First Impressions: Specialized Gambit Lightweight Full Face Helmet
A full face that feels astonishingly like a half lid—and weighs about the same.
– Light weight full face aimed at aggressive trail and enduro riding
– Carbon fiber shell
– MIPS SL equipped
– 360-degree retention system
– Integrated fit system offers great adjustability
– Super lightweight
– Fixed visor is simple and reliable
– No ear vents
– Retention system makes putting helmet on somewhat finicky
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At just 595 grams for a size small, the new Specialized Gambit full-face helmet is astonishingly lightweight. It’s a heavy-hitter though, passing the same safety standards that typically much heavier DH helmets must adhere to. But, Specialized didn’t leave any features out—the Gambit has the same wrap-around retention system with occipital base adjustment found in the Ambush and newly released Tactic 4, a system that’s rarely found on full-face helmets. And for additional fit, Specialized includes three sets of cheek pads, all of which can snap into the helmet in multiple locations. Oh, and it has MIPS, too.
The retention system does make the Gambit a little more fussy to get on your head. I find that the easiest way for me is to loosen the dial all the way before squeezing my head into it. Which then requires the extra step of tightening it back up again once it’s on. This means that other full-face helmets are potentially quicker to remove and put back on. Except that the Gambit is so light and airy that you’re less likely to feel the need to take it off mid-ride. Also, it has a regular buckle on the chin strap instead of the two loop thread-through chin strap that most full-faces have.
I suppose one could argue that the non-adjustable visor is an example of eliminating a feature to save grams, but I’m not so sure. On most of the full-face helmets I’ve ever owned, I’ve always just put the visor all the way up and left it there. Most of the time, the visor’s adjustability is actually a hindrance. I’ll have to reposition it after it getting pushed down in my gear bag, and the thumb screws on the sides and in the middle are always coming loose, and on more than a few occasions, have fallen out completely. I now see a non-adjustable visor, as long as it’s in the right spot, as a feature, not the lack of one.
As far as ventilation is concerned, the Gambit is top-notch. The three vents on the chin bar are massive, and let so much air in that the feeling is almost indistinguishable from a half-shell lid. The chin bar on nearly all full-face helmets restricts airflow enough that your breath swirls around inside there for long enough to create a hot, shitty, sort of claustrophobic environment. I don’t know about you, but that’s got to be my least favorite part about wearing full-faces. They’re stifling even in mild temperatures, and it’s impossible to prevent goggles from fogging at lower speeds.
The Gambit is different. The main hole at the tip of the chin bar allows for essentially unrestricted air flow and is so big that you can easily hock a loogie right through it. The rest of the helmet is also littered with vents, and the channeling inside is extensive. The Gambit is definitely one of, if not the coolest-running full-face I’ve ever had on. In nearly every way, the Gambit feels unrestrictive.
Except for the fact that there are no ear holes. I wouldn’t say it really needs them. I haven’t felt my ears getting too warm the way they do in my DH and moto helmets, but not having ear holes does create a bit of noise damping that makes you aware that you’re wearing a full-face. It’s one of the only things about wearing the Gambit that reminds you of this.
Admittedly, I didn’t realize the lack of ear holes until I swapped back to the Troy Lee Stage. The Stage was my lightest full-face, but the size medium I have is 120 grams heavier than the size small Gambit I wear. By the way, the size discrepancy exists here because my 55cm head is often between sizes. TLD’s XS/SM size is tight enough that I have to bump up to M/L, while Specialized’s size small is a perfect fit. But, getting back to the ear holes—it wasn’t until I put the Stage back on that I realized that its ear holes allow for unmuffled hearing. I also noticed that I could just reach in scratch my ears when they were itchy. That’s really my only criticism of the Gambit. It does such a great job of making you forget that it’s a full-face when it comes to weight and ventilation, but your ears might detect it. On the other hand, I suppose the Gambit technically could offer better protection in that area from pokey things.
If we’re talking about pokey things, we should probably mention that the huge vents on the chin guard mean your grill isn’t quite as covered as it would be in a beefier DH lid. I have no idea what the real world chances are of that type of impact happening, but I can at least say that the Gambit offers a lot more grill protection than a half-lid does.
That’s my takeaway with the Gambit. It’s a full-time full-face that takes almost all of the disadvantages of wearing a full-face away. It’s also far simpler, lighter, and better looking than a convertible-style helmet, and you never have to figure out how to stow your chin bar, or stop to put it back on at the top. With the Gambit, the chin bar is always where it’s supposed to be, even if you don’t notice it.