Outstanding quality, relatively quiet, comfortable and with a few interesting safety/convenience features, the Nolan N90 is the flip-up to beat.
We liked it so much, the Nolan N90 was named the webBikeWorld 2010 Flip-up Motorcycle Helmet of the Year!
Nolan has been making flip-up helmets since, well, forever.
So they know a thing or two about this class of helmet and it's obvious to me that they've poured all of that knowledge into the N90.
I'm a flip-up guy anyway, having worn Shoei versions for many years, but the N90 has definitely won me over.
I don't think Nolan the company is anywhere near as large as Shoei or any of the other helmet heavy hitters, so it's also fun to watch the underdog come out on top.
Funny thing is, the N90 was meant to be a lower-priced helmet, according to the company. Probably a response to the economic doldrums of the last couple of years.
But as sometimes happens in tough times, putting on the thinking cap and doing more with less has actually created one of the nicest "classic" styled flip-up helmets we've ever reviewed.
The N90 may not have the cutting-edge style of the Caberg Sintesi (review) or the Nexx X30 (review), for example, but it does have a modern look that compliments its up-to-date design and it should satisfy flip-up aficionados everywhere.
Flip-up lineage can be easily conjured in the N90, going all the way back to the first helmet ever reviewed on webBikeWorld, the Lazer Century, purchased way back in 1998.
Of course, the N90 is updated in every way with decidedly 2011 and not 1998 style.
Although Nolan told us that the N90 is not a replacement for any of their existing helmets, but a new entry...
As of the date of publication, the N90 is available in Europe only, but it is scheduled to be released in the U.S. on September 1.
Pre-orders are being taken, so read on and you may just want to hop on the bandwagon to be the first one on your block with a shiny new Nolan N90.
And shiny it is; the first thing I noticed about the N90 when pulling it out of the box is that "hard" clearcoat we've discovered on several European-designed helmets.
Nolan calls it their "Hi-Brite Protective Hard Coating" finish, and I don't know why all the other manufacturers don't use it too.
It just feels different -- a hard, protective shell-like feeling -- as if the helmet was covered in a thin layer of glass, or better yet, clear ceramic.
Based on our experience, this type of clearcoat does indeed make a difference in keeping the helmet looking nice and shiny in hard use, and the bonus is that it also seems to make the helmet easier to keep clean.
The silver metallic finish on this N90 is beautiful, with nary a speck of dust nor peel of orange anywhere to be found. This European N90 is prosaically called the "N90 Classic" in Europe and the "N90 Solid" in the U.S.
It includes a Pinlock anti-fog insert (review) and the chin curtain. It lists for $299.95. They also have an "N90 Shade" version in Europe that features a graphic paint pattern.
Nolan also sells an "N90 Special" that will save you 30 bucks ($269.95), but it does not include the Pinlock insert and it comes in a limited range of colors.
Definitely spend the 30 bucks and get the "DeLuxe" version with the Pinlock installed -- a Pinlock is going to cost you 30 bucks anyway if you add it later and you may have to buy a special face shield with the Pinlock pins. So you're saving money by spending money!
This N90 feels solid, or at least as solid as a flip-up gets in 2011 (I'm calling it a 2011 model).
The polycarbonate shell feels stiff and the overall quality is outstanding, with all the moving parts working smoothly and with a quality feel.
The rotating "Dual-Action Centromatic" visor locks solid and it has a couple of special tweaks to keep it safe, and I'll cover that in a bit. Nolan also said they have updated the "Clima-Comfort" liner, and it does feel comfy.
And, as I'll also get to in a minute, the ventilation system really works -- a first for a flip-up?
Score: I'm giving the Nolan N90 an "Outstanding" rating for overall construction, design and quality, including the paint and Hi-Brite finish. See the ratings descriptions in the summary table at the end of this page.
The N90 has a fairly neutral internal shape that tends just towards round, so it should be a comfortable fit for most riders. I find it very comfortable and the usual cast of round-heads who have tried it agree.
I'm having trouble classifying it as either a "Neutral" or "Slightly Round" internal shape in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page because it does seem to split the difference, but I'll go with "Neutral".
The size large shown here is said by Nolan to fit a 59 to 60 cm head and I agree, so we'd have to assume that the sizes fit as expected. Sizing runs from XXS to XXL but I haven't yet confirmed how many shell sizes span this range.
One feature to note is the absence of well-defined ear pockets in the N90.
