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Long Term Review: Specialized Dissident Carbon Full Face Helmet

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The Specialized Dissident Carbon Full Face has all the fancy features racer boys demand, without the outrageous racer boy looks. The company claims this helmet is “specifically designed for riders who push the limits of downhill speed and big air” and that it is “the lightest, most-ventilated, and technically advanced full-face carbon fiber mountain bike helmet available”


So how does it compare?


The Dissident is available in four different sizes: Small, Medium, Large, and X-Large. While I normally run a small, the company’s online sizing chart suggested a medium, which was spot on.

Fit is subjective, but I found the helmet was very comfortable. It was compatible with a wide variety of goggles, but did not play well with my prescription lenses or sunglasses.


Thirteen forward facing vents, seven rear vents, and two goggle vents provide ventilation. In this diagram, blue arrows indicate “intake” vents and the red arrows are “exhaust” ports. 

Specialized raised a lot of hoopla about the Dissident’s impressive “4th Dimension cooling,” but the extra venting didn’t make the helmet feel noticeably cooler than other full face helmets.


The Dissident safety features include EMT labeled pull-tabs and Eject System Integration. The pull tabs allow the check-pads to be removed so a medic can safely stabilize the head and neck, in order to reduce the possibility of further injury after a crash. The Eject System consists of a small inflatable bag that is positioned in the top of the helmet. When an EMT attaches a Co2 canister or airbag to the eject system, the bag in the helmet inflates, and pushes the helmet up and off the downed rider. Pioneered in Motocross, and mandatory for all professional licensed AMA Supercross and Outdoor National Motocross events, this is the first (but not the last) mountain bike helmet to incorporate the technology.

While the Dissident comes stock with a trick helmet bag, titanium D-rings, and safety features galore – you will have to pay extra for one of the most important features. The Eject System does not come pre-installed and retails online for $60. Since the helmet already costs $350 MRSP, providing the system pre-installed would have jacked up the price, for something not all riders might see the value in.

Under the interior foam liner lies a space where the Eject system can be installed.

The helmet is undeniably lightweight. At a claimed 1,000 grams it is one of the lightest carbon full-face helmets on the market, but not necessarily the lightest. For example, the Kali Avatar 2 Carbon (medium) weighs a claimed 861g. The difference between the two lids is their safety certifications. Unlike the lighter Kali, or SixSixOne Evo Carbon Camber (claimed 975 gms), the Dissident has passed more stringent safety certifications. The majority of full face helmets on the market have passed the CPSC and ASTM BMX (F2032) Standards, while the Specialized lid has also passed the more rigorous ASTM DH (F1952) certification, which requires the helmet be subjected to higher test loads, and that the chin bar flex less during hard impacts.

The advantage of the lightweight Dissident is that it virtually eliminates any neck fatigue normally associated with wearing a heavier DOT certified dirt bike helmet. Many gravity oriented riders drift towards the DOT certified helmets because of the perceived safety advantages.


Nothing on the Specialized Dissident feels cheap. The helmet is thoughtfully laid out and allows the rider to easily remove the inner foam and cheek pads for a quick run through the washer.

This is what the mesh/foam helmet liner looks like when completely removed from the helmet.

The Dissident comes in its own personal carrying tote, because it’s the little things that make you feel like Sam Hill. While many manufacturers charge extra for a nice bag, Specialized includes this relatively trick one in the purchase price. The little ventilation ports allow the helmet to breathe  even when stored dirty.

The real perk to a bag, if you’ve never used one before,  is that it forces you to treat your helmet with more respect. No more throwing the helmet into the back of the truck haphazardly. You’ll want to keep this helmet looking as nice as the day you brought it home and a helmet bag makes it that much easier.
The only construction flaw? After a season filled with hot summer days, the glue that holds the inner rubber liner to the carbon shell began to fail. The glue along the entire upper lip has failed, although the rubber interior remains firmly attached.


The Carbon Specialized Dissident, at $350 MSRP, seems like an incredible bargain when compared to helmets that meet similar safety specifications. The Carbon TLD D3, which some racers consider the gold standard, costs a cool hundred more and isn’t Eject compatible. Unfortunately, you often get what you pay for. While the Dissident helmet has everything and more on paper – it didn’t quite deliver on the track.

The biggest gripe was faulty cheek pads. The removable cheek pads which are supposed to facilitate removal of the helmet in an emergency situation, just wouldn’t stay in place. They would literally fall out every time I removed the helmet and the pads would sometimes unclick and fall out unnoticed when riding/hiking up a trail. According to Specialized, this issue was relegated to a very early batch of cheek pads and the has since been remedied. If you purchased this helmet and have had a similar experience – contact your nearest dealer. The big S will mail out some new pads free of charge.

My issue was that even after I received a replacement helmet, they pads still had a tendency to fall out, but not quite as often. I would simply glue the pads into the helmet, and negate the safety feature, but the removable design comes in handy as my hair frequently became entangled on the cheek pad clips. Those with long/longer hair beware.

In addition to the cheek pad issue, after three months of testing, the glue attaching the inside liner to the carbon shell has begun to fail – causing the two components to separate.

In theory, the Specialized Dissident is everything you need to look good and shred in comfort. It’s lighter and packed with more safety features that even its pricey competitors, but the execution is flawed. This is a very comfortable helmet, but for the price, the manufacturing defects we experienced were a huge turn off.


  • Price
  • Fit/Comfort
  • Packed with safety features
  • Looks awesome


  • Cheek pads frequently fall out
  • Long hair sometimes become entangled on cheek pad clips
  • Glue holding inner plastic to outer carbon shell is failing

*** Update: Specialized has made another revision to their cheek pad removal system since we received our update. They claim the new pads sit tighter and will not fall out unnecessarily. We’ll have to wait until we can test the new revision before passing  judgement, but if they’re as good as their word, the new 2013 Dissident (in it’s fancy new colorways) should be a real winner.***

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11 years ago

This is one of those rare occurances where you have a Specialized product that doesn’t have their logo plastered all over the dang thing. I’ve always considered them “logo whores” but this helmet looks decent.

vulgar bulgar
vulgar bulgar
11 years ago

I can personally attest to the fact that the cheek pads falling out caused me to search for them, in the snow uphill both ways, in Ashland, Oregon, when my unaware friend lost them taking off this damn helmet. IN THE SNOW BOTH WAYS. grr specialized.

11 years ago

This helmet does NOT make you feel like Sam Hill, because he does not wear one…he chooses Troy Lee Designs D3.

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