By Stephanie Nitsch
My new helmet shopping goes something like this: stroll over to the end-of-season clearance pile, pick out the least dorky helmet from the dwindling selection and leave the bike shop with a screamin' deal.
Call me low-maintenance, but as long as it has a universal safety-rating sticker slapped on the box, I don't care that I've invested in a poorly-ventilated mushroom cap. Safety first, man. Unfortunately, this system has led me to believe that all helmets are designed to absorb my sweaty mop of frizz and drip like a salty irrigation system into my eyes.
But it took one ride with the 2013 Kali Protectives Maraka XC helmet to show me the real value in helmet technology.
For starters, it's ridiculously lightweight and comfy, weighing in at a scant 260 grams. Made with a carbon and polycarbonate composite, the Maraka XC barely registers on your head, even when the removable, padded liner has reached its maximum sweat saturation point. Or perhaps it's because half the helmet is devoid of any material, thanks to 25 reinforced and effective air vents – or, as Kali likes to call them: Supervents.
Secondly, Kali uses in-mold construction to fuse EPS foam directly to the helmet's sleek carbon shell (but not sleek in that shave-your-legs kind of way). The entire process saves a few grams, but it also creates a smarter brain bucket that dissipates energy better when gravity takes its toll. How? Because the helmet is one seamless piece, there's no wasted time or space as energy transfers from one material (the shell) to another (the foam) – just continuous impact absorption and cushioning.
Using a patented Composite Fusion Plus design, the Maraka takes in-mold construction one step further with cone-shaped foam of varying densities. Upon impact, these spiky pyramids are meant to compress and direct energy sideways throughout the foam, rather than straight down to your head. According to Kali, this energy-zapping foam drastically reduces the amount of angry G-forces that are ready to rattle your dome when you take a digger.
After a summer of riding with the Maraka, I've yet to test that claim out myself. But given Kali co-founder Brad Waldron's background in high-tech aerospace and composite engineering, I'll take his word for it.
Look for the Maraka XC helmet dropping in 2013 for $189. For more info, visit kaliprotectives.com