The Kali Protectives Tava helmet has some innovative ideas from a US company you may not have heard of before.
One of the most exciting things about the cycling industry is how small it really is. Big names that have existed for decades, are sometimes really only a small group of people in a far off country. And yet they are responsible for innovation and technology far beyond their size. This also means there are so many smaller companies, who might lack the decades of history, who can bring really amazing products to the table and compete just as well. Kali Protectives epitomises exactly this kind of small global family feeling.
Kali Protectives aren’t a big company, they’ve only been around since 2006, but they have one of the most technologically advanced helmets available on the market. The Tava road helmet brings to the table multiple innovations including its tensioning system, aero advances, and their own take on how to deal with both low and high speed G forces in a crash.
What first drew me to the helmet was the very obvious innovation in the retention system. It’s exactly the kind of subtle improvement that pulls me like a moth to the flame. Most people probably don’t think too much about the way that the rear of their helmet tightens. If you do, then it’s a bad design, but by and large the designs work fine. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved on, and Kali has done just that.
Kali have taken a good system and improved it by adding a BOA buckle. It’s a subtle improvement, but it’s nice to see it being thought about. The addition of BOA enclosures to cycling shoes is something most people would agree has been a positive, and the same is true on the Tava helmet. Grabbing it, even with gloves on, is exceptionally easy, and it’s always fast and easy to adjust at the beginning of the ride.
Of course, this is a helmet, so innovation in safety should be a big priority. Thankfully, I haven’t had opportunity to test that claim, and so the next thing I spent time looking at is the aero qualities. All I can really say, objectively, about this particular feature, is that the company claims it’s an aero optimized helmet. Kali claims the low shell volume, strategic vent placements, and smooth surface results in a helmet that cuts through the air in a wide range of wind angles, saving 0.5 seconds per kilometer, or 25 seconds over a 50 km race.
When I discussed the Smith helmet previously, I ran into the issue of not being able to do any testing for aero and, obviously, nothing has changed. You can definitely tell the difference between an aero helmet and not, but it’s impossible to tell if it’s actually doing anything beneficial.
In this case, what I can tell you from experience is that they’ve done a great job optimising wind noise. There is also excellent airflow across the head and at the front of the head, where sweat can build and drip. Although it’s very much a closed design, I haven’t found it to be any more of an issue when climbing than other helmets. When moving, the airflow is actually better than many other helmets.
Speed and adjustability aside, the core function of a helmet is that of keeping your brain safe. As time marches on and we learn more and more about head injuries. It’s been discovered that low speed impacts are a much bigger issue than previously believed to be. When you are involved in an accident, the obvious priority is to keep your head physically intact and helmet makers have gotten pretty good at this. What’s less obvious, but starting to come to the forefront, is that not only does your head need to stay physically intact, but the G forces need to be managed. And these G forces need to be managed differently in different situations.
A high speed impact is not the same as a low speed impact, and if you design a helmet that’s optimised for one thing, what happens in the alternate situation? There are different takes on how to handle this design problem. MIPS is probably the company most well known for tackling the issue, but they aren’t alone. Kali Protectives has approached this problem with their own technology. They’ve used proprietary materials and innovation in their manufacturing, to address both the impact between your head and the inside of the helmet, as well as the impact between your helmet and outside forces.
In the older model of helmet construction, you’d have a very hard helmet structure, some small cushioning, and your head. In the Tava, the part of the helmet coming in contact with your head is actually part of the crash management structure. As part of handling low speed impacts Kali use a softer, specially shaped Armourgel padding placed throughout the interior of the helmet. These soft pads can compress and shear in all directions, reducing rotational impact forces by up to 25%. They also reduce low-g linear forces up to 30%. It’s also comfortable.
The Tava helmet also has traditional foam padding as well and it does very well with sweat management. Combine everything, and you’ve got a helmet that is really comfortable to wear while also helping manage low speed impacts.
Helmets are always tricky to discuss because the features that perhaps matter most can’t be tested effectively by a reviewer. You’ve got to pretty much take both aero claims and crash protection features at face value, as they are explained by the company behind them. At the same time, they do help inform a company’s priorities.
Kali is a small company that has forged their own path to create a helmet designed to help you go fast and stay safe. At a minimum, they have also created a helmet that does a really good job with heat management and airflow as it relates to noise and cooling, and it’s exceptionally comfortable to wear. The only thing I’ll caution you on is those with small heads may find it a bit too large. I wear a 58cm hat, and wearing the S/M Tava helmet, I’ve got the BOA adjust tightened as far as it’ll go. I’d love to see a smaller size, so that I don’t have to have everything as tight as it will go, but it does fit me.
Bottom line, the Kali Protectives Tava helmet is an aero optimised helmet that aims to manage both low speed and high speed impact and keep you safer in a wide range of crash types. It does this for a price of $250, and at a measured weight of 310 grams for the S/M size, and it’s very comfortable.