We tested Specialized's flagship S-Works Prevail helmet almost exactly a year ago and found it to be one of the best-performing road lids on the market. Those who found everything about it appealing except the heady price can now instead look to the Specialized Propero II, which packs in almost the same performance and arguably better looks at less than half the price.
At first glance – and even first fit – many will have a hard time distinguishing between the two, what with their similar outwards appearances and nearly identical (and characteristically ovoid) fit when on your head.
The Propero II's Headset SL retention system is slightly bulkier than the Prevail's Mindset version but the difference is indistinguishable when worn and they're both similarly easy to operate with just a one-handed dial at the back. Height adjustment is also more cumbersome on the Propero II but it's not likely you'll need to do it often and there's 20mm of total range.
What isn't bulky, however, is the Propero II's outward profile. It isn't appreciably trimmer than the Prevail but has more rounded proportions. Rather than adopting the oddly squared-off form of the Prevail, it adheres faithfully to the familiar design language of older S-Works helmets. The subtle graphics only highlight this further.
The Propero shares the Prevail's refreshingly thin 4X DryLite nylon straps and fixed splitters. They're traditionally anchored instead of being set into the bottom of the shell like on the Prevail but as before, we found them substantially less obtrusive than traditional straps, which are also typically double-layer below the splitters.
They're also easier to keep clean, and easier to pull taut beneath your chin what with just one strap to pull on instead of two. The fixed splitters might give some potential buyers pause but at least in our case, they're perfectly positioned. If anything, the wide shape creates more room around your ears than traditional sliders.
Ventilation is excellent, surpassing the performance of helmets costing more than twice as much. The intake and exhaust ports are generously sized and – more importantly – they're linked together with deep interior channeling that lets air flow cleanly through from front to back. You can feel air rushing across the top of your head (well, depending on your haircut) and we had to reach for a windproof cap when testing in temperatures below 10°C (50°F).
That being said, airflow still isn't quite as good as the admittedly awesome Prevail, particularly on the sides of your head. Cost cutting on the Propero's internal reinforcement structure yields slightly shallower channels (they're still very deep, mind you) and more tapering of the vents from exterior to interior.
Riders who are particularly hard on gear will also want to note the lack of a lower shell on the Propero II. The rear lower edge of the helmet is largely protected by the protruding, semi-rigid retention system but the front lower edge is exposed to wear and tear.
Those minor complaints pale in comparison to the Propero II's remarkably appealing price of just US$110/£70 – less than half that of the Prevail and most flagship helmets from other manufacturers. It's light, too, at just 238g for our small, CPSC-approved tester.