Review: Specialized Ambush helmet

The Ambush marks Specialized’s entrance into the growing extended coverage trail and all-mountain helmet market. Such helmets are set the tough task of increasing protection whilst remaining light, comfortable, well ventilated and practical on the trail. Specialized have managed to tick all the boxes on their first attempt.

Specialized Ambush helmet  1.jpg

 

Safety first


Specialized use varying foam densities to build a safer helmet. High density foam acts best to absorb hard impacts while lower density suits softer blows that may be scaled up in force during impact.

 

Specialized use an aramid skeleton structure to hold the foam shell in place. Aramid is a strong synthetic fibre very similar to materials they use in bulletproof vests. The frame created by the skeleton structure allowed Specialized to be more versatile when designing the shape of the foam. The large vents are an example.

 

Fortunately, I have not been involved in any head collisions while testing the Ambush so I’ll have to accept Specialized’s safety claims.

 

Fit and comfort


To be blunt, the Ambush is the best fitting helmet I have worn. The 360 degree retention system is a pleasure to use. It adjusts around the entire circumference of the head so when tensioned the system pulls away from the helmet to prevent any pressure or pinch points against the hard helmet shell. Conveniently, this also creates a space for additional ventilation.

 

Specialized Ambush helmet  4.jpg


Specialized Ambush helmet  7.jpg

Specialized Ambush helmet  8.jpg


The low rear coverage of the helmet means that Specialized have had to integrate the tension dial into the foam shell. The dial itself is precise enough to find just the right fit and easily adjusted while on the bike The length retention system at the rear is adjustable, moving up and down the back the head for a good fit.

 

The retention system is not only comfortable and adjustable, but it also performs well in its primary task - keeping the Ambush firmly in place on the rider’s head. Even on the roughest descents the Ambush remained composed without the swaying or bobbing feel I’ve experience with other helmets.

 

The padding inside the helmet is sufficient and serves its purpose unnoticed. At first inspection, I thought the padding may be a bit thin and flimsy. However, I have not seen or felt any unreasonable wear on the pads yet. The Ambush does come boxed with a replacement set of pads should my initial suspicions prove true.

 

Specialized Ambush helmet  12.jpg

 

Specialized have used Tri-Fix splitters at what is traditionally the Y-joint on the straps at the jaw and ear area of the head. The non-adjustable Tri-Fix splitters create a more rounded U-shaped joint. This creates more space for the ears and removes the second strap normally used in adjusting the placement of the Y-joint. The result is a hassle free experience in an area that often causes discomfort. However, not being adjustable, there is a chance that a few people might not fit as well as Specialized planned.

 


Specialized Ambush helmet  10.jpg

Specialized Ambush helmet  9.jpg


The Ambush comes with a number of vents designed to keep the rider cool. Specialized included channels inside the helmet to complement the incoming air. Although I missed out on the hottest parts of summer, the Ambush has kept my head cool at all times while not feeling breezy even on the coldest winter mornings.

 

The visor on the Ambush is adjustable. It is firmly attached on either side of the helmet and moves up and down a grooved channel. The range is good, allowing for the stowing of goggles when up, while getting low enough to defeat all but the lowest sunset. Adjusting the helmet while riding is a breeze as you simply pull or push it into the desired position. There are no problems with sunglasses as the brim of the helmet is relatively high in front.

 


Specialized Ambush helmet  11.jpg

Specialized Ambush helmet  6.jpg


All that said and we have not even got to the most impressive part, the weight. With the additional surface area, visor, retention system, and some of my sweat and hair, the medium Ambush on test weighed in at 296 grams. For those who have a life outside of bicycle helmet specifications, that is impressively light for an all-mountain / trail helmet.

 

The combination of the comfortable fit and light weight help you forget about the Ambush as soon as you clip-in the chin strap.

 

So what’s the catch?


After reading this glowing review, you might be wondering what doesn’t the Ambush have?

 

The biggest stumbling block for many people will probably be the number on the price tag. The Ambush is not going to please everyone’s pocket with a recommended retail value of R2,599.

 

There are no models with the MIPS liner which is supposed to assist with dangerous rotational crash forces. Nor is there provision for an integrated action camera mount. Goggle support could also be beefed up with only a slight peak in place to catch the strap slipping up and over the helmet.

