Review: Kali's Maya 2.0 Helmet is Even Better Than The Original

May 31, 2019
by Richard Cunningham  
Kali Maya 2.0 Helmet


Kali’s most popular enduro-style half-shell just got a whole lot better, thanks to the addition of a Low Density Layer (LDL), which consists of Armourgel padding that's placed in strategic locations to reduce both rotational impact and low-G linear forces. Kali Protectives introduced the Maya a handful of years ago, and it was well received in spite of a few rough details, like a flexible visor that often was a shade different than the color of the helmet. Fans (I’m one) were willing to overlook those minor issues in exchange for the Maya’s excellent ventilation, low weight and slim profile. It’s the most comfortable helmet in my collection – and the most trusted.

Kali’s new Maya 2.0 shares the original's shell design with more appealing graphics, a restyled visor and redesigned internals. It's a notch above its predecessor in all respects and it still weighs in at only 360 grams (12.7 ounces). New Mayas come in five tasteful colorways and in sizes from X-small through X-large in three head forms. MSRP is $100 USD and Kali offers a generous lifetime crash replacement policy
Maya 2.0 Details:

• Construction: in-molded polycarbonate shell & dual-density EPS Composite Fusion liner
• Armourgel Low Density Layer
• Adjustments: Dual-closure ratchet system & locking chin-strap sliders
• Comfort: 12 vents, anti-microbial screened pad-liner
• Sizes: X-small, small, medium, large & X-large (3 head forms)
• Five colorways
• Weight: 360g/12.7oz
• Certifications: EN 1078, CPSC
• MSRP: $100 USD
• Contact: Kali Protectives

Kali Maya 2.0 helmet review
Kali Maya 2.0 helmet review


New Levels of Protection

Kali’s dual-density Composite Fusion liner, with its interlocking triangular spikes, has been both acclaimed and copied by a number of their competitors in both mountain bike and moto. Another oft duplicated Kali innovation is that the shell and liner are molded together in one process so there is no delay between impact and energy dissipation. Composite Fusion’s additional benefit was that it could be made thinner and pass impact certification tests that conventional EPS liners could not. The importance of a thinner shell is that it's claimed to significantly reduce rotational impact forces. Because it sits closer to the head, there is less moment (leverage) generated between the impact zone and the skull, so less rotational energy is transferred to the brain. The Maya's smoothed shape and lack of angular features are also intended to reduce rotational trauma. That, however, is helmet 101 for Kali.

Kali Maya 2.0 helmet review
Kali's LDL inserts are distributed throughout the liner and configured to minimize both liner and rotational impacts.


Kali founder Brad Waldron belongs to a group of vanguard helmet designers who maintain that existing helmet impact standards are largely designed to ward off near-death impacts that compute to G-forces that could only be attained at highway speeds. He says that cyclists, even off-road moto riders, suffer most of their concussions and brain trauma at much lower velocities and G-forces. Helmet liners, he believes, need to be much softer before they can react to those low-G linear and rotational impacts.

Kali’s Low Density Layer (LDL) solution appears simple, but it took a significant chunk of time to develop. A number of specially shaped slow-memory foam cushions are bonded inside the Maya 2.0’s EPS liner. The profiles, damping quality and durometer of the cushions play two roles. The first is to cup the skull with a soft, shock-absorbing matrix which significantly arrests the velocity of low-speed impacts before the head contacts the liner. Their second function is the more familiar role of allowing the helmet to rotate momentarily around the skull when the rider suffers a glancing blow.

Marketing spiel? I don’t think so. I’ve sat down with Waldron a few times and dove into the tech. He eats and sleeps protective head strategies. He knows the science, has explored the rabbit holes, and most often is well ahead of the game. Like most good engineers, however, his faults are that he’s too honest, too practical, and has bad marketing skills. Three more reasons to like him.


