Reviews You Can Rely On

Specialized Gambit Review

A very lightweight and well-ventilated full-face helmet that delivers an unrivaled pedaling experience
specialized gambit downhill helmet review
This is the first full face we have ridden that can truly make sense for rides with legitimate amounts of climbing.
Credit: Pat Donahue
Price:  $300 List
Manufacturer:   Specialized
By Pat Donahue ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 8, 2022
80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 18
  • Comfort - 25% 7.0
  • Protection - 20% 7.0
  • Weight - 20% 10.0
  • Ventilation - 15% 10.0
  • Visor - 10% 7.0
  • Durability - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Specialized Gambit is the lightest and most airy full face we have ever tested. The lack of cushy padding and excellent airflow allows the Gambit to be a truly realistic option for rides that involve a significant amount of pedaling. Despite its light weight, it still carries a downhill certification. Trail riders or e-bikers who appreciate the coverage and enhanced protection of a full face helmet are the ideal candidates for this light and breezy model. While this helmet wouldn't be our recommendation for lift-served riding or DH racing, it is absolutely a game-changer within its intended application.
REASONS TO BUY
Impressively lightweight
Extremely breathable
Great for pedaling
REASONS TO AVOID
Clumsy fit near cheeks
Not the most comfortable
Lacks the substantial feel of burlier/heavier helmets

Compare to Similar Products

 
specialized gambit downhill helmet review
This Product
Specialized Gambit
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $300 List
Check Price at Backcountry
$297.50 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
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$174.99 at Backcountry
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$110 List
$96.95 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Impressively lightweight, extremely breathable, great for pedalingBreathable, more robust than other enduro-focused options, lightweightComfortable, breathable, secure fit, substantial protection for enduro-style lidProtective, reasonably priced, comfortableImpressive price tag, comfortable, available in seven sizes
Cons Clumsy fit near cheeks, not the most comfortable, lacks the substantial feel of burlier/heavier helmetsNot suited for frequent bike park duties, a little expensiveSlightly heavier than other enduro lids, not the best option for the bike parkAverage ventilation, heavier weight, no rotational impact protection systemWarm, poor ventilation, fit is a little loose
Bottom Line A very lightweight and well-ventilated full-face helmet that delivers an unrivaled pedaling experienceA dialed enduro-oriented helmet that delivers excellent breathability and solid protectionA killer enduro race helmet that blends a substantial and protective feel with excellent airflow and comfortA full-face helmet that boasts a strong value and high levels of protectionA respectable full-face helmet at a stunning price tag
Rating Categories Specialized Gambit Smith Mainline MIPS Fox Racing Proframe RS Troy Lee Designs D3... 7Protection M1
Comfort (25%)
7.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Protection (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Weight (20%)
10.0
9.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
Ventilation (15%)
10.0
9.0
10.0
7.0
5.0
Visor (10%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Durability (10%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Specialized Gambit Smith Mainline MIPS Fox Racing Proframe RS Troy Lee Designs D3... 7Protection M1
Weight (grams, size medium) 613 grams 765 grams 836 grams 1219 grams 947 grams
Weight (ounces, size medium) 21.6 oz 27.0 oz 29.5 oz 43.0 oz 33.4 oz
Number of Vents 18 21 22 20 17
Shell Material Carbon Fiber Aerocore Polycarbonate Fiberglass Polycarbonate
Rotational Impact Protection System MIPS SL MIPS MIPS Integra None None
Sizes S, M, L S, M, L S, M, L XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL Youth M, Youth L, S, S, M, L, XL
CPSC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CE EN1077 No No Yes No
CE EN1078 No Yes Yes No
ASTM F1952 (DH) Yes Yes Yes Yes No
ASTM F2032 No Yes Yes No
ASTM F2040 No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Gambit is very lightweight and breathable, making it our top recommendation for pedal-heavy rides. This is the only non-convertible helmet we have tested that truly felt like a realistic choice for rides that involve real climbs and significant amounts of pedaling. Weight and ventilation were by far the most impressive performance metrics. Comfort levels are okay and while this lid does carry a downhill certification, it doesn't feel anywhere near as substantial as the true DH helmets. That said, this new model brings the coverage and enhanced protection of a full face to a wider range of riders.

