Product Test: Specialized Dissident DH Helmet

Specialized makes some of our favorite trail helmets, yet at the same time, they didn’t seem to have a large presence in the full-face, gravity helmet world. The big “S” is looking to change that with the Dissident helmet.

Tech features:
The Dissident helmet is constructed of a carbon fiber shell. It features Specialized’s “4th Dimension Cooling” system that boasts 20 vents. The design connects the vents in the brow and front of the helmet with exhaust ports in the rear via channels in the inner EPS liner to keep air moving over the rider’s head. If the helmet still ends up sweaty, the inner liner is removable for easy washing.

The helmet is designed to be compatible with the Leatt  neck brace and features quick-release cheek pads that snap in and out of place for easy removal in case of an accident. It is also compatible with Shock Doctor’s Eject helmet-removal system. The system is essentially a folded mylar pouch that sits at the top of the EPS liner with a hose that routes out the back of the helmet through a specially designed vein in the liner. The Eject system allows emergency personnel to safely remove a rider’s helmet in case of a potential neck injury. The system is not widely used in the mountain bike world yet, but it is already standard equipment for race car drivers and professional motocross racers. Though ours came with the Eject system installed, it is not included with the Dissident.

Other trick features include a slot in the rear of the helmet and grooves in the EPS liner to route earphones internally, titanium D-ring hardware on the strap, and three different cheek-pad options to fine-tune the fit. 

Our size-large helmet weighed 2 pounds 4 ounces with the Eject system and thickest cheek pads installed, making it the lightest full-face downhill helmet we have tested. The Dissident retails for $350 and is ASTM 1952 certified.

Field test results:
Specialized doesn’t do anything halfheartedly, and on paper, the Dissident is packed with features; however, if a helmet doesn’t fit and look great, you won’t find it in many lift lines. Thankfully for Specialized, this is not the case. The Dissident embraces the modern styling that today’s downhill riders are looking for and pulls it off well. Its lines are aggressive but smooth. The DragBoat color scheme is understated, as are most of the color options. However, if a loud helmet is more your cup of tea, the “Shredded Clown” paint job is about as bright and wild as they come.

The fit of the helmet is where the Dissident really shines. The helmet surrounds your head with even pressure rather than feeling like it is sitting on top of it. The three cheek-pad options help to fine-tune the fit. We never experienced any awkward pressure points or askew internal parts poking us. It sat a little lower than some other helmets, and while this might seem like an  issue for neck braces, the rear lip is slightly raised to allow more clearance when looking down the trail with your head up.


The 4th Dimension ventilation system keeps your head cool, though it’s tough to say that it works better than other high-end options. The earbud routing is a nice touch, but as we have experienced before, it is tough to hear over the noise of smashing down a run. This was not a huge problem, since we don’t usually like to ride with music anyway.

While we feel the Eject compatibility and quick- release cheek pads are a step in the right direction, the integration of the two is not yet perfect. The quick-release cheek pads snap into place with three plastic fittings rather than Velcro. This makes the pads very easy to get out in case of an emergency, but it also makes it easy to dislodge them when taking the helmet  on and off. We figured out the nuances of getting the helmet off without accidentally removing the pads, but it caused some headaches at first as cheek pads went rogue.

Additionally, while the internal routing of the Eject system is clean and well executed, the inflator hose seems to sit awkwardly on the back of the helmet. A piece of Velcro around the hose attempts to hold it to the back on the liner, but the two materials didn’t seem to play nice with one another. The result was a dangling hose with the liner looking frayed from the Velcro.

Minor complaints aside, the Dissident is an impressive helmet. The combination of its spot-on fit, light weight and top-notch safety features is sure to make any day of lapping your favorite downhill tracks that much better. 

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