Crashing my third helmet: the Kali Tava

I’m guessing not too many people write about their experience of crashing with a helmet to the manufacturer. Crashing is not a pleasurable experience, but it is interesting to find interesting details within a crash.

A couple of months ago I was wondering if an aero helmet would be cooler than wearing a cap under a vented helmet. Kali helmets come with a lifetime crash replacement warranty on their cycling helmets, which is a fantastic selling point. I chose the Tava due to its lack of venting on the top, and found my theory to not be wrong, the helmet breathes pretty well. Aero helmets do look a bit weird, but the Boa closure system and shell fit my head well. Unlike other helmets I’ve worn, this helmet sits in a single position, and I can’t adjust its angle on my head.

Last sunday, on my way to work at Rage Cycles (Scottsdale, AZ) on the cross-cut canal path, I pushed too hard coming out of the tunnel under McDowell (despite the path being dry and clean in the apex) and hit the concrete really hard. I have road rash on the top of my shoulder, couple of scrapes on my elbow and bike, but thankfully my head is fine.

I’d just been thinking about how I hate crashing, and how thankfully I’d not crashed in a long time.

Since it had rained heavily the night before, the tunnel was full of mud, but as I entered it I could see the exit was dry and clean. I was momentarily confused right before this point as the path had some interruptions due to an Xterra event which was not signposted. It always irritates me that events use the path I commute on every day, without giving forewarning. As I reached the end of the tunnel I got out of the saddle, and the front wheel continued in a straight line, whilst I turned up to the right. I was probably moving at around 14mph, though Strava tells me I was at 23mph just before entering the tunnel. Judging by the road rash on my shoulder, I think most of the impact was directly to the side of my head. And yes, you do get the gift of greater detail in memory, as the whole event probably lasted around 1/10th of a second, but within that I was able to feel the sensation of the helmet feeling loose and rotating on my head as I looked down at the bike sliding away from me. I got up, moved my arm to make sure I’d not broken anything, and got back on the bike as I was in a blind corner.

Without the helmet I’d have been concussed, since I lost the front wheel at a reasonable speed. The Tava is a top-tier helmet and uses all of Kali’s tech, including carbon nanotubes and the marriage of different densities of foam in the shell, keeping structural integrity separate from deceleration and crumple zones (Composite Fusion and Nano Fusion). Furthermore, they have their Low Density Layer (LDL) liner in the helmet which is Kali’s version of MIPS: these innovations in helmet design help reduce the rotational inertia caused by your head (in movement) coming in contact with a static obstacle, permitting the helmet to rotate without jerking your brain with it. MIPS looks like a cradle that is attached to the helmet with little rubber bands, the LDL looks like octopus tentacle suckers made of rubber. The LDL made it feel as though the helmet was on loose, as I felt it slide towards my left ear – though in reality I would imagine that I moved and the helmet stayed in place on the ground. The right side of the helmet is flattened. The only discomfort to my head was what felt like my hair (the little I have) was pulled a little, so the skin felt mildly tender. This lasted about 3 days.

This is the third helmet I’ve crashed in my life. Twice have been due to the loss of traction with the front wheel, and all three would probably have lead to hospitalization without a helmet. I forget that I am a helmet advocate for this reason.

Tobias Feltus: