Sign up for our newsletter


Safety first: How Specialized is pushing the boundaries of helmet design

In association with
24 Mar 2021

In the face of an industry aligning in its standards, Specialized dives head first into revolutionising helmet design

Apart from the bike itself, the helmet is the most important piece of kit any cyclist owns. It goes without saying that having the wrong one can be life changing. So it's worth getting it right.

Like with its Body Geometry kit, Specialized prioritises finding the perfect fit for each individual to ensure lasting comfort, but not before guaranteeing the best possible protection.

‘Specialized’s focus on every design is 100% centred on protecting the rider, that’s where we start and finish each project and each decision throughout the process is made with that as the main goal,’ says Alex Jerome, helmets product manager at Specialized.

He emphasises that safety has to take priority even on high performance items, ‘If we have to trade a performance feature such as weight or ventilation to achieve that primary safety goal we will.’

Testing the limits

If there’s no room for compromise, there’s absolutely no room for leaving things to chance, both in safety and performance. All helmets have to be certified by different bodies to be sold around the world, Jerome explains, ‘As far as international standards go, there are various rigorous tests during the certification process including impact tests, retention tests, and roll-off tests for each available helmet size.

Testing may also have to be done in different conditions, such as ambient, hot, cold and wet conditions.’ While this ensures the helmets are protective enough for the open – or closed – road, getting the performance elements right demands a whole lot more internal testing.

‘One thing we have found very useful depending on the helmet is testing in our “Win Tunnel” in California,’ he says, ‘It allows us to fine-tune the aerodynamic performance in a very efficient way and based on actual data.’

And it’s not just a case of testing prototypes, the scientists at Specialized also cut the helmets into pieces to put each section in the tunnel by itself, allowing them to build the fastest shape possible.

As for ventilation, while the Win Tunnel helps to show the flow of air through the helmets when travelling at speed, Specialized goes beyond that, quite literally testing the limits of its products. When creating the S-Works Evade, the aero choice of its WorldTour riders, its pads were burned to investigate how the helmet cooled. As a result, Specialized claims wearing the Evade is as cool as not wearing a helmet at all.

Leading the charge

Even with additional aerodynamics and ventilation testing, the biggest thing a rider wants from a helmet will always be safety. But how do you stand out from competitors when all products are reaching for the same level of certification? It’s an important question, especially given the extent to which Mips, a protection against rotational motion in a crash, is used, not only across cycling but snowsports, motorcycling and rock climbing as well as the construction industry.

‘We see Mips systems as an additional layer of protection for our riders. We evaluate which Mips system to implement from the beginning of a new design and select it based on what we are trying to achieve. For example, our lightest and most ventilated helmet, the Prevail II Vent, is equipped with the lightest and most breathable Mips system we have, our SL system,’ Jerome says.

Note his use of ‘our’. The Mips SL, one of four systems Specialized uses, was developed alongside the brand and is exclusive to Specialized helmets. It offers that must-have protection in an ultra-light and extra comfortable design. ‘We also have technologies available that may provide additional layers of protection, such as ANGi,’ Jerome adds. ‘If someone rides alone often and crashes, an ANGi-equipped helmet may make the difference and get help when needed.’

ANGi, which stands for Angular and G-Force Indicator, is a sensor attached to the back of the helmet that detects forces from a crash – even when the helmet doesn’t actually hit the ground. It then begins a countdown on your phone and if that isn’t stopped it alerts your emergency contacts and sends them your location.

It was developed by Specialized’s Chris Zenthoefer, who came up with the idea after a friend crashed and he was the last dialled number on the phone when emergency services got to the scene. Zenthoefer wanted to make sure that not only were riders more prepared, but that families could be sure that in the event of a crash they’d know and be able to get help to the right place as quickly as possible.

For Specialized, safety isn’t just meeting certification standards and helmets aren’t just another piece of kit. ‘There’s always room for innovation in product,’ Jerome says, and whether that’s in its industry-leading approach to protecting riders or its efforts to save every possible watt, Specialized continues to be the one pushing the boundaries.

Find out more about Specialized helmets

Read more about: