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Specialized Tactic 4 mountain bike helmet review

The Specialized Tactic 4 helmet is designed to keep e-bikers, enduro riders and other hard and fast haulers safe, cool and comfortable, but does its performance meet its intentions?

A blue Specialized Tactic 4 mountain bike helmet pictured from the side with a Bike Perfect 'recommends' logo overlaid
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Great fit, fancy styling and next-level protection, but ventilation depends on velocity and the high, fixed peak is more decorative than practical.

For

  • - Excellent deep-dish protection
  • - MIPS Exceed and NTA 8776 safety standards
  • - Good high-speed air con
  • - Excellent three-size fit
  • - Plays well with glasses or goggles
  • - Six different color options

Against

  • - Limited low-speed venting
  • - High, fixed peak is mostly decorative

Specialized’s fourth-generation Tactic has been redesigned for increasing and improving airflow for higher speed enduro and e-bike riders, and to work better with stowed glasses or goggles. 

An increase in coverage means reduced low-speed ventilation though, and the fixed position peak is too high to serve much practical purpose. 

Have these updates been the right tactic by Specialized to compete with the best mountain bike helmets? Read on to find out.

Design and aesthetics

While Specialized normally strikes out on its own styling route, the high peak that fits flush with the crown of the Tactic 4 is very reminiscent of the latest Leatt lids, while the broad bars between a few large vents are straight out of the recent Scott Stego playbook. 

The internal cradle is Specialized’s proven Integrated Fit System (IFS) however, with the adjustment dial embedded in the rear body of the helmet. The high peak overshadows multiple front vents, which link into broad internal air channels, leading to three upper exhaust vents with another three around the nape of the helmet to draw air through. 

This ‘inside out’ design helps maintain airflow under the MIPS Exceed cradle at the rear, and the front of the MIPS sheer sheet is cut away to reduce interference too. 

The Tactic 4 also exceeds the higher safety/impact NTA-8776 standard required for e-bike certification and fared well in the independent Virginia Tech test lab.

Picture of the vents on the top of the Specialized Tactic 4 mountain bike helmet

There are multiple front vents which channel air across the top of the head when moving at speed (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

The broad center bar means there are only two medium crown vents, and just one in each of the deep sides. The helmet sides and back are profiled for goggle straps, and the two front flank vents are designed as docks for inverted glasses. 

The peak leaves plenty of room for goggles underneath too, and the fixed design stops any worries about it slipping or flipping up, but Specialized says it will still rip off easily in a crash. The multi-section hardshell includes a full wrap of the underside for cosmetic protection, too.

Performance

Specialized has been dialing in its bike helmet fit and security since the 1980s, so it’s no surprise the Tactic 4 sat comfortably and securely on most of the heads of our testers with no pressure points and minimal tension in the IFS cradle. The wide strap yoke reduces wind flutter and ear interference as well. Three different shell sizes mean you’re more likely to get an accurate fit with minimal external bulk, and it’s relatively light for a deep-dish helmet.

The front-loaded, internal channel venting architecture relies on you being head up and moving quickly to generate a good through draft though, and that’s not really when you’re likely to need cooling. In contrast, we found there was very little scalp draft or cooling effect when we were crawling uphill, head down which was precisely when we needed it most. 

That’s even more noticeable if you’ve got your goggles sitting under the peak, as that covers the lower front vents, making the lack of crown and side vents even more obvious. To be fair we’re noticing that more and more with the latest generation of helmets, and we’re generally accepting it as just a side effect of increased protection, which is ultimately a good thing.

While Specialized says it tested optimal peak position with a large pool of riders and chose the position that was unanimously loved, it’s so high that you can barely see it protruding beyond the brow of the helmet shell. As the mid and rear of the peak are mostly open to direct air into the upper vents, that means it’s actually providing very little practical sun or rain protection, rendering it mostly decorative.

A picture showing the MIPS liner and padding on the inside of the Specialized Tactic 4 mountain bike helmet reviewed

There's a MIPS liner on the inside of the Tactic 4 (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

Specialized’s new Tactic 4 fits great and gives next-level protection for those who are likely to go down hard but don’t want to wear a full-face helmet. 

It plays nicely with goggles and glasses too, and it’s a reasonable price for the level of features. Slow-speed ventilation isn’t great though, and the fixed peak doesn’t really serve much practical purpose.

Tech Specs: Specialized Tactic 4

  • Price: $130 / £100
  • Sizes: S (50-56cm), M (55-59cm), L (58-62cm) 
  • Rotational protection: MIPS
  • Colors: Black, White, Dove Gray, Doppio, Cast Blue, Oak Green
  • Weight: 
Guy Kesteven

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 got an archaeology degree out of Exeter University, spent a few years digging about in medieval cattle markets, 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 coughed out a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too. We trust Guy's opinion and think you should, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel Ltd MTBs, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Cannondale Supersix Evo Dura-Ace Di2 Disc road bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg