Inspired by my recent discussion with Kali Protectives about helmet safety, I decided to review the Kali Avatar 2 Carbon helmet. I always put my protective equipment first when mountain biking, and the Avatar 2 is chock-full of excellent protective features.
Thanks to Kali’s own Composite Fusion Plus in-molding technology, the helmet features a perfect bond between the shell and foam. Unlike other hardshell helmets, where the liner is formed with EPS (or EPP), allowed to dry, then mechanically bonded (tape, glue or a combination thereof) in the shell, the Avatar has the EPS molded directly in place. Easier said than done, as this is a multi-stage process, building in each foam density layer one at a time within the confines of the helmet.
Now what really makes things interesting is that, unlike other brands, the way Kali keeps the transferred impact forces very low. By using two (or more) density foams, with a cone-shaped boundary layer between each major layer, the EPS foam structure embodies the best of both the softer layer and harder layer of EPS. The cone shapes in the layers compress progressively, acting as an intermediate zone. The design of the cones causes them to expand sideways, spreading the forces across the helmet rather than focusing the impact forces inwards towards the skull.
Also, the softer layer of foam is the one closest to the skull, further reducing “hot spots” during an impact. In respect to impacts, the Avatar 2 has passed safety compliance for EN 1078 or CPSC, ASTM F2040, and ASTM F2032, making this compliant with laws and regulations in North America as well as Europe.
Inside, the liner is removable for easy cleaning and washing. For a custom feel, Kali supplies an extra set of slightly thicker / firmer-feeling cheek pads for those who have a slender cheek line. Kali pays attention to the small features, such as the anti-microbial fabric that makes up the Kali graffiti-like logo pattern.
The creative features don’t end on the inside of the helmet. Outside, the Avatar 2 is embellished with rad graphics that match nicely with the naked carbon.
Functionally, the Kali has eight forward-facing vents, two side vents, and two rear vents, all grilled-off for superior heat management. The close-fitting shape of the Avatar 2 is designed to accomodate goggles, with a convenient goggle strap ridge. Custom hardware, breakaway visor, and a double-D ring strap finish off the Avatar 2’s features.
Out on the Trail
Out on the trail, the feel and weight of the Kali (less than 900 grams) make for a very comfortable lid. I caught myself more than once forgetting to remove it when waiting in line for the lift. The light weight contributes significantly to the comfort. Usually, when something with any significant weight is placed on your head, you tend to feel fatigue in your neck as it strains to keep your head upright. Well, that’s not the case when wearing the Avatar 2 Carbon!
I like the small overall size of the helmet. Unlike some other brands which, when worn, make you look a bit like The Great Gazoo from the Flintstones, the Avatar 2 has a very tight silhouette.
I was able to use several different goggles without any fit issues. In the end, I settled on using Giro Station goggles. During many back-to-back runs, I had no issues with the goggle strap slipping or the helmet shifting around.
Once in motion, the vents did an adequate job keeping me from overheating. On a side note, the two side vents also helped with hearing. Kali is the one of the only brands that I’ve noticed that purposely places the vents right where your ears are.
As for fit, never purchase a helmet online without trying it on first. Spending $350 for a lid is an investment you cannot afford to get wrong. The Avatar runs true to sizing but again, the exact inside curve is best verified before purchasing.
I am very happy with the fit and finish of the Avatar 2 Carbon! The light weight and breathability really make riding with a full face a pleasure. Fortunately, I haven’t had to put the composite fusion plus liner to the test, but I almost wish I could to really provide an opinion of how safe this helmet really is. Still, with the excellent construction and the numerous protective features packed into this attractive package, I feel more than confident blasting off of jumps and drops wearing the Kali Avatar 2 Carbon!
Price range: $349.99-399.99
Many thanks to Kali Protectives for sending down the Avatar 2 Carbon for review.