by Bill C. for webBikeWorld.com
The Nolan N94 is a very lightweight helmet with super-cool Casey Stoner replica graphics.
It has a neutral fit and an interesting new type of visor release.
Otherwise it's fairly average and very loud, probably due to minimal padding around the back and bottom of the helmet.
We blew it!
We've had this Nolan N94 Casey Stoner replica helmet kicking around for several weeks.
I was working on the review, hoping to post it on the day that Casey Stoner took the MotoGP Championship, which has been inevitable since about half-way through the season.
(Editor's Note: We blew it?? WE?? What's with this "we" stuff??)
So along comes Sunday's MotoGP race at Motegi, which started on a wet track, usually a portent for a complete mixup in the normal finishing order.
Surely Stoner would wait until the next race to take the Championship with a win on his home turf in Australia? This would give me 3 more weeks to finish the review.
You know the rest: Rossi chokes and Stoner gains enough points to win the Championship at Motegi.
Thanks, Casey! So I'm rushing this review for publication with apologies for the brevity.
(Editor's Note: Let me get this straight: So it's Stoner's fault the review wasn't done in time??)
The N94 is Nolan's top-of-the-line racing helmet. It was developed by Casey Stoner, along with Marco Melandri and other racers.
The helmet's main feature is the bag molded composite fiber shell, which makes it very light at 1499 grams.
It's one of the lightest full-face size XL helmets we've reviewed (see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart that compares the weights of all of the helmets we've reviewed).
The N94 is not yet available in the U.S.A. and I'm not sure if it will be anytime soon, especially with the incredibly weak greenback -- the price of the N94 Stoner replica is astronomical.
We thought for sure that the N94 Casey Stoner replica would be a big hit, but I don't think Nolan full-face helmets are all that popular in the U.S.A. for a variety of reasons, one of which is, it doesn't snow up on the Nolan U.S.A. website.
At this time, there doesn't appear to be an official Nolan web presence in the U.S.A. So don't expect the N94 here anytime soon...
By the way, the N94 is also available in four other replica graphic patterns, but why bother? Stoner's the champ!
The N94 in the Casey Stoner replica graphics is a real stunner.
The colors are deep and vibrant, and although you may notice that the pattern isn't exactly the same as Stoner's real helmet, it's a pretty close approximation.
The clear coat seems thick and the overall paint quality is high. But otherwise the helmet doesn't break any new ground; in fact, it seems like a rather conservative and almost boring design overall.
I'm also not too keen on the top vent chamber assembly, which is stuck on to the top of the helmet shell without much finesse.
It all fits rather well, but just seems uninspired, like it was designed to be as simple as possible (perhaps to save weight?) and glued on top as an afterthought.
The operation of the vent mechanism on both vents is adequate (see below), as is the visor, but both are fairly normal and, in fact, don't look much different than what might be found on many $200 helmets.
Since the N94 Stoner replica retails for £315.00, which is about $636.00, you'd think you'd get a bit more pizzazz. 600-plus bucks is a lot of dosh for a helmet...
Score: I'll give the N94 Stoner replica a "Good" for paint, graphics and quality, but if I was scoring it on value, it would be quite a different story (see ratings scale in summary table below).
The N94 is pretty comfortable, mostly because of the silky-feeling liner. There's not a heck of a lot of padding inside, which becomes a noise issue as we'll see, but the liner material makes up for it to some extent.
"Unitherm" is Nolan's name for the microfiber fabric; the material is supposed to keep the rider "warm and dry in cold weather conditions and cool when hot".
I've been wearing the helmet in some pretty toasty temperatures and the fabric does seem to work as designed and I do notice that it stays relatively dry inside.
The liner is removable and cheek pads are available in a variety of widths for a custom fit.
Also, the helmet has no padding over the ear pockets. Some hard pieces of plastic are fitted instead, and I think this affects the noise levels, as we'll see.
Score: I'll give the N94 a "Good" rating for fit and comfort.
The N94 has a neutral fit, with slightly narrow sides but round on top. It should fit a variety of head shapes from barely long oval to round, but true long oval shapes may find that the helmet puts some pressure on the forehead.
I do notice that, like many other "full race" helmets, the Nolan N94 is slightly shorter in the top-to-bottom dimensions, and my chin sticks out just a touch from the bottom of the helmet.
I think they try to shave off as much of the shell as possible in this type of helmet to save every gram of weight.
For more information on motorcycle helmet internal shapes and selecting and fitting motorcycle helmets, see the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page.
Score: I give the helmet a "Very Good" rating for its relatively neutral fit.
The N94 has some fairly basic venting, with switch-operated chin and top vents. The chin vent has a positive opening and closing, with a different configuration than most street helmets.
The two vents fold open downwards, which helps direct air into the helmet when the rider is in a racing tuck.
This is fine for racing, but not so fine at legal street speeds or when the rider isn't splayed out over the fuel tank.
When the rider is in a more upright riding position, the air flows more directly on to the vents, then has to find its way up and over the vent opening and down into the helmet.
There are two filtered ducts through the chin bar, but I don't really notice a lot of air flow from the chin vents unless my head is tilted forward in a sort of motorcycle racing position.
