It’s also a competitor to the new Shoei Neotec (review), yet the two helmets are quite different in many ways.
All of the moving parts on the N-104 have a very precise and high-quality feel, giving the helmet a solid countenance.
The N04 also has excellent ventilation and outstanding forward visibility out of the huge front eye port and face shield.
The fit and internal shape differs from the Shoei, making a choice between the two somewhat easier.
The price of the N-104 is also more reasonable than the Shoei, and that may also be a deciding factor for some.
The new Nolan N-104 was first previewed in this “N-104 First Look” exclusive report from the 2011 EICMA show in Milan in November of 2011, where the helmet was introduced to the world.
The N-104 is now ready to go, on sale in both Europe and the U.S.A.
It will be introduced to U.S. dealers at the upcoming Powersports Dealer Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 18-19, 2012.
As mentioned in the First Look report, the Nolan N-100 series of flip-up helmets — starting with the original N-100 from 1998 and continued with the Nolan N-102 (review) and the Nolan N-103 (review) — have been very popular with motorcyclists all over the world for many years.
So the N-104 is the latest of a long and storied line of high-quality flip-ups, and it’s ready to take the top spot in the Nolan helmet lineup.
Nolan has produced several other flip-up helmet designs, including the Nolan N-90 (review), which has been one of our favorites ever since it was introduced.
But even with the many different helmets of different brands released in 2011 and continuing in 2012, the N-90 holds its own — although the N-104 pretty much beats it in every way!
It was mentioned in the Shoei Neotec review that the Neotec was something of a paradox. Coincidentally, the N-104 is also because it’s both similar to, yet very different from the N-90 and the Shoei Neotec in several ways.
Actually, it’s amazing that two high-end flip-up motorcycle helmets can be so similar…yet so different!
The Nolan N-104: Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality
One of the first noticeable differences between the N-104 and the Neotec is the “feel” of the clear coat.
While both helmets have a thick- and protective-feeling clear coat, the Nolan clear coat is unique because it has a “hard” feel — almost like a sheet of glass is covering the helmet.
The Shoei clear coat also appears thick, but it has a completely different “feel” under the fingertips. It’s “softer”, if that makes sense. Both clear coats will probably do a great job, but it is curious at how different they feel.
We have mentioned the characteristic Nolan clear coat “feel” before, in the N-90 review and elsewhere. It’s not clear, if you’ll pardon the pun, how Nolan formulates their paint to make this happen.
But one thing’s for sure: all of the manufacturing is completed at the Nolan manufacturing facility in Italy.
That includes the painting of the helmets, applying the unique water-based clear coating process — even the face shields, sun visors and other helmet parts are all made in-house by Nolan.
The entire helmet making process was described (and includes a video showing the paint process) in the webBikeWorld article “Making a Nolan Motorcycle Helmet“, which takes you on a tour through the Nolan manufacturing facilities in Italy.
In fact, the “hard” Nolan clear coat feel illustrates the overall ambience of the N-104, which is one of precision. The helmet has a very precise feel overall and the moving parts have a “click-smooth” operation.
The N-104 can be compared to a BMW car, as compared to the Shoei’s “softer” Lexus-like ambience.
Of course, this is totally subjective, but we’re trying to put into words on your computer screen what our fingers and brain are telling us!
The N-104 is available in a much wider range of colors than the Neotec — and it even includes some graphics — quite radical for a flip-up helmet!
Along with the standard flip-up colors of black, white, gray and silver, the N-104 lineup is fortified by “Cab Yellow” and “Wine Cherry”.
Our “Platinum Silver” version perfectly matches the N-90 we have on hand, and it’s equally impressive, with perfectly applied color and zero “orange peel” with a very smooth and good-looking finish.
The Nolan “Action” graphics are available in white or gray and there’s even a “Voyage” graphic in yellow, anthracite and blue/white. All of the graphics are designed to match the overall shape of the helmet.
The spring-loaded rotating flip-up visor also adds to the precise feel of the N-104, as do all of the moving parts. And, of course, everything works as designed, which is always a plus!
Score: We give the Nolan N-104 an “Outstanding” rating for paint and build quality. See the Summary Table at the bottom of the page for a description of our rating system.
Another difference between the N-104 and the Neotec is the internal shape.
