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Nolan N87 Review

Nolan N87 Review
How Did They Do It?
by Rick K. and "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com

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Summary

It just doesn't get any better than this!

The new Nolan N87 beats every other helmet in its price range.

In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to spend twice as much and still get as much.

The N87 has fantastic build quality and just about every feature you need in a full-face helmet.

Its new double-density foam liner is thick, plush and very comfortable.

The face shield is spring-loaded to keep a tight seal against the eye port gasket.

It has a center lift tab and two city defogging positions and a factory-installed Pinlock insert that really works.

The easy-to-use vents give the N87 outstanding ventilation.

And the internal sun visor has a quality feel and provides the best coverage of any sun visor we've tried.

Even the padding under the chin strap is comfy and right-sized.

Want more? The N87 is Nolan N-Com ready and it's "Eyewear Adaptive" with a special liner arrangement to fit eyeglasses.

One more thing: it's beautifully styled and comes in more colors and patterns than you can imagine.

All this for a list price starting at...are you ready? $259.95 (£209.99)!

Bottom line, you will not find a better helmet at this price, period.

Nolan N87 Helmet Top View
Background

The Nolan N87 has been available in Europe and it will be available for sale in the U.S. starting in January 2017.

It's been a phenomenal success in Europe, winning both the Motorcycle News Product of the Year and RiDE magazine "Best Buy" awards in 2016.

The N87 also scored an excellent four stars in the UK SHARP test.

To be honest, we weren't expecting much when the N87 arrived.

The Nolan N86 (review) was released in 2013 and it was an incremental update to the Nolan N85 (review), the webBikeWorld 2012 Motorcycle Helmet of the Year.

The N85 was a ground-breaking helmet.

In that review, we said "the Nolan N85 is a true bargain in every sense of the word at its list price of $249.95" and "It has the overall build quality of helmets costing twice as much or more..."

Funny thing, other than a 10-buck price increase, the same holds true for the N87.

Here's more from the N85 review:

"We have no idea how Nolan is making any money on this helmet, considering what the competition is offering in this price range."

About the N85 we wrote "And we almost never use the word "best", but we can comfortably state in this case that the Nolan N85 is currently the best helmet you'll find for under $250.00."

Guess what?

Those are the exact same words we can use for the N87, because it has the same impact on us in 2016 (almost 2017) as the N85 did in 2012.

Nolan N87 Helmet Left Side
Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality

The N87 impresses as soon as it's pulled out of the box.

It just doesn't seem like a mid-range, $260.00 helmet. In fact, Nolan now calls the N87 its "top of the range road full-face helmet".

The styling and detailing of the N87 is superb, with many interesting premium touches.

For example, the front and rear of the top exhaust vents on our pure white version are bordered in gloss black.

The chin vent has a "3D" look with a matching white over gloss black slider and even the inside of the chin bar gets a surprising amount of attention to detail with matte and shiny surfaces and the Nolan logo.

We've noted several times before that Nolan helmets seem to have a "harder" protective clear coat than other brands and this continues with the N87.

In fact, Nolan uses a special low VOC paint, applied in their own paint boots shown in our 2010 "How to Make a Motorcycle Helmet" video taken during the Nolan factory tour report.

But there's lots more -- the N87's moving parts all have a high-quality feel.

Even the internal sun visor getting a smooth 6-detent operation along with the best sun visor coverage of any helmet we've ever reviewed.

The removable liner also gets special mention; it's a new dual-density foam that's miles thick while being firm and supportive, with a plush finish that's really comfortable.

There's even a special feature for eyeglass wearers, where you can remove some of the padding to make room for the temples (side frames) of eyeglasses or sunglasses.

Score: We give the Nolan N87 an "Outstanding" rating for excellent overall quality. See the Summary Table at the bottom of the page for a description of our rating system.

Nolan N87 Helmet Slide Show
  • Nolan N87 Front View
  • Nolan N87 Front Quarter View
  • Nolan N87 Side View
  • Nolan N87 Rear Quarter View
  • Nolan N87 Rear View
  • Nolan N87 Top View
  • Nolan N87 Internal Sun Visor
  • Nolan N87 Rear Exhaust Vent
  • Nolan N87 Top Vents
  • Nolan N87 Chin Curtain
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Helmet Fit and Internal Shape

Nolan has held to a consistent internal shape for their helmets through the years; it's what we call "Slight Narrow" in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ.

The N87 feels nearly identical to the N86 and if you haven't tried that one, think Arai "Intermediate Oval", like the Arai Corsair-X (review)or as a slightly more relaxed fit than a typical Shoei.

This shape fits many variants on both sides of "Neutral"; in fact, it even fits Rick's "Earth" shaped head, which is widest at the temples.

Like the N86 we reviewed, this polycarbonate shell N87 is a size XL and it's a comfortable head size fit that feels about 1/2 size smaller than expected for an XL, so order accordingly.

There's a slight amount of forehead room at the front and again like other Nolan helmets we've reviewed, the internal shape is similar to the standard Shoei helmet.

The size XL N87 should fit a 60-61 cm "Neutral" to "Slight Narrow" head shape with no problems but it should also work for most head shapes.

