Specialized Airnet MIPS Review
Cons: Heavy, bulky
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Specialized Airnet combines solid construction, a comfortable fit, and incredible ventilation into an affordable package. With a semi-aerodynamic shape, Specialized claims this is the third fastest helmet in their lineup. While it ends up on the heavier side of our lineup, this is because of its elongated profile, a generous amount of plush padding, and solid shell construction that will protect its more vulnerable foam parts from bumps or scratches. While serious racers might prefer a lighter option, those looking for a one helmet quiver may be pleased with the versatility and value that this model provides.
With an abundant amount of plush padding, the Airnet finds itself among the most comfortable helmets in our lineup. While it doesn't have a full circumference headband system that some other top-rated helmets have, this shortfall is offset by a high-quality padding system, helping eliminate potential pressure points. The DriRelease merino wool pads on this contender are among the best pads of any helmet we tested, absorbing a good amount of sweat without feeling too cold or clammy against the head.
Two sets of pads are included, one of which has an integrated visor, but both sets of pads offer the same level of comfort. The 4x DryLite webbing chinstraps are incredibly supple and feel good against the face. Overall, this model provides a very high level of comfort and is competitive with competitors that are much more expensive.
The Airnet finds itself towards the bottom of our adjustability ratings. While the circumference size adjustment is similar to most other models, with a range of 59-63 cm in a size Large, the adjustable headband system is fixed near the temples, limiting the ability to accommodate a wide range of head shapes and sizes comfortably. The headband system does have 3 cm of fore and aft adjustment available in five increments, which helps dial in proper positioning on the head.
Another minor shortfall of this lid is that the webbing for the chinstrap system is fixed in place. While there is a length adjustment near the chinstrap itself, the overall strap system is anchored in place at the front and rear of the helmet, which prevents the straps from being adjusted side to side. The Y-buckles on this helmet are named Tri-Fix, which, as the name suggests, are not adjustable like they are on most other models in our lineup.
The Airnet is one of the heavier helmets we tested, weighing in at 364 grams in size Large by our measurements. Similar to other helmets with a semi-aerodynamic profile, the longer shape and additional materials can start to add up. However, unlike other lower-priced or lower weight helmets in our lineup, this offering has a full-wrap polycarbonate shell that makes it feel quite durable by protecting the vulnerable foam liner from dings or dents. Despite being on the heavier end of the spectrum, our testers never felt like the helmet was particularly heavy on the head since we are talking about approximately 50 grams difference between the heaver and lighter models. With so many positive attributes, riders looking for great comfort and ventilation in a semi-aero package won't mind the extra weight.
Style is certainly the most subjective metric in our reviews, but we try to be objective by mentioning special extras that are included, or identifying what we think would be universally appreciated design features. While the Airnet has a very classic aesthetic that could look at home on both the racer and commuter, some of our testers think the traditional design looks a bit dated compared to some of its more modern looking counterparts. The semi-aerodynamic shape also looks and feels a bit bulky on the head.
There are also rubber sunglass grippers in both the front and rear vents for secure, convenient sunglass storage. The optional integrated visor gives all of the sun-deflecting benefits of a traditional cycling cap, without the extra heat build-up. The visor also does a good job of keeping light rain from coming down the inside of your glasses.
The Airnet has some very impressive ventilation capabilities. As the name suggests, the sensation of air moving over and around the head is unparalleled. Regardless of speed, a superb level of ventilation is maintained, which is especially evident when directly comparing to other models.
Even more impressive is that this helmet only has 22 vents, compared to up to 31 vents found on other models in the lineup. Part of the key to the performance on this helmet is the strategic placing of the vents and the fact that the internal MIPS liner seems to line up perfectly with the vents. On other helmets, the MIPS liner tends to block some of the openings and reduce the potential ventilation.
With a full-wrap polycarbonate shell that extends around the full base of the helmet, the Airnet is a very durable contender. While this lid seems like a durable workhorse, it does have a bit of exposed EPS foam on the upper portion of the helmet around the vents, which means it falls just short of the top competitors in this category.
The webbing straps on this lid are very thin and supple but showed no signs of abrasion during testing. The adjustment dial proved to be trouble-free, and we had no problems with the chinstrap buckle. We also have to mention the padding, which shows no sign of deterioration or compaction, despite lots of use from the test team. This model is a step above many other competitors when it comes to durability, particularly amongst the low- to mid-priced options we tested.
With a surprisingly reasonable price, the Airnet provides tremendous value for the right user, as it packed full of features and performs highly in many of our rating categories. While other less expensive models perform similarly, there are also many pricier models that this one beats handily. With solid ratings across the board and a reasonable price, many riders would be happy with this helmet.
The Specialized Airnet is an affordable helmet that performs well above its price point. It has a built-in MIPS liner, impressive ventilation, and boasts some innovative features like sunglass grippers and an optional soft visor that are not found on any other model in its price range. Its performance-to-value ratio is among the best in our lineup.
— Nick Bruckbauer