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Nolan N104 EVO helmet: Bellissimo Casco

By Robert Filla

Beautiful things come from Italy: Maserati, Sophia Loren, lobster-filled ravioli with foie gras and saffron. And this beauty, the Nolan N104 EVO helmet, even makes me look good. The N-104 is what Nolan refers to as the evolution of modular helmets, beginning with the first and original N-100 back in 1998. And this line certainly has evolved during that timeframe, with the N-104 sporting as much innovation and style as any Ferrari or Italian actress.

Although I own, and use on occasion, a half helmet, once I experienced the advantages of a full-face helmet, that small brain bucket accumulates a lot more dust than miles. But since I cut my teeth on half and open-face 3/4 helmets, I tend to get a little claustrophobic when unable to raise the chin bar. So a modular has always been my choice. The pivoting chin bar on the N104 EVO features a stainless steel latching mechanism and a patented elliptical curvature design that brings the chin bar closer to the helmet, reducing wind resistance when riding with the helmet open. The chin bar also has a dual-action Centromatic release system that consists of one tab on the underside of the chin bar and a second tab in front. Only when these two are pinched together may the chin be raised, resulting in greater safety. When the chin bar is in the fully open position, it can be locked in place by using the helmet’s locking slider located on the left side of the helmet, which is accessible only with the chin bar in the raised setting.

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The Lexan polycarbonate shell is actually produced in two different sizes, one to accommodate XXS to Large heads and a second that runs from XL to XXXL for you big boys. This sizing is designed to keep the weight and the volume of the helmet proportionate to the size of the rider. The shell also features a small flipped spoiler along the rear to aid in stability and reduce buffeting.

The external clear face shield uses a Pinlock anti-fog insert with silicone-seal mounts resting inside a recess on the inside of the shield to keep the fogging factor to a minimum. The chin bar air vents (operated by a central slider) dumps incoming airflow directly onto the clear external shield further eliminating fogging problems. It seals against a rubber gasket that lines the perimeter of the port opening (the largest opening of any Nolan modular helmet). I keep referring to the external shield because one of the coolest features of the N104 EVO is the VPS. The Vision Protection System is an internal, scratch- and fog-resistant, tinted sunshield that is lowered into place by a slider control on the left side of the helmet. It retracts instantly into a cavity between the outer shell and the internal padding by use of a pushbutton near the engagement slider. This feature is truly an asset when riding roads that have an intermittent tree canopy—use only the clear shield during the shaded portions and activate the Darth Vader tinted visor when encountering patches of sunlit tarmac. And it freaks other riders out at stoplights when you pull up, raise the clear shield revealing the dark shield and then, with the push of a button, reveal your face. It’s not a feature I ever thought I’d use but I have become dependent upon it.

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A slider atop the helmet opens the air vent, feeding airflow to the newly improved Airbooster System. This integrated design takes air from the top air intake to the exhaust ports on the rear of the helmet by channeling the air through tubes that disperse it efficiently along the crown of the helmet allowing you to keep a cool head. The Clima-Comfort padding is four-piece, removable and washable, manufactured from a breathable wicking material treated with natural silver salt to be antibacterial and antifungal. Utilizing their extensive racing history, Nolan has greatly reduced wind noise. (My oversize cranium did necessitate the installation of slimmer cheek pads to keep face compression within tolerant standards.) A removable neck roll and chin curtain feature reflective panels for increased nighttime visibility. The chinstrap is velour padded and the most comfortable unit I’ve ever encountered with the Microlock Retention System using a ratchet-type affair that incrementally tensions the strap without undue discomfort.

The finish of the flat black model is stunning with red and silver lightning graphics and faux carbon fiber panels. I used this helmet exclusive during 2015, putting down thousands of comfortable miles in all weather conditions. My only complaint was at times, with the external clear shield partially open (it has three different positions) at certain speeds and certain wind conditions, it would unexpectedly and abruptly snap closed—a shocker the first time. The N-104 EVO also comes with a helmet bag and the company’s standard five-year limited warranty. This is an admirable product that even a hardened “made in the U.S.A.” fanatic can appreciate—just like Sophia and those raviolis.

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