Nolan N43 “Air” Motorcycle Helmet Review
Excellent ventilation and wonderful visibility combined with comfort and very good build quality make this the new hot weather champ.
We’ve had our ups and downs with Nolan helmets — more downs than ups probably, but the new Nolan N43 is a definite winner.
Nolan is a curious company.
My feeling is that their helmet designs are a bit conservative and have a noticeably long product cycle, especially compared to a company like HJC, whose new product releases are positively corybantic in comparison.
For example, the N43 has a new type of flow-through ventilation system that works really well.
It features a new top vent and exhaust arrangement that pulls air up and through the helmet better than probably any other helmet we’ve reviewed.
The visor is very large and reaches down to the bottom of the chin bar and it offers excellent forward vision and it includes posts for installing a Pinlock anti-fog insert.
The N43 also has an internal sun visor, rubberized sliders for operating the vents and the visor and it’s ready for the Nolan N-Com intercom system.
And on top of all that, the chin bar is easily removable, allowing the N43 to be converted to an open-face “Jet” style helmet in 6 different configurations!
Just don’t try to find any information about the N43 on the Nolan website; as of the date of publication, there’s not a word. How do you release a brand new helmet as innovative as the N43 without at least posting some information on your website?
I don’t know — maybe this is some type of new marketing strategy that I’m just not getting…
And if I were in charge, I’d be shouting off the rooftops about this one, because the N43 is a winner. Many webBikeWorld visitors from around the world have been asking for suggestions on a good hot-weather helmet, and this is it.
Where to Buy Nolan N-43 HelmetCheck Reviews & Prices on Amazon Check Reviews & Prices On RevZilla
Nolan N43 Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality
Bad news first: a “Cherry” color is as wild as it gets, because the N43 is only available in a very subdued color palette that also includes Black, Matte Black, Silver and White.
[UPDATE: Several different colors and graphics are now available in Europe. A version of the N43, called the Trilogy, is marketed in North America. It meets DOT safety standards but it does not have the unique top air vent.
More information in the comments section at the end of this article. See our information on the U.S. version of the N43 Air, the Nolan N43 Trilogy helmet.]
At least the finish is nicely done. The silver metallic shown here features Nolan’s “Hi-Brite Protective Hard Coating”. I’m not sure what that really is, and again, there’s basically zip-o on the Nolan website.
The special finish is some type of hard clear coat — it feels “slippery” and initial impressions are that it should help keep the helmet looking good for a long time. The Hi-Brite finish seems to make it easier to clean off the bugs too.
Overall build quality is also excellent, with the exception of some unnerving flexibility in the shell.
You’d think that the designers of a modular helmet (i.e., with a removable chin bar) would go out of their way to make it feel sturdy, but the N43 has more flex in the shell and the chin bar than we’d like.
It does meet the ECE 22.05 safety standard (only) though, so we’ll have to assume it will protect as it should.
The removable chin bar, which is made from some type of semi-hard rather than hard material, doesn’t help, and the helmet has creaking and groaning sounds when you put it on and move it around — a bit disconcerting.
So depending on your definition of the word “quality”, the flexy shell may add or subtract from your overall score. But other than that, the build and the metal bits and the operation of the visors and the switchgear are all first-rate and they feel much better than the fitments on some of those really cheap helmets.
Score: I’ll give the Nolan N43 an “Excellent” rating for overall quality, surface finish and clear coat and excellent overall fit and finish. See the ratings descriptions in the summary table at the end of this page.
Nolan N43 Helmet Fit, Comfort and Internal Shape
The N43 has what I think may be a new and different fit for a Nolan helmet — a good thing, in my opinion. I’ve tried some of the other Nolans we’ve had floating around here and they all seemed to have a peculiar internal shape, at least for me.
They seem to tend towards the long oval; slightly more oval and tighter on the sides than what I’d consider a “neutral” fit.
But the N43 feels generous and tends towards the round side of neutral.
