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Review: Specialized Ambush 2 Helmet

Mar 8, 2022
by Mike Kazimer  
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Specialized's Ambush helmet has long been a favorite among mountain bikers – the previous version was light, well ventilated, and didn't look too outlandish. Version 2.0 aims to keep that trend going, although this is much more than a slight revision. The Ambush received a complete overhaul, and it's really only the name that's the same.

The overall look isn't that far off from the recently released Tactic helmet – the larger vents on the side of the Ambush are what visually set the two helmets apart. The Ambush's visor is fixed in place on each side and at the top of the helmet, and is designed to break away in the event of a crash. If it does break away, and assuming the rest of the helmet hasn't been damaged, it's easy to pop back into place.
Specialized Ambush 2 Details
• MIPS SL low-friction liner
• Dual density EPS foam
• ANGi crash sensor compatible
• Dedicated glasses slots
• Weight: 360 grams (size M, actual)
• Five star Virginia Tech rating, CPSC certified
Colors: black, white, red, deep marine, wild dove grey, white sage
• MSRP: $180 USD
specialized.com

The Ambush is equipped with MIPS SL, which uses a plastic slip plane on the back of each pad. Rubber bands attach the pads to the inner portion of the helmet with velcro. It's a less bulky, and quieter, solution than the less expensive version that uses a sheet of plastic with pads mounted on top of it. The concept remains the same, though – the plastic is designed to allow the helmet to move more freely during a crash, reducing the amount of rotational forces.

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Dual density EPS foam is used to provide the bulk of the helmet's impact protection, and the entire outer portion is covered with a layer of plastic to help keep it from getting damaged by errant branches, or during transport. The Ambush received a 5 star rating from Virginia Tech, the highest rating possible. According to Virginia Tech, their tests are intended to “evaluate a helmet's ability to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity of the head resulting from a range of head impacts a cyclist might experience.”

A ratcheting dial that's mounted into the back of the helmet is used to adjust the fit, and there's a 5-position 'Occipital Base Adjustment' that changes where the front of the helmet sits in order to ensure there's enough room for glasses and goggles. Speaking of glasses, the Ambush has one of the most secure sunglasses holding systems around. Flip the glasses upside down, stick the arms in to the outermost vents above the forehead and they'll stay put no matter how rough the trail. Little rubber flaps in each vent increase the security even further, and also keeps the arms from rattling around against the helmet.

The Ambush is available in available in sizes S, M, and L and retails for $180 USD. My size medium helmet weighed in at 360 grams.


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The position of the Tri-Fix splitter is adjustable - it can be slid forward or back to keep the strap from digging into a rider's ears.
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A ratcheting dial is integrated into the back of the helmet, and can easily be operated with one hand to adjust the fit around the head.

FIT AND ADJUSTMENTS

The previous Ambush sits at the top of my all-time-favorite helmets list, which means the new version had a very high bar to clear. As far as the overall fit goes, it's comfortable, although not quite as invisible as the previous version – that one cradled the back of my head a little better, and it felt a little lighter, even thought this new version isn't that much heavier. If I was going to hand out a report card on comfort, the previous version would get a solid A, and this new one would get a B+. Of course, fit is a subjective thing, and there's a wide range of head shapes. For what it's worth, my head shape is more watermelon than beach ball, and measures 57 cm in circumference.

The adjustment dial at the back of the helmet is easy to use on the fly, and the base adjustment is a quick and easy way to get the helmet sitting in the right place.


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The MIPS SL system places the plastic slip plane on the back side of each pad.
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The Ambush uses dual density EPS foam.

VENTILATION

Part of my testing took place in Tucson, Arizona, where temperatures hit the mid-80's (29 C). That's about the maximum temperature I can handle before I start to melt, and the Ambush performed well throughout it all. Airflow throught the large front vents was noticeable, and even at slower speeds I never felt like I was overheating, at least not due to the helmet. The brow pad isn't overly thick, but it did its job, and I didn't have any trouble with sweat dripping into my eyes or onto my glasses.

FEATURES

Does the Ambush's visor actually do anything, or is it there purely for fashion's sake? In the name of science, I aimed myself at the sun and removed the visor, and then put it back on again. It turns out, it does block at least some of the glare, although it could obviously block some more if it had downward adjustability. I can see this being a polarizing feature, but for me, I'm fine with where it is – on most helmets I'll raise the visor until it's out of my field of view and never touch it again.

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A small plastic flap keeps the sunglass arms from rattling around when they're being stored.

GLASSES RETENTION

I may not be a visor fiddler, but I do constantly remove my sunglasses (well, they're more like safety glasses in the Pacific Northwest) before a big climb to keep them from fogging up. The Ambush's storage system is hands down the most secure that set up that I've encountered It sometimes took a couple tries to get the glasses into the right slots, but once in place they're not going anywhere. I made sure to do some aggressive headbanging (thank you, Pantera), and the glasses never budged. It's a clever feature, and one that so many other helmets don't get right.


WEIGHT & PRICE

The Ambush's weight is in line with other helmets in this category, and in some cases is a fair bit lighter. The same goes for the $180 price tag - it's not the most expensive, or the least expensive high-end helmet out there. At 360 grams, the Ambush's weight is the same as the recently released Giro Merit helmet ($220), 20 grams lighter than a Fox Speedframe Pro ($170), and 55 grams lighter than a Troy Lee Designs A3 ($220).


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Pros

+ Well ventilated
+ Wide range of fit adjustments
+ Impressively secure sunglasses storage

Cons

- Non-adjustable visor won't be for everyone.
- Not as light as the previous version




Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesThe new Ambush has all the traits you'd hope to find in a modern, high-end trail helmet. There's a wide range of adjustability, good safety features, plenty of ventilation, and the best sunglasses retention around. Its level of comfort doesn't surpass that of the original, but it comes close enough that I'm okay with retiring my well-used (and sort of smelly) Ambush 1 and letting version 2.0 take over.
Mike Kazimer







Author Info:
mikekazimer avatar

Member since Feb 1, 2009
1,754 articles

111 Comments
  • 197 4
 Has anyone ever seen a goblin shark?
  • 14 0
 Seems like it Ambushed itself right from the start….
  • 12 0
 Had to google it but now can't unsee it
  • 5 3
 @KK11: Sure you don't mean jumped the...oh, nevermind. LOL
  • 1 0
 Brilliant.
  • 2 1
 Thanks, that just about ruined it for me. I wonder if Specialized will continue to produce the Ambush 1?
  • 12 3
 LOL! Smile How was "ugly" not in the cons...? Might fit, work, BE the best helmet EVER... but dam that's ugly...

That is textbook design without consideration of use. Actually a lot of bike helmets have that issue, they might look great sitting on a shelf, or while spinning the 3D model around. But once on somebodies head... UGH!
  • 3 0
 LOL!! Launched Google Images, almost spit out my Gatorade Zero.
  • 1 0
 @stiingya: Exactly what I was going to say. Clothes, helmets, shoes should look good on a person, not just by themselves.
  • 2 0
 Bwahah bang on. Poor shark got the **** end of the stick when mother nature was handing out shark suits.
  • 94 6
 Let’s see: Non-adjustable visor, a little less comfortable, a little heavier, and a lot uglier. Time to stock up on the old Ambush..
  • 17 0
 My thoughts exactly. The now old version is my favorite helmet ever - very light, very comfortable, looks "normal," and I could easily wash the liners. I've had 4 of the old model and it saved my skull on a few occasions during high speed crashes, and always pulled through intact. Hopefully the old model will go on sale and I can buy a couple before this monstrosity is all that's available at my LBS.
  • 15 27
flag mariomtblt (Mar 8, 2022 at 9:46) (Below Threshold)
 the #1 function of a helmet is to keep your head safe so all those things are either secondary or subjective.
  • 33 3
 @mariomtblt: If it's uncomfortable, heavy, and ugly, people may be disinclined to wear it at all, so all those things are important.
  • 19 2
 @mariomtblt: very good, you understood the core function of a device. However, you seem to be forgetting something important: unless this is a much safer helmet than the original, which there is nothing demonstrating that, the safety is considered an unchanged baseline and there’s nothing wrong with complaining about specific feature.
Especially the visor. Being blinded by the sun could cause a crash, at which point that would make a non-adjustable helmet less safe.
  • 3 1
 @nickfranko: thats a fair point and I agree with you, I'm just cutting them some slack and figure its probably safer if its heavier and has a weird look to it. but if it isnt then yeah LOL wtf
  • 17 2
 @nickfranko: I have the original and the new one. The old one is my favourite helmet—I smashed one when I had a bad crash in 2019, and escaped without any major head trauma (my humerus wasn't as lucky).
I admittedly don't love the look of the non-adjustable visor on the new one.

