Sanny has been to visit POC in Sweden to try some of their new 2017 range of kit prior to their launch at Eurobike this week. Here is what he thought.
Has it really been ten years since POC burst onto the scene with Julie Mancusco’s gold medal winning race at the Turin Winter Olympics? Since then, POC have brought all manner of innovations and firsts to the market in order to deliver upon their mission of doing the best they can to save lives and reduce the consequences of accidents for gravity sports athletes and cyclists. MIPS? Check. Recco? Yup. ICE Dot. Hell yeah. With the Trabec mountain bike helmet, they effectively created a whole new style of biking helmets with increased coverage at the back and sides which have become the template for the majority of helmets available to buy today.
Now, POC are setting their sights on the cross country market with their 2017 Resistance range. Here in the UK with our predisposition to all things Enduro and long travel, it’s easy to forget just how large the cross country biking market is but is a sector that POC are looking to make waves in. Back in June, I had the opportunity to preview their 2017 range at POC’s Headquarters in Sweden and have spent the last couple of months trying out some of the new range. Without further ado, here are some of the highlights of the new range and my initial thoughts.
Spine VPD Air Backpacks and Vest
Drawing heavily upon running pack technology utilised by the likes of Salomon where the pack is mounted higher upon the chest than a traditional riding pack, thus affording it greater stability, POC now offer two riding packs (8 and 13 litres) and a spine vest that uses the same harness system as the two packs. The latter is aimed at riders who want protection without being encumbered by a heavy backpack. Built into each is a back protector that moulds to the shape of the spine but stiffens on impact. Putting the packs on, I was impressed by both their lack of heft and, more importantly, their stability on the back when the straps are cinched down.
The running style harness feels a little unusual at first after many years of riding normal packs but in my limited period of use, there was none of the side to side slop that you can sometimes get with other riding packs. The Vest is hydration system compatible and has a mixture of pockets for food, mobile phone and tools. I reckon this will be the sleeper hit of the range – having a back protector that can carry water and a few essentials without weighing you down makes it ideal for shorter rides where you don’t want to carry lots of gear but want the protection on offer.
Octal X helmet
Drawing upon their successful OCTAL road helmet, the Octal X is a beefed up version designed with mountain biking in mind. Aesthetically, it is very similar to the road helmet but there are a number of distinctive features to mention. The outer shell is extended to give additional level of protection to the EPS liner. In order to strengthen the helmet and reduce the chance of impact penetration without any noticeable increase in weight, an aramid bridge skeleton is built into the body of the helmet.
Out back, there is a built in RECCO reflector which can help reduce the time taken by a rescue team to locate you should you incur an injury on the trail and be incapacitated. The technology is in general use in European resorts but its use by the likes of the Tayside Mountain Rescue Team means that it is becoming an increasingly useful location device here in the UK too. It works on the basis of line of sight but when used in the air, a rescue team can effectively search an area the size of several football pitches every minute.
Weight wise, the medium weighs a scant 211 grams. In use, the large vents mean that it copes well on warm days in the saddle. Fit wise, I have never really gotten on well with the POC Trabec helmet but in the Octal X, I have found a supremely comfortable helmet that suits my head shape while the neat strap design means no more flappy straps. Style wise, a black rear quarter marks it out as the mountain bike version of the Octal. Available in six colourways, pricing is yet to be confirmed.
Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming test where I will compare the Octal X with the Tectal Race.
Resistance Pro XC gloves
Available in black, light blue and yellow, the XC gloves have quickly become the go to gloves in my ride wardrobe. Eschewing any kind of gel padding, the perforated palm gives a positive feel when holding the bars. The thumb and forefinger are reinforced and after two months of hard use, show no signs of wear. A ventilated panel on the back keep things cool on a hot day while the simple stretch wrist means there is no Velcro to snag on skin or clothes.
Fit wise, I am usually an XL in POC but went one size down for these and have never looked back. There is no excess material anywhere to bumfle up. To be blunt, they fit extremely well and are the first full finger glove I have ever been happy to use on road rides in the summer heat of Mallorca as well as day to day mountain biking. The bright yellow colour does fade after several washes but with little visible signs of wear, they are an excellent piece of kit.
Resistance XC full zip short sleeve top
There are some items of clothing that you can take off the hanger and immediately think, wow, this looks and feels lovely! It can be for any number of reasons. The cut of the cloth, the feel of the fabric, the small style details that mark it out from the competition – all have their part to play. If you are a user of Assos or Castelli clothing, you’ll probably know what I mean. The XC top is just one such piece of ride kit. For many years, I’ve steered clear of the skinny roadie top look and been happy to just ride in slim fitting technical t shirts from the likes of Haglofs and Helly Hansen. However, this top has managed to persuade me of the merits of technical ride tops again.
