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Specialized Ambush 2 review

Specialized balances protection, weight and ventilation with the Ambush 2

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £150.00 RRP
Specialized Ambush 2

Our review

There’s lots to like about the Ambush 2, and it offers plenty of protection, but there are a few fitment quirks that prevent it scoring higher
Pros: Good coverage and sleek design; impressive protection; well vented at the front; 5-star Virginia Tech rating
Cons: Not everyone will like the static peak; cradle caused pressure points; straps sit in awkward place over temples
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As Specialized’s top-priced open-face mountain bike helmet, the Ambush 2 offers plenty of safety features and smart tech to help keep you safe.


It features a dual-foam construction and MIPS SL series liner for rotational impact protection. Thanks in part to this tech, it scored highly in the Virginia Tech helmet safety ratings.

The £150 price tag is impressive considering other brands’ high-tech mountain bike helmets top out at over £200. Its weight is good for its coverage too, but all is not perfect with the Ambush 2.

Specialized Ambush 2 helmet details

Specialized’s MIPS SL liner minimises weight while still offering good protection.
Steve Behr

The Ambush 2 is wrapped in a plastic shell, and while relatively light at 330g for a size small, it feels reassuringly well built. This should help protect the helmet from knocks and scrapes, or the odd roll around the boot of your car.

To keep you safe, Specialized has used a dual-density EPS foam construction with the aim of adding extra protection where needed and saving grams where impact resistance is less important.

This helmet also gets a MIPS SL liner. This comes courtesy of an exclusive partnership between Specialized and MIPS to produce a liner that’s lighter and more ventilated than the regular MIPS liner, while still offering the same protection.

This newer design attaches the liner to the shell with rubber bands that are held in place by Velcro. This should also be quieter than the original MIPS with its yellow plastic liner. The SL version performs the same role, though, staving off dangerous rotational impact accelerations.

Specialized claims Computational Fluid Dynamic designs were used to maximise internal airflow volume to keep you cool and dry. The Ambush 2 features 15 vents in the helmet body and three in the peak.

The padding inside the Ambush 2 is attached via Velcro to the MIPS SL, so it’s removable. Specialized hasn’t stated any details on breathability or anti-bacterial treatments.

To keep the helmet secure, the Ambush 2 employs Specialized’s SBC Integrated Fit System. This cradle uses a dial integrated into the shell to tighten and loosen it, plus the cradle is height adjustable with five labelled positions to refine the fit.

The micro-adjust dial is integrated into the helmet’s EPS foam for an unobtrusive look.
Steve Behr

The Ambush 2 uses a fixed peak. However, it’s designed to break away during a crash to minimise injury. There’s still space below the peak for eyewear, and Specialized has included rubber inserts to add security to riding glasses arms.

The peak is designed to funnel air into the vents below to maximise cooling.

The Ambush 2 is ANGI-compatible. ANGI is Specialized’s crash detection sensor that lets pre-programmed contacts know if you suffer a serious crash.

Even with these features and safety ratings, the Ambush 2 weighs in at 330g for a size S. There are three sizes to choose from: small (51-56cm), medium (55-59cm) and large (58-62cm).

The Ambush 2 has been rated 5 stars by Virginia Tech.

Specialized Ambush 2 helmet performance

For its low weight, the Ambush 2 gives plenty of coverage.
Steve Behr

Even though the Ambush 2’s weight is low, the overall size is pretty large. I feel it’s one of the smarter-looking open-face helmets too.

Specialized has done a decent job of providing plenty of coverage. The Ambush sits deep down the rear of the neck and has ample coverage over the temples.

The padding is light and svelte, and isn’t the plushest. Still, it’s reasonably comfortable for all-day use. The cradle and straps are where I found the biggest issues.

The cradle has a massive range of adjustment, which is impressive.

However, after tightening the helmet enough to stay put when hammering downhill, I found it produced two pressure points on the back of my head where the cradle tightened. These became uncomfortable over prolonged periods.

I found myself loosening the helmet more often than others for climbs and mellow trails.

I tried the cradle adjustment in positions three, four and five, and settled on position four, but it still caused me issues.

Aside from the pressure points, the Ambush 2 is a comfortable helmet, and its weight makes it a desirable choice for all-day riding.

Helmet fit is subjective, so try before you buy, and the Ambush 2 might fit perfectly for you.

The front straps sit well forward over the temples. While this isn’t functionally an issue, I didn’t like the feeling of where they rested on the side of my head.

The peak is fixed, but it stays well out of view when riding.
Steve Behr

One big positive about Specialized’s SBC cradle is it works incredibly well with mountain bike glasses. It didn’t interfere with any of the glasses I tried, enabling them to sit perfectly comfortable in place all day.

The storage for glasses works well and keeps them secure when fitted, but it’s a bit of a fiddle to find without looking. The arms of my glasses didn’t feel wonderfully comfortable once inside the helmet and pressed into my head. It’s best to turn your glasses upside down to help here.

Another plus for the Ambush 2 is its ventilation. There is plenty of airflow into the front of the helmet to keep you cool, or as I found, cold in the winter. It’s certainly a breezy helmet, which will be great for any riders who run hot.

The peak sits well out of vision when riding, so doesn’t interfere with your line of sight, or impose a distraction, leaving you to focus on the trail.

How does the Specialized Ambush 2 helmet compare to the Lazer Jackal KinetiCore?

With both helmets costing around £150, what separates them? The Ambush 2 comes out on top for weight and ventilation, making it more pedal-friendly.

Padding and comfort favours the Specialized too, although the cradle is more comfortable on the Lazer.

Weighing up style, performance and cost, the Ambush 2 creeps ahead as my preferred helmet of the two.

Specialized Ambush 2 helmet bottom line

There’s a lot to like about the Specialized Ambush 2. Its safety rating is high and it has plenty of tech at an impressive price tag. It looks good too.

The helmet works well with MTB glasses and doesn’t distract from your vision when riding. The non-adjustable peak was fine for me, but others may not appreciate it.


However, it’s only average for comfort, and the cradle may cause fitment issues, so it’s best to try before you buy.

How we tested

These helmets make up our 2023 trail helmets group test.

We tested nine open-face lids from a range of brands, featuring different tech and takes on performance and comfort to see who came up with the goods.


Product Specifications


Price GBP £150.00
Weight 330g (Small)
What we tested Specialized Ambush 2
Year 2023
Brand Specialized


Features MIPS, adjustable retention cradle, ANGI compatible
Helmet type Mountain bike open face