Nolan is introducing three new helmets this month: the Nolan N44 modular, the Nolan N86 full-face and the Nolan N91 flip-up (review).
Also announced are new graphics and high-visibility colors for the Nolan N-104 (review) and a new version of the Nolan N20 "Jet" styled helmet.
We'll have reviews of the new Nolan helmets this week, but first up is the Nolan N44, the most radical of the bunch.
The N44 is a "6-Way" helmet that can be converted from a full-face equivalent to an off-road style to open-face to "Jet".
This makes it a true modular in the webBikeWorld definition of the word.
That is, the helmet converts from one form to another by adding or subtracting various modules. A flip-up helmet is not modular.
While we're not sure how many owners will use all six variations of the N44, one thing is certain: in its full-face guise, with the removable chin bar installed and the absolutely huge face shield in place, the helmet provides a vast amount of visibility for the rider.
That's a true safety factor.
Better-than-average ventilation and many other features, along with a solid build quality that is usually missing from modular helmets make the Nolan N44 one of the most intriguing motorcycle helmets available today.
Releasing even a single new helmet design is a major undertaking; three at once is nearly unheard of.
But that's just what Nolan is doing today, with the release of the brand-new Nolan N44.
But even more amazing is that Nolan has developed two different families of shells for each of the three new helmets.
The ECE versions of the N44, N86 and N91 are designed, tested and homologated to the ECE 22.05 standard only, while the shells for the U.S. versions of the same are designed, tested and homologated to the FMVSS 218 (DOT) standard only.
Nolan says that the best, safest and only way to meet both standards is with separate shells, not by trying to meet both standards with a single "dual labeled" shell.
Nolan was kind enough to send us an ECE version of the N44, N86 and N91 helmets back around the beginning of July and Burn and I have been riding with them since.
As of August 31, there isn't a lot of information available on any of these helmets, so some of the specifications and other information may change slightly, but let's take a look and we will describe each in detail.
We've commented on the excellent quality of Nolan's paint and clearcoat in several other webBikeWorld Nolan helmet reviews and we're happy to report that nothing has changed in this department.
Pick up a modern Nolan helmet and you'll feel an immediate difference.
It's the special Nolan "Hi-Brite" clearcoating process, described and illustrated with the video in the webBikeWorld article "How to Make a Motorcycle Helmet" that narrated my tour of the Nolan Helmet factory.
The clearcoat used on the N44 has the same "hard" feel that we've noted in previous Nolan reviews, which gives the helmet a quality feel. The clearcoat covers a paint that is perfectly applied on our N44, N86 and N91, which all have the silver color.
The rest of the N44 is also up to snuff, with all of the moving parts having a precise feel. Modular helmets (helmets that can be converted from one form to another and which may be dual-homologated) that we reviewed previously did not have this level of quality.
One example I can think of is the HJC IS-Multi (review) which comes off as a crude and loose assemblage of disparate parts when compared to the Nolan N44.
The IS-Multi was one of the first (perhaps the first?) "six-way" convertible modular helmets, and there is a close resemblance to the Nolan N44, but the N44 has it beat by a country mile.
All of the modular parts on the N44 snap together with good fit and feel and the helmet feels secure -- not flimsy -- in any of its six configurations.
This alone is a big accomplishment for a true modular helmet that is also dual-homologated as a J and P ("Jet" and full-face) in Europe and also meets the U.S. DOT standard for both configurations.
The rest of the moving parts on the N44, including the chin vent, the top vents and the operation and removal of the face shield, also have a secure and precise feel.
Combine this with all of the many modular and other internal features of the Nolan N44, such as the Nolan N-Com Bluetooth intercom ready capability, the internal sun visor, operation of the ventilation system and the comfortable liner, and Nolan gets an "A" on this one.
Score: We give the Nolan N44 an "Outstanding" rating for excellent overall quality. See the Summary Table at the bottom of the page for a description of our rating system.
We haven't been able to confirm an internal shape difference in the N44, N86 and N91, and I suspect that Nolan wouldn't admit to it anyway.
For some reason, manufacturers seem to be reluctant to admit to internal shape and fit differences.
But it sure seems like these new helmets have a slightly more "forgiving" fit, characterized by a slightly less narrow internal shape compared to Nolan helmets we've reviewed in the past.
The difference is very slight -- if it's there at all -- but the N44 feels a bit more accommodating for round or "Earth" shaped heads like mine, which is widest at the temples.
There's still a little room in the N44 up top and at the forehead, enough so that we'll call this one a "Slight Narrow" in the webBikeWorld helmet shape terminology.
It's close enough to current Nolan helmet standard internal shapes that any previous Nolan helmet owner should be just fine.
Our N44 is the European version in size XL, so it's possible that the DOT version is slightly different, but we don't think so, as Nolan internal shapes for ECE and DOT versions have been relatively standard in the past.
This size XL fits as expected; i.e., to size, as do the N86 and N91. Nolan hasn't published an official size chart as of this writing for the new helmets, but we'd expect the size XL to fit a 61-62 cm "Neutral" to "Slight Narrow" shaped head.
The internal fit feels very similar to modern Shoei helmets, such as the Shoei GT Air (review), although the padding in the GT Air is much more generous.
The liner material is removable and washable. It's the Nolan "Clima-Comfort" fabric that is antibacterial, antifungal and moisture-wicking. The liner is comfortable, with a smooth feel against the skin.
The padding feels slightly thin but has no particular "hot spots" or hard corners that have bothered us while riding.
The N44 helmet liner includes an attached dual collar along the bottom for draft and noise protection. It is removable if desired during hot weather riding.
One layer of padded vinyl runs from each chin strap back about half-way to just behind the ears.
A thicker expandable layer of padded material circles the entire underside of the helmet about 3/4 of the way around, leaving the chin and front exposed (but protected with a built-in chin curtain).
The system is apparently an attempt to dampen noise coming from under the helmet, similar to the system used on helmets like the Schuberth C3 (review) and others.
One quirk of this design, however, is that the liner in the N44 covers the ear pockets, so the N44 does not have the typical open ear pocket chambers typically found in most helmets.
The liner design may have been an additional attempt and dampening noise levels. It's a bit peculiar, considering that the N44 is designed to fit the Nolan N-Com intercom system, which will then have its speakers covered by the fabric of the liner.
I can feel the liner pressing on my ears, although covering the ear pocket cavity with the liner can also make it easier to slide in a pair of eyeglasses, depending on the type and the temple shape.
The lining used to cover the ear pocket is also slightly loose from the rest of the liner, so it sort of puffs up and looks a bit untidy and unattached from the rest of the helmet.
It's generally not a real problem, but the design just seems slightly odd.
More information on helmet fit can be found in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page, along with the chart that lists the helmet weights of webBikeWorld reviewed helmets and also by shape on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: I'll give the Nolan N44 an "Excellent" rating for shape and comfort, although the slightly baggy liner that covers the ear pockets feels...different.
The N44 is a true modular helmet, with included parts that allow several conversion possibilities.
But we think the N44 will probably be worn most of the time as a full-face helmet with the removable chin bar in place.
The Pinlock-ready face shield (Pinlock insert is included) removes easily and an included brim can be snapped in its place to convert the helmet to a motocross or off-road type.
Remove the chin bar and leave the peak, or reinstall the face shield for an open face. The chin bar can be inserted and no peak or face shield installed, but to be honest, this variation doesn't make much sense.
Unfortunately, the face shield can not be used with the peak, so the N44 can not be converted to a dual-sport helmet, which is a bit strange considering that adventure-touring and dual-sport helmets are popular.
With the face shield and the chin bar in place, however, the N44 is at its most useful.
The chin bar is made from GE Lexan and it is lined with EPS and attaches to the shell with stainless steel latches. With the chin bar installed, the N44 meets the ECE 22.05 standard for full-face helmets.
The chin bar is removed or replaced by pressing on a spring-loaded button on either side at the cheeks of the helmet shell.
It's easy to do and with the chin bar inserted, the helmet meets full-face homologation, although the sides do feel a bit flexy, similar to some flip-up helmets when the rotating flip-up visor is closed.
With the chin bar installed and the face shield in place, the visibility out the front of the N44 is just about unlimited. This, we think, is the best feature of the helmet.
The unlimited sight lines and the ability to see everything in front of you is a real safety factor and we'd guess it would give both new and experienced riders a confidence boost.
