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Nolan N91 Review

Nolan N91 Helmet Review
Nolan N91 Helmet Review
by Rick K. and "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
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Background

The Nolan N91 replaces the Nolan N90 (review), which was the 2010 webBikeWorld Flip-up Helmet of the Year.

The N90 was and still is a very popular flip-up helmet.

Priced at $150 less than the flagship Nolan N104 flip-up (review), the N90 is what we like to call a "steal".

The N91 continues that legacy.

If the N90 had a weak point, it was with the thin plastic vent openings that sometimes came loose.

Some owners complained about this but the vents never gave us a problem.

So the N91 has some pretty big shoes to fill, as they say. What are the differences between the N90 and N91? This review will answer that question.

But while the new Nolan N44 (review) is a radical redesign of its predecessor, the Nolan N43 Trilogy (review) and probably should have received a new name (Nolan N50?), the N91 is more of an evolution of the N90 flip-up.

The vents have been completely redesigned, and the liner header is slightly different and the N91 feels "tighter" than the N90 in many respects.

In fact, the N91 now definitely encroaches on N104 territory, so we're licking our chops waiting to see if perhaps an N105 will be announced next year.

In the meantime, the N91 is still a screamin' deal, because the price hasn't changed one cent! While there may not be enough here to convince N90 owners to upgrade, the N91 surely has one thing in common with its N90 ancestor: it has to be one of the best flip-up motorcycle helmets you can buy in this price range.

Nolan N91 Top View
Nolan N91 Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality

The "Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality" section gets pretty boring when it comes to Nolan helmets. And that's a good thing.

Nolan quality has improved over the years to a point where there's not much to say, other than "outstanding". The paint and the special Nolan "Hi-Brite" clearcoat are perfectly applied on our examples, belying a helmet with a list price of $299.95 -- fully $329 less than, say, the Schuberth C3 (review).

That's right -- you could buy two Nolan N91's for the price of the Schuberth and still have enough left over for a couple of fill-ups or even a new pair of gloves.

Do we dare compare the Nolan N91 to the vaunted Schuberth C3? Well, the external paint and finish differences are slight enough that if you slapped a Schuberth decal on the Nolan, we'd guess that very few motorcyclists would know they were being taken for a different kind of ride.

But that's neither here nor there, because among other differences, the N91 has a polycarbonate shell. The point is that Nolan quality is hard to beat at this price.

Our N91, N44 and the new Nolan N86 (review), which replaces the Nolan N85 (review), all came in our favorite "Nolan silver" color scheme.

Besides the paint and clearcoat, the rest of the N91 and its moving parts feel solid also. The chin vent especially has a precise feel, as does the top vent. Now if only the openings were a bit wider...but we'll get to that.

The liner is comfortable and nicely padded and the rotating flip-up visor has a dual safety release. It snaps smartly when it hits the detent holding the visor in the raised position and the N91 even has a lock on the left side to hold the rotating flip-up visor open so you don't get an unexpected door slam at the petrol stop.

One nit we can pick is the plastic latch assembly that holds the rotating flip-up visor closed. The plastic seems thick enough, and we don't know if it works any better at locking the visor than the thin sheet metal found in other helmets. But this is one area that probably accounts for the difference in price between that Schuberth C3 and the N91.

The rotating flip-up visor feels solid enough and locks shut; we couldn't pull it open even using a substantial amount of force. The helmet shell also feels very solid when it's squeezed at the bottom.

So overall, the Nolan N91 is really an outstanding example of a modern flip-up motorcycle helmet. Not long ago, you couldn't buy a helmet like this at two or even three times the cost. There's also a big difference between this helmet and the typical generic flip-up retailing for around $75.00 less. In this case, you pay a little but more but you get a lot more.

