Is this the world’s smartest motorcycle helmet?

Is this the world’s smartest motorcycle helmet?

Safety must come first when adding tech to any helmet. 

The Australian designers at Forcite have done just that; installing a camera, speakers, lighting and microphones into a carbon fibre shell that still meets the European ​​ECE 22.05 safety certification.

It’s a lot to wrap your head around (pun intended) and it can be distracting at first but Forcite’s MK1S quickly proves to be incredibly useful – and versatile – on the road. 

A breakdown of the tech hidden in the chin of a MK1S helmet. (Nine)

Those comforts don’t come cheap however with the smart helmet starting at $1,299. 

Premium cheek pads will set you back an additional $79. You can also add an anti-fog insert to your cart ($59) and an additional 12 months warranty as a ‘Forcite VIP’ ($129), but really all you’ll need is a microSD card to get started.

After two weeks and about ten hours riding, here’s a breakdown of every feature, what works and what can be improved. 

Carbon fibre keeps the weight of the large MK1S to 1500 grams. (Nine)

The large sized MK1S weighs about 1,500 grams (1.5 kilograms or 3.3 pounds). 

That includes the thicker, premium padding which helped the helmet be comfortable enough to regularly wear for over an hour. 

Most of its electronics are housed in the helmet’s chin inside a rubber flex casing which CEO Alfred Boyadgis says was critical to Forcite’s European safety certification.

“Upon impact it allows the shell to flex and keeps it from cracking.”

“In ECE testing there are strike tests right on the jaw and this mechanism allows us to achieve better ratings.”

Thankfully, I haven’t had a chance to test this in the real world and, even if the helmet is damaged, Forcite can replace the shell for a smaller fee by reusing the technology inside it.

This 1080p lens records at up to 60 frames per second. (Nine)

Forcite has added pins which allow riders to lock their visor down and unlike the one on my open face helmet, I never had any issues with fogging.

The MK1S has three discreet vents you can open and close around the helmet for better airflow just in case. Their switches are easy enough to toggle with leather gloves on but I wouldn’t recommend trying while riding. 

On its left (while wearing the helmet) you’ll also find a slider to bring down an internal sun visor. I was very impressed at how the visor was able to significantly reduce glare without making everything look too dark; a delicate balance Forcite has definitely struck. 

Just below the helmet’s internal power button, a small rubber flap under the chin hides a slot for the microSD card and the USB-C port you’ll need to access your videos (more on that later) and charge the helmet. 

Forcite says you’ll get three hours on a single charge while recording video or up to eight hours while listening to music. That has been broadly accurate in my time with the MK1S, in fact the helmet’s battery has typically lasted longer than three hours as I abstain from listening to music while riding.   

While recording, the MK1S helmet’s battery should last about three hours. (Nine)

The helmet comes in six sizes (XS, S, M, L, L/XL, and XL) each with a guide to measure your head beforehand. Crudely using a tape measure wasn’t ideal but I was confident my head’s 58.7cm circumference would fit perfectly in a ‘large’ size with a designated 59cm guide.

Helmets are supposed to be snug – and it might be the premium padding – but for me, it’s a little too snug. 

Getting the helmet on and off has been a bit rougher than I expected. Good news is, Forcite will swap your helmet for another size free of charge provided you haven’t worn it. 

I wanted to dive into this review straight away so I didn’t take that offer up, but if I had my time again, I’d seriously consider a bigger size.     

Forcite’s 1080p camera lens is best suited to day time recording. (Nine)

At the tip of the helmet’s nose is a 1080p camera that films at 60 frames per second. 

It can be programmed to start recording automatically when the helmet is turned on, or can be controlled via Forcite’s controller or app (more on those later).

It has a decently wide field of view but isn’t wide enough to capture the speedometer of my Vespa if I’m sitting normally. 

After recording in all conditions (daylight, dusk, night and rain), it’s clear Forcite’s lens is best suited to being a day-time dashcam.

Detail of these number plates are lost in the headlights too. (Nine)

Videos recorded at night do take a hit in clarity and quality as the camera attempts to balance exposure between darker areas and blinding headlights.  

Nighttime recordings would still be useful in the event of an accident, just not as useful as they might be during the day. It proved near impossible to read number plates on some of the cars stopped at the lights in front of me at times.     

The MK1S also records the rider’s voice thanks to an internal microphone. Barely any noise external to the helmet is picked up by this microphone, which is useful for omitting wind noise, but a bit disappointing if you were hoping to pick up conversations with fellow riders when you come to a stop. 

In a future Forcite MK2 Helmet, I’d love to see a discreet, external microphone included. 

Same goes for a stabilised camera lens. GoPro has set a phenomenal standard with stability software and with Apple’s top iPhones introducing floating lenses, I wish a similar solution was included on the MK1S. 

At night, darker areas are blackened by the extreme brightness of oncoming headlights. (Nine)

Turns out, our heads shake quite a bit on the back of a scooter or motorcycle. As a result, the vision the MK1S captures can be quite shaky too. 

This can be fixed in post using something like Adobe Premier’s ‘warp stabiliser’ but not everyone will have a subscription to software that offers that. 

Most people will just want to access, edit and post the best videos possible as quickly as possible.   

