S-Works Prevail II women's helmet review£175.00

Lightweight, low-profile and excellent ventilation in the new incarnation of a classic helmet

BikeRadar score4.5/5

The Prevail helmet has been the top-of-the-line option in Specialized's road helmet range for many years, offering exceptional ventilation and aerodynamic properties for road cycling and racing. The new Prevail II refines these elements, shaving weight and gaining a sleeker look in the process.

Updated for 2017, I've put the Avail II through well over nine months of testing in a range of conditions from cold winters to hot Italian summers. It's survived transit and time spent in a suitcase, though there are a few scratches to the paintwork on the outer shell beginning to show.

In all other ways though, it fits, feels and performs as well as ever.

Unisex shape

First things first: while this helmet sits in Specialized's women's helmet range, the helmet itself is unisex. Helmets, in fact, almost always are since there aren't any particular differences between the genders in that part of the body. As a result, this helmet and this review are equally applicable to male and female readers.

Ventilation has always been a big selling point of the Prevail, and the Prevail II doesn't jeopardise that

The only difference is the colour, which for women includes a fetching turquoise and 'hyper green', a black with pink stripe and a loud pink colour that's available in Australia and the US.

Since the helmets are essentially unisex, this brings the colours on offer across the men's and women's ranges to nine, including standard blue, red, white and black, so men and women have a broad base to choose from.

Personally, I love the turquoise and hyper green colour; it's bright and stands out without looking too fluoro, but of course this is very much a matter of personal choice.

Another element of the Prevail that's not limited to the women's version of the helmet is the 'hair port' micro dial closure system. It's easy to adjust one handed while riding, and sits nicely and securely low at the back of your head.

The benefits of this are twofold: first, it feels secure and protective, and second, there's enough room to fit a ponytail or plait out through the gap above it — hence the hair port terminology.

The wonderfully named Mega Mouthport at the front of the helmet
The wonderfully named Mega Mouthport at the front of the helmet

Ventilation, ventilation and more ventilation

Helmets are all about two things: protection and ventilation, with the trade-off between the two often being weight.

The Prevail II uses a multi-density EPS polystyrene foam that's bound around an aramid skeleton. Aramids are a type of synthetic fibre known for they're strength and heat resistance, and they're often used in aerospace applications, so the chances are you're already familiar with one type of aramid: kevlar.

The use of an aramid skeleton in this helmet means that Specialized can cut down on the quantity of EPS needed to provide sufficient strength and impact protection, which in turn means a lower profile and lighter helmet. Further weight savings have been made by reducing the coverage of the plastic outer shell.

Ventilation has always been a big selling point of the Prevail, and the Prevail II doesn't jeopardise that, with vents and exhausts designed in such a way that air is pulled through the helmet front to back. That huge front Mega Mouthport allows in lots of air across the front of the head and internal and external channels funnel it through.

The redesign sees a change to the way the vents are formed and shaped: lateral spines once formed a forward-facing chevron, whereas now the chevron has been reversed. Vents are on average smaller in size but more plentiful, with external channels now added in addition to the internal airflow channels of the Prevail.

Prevail vs. Prevail II

I've also tested the previous incarnation of the Prevail, and the adaptations on the updated version are both noticeable and appreciated.

Weight has been saved in a number of ways including less outer shell material
Weight has been saved in a number of ways including less outer shell material

The overall shape of the helmet has changed considerably, and the Prevail II has a much more compact profile that sits closer to the head — much less mushroom-shaped than its predecessor. Aesthetically, this is a definite improvement.

Looking at the two helmets side by side, you'll notice a few others changes. The front brow vent is slightly smaller and the helmet shape now features channels for the vents to sit, whereas the previous Prevail featured a smoother outer shape with vents punched through.

Weight is another factor where the Prevail II triumphs over the Prevail. I weighed the older version at a reasonable 221g and the new Prevail shaves nearly 30g off that, weighing in at 193g. It's noticeable when you pick it up too and indeed when you've been wearing if for several hours.

Check out the image gallery at the top of the article, where you'll find more Prevail vs. Prevail II images for side-by-side comparisons.

Fit and performance

For me, this is by far the most comfortable helmet I've tried and it's the one I return to again and again. It sits securely and comfortably in place with the micro-dial adjust system easy to operate with one hand while riding.

Those channels and vents direct air effectively and noticeably over the scalp, and are particularly good when riding in warm weather when there's little wind; get up some speed and you can feel the breeze over the top of your head even though there's not a breath of air about.

The Tri Fix splitter sounds ominous, but is in fact a nice design feature that keeps the webbing straps from rubbing around the ear. It's easy to adjust to fit, and another element of comfort that you mostly notice when switching to a helmet that doesn't feature it.

I tend to get a fairly sweaty head when riding, and that leads me on nicely to another feature of the Prevail II that I'm a big fan of — the gutter action brow pad. This channels sweat drips away from the front of your face and over to the side, and it's mostly noticeable if you switch to a helmet in hot conditions that doesn't feature it — all of a sudden I was getting sweat in my eyes. So another point in the plus column for the Avail II.

On the downside, I would like to see MIPS added, especially on a helmet at this price point. I value all the protection I can get, but I can see that this would affect the fit and weight.

Pricing, sizing and availability

The Prevail II is available in three sizes: small (21 - 56cm), medium (55 - 59cm) and large (59 to 63cm) — I tested the size small helmet.

It's available internationally, although colour options do vary from territory to territory, and retails for £175 / $225 / AU$349.95 . Availability in all sizes is good at time of publication, and stock is generally available via Specialized concept stores, distributors and online.

Aoife Glass

Women's Cycling Editor
A mountain biker at heart, also drawn to the open road. Likes big long adventures in the mountains. Usually to be found in the Mendip Hills or the Somerset Levels in the UK. Passionate about women's cycling at all levels.
  • Age: 35
  • Height: 173cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 74kg / 163lb
  • Waist: 82cm / 32in
  • Chest: 86cm / 34in (below bust measurement)
  • Discipline: Mountain, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Rocky, rough and a long way from anywhere.
  • Current Bikes: Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2015, Juliana Furtado 2013, Canyon Roadlite AL
  • Dream Bike: Juliana Roubion, Liv Avail Advanced SL
  • Beer of Choice: Red wine for the win!
  • Location: Weston Super Mare, Somerset, UK

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