Performance Comparison


specialized gambit downhill helmet review - the gambit is a light and well-ventilated full face helmet.
The Gambit is a light and well-ventilated full face helmet.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Comfort


The Gambit feels far different than the majority of full-face helmets. While most lids are heavily padded and have a pillowy feel, this helmet has a shockingly small amount of padding with only two pillowy cheek pads (one on each side) contacting your head. The rest of the helmet fits much more like a traditional half-shell lid with a cradle system.


The Gambit has an adjustable Integrated Fit System that allows riders to adjust the main cradle to adapt to different head shapes. This cradle can be shifted to adjust to the shape of your occipital lobe for a snug and secure fit. In addition, the cheek pads can be adjusted into four different positions to fine-tune the fit around the cheeks. On the rear of the helmet, there is a stealthy dial that is partially integrated into the shell of the helmet that tightens the cradle. This adjustment could easily be made while in the saddle and while wearing gloves. We did find that the cheek pads were somewhat easy to dislodge when putting the helmet on, though they were fairly easy to reposition. We have read consumer reviews that claim this helmet runs a bit large. Our lead helmet tester is on the upper end of the typical medium sizing, and he found it to work well for him. We would recommend checking Specialized's size chart before buying.

On the head, this helmet felt extremely airy and light but we noticed a couple of minor fit quirks. We experienced a persistent pressure point right on the center of the crown of our head. On the inside of the helmet, this area has a thin strip of traditional, half-shell-style padding, but it felt like the crown of our head was pushing right up against the EPS foam. We also experienced a small bit of pressure above the brow. Regardless of any cradle settings or pad positioning, there was this nagging, low-grade pressure. It was easy to forget about when riding, but both of these issues made the comfort level less than perfect.

specialized gambit downhill helmet review - a small dial tightens the cradle inside the helmet to adjust the fit.
A small dial tightens the cradle inside the helmet to adjust the fit.
Credit: Pat Donahue

The closure system is a simple, traditional quick-release buckle that is easy to adjust. Clipping and unclipping the buckle is simple and can be done while wearing gloves. On the trail, the fit was fine. Given the design of this helmet, it did not feel quite as secure as a heavily padded/pillowy helmet and we found it moved around a tad more than we would have liked. No matter what combination of cheek pad position and Integrated Fit System settings we chose, it never felt completely wiggle free on our heads.

specialized gambit downhill helmet review - this helmet has plenty of protection for aggressive trail riding. we...
This helmet has plenty of protection for aggressive trail riding. We recommend something burlier for lift-access endeavors.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Protection


The Gambit uses a carbon fiber shell with a polycarbonate backing. Inside the shell is a dual-density EPS foam that is applied in five patches. This helmet uses a MIPS system that allows the helmet to rotate slightly in the event of an angled impact. The Gambit uses MIPS SL which integrates the MIPS into the padding and is claimed to be a lighter and more breathable version of this popular rotational impact protection system.


This helmet carries an ATSM DH (1952) certification. The fact that this helmet weighs so little and is DH certified is truly impressive. That being said, we feel this helmet is still best suited for aggressive trail, all-mountain riding, and e-biking. We would opt for something burlier (read: heavier) for riding lifts at the bike park or hitting big jumps of drops.

Many of the heavier and more padded gravity-focused helmets offer a bit more coverage than the Gambit, particularly around the rear of the head where it seems to rise a bit higher than some other models. As previously mentioned, the minimal padding allowed the helmet to shift around on our tester's heads a bit more than we would have liked. We feel the low weight also detracts from confidence in aggressive descents. Our testers agree that when you are in true gravity-fed situations, having some more bulk and padding is very much welcome. Yes, this helmet is DH-certified, but we would not consider this a true "DH helmet".

For a helmet that intends to blend the fit, ventilation, and low weight of a half shell with the enhanced coverage of a full face, we think this helmet offers a good level of protection. Riders who want to protect their face without being weighed down by a bulky and sweaty full face will find a lot to love here.

Weight


This feathery helmet hit the scales at 613 grams or 21.6 ounces. This makes the Gambit the lightest helmet in this test class by a substantial margin. It is even lighter than all of the convertible models when they have the chin bar attached.


