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X-Lite X-551

X-Lite X-551 Helmet Review
X-Lite X-551 Helmet Review
by Bill C. for webBikeWorld.com

More: wBW Reviews Home  |  wBW Motorcycle Helmet Reviews  |  Owner Comments (Below)


Summary

The X-Lite X-551 is a new-for-2011 Adventure Touring helmet by X-Lite (Nolan).

It was introduced at the 2010 EICMA show in Milan and first previewed in this report by webBikeWorld.com.

The X-551 is a high-quality Adventure Touring helmet (X-Lite calls it a "Crossover" helmet) and it's stylish and has excellent ventilation.

X-Lite also claims that the X-551 is the world's first Adventure Touring helmet that includes an internal sun visor and it's ready for the Nolan N-Com Bluetooth intercom system.

It's also very light weight for this type of helmet, especially considering it includes the internal sun visor.

Background

More than one webBikeWorld evaluator has admitted to some puzzlement over the "Adventure Touring" or "Enduro" styled helmets like the X-Lite X-551.

These are basically motocross helmets with a face shield and their popularity has risen with the tide of Adventure Touring motorcycles that have pretty much revitalized the entire motorcycle industry.

How's that? Well, just as high insurance costs and anti-sportbike feelings in the UK and elsewhere have started to put a damper on sales, the Adventure Touring bike has taken up the slack.

Of course, this isn't news to BMW owners, who know that the marque invented what's now called Adventure Touring way back in 1980. The interesting history of what is probably the most influential motorcycle of modern times is told in the book "BMW GS Adventure Motorcycle: A 30-Year Catalog: A 30-Year History (review)".

And the bikes just keep on coming, with Triumph and Aprilia both recently jumping on the bandwagon.

Part of the attraction of these bikes is their all-purpose, rough-and-ready persona, along with the endless amount of fun to be had in farkling them out to the max.

But don't forget -- once your GS is ready to make that Vladivostok to St. Petersburg run, you'll need to dress the part!

That's where the X-Lite X-551 comes in. Match it up with an outfit like the Rev'it Defender GTX (review) and a pair of Sidi Crossfire Boots (review) and you're ready to take on the world. Literally.

So what makes the X-551 different from the rest? Well, the quality of the construction is one thing; the light weight due to the X-Lite composite shell is another. And offhand I can't think of another Adventure Touring style helmet with an internal sun visor?

That the helmet is so light including the sun visor is an amazing technical feat. This type of helmet is generally heavier than a full-face helmet, with the additions coming from the increased size of the chin bar and the peak on top that defines the genre.

This is where the Nolan/X-Lite composite shell manufacturing experience comes in and you can read all about that in the Nolan Helmet Factory Tour Report published last fall. When you're done with that, let's take a closer look at the new X-Lite X-551!

X-Lite X-551 - Top View
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The X-Lite X-551 Helmet - Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality

The X-551 comes in two versions, the "Start" version shown here in Silver, along with black, matte black and white. The "Hyper" version comes in black with a white stripe or white with a black stripe. There's a photo of the Hyper version at the bottom of the Nolan Helmet Factory Tour Report page.

The silver paint on this one is of outstanding quality, perfectly applied and with no orange peel or dust tumbleweeds to be found. Nolan is proud of the environmentally-conscious water-based paint system they developed, and rightly so.

This helmet also has that "hard" clear coat finish found on other Nolan helmets we've reviewed; it seems "harder" than other clear coats, with a different feel that has the promise of keeping the helmet looking good over the long term.

The fittings and parts on the X-551 also have a good feel, especially the top "peak" that, along with the extended chin bar, defines the Adventure Touring style of motorcycle helmet. Some of the other helmets of this type that we've reviewed have a loose-fitting peak that feels like it will pop off with minimal encouragement, but this one feels about as solid as they get.

The liner is also comfortable and it uses high quality materials. In fact the X-551 has the X-Lite "Unitherm Light Racing Comfort" liner and padding found in the high-end X-Lite full-face race helmets. It's very similar to the liner used in the top-of-the-line X-Lite X-802 used by racers like Casey Stoner.

The chin vent and top vents on the X-551 also snap open and closed with a solid feel, and the face shield also feels tight, so the overall impression is good and that the X-551 is more than just a basic helmet thrown together to exploit the Adventure Touring trend. It feels like the real deal.

The composite shell also feels very strong and has very little flex. This forms a solid structure for the helmet that I think helps with the overall quality of the X-551 because the peak and face shield and other parts feel more secure as they are mounted to the solid shell.

Score:  I'll give the X-Lite X-551 an "Outstanding" rating for paint and overall quality. See the Summary Table at the end of this page for a description of our rating system.

X-Lite X-551 Slide Show
x-lite-x-551-front-view x-lite-x-551-front-quarter-view x-lite-x-551-side-view x-lite-x-551-rear-view x-lite-x-551-sun-visor x-lite-x-551-peak x-lite-x-551-reflectivity
  • x-lite-x-551-front-view
  • x-lite-x-551-front-quarter-view
  • x-lite-x-551-side-view
  • x-lite-x-551-rear-view
  • x-lite-x-551-sun-visor
  • x-lite-x-551-peak
  • x-lite-x-551-reflectivity
X-Lite X-551 Helmet Fit, Internal Shape and Liner

The X-551 shown here is a size large, but feels smaller, closer to a medium. The Editor confirmed with Nolan that this helmet isn't a pre-production version, and although Nolan said they believe the fit is correct for a size large, based on our experience, this one does fit more like a size medium.

The X-551 in size large is listed in the X-Lite catalog as fitting a 59-60 cm head, although based on this example, I think that probably should be 58-59 cm. This one fits smaller even than the non-standard Schuberth C3 (review) in size large, which is a 58-59 rather than the standard 59-60.

The internal shape is what we call a "Slight Narrow" shape in our scale of internal helmet shapes, which also adds to the feeling that the helmet runs smaller than expected. I'm doing the evaluation and review of this helmet because my head shape and size is a closer match to the helmet.

In any case, once you find the correct size, the X-551 provides a comfortable fit and the liner material helps here also; it's smooth and soft-feeling. The padding has a bit of puffiness to it, although it is just a tad on the thin side. Both the liner and the cheek pads are removable.

Nolan lists their shell sizes, unlike some of the other helmet companies that seem to think this is Double-Naught Spy secret "Eyes Only" James Bond information. The X-551 has 3 shell sizes to cover the range from XS to XXL, with the smallest shell fitting the XS and S; the medium-sized shell used for size M and L; and the largest shell size for XL and XXL.

I'd compare the fit of the X-551 as similar to but perhaps slightly narrower than the Caberg HyperX (review) or the (discontinued) Shoei X-Eleven (review) and ditto for the Scorpion EXO-700 (review).

The liner has no special provisions for eyeglass wearers but the shape of the cheek pad and ear pockets is such that I can slide in a pair of sunglasses with straight temples (i.e., no hooks that go over the ears).

The ear pockets are covered with layer of padding and the helmet is ready for the Nolan N-Com intercom system, so the EPS is molded to accept the speakers.

webBikeWorld Internal Shape Estimator: X-Lite X-551
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:  I'll give the X-Lite X-551 an "Excellent" rating for comfort and liner materials and padding, with the slight deduction for what may be sizing that runs smaller than expected.

X-Lite X-551 Liner
The X-Lite X-551 liner is removable and includes large sections of reflective material.
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X-Lite X-551 Face Shield, Internal Sun Visor, Eye Port and Visibility

One reason why this style of helmet is so popular is the excellent visibility they provide. The eye port on an Adventure Touring helmet is typically wide and tall and the chin bar design gives a roomy feeling compared to most full-face helmets, and that's just how I'd describe the X-551.

The 2.21 mm thick face shield on the X-551 has a nice, large lift tab on the lower left-hand side, which provides a good grip and is easy to find. The face shield does not have much flex, which can sometimes be a problem with this type of helmet. It rotates through 4 detents, although it does not have a small first defogging/ventilation position.

But that probably isn't needed, due to the larger area inside the chin bar and the excellent ventilation of the X-551. The face shield has a scratch-resistant and fog-resistant coating; I can't speak for the scratch resistance other than this one hasn't scratched, but the fog-resistant coating works well. The face shield also has the pins for the Nolan version of the Pinlock anti-fog insert (review).

