Bicycle technology improvements allow riders of all disciplines and skill levels to tackle gnarlier and faster lines than ever before, it’s more important than ever to match our protective gear to suit the needs of these higher speeds and protect from the consequences of a nasty crash. The concept of a full face trail helmet is nothing new. But the designs of such helmets have, until recently, left something to be desired in terms of protection, performance, and overall style. Enter the Kali Invader – a helmet that’s specifically designed to be lighter duty than a fully downhill or enduro rated lid, but instead will provide more protection than a typical trail helmet with the added security of an integrated chin bar. We put one of these into the Loam Wolf trail helmet rotation to see if it could give us a sweet spot option between our half lids and our full-tilt DH or dirt bike helmets.
THE LAB The Invader is a full-face trail helmet. It’s meant for riding trails strewn with rock gardens that are aiming for your grill, but still with a long climb to get to the gnarly stuff. The Invader is ready for aggressive riding with a chinbar that Kali claims passes the motorcycle chinbar test. It’s designed with sizable vents to direct airflow over your dome, even on slow-speed climbs. A magnetic Fidlock buckle means taking it on and off is a breeze. Other creature comforts include antibacterial pads, an adjustable visor with room to flip up and store goggles, and an integrated accessory mounting system for your camera or light.
Kali’s Low Density Layer technology uses their unique Armourgel padding that is placed throughout the interior of the helmet. Kali claims this reduces rotational impact forces up to 25%, and reduces low-G linear forces up to 30%. The Invader is designed to offer impact protection against rotational and linear forces by crushing, shearing and rotating during crashes.
The Kali Invader is available in two different shell sizes, each with three sets of pads to fine-tune the fit. Our size XS-MED helmet tipped the scales at 650 grams. (For comparison: TLD Stage is 685 grams and the Fox Proframe is 737g) The Invader is available for $225 through Kali’s website, or through any decent bike shop.
THE DIRT Out of the box, the Invader delivers on its promise as an exceptionally lightweight lid. The overall shape is appealing to most of our riders and is not overly bulky, with chiseled ventilation intake and exhaust ports, and a nicely shaped visor that’s in just the right spot. The red details provide just enough color to pop, yet still leave the helmet dark enough to be considered stealthy. Coverage is ample in the rear, and while there is some flex in the chin bar, there is more than enough to have us believe Kali’s strength claims without intentionally crash testing it ourselves.
Our test Invader came in the smaller of two shell sizes with three different pad sets to fine-tune the fit. While the pads are easy to switch in/out and fit really snug when installed, the shell was still too small for all but our most pin-headed of riders. The Invader should have worked fine with the larger shell for our testers, but it’s a reminder that getting the sizing right is just as important as the construction quality for overall performance. Because the helmet was on the small side, riders also experienced some unpleasant rubbing from the cheek pads and around their temples on longer rides. We’re confident that this wouldn’t be an issue on properly fitted helmets. The ventilation is spot on, however, which keeps the helmet’s internal temp cool and comfortable.
The Invader provides a FidLock magnetic strap closure, which takes some time to get used to using if you’ve not used one yet. It is far easier to use than any D-ring straps we’ve seen on full downhill rated helmets, and is every bit as secure in our testing experience. It is also easier to use one-handed than a traditional buckle, once you spend the time to learn the technique. We loved this feature on the trail to take the helmet off even on quick trailside pit stops.
While the strap itself is minimalist in construction, attached only with two small plastic nubs to the inside of the EPS foam it held up to our testers thrashing with no remonstrance. We tested the Invader with both shield-style sunglasses and goggles, and had positive results with both. Since this helmet splits the difference between genres, it makes sense that Kali designed it to work well with a wide range of eye protection.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Kali is best known for finding ways to make crazy-lightweight helmets that are safe enough to meet or exceed the most stringent impact tests in the world. The Invader fits that mold to a T. It takes the best ventilation and weight savings advantages of a trail helmet, and adds a high-tech chin bar to increase the protection factor. It won’t be the helmet we use for testing our skills on the gnarliest gravity-fueled rides, but it gives us an option that’s more protective than our half shell lids do.
The minimal weight penalty will be worth the peace of mind alone for a huge cross section of trail riders. At $225, the Kali Invader is a fraction of the cost of a trip to the emergency dental chair, and it’s a hell of a lot more comfortable, too. The Invader will be seeing more miles on our favorite technical trails because in addition to its chiseled good looks understated satin finish, and solid on the trail performance, front teeth are always in style.
Exceptionally Lightweight Clean and Understated Good Looks Increased Protection Over Standard Trail Helmet
Won’t Replace our Real Downhill Helmet
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