Whether it's a placebo effect or not, the Evade feels fast and brings with it top-tier safety features and excellent comfort. Ventilation is good but could be better
- Feels fast
- Comfortable fit
- Magnetic buckle is easy to use
- ANGi adds another layer of safety
- Retention sits quite high on the back of the head
- Brow vents are blocked by padding
Specialized’s S-Works Evade II is the American brand’s best aero helmet and has been prominently on show at the Tour de France this year. It was a green Evade II being worn by Mark Cavendish during a fairytale Tour de France campaign where he proved critics wrong by equalling Eddy Merckx’s stage win record.
While Specialized's S-Works Prevail II Vent helmet was all about maximising the cooling effect of the passing air, the Evade II has been subjected to aerodynamic development and testing in Specialized’s own wind tunnel (dubbed the 'Win Tunnel') and is designed to maximise efficiency when evading the peloton in solo breakaways, or make every possible gain in the sprints.
The result is a helmet that Specialized claims will save 50 seconds over 40km versus a traditional road helmet, and roughly six seconds over the prior iteration of Evade. Of course, there is more to a helmet than aerodynamics, and Specialized has packed in a range of safety features including its ANGi crash detection sensor. Specialized believes it has created a helmet that satisfies lightweight, ventilation and aerodynamics, and if its claims are correct, the Evade II won't just be the best aero helmet but also the best road bike helmet.
Design and aesthetics
Specialized has used a patented structure for the Evade, combining a multi-density EPS construction which is further reinforced with an Aramid skeleton providing support to the EPS in a crash, to stop the helmet from breaking up on impact.
The EPS is neatly in-moulded for protection and the helmet is available in seven colours including the trademark Team Red/Black we have here. Visually the Evade is classically Specialized with a predominant 'S' emblem on the front and the S-Works reminder on each side not once, but twice, so everyone knows. There are two more smaller Specialized logos on the nose and rear of the helmet. If you want to be less shouty, or the idea of wearing a Specialized helmet while riding a different brand bike irks your inner pedantry then the Black, White, Aqua and Cool Grey forgo the large S-Works decals.
The head-on volume of the Evade is very compact to help it punch a smaller hole in the wind and the shape is typically aero, elongated and tapering towards the rear to form a slight teardrop shape to smooth airflow. The 13 vents form what Specialized calls the 4th Dimension Cooling System: seven vents along the front of the helmet channel air across the head and out the three exhaust vents at the back. This is supplemented with two side vents and a shallow scoop on the top.
The Mindset HairPort II micro-dial fit system keeps the helmet on your head. The retention system anchors just above the temples, has five points of height adjustment, and fastens using a smooth click dial for accurate fitment. If you have long hair and aero needs, the Mindset system has space for a ponytail to be fed out the rear. The straps are made from 4X DryLite webbing which use neat Tri-Fix web splitters to organise the straps below the ear, this is secured using a sliding magnetic buckle rather than a standard clip.
Specialized uses MIPS SL in the Evade II which is a Specialized-exclusive version of the MIPS liner to protect against rotational forces in a crash. The MIPS SL system is designed to offer the same 10-15mm of slip plane movement, with the advantage being the minimalism of the system as it helps keep the ventilation channels unobstructed. The system is integrated into the padding of the helmet and uses 14 rubber loops, which offer movement and also fix the padding into the helmet with Velcro.
Specialized’s final safety party trick is the ANGi sensor at the rear. Attached to the left octal pad at the back of the helmet, ANGi is a crash sensor that connects to your phone using the Specialized Ride App and, if it detects a significant impact or rotational force, can send an SOS text message to your emergency contact with a GPS location. It's not perfect, as it needs the smartphone app to be running and your phone to have a signal, but for many solo riders and their loved ones at home, it could provide a fast response in an emergency or less worry when they are just running a little later than expected.
Performance and fit
The Evade has a very elongated-looking shape, but once worn I found the fit was comfortable even on my rounder-shaped head. The helmet sits quite low, offering good coverage and presumably helping improve aerodynamics, too. Personally, I would prefer for the retention system to also sit a little lower on the back of the head, however, it does crank up securely and the five positions should mean the fit is adaptive enough for most head sizes.
The straps sit well on the side of your head and although there isn't any adjustment around the ear, it has been well considered to offer plenty of clearance, while the Tri-Fix web splitter sits flat and doesn't cause any distractions when riding. Securing the helmet with a magnetic buckle is a nice touch as well, as it's slim in design and simple to open and close with one hand.
Ventilation is decent, although the experience is certainly more aero rather than airy, This is noticeable around the brow of the helmet which is fed with small frontal vents although these aren’t channelled and are covered by the retention system and padding. The main vents are far more effective, cooling the head by channelling air through the helmet. Obviously, Specialized offers the Prevail II Vent for riders looking for optimum levels of cooling.
Unlike Specialized, Cyclingnews doesn’t have its own wind tunnel to play with so it's hard to validate Specialized’s aerodynamic claims. That said, you can feel a slight difference between a regular helmet and the Evade at speed. Simply moving the head so the helmet is broadside in the wind highlights the efficiency, although these findings are nothing more than anecdotal.
Luckily I didn’t put either the MIPS or ANGi to test in a real-life crash situation, Neither are noticeable when wearing the helmet and when called on would be expected to perform as advertised. ANGi is easy to set up on your smartphone using the app and can be connected through your Wahoo GPS too, so you can stop the emergency message being sent out from your head unit if need be, not that I had any false alerts anyway. MIPS SL blends seamlessly into the helmet padding with zero effect on comfort, although the front padding of the MIPS SL does cover the brow vents, rendering them almost pointless - an oversight by Specialized, considering MIPS SL is proprietary.
A fast and slippery aero helmet from Specialized which, if the performance claims are to be believed, really benefits from the brand's access to an in-house wind tunnel. This performance doesn’t come cheap, however, and along with the aero performance, Specialized has assured the Evade II is class-leading in safety with dual density EPS, MIPS SL and the ANGi sensor.
The ventilation doesn’t quite live up to Specialized’s claim that it's ‘just as cool as a bare head with no helmet’, however, it’s good enough and the fit is comfortable enough to be worn all day.
Tech Specs: Specialized S-Works Evade II with ANGi helmet
- RRP: £250 / €319.90 / $275 / AU$475
- Weight: 277g (actual, medium)
- Rotational safety: MIPS SL
- Aero: Yes
- Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
- Colours: Seven
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