That said, the new one's visor is at least as effective as the old one IMO, and the new one has a lot more coverage down the back of your head. My totally unscientific guess is that in a bad crash I'd fare better in the new one, even after a good experience with the previous one.
  • 17 0
 @brianpark: The data from virgina tech shows a major improvement in potential protection, the old helmet is ranked at 75th and the new one is ranked at #10 (as of posting)
  • 13 1
 @Tim-bikes-a-lot: Are #1-#9 as ugly?
  • 5 5
 @Tim-bikes-a-lot: what’s ‘virgina tech’?
  • 3 7
flag 2-1RacingUK FL (Mar 8, 2022 at 12:04) (Below Threshold)
 @ReformedRoadie: would you be able to tell the difference between old and new or beautiful or ugly, with a head injury or would you just be pleased with the capability of the product?!

Moreover- what does it matter if you think it’s ugly?! You’re not looking at it and best of all, you can enrage the purists at the trail head wearing it! They’ll be cussing you as you ride past them, whilst they adjust with the seat post length on their 1992 klein hardtail, dripping sweat into their eyes from their Giro switchblade helmet.

You do you champ and we’ll all just chuckle at your silly little ideology of ‘no change perfection’…………
  • 6 1
 @simirving: it's a university in the USA that does independent helmet testing. They are kind the gold (and only) standard. More info here: www.helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicycle-helmet-ratings.html
  • 6 0
 @simirving: it's a university in the US who's become a strong force in the research around bicycle helmet safety
  • 4 0
 @2-1RacingUK: You took reading between the lines to a new level right there.
  • 2 0
 @peterman1234: not just bikes. They do moto, football and other sports as well
  • 1 0
 Sold out, no stock, can't go back in time.
  • 3 0
 @Tim-bikes-a-lot: These rankings should get a mention in the reviews!
  • 1 0
 @mtb-thetown: and now I know that I have one of the worst rated helmets!
  • 1 0
 @Tim-bikes-a-lot: Thank you for bringing this up. Here is the link www.helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicycle-helmet-ratings.html
  • 3 0
 @Tim-bikes-a-lot: Well yes but why would you buy the Ambush when the Tactic 4 Mips is 70 bucks less and ranked 1st by Virginia Tech ?
  • 1 0
 @mtb-thetown: That headform has seen some shit.
  • 2 0
 @2-1RacingUK: you must be fun at parties. First, this the internet, home of opinions that to not matter at all.

Realistically, I have to believe 1 thru 10 (arbitrary number) all have roughly the same level of protection. As in, if you got a concussion with #10, you almost certainly would have with #1. So then fit/comfort, ventilation, price and yes, even aesthetics will play a part in selecting one of those helmets.

In addition, while I understand that there are structural shapes for the helmet's safety will have a bearing on how it looks...to some degree - like the freakin' visor are arbitrary and design choices unrelated directly to the safety part.
  • 1 0
 @peterman1234: thanks for confirming. Unsure why my question was downvoted by 2 folk. I guess asking questions isn’t allowed.
  • 30 3
 That visor looks absurd, and completely useless.
  • 26 2
 It's so utterly dumb. This helmet could be ultra-comfortable and cost half its price and I still wouldn't buy it because I'd feel disappointed with myself for supporting shit product design like this.
  • 17 0
 @bananowy: I feel like you are holding back a bit, why don't you say how you really feel?
  • 12 0
 @racecase: He tried to say that he feels like a russian taxpayer Wink
  • 26 0
 Think you meant 57cm in circumference, no? 57cm diameter would be an awfully big melon.
  • 13 0
 Maybe 57cm ear to ear? Probably should have called it wingspan
  • 15 0
 @seanchad, ha, good catch. That would be a mega skull. And @Rubber-Buccaneer, are you saying I have big ears? I hadn't noticed. Smile
  • 8 0
 @mikekazimer: Sorry, cheap gag
  • 6 0
 @Rubber-Buccaneer: Cheap gag, a Buck an ear?
  • 12 0
 The tactic 4 is the current leader in the VTech ratings. It has similar looks (not my favorite) and a nonadjustable visor as well. That said it is bonified safer than a lot of helmets out there, cheap ($100), works with goggles, and is the way better ventilated than my TLD A3, and comfy AF.
  • 6 0
 I have the Tactic and like it. I'm not seeing any reason to spend more on the Ambush over the Tactic.
  • 3 0
 This. I read through all the VT ratings and couldn’t justify spending more when the tactic 4 performed so well in testing. My wife and I both have them.
  • 1 0
 Virginia Tech is providing a great service with their testing, but I must admit I sort of struggle with their rating system.
The system consists of a star and numeric rating. There are 77 5 star rated bicycle helmets with a numeric rating from 8.55 for the best to 13.99 for the worst. We have already seen people saying that the Tactic 4 is the "safest" or the "best" helmet. How big is the actual difference between 5 star number 1 and 5 star number 77 and outside of personal fit, is there any reason to look at anything other than say, the top 5 helmets?
  • 2 0
 I totally agree. I am totally spoiled and have lots of high end helmets, but I just got the new Tactic and I love it. It’s very similar to this one, but less than $100 and really does it’s job well. It’s light and comfortable. And it works well with both goggles and glasses. Finally, I think it looks cool.
  • 1 0
 Tactic 4 lover here, this is 25g lighter and possibly breezier, but no other differences. BTW, where did you guys get this helmet for "less than $100" when it's $120 MSRP and never goes on sale??
  • 1 0
 @ultimatist: you can find it on sale here and there. I ride for a shop so I get a little discount…but I found it for less than $100 on Google. What a bargain!
  • 12 0
 What is up with all these helmets with totally f*cking useless visors? How is this supposed to keep sun out of my eyes on a 7 pm ride when the sun is setting?
  • 10 0
 This one won’t even do that at noon
  • 1 0
 Yeah, the visor is quite high. Not sure what the function of it is. Perhaps just to block goggles from slipping off?
  • 1 1
 @tacklingdummy: you make the visor, so it dosent block the Sun on your face so you can put your sunglasses under them to keep them out of the Sun and you can get a nice color fully on your face… from the Sun
  • 1 0
 Main issue in the UK is getting whacked in the face with branches from new undergrowth. You'd have to ride looking at your top tube with that thing
  • 1 0
 It actually works. I have the Tactic which is a cheaper version and it works quite well. I’m in SoCal so I’m keenly aware of the the sun issue.