There are small indents in either side of the EPS liner that I assume are for the Nolan N-Com Bluetooth intercom system speakers, but otherwise the sides of the liner do not have anything I'd call a pocket.
Ironically, this seems to help eyeglass wearers because the temples of the eyeglasses can't get caught in a pocket that isn't there.
I am able to slide my sunglasses inside the helmet with the temples around my ears, although I can feel the tip of the eyeglass temple pushing against the liner in back.
I have not tried to install speakers in the N90, so not sure how that would work.
The liner is very comfortable and nicely padded and Nolan said they've redesigned the neck roll at the bottom to help block wind noise.
It seems to work. Overall, I think the liner is more comfortable than average, or at least more comfortable than some of the other helmets I've worn recently, which have some rather scratchy-feeling liner material.
The helmet comes with a chin curtain with a bit of reflective material, repeated at the back of the liner. I've noticed this on a few helmets recently and I'm not sure why, because the underside of a helmet doesn't seem like a location that would be illuminated very often.
The helmet has adequate chin room and the back of the chin bar is molded to accept the N-Com microphone.
Overall, I find the N90 to be one of the most comfortable flip-ups I've worn. It feels solid and secure, the liner is comfortable and the fit is perfect for me.
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 N90 an "Outstanding" for fit and comfort for neutral-to-round shaped heads.
I measured the face shield on this N90 at 2.2 mm thick with our trusty micrometer. Nolan says the shield is made from Lexan and has UV 400 protection and it has excellent optical qualities.
The eye port design provides a slightly better than average vertical sight line towards the top and about average to the bottom and sides.
The sides of the eye port are slightly canted down towards the front, due to the design of the rotating visor, but this doesn't really affect visibility.
The side-to-side vision is about average and overall my feeling is that the outward visibility is just a touch better than average for flip-up helmets.
The N90 Classic version shown here came with the Pinlock anti-fog insert (review) installed and again, I think it's worth it, since a Pinlock will cost around $30.00 anyway and they can be a bit of a bother to install. So why not let the factory do it?
(NOTE: The U.S. version of the N90 comes with a Pinlock insert but the owner must install it). Besides, a Pinlock insert definitely works to prevent fogging (and so does our favorite anti-fog coating, Clarity Defog It!).
The face shield raises through five positions, and my only wish is that the first opening was a touch smaller.
Raising the face shield to the first position with the centrally-located lift tab opens it about 20 mm, which is too large an opening for simple defogging and directs the air on to my face.
Otherwise, the face shield operates smoothly and the central lift tab prevents any twisting of the shield as it's moving. It's also very easy to remove and replace by simply pressing the buttons on either side of the rotating visor (see video).
The eye port gasket does not completely surround the opening, but it is slightly thicker towards the center, which keeps a fairly tight seal. Water does not get past the seal, except on the sides where the gasket ends.
Water can drip down along the sides behind the face shield on either side but so far it hasn't entered the eye port itself.
The rotating visor also has a smooth and secure-feeling operation. It features two unique safety devices. To lift the visor, pull out the small red tab under the chin bar and a second red tab, located just below the chin vents, also pops open.
Squeeze both tabs and you get a nice "handle" to lift the visor.
This design helps to keep the rotating visor securely locked in position and makes it virtually impossible to knock it open accidentally. I suppose it will also help keep the visor closed in a crash.
When the rotating visor is lifted all the way up, a small lever on the left-hand side of the helmet will lock it in place. This is an extra step but a positive one, in that it ensures that the visor will stay up.
The alternative, used in most of the other flip-ups, is to build in a strong detent to hold the visor open. But then you're depending on the friction to hold the visor open and the hope that it won't wear out over time.
The lever on the side is a positive lock and it works very well.
Finally, the N90 also includes an internally rotating sun visor. It works via a slider on the left-hand side of the helmet. It works smoothly and can be stopped at any position and held by friction.
It does have more of a stylized cut along the bottom than I'd like, which is visible in my peripheral vision, but overall it works well and seems to add little extra weight to the helmet.
Overall, the quality of the build on the rotating visor, the face shield, the dual lever opening system and the visor lock, along with the addition of the Pinlock anti-fog insert, help to make the Nolan N90 a user-friendly flip-up that has become my favorite.
Score: The Nolan N90 rotating visor, face shield and internal sun visor score an "Outstanding" from me for ease of use and quality feel.
The N90 has two independently operating top vents, matched by a pair of chin vents with a similar design. Both are easy to find and easy to operate and they work well.
