Kali Protectives Strike Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Well-rounded, comfortable, solid protection
Cons: Over-desgned in spots, pad lifts off knee at bottom of pedal stroke, style
Manufacturer: Kali Protectives
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Our Analysis and Test Results
When our review has some fantastic, award-winning pads, it can be easy to write-off perfectly good options that fall just a little bit short. That would be a dangerous mistake with the Kali pads. They do everything almost as well as the best options and are still a great choice for a lot of riders. They scored consistently well in most metrics.
The Strike pads have what Kali calls Xelion padding as the main armor plate. This honeycombed looking material sits front and center over the knee cap. It runs from just above the knee down towards the high shin area. There is a little cut in the side that is intended to allow the pad to flex without causing any bulges or creases. The Xelion material is soft and easy to bend with your hands. If you bend the material hard and let go, it moves back to its natural position slowly.
On the outside and inside of each leg, there are two blocks of foam padding. These blocks are relatively thin but are in an advantageous position. In the event of an off-kilter impact, you want to have some form of protection outside of the main armor patch.
The sleeve is a decent length and offers a bit of sun protection. Also, just having some extra fabric below the knee pad is beneficial when riding. This can help protect you a little bit from branches and thorns that may get in your way.
Fit and Comfort
The Strike pads have a comfortable fit that some might find to be a little loose. The sleeve is snug enough to keep the pads in place, but there's still a bit of excess material. When the leg is fully extended, there is some excess material that bunches together in an unsightly manner. A similar phenomenon occurs when the knee is bent 90-degrees. They fit fine, but other pads have a better feel.
That said, the Strike pads have a comfortable feeling. Standing around in the parking lot, they feel nice against the skin. The elastic on the lower leg opening is a little on the tight side with a minor squeezing effect. It isn't strong enough to cut off circulation, but it also doesn't feel great.
These pads have an adjustable velcro strap on the upper leg opening that allows you to fine-tune the fit a little bit, but it is mostly unnecessary. It seems like an over-designed element of these already aesthetically busy knee pads.
The Strike pads are decent when you are spinning away in the saddle. They have a planted feel and don't need to be shifted around or pulled up frequently.
We did experience a bit of irritation on longer rides, however. When the leg is at the bottom of a pedal stroke and nearly straight the pad kind of lifts off the kneecap. Throughout the majority of the pedal stroke, the pad conforms nicely against the kneecap, and things are relatively pleasant. But when the armored cup starts to lift off the knee, it is a little irritating. It isn't painful or abrasive, but it is very much a thing. For a three-hour ride, it becomes an annoying issue.
Ventilation and Breathabililty
Ventilation is solid with the Strike pads. They don't exactly have the breezy feel of lighter weight pads, but they are reasonable given the amount of protection they deliver. The hard and solid kneecap armor doesn't allow air to pass through. Therefore there is little relief when riding. The front of the pad with its thick, rubberized armor traps heat and moisture and gets swampy.
The rear of the pad features some semi-translucent fabric. This fabric has some small-diameter ventilation holes to help disperse heat and allow your legs to breathe. We suspect this material to have some wicking properties as well. The ventilation holes seem like they are a little too tight to allow much air to escape. That said, this rear area do a decent job staying dry.
Ventilation is all relative with knee pads. Generally speaking, the lighter duty the pad, the better they breathe. The super-light and basic pads have the best airflow. On the other end of the spectrum, the super-thick and burly pads are quite clammy.
Throughout testing, we didn't observe any significant wear or deterioration of these pads. Also, we didn't take any crashes. Therefore, we can't evaluate how the pads will withstand impacts. We suspect the front of the pad will stand tall and take some abuse. The pads on the outside of the leg may not fare quite as well given the soft fabric construction.
It is possible to take these pads on and off while wearing your mountain bike shoes. That said, we don't recommend it. It puts a good bit of stress on the seams, and we could see this being problematic if done frequently.
The Strike pads are an average value. They carry an average price tag, and they deliver about average performance.
The Kali Strike knee pads are a practical and solid option. They have many nice features but don't stand out as excellent in any metric. That said, they don't have any major flaws either. They are a decent option for some, but we also recommend looking at some other options before you commit.
— Pat Donahue