The Kali Strike is a solid and comfortable knee pad that offers a sensible amount of protection. They share many similarities with the Editor's Choice Leatt Airflex Pro pads, but the Kali come up just a bit short in the protection and pedal-friendliness metrics. Still, these are great pads that do a lot of things right. These are best suited for the rider who isn't going to be frequently embarking on 2+ hour rides as the inside of the knee armor can get a little irritating over the course of a few hours. At $85, these are the third most expensive set of pads in our test. They are a decent value as the performance is solid, finish quality is good, and they are reasonably comfortable.
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
Analysis and Test Results
When we have a stellar Editor's Choice pads like the Leatt Airflex Pro, it can be easy to write-off similar pads since they fall short to the award winner. That would be a dangerous mistake with the Kali pads. They do everything almost as well as the Leatt and are still a great option 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 the cap down towards the high shin area. There is a little cut in the side of the pad that is intended to allow the pad to flex without causing any bulges or creases in the pad. 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.
The Leatt Airflex Pro has a similar armor layout. The main armor patch is a little bit thinner on the Leatt compared to the Kali, although the Leatt has more substantial and robust padding along the inside and the outside of the knee. Also, the padding patch above the main armor patch is a fantastic touch on the Leatt pads; this armor is absent on the Kali. If you are seeking ultimate protection, the 7Protection Project Knee is still the best choice. The RaceFace Indy sits somewhere in between.
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 still exists a bit of excess material. When your 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 the Leatt Airflex have a more dialed sleeve design.
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. They have a minor squeezing effect. It isn't strong enough to cut off circulation, but it doesn't feel great.
The Kali pads have an adjustable strap on the upper leg opening. This adjustable velcro strap allows you to fine-tune the fit a little bit, but it is mostly unnecessary. It seems like an over-designed element of these aesthetically busy knee pads.
The Leatt Airflex Pro pads have a slightly more dialed overall fit. As a result, they are a touch more comfortable. The lightweight and light-middleweight pads are a little more comfortable overall. The G-Form Pro X2 and the Six Six One Recon have a more airy feel, but they lack the protection. The Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve and Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Sleeve are even more comfortable but have very minimal protective qualities.
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 experienced a bit of irritation on longer rides with the Kali pads. When your leg is at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and your leg is nearly straight, the pad kind of lifts off your 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.
The Leatt Airflex Pro have the edge in terms of pedal-friendliness. All of the lightweight and light-middleweight pads such as the minimalist Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve and the mid-weight Six Six One Recon all pedal much better.
Ventilation is solid with the Kali Strike pads. They don't exactly have the breezy feel of the lightweight 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 inside the knee armor cup gets clammy. The thick, rubberized knee armor traps heat and moisture and gets a bit 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 air to escape. That said, these rear of the pads 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 like the Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve and Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Sleeve offer the best airflow while the more significant and bulkier pads like the 7Protection Project Knee are the warmest.
Throughout testing, we didn't observe any significant wear or deterioration of the 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 best suited for a rider looking for a nice blend of protection and pedal-friendliness. These are a lovely choice for the aggressive rider who may be pushing the limits on a trail ride. The ideal buyer would not be logging big miles or racking up huge elevation.
Aggressive riders who frequently shuttle will love the 7Protection Project Knee for their burly feel. Think the Strike may be overkill, the Six Six One Recon and G-Form Pro X2 both are nice day to day knee pads that favor pedal-friendliness over protection.
At $85, the Kali Strike pads are an average value. They are the third most expensive set of pads in our test. They are $5 more expensive than the Editor's Choice Leatt Airflex Pro and deliver about 85% of the performance of the Leatts. We recommend spending less on the Airflex and getting better pads.
The Kali Strike knee pads are a practical and solid option. They have many nice features but never stand out as excellent in any metric. That said, they don't have any major flaws either. The Strike pads are a decent option for some, but we recommend getting the Leatt Airflex, they are simply a little bit better in every area.
— Pat Donahue