Score: We give the Nolan N91 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 N91 Helmet Slide Show
Nolan N91 Front View Nolan N91 Front Quarter View Nolan N91 Rotating Flip-up Visor Nolan N91 Side View Nolan N91 Rear Quarter View Nolan N91 Rear View Nolan N91 Eye Port Nolan N91 Chin Strap Microlock Nolan N91 Visor Release Mechanism Nolan N91 Helmet Liner
  • Nolan N91 Front View
  • Nolan N91 Front Quarter View
  • Nolan N91 Rotating Flip-up Visor
  • Nolan N91 Side View
  • Nolan N91 Rear Quarter View
  • Nolan N91 Rear View
  • Nolan N91 Eye Port
  • Nolan N91 Chin Strap Microlock
  • Nolan N91 Visor Release Mechanism
  • Nolan N91 Helmet Liner
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Nolan N91 Helmet Fit, Internal Shape and Liner

The internal fit and shape of the N91 feels very similar to the N90, so as with several sections in this review, the wording will seem similar if you've also read the N90 review.

The N91 has a "Neutral" internal shape that tends just towards round on top but is slightly tight on the sides. It should be a comfortable fit for the majority of owner head shapes. For example, like the N90, the internal shape of the N91 even fits "Round" heads like me, so we'll also call the N91 a "Neutral" in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes chart.

On thing's for sure -- the N91 feels very solid with the rotating flip-up visor closed. In fact, on at least two rides, I forgot that I was wearing a flip-up when I arrived back at the garage. The N91 just feels and "rides" more like a full-face helmet than just about any other flip-up I've tried. Indeed, now that I think about it, the N91 feels more like a full-face helmet than some full-face helmets!

Our N91 is an ECE 22.05 version; Nolan makes two separate helmet shells and homologates both separately for the ECE and DOT standard. No dual labeling here, as Nolan says it's not possible to make a shell that will pass both standards. In fact, they have purchased and tested a few dual-labeled helmets (helmets labeled as meeting both DOT and ECE standards) and they discovered that those helmets don't fully meet either standard.

In any case, there may be some differences in fit and internal shape between our ECE helmet and the DOT version of the N91, but we don't think so, as Nolan sounded pretty confident that both helmets have the same specifications.

Our N91 is a size XL and we do think it fits more like a size L and will fit a maximum head circumference of about 61 cm. "Neutral" to maybe "Slight Round" head shapes should fit. Over 61 cm though, it's up to the XXL size for you, the largest of the N91 range, which starts at XS.

The removable liner has the Nolan "Clima-Comfort" washable fabric with the same type of large neck roll found on the N90 for wind and noise reduction. This extra section of neck roll is thickly padded on on the N91 and has a soft feel.

Also similar to the N90, there are no defined ear pocket cavities on the N91. The small indents in either side of the EPS for the Nolan N-Com Bluetooth intercom system speakers are there but the relatively thick liner over the speakers may dampen the sound quality of your intercom system.

The absence of defined ear pockets makes the sides feel a bit tighter than they probably are but it helps eyeglass wearers, because the temples of the eyeglasses can't get caught in a pocket that isn't there. The Randolph Engineering Aviator (review) fit with no problems.

The N91 has a chin curtain installed on the rotating flip-up visor with some reflective material, which is repeated on the back of the helmet liner with a pattern that is slightly different from the N90.

The helmet has adequate chin room but the chin bar seems very tall at approximately 100 mm, so it does impede vision out the eye port slightly. Curiously, the back of the chin bar is not molded to accept the N-Com microphone like the N90.

webBikeWorld Internal Shape Estimator: Nolan N91
Narrow Med. Narrow Slight Narrow Neutral Slight Round Med. Round Round
Helmet Shape
Helmet Shape
Helmet Internal Shape Examples (see more Motorcycle Helmet Shapes)
Arai
Profile
Scorpion
EXO-700 Neon
KBC
Tarmac
AGV
Stealth
Arai
RX-Q
Bell
Arrow
Arai
Quantum II

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: We'll give the Nolan N91 an "Outstanding" rating for shape, comfort and padding with a comfortable liner and padding.