Due to many requests from webBikeWorld readers and some confusion regarding the original description of the way motorcycle helmets fit on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page, we’ve been playing with a better way to describe the internal shapes found in motorcycle helmets.
Seven categories pretty much covers it; any more would be confusing. Five might not do it, because we feel that there are also some “Medium Round” and “Medium Narrow” shaped helmets that are almost-but-not-quite fully round or fully narrow.
Most helmets seem to be either neutral or slightly to the right or left, or they are fully narrow or fully round.
The bottom row includes links to helmets that currently serve as the benchmark for the particular fit, and the red “X” indicates the helmet that is the subject of the review; in this case, the Nolan N43. If this works out, we will change the shape ratings on the Motorcycle Helmet Weights page to match. Remember, this is only an opinion.
Note that it usually isn’t possible to compare multiple helmets (or other products) for a variety of reasons that are detailed on this section of the Site Info page.
The N43 feels very comfortable, and the size XL feels just about right. I’d say it should fit about a 61.0 to 62.0 cm head, which is exactly the size range indicated on the helmet. I do think the N43 probably fits closest to the Shoei RF-1000 (review).
The chin bar does rest closer to my chin than I’d like — it doesn’t touch my chin but if I push my chin out just a bit, it reaches the back of the chin bar.
The helmet also has a slightly shorter vertical length than normal, and the bottom of my jaw sticks out slightly below the bottom of the helmet.
The Nolan “Clima-Comfort” liner feels comfortable and the padding is adequate, but not generous. The materials is certainly not as plush as an Arai, for example, but it’s better than many others.
The EPS foam portion of the liner is visible in several places, and it has special air channels to help with the ventilation.
Some sections of the liner are thin where they cover the foam, but these thinner sections must be strategically placed, because I don’t really feel any hot spots. The liner is removable and washable.
The foam has cutouts at the ears for what I assume are the Nolan speakers that come with the N-Com system.
This helmet has the N-Com location on the outside left side of the helmet and the microphone cutout at the bottom of the liner, but no N-Com is installed, so apparently the N-Com system is an option to be added by the customer at this time.
I can fit my thin-framed sunglasses inside the N43, but the helmet shape does press on the tips of the sunglass hooks located in back of my ear. This is probably a quirk due to my head shape, but I thought I’d mention it.
As always, make sure you try the helmet on before buying, and try a variety of sizes. The smallest size that fits comfortably is usually the safest.
For more information on choosing and fitting a motorcycle helmet, please see the wBWMotorcycle Helmet FAQ page, which also includes a discussion on head shapes.
Score: I’ll give the Nolan N43 an “Excellent” rating for conformance to fit and liner comfort.
Real innovation in motorcycle helmet design is apparently rather difficult, probably due to the constraints of having to meet worldwide safety standards. Although we have seen more innovation recently than in any other time in the past, with helmets like the Shark Evoline (review)and the Givi X.01 (review) as examples.
In addition to the N43’s overall shell shape, which is different, with a sort of tapered and folded “boat tail” rear that looks great and perfectly accents the design, the most obvious innovation on the N43 has to be the ventilation system.
The top vent assembly has a front intake, which operates independently and sits behind a louvered vent opening. But see those translucent covers on either side of the black vent assembly?
They slide horizontally into the center of the helmet, opening two huge exhaust ports.
This system really works — as soon as I get up to about 20 MPH, I can feel the system working, almost like someone turned on a fan at the top, sucking the air out. The air flows up through the helmet and out the top. Very nice — especially since it’s been about 85 degrees F lately!
I wonder if Nolan has applied for some international patents on this design — I sure would if it was my invention!
The beauty of this system — besides performance — is that it’s so simple, and everything is contained in the top assembly. Although the rest of the helmet design is an integral part of the ventilation system also.
The helmet has two additional exhaust ports out the back, also covered by a dual set of louvers that match the look at the front of the helmet.
