The Specialized Align II is a low-cost helmet designed for a wide variety of riding. You wouldn't know it's only £45 – it definitely doesn't scrimp on features. It offers Mips for enhanced protection, the fit is really good, and it looks very stylish too. As with its predecessor, the Align II is a little bit on the weighty side.
The Align II is a sleeker, sportier, more modern-looking helmet than its predecessor, which we reviewed a few years ago. Though it's a bit more expensive this time round, by £15, you now get Mips (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) included, so it's definitely worth the slight price hike for the added safety.
In studies it's been shown that Mips can help protect against rotational forces caused by angled impacts. According to Specialized, the Align II also earned a 5-Star Virginia Tech Helmet Rating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
> All you need to know about Mips
There are loads of classy colour options available, with the usual white, black and high-vis yellow suspects, but Specialized also offers some unique and vibrant colours, such as Gloss Sand, Matte CA White Sage, and Matte Vivid Coral Wild.
The Align II comes in three sizes: S/M (52-56), M/L (56-60), and XL (59-62). That puts me smack bang in the middle, with my 58cm noggin, and the M/L is a really good fit, with only a small amount of adjustment needed from the easy-to-use Headset SX dial to get it just right. Adjusting on the move is easy too – just rotate the dial clockwise or anti-clockwise to tighten or loosen it. It really is simple but effective.
Equally, the chin strap is simple and works really well. It might be basic, but function over form and all that. An elastic piece also keeps any excess strap neatly out of the way.
The Tri-Fix web splitter section under each ear is unchanged from the previous model, and as before it works to connect the helmet straps to the chin strap without having to adjust anything.
The Align II is ever so slightly on the larger side in terms of its shell, so you do notice it's there, unlike some sportier models that almost feel invisible once they're on. That said, it's certainly nothing that would bother you at all once you get riding.
I found it a very comfortable lid, with no pressure points, and the 4th Dimension Cooling System offers plentiful ventilation (unlike the first generation Align). Although my test period on a hybrid bike was mainly at slower speeds, most of the time I was towing a two-year-old and a four-year-old in a double Thule chariot (I worked out that all-in I'm hauling 58kg, not including a lock or any luggage), so I was definitely getting a sweat on, and at no point did I find my airflow to my head an issue. On more relaxed solo rides my head stayed very cool.
> How to set up your helmet – 10 easy steps to a perfect fit
The Align II is designed for more relaxed rides, so it's aimed at commuting, days out on towpaths, that kind of thing, though really it looks streamlined and sporty enough to be used for anything, I think. Two curvy reflective strips at the rear of the helmet also make it a good option for low-light or nighttime riding.
The only disadvantage that might present itself on longer rides is the weight – 369g on the road.cc Scales of Truth makes it a bit of a heifer. I can't say it really bothered me at all, but I only ever used the helmet for rides of 20-30 miles maximum. You might find that on longer days in the saddle, or multi-day rides, it's not so comfortable.
As I said earlier, the first generation Specialized Align was cheaper by £15, but a few years have passed since then, and things have moved on – for £45 you still get a lot of helmet for your money. By comparison, the next cheapest all-round helmet with Mips (or any helmet with Mips for that matter) is the Abus Macator MIPS at £69.99. Matt Page found it to be a decent helmet in general, and it's lighter than the Align II, but its ventilation appeared to be a problem.
> Buyer’s Guide: 6 of the best cheap cycling helmets
For slightly less money, £10 to be exact, the Endura Xtract II is a decent looking lid and Matt found it performed well, but it lacks the added safety of Mips.
Thought it's a bit on the weighty side, there's lots to like about the Align II. As far as I can tell it's one of the cheapest Mips helmets you can buy. It's also great for a variety of riding styles, and there are enough sizes and colours to keep everyone happy.
Great value Mips-equipped lid for all kinds of riding, though it's a bit weighty
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Make and model: Specialized Align II helmet
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, "Clean aesthetic, comfortable fit, and a budget-friendly price - that's what makes up the Align II. The standout feature of the Align II is the inclusion of the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), a patented technology designed to mitigate against rotational forces transmitted to the brain during certain angled impact scenarios. In addition, the Align II became the only $50 helmet to earn the highest Five Star rating from the independent testing done at the renowned Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Align II earned the highest 5-Star Virginia Tech® Helmet Rating™ from internationally renowned Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
The MIPS system is a low-friction layer that allows a sliding motion of 10 to 15mm in all directions. Studies indicate that this reduces some of the rotational forces transmitted to the brain during angled impacts.
Easily-adjustable, one-size Headset SX fit system is designed for easy and accurate fit for a wide range of head sizes. Add in a micro-adjustable dial for on-the-fly adjustability and you're ensured an easy, secure, and accurate fit.
4th Dimension Cooling System optimizes ventilation.
In-molded shell improves strength and reduces weight.
Reflective decals for increased visibility in low-light conditions.
Rate the product for quality of construction:
A quality lid with no obvious shortcuts to its low price tag.
Rate the product for performance:
Mips safety and good ventilation.
Rate the product for durability:
The helmet still looks like new, but I've only been testing it for a couple of months.
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
A little on the heavy side.
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
Very comfortable and easy to adjust.
Rate the product for value:
It's £25 less than the Abus Macator MIPS helmet and £15 less than the non-Mips Endura Tract Helmet II. It's probably the best value Mips helmet around.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
In terms of safety the helmet fits the bill – it comes with Mips so you get the extra benefit of protection against rotational forces. It's also comfortable, easy to adjust and the ventilation is good.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It looks like a more expensive helmet.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The previous generation Align was a 4 star rating – Stu praised everything but its ventilation, which he didn't think was that good. With the Align II, ventilation appears to have been improved (well, I didn't have an issue with it), and it now features the added safety of Mips. It also looks much smarter. If the helmet was a bit lighter I wouldn't hesitate to give it a 5 star rating, but 4.5 seems about right to me.
Age: 39 Height: 6'4 Weight: 175lbs
I usually ride: Condor Italia RC custom build My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, mtb,
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