Key Features

Less weighty, but still important aspects of the Maya 2.0 are its bonded polycarbonate underliner, which rounds off the edge of the helmet shell and makes it much easier to keep clean. The chin straps use flip-up locking slider buckles that simplify the task of adjusting the helmet to fit your head.

The love/hate relationship with Kali over its dual-ratcheting head-band adjustment continues. Male skulls have a bump (forensics use this feature to sex skeletons) that protrudes right where the ratchet dials sit on almost every other helmet. I admit that I have to fuss more to use Kali’s closure, but I also find it significantly more comfortable.

Kali uses a new machine-washable padded liner made from a microbial fiber. Its forward section is mesh to ward off stinging insects, the liner is slotted to allow Kali’s new inserts to poke through. Most of them do. I assume that the ports are there only to showcase the green octopus-sucker panels, because it is doubtful that the flexible liner could hinder their purpose.

Kali advertises three EPS liners, across five helmet sizes – one more than many helmet makers use. That’s good news for both comfort and protection. Kali has a chart that suggests head measurements for each size, which I have included here. I have a slightly oval head and use a small/medium from most helmet brands. The new sm/med Maya is an absolutely perfect fit.

Maya 2.0 Size Chart
X-Small/Small: 50-54cm
Small/Medium: 55-61cm
Large/X-Large: 60-63cm
Kali Maya 2.0 helmet review
Anti Microbial padding is cool and comfortable.
Kali Maya 2.0 helmet review
Flip-up locking buckles make for easy adjustments.
Kali Maya 2.0 helmet review
Rows of bumps help index the visor in position.

Finally, I like the visor (“peak” in the Queen’s territories). It’s better ventilated and still long enough to keep the late afternoon sun out of my eyes, and it appears to made from a tougher material - still flexible enough to help reduce rotational forces in the event of a spill. The tension dials are still cheap-but-functional plastic items, and to end on a better note, the visor’s angular adjustment tab is designed to ratchet to ensure it will stay in position.

Kali Maya 2.0 helmet review


Ride Impressions

Kali’s new Maya is more comfortable to wear than its predecessor, perhaps due to the new padding and more secure feel that the LDL inserts add to the pie. Ventilation is excellent, but what impressed me most was that the brow does not concentrate sweat where it is sure to rain on your glasses or goggles come summer. And, as mentioned earlier, if you have a slightly oval head shape, Kali’s EPS liner will be a perfect fit.

MIPS-type helmets tend to wander up and down on my forehead a little when I’m hammering down technical sections. I attribute that bother to the nature of the helmet’s slippery plastic bonnet. Kali’s rotational inserts behave exactly the opposite, resting against my head where they help to keep the helmet precisely where I intended it to be.

I need to set the rear band adjustment to the highest position with some helmets (the Troy Lee Designs A2, for example) in order to keep them from wandering down into my field of view. Kali profiles the rear of the Maya in a way that provides some extra clearance for vertical head movement. The dual ratchet closure also generates some extra wiggle room there. Again, it stays put.

On the subject of that dual ratcheting closure, theoretically, I should be able to operate it with one
Kali Maya 2.0 helmet review
hand. I’ve practiced the technique with the helmet on the table and had great success, but I still fumble with it on the go. It’s a negative I can easily live with, but if you’re a type-A fusser who constantly fiddles with your shoe’s Boa tension, the Velcro tabs on your gloves, and your helmet band’s dial, you'll probably have issues with Kali’s adjustment strategy.


Pinkbike’s Take:

bigquotesKali's Maya 2.0 has become my new favorite helmet. Its styling finally looks finished, and the ventilation and fit are even better than the original, but the added security of Kali's LDL low-G impact inserts seals the deal. Oh yeah, the Maya 2.0 comes with a lifetime crash replacement deal too. It may be the best $100 you'll ever spend on a helmet.RC



65 Comments

  • + 28
 True state-of-the-art concussion safety, quality construction, and lifetime crash replacement, for $100 MSRP?

