POC Kortal Race review: an MTB helmet that's safe but far from boring

POC Kortal Race is the latest in a long, proud lineage of MTB helmets designed with security and slick style in mind

T3 Platinum Award
POC Kortal Race review
(Image credit: POC)
T3 Verdict

It's not cheap, but the POC Kortal Race extra-safe bike helmet features a heap of essential and innovative safety features along with bold and stylish good looks.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Loads of safety features

  • +

    Great looks

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Somewhat bulky

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Welcome to my POC Kortal Race review. You hopefully don’t need us to tell you that wearing the best helmet you can lay your hands on, and your head in, is a must. That’s perhaps even more true on your mountain bike – or E-MTB – than it is in town.

Enter Sweden’s POC and its latest helmet, the Kortal Race. Always at the forefront of safety technology, POC here serves up a helmet with MIPS Integra to protect against twisting force as well as more ‘head-on’ collisions. And that’s only the beginning of the lengthy list of life-saving attributes that could put this up amongst the best cycling helmets.

Despite all the safety features, the Kortal also manages to look very slick and stylish, at least by MTB helmet standards. In the UK the POC Kortal is £200, and in the USA it's $249.95. Those living in a land down under can pick it up for $399.95. Here's my POC Kortal Race bike helmet review.

POC Kortal Race helmet review: design and build

POC Kortal Race

(Image credit: POC)

The POC Kortal Race helmet has been designed for trail and enduro riders looking for maximum protection and ventilation along with minimum weight (483g for a Large); E-MTB riders should also check it out as it has also been developed for use with e-bikes, meeting the Dutch NTA 8776 e-bike helmet standard, which takes account of the faster speeds that are often possible on e-bikes.

POC Kortal Race helmet review: features

The Kortal Race comes with a whole raft of safety features, including a newly patented breakaway peak, which as the name suggests will snap off in a crash to enhance neck protection and reduce the chance of injury.

It also features a MIPS Integra system, a low friction layer inside the helmet that allows a sliding motion of 10-15mm in the event of an impact to enhance rotational impact protection, which in turn provides improved brain protection.

POC Kortal Race

(Image credit: POC)

Additional safety features include a Recco protection system as used in ski wear to allow professional rescuers to locate someone who has wandered off the beaten path and become lost or injured, and an NFC Medical ID which allows you to store vital medical information and emergency contacts within the helmet (via an associated app) which can be accessed by first responders.

An impressive 19 large, angular vents provide ventilation, with adjustment via a rear dial and an internal slider. The helmet peak can be raised high enough on the helmet for goggles to fit underneath while not in use, and none of the vents are covered by the goggle strap when you’re using them.

The Kortal Race has been designed to give a seamless fit with POC’s Ora goggles, or if you prefer sunnies, with POC’s Devour glasses, and there is storage at the rear of the helmet for your glasses when not in use.

A unibody shell, which enhances the structural integrity of the helmet, along with a lightweight EPS liner help protect your noggin if you take a spill, and there’s additional protection for high risk areas around the temples and back of the head thanks to ‘extended protection zones’ in these areas.

POC Kortal Race helmet review: performance

The Kortal Race is BIG and blocky (but note, not heavy with it) so it may take an initial ride to get used to this bulkiness if you’re more familiar with a less substantial helmet. It’s a kind of halfway house between a full-face helmet and a regular helmet, and as such will suit riders looking for something akin to the security of a full-face lid without the associated bulk, weight and sweatiness.

Adjustment of the Kortal is quick and easy – the minimalist internal harness can be adjusted for both height (via a slider) and circumference (via a rear dial), the latter of which can be done on the move, and the chin strap is also easy to adjust and provides plenty of clearance around your ears.

POC Kortal Race review

(Image credit: POC)

The abundant large vents and the overall shape of the helmet provide excellent venting – you can literally feel the air flowing through the front vents as you ride – and there are four different positions for the adjustable peak. It’s a bit stiff to move up and down but that’s better than it being loose and rattling around when you’re riding.

Forward and peripheral vision is excellent, with the peak not interfering with the view ahead at all whilst you’re riding, and the inner pads are easily removable for washing once a few sweaty rides start to make things pong a bit.

One thing is for sure, you stand out when wearing the Kortal Race, especially of you go for one of the less muted colourways – but even that is one of POC’s safety features, the idea being that the bigger and bolder a statement your helmet makes the more visible you are, although this is perhaps more applicable on the road than off-road.

POC Kortal Race helmet review: verdict

The POC Kortal Race makes a statement, both in terms of looks and safety features, the latter of which it has to the max. For most riders some of these will be extraneous – few of us are likely to venture so far into the wilds that rescue parties using the Recco system have to be despatched for us if things go wrong – but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

The Kortal Race doesn’t come cheap – but then how much is keeping your head and its contents in one piece worth? If you think it’s worth the price of a classy, very safety conscious lid, then the Kortal Race is well worth checking out.

Alf Alderson

Alf Alderson is an adventure travel writer and outdoor gear reviewer who splits his time between the Pembrokeshire coast and the French Alps, where he is an 'ambassador' for the ski resort of Les Arcs.