The eye port gasket is thick and it is continuous and fully surrounds the eye port opening, with no water or air leakage detected. Due to the shape of the face shield on this type of helmet, it may need an occasional slight push at the center to seat it more tightly against the gasket when the face shield isn't shut tightly enough.

This is a characteristic of the Adventure Touring style helmet, due to the irregular shape of the eye port, which makes it difficult to get a precise fit. However, the X-Lite X-551 version is well-designed and the up/down movement has a firm feel that is better than average.

The X-Lite X-551 also has an internally rotating sun visor, and Nolan said that it is currently the only Adventure Touring helmet with this feature.

The sun visor design and function is nicely implemented on the X-551, with the slider located just behind the face shield on the upper left. The slider has a firm feel and a short engagement range, but with the right touch, the sun visor can be stopped in an intermediate position. But for the most part, it is an up-or-down only system.

It doesn't rotate down quite as far as I'd like, but the increased amount of view in this helmet masks that somewhat. The edges of the sun visor slope upwards at the sides at a shallow angle, which adds to the usefulness and keeps them out of the line of sight.

So overall, this is a good implementation of an internally rotating sun visor and the most surprising feature is that it doesn't seem to add much to the weight of the X-551.

webBikeWorld Eye Port Visibility Estimator: X-Lite X-551
Visibility Poor Below Average Average Above Average Outstanding
Top to Bottom
Side to Side  

Score:  I'll give the X-Lite X-551 an "Outstanding" rating for the overall quality and operation of the face shield and the visibility out the eye port. 

X-Lite X-551 - Face Shield Removal
The face shield release is located under the attachment for the peak. Internal sun visor slide is on the right.
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Ventilation and Air Flow

The X-551 has an excellent ventilation system, with the familiar Nolan flip-style top vent ports on top and a brow vent hidden underneath the peak.

The two top vents operate independently and they use the same type of system found on the Nolan N90 (review). Press one side and the vent cover pops open, with the open side acting as a tiny air scoop. Press again on the open side to close the vent.

The EPS liner in the helmet includes several air channels molded into the top and the air travels down through large ports molded below the vent openings. This is also the case for the brow vent, which opens with a single slider.

The rear exhaust vent is nicely shaped and formed underneath a cover that also acts as a spoiler. The assembly is nicely styled and integrated into the overall design and shape of the helmet.

The chin vent opens with a slider and although the vent opening doesn't seem that large, it provides a good volume of air because the X-551 chin bar includes air channels to direct the air along the upper section.

The chin bar includes a small chin curtain, and this could probably have been made larger, because the shape of the helmet allows a lot of air to flow up from underneath the chin bar. But overall, the X-551 has excellent air flow and the entire ventilation system does a good job.

webBikeWorld Opinionator: X-Lite X-551 Ventilation
Location Poor Below Average Average Above Average Outstanding
Top/Upper
Chin/Face

Score:  I'll give the ventilation system of the X-Lite X-551 an "Outstanding" rating.

X-Lite X-551 Top Vents
The top venting system includes dual top vents and a brow vent, both of which provide excellent air flow.
X-Lite X-551 Chin Vent
The X-Lite X-551 has a large chin vent and vents directly through the chin bar.
X-Lite X-551 Rear Exhaust Vent
The rear exhaust on the X-Lite X-551 is nicely integrated into the overall design.
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X-Lite X-551 Sound Levels

If it fits your head shape, the padding and fit of the X-551 should also work to provide a fairly quiet environment. I'd rate the X-551 as having a slightly better than average ability to keep noise levels at bay.

Based on my experience, I think the Adventure Touring helmets can be louder than average, with wind rushing noise sometimes generated around the peak and the chin bar, with noise that can also be generated from air rushing up under the front of the helmet.

But the X-551 seems to control all of this fairly well. There is some wind noise that comes through the top vents when they are open, which is more noticeable when sitting in certain upright positions where the vent covers catch the air in a particular way.

