POC Cortex Flow Helmet
POC. What does it stand for, Person On Call, Porsche Owners Club, Physical Organic Chemistry? Nope. POC, in this instance, stands for Piece Of Cake. Life's a piece of cake when you're well equipped. The same goes for riding technical terrain. Arm yourself with proper protection and go ahead and go for it. POC is a Swedish company, well known for their winter sports protective gear. They have branched into the bike helmet and armor market, and from our standpoint have created some great stuff. Innovative technologies help them stand out from the crowd.
We have been testing the POC Cortex Flow helmet for a few months. We wanted to get our hands on it for awhile, and when it finally arrived, we were very excited. Our Cortex Flow test helmet is Darth Vadar-esque with its flat black finish and understated POC graphics. The helmet comes in two sizes, M/L and L/XL. Our test helmet is a L/XL and for this test rider, it was none too big. In fact, we swapped out the Large cheek pads for the XL ones that came as extras in the package. We have the distinct feeling that anyone with a hat size larger than 7-3/8 will want to look elsewhere for a DH helmet. Strangely, there is no adjustment of any kind for the Cortex Helmet save for the aforementioned cheek pad replacement. It did not come with spare pads of differing thickness to account for different sized heads. POC recommends the L/XL fits 58-60cm head sizes. It seems that a short-haired 59cm head is actually about the limit. In fact, the interior design prohibits any adjustment save for replacing what we'll call the head basket that Velcros into place.
Luckily for us, the helmet fit. It surely wasn't loose. We wonder -- do Swedes have tiny heads? We'll have to do some research. The POC Cortex Flow Helmet is styled after their top-of-the-line Cortex DH Helmet though it shuns the sophistication of the Cortex DH double-shell system and goes with a tried and true single-layer construction. The shell is made of fiberglass for durability and impact protection. Inside the sleek fiberglass shell, it uses a standard multi-impact expanded foam liner. We can attest to the durability of the helmet and the protection that it offers. It seems that having loads of fun sometimes means being on the ground, or more specifically on our heads. The POC Cortex Flow Helmet kept us safe and walking away with nothing more than bruises time and time again even though it suffered some cosmetic damage from all the rocks we tried to smash up.
Speaking of crashing, we were totally surprised to still have a visor after a few of our spills. POC has hit the nail square on the head with this design. The visor is made of a very flexible plastic. It can take some serious abuse, yet is stiff enough to do the job. It is held in place by two machined aluminum thumbscrews on either side of the helmet. These screws are easy to adjust with or without gloves on. They also have screwdriver slots, but we found them to unnecessary, adding only visual appeal. There is another knurled thumbscrew in the middle of the forehead area that tightens against a slotted tab inside the visor. The slot allows a good deal of up and down adjustment for the visor. We felt like it could come down a little more for personal taste, so we took the liberty of extending the slot up into the tab about a 1/4". There was plenty of material and it wasn't a structural modification, so we proceeded without fear. Once completed, we could pull the visor down just a bit more for those late afternoon, sun-in-your-eyes dirt jump sessions.
We found the Cortex Flow helmet to be extremely comfortable. We rode in it all day on a few occasions. Aside from the previous concerns about size and adjustability, we noticed a preferred "sweet spot" where the helmet fit our head just right. It may have been because there just was no more room in there. It may also have simply been a factor of the liner's shaping. Anyway, if it wasn't in that sweet spot, we knew it. A grab and a wiggle would get it settled down, and off we could go. We wore goggles when we rode at the bike park at Keystone. Strangely, the goggles felt like they were a little low on the nose when the helmet fit right. The interference was at the brow. What to do ? wear the goggles low or the helmet high? Either way it was a bit off. The goggles were Smiths that we've had for a few years. Perhaps a different pair would fit better? A few times we felt like the helmet didn't fit, and thought that maybe our heads were finally swelling up from all the crashes. What we found is that once the helmet was good and sweaty, the liner basket could flip up as we put it on, especially if we were in a hurry. This doubled fold jammed us up and made the helmet too tight around the crown of our head. Once we discovered this tendency, we made sure to be careful to check it before we pulled the helmet on each time. It wasn't a big deal, but it wasn't idiot proof.
We really liked the shape of the helmet, and the chinguard was a real plus. It angled down a bit lower than our old helmet and was far enough away to breathe easy. The mesh insert on the front seemed to let plenty of fresh air through when we were riding so that we didn't feel suffocated. Communication was easy too. People could hear us well enough when we talked trailside, with the helmet on. We could hear just fine through the two openings on either side of the helmet. There are eight more openings along the top of the shell to keep the helmet cool on hot days. The visor channels air directly into the first two openings, on the brow. Air then moves across the head between the shell and the mesh liner basket through the last few vent holes. We felt like it was more well-ventilated than our old helmet. When we wore it with goggles, we were disappointed that there was no groove for the goggle strap on the back of the helmet. While it was no major problem, some subtle shaping at the rear of the shell would make it easier to get the goggles setup just right.
The craftsmanship of the POC Cortex Flow Helmet was very good. All aspects of the helmet were very nicely made. We liked the mesh liner basket. Though sizing seems to be non-existent, it fit our heads just fine. One highlight was the buckle on the chin strap. We hate nothing more than an old fashioned double d-ring style closure on a chin strap. The buckle makes it quick and easy to get situated, sized, and snapped and gets us more time for riding. A terry lined pad under the chin strap kept it comfy even when we cinched it tight before we hit the big lines that made us pucker up a little.
One thing is for sure, we appreciate good protection. There is nothing worse than face-planting and eating pine saplings when we could have been better protected. We've learned the hard way that a good helmet is hard to beat. If it is cool and comfortable, we'll be more likely to wear it and keep our smile safe. The POC Cortex Flow helmet is one that we'd reach for when we have the indication that we'll be riding hard terrain. The POC Cortex Flow tips the scales at 1040 grams or 2.29 lbs. It felt lighter than that.
There were lots of things that we liked about it ? the buckle chin strap, the "crash proof" visor, and airy chin guard. These features, in combination with the stealthy shape and graphics, make it a good choice for those looking for a comfortable and safe helmet for their wild adventures. We wanted a subtle groove on the back of the helmet for our goggle strap. We also wonder about the lack of adjustability for a helmet made in just two sizes. We think that maybe it would be better to offer more sizes, or more flexibility for fit. We were lucky enough to fit just right, albeit without room to spare. More importantly perhaps, there was no slop and unwanted helmet movement because of that snug fit. When we crashed, and we crash we did, we got up with the Cortex Flow in place where it should be and we were thankful for that. At $265, the POC Cortex Flow Helmet is actually an affordable dental and health insurance plan all rolled into one racy package.