- Kali’s Phenom cuts a sleek, albeit unconventional, profile. The “Super Vents” stand out on the side and back with their black outline. Kali claims these are reinforced to better distribute the force of impact. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
- The Phenom’s rear retention system is effective, but we did find that it occasionally came loose. We appreciate its minimalism, which helps acommodate sunglasses with long temples. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
- The front vents on Kali’s Phenom are very large, which makes for cool heads. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
Long ago, manufacturers figured out the formula to sell helmets, and it didn’t involve talking safety specifics. Vents, weight, and aesthetics are the name of the game, especially in the realm of road cycling.
It was only a matter of time before the pendulum swung the other direction. Now, a few helmet makers, like Kali Protectives, are talking less about ventilation and more about foam density and Cone-head technology.
So can the reasonably priced Phenom helmet provide additional safety features without sacrificing pure performance?
The Phenom’s fit is best suited for rounder head shapes. The straps and retention system are functional but lacking in finish compared to top-flight helmets like the Specialized Prevail. The chinstrap does offer a locking lever to make adjustments easier.
One noticeable quirk: the front of the helmet sits lower on the forehead than most lids. When we wore Smith Pivlocks, the tops of the lenses sometimes rattled against the helmet. You’ll want to try before you buy.
Kali has incorporated a host of safety features into the Phenom, including Supervents, Cone-head foam, and low-density Bumper Fit foam. For in-depth reporting on those technologies, refer to Logan VonBokel’s recent article from Winter Press Camp.
It’s reassuring to know that Kali is investing in new safety technology, although we have no way to confirm that it makes a difference. Fortunately, we didn’t have to put it to the ultimate test during this review.
On the road
Though we didn’t crash on our head with the Phenom, plenty of early season miles gave us a feel for its strengths. Venting is good, albeit not ethereal. Fit is comfortable, aside from the compatibility concern with sunglasses noted above.
But above all, one of the helmet’s primary selling points is a reasonable price. At $160, it packs a lot of value, especially with its safety features.
Priced at $155, the Bell Volt is a comparable competitor. The Phenom has 23 vents to the Volt’s 22 and it weighs 302 grams, while the Volt is 314g. Though fit and comfort should be prioritized over numbers, it shows that Kali’s offering can go toe-to-toe with the helmet world’s biggest players.
But for a small company like Kali, competing with legends like Bell has to happen on home turf. For that reason — and likely more altruistic motivations as well — Kali is distinguishing itself as an innovator in the realm of safety.
For roadies who are open-minded and on a budget, the Phenom is a good option. For those who have hit their heads a few too many times, it might be an even better option.
Pros: Comfortable, well-vented, offers a variety of innovative safety features.
Cons: Retention system and straps feel cheap, potential interference with sunglasses.