A cable is needed to access video on the helmet directly. (Nine)

Forcite app and accessing vision

Speaking of accessing and editing videos, Forcite has tried to handle it all through an app. 

You can always remove the microSD card (as I have been doing) but included in the box is a USB-C cable designed to both power the helmet and plug it into a computer or smartphone. 

If you have an iPhone, you’ll need an adapter to make this work. 

If you have a Google Pixel, you’ll have to reformat the microSD card to FAT32 before your phone will recognise it. 

There’s no pop-up that lets you know that in Forcite’s app. In fact, I’d given up trying to find the folder on my Pixel 6 until I stumbled onto the solution online! 

Spooling through your vision is quick and easy via the app although it only allows you to edit and export 30 second clips and you’ll still need to carry the cable around with you if you plan to do this on the go. 

Again, GoPro and others have worked out ways to do this over WiFi; an example I hope Forcite follows in future updates.

A few minor software tweaks could really enhance the experience as well. 

There’s no option to ‘avoid freeways’ in the navigation settings. You can hit a switch to ‘avoid tolls’ but it resets to off every time you open the app.   

You can choose to use Google or Apple Maps and listen to directions like you would wearing Bluetooth headphones, however neither work with the MK1S’s lighting array.  

Green flashes are limited to directions like this left turn. (Nine)

Running across the bridge of the rider’s nose and beneath each eye is an LED light strip. 

It throbs red while recording video, flashes red and blue when a speed or red light camera is coming up, glows orange for hazards, yellow for traffic incidents and blinks green on either side to help indicate when you should turn. 

Before getting my hands on the MK1S its interactive lights were most intriguing.

As advertised they’re understated, unobstructive and very much complimentary to audio alerts. Once you’re used to them, they’re never distracting and Forcite has linked the array to a brightness sensor to maintain that at night. 

That’s all I really have to say about the helmet’s lighting because it simply works!

It’s not critical to the experience but infinitely better than looking down at your phone. 

Coupled with the audio alerts during navigation, it’s a much safer experience that allows a rider to keep their eyes on the road.

Rubber – designed to flex – helps prevent cracking on impact, according to Forcite. (Nine)

Those audio alerts are delivered by 40mm speakers sitting in cavities beside each ear.

Designed by Harman Kardon, they’re certainly loud enough and clear enough to easily understand verbal directions during navigation on the road. That clarity is helped in part by the limited amount of discernable wind noise when wearing the MK1S.  

I was concerned the speakers would drown out too much of the surrounding street noise but in practice, that isn’t the case at standard volumes. 

There is a risk that wouldn’t be the case at louder volumes while listening to music but that is a risk each rider has to assess for themselves. 

I’ve only received a handful of calls while riding. Each was a solid experience for me and I didn’t have any complaints from those on the other end of the line. 

While using navigation, one frustrating quirk emerges when receiving a phone call. The volume of the directions is boosted to a point that drowns out the person speaking to you, when the rider could more heavily rely on the lighting array. 

Camera, phone and navigation buttons surround a central, play/pause button – also used to turn the controller on. (Nine)

To control your helmet safely, the MK1S comes with a chunky Bluetooth controller. 

The triangular pad has a button in each corner designated for the camera, navigation and phone calls. A large circular button in its centre controls the music and two buttons on an edge adjust the helmet’s volume.

Each is easy to control while wearing gloves and there are a few button combinations you’ll have to remember to get the most out of it. For example, holding the phone button for one second triggers Siri or Google’s Assistant and holding the camera button for six seconds immediately wipes the SD card.

The MK1S comes with an arm that allows you to mount the controller to your bike. Unfortunately this wasn’t suitable for my Vespa. The 3cm hole in the mount is far wider than the scooter’s narrow mirror arms. I did my best ‘MacGyver’ impression making some padding out of tape which worked for a while but eventually failed while out on the road. 

Two rubber spacers came in the box which I eventually doubled up for a tighter fit, adding a little cloth I cut between them for added grip. 

A special tool is needed to attach and unscrew Forcite’s controller arm. (Nine)

One concern I have is how easy the controller would be to steal. Its battery lasts much longer than that of the helmet but it still requires a recharge every 15 hours or so, which means it needs to be removed from the mount. 

This can be done very easily. It simply screws off, no tool required which is a win for convenience but a possible risk for a thief that knows what they’re looking at.

If a controller was locked to the helmet it was paired with, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t communicate directly with the helmet; they talk through Forcite’s app on your phone.

That means, if you forget to launch the app before a ride (this often happened to me when I didn’t need directions) several of the controls won’t work. You can still play and pause music but starting or stopping a video recording won’t work, nor will answering a phone call.

It’s frustrating when commands don’t work and – when you’re on the road – that failure can be unnecessarily distracting.

I’m no engineer. I don’t know why this is the best solution for Forcite but I hope it’s something they fix in future with a software update or improved hardware.

The incoming MK1S isn’t perfect but I’d definitely recommend it. 

Any rider looking for a safer way to navigate on the road than looking down at a phone should strongly consider a helmet like Forcite’s if they can afford it. 

Minor software tweaks could enhance the user experience over time. 

All of the ingredients are there and this Aussie company is close to getting the recipe right.

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