POC Tectal Race SPIN Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Well ventilated, lightweight, great coverage, SPIN system, comfortable
Cons: Expensive, visor is less user friendly than the competition
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Tectal Race SPIN is POC's top of the line half-shell mountain bike helmet with good coverage and protection, a high level of comfort, good adjustments and features, and performance that make it one of our highest rated models. In this case, top of the line protection comes at a top of the line price. The Tectal is one of the most expensive helmets in our test. But you can't put a price on safety.
With high scores across the board in our rating metrics, the Tectal outclassed most of the competition. In the end, it was edged off of the top step of the podium by the Specialized Ambush with ANGi, but we've given it our Top Pick for Protection. Read on to find out more about this excellent helmet.
The Tectal Race SPIN is one of the most protective helmets in our test for a number of reasons. First, it offers some of the best coverage of all the models we tested, with a shell that is designed to cover more of the temples and back of the head. The coverage is roughly equal to that of the Specialized Ambush, and it is clearly visible as the shell dips lower on the temples and wraps around the back of the cranium, though the Tectal fits closer to the head. Despite the increase in coverage, the Tectal's design and shape remains comfortable. Other helmets like the Smith Forefront 2, Giro Chronicle, and the 6D ATB-1T Evo come very close but offer slightly less coverage than the Tectal.
POC has also added Aramid, a strong woven fiber similar to kevlar, in bridges that are molded to the outside of the EPS foam liner for added structural integrity. The EPS liner is wrapped in a sturdy polycarbonate shell that POC calls a unibody construction, but it is actually three pieces with clean seams and a perfect fit around the EPS foam.
POC also incorporated their own rotational force impact system, known as SPIN, into the Tectal Race SPIN helmet. Similar to other impact systems like MIPS, Smartshock, and Turbine 360, the goal of SPIN technology is to reduce the forces applied to the brain during an oblique impact. It does this by allowing the outer layer of the helmet to rotate slightly, mimicking the way the skull protects the brain. One of the unique aspects of SPIN, versus the other systems, is that it adds no weight or thickness to the lining of the helmet since the technology is integrated into the pads. The pads also do double duty, absorbing a small amount of linear impact while also deflecting rotational impact. The new MIPS SL system in the Specialized Ambush with ANGi looks quite similar to us.
A Recco reflector isn't something you usually see on a mountain bike helmet, it's commonly used in skiing products for avalanche recovery, but POC has put one on the Tectal. This feature could help in a search and rescue situation.
Comfort is another one of the Tectal Race SPIN's strong suits, and it shares top honors in this rating metric with the Specialized Ambush, Smith Forefront 2, and Giro Chronicle. As a rule, comfort is somewhat subjective and may vary based on several factors, most notably the shape of your head. That said, our testers found the Tectal to be one of the most comfortable helmets in our test selection. It is offered in three sizes, XS/SM, M/L, and XL/XXL so there should be a size suitable for most people's heads.
Several factors made the Tectal a favorite for comfort including the straps, size adjustment, the shape of the helmet, and ventilation. Overall, we found the fit of the Tectal to be good, although possibly a bit on the narrower side compared to other models in this test. It's fit has a relatively average length and a depth, and it comes down low on the sides and back of the head.
The fit adjustment system has a large dial at the back of the head. It tightens and loosens the cradle on the occipital lobe by pulling tension evenly from both sides for a snug and secure fit. This helmet also has one of the best strap designs we've seen with a strap splitter yoke by the ears that hold the straps flat and prevents them from making any ear contact. The chin strap has a standard plastic buckle and plenty of adjustment to suit most riders needs.
Inside the helmet, the SPIN system is integrated into the padding. The padding extends across the brow from temple to temple with four fingers that extend towards the back of the helmet between the vents and air channels. The padding is thin but quite comfortable, and the integrated SPIN system gives them a unique feel. It feels like there is a gel or soft rubber inside that not only cushions but also has lots of side to side give. It's this unique material and design that allows these pads to provide rotational impact protection without an additional liner in the helmet.
We have heard that the Tectal's additional temple coverage may conflict with some sunglass arms. We didn't experience this issue while wearing Smith Pivlock Arena Max and Pivlock V2 Max sunglasses during testing.
