Specialized’s latest helmet is another statement of intent from a company that has made aerodynamics its predominant design factor. After all, what other brand has gone to the extent of building its own wind tunnel on the doorstep of its HQ?
But the Airnet also shows the influence of retro headgear as well as aerodynamics – even the name is a play on ‘hairnet’, the made-of-leather precursor to the modern bicycle helmet. Specialized has taken its ultra-aerodynamic S-Works Evade helmet as the template for the Airnet, which is most noticeable in the rear exhaust ports, though the Airnet’s low-volume body is very rounded. One of Specialized’s lead aerodynamicists Chris Yu told us that the Airnet is 21 seconds faster than Specialized’s own lightweight Prevail over 40km, compared with the Evade’s 46 seconds, which is pretty impressive for a helmet that’s about more than purely performance.
The continuous front-to-back hard-shell strips evoke vintage lids, beneath which is a very heavily channeled EPS (expanded polystyrene) core that offers far more ventilation than your usual aero lid. The large base vents at the temple also feature textured grippers to hold your glasses when you’re not wearing them, with matching grippers at the rear. The hard shell covers every exposed piece of EPS, which contributes to its 325g weight, but we’d take the extra protection from accidental damage over a few more grams, especially in a helmet as well vented as this.
The padding is made from merino wool for super-soft comfort, with Specialized including a second pad with an integrated cap peak. The fit should suit most head shapes, with the ‘Mindset’ rear cradle offering plenty of vertical adjustment, and the micro-adjust dial allowing you plenty of adjustability on the circumference. Considering its aero qualities, fit and the overall construction quality, the price is very impressive.