Specialized have added the Tactic 4 to their trail helmet range, and it brings lots of useful features and safety aspects.
The Specialized Tactic helmet has been a go-to for many trail riders, and Specialized just released the Tactic 4, and it's a completely different helmet to the outgoing Tactic 3. Specialized have said that the Tactic 4 is the future for 'fit, ventilation and confidence'. Specialized aren't afraid of having bold claims - and I have had a Tactic 4 on hand for about a month to use it on the trails.
A closer look
Like most modern trail helmets, the new Tactic 4 has extended coverage in the rear, protecting more of the base of your skull. The upper back of the helmet is nice and flat, which allows a goggle strap to sit securely, if you're using goggles.
The straps exit the in-moulded shell from the inside edge of the helmet, which means they sit closer to your face. And the forward mount leads from a lowered portion of the shell, which helps increase coverage around the temples.
There's easy access to adjust the retention system in the back of the helmet, and it's also compatible with Specialized's ANGi Crash Sensor. The retention system can't be lowered or raised, and this can help some helmets really stay secure when you can ensure it's snug below the base of your occipital bone (that slightly pointy bit at the back of your skull).
Specialized have a single position visor on the Tactic 4, and it sits high and proud. This is a boon for eyewear compatibility, as there are ports to fit your sunglasses (straight arms fit best) and you can easily sit your goggles up there too, even without the adjustable visor.
This medium test unit came in black (as you can see) but there are six colours available, with white, doppio, oak green, dove grey and cast blue also available. This medium weighs 380g, and fits like a medium should.
As for safety, the Tactic 4 has a MIPS slip liner, and it's rated to the Dutch e-bike Standard NTA8776. There's no Australian eMTB helmet standard, but of course it does pass Australian standards as well. But the Dutch eMTB standard should allow a little more peace of mind.
On the trail
This is the third fixed visor helmet I have tested recently, and each time my pessimistic media brain goes into overdrive (such as it is) ready to explain why only having one position doesn't suit mountain biking. Except yet again, I've found myself not thinking about the visor position any time I was riding in the Specialized Tactic 4.
When riding, I found the visor was always above my field of vision, which did make me wonder if I'd ever want it lower. As it is, it did let me port my sunglasses there - although I only did that to see if the small holes worked - as I need my glasses to differentiate between logs and crocodiles so I tend to keep them on.
With 11 forward facing ports (counting the two small ones for eyewear storage) and 6 on the back, the Tactic 4 ventilates nicely. Even riding here in sunny (and increasingly humid) Queensland, the helmet gave great airflow, be it creeping up climbs or on descents.
The padding on the MIPS liner is generous at the front and non-existent at the back, so if you have more hair in photo memories than in the current day, I'd really recommend trying the Tactic 4 on before you buy one, incase the MIPS liner at the rear isn't comfortable.
The high-quality helmet straps didn't hold sweat like a sponge, which is a small but important detail that can split the difference for helmets in the $120-200 range. The web splitter below your ears is also welcome, as it stays exactly where it's needed. This does reduce the overall fitting options a little, but you'd have to have some crazy head shapes to find the straps didn't fit where they need to.
While I do moan about whether you can adjust the cradle of a retention system, it was a nice surprise that the Tactic 4 didn't budge, even without the direct height adjustment. As the system pulls up from below, it was super stable, and I never needed to readjust the helmet when riding - which hasn't been the same for others.
It's good to see Specialized really considering where there needs to be more material with the Tactic 4. It is easy to look at a light helmet and appreciate the venting, but the material has to be there to do the job. As one helmet engineer told me, the ideal helmet is akin to a foam esky on your head with lots of foam and, while the ideal for a helmet designer is a sleek, minimalist design with lots of vents.
The Tactic 4 has plenty of material over the top of the head, near your temples and at the back. It doesn't feel too bulky when you're wearing it, and it doesn't look any different to the majority of trail helmets on the market - but it does carry a little more safety cred with the Dutch eMTB safety rating.
Overall I found the Tactic 4 an easy helmet to put on and forget about. Selling for $180 with a comfortable fit, 6 colour options, a MIPS liner and other good safety cred, I think it's a great helmet to try on. And that's probably the key thing. You can read plenty of reviews about features, but make sure you try some helmets on, and get the one with the most secure fit. It's not a fashion item, a good trail helmet is about making sure you have the protection you need.
From: Specialized Australia
- Great fit and adjustments
- Colour options
- Good safety features
- Nifty eyewear storage
- None really