The top vents are enhanced by a large exhaust vent in the back of the N90. For some reason, rear exhaust vents are rare on flip-up helmets, but this one does seem to help because I can feel a light air stream over the top of my head when riding.
The chin vents work very well; better than average I'd say, especially for a flip-up helmet.
The chin bar does not have direct air channels through to the interior, and looking at the chin vents, which open forward, they might not appear to be very effective, but they are.
The air flows in around the top of the forward-opening vents and up behind the vestigial breath guard to direct the air up on to the back of the face shield and thence on to the rider's face.
So overall, I'd say the N90 has, surprisingly, better than average air flow and exceptional air flow for a flip-up, which in my experience usually have poor ventilation.
Score: I'll give the N90 an "Excellent" rating for venting and air flow.
One more feature of the N90 that adds to its appeal is its relatively good control of noise levels. The top vents will cause a rushing wind noise that isn't annoying but is noticeable.
The noise volume will vary, depending upon the angle of attack of the helmet; i.e., sitting up straight on a tourer seems to cause a slight increase in sound volume from the top vents.
The chin vents are quiet and the chin curtain and thicker neck roll also help keep noise levels relatively low, especially for a flip-up helmet.
There is a bit of noise coming from the space between the chin curtain and the neck roll.
So it's important to make sure the chin curtain material is placed on the outside of the neck roll to cover it, because when the rotating visor is closed, sometimes the material can end up pushed on the inside instead.
But there is a slight gap or recess where the chin curtain ends and the rear part of the neck roll begins, and this area can allow some slight wind noise.
But overall, the N90 is relatively quiet and seems to have less turbulence noise around the bottom of the helmet than expected.
Therefore, I'm going to rate it as quieter than average, but remember this is in comparison to other flip-up helmets, which typically are louder than full-face helmets on the average, in our experience.
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: The N90 gets an "Excellent" rating from me for reasonably controlled noise levels.
This N90 in size large weighs 1784 grams (3 lbs., 14-7/8 oz.). This may seem a bit heavy but is actually right in the neighborhood of other flip-up helmets, which are usually heavier due to the rotating mechanism and other features.
Here's a selection from the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Weights page, showing the current (August 2010) list of flip-up helmets that have been reviewed (via the links in the table) that weigh about the same as the Nolan N90:
See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart that compares the weights of all of the helmets we've reviewed. The wBW Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page lists the helmets by head shape and weight.
The N90 feels slightly top heavy to me, but the good fit and comfortable liner make it work.
I do also notice that the helmet has some noticeable pressure when I move my head side to side when riding at speed, but again, none of this is bothersome to me.
Score: The N90 gets a "Very Good" rating for its reasonable weight for this style helmet.
This European version of the N90, purchased in the UK, has a "Microlock" adjustable quick release chin strap retention system. I'm still not a fan of these systems, which seem overly complicated and weigh more than a simple double D-ring system.
The system used on the N90 feels thick and I can feel it pressing on my neck. This is especially noticeable with some types of jacket collars. Nolan confirmed that the N90 will include the Microlock system on U.S. bound helmets.
The U.S. version of the N90 will, of course, meet DOT safety standards. The helmet shown here meets ECE 22.05 standards and it's also ACU Gold Star approved (more).
As far as we know, the N90 has not been put through the SHARP testing scheme yet (more). UPDATE: May 2011 - The N90 rates 4 stars in the SHARP tests.
Both the European version and the DOT version of the N90 have a five year guarantee (as do all Nolan helmets, according to the company).
The DOT version of the N90 is scheduled to become available on September 1, 2010, and pre-orders are being taken. By the way, the N90 is still made in Italy.
|webBikeWorld Overall Opinionator - Nolan N90|
The bottom line is that the Nolan N90 is a sure winner and it's become my favorite flip-up. It feels solid, it's beautifully finished, it has a few extra touches that belie its lower cost, it looks good and it's comfortable.
The aggressive pricing structure and the five year guarantee are icing on the cake.
Nolan will have to pull some magic out of the hat to top it with the next generation of N-helmets!
|wBW Review: Nolan N90 Helmet|
|Manufacturer: Nolan Helmets||List Price: $269.95-$299.95.|
|Colors: Solids and Graphics.||Made In: Italy|
|Sizes: XS-2XL Shell Sizes: One||Review Date: August 2010|
Rating Scale is subjective: Unacceptable, Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent, Outstanding.