On long climbs or pedally sections of the trail, the low weight really pays dividends. It weighs just a couple hundred grams more than a half-shell model. The light weight of the Gambit is one of its primary selling points, but we have to admit that a helmet this light does not feel as protective as models that weigh significantly more. Sure, this helmet is designed to be pedaled and as a result, low weight and supreme airflow were the primary considerations in the design process. Still, when you are bouncing down a rowdy chute, this light lid can feel a little disconcerting, comparatively speaking.

specialized gambit downhill helmet review - this helmet offers excellent airflow whether you're cruising down...
This helmet offers excellent airflow whether you're cruising down the hill or slogging up it.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Ventilation


The Gambit breathes exceptionally well. It scored right at the top of this metric along with some of the other enduro-oriented full-face helmets. Due to its impressive performance in this metric, we feel it among the best options for riding in hot temperatures or taking out for rides with lots of pedaling where you'll be working up a sweat.


A big theme among the top scorers, including the Gambit is the open chin bar vents that are absent of any mesh. The Gambit has three large vents on the chin bar, one right in front of the mouth and one on each side. These open vents allow a tremendous amount of air through. When huffing and puffing up a punchy climb the enhanced ventilation paired with the lack of padding in this helmet really allows this lid to breathe very, very well.

This helmet also features five intake ports or vents above the brow. Two are flat and horizontal while three others are square. This allows cool air to enter and pass through the helmet. Much like a half shell, the cradle system and minimal padding don't stifle the airflow the way many other full-face models can. On the trail, this excellent ventilation is absolutely noticeable, and the light weight of the helmet only adds to the well-ventilated feel.

specialized gambit downhill helmet review - the fixed-position visor protrudes a little beyond the chin bar.
The fixed-position visor protrudes a little beyond the chin bar.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Visor


The Gambit uses a fixed-position visor. The visor is average in length and protrudes about the same distance as the chin bar. It looks natural and it is approximately 6-inches wide at the front.


The fixed position visor is an understandable approach from a design aspect. This is especially the case when trying to design a superlight lid. The extra hardware and channels required to make an adjustable visor certainly add weight. That being said, having an adjustable visor is a luxury. The Gambit's visor is sensibly positioned but we would have liked the option to adjust it upward in some situations to enhance the field of vision a bit more.

specialized gambit downhill helmet review - caution, the cheek pads can dislodge fairly easily when putting the...
Caution, the cheek pads can dislodge fairly easily when putting the helmet on or taking it off.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Durability


Throughout our testing process, we observed no signs of premature wear or material breakdown. The Integrated Fit System, adjustment dial, and cheek pad position system still works just fine.


We didn't intentionally crash while wearing this helmet, that would be silly. We do have some questions as to how this featherweight will stand up in a crash. While the carbon fiber shell seems like it can take a little abuse, this helmet's lightweight construction feels more like a half shell. Compared to burlier helmets, we would treat the Gambit with a bit more care. It seems like dropping it, tossing it into the back of the shuttle rig, and of course, smacking your head on the ground could damage it more easily.

Extras


The Gambit comes with a helmet bag and an additional set of cheek pads to tweak the fit.

specialized gambit downhill helmet review - the gambit in its natural habitat...ripping fast berms.
The Gambit in its natural habitat...ripping fast berms.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Value


This helmet sits in the middle of the pack on the price spectrum. Some "premium" helmets are far more expensive while other lids cost a little less. We feel the Gambit represents a solid value. Despite the price tag, we feel the Gambit brings something unique to the table and may be ideal for those seeking full face coverage in a lightweight and super breathable package.

Conclusion


The Specialized Gambit is a light and extremely breathable helmet that provides the enhanced protection of a full face without the weight penalty. If your rides feature gnarly terrain where a full face is warranted but also requires substantial pedaling, this is a great option. This unique helmet fills a niche for those who earn their turns and want the protection of a full face with the fit and ventilation of a half shell.

specialized gambit downhill helmet review - the gambit offers a truly unmatched pedaling experience.
The Gambit offers a truly unmatched pedaling experience.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Pat Donahue
 
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