I think it’s kind of lame for people to judge products without actually trying them. I like the Tactic better than my A2s, A3, and Sweet Protection Bushwhacker II Carbon. Those are all really nice, feature rich helmets. No, this is not the Tactic, but it’s significantly similar.
  • 5 0
 Fixed visor is a con to me. So easy to break then look like a hill billy taping the visor back on. Only to have the tape break mid ride and have a visor lol wonky donkey half way to town
  • 9 1
 Can we get this placed behind the Outside paywall please.
  • 4 0
 A non-adjustable visor?! Damn... I adjust my Ambush v1 visor literally a dozen times per ride depending on where the sun's at. Frown
  • 3 0
 I thought I rarely adjusted my visor until my POC visor broke and I had to epoxy it back on. Turns out that's a feature I use a lot more than I thought.
  • 4 0
 I like the look. No better or worse than a Dropframe IMHO. You kinda have to be o.k looking like a dork on a mtb anyway.
  • 3 0
 This is so true, we forget in our bubble but even the "coolest" MTB gear looks dorky as heck to outsiders.
  • 1 0
 Dive bombed head first from 6 feet up with old Ambush, crushed two vertebrae but no concussion. I’m gonna stay a fan of the Ambush line even if they did make some weird changes. It does read like I am happy that I’ve replaced the helmet from the crash with a 2021 model.
  • 1 0
 This and the tactic remind me of the MCR parachute helmet that I had and sold because the visor was completely useless for blocking sunlight making high speed riding in dropping sun very dangerous, I hate fashion over function design !
  • 1 0
 Is it just me or do these new helmets all look terrible with the huge blocky rear pieces and are just overly bulk? Personally I just use a more XC style helmet for the majority of my non-DH/Enduro riding. Otherwise it's full face all the way.
  • 1 0
 Overpriced and not even that great. Classic Specialized.

As a point of reference: The FOX Speedframe Pro has the same safety rating by Virginia Tech, is also made from dual-density foam, has MIPS and FidLock, looks a lot better and is roughly 50% cheaper.
  • 2 0
 Hey, can anybody recommend a nice pair of enduro glasses to this helmet? I think i will try this specialized helmet and want enough protection around the eyes (shield like glasses). Thanks
  • 1 0
 I have a similar helmet and it works pretty well with the hawk glasses from the young company naked optics from austria. maybe it works for you as well. it is worth a try. en.nakedoptics.net/products/the-hawk
  • 5 1
 57cm in diameter? that's a big ol watermelon
  • 3 1
 Pie hole fits whole pie
  • 3 3
 The last Ambush large I tried circa 2019 was too large cranked all the way down for my always-a-large-size head.
If this 2.0 fits then the 15% coupon at Speci's site would be nice cuz my LBS ain't budging off MSRP (as they shouldn't).
Sincerely,
Giro Manifest via eBay deal guy
  • 7 1
 So you think it's good that the LBS is charging full price (seems like you're assuming the discount eats deep into their margin), but you're not going to buy from them anyway (so they will make zero instead of just slightly less than normal). Good on you!
  • 2 3
 @justinfoil: 99.99% of my bike buying is online and I choose not to purchase at less than 25% less msrp for the most part. The LBS exhausts me. But they're making money hand over fist in this market. Good for them.
  • 1 0
 @bikewriter: The visor breaks away on impact. I have seen a couple break away and none of them were not able to be reinstalled yet.
  • 1 0
 @Tjjones1214: I prefer visors that are adjustable on-the-fly.
  • 1 1
 The specialized tactic 4 is the top rated helmet by virginia tech and i think its cause the mips liner moves so freely. i have looked at this mips sl system in the shop on the specialized gambit and it didnt seem to move as well as the one in the tactic 4. mips sl is just sliding liner pads only. i would like to see testing of tactic 4 vs this ambush 2
  • 5 0
 QUACK QUACK
  • 1 0
 “ my head shape is more watermelon than beach ball, and measures 57 cm in circumference.”

