- Specialized Decibel helmet
It’s hard not to be impressed by the effort that Specialized goes to in designing helmets. It even has its own in-house wind-tunnel (albeit only a small one) to help the designers to improve the ventilation and cooling of their lids. And as well as being impact-tested in-house, the top of the range Decibel helmet also carries Snell B.90 certification. This was commonplace not ever so many years ago, but these days most helmets have only been tested to the not-quite-as-demanding EN1078 standard. That’s not to say that other helmets don’t provide as much protection, but really you’ve no way of knowing.
The battle that the helmet designer has to face is getting enough vents and air channels in to keep the rider’s head cool, while keeping the whole thing strong enough to meet whatever standard the manufacturer has chosen to go with, making it look good and keeping the weight down. It takes some deft juggling. The Decibel is helped along by Specialized’s Innermatrix construction. Inside the helmet there’s a carbon-reinforced web acting as a kind of skeleton to hold it all together. This allows the main vents to be bigger and the internal channels to be deeper, and the result is a helmet that’s among the coolest out there. In theory, the white colour option pictured should be a bit cooler out in the sun than the red or blue versions, but we doubt there’s actually a noticeable difference.
Obviously the strongest, coolest helmet in the world is no use if it doesn’t fit your head. Everyone’s got some sort of adjustable retention system these days, and Specialized’s Pro Fit is as good as any. We particularly like the strap design – they’re solidly attached within the helmet shell (like Giro’s Xen) rather than being threaded through inside, which in combination with the quick-release strap adjusters makes for quick and easy adjustment that stays put. As an added bonus, this style of strap doesn’t sit against the side of your face so it’s relatively immune from getting all sweaty and salt-encrusted.
There’s a stubby visor that clips on to the front – easy to remove if you don’t want it, seems to stay put if you do but tends to pop off if you crash (a good thing – a too-solid visor could push the helmet around on your head). In typical Specialized helmet style, it’s quite rounded and narrow around the edges and can look a bit “perched” if you’ve got a tall head, but we’re into the realms of subjectivity here.
Positives: Light, cool, easy to adjust, stays put, tested to higher standards than most.
Negatives: Looks a bit odd on some people
Verdict: The obvious rival for the Decibel is Giro’s E2. The E2 is one of our very favourite lids, but from the inside the Decibel’s at least as good. To our eyes the E2’s better looking, but we’re not going to pretend that our tastes mirror everyone else’s and there’s no denying that the Decibel benefits from a few years of technology advances over Giro’s now fairly venerable offering.