A couple of weeks ago, I suffered a training incident where I collided head first into a tree at 20km/h after missing my line in a narrow section of the trail and cracked my beloved helmet. I was slightly dazed from the crash, but I managed to stand up quickly and walk out of the trail without headaches, blurred vision, nausea or giddiness. Specialized Asia Pacific got wind of the demise of my mountain bike helmet and had kindly sent us their lightweight helmet from their top shelf – the S-Works Prevail as a replacement. Thank you so much Specialized!
Although the Prevail is classified as a road helmet on the Specialized website, it is a very popular helmet in the XC community, being the helmet of choice of the Specialized Factory Team.
Owning an S-Works Prevail had been something of a dream; I’ve seen many, but I never owned one. I have a number of friends who use the helmet and look absolutely good wearing it. I credit the helmet’s good looks, not them. There is also a crash-damaged one which we display in the shop where I used to work to persuade our customers into always using a helmet when they ride. For the record, the owner of that damaged helmet managed to walk away from the accident relatively unscathed, which speaks volumes of the Prevail’s ability to protect your noggin, even on the trails.
Right now I have a Prevail in my hands and I am absolutely stoked to be unboxing it.
Let’s talk about the box. Like most premium helmets, the box works like a ‘drawer’ where you slide the inner box out to retrieve the helmet.
But unlike most helmet boxes, this one has small blocks of sponge to protect the helmet from slight knocks during handling and transport. I was impressed by this attention to detail by Specialized. You can trust that your helmet is in absolutely pristine condition when it arrives in your hands.
While taking the Prevail out of the box, my hand sprung upwards. What? So light?? I used too much effort in lifting up the Prevail, which felt amazingly light. Claimed weight of the helmet was 198g without the visor. I put this S/M specimen on a scale and it weighed only 202g helmet, which is only a 2.5% deviation.
The Specialized S-Works Prevail is CE certified and complies with EN 1078:2012, which is the European standard for cycling helmets. Here’s a couple more features that we’ve read from their website;
- Patent-pending, Dual-Density EPS optimizes impact performance
- Patented Aramid-reinforced Inner Matrix for ultra-light construction and energy management
- Mega Mouthport optimizes cooling and sweat evaporation
- 4th Dimension Cooling System w/ deep internal channels, large vents, aligned exhaust ports
- High-performance pad design for increased comfort and sweat management
- Ultra-light, Mindset micro-dial fit system with height adjustability for perfect fit
- Tri-Fix web splitter for improved comfort and ease of strap adjustments
- Thin, soft, and lightweight 4X DryLite webbing won’t stretch out with sweat or water
- Instrap webbing system for ultra-light construction and security
- Reflective decals for added nighttime visibility
Personally, I love the unique look of the S-Works Prevail. The front of the helmet always reminds me of the front grille of an automobile. And it’s badass.
I took a quick look at the following features that I usually do with most XC racing helmets.
The S-Works Prevail has 31 vents! You’d wonder with so many holes, where’s the material for the helmet! I’d check back later with the full review on whether the 31 vents really keeps my head cool. But theoretically, with this high number of vents, it should.
2. Retention System
Specialized calls it the Mindset Adjuster. The adjuster has five preset heights for you to choose from to obtain the ideal height for the rear cradle. Adjusting the rear cradle height with the Mindset adjuster was relatively simple, it only involved sliding the two thin strips of plastic pictured up and down. Although I find the design of Specialized’s Mindset Adjuster rather primitive and flimsy compared to other brands, I’m guessing that it’s all in the name of saving weight, which can be crucial for elite athletes to save precious grams. It’s soft and pliable and it’s meant to wrap and cradle around your head without giving any discomfort. Adjusting the Mindset adjuster is a one-time affair, and it’s definitely set-and-forget.
Tightness of the cradle is adjusted with the highly popular and proven dial system, which allows on-the-fly adjustment of helmet fit with one hand. I am preferential towards the dial system because it allows me to loosen the helmet slightly during longer races where my head seems to swell slightly from the heat.
The S-Works Prevail’s straps are simple, being of a typical silky cloth material. My experience with this material is that it absorbs sweats and stains easily. It will not be long before the straps acquire a slimy, sticky feel and that dank odour. But like all helmets (both entry level and high-end), proper care and an occasional wash will go a long way in keeping your helmet fresh. A tip from our SingaporeMTB.com editor was that you should spray down your helmet with water after every ride to prevent salt from building up on the straps. Like most helmets, the straps on the S-Works Prevail are black in colour, and salt build-up will definitely be visible if you don’t keep it clean.
However, I might have an issue with the straps. One of the first things that I’ve noticed is that surprisingly, the straps didn’t offer much adjustability. The Trifix system on the helmet is a fixed system where you only need to do one adjustment to tighten the strap. I’m keeping my views open for now until I truly bring the helmet out for a ride.
Check out the video below from Specialized where they explain the Trifix system.
Specialized’s intention of the Trifix system is to simplify the process of fitting the helmet and make the helmet more comfortable to wear. The plastic pieces holds the straps together permanently and rests below the ear lobe, reducing the need to adjust the height of the intersection of straps at the ear lobe and chafing behind the ear.
However, I did not like the idea of the straps being in fixed positions. Essentially, with the Trifix system, Specialized is adopting a one-size-fits-all policy within each size spectrum, which in my case, is S/M. My head is in the smaller end of this spectrum, which results in the plastic pieces resting on my jawbone. It might be a minor annoyance right now, but on longer rides it might get uncomfortable. I’m really wishing that there was some adjustability to this so that the plastic mold can be closer to my ear lobes instead of my jaws.
The padding on the Prevail looks good too, and there’s 3 pieces of soft cushion that you can find in the helmet. According to Specialized, the pad was design for increased comfort and sweat management. The pads have moulded edges and they should be less likely to fall apart if you wash them regularly. A closer look at the pads revealed some channels for air circulation.
Well, strictly speaking you do not ‘look’ at fit, you have to wear it to find out. After adjusting the retention system to my liking, the Prevail fits my head very well, bar the Trifix strap. Compared to other helmets I have used, the fit of the Prevail feels more shallow, which I attribute to the flat and wide design of the Prevail.
Overall, I’m liking the Prevail at this honeymoon period of ownership. The Trifix system is a bit of a bother, but we’ll find out how this affects the comfort in a few rides time. I will be using the Prevail extensively on both my road rides and trail rides, with the final test being the National XCO Championships in September. Stay tuned to find out how the Prevail fares throughout this grueling test!