By Joshua Cohen
Note: In October 2007 we published our review of Specialized’s top-of-the-line S-Works 2D road helmet. Within 24 hours Specialized asked us to pull it from the site because the company was recalling the helmet. There was a safety concern with the buckle.
We complied and then watched Specialized do a spectacular job of customer service for cyclists who had bought a 2D helmet. They were quickly given a Specialized Decibel helmet after returning their 2D. Later they also were sent a new, updated version of the 2D along with a specially designed hardshell case that’s only available as an aftermarket item for new helmet buyers.
Here are the post-recall changes to this helmet:
- The model name is no longer 2D. It now is simply the S-Works helmet. The name change has to do with regulations involving recalls.
- The buckle has been replaced with a stronger model that is also used for the Decibel.
- The webbings (straps) have been replaced with a slightly heavier type like that in the Decibel.
- The cS” in the mouthport is made from a more durable material.
These changes add about 10 unnoticeable grams to the original 2D helmet. Specialized continues to claim that this helmet is the lightest CPSC-certified helmet on the market.
What follows is our original review, modified as necessary for the new version. But except as just noted, much remains the same. Our favorable impression of this helmet has not changed.
Weight-weenies and riders who want to feel as though they aren’t wearing a helmet can rejoice. The new Specialized S-Works helmet ranks among the lightest safety-certified skid lids in cycling. The size medium I tested weighs in at 245 grams without the included snap-on visor.
AT $210, the S-Work’s price is a bit under $1 per gram. But this helmet is more than just amazingly light. Specialized has taken the design and construction steps necessary for the S-Work to meet impact standards set by CPSC, SNELL B90A, CE and AS/NZS.
The original name, 2D, refers to the dual-density EPS foam chosen to improve performance and save weight. The foam on the sides is a higher density to improve impact protection, while the top has a lower density to save weight. Another confidence-enhancing feature is Specialized’s integrated Kevlar-reinforced Inner Matrix to help hold the helmet together during a crash.
The Kevlar reinforcement also allows vents to be larger. The Mega Mouthport in front and deep channeling, combined with rear exhaust ports, kept my head cool during hard efforts in North Carolina’s warm and humid September.
The slimmed-down Pro Fit 360 retention system forms a ring around the forehead and leaves a small gap that increases air circulation. The fit is comfortable but secure, so much so that I found the helmet difficult to pull off even without the chinstrap fastened. Finger tabs let you easily tighten or loosen the fit while riding.
The straps are molded into the helmet, a good feature for several reasons. It minimizes strap length (another weight saver), it reduces strap contact (straps insert into the middle of the foam to keep them off your face), and it eliminates anchors on top of the helmet, which can be snag points in a crash. The only downside to this molded-in design is that you can’t replace the straps if you cut one too short. So like a good carpenter, be sure to measure twice.
On The Road
In your hands or on your head, this helmet feels nearly weightless. I didn’t have any complaints about my personal helmet, a Giro Pneumo, which is also light and comfortable. Yet the S-Works felt even lighter, and on fast descents it almost had lift with so much air channeling through the copious vents.
According to experts, helmets should slide smoothly in a crash, not stop suddenly. Makes sense. But like many contemporary helmets, the rear of the S-Works incorporates a “tail” design that could be a snag point when hitting theground at a certain angle. This hasn’t affected the ability of helmets with tails to pass safety tests.
The other possible negative has to do with those increasingly big, air-channeling vents favored by all helmet makers. For riders with less than a full head of hair, some type of skull covering will be necessary on long rides to protect against sunburn (and potential skin cancer) or at the least a weird tan pattern. Wearing a cap or bandana, however, negates the wonderful cooling of the huge vents..
The S Works is an uber-light helmet that incorporates innovative features to produce comfort, a secure fit and certifiable safety. It’s expensive but also laden with leading-edge features.
Joshua Cohen is a physical therapist and designer of the Kontact Saddle. He wrote his graduate thesis on male ergonomic bicycle seat design. Then, distilling his voluminous scholarly research, he wrote Finding the Perfect Bicycle Seat and, more recently, The Illustrated Guide to Bicycle Seats. Both eBooks are available in the RBR eBookstore.