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Specialized Gambit full-face helmet review: a lightweight option with premium touches

Specialized’s distinctive-looking, super-light Gambit full-face enduro helmet is as radical inside as out. We’ve been riding hard in it for months to see how it performs

Specialized Gambit full-face helmet
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Full-face DH protection with the weight and fresh air flow of an open face lid puts Specialized’s Gambit at the top of our premium enduro helmet rankings in terms of protection and all day comfort

For

  • - Very light
  • - Full DH safety certification
  • - Excellent ventilation
  • - Fixed peak
  • - 3D-adjustable cradle

Against

  • - High price
  • - Fixed peak
  • - Sparse ‘XC’ interior might scare some

The distinctive aesthetics and sparse interior of Specialized’s radical Gambit full-face enduro helmet split opinions of our testers when we first unboxed it. However, as soon as we pulled it on and hit the trails, the neck friendly and securely safe performance made us rethink all our previous best enduro helmet benchmarks. That means a perfect five/five score was a unanimous call despite the high price. 

Specialized Gambit full-face helmet

The minimalist design and carbon fibre shell also mean a weight of just over 600g for our medium (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Design

The distinctive looks of the Gambit are only possible because of the carbon-fiber-reinforced shell that allows big holes and gaps without compromising strength. This includes a massive mouth vent and big cheek slots that mean completely uninterrupted breaking and none of the hot, stale air blowback you can get from some of the best full-face MTB helmets. Big front and top vents lead into wide internal channels so there’s a lot of air rammed over your scalp before being pulled out of a gallery of upper and lower exhaust vents. 

The strength of the carbon-fiber shell means Specialized only needs to use a very thin layer of EPS shock-absorbing foam inside. It’s segmented into five pieces of different densities to manage the likely impact type in each zone,  so it’s just the bulk and weight that’s reduced not the protection. It’s got a mount point for Specialized’s ANGI emergency crash sensing beacon, too, although you need to buy that as an add-on.

Specialized Gambit full-face helmet

The helmet secures to your head via vertical slider adjuster (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Unlike the heavily padded interior of most full-face helmets, the inside of the Gambit looks like it’s been burgled, too. There are two relatively chunky switchable cheek pads, but the rest of the padding arrangement looks more like one of the best XC helmets. The skinny pads are backed with a slippery surface and anchored with elastomer stretch loops, too, so they actually form the ‘MIPS SL’ rotation protection layer. 

A minimalist trail/XC style cradle with clip-lock buckle secures the helmet on your head via vertical slider adjustment and a dial embedded in the rear of the shell. This all helps boost airflow so it’s super comfortable to wear however long the ride or high the work rate. Even though ears are fully enclosed, the lack of padding translates into noticeably less muffled hearing than most full-face helmets It’s still calmer and quieter than an open shell though.

Specialized Gambit full-face helmet

The strength of the carbon-fiber shell means Specialized only needs to use a very thin layer of EPS shock-absorbing foam inside (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Performance

The minimalist design and carbon fibre shell also mean a weight of just over 600g for our medium sample (actually lighter than Specialized claim). That’s lighter than some open face helmets and a neck saver on successive heavy landings or just long days on the hills. 

If we had to pick fault the high, fixed position visor won’t please everyone as it doesn’t actually offer any weather protection. It’s designed to come off easily in a crash, gives plenty of goggle room and it won’t come loose and/or flip up like an air brake without you realising so there are pros as well as cons. 

While it’s not a performance based issue there are some riders who just won’t like the sparse nature of the interior compared to the cheek-squishing claustrophobia and D-ring fiddle of a motorbike style lid either. Others will always be prepared to risk their teeth and jaw rather than wear a full face, too, but that’s their decision.

Specialized Gambit full-face helmet

Big front and top vents lead into wide internal channels (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

There's a ton of clever tech to talk about with Specialized’s Gambit helmet but the bottom line is that it delivers full DH protection while venting, breathing and weighing almost the same as an open-face helmet. That means that while most full-face helmets I get to test end up gathering dust after the appraisal period I regularly grab the Gambit for even slightly risky rides.

The level of performance and the amount I’ve used it (and leant it out to other equally impressed riders) removes any quibbles about the cost, too. After all, a helmet that means you’re riding with maximum protection more of the time surely has to be one of the smartest investments possible. 

Tech Specs: Specialized Gambit full-face helmet

  • Price: $300 / £295 
  • Weight: 615g (size medium) 
  • Sizes: Small, medium, large
  • Colors: Black, oak green, dove grey/maroon, white/sage

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg