— By Daniel Walker
If you take a brief scan through the bike rack at T1 or at the cafe stop on your local group ride you’ve likely noticed an invasion of POC helmets and glasses during the last couple years. This Swedish manufacturer, who got its start in the skiing world, has become known for meshing Scandinavian design with innovation in safety and protection. Since entering the road and triathlon market POC has developed a full line of Road, Aero Road and Triathlon (or TT) helmets. Over the past few weeks, we’ve had the chance to take the Octal Aero out into the wild and test it on early morning solo rides, long hot group rides, and a few sprint triathlons.
Let’s start with how it looks. If you tell me that doesn’t matter then you’re lying. We all care about how we look in race photos. With its bold and unique look, POC Octal Aero is a hate-it or love-it design. Personally, I love it. I’m a big fan of designs that go for something out of the ordinary and POC’s designs always do that. We received the colour that has been christened “Navy Black” but the Octal Aero is also available in “Hydrogen White” and “Garminium Blue”.
Out of the box, my biggest concern with this helmet was the ventilation. With only the one large vent in the front, I was worried about how I would handle riding in the heat of late May and early June wearing this helmet. Fortunately, the POC Octal Aero feels surprisingly cool when riding. The one large vent in the front, combined with the very open rear of the helmet, does a good job of preventing you from overheating. I found this to be especially true riding fast in group rides and during the bike leg of a triathlon — it proved to be an excellent choice even in temperatures pushing 30C. I also took it on gravel rides and slower cruises after work. In these conditions, the venting effect was less prevalent and I probably could have gone with a more open helmet.
There’s an impressive attention to detail with this helmet. I appreciated the how the straps were integrated into the EPS liner. One of my biggest pet peeves is when my helmet straps get twisted. With this system, it’s next to impossible get these out of sorts. The varying thickness of the EPS liner at the temples and back of the head is another POC signature. The idea being that these parts of the skull are the most vulnerable and therefore should have the most protection.
I’m a big fan of aero road helmet options for racing, in general. They provide many of the benefits of a TT helmet but the design allows you be a little less disciplined with how you hold your head in the time trial position. This can result in less neck pain, a more comfortable ride and then that can translate into a better run leg. The POC Octal Aero has that classic stubby aero profile that many pros are using now and it’s definitely a weapon worth considering if you’re in the market for a new helmet and you don’t have your heart set on a TT helmet.
The POC Octal Aero retails for CAD$300 and is available at local bike and tri shops across the country. Alternatively, the helmet can also be purchased online at www.pocsports.com.