Kali Protectives founder Brad Waldron was kind enough to answer some questions Marsh and I put together about Kali & the technological advancements they have brought into their product design. As you will see he did a better job of answering our questions than we did asking, there is a lot of interesting insight from Brad in his answers.
When was Kali Protectives founded?
We officially launched in 2008. The idea for composite fusion had started several years earlier when we developed the idea of engineering a solution to removing the secondary impact that occurs in traditional helmet construction.
Tell me the story of why Kali was started?
Actually there was no desire to start a brand. Our carbon factory was delivering helmet shells, with our background in testing we looked at why there was a double spike in g-force in full shell helmets. Knowing that these spikes have nasty effects on your brain we wanted to see how to control this. The double spike is due to the gap between the foam and shell. So Kali started as an engineering challenge and once the process was created we realized we could bring an improved level of protection and lightweight to riders.
What was your first product?
MX helmet – Aatma At only two and a half pounds it caught the industries attention. We had solved the problems created by the gap between the outer shell and the inner impact absorbing foam layer with Composite Fusion by molding the EPS foam directly inside the fiber shell of the helmet.
How long has composite fusion plus been around? Was it something Kali developed?
The idea of composite fusion has been around for a while. The issue was that no one could make the concept work in a production environment. It took us nearly 3 years to make it work. So although we were not the only company to consider it we were the only ones stubborn enough to stay with it. It is a difficult process, costly, and time consuming. We obviously feel the outcome is well worth it and continue to find benefits as we refine the process.
What was the “Aha!” moment during the development of your helmets?
In the test lab. We learn so much by testing and retesting (we test a lot of helmets from the industry). For example we learned that if we kept our shell thickness the same as standard technology the effects of Composite Fusion is reduced, but we could thin the shell because the foam is supporting the shell…. they work together and create even better improvements in protection. Experimenting with densities and different geometric shapes can only be possible through repetitive testing to maximize the results.
I had a new “aha” recently when the test lab technicians we work with see a composite fusion helmet and recognize the technology just by the better test results. They test a lot of helmets, so it feels good that they can scientifically see the improvements of our technologies.
Is composite fusion plus supposed to work better in low impact situations, high impact situations, or both?
In short, it works better in both types of impacts. The “plus” is the geometric shapes in the foam. This was developed by a good friend of the brand Don Morgan, a physicist from Australia. With the “plus” we can use a lower density foam which is better in lower impacts, but as the shapes press down they compress to make the foam stiffer and able to handle the higher impacts. The pyramid shapes “ramp up”’ energy absorption and dispersion similar in performance to a progressive suspension.
Assuming that one of the eps densities is softer than standard eps, does it crush easier, causing the helmet to be replaced more frequently?
The density of the foam is not why the helmet requires periodic replacement. The loss of moisture content from the foam causes all EPS foam helmets to require replacement in a five year span. The foam becomes more brittle and does not absorb the energy from an impact as it can when new. This is a normal recommendation from all helmet manufacturers. Also, all EPS foam helmets are intended to be one impact only before requiring replacement. Kali Protectives uses softer foam next to the head for maximum benefit, with firmer foams being located closer to the shell/impact area.
Lets be honest, I have a storied history of concussions, is Kali likely to keep me safer than traditional helmets? Hitting my head is a big fear of mine, so much so I now have a no-fly zone on my bike. Will Kali get me back in the air?
The “safer” question. This is the question all lawyers tell you not to answer. Here is how I will answer it…. when I am headed face down, this is what I want on my head. This is what my 12 year old boys and 14 year old daughter wear when they dirt jump (their favorite type of riding). I believe I am safer and my family is safer with composite fusion. Kali Composite Fusion and Composite Fusion Plus helmets are the only helmets in the industry that eliminate the secondary impact between the shell and the EPS foam during an impact.
Have you considered sponsoring professional MX/SX riders for publicity? Why or why not?
Yes, we would, and we do on a small and local level. We do not look at ourselves as a “race” brand. It is a difficult thing with athletes, their careers are short and they need to get what they can while they can, right? The dream athlete for me is the guy, like you, that is truly concerned about safety first.
Look for PPS Moto’s review on the Kali Prana Carbon helmet coming soon.