All-singing, all-dancing trail helmet from Specialized might just be overshadowed by its cheaper sibling.
Currently Specialized offers three open face mountain bike helmets – the Ambush 2, the Tactic and the Camber. I just tested the Camber a few months back and rated it excellent value for a lightweight trail helmet. With its fixed visor and dropped rear section, the Ambush 2 has an identical aesthetic, but in terms of cost there’s quite a big jump.
The key difference between the Camber and Ambush 2 is the latter has a more sophisticated dual-density EPS construction. Like most dual density lids there’s a tough EPS placed at some of the key impact zones, and a lightweight, low-bulk EPS elsewhere. It makes sense because there’s no reason to carry weight where it’s not needed, but in the scheme of things we’re only talking about a roughly 40g saving.
The other key difference is the Integrated Fit system – it has a similar ratchet dial to the Camber, but this one sits up in the EPS shell. It’s better protected and looks neat, but I find this design to be a bit fiddly to find when trying to make an adjustment when riding. The dial takes up slack quickly and the retention device also cups the occipital bun (that’s the ridge at the back of your head) better than the Camber, and overall, this helmet generally feels more stable and more secure.
To add protection, the Ambush 2 has a similar MIPS SL liner, which helps offset those nasty rotational impacts. It gets lightweight padding, which again doesn’t claim to be antibacterial, but it does soak up plenty of sweat. The helmet is also pretty well ventilated with 4D brow cooling and integrated vents on the front and rear. To keep the forward vents open, Specialized is also using the same fixed visor. There’s not quite enough room to stash a pair goggles underneath, but Specialized adds two rubber pads beneath the visor creating a storage solution for your eyewear – these pads simply grip the arms of your riding glasses.
On paper the updates and improvements are significant, but in the real world both helmets felt remarkably similar and I found it difficult to justify the extra cost of the Ambush 2. It’s definitely comfortable and well ventilated, and the fit is excellent, but it’s just not as good value as the Camber.