Specialized Camber Review
Cons: Fixed visor, warm, visor doesn't detach
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|Pros||Very affordable, great coverage, stylish, comfortable, MIPS||Comfortable, secure, airy, feature-rich||Lightweight, comfortable, affordable||Reasonably priced, comfortable, innovative sweat management system, MIPS, adjustable visor||Lightweight, inexpensive, comfortable, MIPS included|
|Cons||Fixed visor, warm, visor doesn't detach||On the heavier side, non-adjustable strap splitters||Less coverage than some other models, small visor, average ventilation||Moderately heavy, ventilation could be better, buckle failure in previous Consumer Reports testing||Fixed visor, finicky straps, below average ventilation|
|Bottom Line||An affordable helmet with high-end styling and coverage||They pulled out all the stops for this new trail riding helmet, and it shows||A versatile trail helmet that will stand up to all-day adventures and won't cost you an arm and a leg||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 Camber||Fox Racing Speedfra...||Giro Radix MIPS||Bell 4Forty MIPS||Smith Convoy|
|Specs||Specialized Camber||Fox Racing Speedfra...||Giro Radix MIPS||Bell 4Forty MIPS||Smith Convoy|
|Rotational Impact Protection System?||MIPS||MIPS||MIPS||MIPS||MIPS|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||13.8 oz, 394g||14.4 oz, 407g||12.6 oz, 360g||14.32 oz, 406g||12.5 oz, 355g|
|Number of vents||13||19||25||15||21|
|Goggle or Sunglasses Integration?||No||Yes||No||Goggle integration||eyewear integration|
|Sizes||XS, S, M, L, XL||S, M, L||S, M, L, XL||S, M, L||S, M, L, XL|
|Certifications||CPSC||CPSC, CE EN1078, AS/NZS2063||CPSC, CE EN1078||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
When Specialized redesigned their half-shell mountain bike helmet lineup they made sure to cover all of their bases by offering the high-end, full-featured Ambush 2 alongside the mid-range, bare-essentials Camber. Typically lower-end helmets don't quite receive the same design attention as those that sit on the top shelf, but we appreciate that Specialized maintained the high-end styling across both models. Upon close inspection, a discerning eye will be able to tell that the Camber is the less-expensive model, but on the whole, it has the same sleek, aggressive styling as the Ambush 2. In our opinion, that's a pretty unique trait for a budget-friendly helmet and a big selling point of this model.
The Camber has the style and coverage of a helmet geared toward aggressive riding. The substantial EPS shell drops low on the back of the head and at the temples like any modern helmet worth its salt. It sits low on your head and provides a feeling of security when wearing it. Unlike most high-end helmets it doesn't offer multi-density EPS foam, but it still managed to receive a stellar five-star rating in Virginia Tech's independent helmet testing program.
These days rotational impact protection is a must-have for almost any bicycle helmet, so we're glad to see that the technology has trickled down into budget-friendly helmets like the Camber. This model doesn't feature Specialized's lightweight MIPS SL technology like the Ambush 2, but it does have the standard MIPS internal plastic liner that rotates slightly in relation to the EPS shell with the goal of reducing forces from rotational impacts.
While it isn't the most comfortable helmet we've ever tested, the Camber scored well in this metric. The combination of the EPS shell shape and internal padding provides a fit that should be versatile enough for just about any head shape.
During testing, we passed our size-large Camber around to a variety of friends and family and didn't receive any negative feedback about pressure points or pinching. The harness offers a wide range of adjustability with the ability to fine-tune the fit, and it pulls tension evenly around the head rather than pinching at the rear. Because the Camber uses a more traditional harness system that sits lower on the back of the head than the Ambush 2, we actually found it easier to find a secure-feeling, comfortable fit with this helmet despite the lower price tag.
The Camber is a well-ventilated helmet on the whole, but as you might expect it doesn't quite match up with the high-end models. With the carryover in styling from the Ambush 2 to the Camber, the two helmets actually have very similar ventilation designs, so we had high expectations given that the Ambush 2 is one of the airiest modest we've tested.
The Camber doesn't have quite as many exit ports in the rear, but the intake vents on the front end are almost the same. The biggest difference between the two models is the internal plastic MIPS liner in the Camber, and we found that it has a negative impact on breathability. The plastic sheet doesn't allow air to flow as freely and interface with your scalp as well as the almost nonexistent MIPS SL system in the Ambush. It also creates more solid contact between the helmet and your scalp, which means things can get sweaty and warm a bit more easily. We found that the Camber got a little bit warm over the course of long rides and on hotter days. Despite not quite living up to the expectations set by its pricier counterpart when it comes to ventilation, we found that the Camber does an admirable job of managing sweat and keeping it out of your eyes and away from your eyewear.
As you might expect from a helmet that will run you less than a hundred dollars, the Camber does not come stacked with features. With the exception of the inclusion of MIPS, this model is just about as bare-bones as you'll find in the mountain bike helmet market. The visor is substantial but its position is fixed in a relatively high position, meaning that you can't lower it to keep the sun out of your eyes or raise it to store goggles on the front of the helmet. It's a modern, stylish look, but it isn't the most useful. Additionally, the visor is not removable and will not pop off in the event of a crash like that of the Ambush 2. The Tri-Fix strap splitters do manage the harness straps well and allow for some adjustment. It's not a particularly easy adjustment to make, but once you have it set for your head shape you shouldn't have to worry about it again.
The Camber is compatible with the specialized ANGi crash detection sensor, which can send a notification to a loved one with your location in the event of a crash. The sensor does not come standard, however, and has to be purchased as an aftermarket add-on. Regardless, we count the compatibility as a check in the positive column for this model given that the ANGi sensor is a unique value add.
Tipping the scales at 394-grams for our size-large test helmet, the Camber is surprisingly light considering its agro styling and hefty visor. For reference, the lightest helmets we tested were right around 360 grams, while the heaviest weigh 500-grams plus. The Camber actually only comes in 16 grams heavier than the high-end Ambush 2.
For the most part, the Camber received the full Specialized treatment with a high-quality and durable construction. The in-molded polycarbonate outer shell wraps around the lower edges of the EPS, the harness and straps are firmly anchored, and the finish stands up well to scuffs and scrapes. Our biggest durability concern is the fact that the visor isn't removable. We fear that one unfortunate tumble onto the garage floor or a glancing blow from a trailside branch might break the visor and require a full helmet replacement. If unlike us you're a responsible helmet owner, however, this model should last as long as you can avoid a major impact to the shell.
On the whole, the Camber is one of the best values on the market. It's a stylish, comfortable, and protective helmet that will cost you far less than some similarly rated models in our test. If visor adjustability isn't your priority and you want a great helmet on a budget, we wholeheartedly recommend this one.
For a ridiculously low price, we found quite a lot to like about the new Camber. This helmet will keep you safe, comfortable, and in-style out on the trails even if it doesn't pack all of the whizbang features available today.
— Zach Wick
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