Specialized Tone MIPS helmet review - no unnecessary extras and an equally minimalist styling

An excellent urban helmet designed for people who want affordable comfort and safety during the morning commute

Male cyclist holding the Specialized Tone MIPS helmet
(Image credit: Future)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

A minimalist helmet that may not be to everyone’s stylistic taste. However, as a pragmatic and functional piece of kit, the Specialized Tone represents superb value for money, top-rated safety levels and comfort for commuting to work, running errands, shopping or rendezvousing with friends.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Great fit

  • +

    Highest 5-Star Virginia Tech Helmet Rating

  • +

    MIPS protection

  • +

    Astonishing value

  • +

    Simple, unfussy design will appeal to those who like pared-down simplicity and practicality

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    ‘Marmite’ styling

  • -

    Lack of vents could be uncomfortable on very hot days

  • -

    Just three size options

You can trust Cycling Weekly. Our team of experts put in hard miles testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.

Specialized’s Tone helmet appears to be pitched directly at individuals who want to eschew more conventional-looking cycling helmets, whilst offering superb protection and rider comfort at an astonishingly good price (less than $60/£65).

We put it to the test in a range of conditions to determine how it stacks up against the best commuter helmets we've previously reviewed.

Specialized Tone MIPS: construction

Specialized has taken a minimalist approach to the Tone. The outer shell is comprised of two parts with just two vents; one at the crown of the head and one at the rear. Inside there are three pads, one for the brow and forehead areas and two strips to cushion the top of your head. These sit on the vibrantly-coloured MIPS liner.

Male cyclist holding the Specialized Tone MIPS helmet

(Image credit: Future)

Despite the almost solid appearance of the exterior, Specialized’s website claims that internal channelling keeps air moving through the helmets as you ‘briskly ride along’.

Male cyclist holding the Specialized Tone MIPS helmet

(Image credit: Future)

Contrasting, adjustable Tri-Fix webbing splitters (chin straps) deliver easy adjustments to find the most accurate fit, as does the Headset SX fit system (rubberised dial) at the rear of the helmet. Another plus for rider security and safety is the Tone being supplied ANGi ready. When paired with the Specialized Ride App (for iOS or Android devices).

ANGi is a crash sensor that can determine whether you’re in need of help. In such a situation it can send an alert to selected contacts, along with your last known GPS coordinates and a message that you’re in need of help.

The shape of the Tone is more reminiscent of a skateboarding helmet, and has five subtle colourways to choose from. As the name suggests, each model comes in two different shades, from the Birch/Taupe combination of CW’s test helmet, to the attractive Deep Marine Metallic, which is contrasted by a black lower half.

Specialized Tone MIPS: the ride

Male cyclist wearing the Specialized Tone MIPS helmet

(Image credit: Future)

Specialized has been making helmets since the 80’s and, just as its bike ranges expanded and became more diverse, incorporating better materials and technologies, so did the headwear. The American brand knows that today’s rider, whatever cycling they choose to do requires safer, lighter, better fitting and more functional head protection. Urban cyclists, want to keep cool and look it, while also not looking daft in front of non-riders.

The Tone is certainly understated, which will appeal to a large swathe of commuters who want a practical, versatile lid that matches their outfit for the workplace or spin out to meet friends.

Straight out of the box, the Tone was a doddle to fit. I just popped it on, adjusted the dial at the back and clicked the straps together. There was no need to fuss over how the straps fitted around my ears due to Specialized’s nifty Tri-Fix webbing design. It’s an innovation that means straps can’t pass over the ears.

During one ride, I’d popped into my local bike shop and the Tone drew a few comments, not least about the obvious lack of vents. I said that I was concerned how the helmet would feel in a city environment in the middle of August. As one of the staff wryly pointed out, humans lose most heat through the top of their head. 

However, this helmet is far more comfortable in warm weather than it might seem at first glance. The key to this is the way its aerodynamics are such that air is pulled in via a channel in the front of the helmet so that air passes over the wearer’s forehead.

Long-haired riders will find the gap between the base of the helmet and the adjustment dial a beneficial feature, as it is big enough to fit a ponytail through.

Specialized Tone MIPS: value and conclusion

Male cyclist holding the Specialized Tone MIPS helmet

(Image credit: Future)

With a super-competitive price of just $60/£65, it is hard to find fault with the Tone. Especially if you’re looking for something that doesn’t scream ‘Look at me, I’m a CYCLIST!’ In some ways, the appeal of the Tone is its lack of sexiness. It protects your head – thanks to its MIPS liner and reduced number of vents, which by return increase the area of solid protection for your head.

If you're looking for more ventilation and more bells and whistles - from integrated lights to an integrated fabric peak, the Bollé Halo React helmet could be more to your liking. It is much more expensive, though, coming in at $260/£220 

There are three sizes to choose from, S, M and L, so people with larger noggins may feel they’re needs aren’t catered for. The ease of use couldn’t be simpler and you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a colourway that generally suits your wardrobe palette.

But… I just couldn’t warm to the design of the Tone. From my initial reaction of ‘child’s potty’, I variously began to see myself as a budget Robocop, or one of the aliens from Mars Attacks! It may well be that face shape will help determine whether the Tone suits different individuals. As someone with a small head and slim features, the Tone looks rather bulbous and odd on me. Albeit, this was lessened by a pair of sunglasses. Maybe this is more of a helmet for the cool kids, rather than MAMIL me.

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