POC is no stranger to safety equipment. The company was founded in 2005 when it introduced its first gear for ski racing. It didn't take long for riding gear to follow. And 13 years later, it is firmly established as a premium company, well renowned for its helmets. Premium is the operative word. POC is also well renowned for not being cheap.
The Tectal Race SPIN is no different. For a half-shell helmet, you won't find much on the market that is more expensive. What gives? Why so much? What make the Tectal Race SPIN worth $80 more than, say, the Bontrager Rally MIPS? Well, the design is different, which we could dwell on (and dwell we will) but the most obvious difference is SPIN.
As far as proprietary bike technology acronyms go, SPIN is a bit of a reach. Shearing Pad INside--is POC's in-house answer to MIPS. And it is a much simpler solution to the rotational-impacts problem. Where MIPS uses a separate, 'floating' plastic shell inside the helmet, POC uses pads. Yes, pads. But every helmet has pads. True. But not every helmet has SPIN pads. Is “SPIN pads” redundant? Shearing pad inside pads? Maybe it’s no worse than saying ATM machine.
What POC has done is added a slice of silicone into each pad on the helmet. The silicone provides a slipping surface for the pads to shear in any direction, allowing the helmet to move separately from the head and better absorb rotational impacts. It is surprisingly simple, and according to POC, "And if you want to buy me flowers, just go ahead now." Wait. No. That's the Spin Doctors. The POC researchers (doctors?) say SPIN is just as effective as MIPS.
There are also some real-life advantages to losing the familiar MIPS shell. When I first put on the Tectal, it was like putting on a helmet of old, pre-MIPS. That is to say, it felt close to my head. The shell-inside-a-shell, floating feeling from MIPS equipped helmets was gone. Some brands have done an impressive job of mitigating the floating presence of MIPS, but after wearing the Tectal for a few months, an improved MIPS is no substitute for the real thing.
POC's Tectal is definitely the real thing, but having such a close and form-fitting helmet isn't all sunshine and cupcakes. Without the head-encompassing plastic web of MIPS, head shape plays a bigger role in fit. The foam-to-skull interface is less forgiving than MIPS-to-skull when the skull isn't the same shape as the mold the helmet was built around.
POC's dial system helps, but it isn't perfect. As I tighten the helmet down on my head the plastic bracket around the base of the shell puts more pressure on the back of my noggin instead of uniformly compressing around the circumference. This is likely because of the rather simple shape of the bracket itself. POC did take care to attach that bracket to a structure that does wrap a full 360 degrees, but much of the pressure is concentrated at the back. Although, I may have been spoiled by the brand-name retention hardware on the last helmet I was testing, the Bontrager Rally. Compared to the Rally’s BOA system, POC's rear dial feels unrefined.
The dial is also half hidden behind the helmet shell. On the up-side, this is because the shell comes down particularly low in the back, offering extra coverage where many other helmets fall short. But on the down side, I can’t get my fingers around the dial. On-the-fly adjustments require a stabilizing grip while my thumb works the dial back and forth, which is safest at slow speeds and smooth trail. More refined adjustments required stopping and two hands--one to hold the helmet, the other to move the dial. The Tectal Race doesn't offer a height adjustment for the rear plastic bracket and dial either. Luckily, the bracket was already in the right place for me, but other heads might not be so lucky.
So, although the process of fitting the Tectal Race is not exceptional, the fit itself definitely is. If the dial is in the right spot and the foam shell is the right shape, this helmet could be the most comfortable available. In other words, go to a shop and try it on before purchasing. If it agrees with you in the dressing room, it will definitely agree with you on the trail.
The Tectal has a couple other tech talking points that help explain the price. Installed in the shell is a RECCO reflector. It is one part of a two-part system used for rescue. If you get lost, a search and rescue team can find you with a RECCO detector, which sends out a signal that is then reflected back by the helmet's RECCO reflector. The technology is incredibly accurate and will point SAR right to you when they find the signal, but it isn't the same as a personal locator beacon, and there is no way to alert rescuers you need help. Just don't make dumb decisions and use RECCO as an excuse.
Inside the helmet is also POC's Aramid Bridge. It is a low-weight weave of tough and durable materials that bonds to the foam liner for a stronger helmet structure. Combine that with no MIPS shell and the Tectal is one damn lightweight helmet. It also features some clever design elements like a google clip and a visor adjustment that allows you to easily access its four positions or tighten it down so it stays in the one you want.
In the end, the Tectal Race SPIN has all the necessary elements and a few interesting tech-points that make it an enticing option in the half-shell market. The SPIN technology is a promising step toward more comfortable helmets and with a couple small refinements, the Tectal could be perfect. But it’s current form doesn't have my vote for $220. That is partially because my head doesn't match the shape of the helmet. For you, this could be the silver slipper--and more than worth the investment. And when it comes down to what a helmet is for--protection--this one has extensive coverage with new technology backing it up.
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