When you think of brands with a serious safety focus, chances are you will immediately think of POC. Ever since 2006, POC has been pursuing its goal of “doing the best they can to possibly save lives and to reduce the consequences of accidents for gravity sports athletes and cyclists”. Innovation is key to this and it is fair to say that they have been at the cutting edge when it has come to introducing new ideas and concepts – aramid penetration barrier, MIPS, AVIP, unibody helmet construction, ICE technology, RECCO etc.
All have been incorporated into POC’s helmet technology to increase levels of protection before, during and after an accident. Come 2018, POC has a new weapon in its armoury of protective technology, and it’s called SPIN. I’ve had the good fortune to have been able to test this out for the last couple of months before the official launch this week and have to say from the outset that I’m impressed.
What is SPIN?
Back in 2008, POC was one of the very first cycling helmet manufacturers to introduce MIPS technology. MIPS works by adding a low friction layer to the inside of a helmet in order to reduce the rotational motion transferred to the brain from angled impacts to the head. In practice, this means a low friction, ultra-thin layer (think a well ventilated roll cage) is added to the inside of a helmet between the helmet and the pads.
So why is adding a low friction layer important? Fundamentally, it reduces what POC refer to as “rotational violence”. Think of the last time you crashed. Did you land vertically on the top of your helmet or did you go for the full scorpion in a tangled, rolling mass of limbs and head, skidding down the trail until coming to an unedifying halt? Current helmet testing focuses on dropping a helmet in a single plane of movement. The reality of crashes is that your head will almost certainly hit the ground at an angle transferring rotational forces to your brain. Without getting into the physics of it, this is a bad thing for your brain! What MIPS and now SPIN do is allow your head to continue to travel in the direction it was originally travelling for just that little bit longer meaning that some of the force that would otherwise be transferred to your brain isn’t. Less force means less likelihood of brain injury. Simples.
Putting a different (ahem) spin on things
MIPS has been incredibly successful and well received across the industry. However, always with an eye to innovation and improvement, POC has spent the last two years developing an alternative solution that offers the same benefits with less of the drawbacks. So what is it? Silicon inserts in pads. Getting my hands on the Tectal Race for the first time, I was slightly bemused. “Is that it?” I thought. It just seems so simple and obvious when you say it out loud yet until now, nobody has done it.
Putting on the 2018 Tectal Race with SPIN, I noticed precisely zero difference from my own 2016 version of the helmet (the Tectal Race helmet that was reviewed and recommended earlier this year). The fit is exactly the same. This may not seem like a big deal but for me it is. I have to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of MIPS as it adds an extra layer, albeit a very thin layer to a helmet. I’ve always preferred the feel of pads against helmet. This is purely a personal preference on my part and isn’t a reflection on the effectiveness of MIPS. With SPIN, POC have managed to eliminate the need for an extra layer by building the technology into the pads. It is simple yet ingenious.
Taking the pads out of the helmet and comparing them with traditional pads, the difference is immediately apparent. You can easily feel the reduction in friction within the SPIN pads that allows your head to rotate just that little bit longer in a crash. In a word, they’re squishy as no scientist worth his salt would ever say. However, when it comes to the science bit, I’m an accountant so cut me some slack.
Having recently written a detailed review of the previous version of the Tectal Race, pretty much all the comments and observations I made then still apply. You can find the review here.
The fit is excellent, comfortable with no pressure points even after twelve or more hours in the saddle; the strap design to my mind being the best in the business with no unwelcome flappiness in the wind, coverage at the side and back is reassuringly deep while the retention strap adjustment wheel is both easy to use and secure. Polygiene is still used for the padding which helps keep the whiff at bay.
POC did have an issue with one batch of retention straps where the wheels wore out prematurely. However, this has been resolved with POC offering free replacements to any customers who experienced those issues. I never did but it is good to know that they stand by their product in the event of a problem. Truth be told, my old helmet is still going strong and I wouldn’t have even entertained changing it were it not for the addition of SPIN.
At this point, I should hold my hands up and admit I made a bit of an error in my last review. I was mildly critical of the positioning of the retention wheel as on steep descents, I found that my helmet would tip forward when I looked up. What I didn’t realise (Doh!) is that the retention wheel can be adjusted to sit closer to the bottom of the helmet. Clearly, my puny hands were unable to do this. It was only when I tried on the latest version of the helmet that I noticed this. In my defence, the retention clip is so strong that I thought I was going to break it when I first tried to move it. Lesson learned. Je suis une ejit!
So should you invest in SPIN?
If you will pardon the pun, it’s a bit of a no brainer in my opinion. SPIN is a brilliantly simple solution to dealing with the problem of rotational violence. In use, I didn’t notice it and that is arguably what makes it a leap forward in safety technology. There is no need for additional liners nor materials to be added to the helmet. The pads behave just like normal pads right up to the point of impact which is when they go to work. Suffice to say, I’m impressed.
Of course POC isn’t the first brand to find an alternative to MIPS for addressing rotational forces on the helmet. We’ve tested the 6D ATB helmet that uses two shells, with elastomer supports in between that allow the two shells to rotate within another. Then there’s the new Amourgel-equipped helmets from Leatt, and Kali Protectives, which both claim to address rotational forces, while actually boosting the helmets shock-absorbing qualities at the same time.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the helmet industry responds, and whether there will be more MIPS alternatives popping up in the future. As for me, I’m sold on POC’s approach. Prices are yet to be announced but even if there is a premium to pay, I reckon it will be worth it. In an age of cassettes that can cost several hundred pounds and bikes in the thousands, you only get one head so why skimp on protecting it?
|Product:||Tectal Race SPIN|
|Tested:||by David "Sanny" Gould for 2 months|