Aero helmets are all the rage with performance-obsessed cyclists and the Specialized S-Works Evade has been a popular choice since it launched in 2013. The new S-Works Evade II is a substantial improvement, offering better ventilation, improved aero, less weight and frankly, in my opinion, much better looks. It's a top contender in the competitive aero helmet market.
- Pros: Improved weight, ventilation and aerodynamics (claimed), comfortable, looks good, choice of colours
- Cons: Aero claims tricky to validate, non-adjustable side straps
Pretty much every helmet brand now offers an aero road helmet and most are on their second generation designs, given how rapidly aero understanding has advanced in a few short years. The original Evade was good enough that it has taken the US company five years to update it.
Since that first helmet was launched, Specialized has invested in its own wind tunnel which certainly makes it easier to test and develop aero focused products. Being able to test development changes without the usual high cost of booking a wind tunnel must certainly give the Big S a clear advantage.
The result of that time in the tunnel is a new and improved helmet, with Specialized claiming a six-second improvement over the old Evade, and 50 seconds at 40kph compared to a regular helmet. As with all aero claims, we have to take them at face value. I do wish road.cc had a wind tunnel to be able to independently benchmark these sorts of claims.
From a change you can't visualise outside a wind tunnel to one you can with your own eyes, the Evade II looks very different. Different as in better, in my humble opinion. The original Evade wasn't a looker, but a 2.5cm shorter tail and lower profile have improved things considerably.
That shorter tail also nets about a 20g weight saving. This size medium helmet pictured here weighs 254g, compared to 201g for a Prevail II. You can spot the difference between the two helmets in a side-by-side comparison, but the Evade is light enough that once you're out on the bike it doesn't feel heavy in any way.
Specialized didn't just use the wind tunnel to focus on the shape of the helmet, the vents were also designed for optimum aero and ventilation performance. Specialized reckons air flowing through the helmet not only makes it cooler but also decreases aerodynamic drag.
'If it ain't broke don't fix it' hasn't stopped Specialized replacing the conventional buckle with a magnetic closure system. It's lighter, which is good, but it's a bit more fiddly to use at first – years and years of conventional buckle use is to blame – but it quickly becomes second nature.
The same thin and light straps as used on the Prevail II sit comfortably next to the face, but I sometimes wish the Tri-Fix splitters were adjustable so you could position it perfectly beneath the ears.
A minimalist retention cradle securely clamps the helmet to head, with a small rotary dial making adjustments easy even on the move.
Drylite pads do a good job of staying dry and not ponging badly after cumulative rides and can be removed for washing. I must commend the design of the 'Gutter Action' brow pad as it does an impressive job of preventing sweat dripping down your forehead into your glasses.
When it comes to construction, the Evade is made from multi-density EPS foam with an aramid-reinforced skeleton that ensures structural integrity during an impact. It passes all the usual safety standards. There's no Mips option – Specialized, oddly, is one of the few brands that hasn't gone down the Mips route, which may or may not bother you.
The Evade II is an immediately comfortable helmet, with easy adjustment making it a cinch to get a good fit. I've got one of those heads that feels comfortable in most helmets, and I've always found Specialized helmets a perfect fit. The same is true here.
I can't really quantify Specialized's aero claims without spending time in a wind tunnel, so as with all aero claims you can only really take them at face value. I tried using a power meter and the same stretches of road but couldn't get any meaningful data without eradicating all the variables involved in such testing.
Testing ventilation is much easier, and on this front the new Evade II is a massive improvement over the old. Ventilation is the Achilles heel of many aero helmets, but the combination of redesigned vents, exhaust channels and, most importantly, big internal channels has massively improved how well the Evade manages high-intensity riding and warm weather.
Granted, it's not as airy as the Prevail II, a helmet I consider to be one of the best vented, but the changes mean the Evade II can be worn comfortably every day without fear you're going to sweat buckets.
I'll admit it took some time to get used to the new magnetic buckle, and I'm still not sure I'm fully onboard with the change over a simple closure system. I'd trade it in for adjustable side straps, personally.