The top vent also opens and closes with a switch, and you'd think that the switch would operate front-to-rear to match the operation of the chin vent -- forward to close, backward to open would make sense.
Instead, the switch operates side-to-side, and I always have to look at the helmet before a ride to remember which direction opens the vent and which direction closes it: right to close, middle for half-open and left for full open.
Thankfully, the vent does seem to work at street speeds and I do feel the air coming in, partly because the liner is fairly thin on top and has some mesh openings that allow the air to flow down on to the rider's head.
The N94 has no rear or side exhaust vents, which I think is rather strange.
Score: Overall, I give the N94 a "Good" rating for venting and air flow.
The clear visor has a tab in the center for raising and lowering, and once you get used to this location, it actually works pretty well. It also prevents the visor from twisting as it is being raised.
There are only four detents to hold the visor open, which I guess is adequate for racing. The visor has a switch lock on the left-hand side, which prevents it from opening at speed.
The visor fits tightly to the eye port gasket seal, but it does seem to have a wider-than-normal gap between the visor and the shell. I would think some air would catch in there at high speeds, but who knows?
The eye port seems narrower in both the top-to-bottom and side-to-side dimensions than other helmets, which is also a surprise to me. The top of the eye port is in my field of vision when riding, especially when leaned forward.
Various colored tinted visors are available as replacements, along with visors pegged for tear-offs. The standard visor is claimed to be treated with anti-fog coating, but the weather has been too warm to evaluate this feature.
The visor uses yet another new type of removal mechanism.
It took me a while to figure out how it works: raise the visor, then push in a small button, slide the visor down and then out. It pops back in fairly easily, but doesn't seat until the visor is lowered.
It works, but somehow doesn't seem as robust as other helmets I've worn. Although it's mucho better than Arai's old-fashioned and complex visor attachment system...
Score: I'll give the N94 a "Good" for the quality of the visor, its centrally located tab and the visor seal against the eye port.
The light weight and aerodynamics of the N94 seem to prevent most of the movement that can occur from buffeting and cross-winds.
However, my opinion is that the N94 is a very noisy helmet; in fact, I'd say it's among the loudest helmets I've tried, and I've tried plenty.
The problem seems to be caused by a gap in the liner between the cheek pads and the helmet liner, just where the back of the cheek pads end.
When I'm wearing the helmet, I can easily stick my finger up into this gap all the way up behind my ears. I can feel the hard plastic liner in the gap and under the thin padding in the rear of the helmet.
Compounding this, the bottom of the helmet shell on the sides has a slight upward scallop, and this seems to cause the air and turbulence to flow up into the back of the helmet at this critical area, just at the gap between the liner and the cheek pad.
The bottom part of the liner is also comparatively thin, which also doesn't do much to block the air flow and turbulence.
And the helmet liner in the back of the helmet is also very thin, which doesn't offer much insulation from ambient noise.
The result is that the helmet transmits a very loud wind rushing noise; not necessarily the low-frequency "booming" noise that is usually caused by windscreen turbulence, but just a continuous loud air blast noise that seems to start around 30 MPH and continues.
It's so loud that I honestly can't wear this helmet for extended periods, and I always wear high-quality, properly fitted ear plugs when riding.
Now perceived noise levels are highly variable and are based on owner opinions and can vary depending upon the way the helmet fits.
We always wear correctly inserted earplugs when we ride -- see the wBW Earplugs and Hearing Protection page for more information on choosing and wearing ear plugs.
For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.
Score: Sorry, I'll have to rate the N94 as "Unacceptable" when it comes to noise; it's one of the loudest helmets I've ever worn, both behind a fairing and on a "naked" bike.
The N94 may cut some corners, but it pays off in the weight department. Our size XL weighs just 1499 grams (3 lbs., 4-7/8 oz.), which puts it among the lightest full-face helmets we've reviewed.
But you know what? We've learned over the years that weight isn't everything -- in fact, it's not really that important.
Fit, comfort and balance are crucial, and we've found that some heavier helmets just feel better because they fit correctly and they're comfortable.
I'd much rather the N94 add a few grams in padding and noise control. This brings up the issue of the value of race helmets for the street, although I suppose some amateur racers may use helmets of this type also.
For street use, the graphics would be cool but more creature comforts would be appreciated.
See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart that compares the weights of all of the helmets we've reviewed.
Score: The N94 gets an "Outstanding" when it comes to light weight, but it comes at the expense of some other important characteristics.
The N94 uses the preferred D-ring chin strap, and the strap includes a nice snap to secure the loose end.
Casey Stoner fans will surely want this helmet, but to be honest, my feeling is that there isn't really a compelling reason to own it. It is a rather conservative design and I just don't feel that it's worth over $600.00.
The extreme noise levels make it very uncomfortable for me, so it's ended up gracing a shelf, making it an expensive indulgence.
|wBW Review: Nolan N94 Helmet|
|Manufacturer: Nolan Helmets||List Price 2007): £315.00|
|Colors: Five different replica graphics.||Made In: Italy|
|Review Date: February 2011|