The face shield is also very easy to remove and re-insert. Lift it to the top of its range and lift the spring-loaded bars on either side and it comes off.
There's a ring-shaped feature built into both sides of the face shield and peak that snap into a corresponding ring on each side of the helmet.
The face shield has three detents -- a first small opening that is actually fairly large but because the face shield fits over the top of the chin bar, it acts as a defogging position.
The second detent brings the face shield almost all the way to the top, then the final detent raises it and holds it in the fully raised position.
The face shield has a centrally-located lift tab, which makes it ambidextrous. It is also UV400, with UVA and UVB protection for wavelengths up to 400 nanometers.
The N44 also has an internal sun visor that rotates with a slider on the lower left-hand edge of the helmet. A press of the button just in front of the slider releases the sun visor back into the helmet. It takes a few tries to get the feel for the button because it's small and can be difficult to locate when wearing gloves, but it works.
The sun visor is said to be scratch resistant and anti-fog coated. It provides adequate coverage, although it would be nice if it rotated down another 10 mm or so. It's angled up on either side but it works well. There's a legal limit to how dark the sun visor in a helmet can be and we've never found one that's dark enough, which limits their usefulness.
Nolan said that optional sun visor inserts will be available in amber, light blue and light smoke.
Score: The Nolan N44 visibility is outstanding and virtually unlimited.
Building on the Nolan N43 Air (review), which has excellent upper ventilation, the N44 has a very large and unique top venting system.
Nolan said this is "the most complex that has ever been offered in a Nolan helmet. It features the Air-booster system and a Venturi effect-based hot air extractor.
The central slider controls the opening of the frontal air intake while the two side sliders open and close the air extractors along the side of the crown."
A large triple front intake has three separate sliders; one on either side and one in the center.
The side vents direct the air into separate plastic tube channels that are glued into the channels molded into the EPS.
The tubes have air holes along the way, which direct the air down on to the rider's head and out the back, through the exhaust vents.
The helmet has a separate "3D" mesh liner in-between the top of the regular liner and the plastic vent tube assembly. This helps to create some space to enhance air flow.
The system works well to flow air along the top of the helmet, although we have to admit it doesn't quite have the type of "Wow, I can feel it!" ventilation as, say, the Shoei GT Air (review) or the Caberg Ego (review).
It's certainly better than average though and the large system doesn't seem to affect noise levels as much as one might expect.
The covers for the vents in front aren't as large as one might expect, given the overall size of the upper ventilation array and this may limit the amount of air that can flow into the helmet.
With the vents closed, light rain is blocked but water can leak through during heavy rain.
The chin vent is built into the huge face shield. It is a large rocker switch that snaps open and flows air up through the chin bar and on to the back of the face shield.
It is effective and also helps defog the face shield (as far as we can tell in the very warm summer weather we've been experiencing).
Small side vents are located on either side of the removable chin bar, although they're covered by the face shield.
The exhaust vent is always open and it's integrated into the rear "pulled" shape of the helmet shell, which is formed as part of the translucent plastic top vent assembly.
The "shark gills" type intake ports can be seen under the translucent plastic panel that forms this assembly also.
Bottom line? In full-face mode, the Nolan N44 has excellent ventilation that is much better than the average full-face helmet.
The large upper intake system isn't quite as powerful as the Nolan N43 Air, but overall it's a better performer than the vast majority of full-face motorcycle helmets.
Score: We rate the ventilation system of the Nolan N44 as "Excellent".
The dual neck "gaskets" or neck roll sealers, along with the large spoilers built into the sides of the chin bar and the chin curtain are an indication that Nolan did a lot of work trying to keep noise levels low on the N44.
To a certain extent, this was a success and for this type of helmet, the noise levels are indeed low.
Compared to the average full-face helmet, however, we'd rate the N44 as about average to slightly louder than average when riding behind a windscreen and in the open air.
The caveat here is that this size XL doesn't quite match either my head shape or Burn's, so there may be a touch of extra room here and there that lets the noise seep in. Helmet fit is one of the most important factors for controlling noise levels.
But the slightly thin padding probably doesn't help much either.
The bottom line is that the N44, in its full-face variant, is quieter than expected for a modular (convertible) helmet but about comparable to the average full-face.
