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First Ride: Poc Ventral blends vents and aerodynamics

For most cyclists, an everyday ride can’t be pigeonholed as an “aero” or a “climbing” day. We mix in some fast flat roads, some slow climbs, and everything in between. That’s why the new Poc Ventral is an exciting option for those without WorldTour contracts and piles of gear to pick from — it blends aerodynamic touches with ample ventilation for all manner of rides.

Known for polarizing aesthetics (hello Octal Aero helmet!), Poc gave the $290 Ventral a more subdued look. There are still a few nods to the original Octal, such as the three Band-Aid-shaped center vents on the front, but the overall aesthetic is sleek and trim. This could be, in part, due to the stealthy matte black color. If you’d like to stand out, there are nine other color options, including the audacious fluorescent pink to match the EF Education First-Drapac team kit.

Poc’s long-running sponsorship of that American WorldTour team helped develop the guts of the Ventral. The team wanted a helmet that blends aerodynamics, ventilation, and safety, and it seems to have gotten just that.

To make this helmet slippery in the wind, Poc relied on computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations to fine-tune the shape and design. Those front vents, although they appear similar to the fully vented Octal helmet, are designed to channel air through the helmet, which Poc says reduces drag. The remainder of the air that flows across the helmet is handled by a snub tail, which Poc says has the optimal trailing edge geometry for less turbulence (22 degrees, in case you’re keeping score at home). On balance, Poc claims the Ventral produces 2.1 percent less drag than an Octal.

We haven’t had the chance to confirm the Ventral’s aerodynamic chops, but we can say the ventilation is particularly effective. Unlike a true aero helmet, such as a Specialized Evade or a Giro Vanquish, the helmet holes are more generous. The 13 vents are large, and at all but the very slowest speeds, we felt enough cooling breeze to forget that this helmet has an aero design.

It is also fairly lightweight — on our own scale, the Ventral was just a few grams heavier than the claimed 280g weight for a size medium helmet. That is pretty close to the 270g weight of Giro’s Synthe MIPS, which is comparable in terms of ventilation and aerodynamic features.

In the pursuit of a safer helmet, Poc developed a proprietary design to deflect rotational forces in the event of a crash. Similar to MIPS, the Spin pads are meant to move in any direction if the head is struck at an oblique angle. The Spin pads are part of a plastic retention system that wraps around the entire head, from the rear, where the normal adjustment dial sits, to the forehead. The overall fit feels quite secure, and the rear retention adjusts vertically, as you’d expect. Poc says the Spin technology reduces rotational velocity about 15-20 percent.

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.

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