Minimalism can be a fickle philosophy. Pushed too far, you wind up with counter-productive designs like open offices. When a minimalist design hits the sweet spot, though, it can be revolutionary, as one-by drivetrains have been. Sure, a helmet doesn’t aspire to such lofty accomplishments or heinous failures, and yet a well-designed one takes concise aim at the ultimate goal of minimalism: to direct attention where it’s due, and nowhere else.
But a helmet has to do more than not be a distraction. These hardhats are trusted to safeguard our delicate motherboards, and the helmet industry is currently in the midst of a time of innovation in that respect, with technologies like MIPS having taken firm root in the marketplace.
For $190, you’d probably expect POC’s Tectal helmet to include some kind of slip-plane technology. It doesn’t. POC was the earliest adopter of MIPS in the U.S., but is waiting to make sure the Tectal is otherwise dialed before adding any yellow plastic to the equation. Unique to the Tectal is an aramid fiber grid that’s placed in key areas of the EPS, a feature POC says improves protection and durability.
This is a deep-coverage all-mountain helmet, dropping down to the ear line in the rear for an encompassing feel. The visor has about an inch of vertical adjustment—not enough that you could fit a pair of goggles underneath, but also not so much as to make ‘conceited duck’ an easily achievable look.
You know that road-trip game where you take a feather or a piece of paper and ever-so-gently stroke the ear of the person sleeping in the passenger seat? For me, having a helmet’s straps touch my ear is like being the poor soul on the receiving end of that prank. Maybe I’m neurotic, but for me this is one area where the Tectal earns high marks. The strap material is fairly light, and the splitters are perfect—they’re non adjustable, and kept the straps off my ears.
Pressure within the helmet is evenly distributed around the lid’s circumference and the retention dial offers sufficiently small increments of adjustment. The Tectal is very comfortable, and causes no pressure points—at least not on my skull. Ventilation is among the best for helmets of this type, and its weight is reasonably light at 343 grams (medium/large).The Tectal’s closest competitor is the Specialized Ambush, which costs $10 less, is slightly lighter and equally well ventilated. Like the Tectal, it is also arguably overpriced given that it doesn’t include MIPS. The Tectal’s straps are heavier, and having the housing for the retention dial directly up against the skull feels a bit rudimentary after wearing the Ambush, with its webbed system that tucks the dial into the EPS. This isn’t much of an issue if you have hair, but it’s ironic nonetheless that this minimalist helmet could do with just one more pad; a slim one placed on the housing for the retention dial might tie the Tectal for top honors.