preferring to focus fully on riding. Being able to hear both the bike and the traffic around me as much as possible at all times.
But of late I must admit I’d been reconsidering helmet comms tech. Pestering Trev with a million questions on his thoughts with what I suspect is annoyingly regular frequency. So when Forcite reached out offering up their new MK1S helmet to review Trev pretty quickly gave me the brief.
Haven’t heard of Forcite? They’re actually an Aussie brand based in Sydney who after several years of development released their first lid, the MK1, in 2019. This went on to be subsequently refined into the MK1S we took delivery of late last year. I’ve been wearing it now for several months, putting it through its paces in very much real world usage – in all weather.
The helmet comes with an integrated 1080p wide angle camera mounted in the chin with MicroSD card storage, as well as top end, removable Harman Kardon speakers and microphone. It also has an integrated ‘Peripheral LED display’ positioned at the lower edge of the visor which gives the rider a traffic alert system and reinforces Nav instructions as you’re riding. It comes with a controller unit and mount, for phone, music, Nav, camera and volume control as you ride.
I must say the unboxing process was pretty special. Lovely packaging, and the overall quality of the carbon helmet stood out straight away. It’s a very nice bit of gear. Not big on instructions though…
It took a while to setup, get linked up with the controller and then connected to the Forcite app that you need to install on your phone. The initial linking to the phone via the app was not especially straight forward. It needed a few attempts. From go to woah, unboxing to paired up was probably a two beer job.
It’s an interesting helmet to put on actually. The front chin section that contains all of the electronics is packaged up quite nicely and protected underneath the helmet by an extended weather strip – I’m assuming it serves a dual purpose of keeping weather away from electronics as well as reducing wind noise for the dual omnidirectional microphones.
Due to that additional protection, it’s quite the snug fit pulling it onto your melon, but once past the rim is comfortable enough. I did find the chin strap fairly efficient in terms of length, but it does up just fine.
Worth also noting that while everyone has a different shaped head – the helmet itself wasn’t the most comfortable shape for mine when I first started wearing it, but did bed in quite nicely after a few rides. Overall I found the internal padding a little thinner than I’d prefer (compared to my go-to super comfy Airoh Commander), and the semi detached inner lining design was also something I wasn’t used to, but got comfortable with pretty quickly.
However there’s no denying that once on and worn a bit this helmet is comfortable, has good vision, nice visor, low wind sound and is surprisingly light. The MK1S also comes with a Pinlock visor and an internal sunshade too which I do find myself using quite a lot. As a helmet first and foremost it gets a tick. But the unique selling point here is in the tech.
I found the speakers to be particularly good. Great quality sounds. Surprisingly so. Especially at speeds below ~85 km/h. Above that you do get some wind noise interference and I didn’t want to have the music blasting super loud on top of the existing wind noise. Certainly for commuting I found it quite the thing to get me revved up and motivated on my way to work.
I definitely would not have expected myself to be singing at the traffic lights and belting out some tank tapping drum solos while vibing to my favourite tunes, but there you go. I did get some interesting looks from the occasional cager and pedestrian. Clearly impressed by my on-bike dance moves…
The phone call quality is also great, with audio going through so clear that callers seemed genuinely surprised to learn that I was riding.
Camera footage and audio quality is also pretty solid. No it’s not up there with the latest generation GoPro for example, but it’s certainly more than adequate for ride recording. It has proven itself to be a nice thing for recording track days and/or racing actually where external cameras are not allowed. It’s a nice wide angle lens and takes a whole lot in.
There are a couple of areas where I found it came up short though. The bar mounted controller for one is pretty chunky. Mine exited stage left on my first bumpy gravel road ride. Customer service had a new one sent to me pretty quickly which was great, but I’m just not convinced that I personally want a bar mounted controller for my helmet.
When I have more than one bike in my shed I have to swap it from bike to bike and it’s something else I need to keep charged. On top of that, the mount is also a bit fiddly. Maybe offering something like a QuadLock adapter could be a thing worth looking into.
My biggest issue with it other than it falling off was that when I park my bike on the street for the day, if I don’t remove it and store it in a bag, it’s something that could easily be swiped and then you don’t have a controller… If they can integrate the controller back onto the helmet it will be a much better proposition.
While on controls… I’ve no doubt they’re already looking into voice activation which would also make a massive improvement. Think ‘accept/yes’ to answer calls without having to press any button on a controller, or ‘skip’, ‘pause’, ‘next’ for song controls. ‘Repeat’ for Nav instructions, ‘volume up/down’ etc.
In the end I mostly used it without the controller and just used my handlebar-QuadLock mounted phone to control the system. I could set up any Nav destination needed prior to setting off, hit play on my playlist and skip any songs I wanted to with ease.
Taking a call was pretty straight forward that way too. So after a while the controller ended up staying in my backpack. If you wanted to keep your phone in your pocket it would be a different story.
I can’t say that I really noticed or used the LED display system that much if I’m honest other than when trying to get everything setup and paired, or when charging where it shows you an colour indicator for battery charge. But that might be just me.
Price-wise it might not seem cheap at first, but when you consider the cost of setting up a helmet with the equivalent tech, it makes a fair amount of sense.
A decent Bluetooth speaker system alone is going to set you back over 5-600 big ones and the integrated camera is at least another few hundred bucks worth. When you consider that any other premium lid will set you back at least $800-1000+ bucks these days then it stacks up pretty well.
Even better when you consider that Forcite also offer what they call their Forcite Insurance policy. What it means is that they offer to salvage the tech from a crashed/damaged shell and will transfer it into a new shell for you – with you only paying for the new shell at ‘a fraction of the cost’ of an entirely new lid. Very nice.
All in all, I rate it. I’m quite surprised by how much I enjoyed a bit of tech connection and some tunes when I felt so inclined so I’m probably now a helmet comms convert. I’d be more than happy to support an Aussie company with my hard earned and I reckon the next version will be even better too…
The Forcite MK1S Smart Helmet Pack retails for $1,399 RRP in either Matte or Gloss carbon-fibre. You can upgrade the interior liner to Premium for an extra $79, a well as upgrade to the ‘Master & Dynamic Speaker Upgrade’ for $199. Extra visors in clear, iridium or smoked are $100.
An ‘Instant Media Access Cable’ will also set you back $39 (USBC Charging Cable and Charging Adapter come standard), and extended warranty or ‘Forcite VIP Status’ is $129.
Additional note as this is just being published: I did see a note literally just this morning that GoPro is set to acquire Forcite, so I’d be execting some camera upgrades in future releases! Great news for the Aussie team.
Wayne loves all things motorsport, but lives for two wheels. Mountain bikes, dirt bikes, adventure bikes, road bikes, race bikes, the lot.
An ex riding coach and road racer wannabe who simultaneously ran out of talent and money.
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