Also, the liner doesn't extend very far around the bottom; in other words, the so-called "neck roll" isn't as thick as it could be. So some noise is generated along the bottom of the helmet, more noticeable on motorcycles with a windscreen that directs the turbulence around the bottom of the helmet.

I think in general an Adventure Touring helmet isn't going to be able to control noise as well as some full-face helmets, but the X-551 is better than average for the type. So I'll give it an "Average" noise level rating.

webBikeWorld Opinionator: X-Lite X-551 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:  I'll give the X-Lite X-551 a "Very Good" rating for slightly better than average noise control.

wBW Video: X-Lite X-551 Helmet
Helmet Weight

The size large X-Lite X-551 shown here weighs in at 1594 grams (3lbs., 8-1/4 oz.), which is a lightweight when compared to some of the other Adventure Touring or Enduro styled helmets, especially considering the addition of the internal sun visor, which usually adds weight to a helmet.

For comparison, the X-551 weighs about the same as the size large full-face Arai RX-Q (review), which weighs 1597 grams. The size large Icon Variant (review) Enduro-styled helmet weighs 1697 grams, while the size large HJC IS-Max (review) weighs 1803 grams. The Nolan N90 flip-up (review) in size large weighs in at 1784 grams.

The X-551 feels well balanced, especially for an Adventure Touring helmet and the peak design minimizes lift, which is really only noticed at high speeds if the helmet is turned sideways.

Note also 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:  I'll give the X-Lite X-551 an "Excellent" rating for its relatively low weight.

Miscellaneous

The X-551 has a double D-ring chin strap attachment system with a metal snap retainer. X-Lite helmets have a five-year warranty. The helmet meets the ECE 22.05 safety standard (more). This helmet is currently sold in the EU only.

webBikeWorld Overall Opinionator - X-Lite X-551
Picks...
...and Pans
  • Outstanding overall quality.
  • Excellent ventilation system.
  • Very good face shield system.
  • Comfortable liner and padding.
  • Outstanding warranty.
  • Solid construction and excellent styling.
  • Could use a slightly larger chin curtain to control air flowing up from under the chin bar.
  • Would be nice to have a smaller first opening for defogging.
  • Padding could be thicker around the bottom of the helmet.
Conclusion

The X-Lite X-551 is definitely one of the nicest-looking Adventure Touring styled helmets around and it also doesn't feel too large for its head size, probably because of the three shell sizes to span the head size range.

It has a quality feel, with all of the parts and the very well made and fitted. The very solid composite shell seems to add strength and also helps keep the weight down, and that does make a difference. The internal sun visor is a plus, a feature not often found on this type of helmet.

The X-551 isn't what I'd call a bargain, but I do think it's a good price for the overall value and quality of the helmet and I can't think of another Adventure Touring helmet I'd rather wear!

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wBW Product Review: X-Lite X-551 Helmet
Available From: X-Lite (Italy) List Price: "Start" Version: €419.00 (£324.99). "Hyper" Version: €416.00 (£359.99). This is approx. $440.00 USD with the 20.0% UK VAT reduction.
Colors: "Start" Version in Black, Silver, Matte Black, White plus Black or White with Stripes ("Hyper" version). Made In: Italy
Sizes: XS to XXL. Shell Sizes: 3 Star Rating (1-5): Four Star Rated
Review Date: March 2011
Note: Item was provided by a retailer, distributor or manufacturer with these Terms and Conditions.
Ratings Scale: For reference, our ratings scale is subjective and ranges from Unacceptable to Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.

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!

Your Comments and Feedback

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Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details).  Comments may be edited for clarity prior to publication.

From "S.B." (September 2011):  "I purchased an X-lite 551 in June after reading your review and could not agree more. It is an excellent helmet.

I had been searching the market for my first adventure touring helmet and the driving factor that beat out the competition is the internal sunshade. I wear prescription glasses and it is so nice not to have to swap out between two sets of glasses while riding. With the combination of visor and sunshade I never have any Sun issues.

Although it is set up to receive N-Com gear I found that Baehr speakers and boom microphone fit very well. Some very minor fine tuning of the interior foam and some hot glue and it works wonderfully.

Thank you for all your unbiased reviews!"

 

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