From "W.C." (October 2013): "I had to retire my trusted Arai earlier this year and purchased the Nolan.
My opinions: Air flow is nonexistent, even on my R100 with the “S” fairing which puts my head in direct airflow. Very noisy compared to my old Arai or even my inexpensive HJC full face.
I do also suffer some discomfort at the top of my ears after a long day. This is most likely do to my misshapen head. I do notice the weight, but other than all of that it’s not that bad of an helmet.
The Pinlock visor is great and the flip down sun shield is a wonderful addition."
From "S.C." (September 2013): "I really wanted to buy another Nolan flip up, but I have been waiting for a Hi Viz color for the N90 (I have a 103 in yellow).
Alas, this wasn't meant to be and I ended up buying a LS2 FF386 since I have read good things about it and I could get it in HI VIZ green.
You really need to test this helmet for the price I think it would give the Nolan a run for the money, very nicely finished, comfortable, to loud though.
Editor's Reply: Thanks, note that we did review the LS2 FF394 (review), which is very similar to the FF386 but also has Snell certification for the larger sizes.
From "M.H.H." (September 2012): "I've been happily using this helmet for the last year and a half and am almost perfectly happy with it except the top visor gasket and Pinlock insert rub against each other causing scratches on the insert and at the top of the visor.
I've had to replace the face shield and insert once and will have to do it again soon.
I find the vents easy to find with gloves but wish they were a bit bigger. I'd like more air. But ventilation is still pretty good.
The ratchet retention strap is a pleasure as long as you don't make it too tight. It's much easier than the double d's. All in all I like this helmet a lot."
From "D.W." (September 2012): "I was intrigued by the Nolan N90 based on your review and called my local dealer to see if the had my size, which they did. I looked the helmet over carefully before I tried it on and was very impressed.
It was a little tight going on, but I expect that it would be easier with time to break in; it was very comfortable once I got it fitted.
Unfortunately the ratchet chin strap hurt my neck badly and was a deal breaker for me.
I really hate that because I really liked everything else about this helmet.
I agree with your reviewer that the old double d-ring is the best latching system; it is cheap, simple, doesn't hurt like the ratchet kind, and there is no reason to change it. Too bad for Nolan."
From "E.M." (February 2012): "I Had a Lazer Granville Flip up for 5 years. It Had its drawbacks, such as poor ventilation, heavy weight and clumsy lock brackets that got stuck every few uses and needed to be pushed by hand.
Just Bought the Nolan N90S a week ago after reading your review. Regrettably, I have to say, I'm disappointed. major drawback is the flimsy vent flips.
Although ventilation is better than my former helmet, the vent flips are very hard to find with gloves on.
No reason for them to be separate for right and left.
But the major drawback is that the vent flips are very easily detached. One of the flips fell and disappeared after three days of use.
Another drawback is the high noise level. The helmet is missing inside ear pockets.
It only has a mesh that covers the ears and that is not adequate. It's designed this way maybe as a comm system ready helmet, but the lack of ear pockets increases sound level.
In fact, sound level is higher than my old Granville. It's unbearable after 10 minutes of driving at a 60 mph on a highway, with a wind-shielded scooter.
Current visor is not anti-fog. Without using Pinlock anti-fog visor, the single visor gets fogged-up easily. if weather is chilly or rainy, one must use anti-fog spray or visor.
This helmet has two major flaws that need redesigning: Vent flips and proper padding around ears. Until the problems with flimsy vent flips and poor sound insulation around the ears are solved, I do not recommend this helmet. I give it a 2 out of 5 rating."
Editor's Note: Note that all of the webBikeWorld reviewers always wear high-quality, properly inserted ear plugs when riding. This includes during the helmet and intercom system evaluations.
This fact is noted in the "Noise" section of each helmet review. As we have said many times, if you ride without ear plugs, all bets are off and the noise level conclusions in the review are meaningless.
From "O.R." (December 2011): "Though I like my Nolan N90 (com) a lot. I can't understand how you can find the vents «easy to find and easy to operate...
My experience is exactly the opposite: with gloves on, it's almost impossible to feel anything and to get to them.
But it's very easy to accidentally push the chin vents out of position, when adjusting the helmet position, or for some other reason. So, easy to knock out and difficult to find is not a good combination.
I've also had to have the sun visor replaced, because it was the wrong size, and it was getting all scratched. Also, as we speak, the helmet is back at Nolan's because the flip-up mechanism has broken. The good thing is that the helmet has a five-year warranty."
From "G.E." (August 2011): "Have had my N-90 for 3 weeks now, worn every day in the Florida heat and I love this hat.....maybe a little warmer than my old EXO-900 and a bit just a bit noisier but far superior in every way including price.
Much better built than (Scorpion helmets). Your review is spot on with my feelings."
From "J.S." (01/11): "I have used cheaper modular/flip ups before (Zeus, Fulmer).... decided to invest in higher quality after a recent crash. The Nolan N90 was the choice after reading the reviews on webBikeWorld.
With RevZilla's good return policy (and my wife's ok) I ordered it.
Agreed with the review, the finish is gorgeous and seems fairly resistant to scratches (i got black). Medium fit my 57cm head perfectly, nice and snug -- a bit tight at first but now quite comfortable.
The chin curtain keeps out the cold air but appreciate it being removable for the summer. Appreciate the dual latches to open the chin guard for safety. the best features are the built in dark visor and the no fog quality visor.
The Pinlock makes it even more fog-free. I was amazed how well the combined system worked since with my previous helmets, the lenses fogged up every time on a chilly morning. Not so with the Nolan N90.
Weak point, if there is one, is the ratchet chinstrap. The hard plastic is uncomfortable if you strap it down too tight. There is a padded liner piece but wish it was fixed somehow to the plastic buckles.
It's uncomfortable when they slip out of place. I'm debating super-gluing them in place. Otherwise, I do like the quick on/off compared to D-rings, although after years of use, D-rings are pretty straightforward too."
UPDATE From J.S. (03/11): "Just wanted to update you on my review. I used some adhesive/glue and that helps immensely with the comfort of the chinstrap -- keeps the soft part on your skin instead of the hard plastic.
Recently, I noticed some scratches on the inside tinted visor. Having been meticulous about protecting my first "fancy" helmet, I was pretty upset to find these only 2 months into ownership.
Rather than blindly ordering a replacement for it too to get scratched, I called RevZilla about a possible manufacturer defect in the rubber gasket that may be causing the scratches.
RevZilla promptly replied to my email with Nolan's custom service 888#. I was answered immediately by a person at Nolan; no menu/voicemail/etc.
He immediately recognized the issue, said Nolan re-engineered the inner tinted visor and they would ship one out immediately.
Haven't received it yet, but wanted to note this year for potential buyers as well as give kudos to RevZilla and Nolan in handling it."
From "F.M." (11/10): "I am an open face helmet rider, but since I need a full face for the autumn and spring, decided to get a flip-up modular helmet. Since this helmet was not available yet in North America about 3 months ago, I imported it from a German supplier.
This is my first experience with the Flip up modular helmet, I rode in cold weather and had no fogging or cold breeze from the visor or neck.
The chin strap was a little uncomfortable at the beginning but got use to it. It fitted me better than the N103.
Ventilation seems to be good since I felt the cold when opened the vents but in summer it could be another story. So far I like this helmet. I appreciated your reviews, since it helped me chose the above helmet. Thanks."
From "J.A." (10/10): "I recently received my Nolan N90, it is my third Nolan helmet and I think it's awesome. The internal sun visor is works great and it can be lowered with the other visor in the raised position. The lining is comfortable and the helmet is nicely ventilated."
From "L.E." (9/10): "My (DOT version of the) N90 arrived ... today. This is amazing since Cima told me on Monday that the helmets were still in Customs. Anyhow, I drove to (the store) to try it on. Yes, the helmet is very nice.
Yes, the N90 has a little bit more chin room than the N103, but it's not enough for me and it's not as much as the more normal Shoei chin-room.
So, despite a lot of nice things about it, I won't be wearing an N90. I guess I'll either have to wait for a sale on the Multitec or hope that the Schuberth C3 doesn't cost $750 when it eventually arrives in the US. I'd love a neon hi-viz one."
From "J.J." (9/10): " I purchased a Nolan N90 about 3 months ago and it is the worst helmet I have ever owned or worn.
The visibility is poor, anti mist visor scratches on contact with the softest of cloths, worst feature is the seat belt fastener digs into the neck with poor padding provided, and one of the vents in the chin guard fell off somewhere.
I have emailed Nolan at 3 different email addresses on more than one occasion and have no response from two, and one email in Italian from the other.
I bought an HJC for my daughter which comes with Gold rating and was a third of the price and is far superior."