Review: POC Octal Raceday Helmet and Octal Aero Helmet

Last week, I reviewed the POC Do Blade AVIP Sunglasses, and was pretty taken with them. They might have outlandish looks, but their performance proved to be second to none. The unique style really grew on me too. This week, I'm turning my attention to the Swedish brand's road helmet line-up, having been testing out the Octal Raceday and Octal Aero helmets.

The POC helmets made a slightly delayed entry into the World Tour peloton ranks, compared to the POC eyewear range. Ryder Hesjedal was wearing POC glasses in 2013; then by 2014, the whole of his Team Garmin-Sharp squad had donned the distinctive helmet design; now, most are sporting the full POC combo within the team.

POC turned the drawing board upside down with the Octal helmet, much as they did with the Do Blade sunglasses. They decided that they would make a helmet which had a superb safety rating, whilst still being incredibly light and well vented. To do this, they threw normal styles aside; creating a helmet that looks large and bulky (to some) at first sight, but once you're wearing it, it feels light and supremely comfortable.

As with many "Marmite" products (something the POC range has frequently been called), I was keen to test it out myself and see how it performed out on the road.



Superlight 

Your initial impression of the POC Octal Raceday and Octal Aero, will likely be that they are both super light. Mine weighed in at 206 grams for the Raceday and 225 grams for the Aero, and that's for a large size helmet! POC have shaved weight from the designs through a number of areas, including the vent design, straps, retention system and shell.


Ventilation

Firstly, the vents on the Octal Raceday. The company has broken from the norm of using a large number of small vents to let air into the helmet; instead, they've opted for a lower number of larger ventilation slots. The design helps to remove weight and increase airflow, and apparently as a result of the greater through-flow it also aids aerodynamics. It certainly makes the Octal RaceDay feel light, and the increase in the airflow is very noticeable compared to standard design helmets.

The Octal Aero has just one small vent on the brow, then the same rear exhaust vents as the Raceday (it is effectively an Octal Raceday with a permanent plastic aero cover). It is noticeably warmer than the fully vented design, but by no means the hottest aero helmet I've tested. The small vent on the front provides a notable cooling effect on your brow.


Retention system

POC have also stripped weight through the helmet's retention system, yet in doing so they still seem to have made it extremely comfortable in the process. Unlike most helmets, where the cradle system holds just the back of your head and pushes your head against fixed pads on the forehead area, the Octal uses an all-encompassing cradle band, which means the retention system itself is almost floating inside the helmet.

The cradle band system means that there are no hotspots on the helmets, which can occur with a normal rear cradle system. It also means that the padding can be minimized to just covering this band, as it's the main area of contact with your skull. POC have used Coolbest padding, which has proven extremely effective at wicking away sweat, even in hot summer riding.

The retention system is therefore comfortable, cool and secure; whilst also being very lightweight. A win-win all round.


Safety 

Lastly, but definitely not least (in fact, I probably should have considered this first), is safety. Some have likened POC's approach as similar to that of Volvo; perhaps an inevitable Swedish comparison, but they've certainly made some great innovations with the POC range of helmets, to make them as protective as possible.

The Octal provides greater coverage than most helmets, and in particular covers vulnerable areas such as the temples and the back of the head. The helmet's EPS liner is thicker in particularly vulnerable areas, and the wrapped uni-body shell provides far better protection than helmet shells that are made in multiple parts and then moulded together. The construction not only makes this helmet safer than most, it also makes it lighter.


The Little Things

OK, just one last thing worth mentioning before we conclude this review. POC really have put some neat little touches on these helmets, and my favourite has to be the "Eye Garage" that you get on the Octal Raceday.

The small silicone bumpers on the front vents of the helmet allow you to securely place the arms of your sunglasses in there, when it gets too dark or steamy for you to want to be wearing them. Initially a bit sceptical about how well these would work, I was quickly proven wrong, and when you've got a £200 pair of POC AVIP Do Blades that you need to stash somewhere, this system offers a safe and worry-free storage system.


Overall

Overall, both the POC Octal Raceday and Octal Aero have proven to be great helmets; despite some initial scepticism that I had about the design and looks.

Throwing current style trends aside and starting afresh, will always create unrest within public opinion. However, I believe POC have created a Marmite product that you grow to love.

The helmets do admittedly look large at first sight, and you'd expect them to feel cumbersome; however, once on they have a light airy feel and a fit that is comfortable and very secure. Also throw into the mix the fact that these are some of the highest rated helmets in terms of safety, and I can see why pioneering teams like Garmin-Cannondale have selected them as a partner.

If you're willing to make the leap and accept that some people might comment on your "large lid" at times, then the POC Octal Raceday and Octal Aero are well worth considering. Cool, comfortable and very well designed. These are a winner in my opinion.

Shop the POC Octal and Octal Aero at Wiggle.co.uk


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