The Specialized Align II is the cheapest road-focused MIPS lid around. But does it cut corners or is it really a steal, askes our cycle gear tester Charlie Allenby…

Specialized Align II Helmet

$55 / £45, amazon.com

Buy now

Pros:

  • Great price 
  • Reflective detailing 

Cons:

  • No eyewear storage 
  • Sweat management could be better 

Comfort: 4/5
Ventilation: 4/5
Extra features: 4/5
OVERALL: 4/5 

‘Cheap’ and ‘helmet’ are two words that shouldn’t ever go together. Ultimately, a helmet is there to protect you when you fall off your bike or e-bikes when riding on or off road, or you’re involved in a crash. So it’s worth paying as much as you can afford – it’s a worthwhile investment, after all. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to spend upwards of three figures. All you really need is a helmet that meets the minimum safety standards in the UK (EN 1078) or US (CPSC 1203). Take the Align II from Specialized as a prime example. At $55 / £45 RRP (and available online for less), it’s a fraction of the price of some of the other helmets tested. Safety-wise, however, it includes the exact same industry-leading MIPS technology. But have corners been cut elsewhere to keep the price down? 

Specialized Align II performance 

To look at, the Align II belies its modest price tag. The matte white colourway I tested looks as premium as helmets twice (or five times) its price. It features 16 vents and the same ‘4th Dimension Cooling System’ found on Specialized’s premium range – essentially large internal channels in the helmet to help carry cool air over your head before expelling it out of the ‘exhaust’ vents at the rear. But in practice, it wasn’t perfect. 

Product shot of a Specialized bike helmet

The Align II boasts 16 vents but it’s not the best at keeping a lid on sweat levels

While the top of my head stayed cool, the Align II struggled to manage my sweat even during cool-weather testing – particularly when I ramped up the intensity. The padding appeared to become overwhelmed (although I’m a sweater, other helmets tested didn’t have this issue), and sweat was soon dripping down my face and getting absorbed by the strap’s webbing. 

If you’re planning on using it for commuting and low-intensity endurance rides, then this probably won’t be an issue, but I’d look elsewhere if hot weather or high-intensity efforts are on the agenda. 

Specialized Align II fit 

The Align II was a cinch to get set up and felt secure without being tight. Although its padding might not be up to the job of containing a bucket-load of sweat, its plush finish helps the helmet sit comfortably on the forehead. Fine-tuning the fit is possible courtesy of an easy-to-use micro-adjuster at the rear.

While it wasn’t an issue for me, it’s worth noting that the strap’s webbing can’t be adjusted around the ears, and the only way to tighten or slacken is at the buckle. 

Its only notable fit flaw is that it doesn’t have a place to store cycling sunglasses. Although it’s possible to shove a pair into the widest front vents, they didn’t feel secure enough to ride without worrying they’d suddenly fall out. 

Specialized Align II value

Cycling can be an expensive hobby, so in a world of four-figure bikes and three-figure cycling jerseys and helmets, it’s refreshing to see a big brand like Specialized offering an affordable alternative. While it has its flaws, it’s tough to beat on price – Cannondale’s £80 Intake MIPS and Decathlon’s £54.99 Van Rysel RoadR 500 MIPS are the only road-focused lids that come close.  

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