With its distinctive looks, the Octal is Swedish-based POC's first go at a road cycling helmet, after giving us the truly unique Tempor time trial helmet a couple of years ago. It looks unlike any other on the market, but looks aside this is a well ventilated, comfortable fitting and light helmet, and in this colour you're sure to stand out on the road.
You're either going to like this helmet's appearance or you're not; I'm not going to try and convince you otherwise. What I would say is that you should withhold your opinion until you've actually seen the helmet with your own eyes rather than just the photo up top. As a piece of design, I think it works. The more time I spend with it, and the more I see Garmin-Sharp riders wearing and winning in it, the more it's growing on me.
Once you're wearing the Octal you can't see what it looks like anyway, and the fit is where the Octal scores a few bonus points over many other helmets. It's rare to slip a helmet on and it to feel just good and comfortable straight from the box, with no adjustment necessary. It's supremely good. The closest comparison is the Specialized Prevail, another very comfortable helmet.
It takes some getting used to though, mainly because the helmet is quite wide and comes down lower at the sides. That's to provide more protection for the skull in the event of an impact with the ground, but it does feel unusual for the first couple of rides compared to regular helmets. You soon get used to it though and after a ride or three it feels normal. Just a new normal.
The reason for the Octal's looks is because POC have designed 20 huge vents, deciding that fewer, but larger, vents is the best way forward for best ventilation. It's certainly a theory that is backed up by performance; compared to a Specialized Prevail and Catlike Whisper the Octal is significantly better ventilated. It's light too, just 204g on the scales which you notice immediately. However it's still some 15g heavier than the £50 cheaper Prevail.
As for the colour, POC's mandate with the helmet has been to choose colours that it reckons boosts visibility on the road. There's no denying that this is a colour that will raise your visibility to other road users, especially at this time of year when it's often gloomy or very cloudy. There's a more conservative white colour which is probably the pick of the bunch, or you can emulate the Garmin-Sharp team with a blue option. It would be nice to see a wider palette in the future, a black version would go down nicely with those cyclists who don't want a high-vis helmet.
The retention system is unobtrusive, and adjusted via a small dial at the back. It's easily adjusted on the move, but you don't need much pressure on it; the Octal stays in place well, with minimal movement. The straps are easily adjusted so they sit just below the ears.
A minor niggle is the lack of compatibility with various brans of glasses, including my Oakley Radarlocks and Uvex Sportstyles. Because of the thickness and lower coverage of the helmet sides, there just isn't the space for the arms of the glasses to fit in. It's a blemish on an otherwise really well thought out helmet.
Speaking of eyewear, the Octal has a unique 'eye garage' in the two front vents, basically two small high-friction pads that cling to the arms of your sunnies, so you can pop them in the helmet when you don't need them on your face. However, I had mixed results with different glasses, some working just fine and others not so well. It's a nice idea but one that doesn't work as well as hoped. Compatibility with eyewear is a small niggle, but it's one I'd like to see addressed.
Showing safety is a key concern to POC, the Octal comes with an ICE tag. This is a barcode that you stick to the back of the helmet, and once registered with all your important contact information can be scanned by any medic with the appropriate app. It's a nice idea, but will medics have the relevant app on their smartphone to scan the helmet if they scrape you off the road?
Going a step further, the Octal is compatible with the ICEdot Crash Sensor. It's a small sensor that clips to the back of the helmet and relays location data via Bluetooth to an app on your smartphone. Have a crash and it'll start a timer, if you don't stop the timer before it reaches zero, the app sends an message to the emergency services.
You also get a nice cycling cap with reflective graphics for night riding, and a soft fabric bag to store the helmet in. It's available in three sizes, small, medium and large, three colours and comes with EN 1078, CPSC 12.03 and AS/NZS2063-2008 certification.
Distinctive looks backed up with impressive fit, ventilation and lightness, and a colour that will ensure you stand out on the road. It's not cheap though.
road.cc test report
Make and model: POC Octal helmet
Size tested: medium
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The award winning Octal helmet is engineered to be the next step in road bike helmet safety. It offers optimal ventilation, comfort and weighs less than 200 grams (size M, CE-version).
Octal provides more coverage and additional protection of the temples and back of the head. To further improve safety, the EPS liner is strategically thicker in most exposed areas and is covered by the outer PC shell.
The unique and fully wrapping unibody shell construction functions as a monocoque and enhances the safety properties and construction integrity of the helmet while maintaining a low weight.
POC has approached ventilation in an innovative way and instead of using many small vents, Octal has fewer, but larger, ventilation slots. This design provides a larger open surface area at the front, and in combination with the specifically designed interior, allows more air to flow through the helmet.
The ultralight size adjustment system ensures a comfortable and secure fit and the internal Coolbest padding helps reduce the temperature in the interface between the helmet and your head.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
High performance EPS liner, optimized in density
Fully wrapping unibody shell construction
Superior ventilation, using POC's innovative ventilation design
Size adjustment system, designed with low contact area
Straps molded into liner
Temperature regulating Coolbest padding
Color combinations and reflective patches for enhanced visibility
Eye garage to keep your sunglasses securely in position when placed on the helmet
Scannable ICE tag
Quality construction, very slick.
It delivers fantastic ventilation and it's light and fits well.
It's very light, but there are lighter helmets, though admittedly not that many.
The Octal is outstandingly comfortable.
There are many rivals for the Octal, on the weight front the Specialized Prevail is lighter and cheaper, and doesn't give all that much away in ventilation or fit.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very impressive helmet, once you get past the looks.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fit and ventilation, comfortable too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Isn't compatible with many brands of glasses, and the 'eyewear garage' isn't that impressive.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.