Tested - New Specialized Ambush 2 and Camber Helmets 3

Specialized rounds out their trail-focused helmet line with the addition of a premium and entry-level model.

As trail and enduro bikes continue to evolve, the speed that riders are flying down trails in half-shell helmets has increased significantly. Trails that were once designated for downhill bikes and full-face helmets only can now be ridden with ease on mid-travel bikes.

To keep up with modern trail riding demands, Specialized has introduced two new trail-focused lids with the Ambush 2 and Camber. Fresh off the release of their Tactic helmet last Fall, the two new models land at different ends of the price point spectrum but share similar fitment, styling, and ventilation. Spearheaded by a new helmet development team at Specialized, the Ambush 2 is their latest premium open-face helmet, while the Camber strikes an entry-level price point ideal for young and new riders alike.

Ambush 2 - $180 USD
Camber - $80 USD

Ambush 2 Helmet Details

The original Ambush has been Specialized’s top-of-line, open-face mountain bike helmet for the past six years and was more than overdue for a makeover. When Specialized began developing the Ambush 2, they took an inside-out approach, starting with ventilation first. Often, helmets start with an outer shell design, and vents are integrated where possible after the fact. By developing the shape and structure of the Ambush 2 in conjunction with ventilation, the new model offers exceptional active and passive airflow while maintaining a sleek aesthetic and industry-leading safety ratings. The helmet also features a fixed position visor mounted high enough to pull air into the three large front vents. 

On top of thought-out ventilation, the Ambush 2 uses dual-density EPS foam and MIPS SL technology that attaches to the helmet padding to reduce moisture retention and increase breathability. The fixed visor is held in place with breakaway tabs limiting the possibility of snagging on the ground during a crash. Unlike the original Ambush, Specialized is not selling the Ambush 2 with an ANGi crash sensor, but one can be purchased separately and installed hassle-free. Finally, just like its Tactic sibling, the Ambush 2 earned the highest 5-Star Virginia Tech Helmet Rating. 

While helmet fitment can vary drastically from rider to rider, the Ambush 2 has multiple features to help mold the helmet to almost any noggin. Integrated into the back of the helmet is a ratchet adjustment so riders can fine-tune how snug the fit system grips their head. The system sits underneath the helmet padding and offers an even 360-degrees of tightening force. The occipital base adjustment can be set in five different positions to change how far down the back of your head the fit system squeezes your dome. Lastly, both chin straps use a tri-fix system that allows riders to adjust strap length and position from front to back.

Our favorite aspect of the Tactic helmet was its eyewear integration, and the Ambush 2 boasts the same feature but with new rubber flaps inside the eyewear slots. These rubber flaps help keep glasses from rattling loose but are pliable enough to make installation painless. Once glasses are inserted into the Ambush 2, the inside of the shell features small channels that keep sunglass tips from poking your head or interfering with the MIPS lining. The fixed location of the visor is also high enough to accommodate most sunglasses.  

With all the bells and whistles, the Ambush 2 does carry a high but reasonable price tag of $180. The original Ambush is more expensive at $200 but includes an ANGi crash sensor. Still, the Ambush 2 is $60 more than the mid-range Tactic and shares a similar shell design and retention system. So what’s the difference? The main difference between the two models is the Ambush 2 is lighter (by roughly 20-grams) and features a more breathable MIPS configuration, dual EPS foam, and rubber flaps on the eyewear integration slots. With both helmets receiving the same 5-Star Virginia Tech Helmet Safety Rating, riders who prioritize ventilation and breathability should lean towards the Ambush 2.

Camber Helmet Details

If the Ambush 2 is for seasoned mountain bikers who demand cutting-edge equipment, the Camber is aimed towards new rippers, both young and old, who want a good-looking, safe trail helmet. Retailing for only $80, the Camber might be considered entry-level but packs plenty of features into a stylized package, unlike many helmets have done before. 

Specialized knows that helmets are a balance of style and safety. Wearing a helmet is crucial to being safe when riding, but if a helmet doesn’t look cool, no one will wear it. The Camber takes design cues from the Ambush 2 and Tactic models to create a shell that riders can easily associate as a trail bike helmet. These features include an integrated fixed visor, extended rear coverage, and generous venting throughout.

When it comes to safety, the Camber shares the same accolades as its more expensive siblings, receiving the highest 5-Star Virginia Tech Safety Helmet Rating. Plus, a traditional MIPS system is used inside that allows for 10-15mm of rotational movement. The Camber is also ANGi compatible with a fit system mount designed into the helmet for easy integration. We love that Specialized made sure the Camber was as safe as possible for a helmet that will grace riders’ heads of various abilities and in different environments. 

To make the Camber accessible to all sizes of riders, Specialized used the same head form as the Ambush 2 but developed five unique shell sizes (X-small through X-large). This is pretty unheard of as most companies typically develop three shell sizes and use varying pad thicknesses to accommodate in-between sizes. The Camber also uses Specialized’s headset SX fit system that features a traditional ratchet closure to fine-tune fitment.   

