Whether developing a triathlon shoe, a World Cup downhill frame, or a fat bike tire, one can bet on Specialized to design a contender with some innovative features. A few years ago, they introduced their popular Ambush lid. It embraced trends in extended rear coverage and goggle compatibility seen on modern cross-country-style helmets from Giro, Troy Lee Designs, and Poc, among others. The original Ambush is currently available for $180. To bring the Ambush's style and function to more riders, Specialized developed the less-spendy Ambush Comp, which goes for $120.
Comparing The Comp
Aesthetically, the original Ambush and the Comp version are clearly related. However, different construction methods were used to bring the Ambush Comp's fit and performance on par with the flagship version, yet still bring the asking price down by over 30 percent.
The original Ambush's light weight and impressive ventilation are rooted in Specialized's application of the Aramid-Reinforced Skeleton (a thin Kevlar rope), which enhances the structural integrity of the EPS foam shell and allows for large airflow ports. Additionally, the Ambush incorporated Specialized's patented, multi-density foam construction designed to manage impact energy.
The Comp forgoes the internal Aramid skeleton for an internal composite reinforcement, and it also swaps the multi-density foam designed to disperse energy at a variety of speeds for what appears to be a more general impact-absorbing, single-density EPS construction.
It retains what Specialized refers to as ‘4th Dimension Cooling,’ which basically means large front vents capture air which then moves through internal channels above the head before exiting through exhaust ports at the rear of the helmet. Riders who opt for goggles when wearing open-face helmets will appreciate the wide-range visor that has ample real estate underneath.
Like the top-shelf Ambush, the Comp meets all safety standards; but notably, no Ambush models are currently offered with MIPS. The original Ambush has a claimed weight of 300 grams, whereas my size medium Ambush Comp checked in at 365 grams. Enough already with the features and proprietary jargon—let's talk about how it feels and performs.
Fit, Retention & Ventilation
As the saying goes, "One sizes fits nobody." However, in an effort to fit a wide range of melons, the Ambush Comp utilizes what Specialized calls the ‘Mindset 360’ system to achieve a comfortable and consistent fit. While wearing gloves, you can easily spin the silver dial at the rear of the helmet to fine-tune the 360-degree retention. A few brands are offering helmets with fixed chinstrap webbing, and Specialized was one of the first.
The brand’s Tri-Fix strap simplifies helmet setup by using a fixed intersection between the straps coming down from the helmet with the straps fitting under the chin. Instead of the straps being anchored into the helmet shell, the Comp uses floating straps anchored at the rear and in the front quarter area.
As mentioned, one of the Ambush's best features is its breathability. The large vents do a nice job of keeping air flowing over your head and through the helmet on hot summertime rides.
Over the past several months, I've done the majority of my cross-country skids and wheelies while wearing Smith's Forefront helmet. Compared to the Forefront, the Comp rests a little farther down on the forehead. The additional coverage at the rear of the helmet made for a very secure fit with little unwanted bobble-head-like movement. Simply put, the Ambush Comp settles into the fore and aft sweet spot, and is comfortable enough to nearly forget you're wearing it altogether.
Fit is highly subjective, frankly, because riders come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention a bunch of us mountain biking mutants have wonky noggins. (I kid the mutants.) However, I found the Ambush Comp to be surprisingly comfortable with a spot-on fit—no irritating edges or unwanted shifting. Thankfully, I've not had to personally test the impact capability of the Comp. However, after putting it good use for several months, it's proven to be a comfy, reasonably lightweight and affordably priced lid packed with modern features for today's savvy rider.