By the way, the N43 fits our definition of a true “modular”, with its removable chin bar. This is compared to the traditional “flip-up”.
Overall, the Nolan N43 has now taken over the top spot for warm-weather helmets from the Givi X.01 (review) and the Schuberth J1 (review). The only thing that’s really missing is a vent in the removable chin bar, but
Score: I’ll give the Nolan N43 an “Outstanding” rating for excellent ventilation, especially at the top.
This Nolan N43 in size XL weighs 1579 grams (3 lbs., 7-3/4 oz.). This puts it in about the bottom 1/3 of helmet weights of the motorcycle helmets reviewed on webBikeWorld.
For comparison purposes, some of its current neighbors on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page include the Fulmer D4 Evil Spell (XL) at 1576 grams; the Zox Azuma R (XL) at 1578 grams; theAGV Ti-Tech Rossi (XXL) at 1582 grams; the Arai Vector (XL) at 1583 grams; the Akuma V-1 Ghost Rider (L) at 1591 grams and the Givi X.01 Flip-up (XL) at 1592 grams.
The N43 feels well balanced when riding with no unusual tendencies towards lifting or buffeting.
See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a matrix and chart comparing the weights of all of the open-face, full-face and flip-up helmets we’ve reviewed.
Score: The Nolan N43 gets a “Very Good” rating for reasonable weight, along with good balance.
Face Shield and Internal Sun Visor
The N43 has an unusual face shield. It’s very large and covers most of the chin bar, with only a small spoiler protruding underneath. The spoiler is molded to and forms the lower part of the chin bar.
The face shield has very good optical qualities and provides excellent visibility in all dimensions, but especially out the front, which has to count for something in terms of a safety factor.
The face shield includes Pinlock studs, so a Pinlock anti-fog system (review) insert can be installed. The owner’s manual, which is printed in 9 languages, has some photos of this in the back.
The N43 has an internal sun visor, which operates via a slider on the left-hand side of the helmet. The slider has a rubber insert in the surface, which makes it easy to use.
The internal sun visor can be placed at any position in its full rotation, but like many other visors of this type, it could stand a bit more travel so that it would remain out of the rider’s line of sight.
It also has a cutout for the nose, and again like most of these visors, it would be better if it were cut straight across, which would minimize the distraction at the lower edge and also allow the visor to work as a sun shade when lowered to just above the eyes.
Score: I’ll rate the visor clarity, operation and visibility of the N43 as “Very Good”.
The N43 is what we call a true modular helmet, because the chin bar is removable. Push in two levers along the sides of the helmet shell (see video) and the chin bar is easily removable. It snaps right back in.
The package includes plastic inserts for covering the slots in the shell when the chin bar is removed, and also a separate opaque peak that can be installed on the helmet if the clear face shield is removed.
So the Nolan N43 Air actually is 6 helmets in one:
- Shell only with no chin bar, no clear face shield or peak;
- Open face helmet with no chin bar but with face shield or peak;
- No face shield but with chin bar installed (internal sun visor becomes face shield);
- Chin bar installed, no face shield (use sun visor) and peak installed;
- No chin bar and no peak but with clear face shield installed; and finally,
- With chin bar and clear face shield installed as shown in most of our photos.
Why they don’t sell the N43 Air in the U.S.A. and Canada is a mystery, because I think this helmet would be hugely popular with many riders and especially for touring.
[UPDATE: Nolan told us the unique top vents on the N43 Air would not meet DOT safety standards. They have now released the Nolan N43 Trilogy helmet (review) for the U.S. market.]
The chin bar is made from some type of semi-hard rubbery-feeling plastic. I wonder if the helmet shell would have more integrity and less flex if the chin bar was made from a hard polycarbonate or other material, but hopefully the softer material will absorb impact in case of a crash.
