POC’s new range-topping Kortal Race MIPS is a bit like the go-go-gadget arms of the mountain bike helmet world. At the surface level, it’s a half shell lid that provides ample coverage, lots of vents, an adjustable visor that will break off if you face plant, and it plays nicely with goggles too.
Going below the polycarbonate exterior, the Kortal Race MIPS sees the first instance of a new rotational protection liner and some nifty built-in technology that may help first responders find and stabilise you out in the field— depending on where you live.
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POC was the first brand to release a bike helmet with a MIPS liner in 2011, a year after integrating the technology into a ski helmet.
The first generation of MIPS equipped helmets left a bit to be desired in terms of fit and performance. The liners were retrofitted into existing designs and caused sizing inconsistencies between the MIPS and non-MIPS versions of the same helmet. Early renditions of the liner also transformed breezy, well-vented helmets into head-mounted saunas.
Thankfully, things have improved over the years, and POC’s Kortal is the first bike helmet to feature the new Integra liner.
Designed to dissipate rotational energy that causes your brain to slosh around inside your skull by allowing 10-15mm of movement, the MIPS Integra liner is so cleanly integrated into the Kortal, and you have to pull the padding out to find it. The low friction slip plane moves to slow your brain down after an impact is in-moulded into the EPS foam.
By eliminating the yellow plastic skull cap found in most MIPS helmets, there is nothing to impede the air sucked in through the vents or block the internal channelling inside the shell. Speaking of the vents, they have been strategically placed so a goggle strap won’t block them.
The Kortal is deep fitting, and the back of the lid cradles your occipital bone and offers ample protection for your temples. POC has also moulded aramid bridges into the EPS foam, creating an internal skeleton. These are the same fibres used in military body armour, and they prevent the shell from disintegrating into a million pieces as you tumble down a mountainside.
POC has also built this brain bucket to meet the required AS/NZS 2063 standard and the Dutch NTA8776 e-Bike standard, which tests helmets with higher impact speeds.
Reeco and NFC Medical ID
POC first integrated a Recco reflector into its helmets a few generations back. More commonly found in ski clothing, this is a passive diode and antenna that will return a signal from what is essentially an avalanche beacon on steroids. A Search and Rescue team can hang one of these transmitters from a helicopter and search one square kilometre in six minutes, pinpointing your location within a few metres.
Unfortunately, for the time being, only Mount Hotham Ski Resort has invested in Recco Rescue Detectors, so it’s unlikely this feature will get you out of a pinch in Australia until it’s adopted by more search and rescue teams.
Across the Tasman Sea, however, multiple Kiwi ski resorts and search and rescue helicopter bases have Recco detectors.
With that said, the NFC Medical ID chip might save your life. Previously integrated into the Ventral and Tectal lids, the NFC chip stores your medical info and emergency contacts, which can be accessed using ‘Near Field Communication’ and a smartphone with the twICEme app — no batteries or charging required. This info is stored directly on the chip, meaning a first responder can access it without mobile reception, but they will need the app. According to the twICEme website, this service has been adopted by ambulance and search and rescue services here in Australia, though it doesn’t specify where.
Usually, when helmets have a breakaway visor, that means the peak is designed to rip off the helmet to protect your neck should you break a fall with your face, and will need to be replaced. However, POC has taken a novel approach, attaching to the side and top with a popper fixture, the peak can break away from the helmet without sustaining any damage. And little stickers of velcro will keep the visor from rattling on the shell, a nice touch.
If the helmet comes away from your digger with no dents or cracks, you can pop the visor back on and continue on your merry way. The peak also has three positions and provides ample room for goggles to be stowed underneath.
All the rest
As you’d expect for a helmet that occupies the flagship space in any brand’s lineup, it has a 360-degree retention system that wraps all the way around your head to distribute the pressure evenly as it reels in and offers three positions of vertical adjustability.
There is no fancy magnetic Fidlock buckle to be found here, but the straps are made from lightweight webbing and have fixed ear splitters.
Claimed to weigh a little over 400g, it’s on the porky side for a trail lid, but given the amount of your skull it covers, it could conceivably weigh quite a bit more.
Priced at $399.99, the Kortal Race MIPS is one of the more expensive trail lids on the market, but it still costs less than the TLD A3, and arguably has more features. POC also offers a MIPS free version for $324.99 that loses the NFC ID chip, but keeps the RECCO reflector.