Helmets are one of mountain biking’s unanimously agreed upon necessities.
Unlike many other “extreme” sports where helmets are optional, few people would ever dare to ride without one.
Compared to other necessary gear—such as packs or kneepads or brakes—helmets are unique in they exist in the realm of both fashion and function. From full-face to half-dome, a helmet’s style can often pigeonhole riders into a specific discipline. However the Specialized Ambush was presented to us as a do-it-all weapon of protection. We ran the gauntlet on it this summer, while also trying to minimalize head-to-ground impacts.
The most noticeable characteristic of the Ambush is coverage. The helmet extends much lower than the previous version, as well as many other XC helmets on the market. The sides closely hug the ears, but that extra protection doesn’t impede vision or lead to any feelings of claustrophobia. There’s also plenty of room for a pair of shades.
In many cases, more coverage often translates to a clunky, heavy or mushroom-head helmet, but the Ambush avoids all these feelings.
Part of this stems from the helmet’s venting. Internal channeling and a whopping 20 vents keeps the air flowing—which, while it can mean a chilly head on cold mornings, it’s a life-saving feature on hot days. If you usually run on the cooler side of the scale, you might want to start fall or winter rides with a thin hat. After a few minutes of pedaling, however, you’ll be grateful.
Specialized’s fitting system, the Mindset 360, is unique in that it tightens in every direction rather than simply pushing your head to the front of the helmet. Any adjustments are made with an integrated dial, and allow riders to get the perfect fit by millimeters. The straps are fixed in place to sit flat against the cheeks, preventing the annoying twist so common in more traditional styles. They’re still adjustable via the Tri-Web splitter that connects to the chinstrap, but are much less of a hassle than in a lot of other helmets.
At the front of the Ambush, the visor allows for ample movement. It has two pivot points on both sides and a seated track in the center—compared to the two snaps of most others—making it sturdy yet adjustable. In its maxed out position, there’s enough room for goggles underneath the visor. It comes in numerous color ways for all preferences, including flat black, flat white and a few more vibrant styles for those inclined to more flash and pizazz.
The low profile of the Ambush allows it to fit in anywhere from enduro races to dirt jump parks, or even a night barhopping on a townie bike, and its fit and function will let you to enjoy what ever you’re riding. While it’s true safety is much more important than looking good, it is nice to know you don’t look like Toad from Super Mario Bros.