I should note here that the Cortex Flow is POC’s “lower end” full-face bike helmet. While the Flow still retails for a healthy chunk of change ($250), it is substantially less expensive than the higher end Cortex DH MIPS ($500). The DH comes with the addition of a carbon fiber shell as well as an outer and inner shell that can move independently of each other, supposedly reducing rotational forces on your head in the event of a crash.
Where the Flow has an advantage over the more expensive DH model is the ventilation. While the Flow helmet is a far cry from a well-ventilated XC lid, it breathes better than any of the other full faces I’ve owned (although admittedly I’ve never owned a full face that had large vents). Due to the separate inner and outer shells, the DH does not have the direct ventilation ports that the Flow does. I haven’t spent enough time in the DH to quantify the difference, but I suspect that it’s noticeable. I also never had a problem with whistling or distracting wind noises coming from the ventilation ports and visor (a problem I’ve experienced with other helmets).
While the Flow doesn’t have the fancy carbon fiber shell of some of its brethren, it’s still impressively light. (It was noticeably lighter than my 661 Full Bravo Carbon.) I noticed this most during crashes. Even when I don’t hit my head, a heavy helmet whipping my head around in a crash tended to leave me with a sore neck. In the several minor get-offs that I’ve had while wearing the Flow, my neck was happy with the low weight.
For most of my time on the Flow, I wore it with a Leatt DBX Comp II neck brace. The Flow played nicely with the Leatt, and I didn’t find that my movement was excessively restricted. Compared to other helmets I’ve worn, the Flow with the Leatt seemed to offer slightly less range of motion side to side, but I never found this to be intrusive while riding.
I generally wore the Flow with a pair of Thor Ally goggles. The Flow doesn’t have any grooves or other strap retention system, so goggles without silicone or other sticky stuff on the strap may not stay put as well. My Thors have silicone on the strap, and I never had a problem with them wandering.
I did find that I needed to keep the Flow rocked slightly back on my head to allow my goggles to sit properly on my face. This was the case with my Thors, as well as with some Scott and Spy goggles that I tried. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to try the helmet with POC’s goggles. I also had some minor issues with goggle fogging, but I wouldn’t say this was noticeably different in the POC than with any other helmet I’ve owned.
In the months I used the Flow, I treated it like most of my gear, which is to say: poorly. It was thrown in the back of shuttle trucks, banged around amid various bike paraphernalia, ridden hard, and put away wet. So far, the Flow has taken this abuse in stride. Aside from some scuffing on the trim and the aforementioned scratches from bouncing my head off the ground, the finish of the helmet is still nice and shiny, the liner isn’t fraying or packing out, it hasn’t adopted any strange odors, and it generally still looks like a quality piece of headwear.
One other point that bears mentioning is that POC has recently been acquired by Black Diamond. According to press releases, POC will continue to operate with a large degree of autonomy while benefiting from Black Diamond’s distribution infrastructure. This acquisition does not raise any issues for me, and if anything, it may result in more access to POC products in the United States and may serve as a benefit to customer service in North America. We’ll see.
I’ve saved the discussion of aesthetics for last because it doesn’t really matter—if you’re buying a helmet based primarily on the graphics, you’re doing it wrong. But once you’ve made sure a helmet has the features and fit you need, you might as well make sure it matches your pajama suit as well.
The POC helmets look… different—very Northern European. The Flow appears to have taken strong design cues from an upside down egg chair, albeit a very safe upside down egg chair. I don’t mean this in a bad way. The styling of the helmet has grown on me, but it might not be for everyone. Aside from the shape, I definitely appreciate the simple graphics. On those days when I’m not feeling particularly agro, it’s nice not to be wearing a dense collage of skulls, lightning bolts, and pissed off mega-fauna (yes, Troy, I’m talking to you).
I continue to use the Cortex as my “main” full face helmet, and it’s still going strong after 1.5 seasons of use. It’s a little more beat up and scuffed up than it was when I bought it, but so far, I haven’t had any noteworthy problems with it. The cheek pads aren’t as soft as they once were, but they haven’t packed out too much and so they still fit nicely.
All in all, I’m still very happy with the helmet.
If you’re in the market for a high quality, mid-priced helmet, the POC Flow is absolutely worth a look. It offers some great features in a lightweight package, and comes in lots of pretty colors. The quality of this helmet is evident, and while POC is still relatively new to the market, it is quickly developing a reputation for well-constructed, well-designed protection.
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