Earlier this year, Specialized launched its updated Prevail 3 helmet. Specialized promises the helmet will keep you cool when the temperatures rise and climbing is on the agenda.
I’ve had the Prevail 3 over the course of one of the warmest summers on record in the UK, while it’s also been my lid of choice when I’ve visited both France and Italy this year.
In short, it’s impressed with its ventilation and lightweight design.
Specialized Prevail 3 details and specifications
What makes the Prevail 3 stick out is its gaping ventilation holes, which come thanks to the removal of the traditional EPS foam bridges in favour of an aramid bead structure, known as ‘Air Cage’.
The Air Cage is claimed to offer the same strength as a standard EPS design, while leaving a claimed 24.5 per cent more real estate for air to penetrate versus the Prevail II Vent – with an increased ability to absorb impacts, according to Specialized.
Meanwhile, the holes are unencumbered by the MIPS integration, thanks to the use of the Swedish impact protection specialist’s Air Node tech.
Air Node sees MIPS integrated directly into the Prevail 3’s padding, which itself has been stripped back to save weight and, theoretically, increase airflow.
The Prevail 3 also comes fitted with an ‘adjustable tri-fix web splitter’ strap, which is claimed to reduce any excess strap fabric that could lead to flapping in the wind.
The helmet fits to the head using Specialized’s ‘occipital base adjustment’ and Mindset adjustment systems.
Combined, they’re claimed to offer a wide adjustment range that can accommodate different head shapes, enabling more riders to get an optimal fit more easily.
The Mindset system is also compatible with Specialized’s own ANGi add-on nodule, which can alert a designated contact in the event of a detected crash.
Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 performance
On the road, the Prevail 3 impresses with performance that largely befits its hefty price tag.
The extra-large ventilation holes (there are 25 in total by my count, but the thinness of the aramid beads makes each main channel feel like a continuous empty strip) enable air to flow easily from the front intakes, over the head and out the rear.
You don’t need to be travelling especially quickly – 10kph or so will do – before you feel a cooling breeze, not unlike riding without a helmet.
At speed, and especially in the warm, often 30+ celsius temperatures I’ve ridden in this year, it offers cooling that’s about as good as I’ve experienced in any helmet.
For context, I’ve used Kask’s lightweight and fairly well ventilated Valegro helmet consistently for a couple of years before this test thanks to its prowess in this area – but I believe the Prevail 3 takes things to another level.
Although I can’t confirm what my head temperature was in a lab-controlled environment, I experienced less sweat build-up in the padding on any given ride versus the Valegro.
That surprised me a little, because the Prevail 3 features a brow pad as part of the MIPS Air Node design that wraps around the forehead.
I expected it to be brilliant at absorbing sweat until it became saturated (as I’ve experienced on other helmets in the past), but even in the toughest conditions this summer, I could only squeeze out a few drops at the end of a ride.
My medium-sized Prevail 3 tips the scales at 258g, 2g lower than the claimed weight, which is a touch heavier than a few road bike helmets, including this helmet’s forebear.
I hardly noticed because I couldn’t equate the weight with excess heat build-up.
The small downside is a lack of UV protection if you happen to have a high hairline. If you do, you’ll want to ensure you apply some sun cream to your head, even if you think it’s covered by the helmet (as I found to my cost on the Canyon Ultimate launch).
The fit system is superb, and it gives the helmet the ability to effectively mould to the user’s head.
No system is perfect for everyone, but after a bit of fettling with the height, width and positioning of the cranial support (which is adjustable in usefully small increments), I found an ideal fit for me.
It also seems to stay put in the event that you put the helmet down on its base, pack it tightly into a suitcase or strap it to a backpack – so it gets an extra thumbs up for that, from this often-travelling cyclist.
The ANGi device is an optional extra, which isn’t supplied as standard with the Prevail 3.
Overall, the Prevail 3 looks good too – it’s nicely proportioned, so any worries about an especially tall or wide head silhouette can be allayed.
That said, the brow does protrude out and downwards a little more than I’d ideally like.
It’s there in the name of protection, but whenever I rode in an aggressive position with my head bowed forwards, it was a near-constant presence at the top of my field of vision.
I could also see the glossy black colourway around the lip – which has a habit of distractingly reflecting white lines from the road. I also think it naturally sits a few millimetres too low.
So, if you’re riding on a broken road surface, you risk getting an annoying rattle as it jarrs against your cycling sunglasses.
As for the price, understandably, the cost will put many prospective customers off. There’s no getting around the fact that this is one of the most expensive helmets on the market today, although overall it has proven to be excellent in use.
Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 bottom line
The Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 helmet is very impressive in hot, humid weather, and the mountainous conditions it was designed for.
It’s not flawless, but if you can afford it, it’s a top-performing airy helmet.