 

In the end


The Specialized Ambush is the best mountain bike helmet I’ve worn. The combination of the comfortable fit, precise retention system, good ventilation, and the low weight are unmatched. It also looks good, with colour options to please most tastes.

 

Specialized Ambush helmet  3.jpg





10 Comments

stefmeister, Jun 29 2016 01:03

Best fitting helmet I've tried on, but R2.6k for a foam bucket is silly money.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

IH8MUD, Jun 29 2016 01:07

Spes and silly money is like Zuma and corruption . . . . . inseparable :devil:  

banna, Jun 29 2016 01:07

Snot bad. I have a Troy Lee A1 which I luv to bits, but it does get a bit toasty under the lid on hot days. Wonder how this one will do on a hot summers day in Jonkers. But then I guess this type of helmet is more focused on protection than ventilation.

splat, Jun 29 2016 01:26

I am in the market for a new mtb helmet. I don't want a full on enduro style helmet, nor do I want a glorified roadie helmet with a visor.

 

I tried this one on. It really does fit my head well, and was surprisingly light given its apparent bulk. The adjustment worked well and it remained firm on my head after a good shake.

 

It also looks well ventilated with plenty of holes and quite a space between your head and helmet shell, but in so doing makes it a big helmet.

 

To me, it was too close to an enduro helmet because of its size, so I didn't buy it. But at the same time, I am not completely off it either because it fitted so well.

Riaan H, Jun 29 2016 01:32

I absolutely love mine ! Massively comfortable, very light, well ventilated and the kevlar webbing really makes it on of the safest, plus it looks good. It is very expensive though if we consider that an IXS, Giro or Fox trail helmet goes for R1600-1800. Still, if my wife does more riding she will be getting one too. Money well spent.

20160601_224257-1_zpsjlrxjdpp.jpg

Iwan Kemp, Jun 29 2016 02:18

I am in the market for a new mtb helmet. I don't want a full on enduro style helmet, nor do I want a glorified roadie helmet with a visor.

 

I tried this one on. It really does fit my head well, and was surprisingly light given its apparent bulk. The adjustment worked well and it remained firm on my head after a good shake.

 

It also looks well ventilated with plenty of holes and quite a space between your head and helmet shell, but in so doing makes it a big helmet.

 

To me, it was too close to an enduro helmet because of its size, so I didn't buy it. But at the same time, I am not completely off it either because it fitted so well.

 

I reckon as long as it's comfortable and airs well, go for max protection. No making the effort then bang yourself up against your neck or the back lower of your head.

NicoBoshoff, Jun 29 2016 02:29

Still riding my A1 from 2 years ago and it looks like the day I bought it.  It is however permanently soaked in sweat.  It's like a mobile brain sauna.  Bunch of my riding mates ride these Spez jobbies and they love them.  If I was in the market now I'd consider them.  Bit dear though and there are many awesome sub-R2k options out there.

Saag, Jun 29 2016 03:58

Still riding my A1 from 2 years ago and it looks like the day I bought it. It is however permanently soaked in sweat. It's like a mobile brain sauna. Bunch of my riding mates ride these Spez jobbies and they love them. If I was in the market now I'd consider them. Bit dear though and there are many awesome sub-R2k options out there.

Was contemplating one, but FOX shops happened to be running a sale now so went with the Metah for R1450[emoji41]

Sent from my SM-G920F using Tapatalk

L.T.G, Jun 30 2016 07:11

I was tossing up between an Ambush and a Tactic, glad I listened to hubbers' advice

https://community.bi...est-if-i-fall/ 

 

and took the plunge on the Ambush... fantastic helmet!!

Can't fault it in anyway.

it's so comfy I don't even know it's there.... 

Splat...  get it!

KarlvN, Jun 30 2016 09:38

Having taken a bad fall in May, and getting a major case of concussion, the importance of a good helmet was brought home when the neurosurgeon told me that I missed permanent brain damage by a whisker...

I have a Giro helmet, about three years old, and it has a visor. Can't recall the model though. I am stoked it saved my pip (on more than one occasion).

I will now lay it to rest and have the Ambush as a worthy successor to the Giro. Now, for me, protection trumps price or looks, and it seems that the Ambush ticks all the boxes pertaining to head protection.