Normally the last thing you put on before you set off on your bike and definitely the one thing in your cycling wardrobe you want to use. We at RRR have had the misfortune of having to use ours a couple of times. I remember the days when a helmet was an odd leather item that looked like a baseball catchers glove or a bunch of black bananas, things didn’t get much better with the first new helmets made from polystyrene either.
We are lucky now to have such a plethora of helmets to choose from, with models for all types of riding, from commute and town use to downhill mountain biking and time trial. We are going to concentrate on three models from Specialized, the S-Works Prevail 2, S-Works Evade and Airnet. Looking at the three models side to side it's easy to see where some of the differences lie, the Evade sticks out more visually as a helmet for a speed demon, according to Specialized it's designed to make your head as slippery as possible through the air whilst staying cool and comfortable, claimed drag reduction will help you save up to 46 seconds over a 40km TT. Specialized has just revised the shape keeping the same monster airflow at speed but making it a claimed 6 seconds faster but costing and extra £25.
The S-Works Prevail sits alongside the Evade, but is designed as more of an all-round helmet, light weight with a huge amount of ventilation ideal for those hot mountain climbs. In comparison to the original Prevail, specialized have made it closer fitting to the head and basically smaller all around. Now the third helmet in our test list is the Specialized Airnet. The Airnet shares a similar chassis to the Evade, most notable are the same large rear exhaust vents designed to help draw and channel cooling air on those hotter days. The main differences being the aero optimised shell design of the Evade versus the classic 'hairnet' reminiscent design of the Airnet. In my opinion the helmet looks great and whilst fit is entirely personal, I find it sits well and closely on my head and avoids the mushroom effect that some other helmets can give. The Airnet has some nice to see features which are not immediately obvious nor you'd consider them useful if not aware. Firstly is the sunglasses park on both the front and rear of the helmet, essential for stowing your glasses at the cafe stop or whilst climbing that Col pro style.
The S-Works models have an internal strengthening built in to them, this is comes in the form of an Aramid-Reinforced Skeleton (as Spec call it). It’s basically a net made from Kevlar that helps use less material meaning a smaller, closer fitting helmet with more ventilation. It also supplyies internal support to help with impact absorption, the Airnet also has something similar but it is made from nylon.
At RRR we like to fit a cap (casquette) under our helmets and this is easy with the Prevail Airnet but under the Evade it doesn’t feel so good. It is important to say that people have very different shaped heads and over my time working with people it is easy for me to say that not all helmets fit all heads, I have had Giro helmets and they seem to be rounder in shape and Specialized seem to fit a narrower head, this suits us fine.
The Evade is a great helmet, I am not sure we are good enough to prove its aero benefits but I still use it when racing even if it’s for a placebo effect, at speed the vents channel loads of cool air to your head and the giant exhaust ports help remove all that warm hair. It's not the helmet I would choose to climb long, hot alpine climbs in, for this I would choose the Prevail, very light and in the extreme heat it feels like there is more vent then helmet, this helps all that hot sweaty air escape even at slow speeds. The Airnet fills the gap between the all-out aero Evade and the lightweight Prevail. The company claims it's their 3rd fastest helmet behind the TT and Evade and on the face of it ticks most boxes; aero, looks and wins on price
All the helmets are easy to adjust with the mindset micro dial fit system and the light weight webbing is soft and completes the comfortable fit with the merino wool helmet pads. Merino is anti-bacterial, reducing that undesirable stinky pad syndrome that can become of synthetic materials. They're also removable, washable and easily replaceable.
Choose your weapon to match the type of riding that you do, and if you can’t choose one choose a couple to cover all bases (that’s what I did). The Evade has a definite purpose but the Prevail and the Airnet are more versatile.
Specialized S-works Evade, £175, 261g size M
Specialized S-works Pevail 2, £175, 212g size M
Specialized Airnet, £100, 292g size M