Specialized’s Prevail road helmet has always been an all-rounder focused on a blend of ventilation, low weight, and more recently, aerodynamic performance, while the Evade has always prioritized low drag first and foremost. For the latest-generation S-Works Prevail 3 and Evade 3, however, there’s not a whole lot of talk about slicing through the wind, but rather how that wind can better keep the rider cool.
The modern hairnet
Six years ago, Specialized released the Airnet helmet, a simply styled model that was intentionally designed to evoke the old leather hairnet helmets of yesteryear. Although the new S-Works Prevail 3 is essentially a further development of the S-Works Prevail 2 Vent that debuted barely a year ago, there’s clearly a visual link between all three.
Like the Prevail 2 Vent, the Prevail 3 features an aramid cage that runs throughout the EPS foam liner. That cage helps hold the helmet together during a crash, and Specialized also says it helps distribute impact forces across more of the helmet than if it wasn’t there.
But from an airflow standpoint, those spindly fiber-composite arms also allow Specialized to dramatically open up the vent holes, basically making for three uninterrupted vents that run full-length from front to back. Specialized first debuted the concept on the Prevail 2 Vent, but the idea has been expanded further still here. The company claims there’s nearly 25% more open area on the Prevail 3.
There’s another safety-plus-ventilation feature, too. Incorporated into the inside of the Prevail 3 is MIPS’s new Air Node pad design, which has a slippery low-friction backing and breakaway hook-and-loop attachment points. This Air Node system is claimed to provide the same rotational impact protection as earlier MIPS designs, but without obscuring vents or requiring any silicone anchors that can snag a rider’s hair. All of the padding is also a single piece, which should make for easier replacement down the road, too.
Taken in total on the safety front, the Prevail 3 not only earns another five-star rating from the Virginia Tech testing lab (the Prevail 2 Vent did, too), but it now ranks second overall of every bicycle helmet the organization has tested to date — bested only by Specialized’s own Tactic 4 mountain bike model.
Other updates include a new polycarbonate lower shell that now shields the entire bottom of the helmet from everyday wear-and-tear, thinner upper straps, (mildly) adjustable Trifix splitters, and cleaner styling overall. The Mindset height-adjustable retention system carries over essentially unchanged, along with its compatibility with Specialized’s optional ANGi crash sensor.
Specialized is offering the new S-Works Prevail 3 in seven colors and three sizes, and for a retail price of US$300 / AU$475 / £275 / €330. Actual weight for a medium-sized CPSC-approved sample is 297 g — 45 g heavier than the S-Works Prevail 2 Vent I reviewed earlier this year, although that was also a small instead of a medium.
One note regarding that sizing: If you’ve historically been on the edge of two sizes in Specialized road helmets, you may want to head to a local dealer to try one on before ordering a new one. Specialized says the headform hasn’t changed from previous models, but the sizing has been updated to be more consistent with other models in the lineup. For example, I’ve always been at the very upper edge of a small in Specialized road helmets, but I now have to wear a medium.
A cooler Evade
Unusually for an aero-focused product — particularly from Specialized — the new Evade 3 isn’t claimed to be at all faster than the outgoing Evade 2. Instead, Specialized says the aerodynamic performance hasn’t changed, but the priority was improving the ventilation so that riders can take advantage of the helmet’s lower drag in a wider range of weather conditions.
The intake vents up front are notably larger than before, and rather unusually big for a helmet of this type in general. Inside, full-length internal channeling gives that incoming air somewhere to go. Out back are the biggest changes, with a newly extended tail housing four large exhaust ports in what Specialized refers to as a “diffuser” arrangement. The helmet also sports a smoother shape overall with minimal extra shaping and adornment.
All told, Specialized claims a 10% improvement in ventilation performance, measured in terms of “cooling capacity tested at 50 km/h at room temperature and head form at body temperature”.
Arguably more significant are the changes in terms of safety. Specialized continues to use a conventional EPS foam, but with two different densities. Firmer stuff is used at the forward edge and sides to help maintain a trim profile, but softer stuff is used elsewhere for better energy absorption. Also standard is the same MIPS Air Node slippery-backed padding design found on the Prevail 3. As compared to the Evade 2 (which only earned a four-star rating from Virginia Tech), the new Evade 3 now moves up a rung on the ladder with the organization’s coveted five-star rating.
Other features are shared with the Prevail 3, such as the same Mindset height-adjustable retention system (and the same ANGi-compatible cradle), thinner upper straps with slightly adjustable Trifix splitters, and a fully covered lower edge to help keep the helmet looking newer, longer.
