I’ve been a fan of POC helmets for a long time. The Tectal (and the Trabec before that) has been my go-to mountain bike helmet since it launched. The Auric Cut has been my go-to backcountry snowboard helmet since its inception, and recent testing of the 2019 Obex SPIN snow helmet only further cemented my affinity for the Swedish brand’s cranium cases. But the one missing piece has been POC’s road cycling helmets. While the Octal is serviceable, it leaves much to be desired. When the opportunity presented itself to give POC’s new Ventral road cycling helmet a thorough test, I hoped that it would solve the Octal’s shortcomings — and perhaps cement POC’s monopoly of my head protection.
The Good: POC’s Ventral is one of the best road helmets that POC has made to date. In the past, many have criticized the appearance of POC helmets, dubbing them “bulbous” or saying that they sat too high on the head. The Ventral is a distinct departure from that aesthetic and blends aerodynamics, ventilation and safety perfectly. Instead of the plastic MIPS liners of many top-end road bike helmets, the Ventral features POC’s SPIN pads that reduce rotational forces and help mitigate the chances of concussion. That, coupled with a few other key features, makes the Ventral one of the best helmets we’ve tested to date.
Who It’s For: There’s no question that the Ventral is for serious road cyclists. Its price point puts it out of reach of most casual cyclists, and its performance advantages won’t be felt by those in the beginner or intermediate stages of their road cycling obsession. If you’ve been curious about trying out a helmet from the new “semi-aero” category, the POC Ventral is a great place to start.
Watch Out For: In truth, there isn’t much to knock on the Ventral. The price is a bit steep in comparison to other helmets in the same category at $290. Besides that, the only other thing worth calling out is that the strap splitters that come down around the ears are not easily adjusted. With a bit of fiddling, you can get them into a reasonable spot, but they’re fixed and, adjustment can only go so far.
Alternatives: There are a handful of competitors to the Ventral in the semi-aero category. The most obvious alternative is the Specialized S-Works Evade ($250), but even though you’ll save $40, you’ll take a 47g weight penalty. The MET Manta ($247) is also a great alternative, but it’s difficult to find at retail stores in the U.S. and is sparsely offered to U.S. consumers online.
Review: At first glance, it’s easy to mistake POC’s Ventral for a helmet designed specifically for aero-cycling pursuits. A profile view of the helmet is not unlike the POC Octal Aero, POC’s purpose-built aero helmet. But for a helmet that shares many characteristics with its more wind-tunnel friendly brethren, the Ventral couldn’t be more different.
POC designed the Ventral specifically to channel air through the helmet instead of around it. This allows it to pick up some of the aerodynamic advantages of the Octal Aero without sacrificing breathability. In fact, the Ventral (hence the name) features nine vents and stays cool even on warm days.
In the rear of the helmet is a dial closure system that contracts and expands to fit a variety of head shapes. It is also adjustable from inside the helmet, allowing the dial closure to move either higher or lower on the back of your head to get a more custom fit.
But perhaps the best features of the Ventral are two sticky rubber pads that line the outermost vents on the front of the helmet. One of my biggest pet peeves with cycling helmets is that none of them have a decent place to put your sunglasses. They either don’t fit, or fit so loosely that they pop right out as soon as you start bobbing and moving around on a steep climb. These two sticky rubber pads solve this issue completely. Regardless of brand (we tested five different ones), the rubber pads kept the sunglasses from moving around and falling out. It’s such a simple feature, but one that has a profound impact on the functionality and performance of the helmet.
Verdict: There’s a lot to love about the Ventral. Even beyond the performance characteristics and smart, innovative features, the helmet just looks good. It’s sleek, minimal, and is a step in the right direction for POC in terms of aesthetics. I’ve been a fan of POC’s mountain bike helmets for a long time (the Tectal is my current go-to; the Trabec before that), but this is the first POC road helmet that I’ve been truly smitten with. In fact, I think the sticky rubber pads in the vents are the single best feature I’ve tested on a product so far this year.
What Others Are Saying:
• “The Ventral isn’t just a big step forward from the Octal Aero; it’s quite a nice road helmet on its own, period.” — James Huang, Cycling Tips
• “Overall, the Ventral has quickly become one of our go-to helmets for everything from fast group rides to a day on gravel roads and trails. In large part that’s due to its versatility. But above all, it is a comfortable helmet that looks sharp — black matches everything, after all.” — Spencer Powlison, Velo News
Weight: 250 g
Impact foam: EPS foam, SPIN rotational protection system
Fit adjustment: Rear dial adjustment system
Available colors: Black, White, Gray, Blue
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