Highlights of This Report:
November 11, 2011 - I stopped by the Nolan Helmets display to see what's new for 2012. Regular readers will recall that last year, the staff from Nolan gave me a personal tour through the factory, which was documented in words and video in my article "Making a Nolan Motorcycle Helmet".
That visit also prompted a good discussion of the differences between DOT and ECE helmet safety standards, which was described (along with video of the helmet homologation process) in the article "DOT vs. ECE Helmet Safety Standards".
Both of those articles continue to be very popular with webBikeWorld readers, which prompted my visit next week to the Cardo Wireless headquarters in Tel Aviv.
As I discussed in the "Making a Nolan Motorcycle Helmet" article, Nolan is unique in that they are very vertically integrated. They make their own polycarbonate and composite helmet shells, along with the plastic parts and accessories and even the face shields and internal sun visors. Everything is made in the Nolan (and X-Lite) factories in Brembate di Sopra, Italy -- including the N-com Bluetooth system, which is designed and manufactured by Nolan!
In fact, Nolan even makes their own Pinlock anti-fog inserts. Not a clone or copy -- the real thing! Pinlock has a factory and Nolan is the only motorcycle helmet manufacturer licensed by Pinlock to make Pinlock inserts.
The company said they feel that they can keep better control of the quality and the design and the integration of the parts by this vertical integration and indeed, that is one of the arguments for this business strategy.
The Nolan N-100 series includes some of the most popular flip-up helmets in the world. The N-100, Nolan N-102 (review) and Nolan N-103 (review) -- not to mention the Nolan N-90 (review) -- have been consistently popular in every country in which they are sold.
Nolan didn't want to mess with success; but on the other hand, you won't remain the market leader very long if you don't continuously improve the products.
The N-104 flip-up has been two years in the making and it has many new features -- three of which are so unique that they are being patented by Nolan.
We'll be reviewing one in our typical webBikeWorld detail and the plan it to have the review ready for publication on the day the N-104 is released for sale, which will be sometime in January. The official U.S. release will be at the 2012 Indianapolis Dealer Expo, and I'll be there to cover that also.
In the meantime, here are a few photos and some details on the N-104. The first thing I noticed is the new shape, which has an angular styling that looks modern and "techno". The cut lines and tolerances on the examples I handled were superb and definitely among the best in the business.
It's my feeling that Nolan is (or should be!) positioning the N-104 as an alternative or competition of the Schuberth C3 in terms of technology, function and performance. This was my impression after studying the samples, which are impressive.
The N-104 has a new ventilation system, part of which is being patented. The air from the top vent travels down through plastic tubes molded right into the EPS, where it enters the helmet in a series of perforated plastic strips along the top of the rider's head (photo below).
This avoids having to make slits or grooves in the EPS, which improves the protective safety performance of the helmet, according to Nolan. It also makes so much sense, you wonder why no one thought of it until now!
The top vent is a two-way design. Slide the button once and the top vent opens, then slide it again and the brow vent opens.
Nolan said they looked at every part in the helmet to try and save weight. The helmet does feel light, but, of course, I didn't have a scale handy. The chin strap quick release retainer is a new design, made of aluminum with low profile shape and Nolan said they saved 12 grams with the design. It's also easier to use and it has a built-in ratchet and quicker release. That's progress!
The N-104 has a composite matrix shell with two shell sizes to cover the range. The smaller shell runs from XXS to L and the larger shell from XL to XXXL.
The neck roll is very wide and is designed to help prevent air from flowing from underneath the helmet, thereby reducing noise. What's unique is that the neck roll is easily removable; you'll notice the hook-and-loop tabs on the front of the cheek pads in the photo below. Pull the tabs and the neck roll can be removed from the helmet for summer riding if desired.
The rotating chin bar can be locked in the raised position with a small slider switch, seen in the photo below where the rotating visor is open.
Face Shield and Internal Sun Visor
The face shield design is very new and different on the N-104. As you can probably see in the photos, it's huge. The design was taken from the N-43 Air (review) that has such fantastic visibility. The face shield on the N-104 is also wider and taller than normal to help smooth out the air flow.
The internal sun visor has a quick-release button that snaps it back into the helmet very quickly if you'd like.
The rotating visor locks to the helmet shell with a metal-to-metal contact. There are metal bars in the helmet shell (see the photo below) and metal hooks in the chin bar.
The Bluetooth system designed by Nolan for the N-104 is also unique. A small hex screw is removed from the the bottom of the gasket that surrounds the bottom of the helmet to expose a chamber at the rear of the helmet for the electronics.
The Bluetooth communications system accessory module can then be inserted into the helmet. The replacement cheek pads with built-in speakers are inserted and the microphone is popped into a ready-made hole in the right cheek pad and you now have an N-Com ready Bluetooth helmet, ready to go, with no wires or external intercom modules!
The very small and low-profile on/off button that also functions as the controller fits into the pre-made N-Com chamber on the lower left side of the helmet. Pop off the small cover and insert the controller button assembly and that is the only part that is identifiable as an intercom on the outside of the helmet.
Nolan is sending an N-104 for a webBikeWorld review, so stay tuned!
Nolan had plenty of other helmets on display at the 2011 EICMA show (photos below). The Nolan N-33 is shown below, along with a mild update of the N-43 Air (review), one of our all-time favorite summer helmets. The revisions make the helmet more useful in colder weather as well.
Publication Date: November 11, 2011
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