Kali Avatar X and Shiva 2.0

Kali Shiva 2.0 Carbon VS. Avatar X

Words & Photos by Chili Dog

Anyone that rides bikes knows this isn’t a cheap hobby. Just getting a decent bike is enough to leave your bank account looking like a 6-year old’s piggy bank. That may not leave you with much dough for all the gear you need to safely ride that bike. It’s tempting to cut a few corners here and there to save some green, but at the same time it can be hard to choose what are acceptable budget products to use and where you should spend those few extra dollars. Helmets are a place you don’t want to skimp. We reached out to Kali, a brand that values safety above all else, to compare their more budget minded Avatar X helmet with their top of the line Shiva 2.0 Carbon. What exactly is the difference between a $300 helmet and a $550 helmet? Let’s find out.

Kali Avatar X

Avatar X

The Avatar X is Kali’s second tier helmet offering, falling above the $100 Zoka but below the Shiva. Despite the lower price point, the helmet still boasts composite Fusion Plus technology, a process that bonds the helmet shell and EPS foam eliminating the air gap found in traditionally constructed helmets. It also features Kali’s proprietary Tri-Weave composite shell. The goal is that by reducing a helmet’s overall weight, 878 grams, Kali can reduce the head’s mass in the event of a crash, lowering impact forces. For airflow there are six helmet vents, and six chin bar vents. As one would expect from a $300 helmet, there are also anti-microbial pads, a washable liner and a break away visor. Kali is a stickler for safety, so the Avatar X meets ASTM F1952, ASTM 2032, EN 1078, CPSC and AZ/NZS 2063-2008 safety standards. Try reciting that eight times as fast as you can.

Kali Shiva 2.0

Shiva 2.0 Carbon

The Shiva 2.0 Carbon is Kali’s flagship helmet. It’s also the model tasked with keeping the mad man Nicholi Rogatkin safe while he spins his bike enough times to make the average mortal puke standing on solid ground. To accomplish that task, Kali uses a blend of their Nano Fusion and LDL technology. Nano Fusion is an in-molded multi-density EPS with acrylic self-healing foam and carbon nanotubes that helps to dissipate impacts. LDL refers to the Low Density Layer, which consists of specially designed viscoelastic padding placed throughout the interior of the helmet. Think impact gel. This gel reduces rotational impact forces by up to 25% and low-G linear impact forces by up to 30% according to Kali. These two technologies, particularly the LDL, are what separates the Shiva 2.0 Carbon from the Avatar X. It’s also interesting to note that the Avatar X has a higher weight, coming in at 1,050 grams as a result of the extra protective material but retains the same twelve vents along with DOT, ASTM F1952, ASTM 2032, ASTM F2040, CPSC and EN 1078 safety ratings.

Avatar X in Motion


We took both helmets with us on a few bike park trips since there’s no better way to compare full-face lids side by side than with endless park laps. The gloss carbon finish on the Shiva hit the nail on the head, and the gold/black Avatar wasn’t too shabby either. Kali’s helmets are designed with safety above all other concerns, thus the smooth rounded shape that their full face lids take on when compared to the chiseled and sharp lines of their competitors. While it may look less cool, according to Kali, the rounded shape helps to prevent snagging during a fall, and helps mitigate the associated rotational or shearing forces. Wearing the two lids back to back, it’s apparent that the Avatar is almost 200 grams lighter than the Shiva, but it’s not a big deal. Aside from that small difference, the helmets feel nearly identical. In fact, unless a tester quickly moved their head from side to side, the extra weight was barely noticeable, especially when riding. Though both helmets were a size large, the Shiva has a bit more cheek padding, so make sure to try it on before buying as it does have a more snug fit than the Avatar. Looks are really the differentiator, with the Shiva having a slightly more rounded design and the Avatar going for a slightly more angular one. So what ends up being the real deciding factor between the two helmets aside from price and a few styling tweaks? Safety.

If maximum safety is your primary goal, then the decision is clear between the two lids. While most helmets don’t differ a ton on the outside, the innards are what really count, and the upgrades in the impact absorption department on the Shiva 2.0 Carbon make it worth the added coin in our opinion. It’s hard to put a price on safety. While we didn’t get to truly test the crash performance of both helmets, I did take a hard enough fall while wearing the Shiva to leave some sizable scratches on the chin protector. While my face and head made it out unscathed, the rest of me wasn’t quite as lucky.

The Wolf’s Last Word

There are plenty of riders that complain about the looks of Kali’s helmets. Kali admits that graphics aren’t their strong suit as they’re a bunch of engineers focused on safety before form, but we don’t really think all the negativity about their graphics is warranted. In our minds, Kali nailed the looks with both gloss black versions of these two helmets. How can you go wrong with glossy carbon? Though fit is somewhat subjective to head shape, we found both helmets to be comfortable. Ventilation was good even on long days of riding. Our sole complaint would be the lack of a magnetic strap closure– maybe we’re just spoiled.

The question then rests on whether or not it’s worth the extra cash to buy the $550 Shiva 2.0 over the $300 Avatar. Ultimately it’s a personal decision that a rider must make in regards to safety. As riders that have all had nasty concussions before, we can say with complete certainty that we would pony up the extra dollars for the safest option available– the Shiva 2.0. That said, the non-carbon Shiva 2.0 is also a solid alternative for those trying to pinch pennies while going for the utmost safety. Neither helmet is cheap, but we’d rather forego the latest fancy kit and put the money towards protecting our brain. To sweeten the deal, Kali also offers a lifetime crash replacement policy on their bike helmets like the Avatar so they can study them in the lab, which is pretty sweet. For all DOT helmets like the Shiva 2.0, they offer owners a 25% discount off MSRP towards the purchase of a replacement Kali helmet.

Avatar X
Price: $300
Weight: 878 g / 30.9 oz
Sizes: XS (53-54 cm), S (55-56 cm), M (57-58 cm), L (59-60 cm), XL (61-62 cm)

Shiva 2.0 Carbon
Price: $550
Weight: 1,050 g / 37.1 oz
Sizes: XS (53-54 cm), S (55-56 cm), M (57-58 cm), L (59-60 cm), XL (61-62 cm)

Website: Kaliprotectives.com

We Dig

Concern for Safety
Good Fit
Solid Quality

We Don’t

No Magnetic Closure

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