Nolan N91 Helmet Liner
The Nolan N91 liner is comfortable and removable and has a large neck roll.
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Nolan N91 Face Shield, Eye Port and Outward Visibility

The face shield, rotating flip-up visor and internal sun visor on the N91 appear to be identical to those used on the N90. Just for kicks, we measured the thickness of the face shield on the N91 at 2.2 mm, identical to the N90.

Nolan is a vertically integrated company, making everything right down to the moldings, face shield and even the Pinlock right in their own factory in Italy. The face shield is made from Lexan and has UV 400 protection and it has excellent optical qualities.

The eye port of the N91 has slightly better than average horizontal sight lines, but the vertical plane is less than average due to the thick 100 mm tall chin bar.

The N91 now comes with the Pinlock anti-fog insert (review) installed. This was installed on the European version of the N90 but it was optional on the U.S. version. If you don't like the Pinlock insert, which can cause slight halos around headlights at night, try the Clarity Defog It (review) anti-fog coating.

The face shield on the N91 still raises through five positions, and again we wish that the first opening was a touch smaller than the 20 mm or so for the first detent. Otherwise, the face shield on the N91 feels identical to the N90; it 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 on either the N90 or N91, 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.

Rotating Flip-up Visor

The rotating visor on the N91 also feels identical to the N90. It has a smooth and secure 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.

Internal Sun Visor

The N91 includes the internally rotating sun visor that appears to be lifted directly from the N90. It works via a slider on the left-hand side of the helmet.

The slider is located at an angle, just next to the split line formed by the rotating flip-up visor. It works smoothly and can be stopped at any position and held by friction.

The sun visor on the N91 appears to be identical to the sun visor used in the N90, with a cutout for the noise along the bottom that is visible in my peripheral vision, but overall it works well and seems to add little extra weight to the helmet.

webBikeWorld Eye Port Visibility Estimator: Nolan N91
Visibility Poor Below Average Average Above Average Outstanding
Top to Bottom
Side to Side

Score: The Nolan N91 visibility is rated as "Very Good". The tall chin bar is a slight impediment to vision out the bottom of the eye port.

Nolan N91 Helmet Top Vent
Nolan N91 top vent.
Nolan N91 Helmet Chin Vent
Redesigned chin vent.
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Nolan N91 Ventilation and Air Flow

The vents have been completely redesigned on the Nolan N91 compared to the N90. The chin vent on the N91 has a tight-feeling snap rocker switch and the air has to flow up and over the vent opening. This type of system usually impedes air flow but it seems to work pretty nicely on the N91, despite the fact that there are no direct air channels through that big, wide (tall, actually) chin bar.

The narrow built-in chin curtain helps block some unwanted air from flowing in underneath the chin bar and I think it helps make the chin vent more efficient also.

The top vent opens with a big ribbed plastic slider that has a tight feel. The vent cover opens in the front to two narrow positions: 2 mm and 4 mm measured vertically. Underneath the cover are a pair of small holes that appear to be about 3-4 mm in diameter.

Each hole flows air down through matching holes in the EPS, but the air is blocked to a certain extent by the liner along the top of the N91. Bottom line? The top vent isn't as efficient as we'd hoped; we can't feel a strong air flow but there is some ventilation along the upper part of the helmet and through the channels in the EPS that direct the exhaust out the back.

webBikeWorld Opinionator: Nolan N91 Ventilation
Location Poor Below Average Average Above Average Outstanding
Top/Upper
Chin/Face

Score: We'll rate the ventilation system of the Nolan N91 as "Very Good" overall.

Nolan N91 Helmet Sun Visor

Nolan N91 Visor Rotator and Removal System
Face shield removal, sun visor switch, lock for flip-up visor and Nolan N-Com intercom port.
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Nolan N91 Sound Levels

The N91 seals up pretty tightly when the rotating flip-up visor is closed and locked (as it should be whenever you're riding). This, and the fairly robust neck roll, helps keep noise levels under control.

