Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Kali Phenom

While I think it’s safe to say that the Kali Protectives brand is currently relatively unknown in British road cycling / triathlon circles, they actually already have a strong pedigree and following in the BMX and Downhill MTB markets, with world-class riders trusting their ‘lids’.

The Kali Phenom spearheads the company’s drive into the road cycling market for 2014, with a lower-priced Loka model also available.

I was asked by UK importer and distributor for Kali Protectives, NRG4 Cycling, to see how the Kali Phenom stood up to British expectations (the brand hails from across the pond in America).

Looks

Kali Phenom ReviewFrom a range of colour options, I opted for the simple black design helmet with white accents. Given I wear a range of different cycling kit, I thought it stood the best chance of matching whatever I was wearing (and also matches my training bike's black and white colour scheme). It’s a pretty stylish lid, I have to say. Not the most slimline unit out there, but pretty good given the £140 (UK) price tag. Compared to my other everyday lid, a Limar Ultralight, it's about the same width, but slightly taller (see below for possible explanation).

The back of the helmet has a ‘kicker’ or lift which seems to nod at an effort to help the helmet cheat the wind a little, although you wouldn’t describe it as an ‘aero’ lid.

From the front, there is a quite distinctive central vertical vent which is unlike other helmets I’ve seen and give the Phenom a style of its own.

Fit & Comfort

This is where Kali are really excited about the Phenom, and I have to say that having worn one for six weeks in all kinds of weather, I’d have to agree. The padding in the Phenom features what Kali calls “Bumperfit” technology – or what you and I might call memory foam. This is located at the inside front of the helmet and is designed to provide a secure fit without having to have the helmet uncomfortably tight.

Kali Phenom Review

Combined with a very effective cradle system at the back – adjusted with a turnwheel that’s easy to use on the fly – I can attest that it’s easy to find a good fit quickly and you can ride for four hours plus without discomfort.
Included in the asking price are both individual pads for inside the helmet and a one-piece combined pad and bug net, which gives you both the ability to tweak the fit further and avoid that horrible fly-trapped-in-your-helmet situation.

At 260g, the Phenom isn’t the lightest helmet in the price range (although to be fair, it’s not far off either. While it’s certainly not as light as my Limar Ultralight+, it does offer a lot more adjustability in the fit and there is a certain ‘confidence’ that comes from the feeling of your head being protected by something a little bit more substantial.

Venting

From UK spring days through to hot mountain climbs in Mallorca, the Kali Phenom’s venting is impressive. With the added bug net, it does get a little warmer (a small price to pay for the added protection!), but without the venting is good and even prolonged out-of-the-saddle climbing efforts didn’t overheat.

Conclusion

At a penny shy of £140, there’s no doubt the Kali Phenom is at the ‘committed enthusiast’ end of the helmet range – not quite in the realms of the £190 Giro Aeon (which is less than 40g lighter), but also a chunk more than the likes of the Kask Rapido (the Phenom offers a LOT more vents). Having not worn a massive range of helmets, it’s difficult to compare the Kali Phenom against every option out there.

Kali PhenomBut compared to the helmets I have – or currently do – owned, there’s no doubt that it offers one of the best fitting systems I’ve tried yet, looks very distinctive and feels like a good quality product.

For what it’s worth (and I’m glad I haven’t had to test it!), it ‘feels’ like the helmet would do a good job of protecting my noggin in a crash (there’s some techie stuff about how the foam and shell are bonded to make the helmet stronger – but I can’t pretend to understand it fully).

I suspect that, like me, most people buy a helmet based on four criteria: looks, weight, comfort and ‘will it help me survive a crash’. On the first three, I can answer that the Phenom meets my needs and expectations well. On the fourth; I just hope I never have to find out.

For more information on the Kali Phenom, visit NRG4 Cycling in the UK