“Oh that’s ugly.”
That was my first impression of the POC Octal in 2014. Yeah, the bright colors were dope and all, but I had a hard time liking its shape. Plus, I just got a new helmet that I really, truly loved so I was not about to drop a few more Benjamins.
That didn’t stop me from keeping tabs on the Swedish firm’s progress. It’s pretty hard not to notice them on the road either. Similar to its fellow swede compatriot Volvo where you can unmistakably spot one from a mile away, it’s easy to pick out a POC amongst of sea of helmets, not that that’s a bad thing or anything.
The time finally came when it was time for a new lid. I was curious about aero helmets because seriously, who doesn’t like free speed these days. I also despise the feeling of wearing a bucket. I already get that when I have to wear my fire or ballistic helmet, thank you very much.
But I do want a do-it-all helmet.
POC just happened to drop the Ventral SPIN aero road helmet around the same time, so I decided to give it a run. We covered it during its initial launch so I’ll spare the technical details and will focus on how it works on the road. Touted Aerodynamics and ventilation aside, I was especially intrigued with the blue SPIN padding between the shell and my noggin’ that made more than a splash: Lawsuits against those seemingly benign, albeit squishy pads were filed (and settled). Is SPIN finally a challenger to MIPS?
I ended up wearing my all-white Ventral SPIN for almost two seasons now, and it’s time to taIk about it. TL:DR: I am a happy camper.
Sure that POC look takes some time to get used to, but what helmet doesn’t? The Ventral is a bit bigger, more bulbous, and perhaps has an even thicker appearance than a lot of helmets, but it’s a shape that grew on me as weeks passed.
From its frontal view, its generous five intake vents doesn’t give away the fact that this helmet is meant for speed. There are six large exhaust vents in the back that are aggressively shaped with sharp lines like the back of a Lamborghini Huracan. Bold. A dedicated dock for sunglasses is also neatly integrated out front.
Large air vents usually mean ample ventilation at the cost of aerodynamics, but POC mapped them to essentially force the wind in and out of the helmet on a specific flow math to create what is called the venturi effect. In Ventral’s case, the guided airflow utilizes moving air to its advantage to vent and cool heads while producing a more efficient air flow minimizing turbulence.
All those prominent statements aren’t easy to validate without a wind tunnel, but I can say with great certainty that it is a very comfortable helmet to wear day in and day out. The Ventral channels air well, and run cooler than other aero road helmets that I’ve tried while performing admirably in terms of airiness just below the exceptionally airy, climbing oriented Kask Valegro.
But while Kask fell short in the internal padding department, POC’s SPIN pads, short for Shearing Pad Inside were wonderful. Its silicone composition gave it a decidedly more fitted feel compared to regular foam pads.
Visually, it’s difficult to see beyond a humble padding that goes between one’s head and the helmet, but the very same blue pads, or precisely, the allowed movements of the pad’s gel-like center, is POC’s secret sauce to reduce rotational impact and brain damage. The concept does exactly what MIPS does with its movable helmet liner, but POC’s integrated solution is arguably cleaner and more subtle.
At $290, the Ventral comes at a premium, even some $40 more than the Ventral Air, its newer, lighter and more ventilated little brother. I am curious to see how it’ll pit against Giro’s Aether with its new MIPS Spherical system that eliminated the hard plastic slip plane of the original MIPS, or the evergreen Kask Protone. But one thing that’s certain: The Ventral is one heck of a lid one should consider when looking for an aero helmet that excels all around besides free speed.