The Gambit, Specialized's new lightweight full-face helmet, was designed to satisfy the safety needs of the modern mountain biker. Available in four unobtrusive colors, the futuristic looking helmet caters to more than just one rider category with full downhill certification, MIPS SL, eyewear stowage, and a quick release buckle, all in a ventilated 640 gram package.
Enduro trails and the speeds we ride them at are infringing on what used to be reserved for downhill bikes, and with the increasing number of eMTBs riders can find themselves in that zone more frequently. Carrying these features for such little burden poses the question, "Why not wear a full-face all the time?"
Specialized Gambit Details
• 18 vents
• Breakaway visor
• MIPS SL
• Weight (size M): 640g
• Sizes: S, M, L
• Colors: Black, Oak Green, White/Sage, Dove Grey/Maroon
• Price: $300 USD
• Certifications: ASTM F1952-15 DH certified
Playing off of the looks of the newly released Tactic 4
, the Gambit features similar styling with large intake vents, more volume out back, and a fixed visor carrying a horizontal line into the top of the shell. At the rear of the helmet, you'll notice a built-in dial dubbed the Integrated Fit System (IFS) to keep things snug and a mount for Specialized's angular G-force indicator (ANGi) sensor.
Overall, the shape and volume of the Gambit is well balanced, with a visor nearly the same length as the chin bar, making for a proportioned outline from all angles. Breaking down the construction, the shell is made up of carbon fiber and polycarbonate guarding five unique pieces of patented EPS foam technology to optimally absorb energy. Although it saves on weight and cost, the helmet foregoes any soft trim around the face opening or along the bottom edge of the helmet. Adding a touch of rubber at the front and rear on the underside of the shell would increase the paint's lifespan. There is also the absence of any mesh or foam around the mouth vent, the largest in comparison to other helmets in the category.
Compared to a full-on downhill race helmet, it doesn't provide that locked in or sometimes claustrophobic feeling - think of the Gambit as taking away the false sense of security when you install goggles on a skid lid, but closer to a half-shell helmet that has a fixed chin-bar. For many riders, including myself, there is more justification to wear the Gambit for just about any ride. PERFORMANCEFIT
On my size medium test helmet I found the cheek pads fit best in the rearward setting and started with the IFS in the "2" position. Although I mentioned the volume of the shell was well balance in terms of looks, I did find that the helmet preferred to sit slightly rotated downward on my head. Altering the IFS to the "1" setting helped to rotate the chin bar and brow a bit higher. The helmet never moved around unnecessarily, though. A worthwhile tradeoff against breathability for me would be to add some padding around the crown and bring the fit up a notch in terms of comfort and assurance.
It's also worth noting that large framed goggles may not fit in the opening, depending on their foam thickness and your head shape. I had to downsize from the Smith Squad XL to the standard version because the goggle frame was too wide, shedding light on how the Gambit provides full-face protection in a minimalist package.ADJUSTMENTS
The IFS cradled the back of my head and pulls it away from the shell in a secure manner to promote airflow, hence the lack of padding in the crown area. The dial is easy to reach and adjustable on the fly, locking the helmet in place to prepare for descents. As described earlier, this security device can also be adjusted vertically on the occipital area of the skull.
Two-position cheek pads come in dual thickness levels to tune the fit and keep the helmet comfortably in place. The chin strap is connected with a traditional quick release buckle and splits in two around the cheek pads. Just as you'd find on an open-face helmet, the mounting points are molded into the EPS foam. VENTILATION
In a head-to-head test, my non-scientific sweat analysis rates the Gambit very close to that of any other hard-hitting enduro open-face helmet. Breathing in fresh air isn't hindered through the large port in the chin bar - there was barely any build up of moisture on the inside. Although there is reasoning to skip the mesh in the mouth vent, it could be knocked down a touch in terms of height as it can sit just in your lower peripheral vision.
What those small cheek and crown pads lack in extra cushioning they certainly make up for with increased air flow all the way around the helmet, from under the neck area, across the top of the head, exhausting heat out the back.
The inability to hear in a full-fledged DH helmet can sometimes toy with my low speed balance, but the Gambit allowed me to stay alert through some precise and precarious moves. PRICE
A few of the reasons the Gambit looks so sculpted is the lack of bolts. The fixed visor clips on and the chin strap doesn't require any rivets, which makes for a smooth finish on the outside of the shell. You'll also notice that there aren't any camera mounts amongst the eighteen vents.
As much as I advocate MIPS for its added safety, it can cause some creaking noises as the shell rotates on the plastic liner during regular use, but that wasn't the case with the Gambit.
For this price, I do worry about the longevity of the cheek pad attachment method - the plastic pins held the pads tight during the entirety of the test, but didn't take much to pull them out of their perch. The durability of the paint has been excellent, despite a matte black finish seeing some encounters with branches, but I would like to see some protection along the rim of the helmet to make sure it doesn't collect chips over time.WEIGHT
To add to talk of what you're getting for $300, the svelte weight of 640 grams fora medium might feel on the dainty side, but you have to keep in mind the target market for this style of helmet. The Gambit meets the critical DH safety rating, the whole reason why you'd be choosing full-face coverage.
Low weight and exceptional air flow for a DH certified helmet promotes more frequent use+
On-the-fly eyewear storage and IFS dial allows for quick transitions
Minimal padding makes it feel more like a traditional open-face helmet-
No rubber trim on lower edges of helmet, and no option for mesh in mouth vent