All things considered, the N43 is surprisingly quiet for this type of helmet or for a helmet with this amount of air flow. Some wind rushing noise can be heard, but it’s not too bothersome and the lower frequency “booming” noises at the bottom of the helmet that can be caused by windscreen turbulence are also fairly well controlled.
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: I’ll give the Nolan N43 a “Very Good” rating for noise control.
Nolan claims to specialize in polycarbonate (e.g. “plastic”) shells in most of their helmets (according to the Nolan website, the company “was established thanks to the genial idea of using an avant-garde plastic which could offer high mechanical performance”).
The N43 is a European helmet and (currently) meets ECE safety standards only. UPDATE: A DOT version called the N43 Trilogy is now sold in North America, but it does not have the unique top venting system of the European N43 Air.
The owner’s manual has an insert with a specific list of countries where the N43 is sold; 46 countries are listed, but (as of the date of this review) not the U.S.A. or Canada (see note in comments section below).
Nolan gives a very good 5 year warranty on the helmet.
The helmet uses a European-style “Microlok” chin strap retention system. This one seems on the thick side and is slightly uncomfortable under my chin.
The Nolan N43 is an innovative new helmet with many very nice features that make it a favorite warm-weather helmet, although it should work well in 3 seasons.
The ventilation and the way the air is “sucked” out the top of the helmet makes it very comfortable for hot-weather riding, and the versatility with the easily removable chin bar also adds a lot of functionality to the helmet. The price is also fairly reasonable, making the N43 a definite buy.
More: Nolan N43E Owner Report
Owner Comments and Feedback
See details on submitting comments.
From “T.V.” (May 2015): “Nolan 43e is the noise king of all my helmets — boo-hoo.”
Update From CIMA International, the U.S. Importer and Distributor for Nolan Helmets
(July 2009) “The Nolan N-43 will be available in the USA early September. It will not be the exact version that you reviewed, but it will come in two versions, and in 9 solid colors and 4 two-tone graphics.
To answer a couple of your remarks:
- New helmets released by a European company take a few months to be prepared and tested to pass DOT, which explains why the N-43 has been in Europe since last fall, and is coming here only now.
- We do not publish information about a new product unless we know that all the testing is done, and production can start, in short when we are ready to deliver the new product to the market.
- The chin bar of the N-43 is made of polycarbonate, with a EPS lining. In Europe, they test helmets as P (full-face) and J (open-face) for safety ratings. This helmets passes both standards of safety (P, when equipped with its chin bar and J without the chin bar). Here it will pass DOT.”
From “A.R.D.” (December 2011): “Managed to get the N-43 air (Thailand). Totally agree with the review, beautiful ventilation, almost too much at times. Great manufacturing tolerances, with the exception of the internal sun visor, a little loose.
The bit that gave me the most problem is the chin piece, does it seems to make the helmet fit tighter, does it happen with you guys as well? Don’t get me started on the visibility, sometimes I forget that I have a helmet on, it was so great. Over all. Really happy with the purchase.”
Editor’s Reply: As noted in the “Helmet Fit” section in the review, the front-to-back distance is a little short, but should loosen up slightly over time as the helmet breaks in.
From “M.B.” (July 2011): “I read with great interest your review of this helmet. Last week, I was shopping for a new helmet and I was very interested in this model, specifically because I must wear eyeglasses while driving.
At first, I tried several “full-face” models from different manufacturers (Shoei, Arai and, Nolan) and they all have the same problem: no matter what size tried (L and the XL) appropriate to my head size, they are all so tight that it makes it impossible to put them on while wearing my eyeglasses.
With my eyeglasses removed and the helmet on my head (with the visor “up”), its practically impossible to slide the thin stems of my eyeglasses between my temples and the helmet’s padding.
Then, I tried on the Nolan N-43 Trilogy. With the chin bar removed, the helmet was easy to slide on my head while wearing my eyeglasses. It fit like a glove.
