Review: Specialized Prevail helmet. Watch out Giro.

 

Specialized Prevail

The Specialized S-Works Prevail road helmet was envisioned as a Giro killer. Given that the head design people used to work at Giro, they know exactly what it would take to stab the beast.

In all honesty, we’ve been a Giro evangelist for at least ten years. Their sense of industrial design and style is simply hors categorie, the best of the best. We’ve reviewed a half dozen helmets this year and nothing matches the Giro gold standard. Which is what makes the Prevail so impressive — perhaps enough to change my mind.

Head to head, the two helmets share a number of characteristics and they’re closely matched. On weight the Prevail is within 15 grams of the Aeon (235 vs 220), they’re both well ventilated and high on the style factors. The Prevail also retails for slightly less than the Giro lid ($230 vs $250). However there are a few significant differences with the Prevail that may actually give it the edge.

Venting

Ventilation equation

We had the chance to discuss the Prevail with Specialized designer Mike Grimm. The huge point he wanted to make was just because a helmet has lots of vents doesn’t mean ventilation is good. They designed the Prevail to align the vents from front to back so the air knows how to flow through and exit. Specialized calls that their 4th Dimension Cooling System.

The front Mega Mouthport across the forehead sucks in the air and high exhaust vents in the back channel it out. Grimm issued a challenge that I thought was revealing about the Prevail versus Aeon question: “Take a long rod and stick it in the front vent of the Aeon — there’s really no straight shot through.” If you hold both helmets up side by side facing their fronts, you see that the Prevail certainly has more direct exit routes.

Exit rows.

In our road tests of the Prevail, we’ve found it a super well ventilated helmet but without a blazing hot summer day it would be hard to say it was significantly better than the Giro Aeon we’ve used for six months. However, we do buy Grimm’s argument that aligning vents makes more theoretical sense. There’s also the element of psychological cool and having that wide vent across our sweaty forehead made us feel like we were cooler.

Functional Fit

One of the first things you notice about the Prevail is the minimalist webbing and straps — it’s part of the weight loss. It’s another clue you’re not holding a Giro lid.  Specialized believes there’s a smarter way to perfect the fit. The Tri-Fix web splitter spreads the straps wider so there is never a need to adjust positioning. In fact, the Prevail requires less strap adjustment than any helmet on the market. Set the strap length and you’re done. We set up the Prevail in under 60 seconds.

5 position height adjustment.

There is also less monkeying with fit when straps get wet and stretch then dry and contract. Specs say the lightweight 4X DryLite webbing won’t stretch out with sweat or water and so far, we’re in agreement. After a month with the Prevail, it’s hard to go back to messing with two straps fed thru a plastic gizmo.

As far as design work, it’s difficult to beat the famed RockLoc 5 retention system on the Giro Aeon. The design, ergonomics and build quality are top notch. The Specialized take on retention is Mindset and it works the same way, with easy one handed adjustment for tighter and looser.

In fact, the Prevail dial gives you the reassuring click both ways while the Giro loses the clicks when you back it out. What we especially appreciate is the five position possibilities for the height of the rear retention system. You simply pull out or push in the two thin plastic pieces that hook into the body of the helmet. Advantage Prevail.

Dialed in.

It’s almost inevitable that one day we’re all going to crash. In recent weeks Levi Leipheimer and Tony Martin of the ProTeam Omega Pharma Quickstep were both hit by cars. They were wearing the Prevail helmet and Levi will tell you he is happy to be alive.

At Specialized they look at crashes as energy management — how to disperse that incredible impact energy so you don’t have brain trauma. The Prevail uses Dual Density EPS to optimize impact performance. Because there’s less protection on the side, the harder, stronger density foam protects against those kinds of crashes.

The Prevail also sports a Kevlar-reinforced Inner Matrix to trim some weight and dial up the crush dynamic. It’s worth noting that unlike many helmet designers, Specialized does their own expensive verification tests for stately. The CPSC, SNELL B90A, CE and AS/NZS safety standard tests were all passed with flying colors.

Wide Tri-Fix

Just to sum up our experiences with the Prevail, it was an instant and super comfortable fit — with a light weight that disappeared on our head. Venting is excellent, fit adjustment fast and simple and the style factors were high. There are no faults to uncover, no oversights to expose.

So what’s the verdict in the Specialized Prevail vs Giro Aeon shootout? They’re both awesome helmets and you’ll be pleased and confident with either one. The honest answer is we want both: with its edge in beautiful industrial design and aggressive good looks, we prefer the Aeon. But if we insist on strict functionality and the absolute maximum in cooling ventilation, the winner has to be the Prevail.

Specialized website

S-Works Prevail road helmet

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