Is it safe?  Is it secure?  My Precious! Gollom had it figured out, in one sense.  He knew what was important.  he wondersKeeping it safe is something you should pay some attention to, and as mountain bikers, we regularly put ourselves at risk when we suit up and roll out.  And that means wearing appropriate protective equipment befitting the occasion. I would not ride without a helmet, but I most often ride without a pad of any kind.  Some of that is due to a false sense of my own abilities!  But it also is due to the fact that pads pretty much suck to ride in, especially on a longer, more XC or moderate trail days where you will be climbing a great deal or just spending a lot of time pedaling rather than hucking.

But helmets are getting better and better at not only protecting us, but also ventilating well and weighing less, but often as not they are also getting more costly in the process.  And what began with the G Form pads, a light weight and flexible alternative to the hard-core armor that DH or AM riders were wearing, has spread to quite a few options in less obtrusive protection for the critical knees and elbows

So today we are looking at a new trail rated helmet and a set of light weight knee pads from Specialized.  When we attended the roll out of the 2016 Stumpy FSR, we also walked away with the new Ambush helmet and a set of the Atlas knee pads.  I took both of them to Sedona, AZ for a press camp where both items performed beyond my expectations.

The Ambush:


JeffJ shows a LG version of the Ambush trailside at Big Bear, CA.  you can see how well the helmet covers the back of the skull, almost to his jacket collar.

Equally suited for trail rides, enduro races, and anything in-between, the Ambush provides trail and all mountain riders with the lightest and most ventilated extended coverage helmet available.

  • Patented Aramid-Reinforced Skeleton provides internal EPS support.
  • Patented Energy Optimized Multi-Density EPS construction helps to manage impact energy.
  • Mindset 360 fit system provides a secure, customizable fit with 360-degree tension adjustment, five height positions, and an integrated dial for easy, on-the-fly adjustments.
  • Micro indexing visor allows for a wide range of fast, secure on-trail adjustments, as well as convenient goggle stowage.
  • 4th Dimension Cooling System with massive vents, internal Cross-Channels, and aligned exhaust ports increases airflow to keep you cool.
  • Low profile in-molded shell with smooth, snag-free exterior shape.
  • Extended coverage for added protection and durability.
  • Lightweight, quick-drying liner features a Gutter Action Brow that channels moisture away from eyes.
  • Tri-Fix web splitter for improved comfort and ease of strap adjustments.
  • Complies with one or more of the following safety standards for bicycle helmets: CPSC, SNELL B90A, CE, and AS/NZS.
  • MSRP $180.00

I had been using an older Tactic II Specialized helmet for the last year and liked it pretty well.  From what I have experienced so far, the Ambush is an improvement on that older lid.  The change that I noticed the most is regarding overall fit.  The new Mindset 360 system is quite good and as where the older helmet’s internal ‘cage’ was attached attached to the brow area of the helmet, the Ambush’s version is floating, if you will, and feels much more secure to me.  In fact, this is the most comfortable fitting trail helmet I have worn yet and is very stable on my head without feeling too tight in the process.


Things to note: The tension adjustment for the Mindset 360 is in the helmet shell (and is replaceable), the straps exit from a different place than the older Tactic II, the padding is different altogether, and the front of the Mindset 360 does not attach to the helmet shell under the brow pad like the Tactic II did.




The weight at 367g is the same over the Tactic II, give or take a gram or two, and to my eye, the ventilation looks about the same.  On a rather mild set of trail days so far, maybe up into the mid 80s, it has felt sufficiently cool.  The protection level looks good as well, with coverage aplenty and there are lots of color choices.

If you wear goggles, then the racheting visor is pretty cool, giving you a storage area and, as well, the rear of the helmet has a strap area molded in.

For me, the fit is what stands out.  It really just disappears on your head and I never have given it a second thought once I put it on.  I think it will be an ideal trail helmet for So Cal summer riding (and beyond).

Atlas Knee Pads:

atlas cut

  • Anti-shock foam hardens on impact
  • Low-profile, breathable, open-back design is highly articulated for pedaling comfort
  • Elastic cuff and silicone grippers on upper opening keep pad in place
  • Available in four sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • MSRP $65.00

When I first saw the original G Form pads (and I own a couple of sets) I thought it was a brilliant idea, that being a set of protective gear that was flexible, light, easy to stow and carry. Not for total yard sale, high speed impact, but really they, and pads like them, are a ‘way better than nothing at all’ option for riders who either do not want or do not need a hard shelled pad.

But wearing them always kind of sucked.  They were very tight and hot to wear in an arm warmer/leg warmer kind of way and they always bugged me right behind the knee when pedaling as the material would bunch up.  However, I also felt more protected and some light scuffles in the dirt proved that to be so.  But I have them in a box and not in my gear bag so that tells you how I feel about them.

So when I picked up the feathery light and leg warmer looking Atlas pads, I thought “here we go again”.  I turned out to be both wrong and right.  The Atlas pads are very much like wearing (and you size them that way too) knee warmers with an attitude.  They are snug to pull on and it takes a bit of wiggling to get them over my decent sized calf muscles.  The pad is mostly over the knee cap and a bit below and also extends around the sides with little ‘dots’ of padding.  There is a cut-out on the back side behind the knee that looks like it addresses the fabric bunching up there.  Note in the first pic below, it looks like they are saggy, but when you bend your leg, as in the second pic, they fit properly.


I got them 2 days before I left for Sedona, AZ and they were the only thing I packed as far as trail armor.  Now the trails there are not horribly technical or even very fast, or at least the ones we ride aren’t, but they are not easy either and they are quite different than the terrain I have at home which is faster, more open, and requires a bit different skill set.  So I am not the sharpest crayon in the box on ledge-y, rocky, loose trails at slow speeds and I know it.  A pad or two is a very good idea.

The first day I suited up and headed out with the group.  Not 10 minutes into the ride, the trail takes a diving left turn across a diagonal rock slab that is tricky and requires the right combo of speed and control.  Too slow and your tires break loose…too fast and you miss the turn at the bottom.  The guy in front of me guessed wrong and required me to come to a full on stop 1/3 of the way down the rock, one leg out and weight way behind the saddle.  I tried to finish the move from there, but my front tire greased out and I went down on my left knee, front to side, and slid a few feet down the rock.


It was hardly dramatic, that crash, but my knee would have been bloody and bruised, especially the side bones, and it would have bothered me all week.  Bummer.  But that did not happen as the Atlas pads did just what I wanted them to do.  They lost skin…I did not.

I finished the 3 hour ride and then, just because I wanted to, I stayed in the Atlas pads all through lunch and into the afternoon where we did a second ride.  I must have been in them for 7 hours and over two rides.  I barely even noticed they were there.  Winner!

I did have them bunch down a bit once in the above the knee section, but not always, and I am not sure why that was but for the most part they stayed put and the knee cap section never moved down or around.  I would like to have an elbow version of these for sure.

As far as riding on a hot day in them, well there is no denying they are hotter than not wearing anything, right?  But they seem to allow for air flow pretty well, not at the pad area, but everywhere else.  It is what it is.

I am keeping these in my gear bag and not in a box somewhere.

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Note: The Specialized products shown here were sent for test/review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.