Specialized Ambush 2 Review
Cons: Heavier than its predecessor, non-adjustable visor
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Specialized Ambush 2
|Price||$180 List||$69.99 at Evo|
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|$80 List||$104.92 at Amazon|
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|$49.99 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Great ventilation, seamless eyewear integration, good coverage||Lightweight, comfortable, affordable||Very affordable, great coverage, stylish, comfortable, MIPS||Reasonably priced, comfortable, innovative sweat management system, MIPS, adjustable visor||Lightweight, inexpensive, comfortable, MIPS included|
|Cons||Heavier than its predecessor, non-adjustable visor||Less coverage than some other models, small visor, average ventilation||Fixed visor, warm, visor doesn't detach||Moderately heavy, ventilation could be better, buckle failure in previous Consumer Reports testing||Fixed visor, finicky straps, below average ventilation|
|Bottom Line||A stylish, breathable update on a classic with great eyewear integration but a one -position visor||A versatile trail helmet that will stand up to all-day adventures and won't cost you an arm and a leg||An affordable helmet with high-end styling and coverage||An affordable, quality helmet that checks most of our boxes at a reasonable price||A good option to save some cash and stay protected on the trail|
|Rating Categories||Specialized Ambush 2||Giro Radix MIPS||Specialized Camber||Bell 4Forty MIPS||Smith Convoy|
|Specs||Specialized Ambush 2||Giro Radix MIPS||Specialized Camber||Bell 4Forty MIPS||Smith Convoy|
|Rotational Impact Protection System?||MIPS SL||MIPS||MIPS||MIPS||MIPS|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||13.4 oz, 378g||12.6 oz, 360g||13.8 oz, 394g||14.32 oz, 406g||12.5 oz, 355g|
|Number of vents||15||25||13||15||21|
|Goggle or Sunglasses Integration?||Yes||No||No||Goggle integration||eyewear integration|
|Adjustable Visor?||No (breakaway feature)||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Sizes||S, M, L||S, M, L, XL||XS, S, M, L, XL||S, M, L||S, M, L, XL|
|Certifications||CPSC||CPSC, CE EN1078||CPSC||CPSC Bicycle for ages 5+||CPSC, CE EN1078, AS/NZS2063|
|Virginia Tech Helmet Safety Rating (if applicable)||5-star||5-star|
Our Analysis and Test Results
As the original Ambush proved, Specialized knows how to make a darn good mountain bike helmet, so our expectations were high when we ordered up the Ambush 2 for testing. Rather than make a few small tweaks and improvements here and there, it appears that the designers at the big S decided to boldly tear the whole thing down and redesign from the ground up. As a result, the new model hardly resembles its predecessor with a burly single-position visor, 15 yawning air vents, and one of the best takes on eyewear integration that we've seen yet. It doesn't come without its downsides, but on the whole, this is among the best helmets we've tested.
As Specialized's flagship half-shell mountain bike helmet, the Ambush 2 receives the best of the best in terms of protective features, and it received a five-star rating in Virginia Tech's independent helmet testing program. Like most modern half-shell helmets, the extended-coverage EPS shell shape drops low on the sides and rear of the head to provide extra protection from rocks, trees, and anything else that might catch you off guard out on the trails. Two different EPS densities provide most of the protection alongside the interior MIPS SL rotational impact protection system. Unlike most MIPS systems, MIPS SL integrates directly with the Ambush 2's padding. All of the interior padding is attached to the helmet with small elastomers (fancy rubber bands) that allow the padding to move slightly in relation to the EPS shell in the event of a crash. The effect can be felt by placing your hand on top of the helmet and twisting it when it's on your head.
At first glance, you might think that the beefy visor might cause some havoc during a big impact, but it's designed to break away when your head hits the deck to let the EPS do its job. We tested this feature—luckily not through any unexpected contact with the ground—and found that the visor works as advertised, popping on and off the body of the helmet easily with no apparent damage or wear.
Like its predecessor, the Ambush 2 is compatible with the Specialized ANGi crash detection system, which can send a notification via the Specialized ride app in the event of a large impact. If you take a spill with the ANGi sensor installed it begins a countdown that you can manually halt if you're ok before sending a notification with your location for help. The sensor does not come standard with the helmet but can be purchased as an aftermarket add-on.
