i have a long-term habit of collecting what i believe to be useful little aphorisms and quotes and pasting them into a text edit file on my mac. more often than not, that is precisely where they remain, though i occasionally read through them at erratic intervals, sometimes wondering why i stored some of them in the first place. for others, i often find myself trying desperately to bring about some happenstance that would allow me to quote them in public, effecting an altogether more intellectual demeanour than comes naturally. unfortunately, aside from the occasional humorous remark, i feel that i have pretty much failed with this strategy.
at least until today.
for those of you who know the inestimable richard sachs, he of atmo and frame building fame, his intelligence will be well known, along with his literary prowess, one that i often wish i could equal. what takes me several paragraphs to expound, he often seems to manage in a couple of well-chosen sentences. however, one of the more notable quotes i found stored in that text edit file i recall being scraped from an article to which richard had directed me. the topic of the specific dissertation, by american author tom robbins, currently escapes me, though it seems likely it had something to do with the art of writing. the following quote, however, has resonated on more than just a few literary occasions of late:
"Whatever it is everybody seems to hate in your work, that's what you should focus on and develop. If it's arousing that kind of antipathy, you can figure that that's the thing you do best. That's the thing about you that is unique and special."
though you may well be concerned that i am about to relate just how this is ascribed to my own scribblings, nothing could be further from the truth. i am in fact convinced that it's an observation that pertains more topically to current thinking on helmet design.
helmets are a subject all to themselves these days, almost like the yes, no approach to scotland's forthcoming independence referendum. by this i mean they seem to instil one or other diametrically opposed opinion. some feel helmet use ought to be compulsory for cyclists, others maintain their right to decide for themselves without pressure from the nanny state and the motoring lobby.
such matters are, i believe, for another blog in another universe at another time. my concerns, such as they are, revolve round contemporary aesthetics. we should never lose sight of the fact that whatever colour and whichever shape these are constituted, they essentially exist to protect the grey matter under a dishevelled hairstyle. to that effect, and rather simply put, quite how they look ought to be of little concern. but as i was reminded only the other day, one's style on the bike is every bit as important as any other aspect of cycling. as a general aside, has it ever dawned on anyone that the wearer remains visually oblivious to the design and colour of the helmet being worn at any given time?
perhaps the first to the how fast does this look? party were giro, supplying helmets to greg lemond and many other tour winners along the way, one of which they may wish to forget if they could. and arguably they were also the first to move one step up from the plethora of vents and speedy look into the realm of aerodynamics via the 'you either love it or hate it' air attack. the peloton is infected greatly now by ventless helmets, some of which wouldn't be out of place in a buck rogers movie. others seem to inhabit the middle ground, still with vents but a lot less battlestar galactica in intent, one of which can be seen atop riders with garmin sharp; the poc octal.
mind you, as helmet names go, it is certainly one of the more bizarre, i am reliably informed that the name octal is derived from occipital, referring to increased attention and protection having been paid to that region of the head. poc are based in sweden, a company seemingly concerned more with a mission to improve the safety of sports people in a variety of disciplines, and not solely through a varied helmet offering. the octal is one of a range of three aimed specifically at the road cyclist (the octal aero is essentially the same helmet but devoid of most of the air vents, while the tempor is aimed at the bona-fide time-triallist)
edinburgh's 2pure, poc's uk distributors very kindly sent a fluorescent orange version of the octal for review, requested partially because it's the new kid on the block so to speak, and partly because it seems to have elicited a number of disparaging remarks on twitter. i rather like it; i think it a particularly stylish piece of headgear, though i'm well aware of the opinion weighted in the opposite direction. ultimately, the helmet's there to protect your head, and if we live with the proposition that form (arguably) ought to follow function, that surely should be the sole discretion taken into account?
always assuming the helmet fulfils its promise.
it's probably one of the hardest products to objectively review (insofar as it's possible to be purely objective about anything), for who amongst us would be keen to crash in strategic fashion to check the veracity of any helmet? certainly not me. but, if we're willing to accept that any helmet has been tested to within a few millimetres of its existence by those better qualified to judge, that particular box can be satisfactorily ticked.
at a mere 190g, the octal is scarily light, battling with my team sky winter cap as to which placed a greater burden upon thewashingmachinepost head. though it's not short of a vent or two to assist with cooling, poc seem keener on minimising the number of vents while increasing their size. distractingly, though the side vents are of comfortably minimal size, the hardshell bonded cover manages to make them look a tad bigger. it's a clever optical illusion creating a chunkier look than their racier, more streamlined competitors.
thankfully, gone are the days when the fit of a helmet depended on swapping of differing thicknesses of padding; never a satisfactory solution. in keeping with several on the market, the octal makes use of a thumbwheel adjustable harness at the rear of the helmet, though it sits just a tad too close to the helmet body to manage gloved fingers both top and bottom. however, despite this, it was still reasonably easy to manage. on the medium-sized helmet, wearing a thick winter cap underneath was easily and comfortably accommodated by the level of adjustment, still allowing it to sit properly on my head.
the octal is, however, the first helmet i've come across that arrives with its own cycle cap, ostensibly for wearing on dark nights when the applied highly reflective lettering will aid visibility. the two sidemost front vents sport plastic inserts described as the eye garage; somewhere to put those cycling glasses when the sun disappears behind the clouds. as a wearer of prescription rudy projects, it's a feature i never had cause to employ.
in keeping with poc's avowed intent to concentrate on our safety, included along with the instruction manual, cap and drawstring bag is an ice sticker, featuring a pin code and a qr code. as an acronym for in case of emergency, it is simply a case of logging onto icedot.org, typing in the pin number and filling in the required fields with contact and medical information. should you be found unconscious or incoherent at the side of the road as a result of a crash, the emergency services need only input the code at the website or scan the qr code with their mobile phone.
it's a clever idea that could conceivably save lives, though with several of the outlying areas on islay and elsewhere in rural britain without any appreciable phone signal, there are obviously flaws in the procedure. in keeping with almost every manufacturer of cycling products worldwide, poc obviously couldn't resist the opportunity to add their very own vacuous acronym to a part of the octal. avip or attention visibility interaction protection is a pointless addition to an excellent product, invading the integrity of its existence with triviality.
however, it fits well, looks good (as far as i'm concerned), weighs next to nothing while ostensibly offering considerable head protection for the wearer. and if they ever get round to making cycle helmets mandatory, it would surely be one of the more effective compulsory choices to be made.
and the graphics are pretty neat too.
the poc octal helmet is distributed in the uk by 2pure. the helemt is available in small, medium and large and in blue, white or orange at a cost of £225
wednesday 5 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................