Yes please.
  • + 9
 Makes the Bontrager helmets look waaaay over priced. Currently looking for a new lid and this is on the short list.
  • + 3
 Leatt DBX 2.0 is worth a look too.
  • + 7
 The Maya 2 is exhibit A for why you should ignore the internet geniuses who still insist that one helmet's as good as another and concussion-reduction tech is just a scam to mark up helmets, years after that stopped being true.
  • + 3
 @CircusMaximus: Had mine for a month now and can honestly say its the most comfortable I've worn. Doesn't look like it'd be that well ventilated but its a hell of a lot cooler than my Trabec.
  • + 2
 @myfriendgoose: cheers. Def gonna check them out.
  • + 2
 I've had the 1st generation Maya for about 4 years now, and like others have said, it's the most comfortable bike helmet I've ever put on. Will be buying the 2.0 in the next month, hoping the LDL doesn't change fit/feel at all.
  • + 1
 @myfriendgoose: How is the fit relative to the Trabec? Which I own mainly because it fit my oval head best. RC implies the Maya 2.0 is pretty good for eggheads.
  • + 3
 @gilgamesh0: I also have an egghead and it fits great. I eventually got used to the Trabec but always felt like it sat a bit low on the back of my neck or something. I like the coverage but I wouldn't buy another one due to that feeling. The Maya fits better than any helmet I've tried with the exception of Smith's Forefront 1. I still have my old Forefront and the fit is remarkably similar.
  • + 12
 No wining about this helmet stand!
  • + 5
 No one wants to hear wining. Put a lid on it!
  • + 6
 i'm wining only because my glass is empty
  • + 1
 *facepalm* put a cork in it!
  • + 6
 I actually have one of these helmets, for about 4 months now. (might be the first time pinkbike ever reviewed something I actually own). I like it just fine, light enough, quite comfortable and doesn't bounce around. Wore it for the vedder mountain classic race and didn't find it too hot either. I'm a 59 cm head size and went with the small medium. Probably won't fit everyone well but works for me.
  • + 1
 I'm a 59cm head size too and was torn between the 2 sizes. My Giro Chronicle is a large. I thought I have a bigish head too!
  • + 5
 Kudos to Kali for producing the Maya. Affordable high level protection for the privateer is much appreciated. I'm on my third Maya. Two big crashes that destroyed the first two, third one is the 2.0 and they managed to raise the bar for protection, comfort, and function whilst keeping the price exactly the same. Works well with goggles too. I'll be wearing one until they stop making them.
  • + 5
 I'd really like to try one of these. It's too bad their dealer-locator is so out of date. I called the 5 nearest shops, and none of them had even heard of Kali protectives, let along stocking them. This is in Utah, where we have a strong MTB scene. I'll keep trying 'till I find a shop that's got 'em in stock...
  • + 4
 My buddy just bought one at Utah Mountain Biking in Lehi.
  • + 2
 @timsrichards: Thank you, they're not even listed on the dealer locator. Great info, I may pick one up today.
  • + 2
 Pretty sure competitive cyclists has them in stock. You could swing down to the backcountry store and try them on.
  • + 2
 @elPerin: good to know thanks. I ended up picking one up at double down in Moab. Great shop with great selection. I'm pretty pleased with the Maya 2. I wish it breathed a little bit better, and I wish it had the dual density form like their full fave helmet, but overall I really like it.
  • + 3
 Mike @ Utah mountain biking stocks them