Like the Prevail 3, the new Evade 3 will be offered in three sizes with the same sizing revisions. There will be five color options at launch, and pricing is the same at US$300 / AU$475 / £275 / €330. Actual weight on a medium-sized CPSC sample is 324 g.
What the heck is this thing?
Also debuting from Specialized is a truly insane-looking new time trial helmet called the TT5. Even as compared to other time trial helmets, the TT5 is oddly shaped, with sides that come way down so as to almost nest on the rider’s shoulders. According to Specialized, the smoother airflow created as a result supposedly yields pro rider Remco Evenepoel a massive 26 seconds of savings over a 40 km-long time trial as compared to his previous helmet.
Up front is an integrated visor that Specialized says is made to a “Class 1” standard “for zero distortion when looking down the road”, and augmented with a hydrophobic coating to help keep road spray and sweat from obscuring the rider’s vision.
Even wilder, however, is the helmet’s integrated “head sock”, which is exactly what it sounds like, and certainly reminds me of old-school bank robbers with sheer leggings on their heads. According to Specialized, the TT5’s head sock is a key feature of the helmet, helping to “maintain an optimal position on the head while riding and mitigate rotational forces during impact.” Coupled with that head sock is the same MIPS Air Node padding design as the new Prevail 3 and Evade 3.
Specialized otherwise doesn’t have any official pricing available for the TT5, nor much in the way of other details like official weights, available sizes, and so on. But we can be sure we’ll see plenty of this thing during this year’s Tour de France time trials.
Samples of the new Prevail 3 and Evade 3 arrived before the launch date, but not early enough to form a truly comprehensive view of either helmet’s performance. As such, what follows is some first impressions of both given my limited time in them.
Having spent a lot of time in the Prevail 2 Vent, I was particularly interested in how it compared to this new Prevail 3. In short, the ventilation performance of the Prevail 3 is insanely good, and truly the next best thing I’ve experienced to not wearing a helmet at all. With such unimpeded vents running lengthwise across the top of your head, there’s almost never a time when you don’t feel air coursing over your scalp. And even on low-speed climbs, there’s so much open area that heat can easily escape straight off the top.
It’s a comfortable helmet, too. As has long been the case with Specialized helmets, the shape is more ovoid than most, but the retention system is quite pliable, so as long as your head fits into the shell, there’s a good chance it’ll sit snug and secure. I’m a fan of the generous padding, too, though it could be softer and a little more absorbent. Nevertheless, sweat management is pretty good with lots of airflow around the browpad, and even on hot days with relatively considerable humidity (for Colorado, anyway), I rarely had to wipe drips from the inside of my sunglasses.
I’m unfortunately not quite as positive about the Evade 3, though you should maybe take that with a grain of salt since I’m not necessarily the target market for something like this.
Simply put, the Evade 3 is at its best when moving fast. The ventilation system is reliant on pushing air into the front and sucking it out the back, and I only noticed air flowing across the top of my head when I was moving at around 30 km/h (19 mph). There’s still some airflow at lower speeds, but clearly not nearly as much, and it doesn’t take long on slower climbs before the Evade 3 starts to feel a little stifling given the lack of open vent area.
That 10% improvement in ventilation performance that Specialized claims may very well be real, but in this case, it only served to remind me that the old Evade 2 wasn’t particularly cool, either. I can’t speak to how the Giro Eclipse Spherical compares to the Evade 3 in terms of aerodynamic performance, but it certainly seems to me to be the better all-rounder when it comes to ventilation. Interestingly, I almost felt as if there was more hot air being sucked out from inside the helmet when I tilted my head down than when it was upright.
That said, one thing I noticed about the Evade 3 was how quiet it was, particularly at higher speeds (a trait I’ve grown to associate with helmets that also perform well aerodynamically). Even at almost 50 km/h (31 mph), I could still hear the hum of my tires on the asphalt. I’ve always cherished quiet helmets for the sense of calm they instill while riding, but it’s also good for safety since it’s easier to hear approaching cars, too.
I find the Evade 3 more polarizing than the Prevail 3 in terms of aesthetics, too. The tail is quite long, and the relatively high cut only accentuates the overall length. Maybe it’ll grow on me.
Summer has arrived in full force here in Colorado, so stay tuned for more in-depth reviews in the coming weeks.
More information on Specialized’s new helmets can be found at www.specialized.com.