We'd say that the N91 is a bit less noisy than average when riding an unfaired bike, and that's very good for a flip-up helmet. Most/many flip-ups can be pretty noisy, due to the various openings and cracks that usually have seals with poor tolerances, allowing air and noise to seep in.

One quirk we noticed on the N91 is that if the helmet is a correct match to the head shape, with a firm seal between the liner and head, there seems to be a sort of pressure built up inside. When riding behind a windscreen or fairing, some noise can be heard along the sides of the helmet, but we noticed as soon as the face shield is cracked open, the noise levels actually drop.

This is unusual and I can't remember this happening on any other helmet we've reviewed. It's more of a quirk than an annoyance and it probably says something about the way the N91 is constructed more than anything else.

So this is a tough helmet to rate for noise control. We'll call it slightly quieter than average for now and hope to learn more from owners as the helmet becomes available.

webBikeWorld Opinionator: Nolan N91 Noise Levels
Location Very Quiet Quieter Average Louder Very Loud
Upper
Lower

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 earplugs (even when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems) and (usually) a helmet liner. It is strongly recommended that hearing protection is used when riding a motorcycle.  See the wBW Earplugs and Hearing Protection page 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 N91 a "Very Good" rating for average noise control.

wBW Video: Nolan N91 Helmet
Helmet Weight

This Nolan N91 in size XL weighs 1809 grams, or 3 lbs. 15-3/4 oz. This puts it around the same weight as other flip-up helmets like the HJC IS-Max (review) in size L/XL at 1803 grams; the Caberg Justissimo (review) in size large at 1806 grams; the Bell Revolver (review), also in size large at 1808 grams; the Shoei Neotec (review), size large at 1812 grams and the old Schuberth C2 (review) in size XL at 1827 grams.

The solid build quality, good fit (for us) and the shape and aerodynamics give the N91 good balance, so the extra weight isn't really noticeable when riding.

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'll give the Nolan N91 a "Very Good" rating for its weight with good balance.

Nolan N91 Helmet Rear Exhaust Vent

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Miscellaneous

The N91 uses the new "Microlock2" chin strap retainer and the padding is adequate. Nolan provides a five year warranty on the helmet. The N91 meets the ECE 22.05 standard when sold in Europe and the DOT standard when sold in the U.S.

It might be difficult to fit a third-party intercom to the Nolan N91, due to the design of the gasket along the bottom and the built-in port for the Nolan N-Com intercom system.

webBikeWorld Overall Opinionator: Nolan N91
Picks...
...and Pans
  • Outstanding overall quality.
  • Comfortable liner.
  • Tight, solid feel with rotating flip-up visor closed.
  • Good ventilation.
  • Upper ventilation could be better.
  • No defined ear pockets.
  • Noise increases in turbulent air.
  • Less weight would be nice.
  • Tall chin bar decreases forward visibility.
Conclusion

The Nolan N91 is an evolution of the N90 and the most significant area that has been addressed is a redesign of the ventilation system. Some owners complained about weak top vent covers on the N90 and the N91 system should be more robust.

The best features of the N91 are the solid feel with the rotating flip-up visor locked shut. The helmet feels more like a full-face than a flip-up when riding.

Nolan N90 owners may not find enough here to upgrade, but anyone looking for a high-quality flip-up that feels much more solid than average should definitely take a look.

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wBW Review: Nolan N91 Helmet
Manufacturer: Nolan Group S.p.A.
U.S. Importer/Distributor: Nolan USA
List Price: $299.95
Sale Price:
$227.00 here
Colors: Solids. Made In: Italy
Sizes: XS to XXL. Shell Sizes: 2. Star Rating (1-5): Four Star Rated
Review Date: September 2013
Ratings Scale: For reference, our ratings scale is subjective and ranges from Unacceptable to Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.
Note: Item was provided by a retailer, distributor or manufacturer with these Terms and Conditions.

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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