Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review! The Specialized S-works TT

If you follow the blog at all you know I'm a fan of *cool* kit. When I learned that the Mclaren helmet was going to be brought to the masses (albeit a slightly stripped down and revamped version for we non-professionals) I knew I had to have one. So I saddled up to my local Specialized store and put my name down to get one of these bad boys the way God and Henry Ford intended... black.

S-works Xenomorph edition

Alien jokes aside (seriously...) this is not just a fast helmet, but also a pretty luxurious one. Sort of like the BMW M5 of aero helmets. I've been racing in it for a couple of months now, so I think I can give some moderately long term thoughts on it. So without further ado, on to the review (heh... that's kinda catchy...) 


If you're interested in the helmet you have probably read the technical stuff already. A little over a minute (62 seconds) better than a road helmet in a 40k is what the big "S" claims. Of course, that kind of claim doesn't really mean anything to us in a practical sense, what I want to know is... is it faster FOR ME than my other helmet choices. Unfortunately most of us don't have a terribly good way to test a wide range of helmets before we lay down our hard earned cash for them... so we have to guess. The key is to make educated guesses. If you're willing to wade through a lot of posts on sites like Slowtwitch it's easy to figure out what helmets are generally "safe bets" and which ones are much more of a crap shoot. For those of you that are too lazy to do that, let me rehash. 

- Specialized TT
- LG P-09
- Giro A2 / Selector
- Bell Javelin
- Lazer Wasp

Are all pretty universally good/ok. After that, it comes down to who you believe about what. I figured that Specialized had put a good amount of work into the TT, and I thought it looked cool, so that's what I went with. After some aerolab work, I concluded it was faster than both my Selector and my Bambino, so it turns out I guessed pretty well. I had planned to run a visor on whatever helmet I chose and had read from pretty reliable 3rd parties (Erosports) that Specialized's claim of aero neutrality was pretty much spot on. (Most helmets are worse with visors, at least older ones)

At $300, it's certainly not a cheap piece of kit, especially when you consider helmets like the A2 often go on sale for around $50. However, it is certainly "competitively" priced when comparing it to other "superhelmets" out there. Like anything when it comes to cycling and/or triathlon, the definition of "worth it" and "value" is written in very, very light pencil.

C'mon, I look like I'm about chase space marines through a deserted colony, right? 

Heating / Comfort

Often an important component when people buy helmets of any sort is the comfort level and how hot it gets on a sunny day. Just being honest, this is an absolutely terrible category for me to comment on, because I have never noted a big difference in the heat of a helmet and I don't look for comfort as part of my aero helmet purchasing reasoning. Most of the aero helmets I've ever owned have been on the verge of being too small (for less surface area) and pretty tight. That said, the TT is a pretty plush helmet in my opinion. The dial ratchet lets you very easily get the "perfect" fit and the padding is adequate for a lightweight aero lid. (It also comes packaged with more padding for those who need it) As far as the heating element... I *think* it is cooler than my Selector was, but that may just be my imagination. I certainly wouldn't classify it as "hot" despite the sparse ventilation.

In Action

In the end, the value of this helmet (or any of it's competition) is based purely on whether or not is saves seconds vs. whatever else you are using. I can't tell you what you are willing to spend in a $/watt ratio... or even what you would save vs. your current aero lid, so it's difficult to quantify. For me, it was a significant improvement over my Selector and Bambino, which were both pretty fast helmets for me, so I think it was money well spent. As far as the actual "accessories" that come with the helmet you get two visors (clear and smoked... sadly no mirror option is available currently) and considering a new visor for my Bambino was nearly $100 I feel like Specialized hooked buyers up in that regard. (they sell replacement shields for $45) It also includes the soft shell case that Specialized sells for $80, so at least you are getting some goodies with your helmet.


If you are looking for a new lid that looks cool and is frequently fast testing on an array of people, it's hard to not at least have the TT in the discussion. It's easy enough to get on/off for it to work in a Triathlon, and the shortened tail shouldn't punish you very much for not holding a tight position. I will wear the helmet until something faster comes along (the new Giro is interesting) and that is pretty much the way I feel about all my equipment. For now from my own testing, this is my fastest option, and so I am ecstatic to be racing in it!

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

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