Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 review - a safer, airier lid

Third gen Prevail offers unmatched ventilation for the hottest days, but it comes at a price

Image shows a rider wearing the Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 helmet.
(Image credit: Future)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

Specialized’s latest update to the S-Works Prevail helmet improved an already good helmet with more ventilation for the hottest months and top safety features for ease of mind.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Great ventilation

  • +

    Highly ranked for safety

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Not especially lightweight

  • -

    Big holes, while great for venting, is also quite the bug trap

  • -

    Pricey

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To showcase its latest advances in aerodynamics and venting, Specialized launched new iterations of its three flagship helmets at the Grand Départ of this year’s Tour. Despite Specialized’s “it takes a quiver to win” approach— suggesting one should own a quiver of helmets for optimal performance — everyday riders can rest easy knowing that the Prevail will serve most of your road or gravel riding needs. 

Specialized S-Works Prevail 3: the updates

The Specialized S-Works Prevail 3

(Image credit: Specialized)

Specialized always sets out to better its previous product lines. And while performance is still at the heart of everything Specialized does, for this third iteration of the Prevail helmet, the ‘better’ in its case means ‘airier’ and ‘safer’ rather than the ‘lighter’ or ‘faster’ comparatives so commonly thrown around in the cycling world. 

The Prevail was already Specialized’s most-vented helmet, and this third gen helmet appears to be pushing the limits of openness while still being considered a safety device. 

Built around a visible aramid and carbon cage called the “Air Cage”, the Prevail 3 has been stripped of the usual EPS foam bridges to improve ventilation by 24.5% over its predecessor. 

Upon impact, the cage works as a suspension bridge, designed to distribute localized forces throughout the helmet and meets the same safety standards as the EPS foam does. 

“The conventional approach to helmet design is that more foam (EPS) means better energy management. We re-wrote the book on cycling helmet design by innovating beyond foam,” Specialized states.

The Specialized S-Works Prevail 3

The new Prevail is built around a visible aramid and carbon cage called the “Air Cage”

(Image credit: Specialized)

What’s more, the new Prevail features an all-new MIPS technology called AirNode. Nowadays, MIPS or Multi-directional Impact Protection System has become a bit of a standard in the best cycling, snow sports and equestrian sports alike. The system is designed to reduce the rotational forces transferred to the head in the event of a crash, and this usually takes the shape of visible —often yellow— thin plastic cradle inside the helmet. Yet in case of the Air Node, the system is integrated directly into the helmet padding to negate the addition of another layer and allow the air to flow freely.

Lastly, the Prevail 3 is also compatible with Specialized's ANGi Crash Sensor, which fits on the adjustable rear strap and will detect a crash and notify your emergency contact through an app.

All in all, the Prevail 3 package is not only Specialized’s most vented helmet it’s made yet, it’s also among the the highest-ranked road helmets by Virginia Tech, a leader in third-party helmet safety testing.

Specialized S-Works Prevail 3:: Fit and ride feel

Anne-Marije Rook wearing the new S-Works Prevail 3 helmet

(Image credit: Specialized)

The S-Works Prevail 3 is equipped with an adjustable Tri-Fix web system and an updated, thinner 10mm webbing that’s meant to minimize strap noise. There’s a small and lightweight micro-dial fit system with height adjustability at the rear of the cradle for easy on-the-go fit. 

Helmet fit is of course personal based on head shape and hairdo, but the Prevail in my experience has always been a comfortable helmet without any bothersome pressure points.

I tested a size small, my usual helmet size, and will note that the fit is a tad narrow on the sides. That’s not a problem for my head, but if you’ve got a rounder-shaped head, you may want to consider sizing up or trying on the helmet before buying. 

While the web system sits relatively shallow on the head, the foam and body of the helmet is surprisingly tall, measuring nearly 14 centimetres tall at its highest point. Paired with my particular head shape and perhaps larger forehead, the helmet looks rather tall, large and well, very present, especially in the stark white colorway reviewed here. A different colorway and a few graphics or lines may help with the aesthetics and the S-Works Prevail 3 does come in seven different colors. 

Any appearance concerns are quickly forgotten when riding, however, as is the helmet itself. Even in 32°C degree weather, the helmet’s airflow is unrivalled. No sweet in the eyes, no salt-stained helmet straps…the helmet simply seems to disappear in its unobtrusiveness —

which is exactly what I want out of a helmet: to keep me safe when I need it but stay out of the way at all other times so I can focus on the ride. 

The only downside of vent holes the size of these is that there’s little protection against bugs or  wind-tousled, awesomely bad helmet hair. 

At 280 grams, the Prevail 3 isn’t exactly a featherweight either like the new Kask Protone (230 grams) or Lazer Genesis (205 grams), however its breezy comfort easily makes up for those grams. 

Image shows a rider wearing the Specialized S-Works Prevail 3.

Pony tail approved!

(Image credit: Anne-Marije Rook)

Specialized S-Works Prevail 3: value and conclusion

As with most things Specialized, innovation and comfort comes at a cost. The $300.00 / £275.00 retail price places it among the most expensive, non-aero helmets on the market but its ventilation is unmatched. If you live in a hot climate and you can afford it, it’s definitely worth considering its ventilation, all-round comfort and safety rating. 

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