In our discussions at PressCamp earlier this year, it quickly became clear that the Kali team is really into helmets. The young company approaches the challenges of head protection from a slightly different perspective than the industry’s biggest names- and is far from content with the status quo. Though it’s not easy to gain a foothold in what has become a crowded market, Kali’s early efforts boast a number of truly interesting and compelling features.
At the front of the cross-country flagship Maraka XC helmet sit five rings, circling each of the front-most vents. Not an aesthetic addition, what Kali call “Supervents” are actually serve to reinforce the helmet’s shell where cooling needs dictate that vents be largest- and helmet material thinnest. The rigid rings serve to better dissipate frontal impacts through the underlying foam than a thin shell could alone. While we haven’t had the, erm, opportunity to test their impact dissipation, the vents are closely spaced and do scoop up an impressive amount of air at both low and high speeds.
Under the Supervents (and the rest of the shell, for that matter) Kali has made use of two formulations of EPS foam: denser at the outside to spread the force of impacts and softer against the rider’s head to absorb them them. The intersection of the two materials actually comes in the shape of dozens of little cones, spreading energy over a wider area than a simple planar interface would.
Below the dual-density EPS that makes up the body of the helmet, Kali has gone further still- a using doughy cross-linked polymer (not unlike D3O) above the pads to help the helmet conform to the rider’s head and, again, dissipate impact energy. It’s not memory foam, but the effect is similar- the Maraka actually forms itself to its owner. Despite carrying a bit of dust and dried sweat, our medium Maraka XC weighs 1g less than the advertised 300g.
While the small carbon fibre insert (at the back) is required at this price point is present, the Kali’s finish is a bit rough for a helmet costing £135/$190 and–as noted in our Issue 76 Chakra Plus review–the retention system is a step or two behind the competition. Similarly, the simple pads don’t quite seem worthy of the price tag- one even delaminated during its second washing but was quickly replaced under warranty. Those impressions are overwhelmed on the trail by the helmet’s stability, comfort, and the fresh air drawn through those gaping vents. Price aside, the only reason not to give one a go is the fact that the retention system and outboard-mounted straps don’t play well with some sunglasses: be sure to take your favourites to the shop when trying on. A peak-free Maraka is available for use on the road and trails with low-hanging branches. Distributed in the UK By Surf Sales.