Unfortunately, when I fully inserted the chin bar into the helmet, the chin bar was so tight against my jaw that I couldn’t move it freely. After a few minutes with the helmet on, the chin bar became very uncomfortable due its very stiff padding. This occurred with both sizes of helmets tried: a Large and an X-Large.
What a disappointment!!! I also question whether the chin bar’s rigid padding offers real protection in the event of a frontal impact. Being so stiff and close to the jaw, it would appear to me that it would transfer the full impact energy directly to my jaw instead of absorbing some of it. I’m concerned that I could end up with a broken jaw.
As a compromise, I bought the Nolan N-43 N-Con model instead. Its identical to the Nolan N-43 Trilogy, but without the chin bar.”
From “R.W.” (8/10): “The Nolan N43 N-COM. This is the helmet I got. There are a couple of differences between the Trilogy and the N43 N-COM, the obvious difference is that there is no chin guard with the N43 N-COM.
I thought I could exchange the chin guard plugs for a chin guard and I would have a Nolan N43 Trilogy. This might not happen. The N43 N-COM doesn’t have the latches that the Trilogy has. The latches allow for the removal of the chin guard. Instead I have the chin guard plugs that I think cannot be removed unless I undo a screw.
Would be nice to have the chin guard, even if it wasn’t removable. I sent an email and will try to update if I’m able to find any kind of info. I have to say breathing with the shield down and no chin bar is really nice. When I tried on the Trilogy, shield down/chin guard on, I remember the air circulation being better on other helmets (HJC, Shoei).
Other differences, the blue tinted screen on the N-COM. The screen doesn’t have studs for a Pinlock antifog insert but according to the website it does accept them. The blue tint is nice and didn’t plan on using any insert so I’m okay with that.”
From “J.S.” (3/10): “I had been looking for a replacement for my old Caberg Justissimo and after reading your review of the Nolan N43 “Air” decided I wanted to give one a try.
One of the major factors in my decision to go with the N43 was the reported amount of airflow created by the intake/exhaust system. So far the warmest day I’ve worn it was in the mid-80’s but from what I have experienced so far think it will work great in the south Florida summer heat only a few months away.
After searching online (all overseas) I managed to pick one up… I thought about trying the US DOT FMVSS 218 version (The Nolan N43 Trilogy) but the lure of the ventilation system was something I had to try. I ordered the helmet in the black and white “Motorrad” paint scheme and was very impressed by the quality of the finish. I would put it on-par or better than either Caberg or Shoei helmets I have had in the past.
The internal fit was as described in your initial review and the XL fits my head (oval shaped) perfectly with a good amount of padding throughout. One major problem I had with my past Caberg was the limited dimensions front to back with caused my chin to hit the front of the helmet when the flip was closed. The N43 on the other hand seems to have more generous front to back dimensions and I have had no issues of chin clearance.
The chin bar itself did seem a bit flimsy (as noted in your review) but, once installed, seems to add a good bid of rigidity to the helmet and was extremely easy to take on and off.
The overall weight of the helmet seems very light to be an well balanced while riding. Having used the heavier Caberg for the last 5 years it actually feels feather light to me and causes no excessive strain on the neck after being worn for multiple hours. The weights listed on the helmet are as follows:
Helmet (Size XL) – 1240g
Chin Guard – 95g
VPS (shield) – 45g
Internal Visor – 205g
The real selling point for me was the air intake/exhaust system on top of the helmet. On the first ride I left the vents closed and headed out on the highway to get an idea how it felt without the vents open. With the vents closed it seemed on-par with most helmets I have had in the past providing adequate airflow but nothing stellar.
This all changed when I opened up the top vents and the the reason for it winning the webBikeWorld helmet of the year became very clear. The amount of air moving through the helmet, especially on the top of the head, is unbelievable.
It still being late winter/early spring down in south Florida I cant say I have tried it in anything warmer than the mid 80’s but I am confident it will do well though the hot and humid summer months. I’ve had one brief encounter (30 minutes) in a moderate rain shower so far and saw very little fogging of the face shield and no leakage issues.