The Tectal has 16 vents and provides some of the best ventilation in our test selection. We ranked it near the top, with several other models in this metric for its excellent airflow. Nine large vents on the front of the helmet, a design borrowed from the POC Octal road bike helmet, help keep the air moving on your forehead. Three vents on the top and five on the back of the head allow the air to exhaust and your head to breathe. Deep air channels on the inside of the helmet draw the air from front to back and help keep air circulating.
The Tectal was bested in this metric by the Specialized Ambush with ANGi and the 100% Altec. The Ambush has 20 vents and an excellent internal air channel system that draws air through the helmet and out the massive exhaust vents at the back. The Smith Session and Troy Lee A2 are right about even with the Tectal for ventilation, and the helmets mentioned here vent better than the rest of the field.
The Tectal Race SPIN is packed with useful features that help make this one of the best overall helmets in our test. Many of these features have been mentioned previously, specifically those having to do with protection and comfort, in the sections above. Of course, the helmet features POC's SPIN technology, loads of coverage, quality construction, and aramid bridges to enhance its protection. On the comfort side, it has SPIN padding, a quality fit adjustment system and a great strap design that holds the helmet comfortably and securely in place.
The visor is adjustable for goggle compatibility. A small screw in the center of the visor holds it in place. You need to loosen it before adjusting the visor. This screw is relatively small and can be a little challenging to tighten and loosen with the helmet on your head, and we found it easier to adjust the visor by taking the helmet off. When in the up position, you can rest a set of goggles under the visor and secure them in the back with the "goggle clip." The visor doesn't flip up as high as many of the other models in this review, but it adjusts just high enough to stow goggles there when not in use.
We prefer helmets with more easily adjustable visor designs, like the Leatt DBX 3.0 or the Smith Forefront 2, but the visor on the Tectal works well once you're used to it. It's just a little more time-consuming.
Weighing in at 365 grams or 12.87 ounces in the size Medium/Large we tested, the Tectal Race SPIN is competitively lightweight. It weighs just 15 grams more than the Specialized Ambush, our Editor's Choice Award winner. That difference in weight is virtually unnoticeable, but in mountain biking lighter is typically considered better. In contrast to the Tectal's lightweight, the Oakley DRT5 weighs in at 476 grams, 111 grams heavier.
What is truly impressive is how light this helmet is considering the additional coverage of the shell and the addition of features like the SPIN technology, Recco reflector, and goggle clip. POC claims their Aramid reinforced EPS foam liner and unibody shell construction help keep the weight of the helmet down, and we won't disagree.
We've been riding in this helmet for months, and so far we have no complaints about its durability. Overall, the quality of craftsmanship appears to be top notch, and the outer shell and EPS foam liner are still in like new condition. The outer shell covers the majority of the EPS foam on the helmet, which helps protect it from being damaged while riding or during transport. The straps, size adjustment, visor, and SPIN liner pads all still appear to be in great condition, other than the inevitable sweat stains.
Now, we haven't crashed in this helmet, and as lovely as it would be to have some real-world crash experience to report, we aren't going out of our way to crash and find out. Considering the excellent coverage, protective features, and apparent quality of the Tectal, we believe that it would protect you well in the event of a crash. Note: as with any helmet, you must replace it after one crash. The foam liner typically breaks to allow the helmets to dissipate impact forces. The cracks may not be visible.
The Tectal Race SPIN is one of the most expensive helmets in our test selection with a retail price of $220, but we feel that this is still a solid value considering the excellent performance that it provides. If there is one item of protective gear that is worth splurging on, we think it's a quality helmet, and the Tectal is worth every penny.
It comes with a hefty price tag, but we feel the Tectal Race is one of the best mountain bike helmets on the market and one of the best we've ever tested. The combination of best-in-test coverage and POC's SPIN technology make this helmet very protective, which is the whole point of wearing a helmet in the first place. The great fit, lightweight, adjustability, versatility, and ventilation make it the total package.
Other Version and Accessories
POC makes a full line of protective gear for cycling including helmets, pads, eyewear, and apparel.
- The Tectal retails for $190 and has the same design and most of the features of the Race SPIN model, minus the goggle clip and SPIN technology. It comes in 9 different color options.
- The Tectal Race SPIN NFC goes for $250 and has all of the features of the Race SPIN, with the addition of an integrated NFC Medical ID chip. This medical ID chip can be scanned by first responders so they can instantly read your vital medical information.
- The Tectal Race Visor is offered as an aftermarket purchase as a replacement part for your Tectal Race helmet. It comes in white or black and retails for $15.
— Jeremy Benson