Friday, March 07, 2008

Preview - 2008 Specialized S-Works Helmet

For my birthday last year, the future (and current) missus bought me the nicest helmet she could find, the Specialized 2-D helmet. Light, airy, and secure, the helmet promised to do everything it could to help me go fast safely on the bike.

Only problem was the buckle, or perhaps the strap, was not strong enough to pass a rigorous test. In the US the helmet got recalled.

Specialized tried to make up for this potentially frustrating recall by immediately supplying all affected customers with a free new Decibel, their previous top line helmet. It promised almost-as-good ventilation, almost-as-good fit, and almost-as-good weight.

At the 2-D recall time it was deep into the New England winter and light and ventilated helmets were the last thing I wanted on my head. I had my old primary helmet, all its vents taped up, and it still felt a bit cold.

But, when I went to California in February, I brought the Decibel. It did its job well in the warm sunshine, ventilating as promised. I had some sweat run into my eyes if I didn't wear a cap but that's always been the case with any helmet I've had.

I've even ridden the Decibel at home as the temperatures crept up over 30 degrees.

And, just when I'd totally forgotten about the real reason I have a nice Decibel helmet, the local bike shop (LBS) called me up.

"Hey, we have your S-Works helmet." (One thing they did was rename it from 2-D to S-Works).

It was snowing, the roads were slick, but I was at the shop in 45 minutes. They handed me a nice red box and I was on my way. I opened it about a week later (it's still cold here so I didn't need the helmet right away).

A semi-hard shell case. Nice.

The clamshell case opens up to reveal the helmet. An elastic keeps the helmet from bouncing around (it's visible in the top of the case, the left side of the picture). Faux carbon fiber on the little bridge pieces, as is required to be "cool" apparently.

The helmet also included a soft bag (like the original - and yes, I gave it back with the helmet), a few sticky pads, and the obligatory "S" stickers. They'll find their way on something, my bike or tool box or something.

Note the full circumference "lock" thing (it's white plastic). So nice it holds the helmet on pretty well without buckling the straps.

The rear black piece (between the two white things at the back of the lock thing) tightens or loosens the whole band, ratcheting away. It isn't replicable, i.e. you can't make it exactly the same each time (like "8" for bare head, "6" for wearing a cap, and "2" if you're wearing a winter hat). I think this will be the next improvement for the ratcheting lock system.

Speaking of straps, these are thicker then the recalled ones - they seem the same as the Decibel straps. This made me suspect the "buckle" failure in testing was actually a "strap" failure.

The gaping maw of the helmet. It's really quite tall and the openings are actually there. I hope it helps keep my forehead clearer of sweat. I remember the first version of the Specialized maw, the front of the opening was huge but the rear narrowed until I couldn't squeeze a small pinkie through the hole. Not much use. These vents are good.

In the old days the pros would carve out the inside of their helmets until they resembled a mostly eaten avocado. I couldn't believe they'd do that but that's what they did. Vents were made to be carved (in their eyes). Nowadays, with the enormous vents and air channels, such modding is no longer required.


I'll do a compare/contrast with the Decibel next. At first glance they look pretty similar but when I looked closer, there are some big differences. I haven't done much more than slap the S-Works on my head but I'm looking forward to the warm days of... April? May? where I can use it to its full effect.

In the meantime I've let it back into its shell, hibernating until it gets warmer.


K-Man said...

Wow. Looks like those front vents are huge compared to the Decibel.

Aki said...

lol yep. I didn't realize until I saw the two side by side.