The Specialized Gambit delivers heavyweight protection in an impressively lightweight package.
If the extra weight, bulk, and feeling of confinement puts you off wearing a full-face helmet, then let me introduce you to the Specialized Gambit. Just a few hundred grams heavier than most open-face shells, and with copious ventilation, you don’t have to give up that feeling of freedom to gain a useful level of additional protection.
If you think about it, wearing an open-face lid for most of the trails we ride now is nuts. After all, the typical off-piste enduro trails are steeper, rougher and faster than the downhill tracks of 15 years ago, yet no one would have raced those without a full-face.
Given how frequently most riders visit a bike park, investing in one of the best full-face helmets on the market is something we should all be doing.
The first time I picked up the Gambit I was shocked by the lack of mass. For something so big, it’s impressively light. Weighing in at 631g it’s around 100g lighter than my similar Troy Lee Designs Stage helmet and 200g lighter than the latest Fox Proframe V2. Only the Dainese Linea 01 undercuts it at the scales. And the Gambit’s reduction in weight is noticeable.
What this means is you don’t have to use your neck muscles so much to keep your head stable on long, rough descents.
Another massive advantage with the Gambit compared to numerous other lightweight full-face options is that it incorporates a 360º retention device, instead of simply using different size pads to adjust the fit. Not only does this give more even pressure on your skull, it means you can easily release the tension and increase the circumference of the band to make it really easy to take off and put on. With other helmets you’re often crushing your head and folding your ears to get them on and off at the uplift, but not with the Specialized. Even better; the dial for the SBC Fit System is integrated into one of the rear helmet vents, so it’s sleek, unobtrusive and easy to access.
Inside there’s thin padding and a waif-like MIPs SL liner to protect against rotational injuries. Different size cheek pads are included to help customise the fit at the jaw, and the chin strap uses a quick-release buckle, rather than a double-D loop, to further facilitate quick ingress and egress.
Proliferating the carbon shell, and energy-absorbing foam of varying densities, are a profusion of channels, holes and vents. According to Specialized, these are optimised using Computational Fluid Dynamics. There’s also a cavernous opening to the front, and gaping mouth and cheek holes. And all that work has paid off, because airflow is the only breathtaking part of riding in summer alpine conditions. Vision is equally unobstructed by either the jaw guard or the fixed peak, and the overall experience is akin to riding in an open-face helmet. Until, or course, the worst happens and you have the protection of a fully DH-certified helmet to keep you safe.
Impressively light and airy compared to similarly priced rivals, the Specialized Gambit is easy to take on and off, comfortable for long days in the mountains, good looking, and packed with tech. Better still, the black version, tested here, is currently on sale for a scant £125.