Three-Month Test: POC Cross-Country Mountain Bike Kit

The Swedish brand releases a 2017 helmet and lots of apparel options for XC racers

Sep 23, 2016
Outside Magazine

Cruising in a cross-country-specific kit.    Photo: Courtesy of POC

Late last month, POC unveiled a whole array of spring 2017 product, including a new helmet and range of apparel designed for cross-country riders. I’ve been playing in the helmet and jersey since June. Here are my impressions of those products, plus a first look at the rest of the line.

Octal X 

  Photo: Courtesy of POC

Let’s start with the helmet, which is the POC product I’m most excited about for next spring. The Swedish brand took the Octal—its well-ventilated, lightweight road-race lid—and beefed it up for the dirt. 

The Octal X comes from the same mold as its roadie relative (meaning the exact same vents and fit) and uses the same Boa dial closure system, but it has a few protection upgrades. For one, POC increased the shell’s surface area by moving it about a centimeter down each vent and increasing it around the back of the neck. This makes it stronger without much of a weight penalty. POC also ran Kevlar-like fibers down the helmet’s body—the company calls it “aramid bridge technology”—to boost strength even more and protect against sharp, rocky impacts. Those changes make the helmet 15 grams heavier (about a third the weight of a golf ball) than the Octal—or 210 grams for my size M/L, versus 195 grams for the same-size Octal.     

For the past year, I’ve ridden the Octal X almost daily on Santa Fe’s cross-country trails. It’s by far the most breathable mountain bike lid I’ve tried and is ideal for 90-plus-degree days. Of course, the price for that ventilation and low weight is less protection—remember, it is a dedicated cross-country lid, best for smooth, flowy singletrack. When I’m riding anything more technical, I opt for a helmet like POC’s Tectal or Giro’s Montara, both of which have deeper side and back coverage.   

The last point I’ll make about the Octal X: if you ride both asphalt and dirt and don’t care about having the lightest setup for the former and don’t need much protection for the latter, consider the Octal X as the ideal quiver of one. It doesn’t weigh much more than a dedicated road lid. It’s airy and lightweight yet protective enough for fast XC riding. All those characteristics also make it a kickass bikepacking helmet, where you’ll want something lightweight and versatile. 

Resistance Pro XC Zip Tee 

  Photo: Courtesy of POC

Next spring, POC will add cross-country apparel to its Resistance Pro line, which already includes clothing for downhill and enduro. There are three new tops, shorts, bibs, a vest, a jacket, arm and leg sleeves, gloves, caps, and socks. Let’s start with the jerseys.    

There are three top options: a short- and long-sleeve jersey and a T-shirt. I’ve been riding in the short-sleeve zip, which POC calls the Zip Tee. 

I should note here that I tested a men’s extra small. I’m a scrawny, 5'6" woman, and the top fit me fairly well, though it was a bit baggy in the shoulders. But one thing I’d like to see next season? A Resistance Pro XC line for women. Ladies, you can certainly wear the clothing in this review (it’s helpful that everything comes in a size XS), but a few fit details (like the shoulders and hem length) were a hair off.   

Back to the Zip Tee. It’s a well-designed technical piece with some smart detailing. The sleeves are made from durable Cordura fabric, which didn’t tear even after I slid out twice this summer, landing on my upper shoulder both times. Elastic grippers at the sleeve cuffs and along the hem kept everything in place, while mesh on back and under the arms vented heat well. It has the other niceties you’d expect from a XC jersey, like four pockets out back, including a zippered pocket for keys or cash, and reflective hits at the shoulders.    

The cut is athletic but not skin-tight, and it fits more like a road jersey than a mountain bike tee. I found it worked best with bibs, not baggies, as you’d expect from a top designed for XC racers. If you prefer baggies for your day-to-day riding, I suggest going with the less-fitted Resistance Pro XC Tee, which has the same Cordura-reinforced sleeves and rear pockets but wears like a T-shirt.    

Resistance Pro XC Bibs and Shorts

  Photo: Courtesy of POC

The new shorts are for cross-country riders who want to rock baggies. They’re made from a lightweight, stretchy material that feels ideal for hot summer rides. POC added more durable fabric panels to the butt, plus silicone grippers along the waistband to keep the shorts from slipping. Maybe the best part is the cut: the cuff is shorter behind the knee so as not to interfere with pedaling.   

As mentioned above, I prefer to wear the Zip Tee with bibs and the Tee with the shorts. The bibs are top-notch, like POC’s road options, with a plush chamois and smart detailing, like the Cordura-reinforced fabric at the hips and thighs, soft suspenders, and elastic band around the legs.

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