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The Kali Tava Flow helmet feels comfortable, secure and light on the head, and includes some innovative anti-concussion technology, but compared to other aero helmets I have used the ventilation could be better.
Kali is not a household name in the UK; operating out of California, it was initially creating motor sports helmets before moving into cycling. It offers four different road cycling helmets: the Tava, which is for aerodynamics/racing, the Therapy for regular road riding and cross country mountain biking, the Loka for gravel and general road riding, and the Prime for commuting.
Without a wind tunnel for testing, I am unable to assess accurately the aerodynamic qualities of the helmet, but in a totally non-scientific way it feels fast. This is possibly because of the almost complete closure over the front, with only two vents at the top of the forehead, and the low-profile design. Although I am unable to give actual numbers, I'd say it is likely to offer an aero advantage, at least over a non-aero equivalent.
In addition to the aero elements of the design, Kali has included an innovative take on the MIPS system, offering 'composite fusion' and 'nano fusion' – essentially a layer of low density cones and what look like rubber spots. These are designed to reduce rotational force during impact (in the same way as MIPS), lowering the chances of concussion.
Luckily, I didn't manage to test this element of the helmet, but the fact that it's there and scientific data suggests it makes a significant difference is pretty impressive.
The helmet itself is very comfortable to wear, with well-cushioned pads and an impressive securing system. This consists of a harness at the back with a Boa dial attached to wires that run across the back of the head and around to each temple. To keep everything in place Kali has included a runner on each side to prevent the wires making contact with the side of your head. As you might expect from a Boa dial, the micro adjustment is excellent, offering precise and incremental tuning.
Keeping everything on your head are the soft straps, which sit nicely against the head thanks to adjustable dividers. One thing I found a little annoying was that the straps are very long and when folded back on themselves can fall out of the silicone holder.
Ventilation is the one area that I feel could be improved. This is not a surprise given that it is designed for speed above all else, but I tested the Catlike Vento recently, also an aero helmet, and its ventilation was pretty impressive. At the front there are two small vents feeding four larger ones at the rear, but I didn't really find that much air flowed over the top of the head as there isn't much channelling within the helmet itself, and the front vents are not large.
The helmet comes in on the road.cc scales at a respectable 272g, which is good for an aero lid that includes a MIPS-like feature. The Smith Overtake MIPS helmet, for example, is 12g heavier and costs £20 more, though it offers better ventilation.
The Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet also offers better ventilation and is the same price as the Kali, but doesn't have the same MIPS-like features.
Overall, the Tava is comfortable and has some impressive technical elements, but the ventilation could be better, especially compared with other similarly priced aero helmets.
A very well made and innovative helmet, but ventilation could be better
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Kali Tava Flow helmet
Size tested: Small/Medium
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Oxford website says:
Composite Fusion Squared - Combines multi-density Eps foam and dual direction geometric cone shapes. Interior and exterior impact energy management.
Nano Fusion - In-moulding multi-density EPS with self-healing foam and carbon nanotubes. Dissipates impact energy more efficiently in a smaller volume.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
PROVEN AERODYNAMIC SHAPE
MATERIALS: PC SHELL & UNDER WRAP
NANO & EPS FOAM
RETENTION: BOA® CLOSURE SYSTEM
WEIGHT: 296 G / 10.4 OZ
SIZES: S/M (52-58 CM)
CERTIFICATIONS: EN 1078, CPSC
Very well made, with some excellent technology subtly included.
Difficult to say exactly how well it performs regarding its main selling point - aerodynamics. That said, it feels fast and sits comfortably on the head.
It's a well-made helmet with robust and high-quality elements, likely to last for a long time.
Impressive given the technology included, compares very well to its competitors.
It is a comfortable helmet with soft straps, well-cushioned pads and excellent micro-adjustment with the Boa dial. However, ventilation is one area that could do with improvement.
It is expensive, there is no getting around it. However, given its weight, aero credentials and the technology incorporated in it, it's on a par with others.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Difficult to give a totally accurate answer without an aero testing facility, but it is comfortable on the head and it feels fast, even if ventilation could be improved.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The Boa dial at the back allows for very precise adjustments to find the perfect fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Ventilation could be better. I have used several aero helmets and this has the fewest vents.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Smith Overtake MIPS helmet is 12g heavier but offers better ventilation at £20 more. The Specialized S-Works Evade II helmet is the same price with more ventilation, but doesn't have the MIPS-like features.
Did you enjoy using the product? To an extent...
Would you consider buying the product? Not at present, if they improved the ventilation then I definitely would.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If aero was key and ventilation was less of a factor.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Everything about this helmet is great apart from the ventilation. It offers a great fit and is very comfortable, plus it feels fast when you're wearing it, but the ventilation makes it less usable for longer races or almost anything that's not a TT.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cinelli Gazzetta My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George is the host of the road.cc podcast and has been writing for road.cc since 2014. He has reviewed everything from a saddle with a shark fin through to a set of glasses with a HUD and everything in between.
Although, ironically, spending more time writing and talking about cycling than on the bike nowadays, he still manages to do a couple of decent rides every week on his ever changing number of bikes.