by Ryan Taylor

The new Kali Interceptor helmet is for the hard-charging trail rider and enduro crowd. It’s also sleek and lightweight. Inside, it has a technology that manages the rotational forces that can increase the severity of a crash. This new tech could even give MIPS, the most recognized system for handling rotational forces, a run for its money. A MIPS killer?

Kali Protectives, a Morgan Hill, Calf.-based company, is on a mission to become more involved in cycling. It’s like the dude who shows up late to the party, but is wearing a toga. While Kali has been around for awhile, it been affected by poor distribution. Now, the company has reorganized and released a very competitive product.

Features of the Kali Interceptor

While researching the Interceptor, I realized that Kali is not very good at showing off. Take a look at what the helmet has. Indexed visor for goggles? Check. Antimicrobial pads? Check. Boa retention system? Check. Lightweight at 340 g? Check. Gaps between the shell and your head for improved airflow? Check. Two breakaway mounts (action camera and lights) included? Check. Some of these features are only subtly mentioned in the company’s literature.

Kali also has your back when it comes to crash replacement. If you register your Kali helmet, and then crash it, the company will send you a new replacement helmet at no charge. You only have to provide proof of purchase, and pay for the shipping from California.

So what about this MIPS killing system?

Kali has created its own system designed to reduce the effects rotational forces or of shearing forces that occur during a crash. These are the forces that MIPS is trying to reduce on a rider’s brain. New studies are showing that it is these forces that do a considerable amount of damage to the brain, similar to a prize fighter taking a sharp left hook. MIPS uses a liner inside of a traditional helmet that rotates upon impact.

Kali’s Low Density Layer (LDL) reduces these shearing forces as well. The green, rubbery pieces keep your head separated from the shell of the helmet. The flexibility of the green pieces allows them to move and absorb shearing forces that can occur on impact. Kali says independent lab results reduce these forces on the brain by as much as 25 per cent.
The rubbery LDL material absorbs impact stress similar to D30, which is a staple in knee pads these days. The viscoelastic padding not only manages rotational forces, but those of a direct hit as well.

At first, I found the Interceptor to have some hot spots where the LDL dug into my head and I found it quite uncomfortable. But after a few minutes, the LDL contact points heated up and felt good. The helmet has aggressive internal carving from the vents. That design, along with the LDL tech, means your head is essentially separated from the shell allowing better airflow at higher speeds.

Another feature is something company calls Nano Fusion, which is bonded with the extruded polystyrene (EPS). It is designed to absorb impact much better than simple EPS and can bounce back should it become deformed. Additionally, it is much lighter in weight than competitors on the market (EPS and EPP [expanded polypropylene]). Less of the material is needed for a helmet, resulting in a lighter weight and a lower volume lid.

How it the Kali Interceptor do on the trail?

The Kali Interceptor fits lower on the back of the head than a traditional helmet. I’m a small/medium and found that the helmet fit better if I snapped out the mid-anchor bolts.
My go-to helmet in terms of fit is Giro The Interceptor has a similar fit. I have a very average, round head. At the local bike shop, I found most smaller, narrow-headed testers found the helmet uncomfortable.

In real world riding, the Interceptor is a fit and forget it helmet thus far in the test. I put it on, and after a few minutes the LDL layer warmed up and it was comfortable.

At first, the indexed visor seems a little cheap, but it looks good and shows the designers gave a nod to those who wear goggles as a staple part of their kit. It’s a bit of an odd gripe, but some helmets on the market today have extremely long visors. For myself, who rides with my head slightly down, a long visor sometimes cuts off vision.

Dude, can I use my GoPro?

Another great feature on the Interceptor is the removable GoPro and light mount included with the helmet. In the spirit of safety, the mounts breakaway in the event of a crash as to not pierce through the helmet.

Other considerations

Internal straps are a subtle feature that I think all mountain bike helmets should have. The Interceptor has the front straps internal but not that back ones, which allow them to dangle around the back of the helmet and get caught up in the retention system. It’s not a big deal, but it would be nice to see them go internal in the future.

The Interceptor is designed for the hard charging trail and enduro rider. While the indexing visor is a fantastic feature, the way a goggle strap fits on the side could have a cleaner path. During testing, I managed to break the indexing part of the visor. I was pre-riding a course for a local enduro race and was taking my goggles on and off regularly. The constant movement managed to break the visor inserts. Not a concern for those who never wear goggles, but since the Interceptor is aimed at the enduro crowd, it would be nice to see this area be more overbuilt. I have been using a competitor’s helmet for two years with goggles and have had no issue.

The Boa retention system is fantastic. I love the technology and think it is a home run that it is featured in the Interceptor. However, with just small/medium (54-58 cm) and large/extra-large (59-64 cm) sizes, I think it would be better to have multiple anchor points inside each helmet to help refine fit. Currently, the Interceptor only has one. It still fits great, but could offer more options and fine-tuning.

Summary

Overall, the Kali Interceptor is a great choice for anyone who wants a well-thought-out, airy mountain bike helmet. It fits well, has a ton of science behind it and is affordable while maintaining its rugged good looks.


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