Note that our helmet evaluations are normally a combined effort of several riders over time, on different types of motorcycles with and without windscreens.
Evaluators wear correctly fitted, high quality ear plugs (even when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems).
Always protect your hearing when riding a motorcycle. See the wBW Earplug Reviews for more information on choosing and wearing earplugs.
Note also that perceived noise levels will vary, depending on the individual.
Noise can be caused by many factors, including helmet fit; the type of motorcycle and windscreen; wind speed and direction and even the type of clothing that is being worn. For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.
Score: 'We'll give the Nolan N44 a "Very Good" rating for average noise control.
This size XL Nolan N44 (ECE version) weighs 1687 grams (3 lbs., 11-1/2 oz.) in full-face mode with the face shield and chin bar installed.
That's a reasonable weight, considering all the features you get and the internal sun visor, which adds weight.
Note that all of the helmets reviewed on webBikeWorld have been weighed and the weights are available on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page, along with a chart that lists the helmets by weight and shape on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: We give the Nolan N44 a "Very Good" rating for its weight with good balance.
The N44 has the new "Microlock2" chin strap retainer system. The chin strap has adequate padding. Nolan provides a five-year warranty on the N44.
We were able to fit an Interphone F4 (review) intercom to the left side of the N44; there's a minimal amount of room to the rear of the sun visor slider, so most third-party intercoms should fit.
The space between the helmet shell and padding is easy enough to access, but again, it will depend on the intercom mount.
Attaching the intercom module may also be possible to use the stick-on mounting system that comes with most intercoms.
Installing the microphone may be tricky, especially for a boom mic. A wired mic may be best but remember the removable chin bar.
The one-piece fabric section that covers the ear pockets doesn't have a pass-through for a mic boom or wiring, as far as I can tell, and may need to be cut to pass the mic through. I'm not sure how the Nolan system fits.
The Nolan N44 sure is different and it's the best true modular or "convertible" helmet we've reviewed so far.
Other helmets of this type have too many inconsistencies and quality issues to be useful for daily wear, but the N44 feels solid no matter how it's configured.
Whether or not you need all six variants may be debatable, however. For example, we doubt many owners will be wearing the N44 in full-face mode without the face shield.
We'd guess that the full-face mode and perhaps open-face with or without the peak will be the most popular formats.
But there's no getting around the fact that with the face shield and chin bar installed, the visibility from inside the N44 is virtually unlimited.
It's equivalent to wearing an open-face helmet, and that's a very good thing. In fact, we think Nolan could have stopped right there and they'd have an outstanding helmet.
The N44 is also reasonably priced with a list of $369.95 and a current street price as low as $280.00.
So our advice is not to worry too much about the different variations; buy the N44 for the outstanding visibility it provides and the very good ventilation and other features included.
Once you experience that panoramic view, you'll probably find that it will be very difficult to go back to a "normal" full face helmet after you try an N44.
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From "D.E." (October 2013): "Just read your review of the Nolan N44, as much because of a recent accident with a Nolan Trilogy.
My girlfriend was in a nasty "left" turn accident with a N42. Classic and inexcusable left turn into the motorcyclists right of way on US Highway 191 in Montana.
The chin bar failed and she ended up with severe facial injuries, including broken jaw, both cheek bones and nose, as well as a TBI she is still recovering from.
The chin bar on the N44 looks very similar, if not the same, as the N42, in its attachment. The basic shell of the N42 was entirely intact, the interior foam is junk.
I plan on returning the helmet to Nolan, but everything is in impound as evidence in a pending criminal trial of the driver of the SUV.
I know you don't do destructive testing, but some mention of relative strength of the face protection of certain styles of helmets might be valuable. She has a Schuberth C3W that I dearly wished I had urged her to wear that day. As always, I do appreciate your reviews and information, especially on helmet noise.
Editor's Reply: The only thing we as motorcyclists can go by unfortunately is the accepted motorcycle helmet safety standards. In the case of the N44, with the chin bar in place it meets the ECE and DOT standards just like a full face helmet, so it's supposed to be just as good at protection.
The question also is always would an accident have turned out any differently if the rider was wearing Helmet X, Y or Z? One will never know...