Although £200 is a lot of money to pay for a helmet, especially when the quality of entry-level and mid-range helmets has improved massively in recent years, if you want a state-of-the-art aero helmet that is the result of hours of testing, then you do need to pay for it.
If you've really got to have an aero helmet, the new Evade is as comfortable, ventilated and sleek as they come, and rather than just save for races, it offers everyday comfort. While not a massive update, it's enough to ensure the Evade sits near the top of the aero helmet pile.
Lighter, better ventilated, more aero (if you believe the claims) and better looking than the original
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet
Size tested: medium
Tell us what the product is for
Specialized says, "Helmets have long been plagued by an unspoken rule: Light weight, ventilation, aerodynamics – pick two, there's your helmet. As you can tell by now, though, we don't play by these rules – or really any for that matter. We'd rather turn standards on their head and create products that nobody ever dreamed of. And you needn't look any further than the new S-Works Evade helmet for proof of this. Straight up, it's the fastest road helmet out there.
Beginning with the aerodynamic development, we basically lived in our Win Tunnel to create this Evade. Having our own wind tunnel allows us to develop our products with aero at the forefront of the design, rather than merely testing them there. With this, we carefully analyzed every aspect of helmet performance in the Win Tunnel, and with real world testing, to ensure that we left no stone unturned in the quest for performance. This makes for a helmet that has countless testing hours and years of development, and ultimately, this adds up to the fastest road helmet we've ever tested.
We not only took grams out of the drag, but we did it without sacrificing safety. In fact, we switched the construction to favor our Energy Optimized Multi-Density EPS that optimizes the foam type in different places. As far as ventilation is concerned, free-flowing air through the helmet not only makes the helmet cooler than ever, but it also decreases aerodynamic drag. Going hand-in-hand with this, ventilation and aerodynamics were both optimized in the Win Tunnel together, making for the best combination of aerodynamics and ventilation out there. Now, the exterior vents and interior channels have been carefully considered to make sure that the helmet draws in the maximum amount of air through the helmet for extreme cooling. And the result? The new Evade is just as cool as a bare head with no helmet, making it the coolest aero helmet on the market today.
Through this work, the Evade saves 50 seconds over 40km versus a traditional road helmet and roughly six seconds over the prior iteration of Evade. This means that it's not only as cool as a bare head, but also as fast. For road race helmets, there's nothing that can match this performance.
Last, but most certainly not least, a fast helmet is useless unless it fits correctly. With this in mind, the new S-Works Evade has all the features you'd expect from a top-level helmet, like our Mindset HairPort 2 fit system with micro-adjustments, our soft webbing that won't stretch out, and a new Gutter Action brow pad that manages sweat to keep it out of your eyes. And to top it off, we've added a new magnetic buckle to the mix that makes buckling with one hand a breeze."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Through extensive Win Tunnel development, the Evade is the fastest road helmet we've tested.
4th Dimension Cooling System with deep internal channels, large vents, and aligned exhaust ports make it the best combination of aerodynamics and ventilation.
Patented Energy Optimized Multi-Density EPS construction helps to manage impact energy.
Patented Aramid-Reinforced Skeleton provides internal EPS support to help manage impact energy.
Ultra-light Mindset HairPort II micro-dial fit system with height adjustability for the perfect fit.
Gutter Action brow pad design for increased comfort and sweat management.
Thin, soft, and lightweight 4X DryLite webbing won't stretch out with sweat or water.
Tri-Fix web splitter for improved comfort and ease of strap adjustments.
Instrap webbing system for ultra-light construction and security.
Magnetic buckle is simple and secure.
At £200 it's about the thick end of what a top-end performance helmet should cost, but all that aero testing doesn't come cheap.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Delivers improved aero (allegedly) without many compromises.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Very comfortable helmet with good enough ventilation that you can wear it every day.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Non-adjustable side straps.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
An aero helmet that offers good ventilation means you can reduce your drag on every ride; add in the comfort and good looks, and it's a top choice and justifies its score.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.