The Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet has gained breathability and is now six seconds faster - has it lost anything but weight along the way?
I’ve always admired the Specialized Evade. The aero road lid carries a stand-out aesthetic and its list of palmarès suggests it’s as fast as it looks.
The 2018 iteration, in my option, has lost some of its angular appeal, it’s gone a little bit rounder and I’m less a fan of the look. However, data doesn’t lie and Specialized says the newest model, at six seconds faster than the first Evade over 40km, is “the fasted helmet the company has ever tested.”
What’s changed about the Evade?
The new Evade is two centimetres stubbier than previous models, and it’s lighter by 15-20 grams. The small model we have on test tips the scales at 235g.
The ventilation system represents the most dramatic change. The three ventilation channels on top have become one, and all the breathing holes – of which there are 12 in total – look significantly smaller in size.
However, turn the lid over, and the inside reveals a network of long, wide grooves, which are designed to channel air towards the rear exhaust. The result of all of this is that Spesh says this version is significantly more breathable.
Of course, the goal of a helmet for cycling is to protect your head.
The Evade II uses a patented “energy optimised” multi-density EPS construction and an “aramid-reinforced skeleton” designed to protect your head in the event of an accident.
It doesn’t use MIPS – the third party construction many helmet brands now adopt that is designed to prevent against damage caused by rotational forces. Specialized hasn’t adopted the system because it doesn’t believe it adds a significant boost in safety, whilst it does add to weight and cost.
MIPS or no MIPS, the helmet adheres to all safety requirements set out and has been stringently tested.
Whilst the Evade is very much a performance helmet, people perform better when they’re comfortable so it’s not an element to be forgotten.
The Evade II features a 4X DryLife Webbing on the inside, offering moisture control, and a Gutter Action Brow Pad channels sweat away from your eyes.
The closure system is magnetic and there is a Mindset HairPort II micro dial fit system which can be adjusted both ways – to tighten and loosen. The helmet straps aren’t adjustable – meaning that you can’t shift the attachment up so that the ‘v’ shape sits closer or further away from your ear.
Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet: the ride
Let’s start with hair ports. Brands are always keen to point out their existence like they’re a monumental step forwards for the long haired riders of the world. Thing is, I’ve ridden a lot of helmets with no claimed ‘hair port’ – and I’ve always been able to get my hair out the back of the lid via the space between the dial and the bottom of the helmet.
There are probably helmets out there that do cause a restriction – and it probably differs depending upon the volume of your mane – but it’s always been a highly regarded answer to a non-problem in my eyes.
That aside, at first wear the Specialized Evade II felt immediately comfortable.
I have a pretty small head (Kask’s “special edition” women’s Protone in a size Small was still too large), and generally I get on with lids suited to round heads (Giro, not Bell). Twisting the retention system in I found there was plenty of adjustment left for someone with an even smaller noggin and the shape felt spot on.
Breathability wasn’t a concern. Admittedly, the UK has been hit by a cold snap of late and I’ve yet to try this helmet out in hotter climates outside, but I did use it at the Full Gas/Lee Valley Velodrome track league. The air was tight enough for me to get cotton mouth and I was sweating on the rollers between races, but I never felt my head was hot.
In terms of speed – it’s pretty hard to quantify so I can only trust the data Spesh quotes from its own wind tunnel tests.
The magnet closure system took a bit of getting used to, but considering the last thing you want is a fitting that opens in the event of a crash, this is a good thing.
The straps, as mentioned, aren’t adjustable. I wore the lid with the strap pulled as tight as it would go, and I could still fit five fingers in the space between chin and strap. This isn’t unsafe, fitting really comes from the retention system – but for a £200 lid, adjustable straps are not a big ask.
At £200, the Specialized S-Works Evade II is no cheap helmet. However, it’s on a level playing field with other performance orientated aero helmets. The Evade II is cheaper than the Giro Synthe by £59, though it does lack MIPS which adds a significant chunk to the price tag.
The Specialized Evade II has become faster and more breathable. All it's lost in its newest incarnation is weight. It's an incredibly comfortable lid designed for those seeking performance; and aesthetically it's still top of my list. Adjustable straps would be nice and the lack of MIPS may put some riders off, but of course this lid still passes all of the necessary safety tests.