Thank you for including this, and also for the tester info panel that’s appearing in the bike reviews now.
  • 3 0
 How is this different from the (cheaper) Specialized Tactic Helmet?
  • 1 0
 The only difference I can discern is that it's more expensive.
  • 2 0
 Looks shit, is overpriced, heavier than the last generation and has a fixed visor?
Seems like a great deal. Naaaat
  • 1 0
 If the Visor can't be tilted up anymore, how am I to flip it up like Gomer Pyle and have it ripped off by the low hanging tree limb?
  • 1 0
 The old one looks nicer, and is my favorite open shell helmet, but I will get one of these when my current on needs to be replaced. I really like the Gambit full face too.
  • 3 3
 Give specialized as much shit as you want, but one thing they do VERY well are helmets.

The "old" Ambush is functional, comfortable and saved my noggin countless times. I'll keep buying them.
  • 4 5
 Another huge swing and miss for the scooby dumb club at specialized. It's bad... Really bad,,, It looks like a special ed helmet in a lego movie.... Does Tron know you stole his new proto type? It's not your fault. You just follow trends, and rider feedback from sponsored athletes that will tell you anything you give them is awesome, in an attempt to be more rider oriented. What's next? Banana seats? "It would look so cool"!!! You guys always do this... You just don't have a grip on the big picture, This thing totally smacks of design by comity... Looks like you just went through and took all the features off the product descriptions of a competitor and did as little work as possible to check all the boxes. New school designers, high visors TOTALLY kill the aesthetic of visored helmets and don't work!!! Huge Flat closed face, shield-like glasses are on-trend but totally in-practical. So, sorry, but it's true. They are too hot to ride in, so now helmets need to look totally dumb so people can hang their impractical glasses up when they climb? How did you get to this point? How did trail riding gear get to this point? What category manager said "OK, we are there".... One of your biggest weaknesses is not being able to fully connect with Mountain culture ON ALL CIRCUITS... Especially Enduro and DH... The bikes are there in many ways and that has really ramped up well and headed in the right direction, in a lot of ways. But you still always blow it in some way. You still make a few $10,000 bikes that still have many relatively mid end proprietary B+ parts.... I don't even want your tires on that level of bike for that price... But that is not even on your radar... Remember the Troy Lee Frames??? Ugh... The Camber? Your goofy gravel bike suspension... Does Huffy make that for you? SO SORRY TO BE SO HARSH, BUT YOU HAVE LOST YOURSELVES WITHIN YOURSELVES AND NEED TO HEAR THIS. DO YOU WANT PRACTICAL FEEDBACK AND REAL HELP FROM AN EXPERIENCED ACTION SPORTS APPAREL DESIGNER AND CONSULTANT THAT ACTUALLY RIDES? FEEL FREE TO REACH OUT,
  • 5 0
 ...and the award for "Job Application of 2022" goes to....
  • 1 0
 A few of the original ones (with the ANGI system) over half off at Bicicletta in Vancouver:

bicicletta.cc/products/specialized-ambush-with-angi
  • 1 0
 What a joke of a price. Cut that down to $120 MSRP, then you might be talking.
  • 1 0
 That is not a good looking helmet.. And Can we stop screwing around with MIPS SL? it sucks..
  • 2 0
 Nearly so good, but then they left the work experience kid to do the visor
  • 1 0
 Same visor as the Tactic 4. Doesn't block the sun at all unless it's behind you. Total garbage.
  • 1 0
 looks difficult to impossible to attach a (standard) mount for a helmet lamp
  • 2 1
 2 words. “Fidlock buckle”
  • 2 0
 Ugliest helmet ever!
  • 1 1
 So, i heard you like ducks, so i put a duck on your duckface.
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