I talked him into carrying them Razz

I've had nothing but excellent expierences with Kali products and services
  • + 2
 @UtahBikeMike: I've been extremely impressed with Utah Mountain Biking. Such a great shop. I wish I had started shopping there earlier.
  • + 6
 Kali's safety claims make a great deal of sense and the Interceptor is the most comfortable, best ventilated helmet I have ever owned. Would recommend.
  • - 8
flag endurocat (May 31, 2019 at 5:27) (Below Threshold)
 I purchased the So called , small/medium and it was terrible. In an effort to make more money on this popular size, the 55-61 range was so bad that the helmet was constantly floating in my head , (I'm a 66) even with the adjustments fully tightened the helmet was huge and eventually the adjustment straps either hurt me , or move the helmet around when loosened a bit .
If you have the size XS or LG the increments are only 3cm. For small/medium size , you may want to look elsewhere.
  • - 3
 Sorry, I meant to say that I'm size 56cm.
  • + 2
 @endurocat: did you try it on in store or was it a blind internet purchase? Brutal if you tried it on in store and it felt good, but then on the trails the fit was downgraded to terrible status.
  • + 9
 @endurocat: Why would anyone buy a helmet that doesn't fit them!?
  • + 0
 @onemind123: Online purchase.
  • + 3
 The Maya was my first helmet and fit so well. I have a narrow face and finding a helmet that didn’t look like a giant mushroom on top of my head was tough. This fit quite well. Eventually the pads wore down and I was no longer able to use it, wish I could have found replacement pads for it. These being removable and washable look like a great tweak in design.
  • + 6
 Kali sells replacement maya pads for about $5
  • + 2
 @jonnymanbikes: I looked everywhere could not find, I will have to check it out again.
  • + 3
 I've had two Maya's. First one cracked after a high impact head smack at the dirt jumps and saved me a concussion. Broke my hand and fractured ribs but was in complete disbelief that my head was ok. I've had multiple head trauma accidents riding BMX in the past and the Kali Maya helmet worked better than any full face I've fell on. I'll never wear another half shell.
  • + 2
 With all the hype (and well-deserved) on legitimate helmet technology advancements, we need to see an independent safety testing company set up that is equipped to test these new technologies for effectiveness in preventing brain injury, not just skull fracture.
  • + 5
 I want one of these helmets
  • + 1
 So would I.

They're not certifying them to AS/NZS 2063:2008 (the Australian / New Zealand standard). My insurance may not pay out if I have a crash here. I can't enter races either.

But I'd love to try this or the interceptor now that Fox doesn't make the old Flux helmet that fitted me.
  • + 1
 @ozhuck2flat: And I thought insurance in the US was ridiculous! Hopefully it's not as expensive...?
  • + 1
 @mtbikemccoy: Public healthcare here is actually very good. I'm talking about total permanent disability or work cover insurance where they would be asked to pay out a lot more. It's questionable whether it would be an issue as they'd need to check whether you were wearing a helmet, then check whether it was to AS/NZS. I've heard on the grapevine of it happening here but it's not common.
Though race venues always check now and refuse entry without a certified helmet because they want to be covered by their liability insurance.

My point is that it's frustrating many companies don't certify to that standard as it's expensive to gain a (relatively small) extra market. They should test all standards and/or Australia should adopt a global standard.
  • + 1
 I have a HUGE head (was necessary to fit my crazy-smart brain). Anyone know how that L/XL fits? I'm a XL/XXL in TLD if that translates to anyone out there. I'm aware that they provide a size chart, but if you're a big dude you know not to trust size charts.... Thanks!
  • + 1
 I have a largish head too and found that the L/XL fits just fine. Took a chance and ordered a 1.0 on line which fit better than any other helmet I've ever had on...probably just dumb luck. I liked the helmet enough that I recently purchased a 2.0. I don't know if there were any real changes to the helmet mold and it may be my imagination, but it feels like it fits even better...solidly on, no sliding around, secure.

If it fits (and that's the most important part of choosing a helmet IMO) than I would recommend 10/10.

