Specialized Align II Helmet MIPS Review
Animals were injured in testing.
November of 2020, I decided to buy a new helmet. I wear a 62cm size and wanted MIPS technology. I decided on Specialized Align II Helmet MIPS because of price, size, and color. In XL size I can wear a stretch fleece hood under it. The combination was okay riding at 20°F. I took a selfie while wearing the helmet when it was in the high 30s.
May 1st, 2021 at 2 PM was a warm crowded day on the Lakefront Path. There were a group of teenagers riding Divvy bikes in front of me. A few of them were in the left lane.
I tried to pass on the far left. One severed served left and both of us went down. Since he was luckier and more than 50 years younger than me he got up fairly quickly. They saw the chain flipped off my bike and unsuccessfully tried to repair it. After a while I got up I engaged the chain and pulled out a 5mm hex wrench to realign the handlebars. I slowly rode to the nearest bus stop. I called my son to retrieve me since I felt poor and knew I could not load my bike on the bus rack. At 11 pM I got out of Northwestern ER. I had two CAT scans, four additional X-rays, various tests, and some effective pain drugs. X-rays confirmed I have two broken bones in my shoulder area. I have scrapes and bruises all over my body except my head. CAT scan confirmed I had no cranial or neck injuries. The left side of my helmet shows deep scrapes and an internal break.
The rear of the helmet also has a break. My last bike fall was five years ago sliding on the slick algae along the lake. While wearing an aero-tailed Schwinn helmet the back flipped up and I had a slight head cut from the rear adjuster being pounded into my head. The Align II absorbed the shock in the back.
I will not be on a bike until I am cleared by my orthopedic surgeon, likely in July. I ordered a new Specialized Align II MIPS this afternoon for $55.35 tax and shipping included. I cannot comment on hot weather ventilation but for protection, I found what I want to wear. BTW: I now have a used and abused helmet only four months old for sale, offers will be accepted.
See you on the road (in July), Elwood
Specialized Align II Helmet MIPS Review Part 2
When I purchased my helmet I consulted the bike helmet ratings at Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, has been rating sports helmets since 2011. Currently, May 2021, they have tested 122 models of bike helmets. After a prescribed series of tests, they issue a star rating and a numeric rating where the most stars and lowest numeric rating offer the best protection.
On the current list, May 2021, of over 100 helmets rated by numeric score, Specialized Align II MIPS at 9.6 is number four. The best-rated helmet, Fox Dropframe Pro (MIPS) at 8.9 is number one but is not made in my size. The list itself is interesting because there is no obvious correlation between rating and cost. The Specialized Align II MIPS at $50 rates better protection than the Giant Rev Pro at $273. Who made the helmet does not seem to correlate with protection either. Specialized also makes the Echelon II which is currently ranked third from the bottom with over a hundred helmets.
Construction of the Specialized Align II
The helmet consists of four interrelated systems
1. Outer shell with EPS core
2. TriFix strap system
3. Headset adjustable fitting
3. Inner Mips liner
Outer shell with Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) core - The outer shell is about 0.5mm tough smooth plastic. It is about 20% thicker than the outer shell on my oId Bell XLP or my unknown-model Giro. I prefer a high visibility color, “HYPRVIZ”, but the Align II is also available in “satin cast berry”, “satin clay”, gloss dark blue, “satin white”, flat black, and gloss red. This outer shell is supposed to hold the helmet together and slide on whatever surface it encounters even under pressure. The EPS is supposed to deform and absorb energy in a crash.
I was in a bike crash May 1st, 2021. Another rider swerved left as I was passing. There are scrape marks where the outer shell slid on pavement. The EPS core dented and cracked in a couple of places. My neurologist offered the personal opinion that if I had not worn this or a similar helmet I would have been longer in the hospital or a quick trip to the morgue. I used a white marker to accent the post crash dents and cracks.
Trifix strap system - The strap system is securely attached to the Outer Shell by feed-through anchors, two in the front and one in the rear. On the Align II model, there is no adjusting the front-to-back ratio. The only user strap adjustment is the chin strap fit. The straps are fed through the helmet then the anchors are sewn on before pulling back into place. I estimate the strap system would remain connected to the outer shell unless total destruction of the outer shell.
Headset adjustable fitting - The adjustable head fitting is held to the outer shell in four places. Two close together in the front along with a left and right along the sides. A left attachment broke free during my crash. I connected a luggage scale to the right attachment, it pulled out around 40 pounds of steady tension. The attachments are a barbed piece pushed into the completed EPS during manufacture. I wear my hair in a ponytail. In the four months of wearing the helmet, my hair never tangled in the adjuster. It has severely tangled with some other brands. The click wheel adjuster can change the circumference by 80mm.
Inner MIPS liner - The MIPS liner on the Align II is tough flexible yellow plastic about 1 mm in thickness. I knew a MIPS liner was supposed to slip 10-15mm in the helmet lowering the torque of a twisting motion on the rider’s neck. When I looked at my helmet post-crash I noticed the liner was in its original position. Later I saw that the liner was on stretchy tabs, so it likely moved in the crash then recentered when I took the helmet off. I pulled on a section of a stretchy tab it elongated about 2.5 times its original length before failing. In ER they took numerous images of my neck post-crash. My 72-year-old neck shows osteoporosis but no injury from the bike crash. I attribute that to luck and MIPS.
In the Align advertisements, a feature is “Reflective decals for increased visibility in low-light conditions”. These are small, the total amount on the helmet is about one square inch total of black reflective tape, hardly noticeable and not worth further comment.
In the instruction manual, it states do not attach anything to the helmet including mirrors or lights. The manual goes on to warn not to wear anything under the helmet like a cap, hood, or other things. I choose to ignore this with my stretch fleece inner when it is below 40℉, but you have been warned.
The advertisements also feature “4th Dimension Cooling System optimizes ventilation”. Helmet cooling is a personal preference thing like optimal saddle shape. I bought an identical Align II Mips and was wearing it in August on a twenty mile ride in the low 90’s F with high humidity. I was hot and soaked through my shirt, I took my helmet off and did not feel any cooler. I remember my unknown-model darker-colored Giro helmet to be a big relief when taking it off in similar conditions. I personally rate the cooling good enough.
The Specialized Align II MIPS road-style bike helmet is an excellent buy for its level of protection. Due to my personal crash testing, I would choose it over helmets costing over five times its selling price.
See you on the road,