The impressive showcase of deep-dish protection impressive ventilation, neat fit and glasses stowage of the Specialized Ambush 2 helmet has been transferred into the affordable new Camber. This means kids, big heads or those strapped for cash can still look Enduro and get full MIPS protection. Here's everything you need to know, including where it features on our list of the best mountain bike helmets.
As you’d expect for a really well-priced helmet, the design isn’t as feature-filled as the $180 / £150 Specialized Ambush 2 helmet. Despite thicker, singled-density EPS foam it’s actually lighter and, thanks to the big bright yellow MIPS slip shell inside and careful crash modeling, it still gets a maximum 'Five Star' rating from the Virginia Tech independent safety lab. Very impressively, for the price, you get a full hardshell wrap, which improves strength and safety and keeps it looking good if knocked or dropped when you’re not wearing it.
While most brands reduce the sizing options on cheaper helmets to get a scale of production advantage, Specialized offers the Camber in five genuinely different shell sizes (not different-sized cradles in the same shell). That means a fit for everyone from kids to really big riders and, while it’s not height adjustable, the dial-altered cradle gave a secure-and-comfortable fit for all our testers. The dial is hidden inside the cradle to reduce the chance of damage or accidental release and there’s a mount point for Specialized’s add-on ANGI crash beacon. There is potentially a lot of plastic on head contact across the cradle and MIPS liner though which bald heads will be aware of in hotter conditions.
Specialized hasn’t just borrowed styling from the Ambush and Tactic lids though, the company has also managed to squeeze some of the same internal channel profiling inside the Camber. Smaller, fewer vents all round, and the big MIPS sheet mean it’s not as obviously breezy as the two more expensive helmets but it’s still comfortable for an Enduro style deep coverage helmet at such a keen cost.
While the Camber doesn’t get the little rubber retention flaps and arm-angling ramp that Specialized’s design team is so proud of on the Ambush 2, you get the same temple vent positions and high-set, fixed peak. That means if you’re careful to slide the tips of the arms between the MIPS liner and the foam body (you’ll probably need to take the helmet off) it actually holds inverted glasses as well as its more expensive sibling. They’ll still stay in place, even on the move, but the arm tips can press into your temples a bit.
The Camber visor is shorter and more rounded than the Ambush 2 and, again, it doesn’t offer shade beyond the brow and it’s non-adjustable for angle. It’s bang-on in terms of contemporary flat-top styling though and big vents mean it doesn’t interrupt airflow whatever angle your head is at. It’s lighter than an adjustable peak though, it won't flap up when on the move and it pops off more easily in a crash. If that happens and you can’t find it afterwards, replaceable peaks are available in all seven colorways, which is another impressive detail on such an affordable helmet.
Like most Enduro-style helmets, there’s some ventilation compromise (especially at lower speeds) compared to the best XC helmets. But for the category and cost, the Camber is impressively comfortable (especially at higher speeds). Some people will see the fixed, largely decorative visor as a negative rather than a simpler, more secure positive.
What really makes it stand out though is the excellent MIPS-boosted protection ratings, the full range of real sizes, secure-and-easy fit and contemporary styling in a wide color palette. In other words, if you’re fighting to get a lid onto your kids, the Camber is going to break down a lot of barriers and if you’re on a tight budget you’re going to feel a lot breezier and steezier than most options. While it might not matter to you as much as it clearly does to Specialized, you’re not going to lose your stowed specs out of it either.
Tech Specs: Specialized Camber helmet
- Price: $80 / £70 / €85 / AU$120
- Weight: 371g (Medium 55-59cm)
- Sizes: 5 (XS, S, M, L, XL)
- Colors: 7