[UPDATE July 31, 2023: A Forcite MK1S helmet owner commented on this review to note that it does indeed record sound. Since the camera occupies a space somewhere between an action camera and a dash cam (only on a full-face helmet), I hadn't thought it strange in the slightest that I could hear no sound from my video playback. 

After reading that comment, I asked Forcite if I was mistaken, and that it should record sound. Forcite informed me that it should indeed record sound, and that they haven't heard of a non-sound-recording situation before. 

In any case, I wanted to correct the error. If you purchase a Forcite MK1S, the camera module has two microphones inside. I knew that it must have at least one, since I tested the phone call clarity. It also has a second external microphone that records sound for your videos, according to Forcite. While the internal mic worked well for my phone conversations, it was the external mic that was apparently not working.]

Original review follows.

Australian startup Forcite announced the impending launch of its first helmet back in 2019. Like many companies with international sales ambitions, it set its sights on rolling out in its home market first before moving on to other regions. In 2022, it took what it had learned from customer feedback about the MK1 and released the latest version: the MK1S.  

In February 2023, the Forcite MK1S debuted in Italy—and not long after that, finally also made its way to the US. Through an exclusive distribution deal with Tucker Powersports that was announced in late 2022, the US was about to gets its first taste of what Forcite had to offer riders. Could it deliver an experience that riders would welcome? 

Forcite sent a helmet to RideApart for review, and I spent several weeks learning what it was all about. Here’s what I found.

Gallery: Gear Review: Forcite MK1S Smart Helmet

Unboxing and Setting Up the Forcite MK1S 

To open the Forcite MK1S helmet box, you’ll first need to slide it out of its paper sleeve. The sleeve is decorative, but it also helps to secure the flaps on the top of the box, so that it stays closed and all components are securely transported until you’re ready to remove the helmet and start using it.  

Inside, there’s a cardboard tray that contains all the small accessories that go along with your MK1S. This includes two different USB C charging cables that are located inside small cardboard boxes that tuck into little nooks in the cardboard, as well as the included triangular handlebar-mounted Bluetooth controller (and dedicated mounting bracket) that pairs with the helmet. There’s also a small paper manual that walks you through the basic steps of getting the helmet out, making sure it fits correctly, and starting you down the path toward use. 

You’ll need to download the Forcite smartphone app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure that both the helmet and the Bluetooth controller (if you choose to use it) are charged and ready to go.  

For those who don’t want to deal with it, the handlebar-mounted Bluetooth controller isn’t a requirement to use the MK1S. You can instead opt to simply control your MK1S using the Forcite smartphone app and skip the BT controller entirely. Having used both methods to control the helmet, there are definitely things to appreciate about having a separate Bluetooth controller, but it’s also nice to have the option to just stick with my phone. 

The Forcite MK1S camera records to a microSD card, which is not included in the box, so you’ll need to supply your own microSD card for use. According to the Forcite website, you’ll need a Class 10 microSD card with at least 32 GB of storage. It can also accept a card up to one terabyte if you prefer. 

The Pairing Process 

Once you have the app successfully installed on your phone, you’ll need to make sure that both your Forcite MK1S helmet and the Bluetooth controller are fully charged before use. That’s relatively simple, because the LED indicator lights on both devices will turn green when they’re ready. 

If you’re short on space, however, you may not appreciate the fact that you have to plug your entire helmet in whenever you want to charge it. Unlike external Bluetooth communications units or action cameras, you can’t simply pop an electronics module off your helmet and plug it in. Instead, your entire helmet needs to be able to be placed in reasonably close proximity to the outlet.  

That said, the pairing process is pretty straightforward. After opening the Forcite phone app, turning on Bluetooth and activating Location Services on your phone, and also turning on your helmet and BT controller, the app walks you right through the pairing process. Both the helmet and BT controller pair separately, so you’ll need to go through a slightly different process for each one.  

After you do that, you’re ready to start listening to music or podcasts, using the navigation, recording your rides using the camera—or all three things at once. 

Forcite MK1S Helmet - Front and Back View

Navigation and the Heads-Up Display

Located inside the top of the chin bar, just below the visor, is a small and unobtrusive light bar that sort of blends into the helmet when it’s not illuminated. As you go through the Forcite app pairing process and walkthrough of the helmet’s features, you’ll get to see how it illuminates and learn what to expect when you’re riding with it.  

Every rider is different, and while I found it pleasantly unobtrusive, yet comfortably visible in a variety of lighting conditions, some riders may not like it. The lights will illuminate in different colors, depending on what the helmet is trying to communicate. Red lights flash when there’s a hazard on the road, and green lights flow directionally from the center toward the left or right based on which direction your navigation instructions want you to turn.  

In every case, the lights are down at the bottom of your vision—so it’s more a peripheral suggestion of light than something that could interfere with your ability to concentrate on the road. While it took a little bit of getting used to, I adapted rather quickly. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I unboxed this helmet. However, with use, I came to the conclusion that if you’re a helmet company that’s going to use LEDs to help visually direct someone in which direction to turn, this is probably the best, safest way to do it. 

Incidentally, like most navigation apps and devices in 2023, the Forcite app lets you choose what voice you’d like your navigation instructions to use. In honor of Melanie Lynskey and all the Yellowjackets I’ve been watching, I chose the voice of a female narrator from New Zealand, and she came through very clearly with all her instructions in my ears. 

Using the Camera 

When you activate the camera, your chosen navigation voice will confirm “Recording started.” You can both start and stop the camera using either the smartphone app or the clearly marked button on the Bluetooth controller. Hit the camera button again while it's recording, and the voice will say “Recording stopped." That is, unless you’ve run out of juice and it just dies instead, which happened to me more than once (more on that later). 

