We ask a lot out of helmets. Top of the list, of course, is protection. But we also want them to breath well, be light and aero, or at least not a brick. Oh, and it needs to look good, no one wants to look like a mushroom head.
POC have always been protection minded, when it launched into the road market with the original Octal, they emphasized the increase coverage and IceDot integration (remember those?) when few brands were even mentioning the protective features of their models. With its newest model, the Ventral Air, the Swedish brand is taking aim at the other items on the list, but with its own unique style.
With a uni-body hard shell that wraps around the bottom of the helmet, and series of long rectangular vents, the Ventral Air bears a strong resmeblance to the Octal, the previous flagship and the helmet that put POC on the roadie map. But it’s overall silhouette is much slimmer, more like the Ventral aero road model POC introduced last year. It’s as if POC mashed up the two, taking the best part of each – the ventilation of the Octal and the lower, more aero profile of the Ventral – to come up with the Ventral Air. Improved aerodynamics is difficult to verify, but I can definitely vouch for the ventilation of the Ventral Air. The large rectangular vents, and long open internal channels, made sure there is good air flow over your head. I wore the Ventral Air through some of the hottest days this summer, with temperatures up to 32C, nearly 40C with humidity. No helmet would feel cool under those conditions, but the Ventral felt tolerably comfortable, as good as or better than any other helmets I’ve worn, and kept sweat from dripping into my eyes.
For a road helmet, the Ventral Air features very good side and rear coverage, that comes relatively low, which is often the point of impact in a crash. The uni-body construction, with the hard outer shell wrapping all the way around under the bottom of the helmet, to the interior is a nice “extra” that POC have always gone to. It makes for a stronger helmet in the event of an impact, and also protects the foam from daily knocks, keeping the helmet looking newer for longer. One thing you won’t find in the Ventral Air is a MIPS liner, despite POC being the first brand to adopt the slip plane liner aimed at reducing concussion. Instead, POC has developed its own SPIN technology, gel filled pads that aims to reduce shear force in a crash, similar to MIPS. It’s hard to say which system is more effective in a crash, as I decided not to put the Ventral Air through that kind of test. But in wearing it, the lack of a MIPS liner does make the helmet feel a little airier, and more comfortable.
I found the shape of the Ventral Air a good fit for my head, and I wore my usual medium, like I do with just about every other brand. However, another tester who had worned the Octal, found the Ventral Air to be notably narrower in comparison. The occipital retention system is unobtrusive and easy to adjust. The splitters on the straps are not adjustable, so you are out of luck if the splitters is out of position. Fortunately for me they sit just under my ears, right near the jaw. As is the case with helmets in general, it is definitely worthwhile to try before you buy. The new eye glass garage with rubber grip pads on the outer vent, is an improvement on the original Octal and works reasonably well, but other brand’s execution of this are more secure.
With a lower profile that negates the “mushroom” effect of the Octal, while keeping the lightweight and excellent ventilation, the Ventral Air is a great choice for anyone looking for a do it all helmet, just check the fit before you commit.
The POC Ventral Air is available in three sizes and seven colours, and retails for $325.