More often then not, when it comes to safety and style you have a choice. You can be safe, or you can be stylish – usually not both. High visibility clothing has usually ceded to the fashion police for the sake of being seen. POC believes you can have both safety and style, and visibility is just the beginning.
POC brought us out to Aspen just before the start of the US PRO Cycling Challenge to introduce their all new AVIP road line along with the crown jewel Octal helmet. Feature packed and incredibly light, the Octal and AVIP line will have you looking at safety in a whole new light.
Founded in 2004, POC was initially a snow-centric company focused on the competitive skiing market. In 2009 POC expanded to the DH world with their full face helmet, and recently into the enduro/XC market with their Trabec helmet and accessories, but the goal has always been the same: To do everything they can to possibly save lives or to reduce consequences of accidents for gravity sports athletes and cyclists.
Going along with that mantra, AVIP stands for Attention, Visibility, Interaction, and Protection. Attention – grabbing attention, ensuring immediate recognition. Visibility – optimized for different situations, weather, time of day, distance from car, light conditions, etc, with colors chosen from scientific research which are the most visible. Interaction – innovative new ways for the rider to interact with cars pedestrians and potential hazards. Finally, Protection – the core of POC, minimizing the amount of energy transmitted to body on impact. Together, the four principles represent a new ethos for road attire, where safety is just as important as style.
A huge part of the AVIP line is color. According to scientific studies, fluorescent colors are 5.5x more visible than standard colors, with the POC Octal colors providing up to 670 meters of visibility verses standard colors at 120 meters. In addition to color, contrast is also key which increases visibility when one color such as white is contrasted against black. If there is any question as to POC’s intentions with the Octal or AVIP line, there will be no black helmets available even though they are typically a best seller. Black is simply not visible enough, which goes against the AVIP philosophy. In addition to the colors, all of the logos on the Octal are reflective – event the black/navy blue.
The other huge part of the Octal helmet is protection. The Octal name itself comes from the increased protection of the ocular and occipital lobes. According to POC, less than 2% of impacts occur to the top of the skull, with the majority on the temple or back of the head. Because of that, the Octal offers more protection where you need it most.
Compared to the standard crop of ultra high performance helmets, the Octal stands out thanks to its monocoque design with larger, but fewer overall vents. In the construction of the Octal, POC relied on the shell of the helmet itself for strength with a stable outer shell and a super light EPS foam liner. Due to the construction of the outer shell, an internal reinforcing structure isn’t necessary which dramatically affects the design of the helmet. Since there is no carbon internal skeleton to work around, the vents can be made larger resulting in a larger surface area of ventilation even though there are fewer vents compared to competitors. As an additional benefit, the improved strength of the outer shell means the lowest density foam can be used for the liner which helps shield the brain from injury.
Tested against the two top selling high performance helmets, the Octal has 20, and 27% better ventilation, though POC isn’t leaning on that for a selling point. The Octal is rather a complete package with better protection, fit, safety and performance. All of this, and the helmet is still one of the lightest on the market. At a claimed 193 grams, the Octal is well within the ultra light crowd with the lightest samples at 188g and the heaviest of 100+ samples so far at 195g. POC isn’t necessarily going after the lightweight crown, but if the helmet is already one of the safest around and it’s one of the lightest – why not?
One thing to note is that the strap yoke for the ear is not adjustable. This was done mainly for a weight reason, and the straps feature a nice Y shape that cradles your ear. As of this morning, POC has decided to incorporate adjustability into the ear straps. The change resulted from POC listening to dealer feedback from the early launch. Our production samples were a little loose and had no adjustability, but will be improved for production.
If you’re not familiar with ICE., basically it’s a sensor that contains accelerometers and a g-force reader to detect forces only encountered in a crash. If those forces are detected, the ICE. will automatically send your GPS coordinates and ICE contact info to the numbers of your choice. The required app allows you to adjust the amount of time you have to deactivate the sensor should you crash and be all right, and seems like a huge step forward in safety.
While the Octal won’t have the ICE. sensor built in or included, it does fit nicely into the exhaust port in the back of the helmet with a zip tie around the two vertical struts. POC has teamed up with ICE. for In Case of Emergency stickers that will be installed on each production helmet. The stickers will have a code that is unique to each helmet and the production stickers from POC will also include a QR code that you can scan for the same result as texting the code. After setting up your profile with POC/ICE. if you are in an accident, first responders can text the code on the sticker to the number listed or scan the QR code to obtain all of your contact and medical information. Pretty smart.
As of now, POC is the only company to use ICE. stickers and is looking into the possibility of sensor integration in the future.
The production ICE. stickers should be placed where the content sticker is on these pre-production samples.
In addition to the CoolBest padding which can lower the skin temperature by 1.5°, the Octal also features a scalloped interior for better flow through of air. Again, a benefit of the lack of a carbon internal skeleton, the inside channels of the helmet can be carved out so there is exceptional exhaust pull through, out the rear vent of the helmet.
The Octal uses a wheel system for retention similar to many other helmets for 60mm of adjustment, while there is an additional 50mm of vertical adjustment with the cradle slide sytem. The helmets we used were early production, meaning the production models will have even more surface area for the engagement wheel for better durability and adjustment. With that said, the retention system on our samples would already pass as one of the better examples on the market.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, POC has taken integration a step further with their Eye Garage sunglass holders. We’ve all tried to stash our glasses in our helmet, only to bend over and have them swan dive to the pavement. To prevent this, the Octal features two hydrophilic pads which hold most sunglasses in place so tenaciously, you can hold the helmet up by it. Flip the glasses up or down over the pads and they are released to put back on your face.
In addition to the Octal, there will also be an Octal Aero that has a solid shell with frontal vent for improved aerodynamics. Details are still being finalized, but the current version is a 6.5-7 watt improvement over the standard Octal at the sacrifice of ultimate ventilation and will be around 13g heavier.
The Octal will be offered in three sizes, small (50-56), medium (54-60), and large (56-62), though POC says the helmets may even fit a bigger range due to how low they sit on the head. Pricing is TBD, but expect it to be in line with other top of the line helmets. As for availability, POC is listing it as February, 2014.
While the Octal will be the first release in the AVIP line, POC is also working on a full line of clothing from summer to winter with similar focus on Attention, Visibility, Interaction, and performance. Everything is designed for getting attention of motorists without looking like a construction safety vest and incorporating a huge amount of performance. Much of the line will incorporate Kinetec aero fabric in key areas of the body for improved aerodynamics without sacrificing comfort. Of course the colors are designed for optimum visibility as well – you can see how much the road gear sticks out compared to the mountain bike gear to the right.
Octal First Impressions:
Fortunately, we were on a pretty deserted road in Aspen for our first ride in the Octal so we didn’t have to test out the impact safety. Immediately apparent was the hallmark of any good helmet – put it on your head, and it disappears. The Octal is ridiculously light which means you will simply forget it’s there. Our ride was a bit rainy and chilly which meant I was wearing a cap for most of it, but ventilation wasn’t an issue regardless. I would say I fit the Giro head shape the best, and the POC Octal fit me like a, well, great fitting helmet. There were no pressure points and the retention system sits nice and low for an extremely secure fit.
Looking down the road at other riders, those wearing the blaze orange Octals were certainly easier to pick out than riders wearing something else – there must be something to this visibility thing after all.
For a first, or even a second effort, the Octal is an incredible helmet and with further improvements coming for production, the Octal is certainly a helmet to consider for 2014.