As long as you keep the lens clean and make sure your microSD card has plenty of space, the camera records very clearly (1080p, 60 frames per second) in whatever direction you’re facing. I’ve included a video recorded with the Forcite MK1S up at the top of this review so you can see what the footage looks like and judge for yourself. It does not record sound [ed. note from the future: It does record sound, but this unit apparently wasn't working properly during this review], but if you’re using it as a dashcam recorder, it should suit your purposes well. 

Forcite MK1S Helmet - Bluetooth Controller - On Bike

The Harman/Kardon speakers 

I’m going to be very honest with you here: These speakers are some of the best-sounding speakers I’ve experienced so far in a motorcycle helmet situation. I always wear earplugs when I ride to protect my eardrums from wind noise—but even so, listening to music with these speakers is an absolute joy. Podcasts also sound fine—even productions with large casts and expansive soundscapes. The navigation is likewise quite clear, and alerts about road hazards also come through clearly as well. 

One instance where the handlebar-mounted Bluetooth controller is clearly more useful than the phone app is in volume control while riding. When you’re going faster, chances are good that you’ll want the volume a little higher, and it’s super easy to press the side buttons on the controller to adjust the volume as you see fit. It’s clear that whoever designed the controller did so with motorcycle gloves in mind—and for that, I thank them.  

Putting It All Together

Over the course of several weeks, I used a combination of the MK1S features on various rides. Listening to music didn’t tax the battery much at all, and using the navigation was similarly fine. Since my phone had to be connected via Bluetooth the whole time, the phone battery seemed the most likely to drop precipitously with long use. Keeping my phone plugged into power during long rides eliminated that problem completely. 

Add in the camera on the MK1S and the battery drops much more quickly. It’s supposed to give you an audio warning when the battery level gets too low, so you can hopefully plug it in before it cuts out completely.

However, on two occasions, I received a low battery warning and then had it cut out just a minute or two after the warning. One of those times was when I was sheltering from a sudden deluge. While I was able to text my partner to let them know that I was safe and would be a little late getting home, I could have called instead if the helmet battery didn’t suddenly die on me with very little warning. 

I didn’t time how long the battery lasted while using the camera, streaming music, and using navigation features. However, I can tell you for sure that, even starting from a full charge, it wasn’t anywhere close to seven hours. A few hours, yes—but probably closer to three or four if taxing the battery to its utmost by using all the things at once. 

The Forcite MK1S Is Not a Bluetooth Comms Unit 

Phone calls sound good on the MK1S, both as the person wearing the helmet and as the person on the other end of the call. However, that’s the only way you can communicate with your friends using this helmet. When I asked Forcite if there were any plans to make Bluetooth communications possible in the future, they said that won’t be a feature on the MK1S. However, it is one that they’re planning to incorporate into a future helmet model down the line. 

Three Things I Didn’t Like About the Forcite MK1S 

  1. The battery suddenly dying with little warning twice and no warning once (for real, the helmet just suddenly went dead, and I couldn’t turn it back on until I’d charged it) was not ideal. Obviously, battery-powered devices need to charge from time to time, but a consistent alert that gives you a reasonable amount of time to plug it in would be greatly appreciated. Most riders probably don’t want to have to worry about range anxiety with their helmets, too. 
  2. Wind noise seemed excessive during expressway riding, even with earplugs. There’s a good amount of airflow through this helmet, especially on a naked bike—so some wind noise is to be expected. However, this helmet is very, very loud at high speed.  
  3. While the navigation app has a setting (currently in beta at the time of writing) that lets you avoid tolls, it does not currently have a similar setting to avoid highways. I use that setting all the time with other navigation systems and would appreciate being able to use it here. That’s a relatively minor concern, but it would be nice to see a change in a future software update. 
Forcite MK1S Helmet - Front and Back View On Bike

Who is the Forcite MK1S good for? 

If you’re a commuter, and/or a frequent solo rider who loves to listen to music while you’re out on your bike, the Forcite MK1S could be a good option for you. It’s an even better option if listening to music while riding is something you live for. That said, its suitability ultimately depends on whether you’re a rider who would enjoy the heads-up display or not. If you are, then it’s worth considering. 

However, if you’re a rider who frequently rides with friends, and you like to stay in touch with each other while you’re riding—this is only a good option if you’re cool with the idea that you’ll need a second helmet for your BT comms unit and group rides. 

Forcite MK1S Helmet Pricing, Availability, Safety Certification, and Sizing Information 

The MK1S boasts ECE 22.05 certification in Europe and DOT certification in the US. It features an attractive matte carbon fiber shell on the outside and the construction feels solid.

The head shape is advertised as being intermediate oval. However, even with my round earth head, I found that it fit me comfortably and snugly. It also didn't give me any weird pressure points, even after long hours of use. Fellow eyeglass wearers, this helmet is also totally comfortable and accommodating for both standard eyeglasses and sunglasses (even sunglasses with thick plastic frames).

When asked about where it sources its helmets, Forcite informed me that they’re made for the company by a trusted (but unspecified) manufacturing partner in Taiwan. The electronics modules for these helmets are installed by Forcite in Australia. 

Forcite currently offers the MK1S in multiple markets, but pricing and availability vary by region, as you’d expect. In the US, the MK1S Smart Helmet Pack, which includes the helmet and the Bluetooth controller, carries an MSRP of $1,099. At the time of writing on July 25, 2023, availability is limited in this market to just 300 units. 

In my experience, the Forcite helmet size chart for the MK1S was true to size. Use a tape measure around your head (don’t guess) for best results. That said, Forcite also says that no-hassle size swaps are possible if you find that you accidentally purchased the wrong size.

The Forcite MK1S helmet that I received came with the standard clear, Pinlock-ready visor installed. However, smoked and iridium options are also available at an additional charge.  

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