Review: POC Octal Helmet

  • Brand: POC
  • Model: Octal
  • From: POC  (UK Distributor – 2pure)
  • Price: £180-£220 (colour dependant. This model is £180)
  • Tested By: Tom
  • Test Duration: 4 months

Scandinavian brand, POC has been turning out helmets for a few years now. It maybe doesn’t have the heritage of the likes of Giro or Bell, but is an increasingly familiar sight on the roads, mountain bike trails and ‘cross race courses of the UK.

Putting the pea into POC

The Octal

The Octal was one of POC’s original range, which has remained tight over the intervening years, with only a couple of models per discipline. It is intended to a lightweight and airy road helmet, with 21 big-ass vents and tipping the scales at 196g. I’m personally not one for weighing kit or gram counting, but the Octal feels noticeably light when you pick it up. That lack of weight remains noticeable once placed on the head ­– it was genuinely easy to forget that it was on.

The Ride

Those vents are also extremely effective. The Octal allows for a huge amount of air to flow over your head. This, of course helps cooling on a hot day, or when working hard… like during a ‘cross race for example. Even moving at relatively slow speeds, I could feel wind passing through the long, rectangular, slot-shaped vents and I’ve certainly appreciated it on warmer rides this summer. Now, as we move into autumn, I’m more inclined to reach for a cap to pop on underneath and keep my bonce toasty.

Reflective patches complement the bright colour choices

Light weight and good venting are obviously key to comfort, but aren’t the be all and end all. Fortunately for me, the Octal nicely fits my head. Like shoes, there isn’t really a one shape-fits-all answer here. I’m sure there are folk who simply won’t get along with it. I’m happy to say that the helmet snuggly cradled my head with no pinch points or rattling. Adjustment is via a small dial at the rear, as per many other brands. It is little enough to be unobstructive, but was easy to find and adjust while riding and with gloved hands. The best thing I can say about the straps is that they were unnoticeable. Adjustment was easy and a do-once-and-forget affair. I’m not sure if the pale colour is ideal for a off-road use. The straps are already looking a little grubbier than they did out the box.

All that airflow was appreciated during hot races

To achieve that low weight, there is a relatively large amount of exposed EPS liner I was a little concerned that this would pick up knocks easily, but I needn’t have worried. POC have done a good job in applying the shell to the areas that are most likely to see day-to-day abrasion when putting the helmet on and off. The recently released Octal X adds a little more robust abrasion protection if you are concerned.

Eye Garage – might work well with POC specs, but didn’t play as nice with my Oakleys.

Features

There are a couple of sticky rubber pads on the sides of two of the front vents. There are to act as a “glasses garage” to secure a pair of sunglasses in the (highly likely in the UK) event that you need to remove them during a ride. This may have worked better with matching POC glasses, but I couldn’t get various pairs of Oakleys to hold in place, sadly. This was a minor point, especially as I tend to just tuck my riding glasses behind, but may be of more importance to you.

The Octal doesn’t come with MIPS (this is available on the POC Octal AVIP MIPS, which costs a somewhat eye-watering £300). Just in case you are wondering what the hell MIPS is, it stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. Basically, an internal shell helps protect against the rotational forces of an impact. We’d usually expect to see it on a helmet around the £200 mark, so it’s a little disappointing that you have to stump up an extra £100+ for the additional safety. It’s a tricky one. The POC is one of the most comfortable helmets I’ve ever used. It is the one I reach for off the shelf first, and will continue to be. It also makes sense that I should ride with the highest level of protection possible. For most budgets (including my own) this would mean looking elsewhere. Hopefully as the technologies continue to fall in price, POC will be able to combine the two at a lower price point.

All of the air

Finally… green. Hmm. I actually love the colour, but it doesn’t half clash with most of my riding kit. Fortunately, POC offer the Octal in a kaleidoscope of alternative colours if you want something a little more subdued or more likely to match your jersey du jour.

The Octal comes with a convenient hands free selfie mode

Lets just return to that price again. There is no denying that £180 is a huge amount to pay for helmet, regardless of whether it has MIPS or not. It is easy, however, to see where the money has gone, and let’s face it, a helmet is one of the few things that gets worn every ride and contributes towards your safety. On balance I think I’m happy to pay the price for one that is as comfortable as the POC is and aesthetically pleasing (to my eyes at least). That’s not to say that something functionally as good (or close) couldn’t be found for much less, though and there definitely better value options from most other helmet manufacturers.

Overall

A light, airy and comfortable helmet, who’s performance matches its high price tag. You really are paying more for less. If you don’t mind forking out, the POC impresses.

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