Constructed from a mix of fabrics, the cut is definitely on the slim side. According to POC’s size chart, I should be a medium which I would be if I didn’t mind the exposed midriff look every time I stretched my arms! Thankfully the longer bodied large was a perfect fit for my slim 6 foot 1 frame. The shoulders feature a more abrasion resistant material to better withstand impact in the event of a crash while the back panel and armpits feature a mesh designed to promote airflow. The front panel is made of a thicker, stretchy material.
The full length zip moves easily while there is a built in zipper garage for added comfort. Out back, there are two outer pockets which are cut on a slant to make putting your hands in less of a lesson in contortion than regular XC jerseys while there is a zipped central pocket with weatherproof flap to stop mud and clart blocking up the zip. The rear lower panel is also designed to be splash resistant which is a nice touch for those of us who don’t ride in California.
Going skinny after wearing looser tops for many years felt a bit weird at first but after several rides, I came round to the merits of the top. The full length zip is very effectiveat controlling temperatures on a warm day while the vented panels definitely do what they say on the tin. The top feels positively luxurious when worn against skin without a base layer while the lack of elastic grippers means that there is none of that dug in red skin marking that you can experience after several hours of riding in other tops. The spray protection works as intended while I found the close fit flattering without making me look like an anorexic beanpole. Washing wise, it looks just as good now as when I first used it with no pilling nor other signs of wear. The only downside I have experienced is that the dark blue really shows up salt stains on days when the temperature goes into the high twenties – not really an issue here in the UK though!
Overall, this is a beautifully constructed top that has succeeded in persuading me to start using XC ride kit again.
POC Contour Bib shorts
Partnering up with the XC top are the Contour Bib shorts. As with the top, the devil is in the detail. Externally, they look like a regular pair of bib shorts, albeit with a useful reflective panel just above the bum area which offers some extra visibility when riding on the road to and from the trail. However, it is on the inside that the real technology resides. Constructed from a 3D shaped and seamless chamois, the internals feature shaped and moulded silicone inserts which are designed to reduce vibration and increase comfort.
When I saw a cut away version of the chamois, I thought yeah right, gimmick! However, I was wrong, very wrong! After two months of hard use both off road and on, I can confirm that these are simply the most comfortable bib shorts which I have ever used. The silicone inserts really do work. I’ve yet to experience any chafing or discomfort when wearing them. My long time go-to Assos shorts now lie forlornly in my drawer.
As with the XC top, I found the recommended sizing a bit off the mark. Mediums felt unduly tight with the bibs being slightly too short thus pulling uncomfortably when I stood up. Fine if you like the Quasimodo look but not so good otherwise. The large shorts are a much better fit although the trade-off is that they are ever so slightly loose around the thighs which means they don’t play well with knee warmers without gripper tape.
The oh-so soft material used for the bibs themselves means that I haven’t experienced the despair that is jogger’s nipple. You may laugh but chafed man nips are up there on the pain scale with stepping on a Lego brick in bare feet in my book! The bibs are white mesh which looks nice straight out of the box but they have lost their brightness after multiple washes. At the back, there are what appear to be two pockets that you could fit gels into. I didn’t actually try this as I would need to have arms like Inspector Gadget to actually use the darn things!
While I would prefer the shorts to be a little tighter my quads to eliminate any wrinkles, I can live with that given just how so damn comfortable they are in use. The only major downside is that all my other shorts no longer cut it in the comfort stakes.
Not perfect but close enough where it counts.
Resistance Mid baggy shorts
Although not new to the range, these deserve a special mention. Unfortunately, there were no Resistance XC shorts available in my size when I visited POC HQ in Stockholm. However, they did have a pair of the Resistance Mid baggy shorts in my size and over the last couple of months, I’ve done my damnedest to wear them out. In terms of features, they are relatively simple but that’s no bad thing in my book. The front fabric is lightweight with a degree of stretch built in.
The rear panels are made of a harder wearing, slightly thicker material which despite showing some signs of pilling (now just where did I put my Remington Fuzzaway?) are otherwise coping well with my abrasive backside with no loose or pulled stitching. There are two zipped hand pockets (hurrah!) while the waist is partially elasticated with two Velcro volume adjuster tabs at the front. The back is raised which helps prevent draughty back and builders crack syndrome while the waist is secured via a Velcro and two popper button arrangement.
If you like your shorts to be heavy with unnecessary pockets and ventilation zips, look away now. Instead, what these shorts offer is comfort and wear resistance in a lightweight package. They dry quickly and easily cope with a wide temperature range. I wore these almost constantly for over two weeks in Mallorca during the summer and they never felt clammy or uncomfortable in 30 degree plus heat. Length wise, they sit just below the knee with enough space to accommodate knee pads without making you look like Pinocchio.
In a market filled with dayglow colourways and jazzy patterns that wouldn’t look out of place on an Eighties New Romantic album cover, the Resistance Mid baggy shorts are a refreshing alternative for those riders who want high quality clothing without looking like an advertising hoarding.
All prices yet to be finalised.