You would be hard-pressed to call the Ambush 2 uncomfortable with a straight face, but the fit is one area where we were left wanting a little bit in comparison with the other flagship helmets we tested. Our hope when donning a new helmet is to have an immediate sense of security and confidence. We were able to get there eventually by using the highly adjustable harness system and adjustable strap splitters, but even after fiddling, we didn't feel completely at home. In the stock setting, the rear of the harness sits fairly high on the back of the head giving a disconcerting feeling of instability. We ended up maxing out the Occipital Base Adjustment to lower the harness as much as possible before feeling a bit more secure. Otherwise, the harness system works great. The control dial is embedded in the EPS foam and it provides plenty of fit adjustment and fine-tuning while pulling tension evenly around your head. Adjusting the splitters to keep the straps clear of your ears isn't the easiest thing in the world, but once you have it set up for your head shape you shouldn't have to deal with it again.
Fit and comfort were the only real areas where we found ourselves slightly wistful for the original Ambush as testers. When testing the original version we immediately found the sense of comfort and confidence that we hope for.
The original Ambush was no slouch when it came to breathability and sweat management, but this is one area where we found the Ambush 2 clearly outperforms its predecessor. We've tested some well-ventilated helmets in our time but this one might be the best of all. As soon as you start moving, no matter the speed, you can feel air moving across the top of your head. The relatively light weight and awesome breathability mean that this helmet tends to disappear on your head while climbing, and it quickly became our helmet of choice for hot, exposed days out on the bike. Specialized used Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modeling to optimize the airflow from the front vents, through the helmet's interior, and out the back, and we are very impressed with the results.
The MIPS SL rotational impact protection system plays a large role in this helmet's breathability. Unlike most MIPS-Equipped helmets, the Ambush 2 doesn't require a hard plastic interior sheet to sit between the EPS foam and the padding. This allows the interior airflow channels to do their job and minimizes sweat buildup.
Along with the great ventilation, the Ambush 2 continues a fine tradition of thoughtful sweat management. When the going gets sweaty, the interior padding does a great job of channeling sweat away from your brow and keeping it from dripping down into your eyes or onto your eyewear.
As you would expect from a top-shelf model, the Ambush 2 is loaded down with a long list of features including the already-discussed MIPS SL, ANGi compatibility, breakaway visor, and adjustable harness/ear splitters. Our one issue with these features is the lack of visor adjustability. While it wasn't an issue in testing, we know that visor position is a rider preference that can vary quite a bit from person to person. Also, even if we ride with a high visor position most of the time, it's nice to be able to drop it down for maximum sun protection every once in a while. Despite the lack of adjustability, we appreciated the large visor for providing a bit of added face protection when riding overgrown trails.
The updated Ambush's standout feature in our opinion is the eyewear integration. A set of vent ports with hidden rubber flaps on either side of the helmet's brow allow you to stow your sunglasses securely beneath the visor without any fuss. We found it surprisingly straightforward to pop our glasses off and stow them on the helmet with one hand while riding, and once they're up there they stay planted with no rattle or fear of them working their way out over time. To test this feature out we rode some chunky, fast descents with our glasses stowed away and never had any issues. This is the best-executed eyewear integration we've tested to date.
The original Ambush was one of the lightest trail helmets on the market, but the Ambush 2 comes with a little bit of added heft. At 378 grams, it's still on the lighter side of the all-mountain half-shell helmets we tested, so won't fret too much over it. We recognize that weight isn't the number one metric by which most trail riders measure their helmets, and we certainly aren't ones to fuss over a few grams of kit here and there. We do think it's worth mentioning, however, that the Ambush 2 is only 16 grams lighter than its less-expensive sibling, the Camber.
Over the course of our testing process, we put this helmet through the wringer and found no reason to believe it won't last you at least a few seasons of impact-free riding. We make a point in testing to be less-than-responsible helmet owners—you know, things like dropping it on the ground, throwing it in the truck bed, popping the visor on and off twenty or thirty times—to do our due diligence, and we didn't find any weak points in the Ambush 2's construction. The harness and straps are firmly anchored in the EPS, the polycarbonate shell wraps around the lower edge of the EPS, and the finish is fairly resistant to scuffing and scraping.
Specialized managed to shave off a decent chunk of change compared to the original model when pricing the Ambush 2 meaning that this helmet comes in at a considerably lower price than the most expensive helmets in the test. Its performance in our testing combined with the reasonable price means that we think this helmet is a great value for anyone on the hunt for a new lid.
On the whole, Specialized managed to follow up one of the best helmets of all time with another home run. It didn't quite manage to top our test, but from a value perspective the Ambush 2 is one of the best half-shell helmets available. If you often ride with sunglasses and aren't worried about having an adjustable visor this is absolutely the helmet for you.
— Zach Wick
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