Safety has always been central to POC's mission as a sports company. So it was only a matter of time before the Swedish brand introduced a line of mountain bike apparel to help reduce injuries while keeping riders comfortable and looking cool. We tested the new POC mountain kits at the Alisal Ranch in Solvang, California, on a perfect, late-summer day. Hopping on our Kona Process trail bikes, we rode the resort's collection of doubletrack, fire roads, and horse trails, winding through 10,000 acres of dusty California foothills.
We were among the first to try out POC's new Tectal MTB helmet ($190). More than a simple refresh of the previous Trabec model, the Tectal takes several styling and ventilation cues from its Octal road sibling. Kevlar strips reinforce the EPS liner around the Tectal's massive ventilation holes, topping it off with a unibody shell, making for a lighter, safer helmet. The retention system inside the helmet hugged our heads comfortably and securely, which can sometimes be a tricky proposition. Even more impressive, the helmets will be equipped with a Recco radar reflector, which can help search-and-rescue teams find you if you're lost or hurt in the woods.
POC's new Resistance apparel line has three levels of protection: Strong, Mid, and Light. Each strikes a different balance between protection, comfort, and breathability, according to POC product director Oscar Haas. Strong shorts and Index Flow gloves ($55) include VPD (Visco-Elastic Polymer Dough) padding in the hips and knuckles. The material hardens on impact, but otherwise remains flexible and moves with your body, making the Strong pieces perfect for downhill riding and technical singletrack. The other end of POC's new trail line is the Light collection, which instead focuses on wicking, anti-odor materials, and comfy shorts that should be great on sweaty days and less challenging trails.
We spent our test miles in the Mid 3-Qtr jersey ($90) and shorts ($110). While the Mid line doesn't offer padding, the lightweight fabrics feature patches of more durable, tear- and puncture-resistant fabric sewn in on the likely points of impact. Paired with POC's Contour bibs ($150), we could have stayed in the saddle all day. The loose dirt at Alisal Ranch made climbing the short but deceptively steep hills even more difficult, but the kits kept us both cool and comfortable. At the end of the ride, we were just as grateful for the jersey's anti-odor treatment. During a spin on our home dirt a week later, we were able to verify the effectiveness of the Resistance Mid shorts' reinforced backside, which are both water- and abrasion-resistant. One member of our test group accidentally put the clothing's abrasion-resistance capabilities to the test, luckily both she and the kit came away unscathed. [pocsports.com]