Also, Nolan sells various sized liners and cheek pads so owners can customize the fit. If you're between L and XL, for example, go with the XL and you can always change the liner and/or cheek pads.

The N87 comes in two shell sizes to span the head size range.

Note that the head size range is XS to XXL for the North American DOT version and XXS to XXXL for the ECE version sold in Europe and elsewhere.

N87 Liner

The N87 liner is especially noteworthy, with a new type of dual-density "micro-perforated" padding that is nice and thick and completely isolates the head from any internal hard points in the helmet.

The liner padding isn't "flabby" like some helmets; instead, it's firm yet comfortable.

It's something comparable to the firm feel of a Mercedes-Benz seat vs. the too-soft and unsupportive foam in a base Nissan Versa.

The ear pockets on the N87 are recessed and some extra removable liner padding covers the molded pockets to fit the N-Com speakers.

The N87 is Nolan N-Com ready and it will fit the N-Com B5, B5L, B1 or MCS RCS.

Also, Nolan offers an "ESS" (Emergency Stop Signal), which looks like an LED array that can be fitted to the rear of the helmet.

We have no experience with this and haven't seen it other than in the Nolan literature but it looks interesting.

Like the N86, the molding around the bottom of the helmet makes it difficult to mount a third-party intercom system without using a stick-on.

We can fit sunglasses in the N87, but there are instructions included in the owner's manual for removing some foam padding to help with fitting eyeglasses.

Nolan N86 Shape

More information on helmet fit can be found in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page.

Also, see the chart that lists the helmet weights of webBikeWorld reviewed helmets and also by shape on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.

Score: We'll give the Nolan N87 an "Outstanding" rating for internal shape, comfort and padding. The new dual-density foam makes the helmet one of the most comfortable we've worn.

Nolan N87 Helmet Liner
Nolan N87 Face Shield, Eye Port and Outward Visibility

The view out the N87 eye port is a slightly narrower than average in the vertical plane but slightly better (wider) than average in the horizontal plane.

Nolan lists the N87 face shield as "ultra-wide" and we have no problem with side-to-side over-the-shoulder visibility checks for traffic.

The face shield on this one measures 2.35 mm, compared to 2.15 mm for the N86 and 2.10 mm for the N85.

The face shield comes with a Pinlock anti-fog insert that seems larger than most.

It has proven to be very effective in our current sub-40 F (4 C) weather, with absolutely no fogging at all.

These latest Pinlock inserts also seem to have much better clarity than previous generations, although it's always better to have one installed at the factory like it is on the N87.

There are 5 detents in the face shield as it is lifted, with a tiny first opening and a second smaller opening for city defogging.

It also has a new patent-pending type of spring-loaded eccentric in the rotating mechanism that helps keep the face shield tight against the eye port gasket for a good seal.

The face shield also has a centrally located lift tab that has a mild friction lock underneath to hold the face shield closed.

The face shield removal system makes it easy to remove the face shield but it can be tricky to re-install; see our video below for more information.

Internal Sun Visor

The internal sun visor in the N87 works really well, with a precise feel, with 6 detents and smooth operation via a small lever on the left-hand side to the rear of the face shield.

This sun visor provides outstanding coverage, with the bottom edge below the line of sight.

We think it's the best internal sun visor we've tried on any helmet for both the way it operates and the amount of coverage it provides.

It's better than the sun visor on the N85 and the N86.

Nolan N87 Visibility

Score: The Nolan N87 gets an "Outstanding" for the face shield and internal sun visor.

Nolan N87 Top Vent
Nolan N87 Chin Bar
Stylish chin vent on the N87 is an improvement over the N86 and N85.
Ventilation

The N87 good news continues because the ventilation system has also been updated and improved.

It's now much better than the N85 and N86.

The stylized "3D" chin vent has a large slider that moves up and down to open and close the intake, which is divided into a grid with 8 small openings.

There is no direct venting through the chin bar; instead, the air is directed along the top of the chin bar and directed through another 10-part grid at an angle towards the closed face shield.

There is a large chamber behind this grid, which allows plenty of air into the helmet.

This large chamber is usually missing from the typical chin vent systems that only direct air along the top of the chin bar, so the N87 system is more effective.

Top venting is handled by two large intakes that have rubberized sliders on top. The sliders are easy to locate when riding and wearing gloves.

The air from the top vents enters the helmet and is directed down on to the rider's head through very large channels molded into the EPS.

The headliner has channels to allow the air from the top vents to have unfettered access.

Finally, the integrated rear exhaust vent helps pull the air through the helmet.

Altogether, it's an effective system that works very well with excellent ventilation, especially along the top of the helmet.

Also, the N87 has a new split chin curtain installed at the factory (see our video below). It's a clever idea and it makes it easier to put the helmet on or to remove it.

Nolan N86 Ventilation

Score: We'll rate the ventilation system of the Nolan N87 as "Outstanding" overall.

Nolan N87 Chin Vent
Nolan N87 Eyewear Adaptive Feature
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Nolan N87 Sound Levels

The thick padding and slightly tapered helmet shell helps to reduce noise levels in the N87.

