For the past ten years, POC has been a leader in safety in both the skiing and mountain bike industries. The brand has developed a handful of important safety technologies in-house, like its line of VPD protective wear and AVIP hi-visibility road cycling wear. And in addition to developing its own safety protocols, POC has worked with brands like MIPS to provide an additional layer of safety to its helmets. That was just the beginning.
Last week, POC released two new technologies that were developed by POC engineers to help make the brand’s products even safer. We spoke with Oscar Huss, POC’s head of product development, to get some background and insight on the new tech — and we put it to the test on the trails in and around Whistler, Canada.
POC’s In-House Version of MIPS
Q: In its simplest terms, what is SPIN technology?
A: To counter oblique impacts, SPIN pads are optimized to provide rotational impact protection based on the precise location inside the helmet. They replace the normal pads in a helmet. SPIN pads, which are made up of a variety of synthetic and gel-based materials, work together and allow a shearing movement to happen in any direction during an oblique fall. This action allows the helmet to move relative to the head, which can reduce the amount of force transmitted to a user’s skull and brain in the event of an oblique impact.
Overall, the pads create a controlled movement between helmet and head while still having the helmet sit comfortably. We have explored many ways of achieving this, and the SPIN solution was the most suitable, as the gel works under all high-pressure movements and forces.
Q: What was your role in developing SPIN for the new Tectal?
A: I’m in charge of the R&D department, meaning I make sure we have the right people, plans, decisions, and structure in place to develop stuff. SPIN is a collaboration between our best and most experienced developers, all contributing to the creation of ideas as well as physical samples, testing of prototypes and iterative improvements. My role is also to challenge the developers to push boundaries in terms of construction and thinking — hopefully, my 11 years of experience in developing helmets is of some help.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in designing SPIN??
A: We have a clear mission around safety, and with the input from our medical experts in the POC Lab, we knew what we needed to consider for both linear and oblique accidents. We have a lot of experience in helmet and material development, and the need for us was to tick “all the boxes.” Safety, performance, fit, comfort, weight. This is all in a field of great competitors and we wanted to ensure that what we produced lives up to our very high material and safety standards.
Our Test: SPIN is POC’s take on a system that reduces rotational forces during impact on a helmet — which often causes concussions. It’s essentially the brand’s own version of MIPS, but instead of using a full helmet liner, it uses small pads placed throughout the helmet that shear as the helmet is impacted. In testing, the pads are soft and comfortable, particularly compared to a MIPS liner. Thankfully, we didn’t get to test the pads’ shearing capabilities, but we’ll take POC and Huss’s word that they work. We did notice that in comparison to POC helmets without SPIN, the pads in the SPIN helmets don’t breathe quite as well — but it’s only minimally noticeable.
An All-New Lens Developed with Carl Zeiss
Q: What makes Clarity lenses different from others on the market, specifically on the mountain bike side?
A: Decluttering the world around a rider, be it in the city, on a rural road, forest trail or during a steep mountain bike descent, will improve their safety and support pure sensations and focus — which will maximize a rider’s ability to perform and react whatever the conditions.
Having the ability to choose a lens where the intensity of the contrast enhancement and the spectrum have been specifically developed for the sport/environment in question is critical. Take our new Clarity mountain bike lens, which has a tint specifically designed to boost contrast with trail-associated colors such as green and brown, and which is optimized for variable light conditions so you can choose amongst different VLT groups, but have the same crisp and clear vision.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in developing the Clarity lenses?
A: Managing different types of light in such fine detail is crucial, but also incredibly hard, and requires a lot of expertise and technology to fine-tune and adjust the frequency. We never look to offer something standard which is why we, with our optics partner Zeiss, want to innovate and bring new experiences to a user. Wearing glasses also supports our mission very clearly, both by being able to stop things getting into a user’s eyes and, mostly, to refine a user’s reaction so they can take the best course of action to avoid an accident in the first place.
Our Test: Upon switching from the standard Zeiss lens on the POC Crave glasses to the new POC- and Zeiss-developed Clarity lens, the difference was immediately noticeable. The technology works by blocking certain colors of light and enhancing others, based on what terrain you’re riding in. For example, if you’re riding on the trail like we were, the Clarity lens pulls out all of the greens and browns and amplifies them. In a way, it’s like seeing in high definition. The result is a lens that excels not only in full sun or full shade, but in the often difficult variable light conditions of mountain biking — helping you pick out features in the trail and keep you riding safely.
POC hosted us in Whistler to experience the SPIN and Clarity technologies. Outside of the interview answers, opinions are that of the author.