Nolan N104 Modular Helmet review
December 23, 2012
Filed under GEAR
The Nolan N104 Modular Helmet is a flip-up chin bar, full-face helmet with a Lexan polycarbonate shell and an internal retractable sunscreen. The shell is a new aerodynamic design and the chin-bar pivot system takes flip-up helmets to a new level of excellence. It’s lightweight—about 3 lb. 4 oz.—and the outer shell is produced in two sizes (XXS–L; L–XXXL) to provide a better fit.
The pivot system for the flip-up chin bar has an elliptical trajectory, which means that the full upright position is closer to the helmet than any of its competitors, or Nolan’s previous models. Using the chin-bar lock when in the full open position, the helmet functions like a three-quarter helmet, but with far less wind drag than others of its type. In the open position it was comfortable even when cruising at 50–60 mph. It is DOT approved for both the open and closed positions.
Another part of this improved pivot design is the quick-release shield. With the shield in the upright position, retracting the pivot lever on each side allows the shield to be quickly removed. Again, this is an improvement over their previous models and other brands.
The face shield is larger than those on previous models, which allows more peripheral vision, but this comes at a cost. When the face shield is partially open it suffers from wind vibration; previous models had thicker face shields and they didn’t vibrate.
The lever for lowering the tinted sunscreen has been replaced by a slider on the lower left edge of the helmet coupled with a quick-retract button. Brilliant! The slider is also intuitive: Simply slide it forward to lower the sunscreen.
The venting system is completely new. The slide on the chin bar opens a vent that directs air upward and over the shield. The slide on the top of the helmet has two positions: The first opens the air scoop a little; the second fully opens the air scoop and the eyebrow vents. The latter directs air downward across the shield. Channels in the helmet move air from the intake to exhaust vents, while the new helmet shape increases port vacuum and, therefore, airflow. The venting is an important improvement, but I still find the flow volume to be inadequate and my (white) helmet was rather warm when riding in July below the Mason-Dixon Line. Conversely, during the fall in Canada it was ideal.
The new venting helps to reduce fogging of the face shield, but the patented Pinlock anti-fogging system—a second polycarbonate shield that attaches to the inside of the face shield—is already the best on the market. Since the face shield is larger than those on previous models, only the new N104 Pinlock shields will fit this model.
The helmet liner is designed to accommodate eyeglasses and there is adequate room for a boom microphone behind the closed chin bar. The new, slightly smaller Microlock2 chin strap, patented chin bar release, three-piece removable anti-bacterial liner, stainless steel latches and a removable neck roll that reduces both wind noise and drafts are other features worth mentioning.
The press release stating “Nolan reinvents the modular helmet” is a bit of hyperbole, but there’s no doubt that it ranks among the top three modular helmets on the market or that the N104 is an improvement over Nolan’s previous models. It is quieter, has less wind drag, offers a greater field of vision, and is lighter than any other modular helmet. If you also consider the new N-Com B4 communication system as part of the helmet package, it rises to the top among the competition. Nolan helmets are made in Italy, and are available through the company’s website or aftermarket distributors such as Helmet House and Biker’s Choice.
An available option is the N-Com B4 communication system that was designed specifically for the N104 helmet. The N-Com B4 has all the functions of other top-quality Bluetooth communication systems, as well as some of the same limitations. It offers FM radio, MP3 remote audio controls, GPS linkage, one-to-one and bike-to-bike intercom and, of course, complete cell phone audio capabilities for devices that use the A2DP Bluetooth profile. Communication settings can be managed by computer software, and there’s even an auxiliary plug for hardwire connections. It is limited to line-of-sight with a range of approximately a half-mile, which places it in the top tier of these devices, but doesn’t work with most other com-systems, which is normal. What sets the N-Com apart from its rivals is that the entire system fits inside the helmet. There’s no wind drag or resulting noise, and no off-balance helmet. The slim control panel on the lower edge of the helmet is easy to control even when wearing heavy gloves. Another desirable feature is the audio beeps when changing communication modes in addition to the visual LED indicators on the outer surface of the helmet. MSRP for the N-Com B4 is $369.95.
Nolan N104 Modular Helmet
Colors: Seven solid, and seven graphic patterns