Ambush 2 Helmet Impressions

Right out of the gate, the Ambush 2 meshed with the shape of our head flawlessly. The halo design of the fit system applied even force around our head and never caused any pressure points. Integration of the fit system into the helmet shell made reaching around blindly for mid-ride adjustments intuitive and thoughtless. We usually enjoy helmets that cup the back of our head and choose to move the occipital base adjustment all the way out on the Ambush 2. This caused the fit system to comfortably squeeze around the base of our head for a secure, full-coverage feel. 

After learning how much priority Specialized placed on ventilation when developing the Ambush 2, we had pretty high expectations when hitting the trails. Unfortunately, February in Boise, Idaho, can bring varying temperatures, and this year brought weeks of sub-freezing temperatures. With the weather giving us the short end of the stick, we couldn’t test the Ambush 2’s ability to exhaust head heat since we never got our body temperature very high. We did, however, feel the crisp cold air constantly piercing through the helmet more than most open-face helmets we’ve worn. We may not be able to prove it (yet), but we feel confident that high amount of airflow will fair us well once temperatures rise in spring. 

We would relate the integrated sunglass storage on the Ambush 2 helmet to the SWAT storage found on many Specialized bikes. It’s one of those features that you don’t need to enjoy a ride, but it’s a feature you won’t be able to live without once you’ve experienced it. We typically remove our sunglasses during climbs to avoid fogging and hang them from the collar of our jersey or do our best to slot them into vents on our helmet. These options have always been relatively sufficient, but the dedicated eyewear slots on the Ambush 2 take the stress out of storing your expensive glasses somewhere other than your face. Finding the eyewear slots can be tricky the first few tries but becomes second nature quickly. With our glasses stored in the helmet, we never noticed any discomfort, rattling, or vision obstruction. The added rubber flaps do their job keeping eyewear securely in place without making the action of sliding glasses in or out difficult. The last aspect of the integrated eyewear storage that we didn’t know we would love is how the visor protected our glasses from weather. There is nothing better than finishing a tough climb in the rain and being rewarded with clear vision for the descent! 

Camber Helmet Impressions 

Sharing the same head form as the Ambush 2, the Camber fit our head great with the same amount of comfort. If locked in a dark room with both helmets (that’s a weird scene), we would have difficulty telling you which one we were putting on. The biggest fitment difference we noticed was the lack of an occipital base adjustment on the Camber made the SX fit system tighten down higher up on the back of our heads. While the fit system kept the helmet snuggly in place, the Camber did feel like it sat more on top of our head than the Ambush 2. 

Comparing the two helmets side-by-side, the Camber does feature fewer vents than the Ambush 2 towards the back of the helmet. Again, testing helmet ventilation during an Idaho winter doesn’t get you very far, and we never felt like the Camber struggled to exhaust heat. However, we would wager that come summer, the Camber will be a warmer helmet. Looking at the front of both helmets, Specialized used a very similar vent layout on the Camber that allows active air to flow underneath the fixed visor and rush over the front of your head. 

While the Camber might not receive the trick eyewear integration found on the Ambush 2 or Tactic, the helmet does accommodate sunglasses without causing any temple or ear pain. The rear drop of the helmet is cut away enough to keep the tips of glasses from interacting with the helmet. At the front of the helmet, the brow of the Camber sat at a normal height on our forehead with a gap between our sunglasses. We hate nothing more than when our helmet pushes our glasses down our nose and the Camber never once forced us to readjust our eyewear. 

What's The Bottom Line?

The addition of the Ambush 2 and Camber to Specialized’s trail-helmet line allows riders the ability to choose a stylish, comfortable, and feature-packed helmet to match their budget. With the entire line boasting MIPS technology and a 5-Star Virginia Tech Helmet Safety Rating, you no longer have to ball out to receive industry-leading protection. The Ambush 2 offers multiple fitment adjustments, eyewear storage, and optimal ventilation, making it the perfect option for riders demanding the latest and greatest helmet technology. But for less than $100, the Camber packs a serious punch offering a similar fit, comfort, and good looks that have us questioning where to invest our money next. 

For information on the entire Specialized helmet line, please visit www.specialized.com

About The Tester

Jason Schroeder - Age: 27 // Years Riding MTB: 16 // Height: 6-feet (182cm) // Weight: 168-pounds (76.2kg)

A once-upon-a-time World Cup downhill racer turned desk jockey, Jason has spent years within the bicycle industry from both sides of the tape. A fan of all day adventures in the saddle or flowing around a bowl at the skatepark, he doesn't discriminate from any form of two wheeled riding. Originally a SoCal native now residing in Boise, Idaho, you can find Jason camped out in his van most weekends at any given trailhead in the greater Pacific NorthWest.


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