I like Kali as a company. They seem straight shooting, back up their products/ technology with solid evidence, and don't use a lot of marketing jingo BS.
  • + 1
 Can you mount a light on this helmet? I don't think there are enough vents for my current niterider helmet mount to strap to the helmet.
  • + 3
 I put one the other night, wasn't ideal (also a Niterider, Lumina) but it worked. Used the middle vent and fished them through the straps of the adjacent vents. I had an older helmet laying around that will be my go to for night rides helmet for future rides.
  • + 3
 The old one had a gopro mount on the visor, which seemed like a safer way to mount a light vs strapping it to the vents - if you crash, there's a lot more room for the visor to move or break off. I guess they didn't feel that was safe either? Between the few vents and their location, plus the bug screen, I don't see how you'd mount a light on the new design.

I get that's kind of a issue; mounting a light on a helmet probably makes the helmet less effective no matter how you do it. But if you're night riding, you need a light on your head.
  • + 1
 There is a bracket to convert the Niterider mount to a go pro mount so I guess you could use a stick on mount and try that...
  • + 3
 gopro sticker mounts are pretty cheap from china. $3-4 shipped. there are a lot of solutions for gopro mounts. i'm not sure what type of light you have, but i used a gopro adapter meant to go around a paintball gun barrel, and just stuck my tube flashlight into that ring. here is the gopro mount im talking about: www.shapeways.com/product/EUTXVRTQQ/go-pro-paintball-barrel-mount

here's another one you can just download and print if you have access to a 3D printer: www.thingiverse.com/thing:940410
  • + 1
 @LumberJake: gopro sticker mounts are pretty cheap from china. $3-4 shipped. there are a lot of solutions for gopro mounts. i'm not sure what type of light you have, but i used a gopro adapter meant to go around a paintball gun barrel, and just stuck my tube flashlight into that ring. here is the gopro mount im talking about: www.shapeways.com/product/EUTXVRTQQ/go-pro-paintball-barrel-mount

here's another one you can just download and print if you have access to a 3D printer:



Thanks for sharing, that is a great idea!
  • + 2
 Been riding with one in moderate temps for two months and love it. Most comfortable helmet I've ever had.
  • + 3
 ...and it looks good too! :O ...all for 100$...great.
  • + 2
 I had a Maya 1.0 and i lost in the desert, two weeks ago I went to search and it's still there!! Nice helmet.
  • + 2
 Where has the light mount gone from the first gen. Maya?
  • + 2
 Removed for safety reasons.
  • + 1
 The lack of an included breakaway accessory mount does seem like a legitimate knock against this helmet from a concussion-risk-reduction standpoint. Lights and cameras attached by velco straps or zipties are a risk to snag in a crash, so not including breakaway mounts undermines the design benefit of the rounder shell. They are included with Kali's more-expensive Interceptor, so I assume it was a price-point issue.
  • + 5
 @Phillyenduro:
Breakaway camera mount is also included in the lower priced Lunati at $80

The mount placement on the Maya visor was off so it got removed. It’s too far forward.
Those older visors are available here
shop-usa.kaliprotectives.com/collections/parts/products/maya-visor-with-camera-mount
The mounts sold separately can be found here
shop-usa.kaliprotectives.com/collections/parts/products/camera-light-mount-accessory-kit
  • + 1
 No dealers in Switzerland Frown And none in Germany and Austria either. Don't these helmets work for German speakers?
  • + 1
 Nein...
  • + 2
 Try contacting their German distro TRAFFIC Distribution. I just send them an e-mail via their website contact and they replied within a day or two. I got my Maya 2.0 through www.fahrrad.de Those guys will help you out for sure. Just met them yesterday at DirtMasters in Winterberg, very kind and helpful guys. And they seem to care a lot about the tech behind KALI, too.
  • + 2
 I reached them via offical website. Got a reply and soon after had a replace pad for my Maya in the mail.
  • + 1
 None of the Kali helmets fit my cone head. They seem to work better for round vs oval head shapes
  • + 1
 Picked up a white one on sale for $80, best money in a long time!
  • + 1
 +1 for use of the word bonnet
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