Reviewed: POC Octal road helmet

We find unconventional looks meet low weight and exceptional cooling in the Swedish brand's first road offering

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This is what we find ourselves thinking as we ponder the POC Octal, a new road helmet from the Scandinavian brand best known for its on-snow gear. The Octal is light, and POC claims it’s safe. It cools impressively well, too. But its looks just aren’t for everyone — at least not yet. After all, we now see people out on the roads in aero road helmets, which were universally despised just a year ago.

The Sweden-based protection company is dipping a toe into the road cycling market for 2014 with a range of new gear, and the Octal is likely to make the biggest splash. The brand is known for its ski and mountain bike helmets, and spine protectors. Its pedigree is safety, and a distinct, bright style, and Octal is no different.

The helmet feels a bit unusual to anyone used to classic road helmets; it’s constructed to cover more of the skull, with temporal and octal protection. So, in theory, the Octal should provide more crash protection than most top-tier road helmets.

That’s good when it comes to safety, but comes as a surprise when integrating with other accessories, such as sunglasses. My favorite Oakley Radarlocks presented a problem over the summer, as the tips of the glasses’ arms bumped against the extended back end of the Octal.

No surprise, the helmet works much better with POC’s own sunglasses. But the Oakleys are a relatively good stand-in for a wide variety of sport shades, and all our favorite helmets — Giro’s Aeon, for example — work with just about any glasses choice.

The weight is impressive, just under 200 grams (194g to be precise, for our large). The retail price tag is less so, at about $250. After a few hot rides in France over the summer, we’re believers in the venting, even if the rear vent looks like the front of a car that’s hungry for air.

An added bonus? An ICEdot Crash Sensor fits inside the rear vent well, almost as if the helmet were designed with the emergency notification device in mind, upping the safety factor even more.

No, it doesn’t look like other helmets, and will look odd, at least for a while, in all those Instagram photos you’re posting on the lunch ride. But it’s your head, and we commend POC for its early efforts in the marketplace.

Now, about that orange. …

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