Specialized's S-Works Women's Prevail II helmet is superlight, very comfortable, simple to adjust and works well with ponytails – if you don't mind a bit of faffing. It costs £175, which is a fair old wodge if all you want to do is pootle to the shops, but the Prevail II is aimed at racing, where its 'superlative aerodynamic design' could well be worth the outlay for you.
There's a lot going on with this helmet in terms of construction and design, but one of the things I like best – which I have to admit I was a bit dismissive of to start with – is that the two straps around your ears are non-adjustable.
They're not adjustable because they're designed to just fit. So you don't have to adjust them. And, for me anyway, they work. Called 'Tri-Fix web splitters', they hold the straps perfectly flat against your cheeks, so no adjustments necessary. All you have to do is pull the strap under your chin to tighten. Specialized even has a YouTube video to show you how easy it is.
Another feature I've learned to love is the HairPort. I wear my hair up in a ponytail for riding, and have always just pulled it as low as possible to fit under the helmet cradle. But the cradle on the Prevail is height adjustable, and it's so comfortable when you do set it low, really hugging the back of your head, that it's worth making use of the space for your ponytail.
I do find it a bit of a faff to get my ponytail through. I tend to put a helmet on from the front and tip it to the back, if you get my drift, but to fit my hair through the HairPort I have to poke the ponytail through first, which sits the helmet on the back of my head and then I have to faff around a bit with getting escaped bits of hair into the right place at the front, before tightening everything up. Wearing a cap underneath helps.
Wearing a cap underneath doesn't help so much with airflow, and doesn't make the most of the Prevail II's '4th Dimension Cooling System', but to be honest, without a cap underneath I couldn't feel a huge amount of airflow over my head – and I was really trying to detect it. Even with that Mega Mouthport at the front. I could feel the air rushing past the sides of my head, over and around my ears, but not a lot over the top of my head.
I have worn it on some very hot days and haven't overheated, though, so in that respect it works.
The other big thing about the Prevail is how light it is. Limar claims its Ultralight+ helmet is 'the lightest in the world' and it's 175g; this Prevail in a small is 189g and one of the lightest we've tested on road.cc. It says 190g on the sticker inside the helmet, but the road.cc Scales of Truth say 1g lighter.
Although very light, it features an 'Aramid-Reinforced Skeleton' within the EPS (polystyrene) core. There's a fair amount of EPS on show, too, which doesn't make it the most attractive helmet out there, in my opinion, but could be one reason why it's so light – or probably helps, anyway.
Another thing I really like about this helmet is the 'Gutter Action brow pad design'. Essentially, rather than your forehead pressing against the front of the helmet (or helmet against forehead), the cushioned front part of the webbing system sits slightly away from the front of the helmet, so there's nothing rigid against your forehead. It basically means it's very comfortable – as well as helping to stop sweat running down your head.
The only real drawback I can see with the Prevail II is the price; at £175 it's not right at the top of the high-end helmet tree, but the branches are definitely thinning out.
If you wanted many of the same design features in a more affordable package then the £80 Propero 3 is worth a look. Lara tested the Propero 2 last year and found it a bit bulky, but the 3 looks to be a sleeker design. In fact, looks-wise I think I prefer the Propero to the Prevail, with more of the EPS covered and some other colour choices.
So, if you accept that a helmet's main purpose is to protect your head in a crash, and accept that it meets the necessary standards on that (in this case, EN 1078), what else do you judge a helmet on? The Prevail II is very light, very comfortable, very easy to adjust, and promises a bit of an aerodynamic advantage. It's a very good helmet. It's not cheap, but there might be a lot of money hanging on that win...
A very good, easy to adjust helmet whose light weight and aerodynamics might make all the difference on race day
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized S-Works Women's Prevail II Helmet
Size tested: 51-56 cm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Specialized says: "The S-Works Women's Prevail II is the most complete lightweight race helmet we've ever made. It combines incredible ventilation with superlative aerodynamic design, a micro-dial HairPort fit system, and an ultra-lightweight construction in order to achieve the best all-around performance available on the market today."
It's certainly very light!
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Specialized lists these features:
Patented Energy Optimized Multi-Density EPS construction helps to manage impact energy.
Patented Aramid-Reinforced Skeleton provides internal EPS support.
Ultra-light Mindset HairPort II micro-dial fit system with height adjustability for the perfect fit.
Mega Mouthport optimizes cooling and sweat evaporation.
4th Dimension Cooling System with deep internal channels, large vents, and aligned exhaust ports.
Thin, soft, and lightweight 4X DryLite webbing won't stretch out with sweat or water.
Tri-Fix web splitter for improved comfort and ease of strap adjustments.
Instrap webbing system for ultra-light construction and security.
Gutter Action brow pad design for increased comfort and sweat management.
Reflective decals for increased visibility in low-light conditions.
Patented clip-on visor included.
New and improved three-size Asia headform.
Fits comfortably, easy to adjust, light... I haven't had to test its head protecting prowess.
Although it's not completely covered, there's a fair amount of outer shell to protect against knocks and scuffs.
Limar claims its Ultralight+ is 'the world's lightest helmet' at 175g (M); at 189g this isn't far behind.
Spesh helmets seem to suit the shape of my head.
Is £175 'average'? For a race helmet? You can pay more so I'm going for 'above average'.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It sits comfortably on my head without weighing it down, and it's easy to adjust.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The light weight, comfortable fit and how easy it is to adjust.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The chinstrap needs adjusting every time I put it on (but it is easy to do). It also doesn't have as low a profile as I was hoping for. And sometimes I couldn't be bothered with trying to get my ponytail through the HairPort, even though the cradle felt better and the helmet more secure with the cradle adjusted lower down.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Mmm... maybe.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Any helmet meeting the necessary safety standards is going to protect your head as well as it possibly can, so I can only really rate it on things like ease of use, comfort, ventilation and weight. It's very, very light, fits my head comfortably, doesn't overheat and is easy to adjust, so I'm going for a 'very good' 8. The weight is possibly 'exceptional', but it does have a price tag of £175.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Venon My best bike is: Paulus Quiros
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding
Tass is our production pedant, who boldly goes hunting for split infinitives, rogue apostrophes and other things up with which she will not put. She joined road.cc in 2015 but first began working on bike magazines way back in 1991 as production editor on Mountain Biking UK, then deputy editor of MTB Pro, before changing allegiance to road cycling as senior production editor on Cycling Plus. She's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.