Also, there are some full-face and flip-up helmets I've seen that pass the standards but which seem to have very weak chin bars and other parts. Unfortunately, the "perfect" safety standard and testing regimen has yet to be produced.
From "D.O." (September 2013): "I eagerly bought an N43 Air a few years ago (based on the webBikeWorld review in fact) and have greatly enjoyed it, so once the N44 became available, I snapped one of those up as well.
IMHO, the N44 isn't necessarily a total upgrade to an N43. I think Nolan improved a lot of things, but the N44 isn't necessarily superior in all areas.
Improvements over the N43 include: much better build quality -- especially with the N44s much more rigid chin bar (even though the N43's quality is already quite good) and a defogging detent for the face shield (which the N43 didn't have - quite annoying).
Also a much more easily removed shield, better chin venting, a shape that fits my roundish head better, more comfortable liner, and reduced noise.
Things I wish they'd retained: The N43 still has better top venting than the N44, which I find quite disappointing. I assume a design priority for the N44 venting was that the helmet shell could be used worldwide (unlike the N43, which has the Trilogy version for the US).
It's harder to install a Bluetooth intercom on the N44 than on the N43, since the cutouts and channels for a Nolan N-Com boom mike are on the right side on the N44 (unlike on the N43, where the channels are on the left). I also had to Dremel a little slot on the N44's black plastic lower edge to securely install a Sena clamp.
The controls for the built-in sun visor are superior in the N43. The N43's slider is in the left middle of the helmet, and more easily found, especially if you've got an intercom.
Since the N44's slider is in the lower left edge of the helmet, it's harder to find by feel (given that the intercom - particularly the boom mike - is on the lower left edge as well).
The button that snaps the visor back is tiny and annoying. Why not just have a friction slider, like on the N43?
In spite of these nitpicks, I'm still very happy with the N44.
The much improved comfort (due to the greater feeling of rigidity, the better head shape, better liner, and reduced noise) still make the purchase worth it for me.
I'm Asian (Philippines), so we get the CE version. To be perfectly honest, I think I should've waited for your review. If I'd read it first, I'm not sure if I'd have gotten the N44. I really love the venting of the N43 Air, but as you wrote, the N44 "isn't quite as powerful as the Nolan N43 Air".
Still, loads of other improvements, and it still vents better than most helmets out there, so it evens out.
You guys do a great job, and save readers a ton of money from buying crap gear. Thanks!"
From "J.L." (September 2013): "Great review of the Nolan N44, I plan on getting one this month or as soon as they are shipping from motorcyclegear.com.
I can’t help notice the similarities between the N44 and the FLY Tourist helmet.
The FLY Tourist has a similar "panoramic" view, removable chin bar, and a snap in visor. It comes with two face shields, both Clear and Dark Tint and is very comfortable.
The N44 looks to have it beat on the venting however as the Tourist helmet has significantly smaller vents. It still breathes well however and I have worn it on 90 degree plus days with no major discomfort due to heat.
I’m looking forward to the N44 as the look is outstanding and the Shark RAW Soyouz Helmet I have on order has been delayed until late September.
The Tech graphic looks really nice and I think it gets my vote but just by a bit over the Storm graphic. Thanks for draining my wallet again!"
From "L.M." (September 2013): "Thanks for the review on the N44. I’m about due for a new helmet, and have been waiting to see this one.
Since I have been looking for an Adv/Tour style helmet, I’m a little disappointed that you can’t use the peak with the face shield in place, I can live with that.
I could also care less about the internal shield, and hope that helmet manufacturers don’t think they need to make this a "standard" feature to sell helmets -- I’d rather have a helmet that costs $50 less and wear sunglasses as needed.
A couple of questions: 1) Looking at the photos and video, I’m assuming there is no easy method to use a clamp-on Bluetooth headset (like a Sena)?
You also mention the ear-pockets in the review would they hold 3rd party speakers well enough? (Tip for Sena and/or helmet manufacturers: "adapters" to fit 3rd party BT modules to the OEM helmet connections, like Sena has done w/ Bell, would be awesome!).
2) The vent system looks great, but I do have some concerns as to how much water might leak in while riding in the rain. Any thoughts or comments on that? Thanks for the review!"
Editor's Note: I added information about the third-party intercom fitment and about the top vents to the review.