When creating an aero road helmet, companies have a few ways to build it. They can start with an existing lid and see if small modifications create the kind of marginal gains that make the difference between the podium and the bus, or they can start from scratch. There are obvious benefits to going with a fresh design, but by doing so; you risk increasing the time it takes to get from the designer’s screen to an athlete’s head. And when your pro teams are looking for marginal gains NOW; time might not be an option. That’s where the POC Octal Aero was born – the pros already had an excellent helmet in the POC Octal, but there were gains to be had and podiums to be claimed.
The POC Octal Aero
The POC Octal Aero starts with the POC Octal and adds an external microshell developed for use in events where speed is key. The base Octal was designed with safety and ventilation in mind, and while the Octal Aero benefits from the safety aspects, it does give up some of the ventilation in the quest for speed.
While the base Octal features large ventilation slots fore and aft, the microshell covers up all but a front vent and vents in the rear. To help keep you from frying, POC fitted the Octal Aero with Coolbest padding to help reduce the temperature where the helmet meets your head.
In the name of safety, the Octal provides coverage and additional protection for the temples and back of the head, and the EPS liner is strategically thicker in the most exposed areas. The fully wrapped unibody shell construction functions as a monocoque and enhances the safety properties and construction integrity of the helmet without compromising weight.
We won’t lie – as with any aero road helmet review, the biggest concern with the POC Octal Aero was cooling. With so much of it covered up, how would it feel when temperatures started rising? Lucky for us, even though we happened to be testing in the middle of winter, we still had plenty of rides where the temperatures got into the low 80s.
And what we found was that while ventilation was there, it was not the sort of gale force wind we would prefer to feel on our heads during horrible hundred rides. Instead, the Octal Aero provided consistent cooling that worked best once the temperatures dropped into the low 70s. That’s where the cooling really started to work – enough cool air got in to start pulling heat from the top of your head and dumping it out those large vents in the back.
At lower temps (we rode with it down to the low 40s) the Octal Aero routinely held enough heat to keep your head warm without overheating.
As for comfort, we found the Octal Aero to be extremely comfortable. It’s a fairly light helmet, and we never thought about it once we had it on. The rear size adjustment is easy to use and tighten into place, though we did wish it were a touch bigger for use with gloved hands.
While we never found it to be overly tight, the Octal Aero did leave deeper indentations on our scalp than what we experienced with other helmets. This may be due to the fact that the helmet sits right on your head (with a touch of padding) while others have started to use a cradle to hold it slightly off your head.
Unfortunately, POC did not have any aero data to share with us so we have nothing absolute to go on by way of data. However, circumstantially we do see POC-sponsored riders routinely switching to the Octal Aero when speed is called upon – and to us, that counts for something.
Our CPSC size medium Octal Aero weighed in at 270g (15g lighter than POC claims). POC says the EN version would weigh in at roughly 55g less (215g).
If you’re looking for a CX helmet for the cooler months that you can also use for early-spring and late-fall tris and crits, the Octal Aero should be very much on your shopping list. It’s an (almost) do-anything helmet that’s built for speed and safety. The Octal Aero was designed to help the pros reach the top of the podium, and it’s always tough to argue with that kind of philosophy.