While Specialized are mainly known for their extensive bike portfolio, the American manufacturer also has a massive collection of soft goods. The Gambit is the lightweight full-face helmet in their portfolio, and was designed to provide the highest possible level of comfort and ventilation without compromising on protection.
Straight out of the box, the Specialized Gambit stands out for its compact dimensions, looking rather small against the majority of full-face helmets. It’s far less bulky than the other helmets in this test, and features a lot of vents, especially around the chin bar. While it’s the lightest helmet with a fixed chinbar in the entire test field, at just 717 g in size L, it still complies with the ASTM certification for downhill helmets. The adjustment dial is neatly integrated into the shell of the € 360 Specialized Gambit, discreetly tucked away inside the rear ventilation hole, allowing you to adjust the fit of the helmet without having a massive adjustment mechanism resting against the back of your head. Furthermore, the Gambit full-face helmet comes standard with two different cheek pad formats, which allow you to fine-tune the fit to suit your facial anatomy. The visor of the gambit is fixed and can’t be adjusted in height. The shell consists of different types of EPS foam, which are strategically placed around the helmet. A floating, lightweight MIPS SL liner inside the helmet is meant to dissipate the rotational forces generated in a crash. As an additional safety feature, you can install Specialized’s ANGi sensor to the back of the helmet, which is programmed to detect a crash and notify a pre-selected emergency contact using the Specialized Ride App shell – a very useful feature, especially if you’re accident prone, or like to ride solo.
The Specialized Gambit is a rather large fit, with size M proving the better choice for our test riders with 61 cm head circumference – that’s despite Specialized’s size chart recommending a size L. Furthermore, the overall shape is quite oval, meaning that the retaining system tightens more against the sides of the head than on the forehead or the rear of the occipital base. As a result, some of our testers found that the Gambit provides a very tight fit on the temples, but still has play at the back of the head. Even if you manage to dial a snug fit, the Gambit’s relatively loose, sitting on top of the head rather than enclosing it – not especially confidence inspiring. On top of that, the cheek pads are far too thin, failing to prevent the hemet from wobbling around. Unfortunately, the chin straps add to the feeling of discomfort on the trail – they’re cut too close to the ears, rubbing uncomfortably as the helmet moves. That said, the countless vent holes make the Gambit a very airy riding companion, even on challenging summer climbs. The rear ventilation holes allow you to hear what’s happening around you without causing annoying wind noise.
The Specialized Gambit is a compact lightweight full-face helmet and also the lightest competitor in this test. With its MIPS SL liner and ANGI sensor, it offers some very useful safety features. However, our testers didn’t get along with the elongated shape and uneven fit, both of which affected their confidence on the trail. On the other hand, the Gambit is very well ventilated and doesn’t isolate you from the outside world, keeping you aware of what’s happening on the trail, without spoiling the ride experience with annoying wind noises.
- Compact dimensions
- Discreetly integrated features
- Chin straps rub against the ears
- Loose fit
- Doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence
For more information, visit specialized.com.
For an overview of the group test: 9 lightweight and convertible full-face mountain bike helmets in review
All fullface helmets in test: Bell Super Air R Spherical (Click for review) | Bluegrass Vanguard Core Edition (Click for review) | Fox Proframe RS (Click for review) | Giro Insurgent (Click for review) | MET Parachute MCR (Click for review) | POC Otocon Race MIPS (Click for review) | Specialized Gambit | Troy Lee Designs Stage (Click for review) | Uvex Revolt MIPS (Click for review)
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Words: Simon Kohler Photos: Peter Walker