Specialized S-Works Evade Helmet

Specialized S-Works Evade Helmet

Aero product marketing has a tendency to focus on savings, as in, you’ll save X watts. In theory, it makes sense. In actual practice, the only people I know who save energy are those with number pinned on who expect to do something when the sprint goes down. In short, not a lot of people.

My real-world experience is that a bike or a set of wheels that can impart a difference of 40 watts will not see me go the same speed with more energy held in reserve. Nope. Not how I play. I’m not one of the fast kids anymore, so a 40 watt improvement means I will spend that pocket change at the counter. I’m not taking home coin in my pockets.

I go 40 watts faster. And why wouldn’t I? So much of the thrill of cycling is the enjoyment of speed itself, watching the world whoosh by. And for the record, we are more apt to enter a flow state when our sense are overwhelmed by an input of data, such as when the world is whipping by so quickly we must focus on only what is absolutely key to our survival.

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The Specialized S-Works Evade helmet takes on what is a challenged territory: the aero helmet. Pop culture’s favorite icon to illustrate the geekosity of a cyclist is the TT helmet. Nothing in a cyclist’s arsenal looks more ridiculous away from a race course. Admit it. Attempts to split that difference have resulted in helmets that aren’t actually aero or ones that aren’t actually pleasing to the (cyclist’s) eye.

That’s not to say that the look of the Evade is universally successful. I’ve noticed that the large size looks a bit, um, H.R. Giger. My size small is long, but not so long as a comet’s tail. And even though it has limited venting, that really didn’t concern me because so little of my riding occurs at temperatures above 80 degrees. I had to wait months to encounter a few days where temps rose above 90 in order to see if this thing would cause me to go Three Mile Island. It didn’t.

Specialized used the same lightweight 4X Drylite Webbing in the straps that is found in the Prevail and I found that the straps sat closer to my head on the Evade, more readily against my skin than they do with the Prevail. Honestly, it’s as comfortable a helmet as I’ve worn, thanks in part to the Mindset micro-dial adjustment system in the rear.

At $250, the Evade is holds no surprise in pricing. This is pretty typical for top-of-the-line helmets. And while this is frequently called a “heavy” helmet, my small weighed in at only 277 grams.

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I’d have to lie to tell you that I can tell a difference, speed-wise, between this helmet and something like the Giro Aeon, which some testing has shown to be significantly slower. But when I add together this helmet, an aero frame (say the Cervelo S3) and aero wheels (perhaps the Firecrest 404s), I can tell you that in aggregate, I’m distinctly faster. What might otherwise have been a good day becomes a day where I turn heads. And we’re not talking my good looks.

Pithy marketing tag lines are easy to argue with, of course, if you’re the sort to argue with a page in a magazine. Not saying that I am. “Aero is everything” is just such a line. However, that overly simplified line does get at a truth that I keep hearing from smart people at competing companies. Aerodynamics is where all the real gains will be made with respect to equipment and speed. The S-Works Evade is a helpful step—not as expensive as a new frame or a set of wheels, but more effective than shoe covers or shaved arms.

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14 comments

  1. Aar

    I’ve been using an Evade since late last season. Until the temps get over 80 and the roads tilt upward for more than 5 minutes, I can’t tell a temperature difference. I’m also riding slightly faster than before but I can’t attribute that to the helmet.

    Personally, my greatest interest in helmet evolution is in TBI / concussion reduction. In addition to technologies like MIPS, I’m acutely interested in development of testing standards around TBI reduction. Now, an aero road helmet that is designed to reduce the likelihood and severity of TBI is right up my alley!

  2. Bikelink

    Not a RKP thing but haven’t yet seen a side-by-side aero test by same team of the current aero road helmets. My Giro Air Attack is comfortable, quiet, and I believe their 95% ventilation-as-good-as Aeon statement. I haven’t seen ventilation data from others. Yaw matters too…the Specialized looks like a long-tail aero helmet compared to the Giro. Not trying to sell my Giro on anyone, just good to hear more objective data along with fit etc.

  3. Jay

    Quite frankly, I would derive no benefit from an aero helmet from any manufacturer. Additionally, I don’t believe in spending big bucks on high end helmets, especially when the makers recommend replacing them every 3 years. That said, I recently purchased a Specialized helmet after using Bell or Giro for years. The model is the Echelon and if all of the other models in their line-up fit as well, then hats off to them. The basic protection afforded is comparable and that is what really matters. For me it is a matter of practicality: Depending where you ride you could have to replace helmets more often you might care to, at least at a premium price.

  4. Alan

    I borrowed an Evade this past week at two TTs over 80 F. Saturday was ~92F. It kept me cool, and I agree it is light. Shaved 2:36 off my best State TT time. I really want one, but will have to wait until I can find one for less than $250

  5. Veloraptor

    I think I’ll wait for the Giro Synthe. Giro claims that their new Synthe is “faster than the Specialized S-Works Evade by a difference of about 8g of drag at 40km/h”. Plus, as most will agree, the Giro Synthe is much better looking than the Evade.

  6. SusanJane

    I really don’t think this one is as bad looking as some. The bowling ball aero were far worse, and those long tails were comical. This drift to large holes must be what everyone is talking about. The sunburn will be different. Big blotches instead of zebra stripes. I want all of you to be safe and keep your brains in good order. If it looks god awful, gives you your better time, and is safe, then it must be a reasonable buy. Right?

  7. Pat O'Brien

    Jay, you might want to do a little research on that 3 year replacement recommendation, and then make up your own mind. I did, and I think that replacing a undamaged helmet every three years is unnecessary. I would be interested in Padraig’s opinion on this.

    1. Mike

      The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute says that Bell recommends replacement after three years, and most manufacturers recommend replacement after five., and of course, after a crash. They do mention that UV damage is possible from being out in the sun – though the shell of the helmet has UV protectants in it, if it starts to crack or fade, that is a signal that it is time to replace it.


    2. Author
      Padraig

      Mike: Thanks for that. Bell, Giro and Specialized have all told me they recommend replacement every three years and the primary driver is from UV damage. I’ve been told that you should replace the helmet before you ever see cracks and fading, that if you wait that long you’ve been riding a helmet that offers very little protection.

  8. Jim

    The most impressive aspect of the Evade is how much less wind noise it generates. I am hearing squeaks and rattles I never knew existed. I can not measure aerodynamics in my riding but if it takes energy to create wind noise, the Evade must be saving something.

  9. Pat O'Brien

    The MET company tested their helmets and came up with an 8 year replacement recommendation. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
    states that since MET helmets are constructed in much the same way as other manufacturer’s helmets, they accept the 8 year life span unless other manufacturers provide their testing results. Make up your own mind; it’s your money. I replaced our helmets last year when I was convinced another helmet brand had a significantly safer design.

  10. Eric Richter

    The recommendation of replacing a helmet every 3 years is a general one, and it’s based on historical observation of how helmets are used, stored and cared for as well as broader factors like environmental conditions and even the evolution of standards, or your own riding style over time. As the old saying goes “your milage may vary”. If you are ever in doubt about the condition of your helmet, visit a local retailer or contact the manufacturer to ask about an inspection.

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