Kali Chakra Plus helmet
Where bought and price
Velogear.com.au, where they are presently $49.95. I was fortunate enough to win mine in a competition on the BNA website after it was reviewed there.
How it is used
XC MTB riding, day & night
The Chakra plus is a modern MTB trail helmet and like others of its kind has a less pointy shape than its road focussed competitors. Accordingly the rear more closely conforms with the back of the head, and the makers claim it has extra coverage at the rear compared to road helmets.
There is a dial fitting system, a detachable visor, and plenty of vents, the largest of which have bug netting in them.
+ Very good quality for a budget helmet. It has all a modern helmet needs in terms of fit and features.
+ Manufacturing standard is broadly as good as the more expensive helmets I have owned, including various Giro, Specialized, Limar and Bell helmets. Where it is a bit rough is in the details - splodges of glue here and there, rough in mould joins between foam and shell.
+ Excellent fit, for my head at least: this is a very comfortable helmet.
+ Without putting it on the scales it's seems a suitable weight and is well balanced.
+ Excellent price.
+ Bug netting? I've never seen the need for this, but it might float your boat.
+ Available from Australian online retailer and thus meets Australian standards.
- Bug netting? This isn't really a negative, but seems unnecessary to me. The incorporation of the netting into the helmet padding makes the mounting and dismounting of helmet lights a bit of a hassle. I don't seem to have enough fingers manage it all and the Velcro of my light mounts gets stuck everywhere. Though if the netting was in the helmet itself, it would have to be cut out to mount lights (depending on the mount). I also wonder if the netting affects the ventilation, though I have no way of easily testing this.
- The plastic clamp buckle sliders below the ear do not clamp strongly enough, and these buckles can be moved when the clamp is closed. They certainly move if you push them about, deliberately or not, but I have not had them loosen off while the helmet is on my head. I suspect the clamp used was designed for thicker webbing than is used on the helmet.
Bike helmets are often expensive, sometimes ridiculously so. Leaving aside the very real need to recover R&D and testing costs, it has been hard not to conclude that helmet makers and distributors have been charging a premium for a not overly complex assembly of injected foam, plastic and webbing. Getting something online from overseas relieved the burden on the wallet, but it was a legal grey area that now seems completely blackened given the recent changes to Australian helmet laws/regulations.
There have always been budget options, but they have frequently been ugly and poorly ventilated. Even when they have not been though, it has to be admitted that the image conscious (i.e. most of us) have looked elsewhere. Buying a child's helmet at BigW recently I was surprised to see that the current top of the range Rosebank helmet is actually a pretty good looking, well made piece of cycling kit. Whether I, a 'serious cyclist' , would actually buy it is another matter entirely. (Yes, yes, decry my snobbishness)
Still, I don't like paying a seemingly extortionate amount for a helmet and the Kali Chakra Plus is a welcome alternative. It is a well made, attractive and comfortable helmet. It meets the Australian Standards, which are claimed to be among the most rigorous in the world, is well ventilated, and has the standard features of a detachable visor and dial adjustable rear retention strap. The bug netting may not impress everyone but will surely attract anyone who has endured a high velocity bee sting on their scalp. The not so effective clamp buckles that sit below the ear might be a problem, but it's a bit early for this reviewer to tell. Overall, though, I look forward to being able to ride wearing it (though not actually use it, if you know what I mean).
I would recommend this if it suits your head shape and size, and your requirements for a MTB or general use helmet. Roadies, you'll be looking elsewhere for something sleeker. This ticks the boxes for trail cool, but not Euro pro cool - Mario Cippolini would not be seen dead in it.
Still, given the relatively few dollars involved, if you are serious about MTB riding stepping up to the next model in the Kali range, the Amara, would be worth considering.
Value for money