When it comes to the equipment we buy, there are few things that matter more than fit and results. We have often said that fit comes first – if something just doesn’t work for your body then there is really no point in trying to force it. But once you have the perfect fit, results and performance are next in line. So when we see a helmet that regularly finds itself atop podiums not only in triathlon but world tour cycling as well, we take notice. The Specialized S-Works TT is one of those gold standard helmets that has been there and done that. Whether atop Tim Don when he set the IM course record just a few weeks ago, or atop Tony Martin during his many trips to TT podiums, the S-Works TT has been a familiar visitor on those steps. So when talking to Specialized about what we could do next with them, the TT sounded like a great place to land.
The S-Works TT
The S-Works TT is actually a bit older than some of the other helmets we’ve reviewed lately. But Tim just showed us that older doesn’t mean slower. The TT was born in the wind tunnel to win on the roads. This is a helmet that is meant to go fast (notice the lack of cooling vents on the top of the helmet).
Even the Gill Vents on the side are meant more to reduce drag than they are to cool you off (they are located behind your ears not in front of them, so the cooling effect is limited). Specialized tells us that the shape of the helmet will save 62 seconds over 40km as compared to a standard road helmet (the testing was done in 2013 before that advent of aero road helmets).
Upfront is a removable shield that snaps into place. The TT comes with both clear and smoked tint lenses. The shield has a pair of air vents above each eye.
Because a helmet is meant to do more than help make us aerodynamic, Specialized has built the TT with their patented Energy Optimized Multi-Density EPS construction that helps to manage impact energy.
And to keep you comfortable is their Ultra-light Mindset micro-dial fit system with height adjustability for the perfect fit. Between your head and the EPS is thin, soft, and lightweight 4X DryLite webbing that won’t stretch out with sweat or water.
And to cinch it down is a tri-Fix web splitter for improved comfort and ease-of-strap adjustments.
To round out the package, the TT comes with an included travel case. That’s something many traveling to and from races will find as a nice bonus.
Our size md\lg TT weighed in at 474 grams (with visor) and retails for $300.
Starting from the moment you put the helmet on you recognize that this is a helmet for aero first and everything else second. On the TT you will not find ear flaps that fold out when you slide the helmet on to enhance ease of entry (and possibly increase weight or decrease aero). Instead, your ears are what have to fold to slide on the helmet in T1 (and may get rubbed when you pull it off in T2).
We can report, however, that once you have it on, there is plenty of room for your ears and the TT is quite comfortable to wear. We really enjoyed the strap system, and found it fit perfectly over our ears with no rubbing or discomfort. The dial for adjustment is located fairly close to the rear of the helmet so adjustments on the fly do take a bit of concentration to get right.
The front shield pops in using three retention clips instead of the magnets becoming more popular today. And while in some cases that may be a challenge since you have to put on the helmet with the shield pre-attached, we never found that to be an issue for us. There is plenty of clearance between your face and the shield, so getting the helmet on and off with the shield on is no sweat. That being said, when you do want to get the shield on and off, the three clips worked well consistently. The retention clips are all mounted to a single plate, and where in the past we have seen the clips of other helmets break off, these seemed sturdy no many how many times we swapped lenses.
Once we had the helmet on, the biggest question becomes one of ventilation. It’s one thing for those doing an 40km Individual time trial to be able to sacrifice ventilation abilities, its another for those going 180km between T1 and T2. This was our biggest question mark for the TT, and one where in the South Florida sun we could do the most testing. We expected the TT to be hot – there are no vents up top and just the two small vents in the shield per eye. We did ride with the shield to be consistent with other aero helmets we have tested. Our belief is that if a helmet comes with a shield, we will test it with a shield (though it should be noted that others have reported that the TT may actually be faster without it). We were additionally curious if the gill vents along the sides would help with ventilation.
After many miles on the bike we can say that, consistent with our initial opinion, this is a helmet made for speed first and everything else second. It is definitely warmer than some of its contemporaries out there. To get any air across your face requires a very heads-up approach (and even then it’s limited). The gil vents put some air over the back of your neck, but your ears unfortunately are going to warm up a bit. We know that removing the shield would solve most of this for us. But as we said above, since we test everything else with their shields, we did not want to test this one separately.
But looking at the TT we cannot deny that, depending on your morphology, if the shape of the TT works with your body we would still be hard pressed not to recommend it—at least in moderate temps or shorter distance races. The results are just too hard to ignore. Yes it runs hot (with visor attached) and that might be a turn off for some. But podium steps are always easier to climb when you lose a touch more water weight, and that might be just one more reason to buy the TT for some!