In my opinion, this is by and far the best helmet I have worn to date. High build quality, great fit, and versatile features combined with the excellent ventilation make it a must have for anyone riding in warm to hot climates. Strongly recommended.”
From “S.T.” (9/09): “First off….thank you for all the detailed reviews up on your site. I love it.
I have a little piece of input regarding the N43. I live in (Arizona) and was looking for a good hot weather helmet. The N43 has started appearing on US distributor websites and I almost bought one before I noticed one thing.
The US version is distributed under the name Nolan N43 TRILOGY. It is NOT the N43 AIR, but rather the N43 CLASSIC that is available in Europe, but with all the extra accessories of the AIR like peak, Chin guard etc. What’s missing from the TRILOGY and the CLASSIC is the venting on system on top that was so highly praised.
It may have been a price point decision rather than a safety decision.
Just thought it might come in handy for any US buyers who might not notice it straight away on the websites and be sorely disappointed when the package arrives! I know I would have been.”
Editor’s Note: See our information on the Nolan N43 Trilogy helmet.
From “E.H.” (6/09): “Dear Editor, Great review of the helmets. Congratulations.
We actually currently have this helmets in our (product) line in México. We distribute NOLAN in Mexico as (the) only distributors in the area (like CIMA). Great review and great helmet.
Just a quick note, this helmet is homologated as a FULL FACE / OPEN FACE helmet. Is a brand new certification. Name E3 P/J ( I’m assume you know E3 is country of made for ECE norm who is Italy).
From “E.A.” (6/09): “After reading your review I fired off an email to the U.S. distributor Cima International to see if they had any info on availability of the N43 Air. They haven’t heard when this helmet could see our shores. They weren’t sure if it would even be brought in; the earliest they think these helmets could show up is sometime in or after Fall. Major bummer dude!”
Editor’s Reply: Unfortunately, I’d be surprised if it ever made it to the U.S., to be honest. What’s also interesting is that apparently N43 information is available and visible on the Nolan (Italy) website for visitors who access it from Europe, but anyone who accesses the site from North America is blocked from even reading any information about the N43! Haven’t confirmed this yet, but working on it and it appears to be the case…
From “B.C.” (6/09): “I think this helmet as well as several other “jet” style helmets are very innovative and modern. However my noggin has a 25 in. circumference, which means a size 8 or XXXL helmets are required for me. Unfortunately, very few helmets exist in this size range.
Of the helmets that do, they are all old designs, don’t even have removable linings, and usually available in plain Jane colors. I feel fortunate to have even those available to me. But why oh why can’t us big skulled riders have access to some of these more modern helmet styles for a change?
Yeah, I know all about manufacturing economies and the cost of tooling and limited return. I am a mechanical engineer. I don’t need to hear that yet again. I’d just like to see some of the other helmet manufacturers like Nolan have a heart and look beyond the hard numbers and give us big heads something cool like the N43 to contain our brains in.
Speaking of XXXL helmets, just yesterday, I visited a local dealer, with high anticipation, to try on an Icon Airframe helmet in a XXXL. Well, what a disappointment. I knew it would be too small the instant it came out of the box. I double checked the label and it said XXXL alright, but I couldn’t even get it started over my head. How disgusting.
I guess I have to go back to the same old choices. It would seem they could get the sizing right. At least Shoei, Arai, and HJC have gotten the sizing right. I have owned those brands in the past. And HJC has removable liners and colors beside white, silver, black and blue in the line up.
I think us big heads need to speak up more on forums like this and get our voices heard by the manufacturers. Come on fellow bigheads, speak up!!!
Thanks for listening, webBikeWorld !!”
Editor’s Reply: I feel your pain…this is a big problem, pardon the pun! Many webBikeWorld visitors have complained about the same issue. See our Extra-Large Motorcycle Helmets page for more information.