The cat is out of the bag; the helmets are on the road — Specialized has a new set of S-Works helmets ready for all that cycling has to offer. You can read the full announcement here.
By now, you’ve seen the data, the Specialized Win-Tunnel analysis, and super cool designs, but the real story is “How does it feel on the bike?”
Forgive us, but first we must touch on the helmet’s improvements a bit. The new S-Works helmet quiver has lots of new tech and minor adjustments leading to maximum performance.
S-Works Evade 3: What’s new?
First off, the helmet received a big ventilation make-over. The final version increased its ventilation by 10% while maintaining its top aero performance. The next significant improvement was a new rear diffuser that maximizes airflow and creates a faster profile overall.
The Evade 3 and Prevail 3 use MIPS Air Node technology, which is MIPS ventilation-focused design for impact management. The new design gives way to a new retention system and updated webbing that Specliailzed calls Tri-fix web splitter. It’s slightly thinner and lays closer to the skin than the previous version, with the strap going under instead of over the ear adjustment strap.
The Specialized helmet team also updated the fit, making the helmet slightly more ovalized than the past models. It affects the fit slightly…
S-Works Evade 3: How does it fit?
At first glance, you don’t notice much difference, but after looking from the old to the new and back again, you’ll notice the Evade 3 has a slightly narrower shape.
This ovalization improves the helmet’s aerodynamics but also slightly augments the fit. I wear a medium in the Evade 2, and the Evade 3 fits slightly more snug. I have gotten accustomed to the new fit (and it’s comfortable for me), but some riders on the bubble of medium or large might want to hit the local Specialized shop for a fit before committing to a size.
S-Works Evade 3: How does it ride?
The first thing I noticed was the weight. It is much lighter than the Evade 2 (307g vs. 269g), but it’s not just the 38g difference; it’s the airflow. The front vent is more like a rectangle and less like a chevron, and the vent angle is more gradual, making the opening as generous as possible.
The feel on the open road is quiet; the straps that didn’t seem that much different actually are different. They sit much closer to the face, and the fit is tighter all around but not uncomfortable. The clasp is different, swapping the magnet style to a standard buckle.
If the wind is blowing, the helmet is very comfortable and ventilated. The air passes through like a less aero-focused design. The only time I could feel the heat was slow goings at the top of steep climbs or in the woods on a humid day. By heat, I don’t mean uncomfortable; there was no air blowing.
The new MIPS Air Node padding has quality sweat retention despite the slim profile. I found the front and side pads being bulkier, hold and distribute the sweat better than an all-over pillow style. More to come on that with our long-term review.
Evade 2 vs. Evade 3
This comparison is a much larger conversation, but after much time in the Evade 3, I prefer it more than its predecessor. I spent two years riding the Evade 2, and I love that helmet, but this one is better all around. Not only because of the airflow, but I like the protective design updates to the interior.
The PC wrap around the edges will extend the helmet’s life from sweat, random hits, and everyday abuse, protecting your investment. This helmet is an investment; at $300, it’s not something you want to roll into the A-line at your local bike park. I feel like the new Evade is like the Tarmac, coming closer and closer to a do-it-all road design. I found myself reluctant to move to the Prevail 3, very satisfied with the performance and fit of the Evade 3.
S-Works Prevail 3: What’s new?
Like the Evade 3, the new Prevail 3 got the aero treatment and more ventilation. More, meaning the updated design increases the surface area of ventilation by 24.5% compared to the S-Works Prevail 2 — it is significant.
How did they do it? Air Cage; this new design takes woven aramid “cables” and traverses them over the helmet. They anchor to carbon fiber side panels hidden nicely on the sides of the helmet. Upon impact, the AirCage technology (new for the Prevail 3) works as a suspension bridge. The design distributes localized forces throughout the helmet.
The Prevail 3 boasts the same updates with straps and MIPS Air Node as the Evade 3. The Prevail 3 has what I would call a “micro diffuser” and is a departure from the pillar-like rear of its predecessor.
Like the Evade 3, the inside wear areas of the helmet (outermost) are again reinforced with polycarbonate and should drastically help preserve the helmet from sweat and small bumps around in transport.
Coming from Prevail 2, I was curious how the “lots more ventilation” would present itself. I’ve spent nearly all XC mountain bike season and hot summers on the road in the Prevail 2 — content.
S-Works Prevail 3: How does it fit?
Much like the Evade 3, the Prevail 3 has a more ovalized shape, but nothing affected my fit.
The straps are closer to the face, and the fit is more secure than in the previous version. This feeling doesn’t necessarily mean a more secure fit; it’s mainly closer to the skin, giving a secure sensation.
Zach’s Take: As with all helmets, personal fit will vary from rider to rider. I was a big fan of the Prevail 2, but the changes to the fit of the Prevail 3 mean it’s not the best option for my head shape (I have sort of a broad, squarish head). The Prevail 3 is a few millimeters narrower at the temples, and the front of the helmet is more ovalized than the Prevail 2. I also had to do the ‘spoon trick’ where you use the back of a spoon to flatten some of the EPS inside the helmet at pain points near the back of my head. Obviously, this isn’t recommended by Specialized.
If you are on the larger side of a medium like I am at 57cm, you may find that the Prevail 3 medium is now too small, but the large is too big. Which is a shame, because otherwise, the new Prevail 3 design delivers on the amazing ventilation. Though, the 3 is substantially heavier than the 2, with my medium sample without ANGI weighing in at 301g, compared to my medium Prevail 2 with the ANGI sensor measuring 255g.
My takeaway is that if you’re a fan of the fit of the Prevail 2 and the 3 doesn’t work out for you, now is a great time to stock up since there are a number of places you can find the $250 Prevail II Vent MIPS on sale for $186.95.
S-Works Prevail 3: How does it ride?
The Air-Cage opens upfront of the helmet so much that it feels wholly ventilated. The ventilation is very noticeable from the first movement on the bike. It doesn’t feel like a traditional helmet because of it, and without the safety certification from Virginia Tech (5-star rating), I would be suspicious about its integrity.
The design is exciting and compelling. The previous version has six pillars running across the helmet, each with three or four vents for airflow. The Prevail has four of the same style pillars, with a nearly complete opening.
The sides have small ports near the edge of the helmet, and where the Air-Cage is bound, it’s covered with polycarbonate with very aerodynamic styling.
So far, I enjoy the Prevail 3, not only on the road but in the woods and on the gravel adventures. The big holes allow things like road debris, bugs, and the like to venture into your helmet, but I find the openings large enough to get them out.
Look for a long-term review as we put these new designs through the paces the remainder of road/mountain season and into ‘cross.
Check out more at Specialized.com