I have to hold my hand up. I’ve always had a soft spot for POC kit. From the first time I saw the company’s Trabec helmet in the flesh, I knew I had to have one……right up until I put one on. No matter how hard I tried and swapped between sizes, I couldn’t get one to fit comfortably. Whether it was my noggin shape or the mould they used or a mixture of the two, POC helmets and I were destined never to be a match made in Heaven.
However, fast forward to the present and with the launch of their Tectal range of helmets, my curiosity was piqued. Had POC finally made a helmet that fitted me? I just had to find out.
The Tectal Race is POC’s top of the line all mountain style helmet. Featuring a deep visor, extended protection around the back and sides and a generally chunkier look than mountain bike helmets of just a few years ago, the Tectal Race represents the natural evolution of the Trabec, which arguably kicked off the current Enduro aesthetic.
Features wise, the Tectal Race is all about protection and durability. The outer shell extends around the entire outer of the helmet leaving no exposed EPS liner to be damaged when not in use. I’ve dented many helmets over the years where the EPS liner has been exposed so it is refreshing to find a helmet that caters for my general clumsiness.
At both the back and the sides, the helmet drops down to give additional protection to the wearer. The vents are large to the point that on cold days, you may want to consider wearing something underneath to keep your head warm. Of course, this translates into great ventilation during the summer months.
The visor is attached by two small allen bolts and a small centre adjustment wheel that can be turned by hand, although this is far more easily achieved when done gloveless. I’m not one for bolts in helmets but these are short enough and the EPS is thick enough as not to give me concern. The adjustable visor sits completely out of eyeline when raised but can be easily dropped when riding into the sun or golden sunshine, as the case may be!
Out back, there is a simple elasticated goggle clip for when you want to get your Enduuuuro gnarrrrrr game face on. The shape of the helmet is optimised to work with POCs own design of goggles. It’s not a feature I used so I can’t comment on how effective it is.
Post crash protection
Of more interest to me was the Recco detector built into the back of the helmet. With the use of Recco detection kit being employed by a growing number of Mountain Rescue Teams in the UK, I was glad to know I had it in the event of me having an off and being rendered unconscious. You may never need to use it, but it gives would-be rescuers another chance to find you in the event of things going Pete Tong.
Finishing things off, POC has finally achieved the Holy Grail of ear straps that are neither lop sided nor flappy. Given that most peoples’ ears are pretty much in the same place, you would think it would be easy to design straps that don’t require much attention. You’d be wrong! However, POC have designed ear straps that work and which require no adjustment. Two thumbs up from me!
On the ‘ead, son!
Let’s start with the most important question: fit. After the disappointment of the Trabec, I was hesitant about the Tectal Race. I shouldn’t have worried. Putting it on, there were no pressure points nor side to side wiggle. With the easy to use (even with gloves on) rear tensioner wheel, the helmet fitted like a glove or whatever the metaphor for a helmet should be. The initial impression of comfort has been subsequently borne out on even the longest of day rides.
However, one issue I did notice was that on descents, the extended rear had an annoying habit of applying pressure to my neck causing the helmet to tilt forward. This was particularly noticeable on hot days when my sweaty noggin did its best to assist it. I was close to giving up but then I remembered I had an old Giro skull cap for cold weather riding. Putting that on and my problems were instantly solved. Moreover, being somewhat light in the luxuriant bouffant department, the skull cap did a brilliant job of keeping the sweat out of my eyes. The padding on the front of the helmet is good at wicking sweat but when it gets overwhelmed, nothing stands between you and the pain of salty eyes. For those with a Mark Kermode quiff (Hello to Jason Isaacs!), this is unlikely to be an issue and I blame my lack of hair on this one.
Choose your shades carefully
When worn with riding glasses, it’s best to try before you buy. The close fitting nature of the helmet means that it doesn’t always play well with certain brands. I had no issues with Oakley Radar glasses, POCs own brand of shades nor my go to LOMO polarised numbers but some other glasses that protrude out don’t work so well.
Included with the helmet is a rather natty helmet bag. As someone who likes to protect their helmet, having a bag to transport it in is a welcome inclusion.
What’s not included?
At £169.99, you may well be expecting MIPS technology to be included but it isn’t. Is this a bad thing? I’m not so sure. Putting MIPS into a helmet, assuming you retain the same outer dimensions, means that you have potentially less EPS between you and the ground. Personally, I would rather have a bit more EPS and a closer fitting helmet but that is purely a personal choice. Others may disagree.
Also absent is the almost de rigeur GoPro mount. Again this is a feature I am glad to see not included. I’ve always been reluctant to place anything on my helmet that could potentially be driven into my skull or cause additional damage should the thing sticking out from my helmet catch on something during an accident. I may be somewhat unduly risk averse but given that helmets are optimised to work without anything attached to them, I see no good reason to do anything that may compromise their effectiveness. Having caught a helmet light on an overhanging branch on more than one occasion and having nearly been thrown off my bike as a result, I’m none too keen to test my theory.
However, what you do get is aramid reinforcement throughout the whole of the liner of the helmet which enhance the overall level of protection given by the helmet. You may not see it but as features go, I’d chose that over MIPS and a GoPro mount every day of the week.
Looks wise, the simple orange and white Marc Newson-esque design is particularly classy. It just looks right. Unlike many of its competitors which look like they belong more properly in Junior Kickstart, the Tectal Race doesn’t give you the appearance of a Tefal head.
So should you buy one? At 169 smackeroonies, it’s definitely at the top end of the market but what price do you put on protecting your head? Fit wise, I can’t fault it. The vents do an excellent job of keeping you cool on even the hottest of rides while the inclusion of aramid reinforcement and Recco are features that I value. It looks as cool as hell while there is the designed in reassurance that it comes from a company that spends over ten percent of its turnover on R&D and was founded on the premise of improving the safety of everyone who uses their products.
|Tested:||by David "Sanny" Gould for Four months|