Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet review: Fast, with an added dose of cool

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Specialized introduced its original S-Works Evade aero road helmet in 2013, and the fact that it has soldiered on unchanged since then is a testament to how well it worked. Five years on, it still finishes at least mid-pack in most third-party wind tunnel tests relative to other, newer, aero road helmet competition.

But that original Evade was never widely lauded for its ventilation, particularly at low-to-medium speeds, and Specialized has finally paid the old workhorse some attention for 2018. The new Evade II isn’t said to be dramatically more aerodynamic, but the claimed improvement in airflow will supposedly make it better suited for everyday use than before.

Related: Specialized has also released the new S-Works 7 road shoes, and we have full details along with early impressions.

“Be as fast as possible, but also as cool as possible.”

That was Specialized’s internal mandate for the new S-Works Evade II aero road helmet. It sounds simple enough, but balancing those two attributes is easier said than done.

According to Chris Yu, Specialized’s director of integrated technologies, the Evade II’s revised shape actually began with the company’s S-Works TT lid. From there, various bits were lopped off to make it more suitable for road use, and then the designers got to work further refining the shape. The end result sports a more cohesively rounded and smooth exterior than before, along with 10mm less length on average. Compared to the original Evade, the claimed aerodynamic benefit is six seconds over the course of a 40km-long time trial.

Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet
The new Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet is a tad more aerodynamic than before, but more importantly, it’s also better ventilated, at least according to Specialized.

That sleeker exterior comes at the expense of vent count — there are 17 on the original S-Works Evade and 13 on the Evade II — but Yu says that it’s the helmet’s more sculpted internal shaping that nevertheless delivers better cooling.

On the old Evade, three channels funneled incoming air across the top of the rider’s head and out the back. But on the Evade II, there are five channels, with more attention now paid to how air flows along the sides of the head, too. Up front, the padding sports an enlarged gap between the helmet’s expanded polystyrene liner and the forehead, too, a feature that I’ve always found to dramatically improve ventilation performance in that area.

Aero helmets often perform pretty well in terms of ventilation when moving through the air at higher speeds, however; it’s often due to how poorly they let hot air passively escape when moving at lower speeds (like on a steep climb) that force riders to reach for a more traditional lid when they know the road will head skyward.

Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet
As compared to the original S-Works Evade (at right), the new S-Works Evade II doesn’t look nearly as busy.

Specialized nevertheless insists that the new Evade II has the old model beat in that respect, too, although it’s hard to see how that might be based only on appearances. But that said, most riders who have spent time in the old Evade would probably agree that even a modest gain in that department would constitute a big step up.

Other features include the same thin-line webbing and non-adjustable Tri-Fix splitters, a handy magnetic buckle, and a move to dual-density foam that improves both impact absorption and weight. No MIPS-equipped version is planned for now, although Specialized promises “more info to come soon”, which suggests that a second version — or perhaps even Specialized’s own take on the concept — is forthcoming.

Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet
Dual-density foam allows for slightly lower weights and a trimmer profile.

Fans of other aero road helmets such as the Giro Vanquish and Bell Star Pro will note that Specialized also didn’t bother with an integrated visor for the new Evade II. According to Yu, in-house wind tunnel testing suggested that there wasn’t a substantial drag difference between a visor and traditional glasses, so the company opted to stick with the traditional route.

“The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.”

Retail price is US$250 / AU$350 for the new S-Works Evade II; other international figures are still to be confirmed. Three sizes will be offered for each of the five color options. Actual weight for a small, CPSC-approved sample is 268g – 10g lighter than the previous version.

Evading the heat

Specialized is clearly most proud of the ventilation improvements on the new S-Works Evade II, but to be perfectly frank, it was impossible for me to gauge that improvement given that the initial testing occurred in the middle of the Colorado winter. It’s been a rather mild winter, mind you, but an Indian summer isn’t the same as an actual summer, so I’ll have to wait until the Earth’s axis tilts us more directly toward the sun before I can provide any real firsthand insight in that area.

Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet
Whereas the previous Evade had three primary internal channels to help funnel air through the helmet, the new one has five. More attention has been paid to how air flows over the sides of the head than before, too.

The new helmet does look better to my eye, though, and I especially appreciate the more “normal” shape. Ten millimeters doesn’t sound like much — and it isn’t — but the Evade II’s more elegant tail is certainly less weird than the one on the original Evade.

Comfort-wise, it’s basically a wash. Specialized uses the same ovoid headform for the Evade II, which I’ve always found to work quite well for my egg-shaped noggin. The new retention system is anchored at different points within the EPS liner, but it’s effectively the same unit as it was before, with the same height tunability, dial-type tightness adjustment, and identical contact points on the back of your head. The padding is obviously specific to the two helmets, too, but given the similar contact points and surface areas, even that aspect feels similar.

Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet
The second-generation S-Works Evade II aero road helmet gets a handy magnetic buckle, along with the same fixed splitters and thinline webbing. You’ll have to add the sweat stains yourself, however.

I will say, however, that the new helmet seems a little better at decreasing wind noise than the original Evade, which is impressive given that the original was already quite good at cutting down the din. I would expect the Evade II to hold up better over time, too, given that it finally has a covered lower edge instead of the exposed foam of the first-generation Evade.

So is the new Evade really better than the old one? Sadly, it’s too early to tell. Stay tuned.

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