POC's pro-level Octal has been given a new cover to create the Octal Aero. It's hard to detect the aero benefit, but it remains a very comfortable and light lid.
With reducing drag being of such a large concern to bike manufacturers these days, it's no surprise to see the likes of POC making aero tweaks to their road helmets. We've tested the POC Octal before, where Dave Arthur was impressed with its fit, ventilation and lightness. The Aero maintains two of those.
It's a big old helmet, the Octal Aero, especially when it comes to the width, so probably not the obvious choice as a starting point for an aerodynamic lid. But then, with other helmets in the range like the Tempor, POC isn't really a company renowned for following tradition.
As far as the actual helmet goes, there is nothing different in terms of construction between this and the road Octal – all POC has basically done is attach a fairing over the top. How much does it improve aerodynamics? Well, that's hard to say as we have no way of validating any figures provided by a manufacturer. Saying that, though, POC doesn't actually make any such claims.
I happen to own the standard Octal, so I could actually compare them riding short laps and changing the two frequently. If there is a wind cheating benefit from the Aero, it's barely discernible out on the road, although you do feel crosswinds knocking your head about a bit when you're riding. It's something you don't notice from the front, so it could be that, when it matters, the airflow is travelling more smoothly over the helmet surface than with the standard model. Either way, any benefits are minimal.
The standard Octal has 20 large vents, which the cover on the Aero closes off, notably at the front and on top. What you're left with is a single central hole at the front, while the rear has been left mostly untouched with six vents basically becoming exhaust ports for removing heat from inside the helmet – something that there is quite a bit of.
Riding in temperatures in the very low teens, the Octal Aero is on the clammy side once you start to push the pace. Something you will be doing, otherwise, why wear an aero helmet?
Ventilation is always a compromise when it comes to choosing aero (some time trial helmets are like wearing a mini sauna), and even though the POC suffers, it's far from the worst I've worn.
It's in the construction that POC has always impressed. For such a lightweight lid (250g), the Octal Aero feels really solid and well put together. There is no flexing of the outer shell or rough edges, it really is a well-made piece of kit.
The reason the helmet is so wide is because the EPS shell is thicker than many other helmets to give added protection to the normally more exposed parts of your head. It sits lower on the head too, protecting your temples and the rear of the skull from impacts.
For added comfort, the straps are bonded inside the shell, exiting through the base of the helmet. This means the straps aren't close to your face around the ears, removing irritation. It's not something you'd probably even be thinking about, but wearing the POC for an eight-hour day really highlights little differences.
To tailor the fit, POC uses a plastic band that runs around the majority of the helmet, attached to a dial system for adjustment. Turning the dial tightens or loosens the band, and because it runs from temple to temple around the rear the pressure is equal all the way round, meaning no pressure points. Ideal if you don't have the most symmetrical of head shapes.
Overall, the POC Octal Aero is a great fitting, lightweight, comfortable helmet whose aero benefits are, at best, minimal; they usually are, though, in any form of aerodynamic kit, so I won't criticise the POC too much on that front.
Ventilation is a bit of an issue, although considering the lack of vents it isn't actually that hot; personally, I'd want to know that the helmet was making me faster before sacrificing a cool breeze over my bonce.
Price-wise it's expensive; at £220 it sits right at the upper price point of the likes of Bontrager's Ballista and Catlike's Mixino VD 2.0. The Octal's overall quality and build really make it stand out too.
Venting is sacrificed for minimal aero benefits, but a quality lid that also happens to be super-comfortable
road.cc test report
Make and model: Poc Octal Aero
Size tested: 54-60, Hydrogen White
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?
POC says: "Octal Aero is based on the award winning Octal helmet, but has been developed further for aerodynamic performance and to be used in time trial and events where low drag is crucial, without sacrificing safety, weight or comfort.
It 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.
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."
While the aerodynamic gains may be minimal I was certainly impressed with all the other aspects of the helmet, especially the comfortable fit.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
External microshell for aerodynamic performance
High performance EPS liner, optimized in density
Fully wrapping unibody shell construction
Ultralight size adjustment system, designed with low contact area
Straps molded into liner
Temperature regulating Coolbest padding
Colour finish: Blue, White or Black
Certification: EN 1078 (CPSC 12.03, AS/NZS2063-2008 versions available depending on country)
Doesn't seem to offer much of an aero advantage over the standard Octal.
Against the competition it holds its own on price. (Currently on sale at Wiggle for £124.44.)
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As an aero road helmet the benefits aren't really noticeable over the standard model.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? It would be on my shortlist.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
POC hasn't made any massive claims on aerodynamic performance for the Aero Octal and that either means POC hasn't tested it or the gains are so minimal there is little point. Theoretically it should be slightly more aero than the standard version, and it probably is, but like anything with the whole minimal gains thing, it's barely noticeable. As a helmet it scores highly in every other aspect: comfort, build quality and a simple yet effective retaining system. You pay for it, mind.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Mason Definition
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.