By Trina Ortega
In conjunction with the USA Pro Challenge, which kicked off in Aspen, Colo., this week, POC introduced a full line of brightly adorned road gear intended not only to minimize the impacts of road bike accidents but to also prevent incidents by making cyclists “more visible across all spectrums.”
“It’s not just about, ‘Does the person see you; does the car see you from 100 meters out; does the car see you from a quarter mile out… but how do you interact with that car?’ If you crash, is there a way to interact with your phone,” said POC USA President Jarka Duba from the POC USA headquarters at the base of Highlands Mountain, where the snow-centric crew sows their skiing oats in the wintertime. “Obviously, we’re here to protect people but how do we make it more visible across all spectrums?”
POC’s answer is to incorporate four key elements into the design of its road gear: attention, visibility, interaction, and protection. This includes using fluorescent and contrasting colors to catch attention and increase visibility; researching how cyclists communicate with motorists and pedestrians (via technological devices); and, of course, protection, which is at the heart of POC.
The “AVIP” acronym will be printed on all of the products in its road line, which runs the gamut from helmets and jerseys to bibs, gloves, jackets, leg and arm warmers, socks, and—not to be left out in the cold—a 100 percent silk, polka-dotted scarf. The apparel line uses a range of progressive fabrics and reflective elements with a focus on performance. Although limited, POC will also enter the women’s market with a jersey and bibs.
Originally founded with an intent to improve ski racing safety, the Swedish company is taking its mission “to do the best we can to possibly save lives and to reduce the consequences of accidents for gravity sports athletes and cyclists” to the next level.
The flagship item in the new road line is the high-performance Octal helmet, which provides more coverage and protection with a higher density EPS but remains at sub-200 grams (195 grams in size medium, 54-60 cm). The construction is a fully wrapped unibody/monocoque shell that improves the safety properties and integrity, according to POC reps. For the skeleton, POC used a low-density EPS foam (not dual-density) with thickness concentrated on the most prevalent spots for impact: the back of the head and the temple areas.
POC designed ventilation on the Octal with a “less-is-more” approach, not concerned about the number of vents. Instead of having many small vents, the Octal has considerably larger (but fewer) vents placed strategically to also keep air flowing well.
The helmet has three zones in which to adjust fit—a fore and aft adjustment and the chin strap (although pre-production models pictured do not show the strap adjustment points near the ears). A nifty eye “garage” keeps sunglasses secure through two front vents when you’re not wearing them.
Helmet construction and design is critical but with POC’s aim to limit the consequences of accidents, it has additionally teamed with ICEdot, an emergency identification and notification service. Through the use of a QR-code-style sticker or a microchip sensor that can be attached to the helmet, the ICEdot system syncs to your online medical profile.
When paired with the ICEdot smart phone app, the ICEdot Crash Sensor is able to detect motion, changes in forces and impacts. In the event of a forceful crash, the device triggers the app to send a message to your preset emergency contacts to let them know your GPS location. EMS also has access to the info, so medical responders can immediately know of allergies, blood type, health history and more. The rider can set the desired response time. (Although the ICEdot sensors on the helmets during this week’s launch were attached with cable ties, POC is working on an integrated helmet model.)
The Octal comes in highly visible colors. If the standout zink orange is too bold, it also comes in helium white and garminum blue. Despite grumbles from its sales staff, there is no black helmet due to POC’s mission of making the helmets visible. The Octal will retail at $270.
While POC products are known for safety and style, the road line adds performance as a critical metric, so the company established its WATTS Lab to test products for drag, speed and energy output The road helmets also include the Octal Aero and Tempor TT helmet.
Founded in 2005, POC’s roots are in ski racing. Olympic gold medalist Julia Mancuso wore a POC helmet in the 2006 games, and the all-white bucket was immediately criticized as looking “too Swedish” and being too expensive. (It was double the pricepoint at the time.) But within a year, POC had 50 percent of the market.
The company first entered into the cycling market with a downhill helmet. When founder Stefan Ytterborn designed a full-face helmet for big mountain skiers, he realized he had simultaneously developed a DH helmet. POC later introduced the Trabec as an all mountain lid, which has been extremely popular in the MTB world.
The full road line will be available February 2014. Visit www.POCSports.com for more info.