The large top vents do generate some extra wind noise when they're open, although it's not extraordinary and there's a good tradeoff considering the ventilation.

As always, the noise levels will depend on the motorcycle type and there can be some extra noise caused by turbulence when riding a motorcycle with a windscreen that directs the air towards the top of the helmet.

Overall, the noise is more controlled than the N86, dropping from that helmet's "Average" and "Louder" rating for upper and lower to "Average" and "Quieter" (than average) for the N87.

Also, the nicely sculpted shape of the N87 seems to help with aerodynamics, with no unusual helmet movements or buffeting while riding.

Nolan N86 Noise Levels

Note that our helmet evaluations are 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 rider's clothing.

For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.

Score: We'll give the Nolan N87 an "Excellent" rating for slightly better than average noise control.

wBW Video: Nolan N87 Helmet
Nolan N87 Video on the webBikeWorld Vimeo Pro channel.
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N87 Helmet Weight

The N87 is something of a surprise in the helmet weight department also.

This CE version in size XL comes in at 1634 grams (3 lbs., 9-5/8 oz.), which is darn good for a size XL, four star rated SHARP helmet with all the bells-and-whistles, including a large internal sun visor.

Looking back at previous Nolan N-series reviews, the N86 in size XL weighed 1598 grams, while the N85 tipped the scale at 1578 grams.

The weights of over 350 helmets reviewed on webBikeWorld have been posted on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page.

There's also a chart that lists the helmets by weight and shape on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.

Score: We rate the Nolan N87 as "Excellent" for its relatively low weight and good balance.

Nolan N87 Rear Exhaust Vent
Redesigned exhaust vent on the Nolan N86.
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Miscellaneous

The Nolan N87 (like the N86 before it) has the Nolan "Microlock2" chin strap retainer, which works well.

The padding is nice and thick and long enough to protect the rider's neck.

The N87 sold in the U.S. meets the DOT standard and helmets sold in Europe meet the ECE helmet safety standard.

The N87 will be available in the U.S.A. starting in January 2017.

webBikeWorld Overall Opinionator: Nolan N87
Picks... ...and Pans
  • Outstanding overall quality.
  • Very comfortable liner.
  • Excellent ventilation.
  • Excellent sun visor coverage.
  • Nice styling.
  • Defogging position on face shield.
  • Excellent value.
  • Face shield installation is tricky.
Conclusion

There's no doubt about it, the Nolan N87 is an outstanding value.

We don't often use the word "best", but the N87 is currently the best mid-range price point helmet you can buy.

The overall build quality is much better than we expected in this price range and, in fact, it puts the beatdown on most helmets costing twice as much.

The liner and padding is exemplary and the Pinlock-equipped face shield and the internal sun visor work smoothly with a very nice feel.

Sometimes style takes precedence over function, but not here. Everything just seems to work in harmony with all the parts looking good and working even better.

So Nolan has really upped the ante with the N87.

We don't often get this excited about a new helmet but our feeling is that there is nothing near this price range that can beat the Nolan N87.

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wBW Review: Nolan N87 Helmet
Manufacturer: Nolan (Italy) List Price: $259.95-$299.95
Colors: Solids and graphics Made In: Italy
Sizes: XS-2XL Shell Sizes: 2 Review Date: December 2016
Rating Scale is subjective: Unacceptable, Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent, Outstanding.

Note: Item provided by a retailer, distributor or manufacturer with these Terms and Conditions.

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Note: For informational use only. All material and photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC since 2000. All rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld® Site Info page. Product specifications, features and details may change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read the Terms and Conditions!

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From "S.M." (December 2016): "Okay, I'll confess. I needed a new helmet earlier this year, and my primary helmet was an N85 for a long time (3-4 years and 30-40k miles).

I liked the Nolan head shape, so my natural choice was the latest and greatest helmet in the series. I ordered the N87 from Europe knowing that it isn't really DOT compliant.

After putting 10k miles on the new N87, I have to say that I am disappointed for these reasons:

1) They say great things about the new visor design, but it's a downgrade from the N85/N86 design. The top-bottom vision is significantly smaller, and something I miss when I swap helmets.

Also, mine scratched badly in the first three weeks. The last gen visor was tough as nails. I don't baby my visor, but I don't take a sandpaper to it either. This was a bit disappointing.

2) They tweaked the head size again, for reasons I don't understand. the N87 is still an intermediate-ish oval, and does seem to fit better on my head, but I get hotspots after 4-5 hours on the bike. I never got that on the N85.

3) Who needs those detents on the sun visor? When I use the sun visor it's either all the way down or fully retracted. The detents are a very distracting experience.

I can't think of a situation where I wanted the sun visor 2/3rds down vs. 3/5ths down.

4) The creep in weight is slight, but noticeable to me on long rides. Almost like if they could remove those sun visor detents out and give back 20-30 grams.

5) The venting is better on the N87. I'll give them that.

6) That new liner is fantastic, something I appreciated after a few 800 mile days.

If I have to do it again, the N86 on closeout has to be the much better deal than the new N87.

The N87 isn't a bad helmet at all in it's price range, it's just worse than its predecessor in every aspect that matters to me."

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