It doesn’t take an extensive knowledge of aerodynamics to be aware that helmets are one of the most crucial parts of cycling kit when it comes to making riders as efficient as possible. Since it first launched in 2013, Specialized’s S-Works Evade helmet has long been known as one of the fastest helmets in the peloton with its short tail, low profile shape and slippery outer making it one of the most popular choices for performance-obsessed cyclists.
However, helmet manufacturers have long had to try and solve the conundrum of keeping aero helmets well ventilated while also making them as quick as possible. Riders want the fastest lids, but they don’t want to overheat while wearing them. With the new Evade 3, Specialized claims that “the fastest gets cooler”, with the helmet reinvented from the inside out, using a diffuser system to draw 10% more air through the helmet at a given speed.
Despite Specialized explaining that the Evade 3 is now a suitable choice for a wider variety of riding conditions and distances thanks to the improved airflow, it still markets the Prevail as the best option for the hottest conditions. The new Prevail 3 looks radically different to the previous iteration, with thru-air channels that Specialized says have increased the surface area of ventilation by 24.5% compared to the S-Works Prevail II Vent helmet.
Safety has also been a big consideration for the American manufacturers in the development of the new S-Works helmet. Fully removing all of the EPS foam bridges from the centre of the helmet, the Prevail 3 utilises a Specialized’s patent-pending “AirCage” technology. This involves woven cables being placed across the helmet and attached to carbon fibre side panels. Specialized claim that they work as a suspension bridge and will distribute forces through the helmet upon impact.
Both the Evade 3 and Prevail 3 are also equipped with MIPS AirNode technology integrated directly into the padding. This is MIPS’ lightest system with a focus on maximum ventilation and minimum weight impact. Specialized also adds that with its proprietary development work, it has "added perforations to maximise breathability, performance, comfort, and weight saving."
First Look: Specialized S-Works Evade 3
Outwardly, the Evade 3 doesn’t see any radical aesthetic changes when compared to the previous iteration of the helmet. Specialized has retained a similar shape to that seen in the Evade 2, with the frontal centre three vents positioned in the same position on both lids. However, the the frontal vents on the Evade 3 are larger than on the Evade 2.
Specialized explains that it has been able to remove vents while maintaining air circulation throughout the helmet thanks to its innovative new “diffuser” system at the rear of the helmet. Through extensive Computational Fluid Dynamics and Win Tunnel testing, Specialized say that they have created a diffuser which will minimise drag and improve ventilation by 10% compared to the Evade 2 helmet.
The larger vents on the front of the helmet, however, mean that the aero gains from using the diffuser at the back of the helmet are offset, so the Evade 3 has the same aerodynamic qualities as the Evade 2. Specialized explains that the new version of this helmet has a focus on better cooling qualities rather than an improvement on aero performance.
While we are yet to test the Evade 3 fully, our first ride left us impressed with how well the helmet does circulate air. You can almost feel the flow of air through the helmet as you are riding and we didn’t feel sweat build up in even the most intense efforts. The pads inside the helmet were quick-drying and didn’t hold odour, they stopped sweat from dripping off the forehead onto sunglasses too.
The Evade’s Occipital base adjustment also allowed me to personalise the fit of the helmet for comfort and meant I could adjust the helmet angle to ensure my eyewear stayed in place. The ratchet system at the rear of the helmet feels sturdy and is easy to adjust on the move, while Specialized’s Tri-Fix web splitter meant I could adjust the helmet strap to fit around my ear perfectly. The Evade 3 features a traditional clasp on the strap, rather than the magnetic one seen on the previous iteration of the helmet.
We found it impressive that Specialized has managed to notably increase the comfort of the Evade 3 through improved airflow while also keeping the traditional look of the lid that has made it so popular with professional and amateur riders alike. Specialized explained that, with the Evade, they were asked by their pro athletes to create a helmet which mirrored the performance of the S-Works Tarmac bike on the road – an all-rounder that was aerodynamic and lightweight. From our first impressions, we’d say that the American manufacturers have achieved this, keeping the core identity of the Evade outwardly but simply making it perform better as things heat up.
First Look: Specialized S-Works Prevail 3
The new Prevail undeniably has a different and fresh look when compared to the Prevail 2. Specialized’s choice to eliminate the “air-blocking bridges” from the centre of the helmet gives the Prevail 3 a unique style that sets it apart from other helmets on the market. Specialized say that the Prevail is for “riders who value the comfort and thermoregulation benefits that superior ventilation delivers.”
Admittedly, being based in the UK, we are yet to test the Prevail in the type of hot conditions it is designed for, but, from the riding we've done, we found it to be one of the most well-ventilated helmets we’ve tested so far (though this was in temperatures hovering between 22 and 25 degrees celsius.) The spaces that have been created from Specialized removing EPS foam bridges really does mean the helmet has a “barely there” feel when it’s on (this is also helped by the Prevail’s incredibly lightweight, ours was 260g in a size medium). Specialized claims that the new design on the Prevail 3 increases the surface area of ventilation by 24.5% compared to the S-Works Prevail 2 Vent helmet.
While the “AirCage” technology increases airflow, it also has safety benefits that are validated by its 5 star Virginia Tech rating. This gives complete peace of mind while riding that the helmet is offering the best protection possible, and kudos should be given to Specialized for managing to improve the safety benefits of the Prevail while also maintaining a sleek and lightweight look and feel to the lid. Like the Evade 3, the Prevail 3 also features MIPS air node technology and the Tri-Fix web splitter and Occipital Base Adjustment to improve fit and comfort.
While the aesthetics of the new Prevail take a bit of getting used to, performance-wise, we’ve been impressed so far. The air circulation and ventilation is really a cut above the rest, and the attention to detail to ensure the helmet fits as comfortably as possible gives both the Prevail 3 and Evade 3 a premium feel. Both helmets retail at £275 – a high price point but this is to be expected from Specialized’s top of the range offerings.