We tried the N-90 also as a comparison with the N-104 and found that both the N-90 and Neotec have a very similar internal shape and fit (“neutral” to “slightly round”), while the N-104 is neutral to “slightly narrow”.
The N-104 has more of an X-Lite fit (X-Lite is a Nolan brand not sold in the U.S.). It’s what we call “slightly narrow”, more like an Arai Signet-Q (review) type of fit.
The N-104 fits slightly narrow on the sides and it has a slightly tapered fit towards the top, with more forehead room than either the N-90 or Neotec.
This is neither good nor bad — just different — and, in fact, great news for potential owners with a head shape that matches the fit.
In a way, the fit differences may make the helmet buying decision much easier for some motorcyclists, because if your head shape matches one (or the other), then your decision has pretty much been made for you.
The size large N-104 is also slightly short in the front-to-back dimensions. During our evaluations, both of us found that our chins just touch the inside of the chin bar when the helmet is on and the rotating flip-up visor is closed.
The N-90 actually has a touch more chin room, perhaps due to a difference in shell shape.
N-104 Shell Size Range, Padding and Liner
The N-104 is made in two shell sizes, compared to three for the Neotec.
Again, this has its pros and cons — the pros in this case are a much lower list price for the N-104, which is probably at least partly a result of the reduced development costs for making two, rather than three shell sizes.
However, since the N-104 is listed as having a wider size range, from XXS to XXXL, there may be some proportional differences at the extremes of each shell size (XXS to L in small shell; XL to XXXL in large shell).
For example, the size large shown here is the largest head size in the smaller shell, which seems to have reduced the thickness of the padding slightly.
The size large N-104 is not as plush and thickly padded as the size large N-90, which has a noticeably different internal shape.
Nor is it as plush as the very thickly padded Neotec. Again, this means that matching your head shape to either helmet is an important factor.
However, even the Editor’s notoriously round 60.5 cm head can fit (albeit snugly) inside the size large N-104, with some pressure but not too much on the sides.
So there is a bit of leeway here in the fit, although a round head in a slightly narrow helmet does cause some eyeglass fitment issues in the N-104, depending on the frame type (and despite the design of the N-104, claimed to accommodate eyeglasses).
The N-104 liner is removable and washable, and the liner material is made from the “Clima-Comfort” fabric.
It is claimed to be moisture-wicking, breathable and “treated with natural silver salt to be antibacterial and antifungal”.
Also, the neck roll is removable “for summer use”, according to Nolan, although we’re not sure why you’d want to remove it, because noise levels are increased (we tried it).
The ear pockets are generously sized and the EPS is molded to fit speakers.
The N-104 is made to fit the Nolan N-Com system, with a special pocket in the EPS in the rear of the helmet to hold the sending unit, a blank on the left-hand side for the button assembly and built-in microphone and speaker placement.
The amount of visibility provided by the N-104 makes a big difference and is also a safety factor. The chin bar on the N-90 is noticeably thicker/taller and the visibility, while good (average), is also noticeably less than with the N-104.
The N-104 face shield has a nice centrally-located lift tab, which “clips” on to a small detent on the center of the chin bar.
Lift the shield just slightly and a small dimple on the bottom of the shield will rest on the top of the detent, which yields a nice, small opening for defogging.
When the face shield is closed, a light push will click the dimple against the detent to hold the face shield tight.
But the N-104 also comes with a large Pinlock anti-fog insert (review) installed, so you may not need the first small opening for defogging anyway! Nevertheless, it’s there for some fresh air if you want it.
The Pinlock insert has a very large design and it remains mostly out of the rider’s view in all directions.
The eye port gasket on the N-104 completely seals against the large face shield, providing excellent protection from the rain.
Water is shunted along the top of the gasket to the sides of the face shield, where it quickly drains behind the face shield rotating mechanism and out the bottom, along the front of the helmet.
The face shield seals tightly and completely against the full-surround eye port gasket.
The face shield release mechanism on the N-104 appears to be identical to the system used on the N-90. It’s a low-profile affair; raise the face shield and then push up on the spring-loaded tab to release the shield and it pops right off.
Internal Sun Visor
The N-104 has an internal rotating sun visor — de rigueur on flip-up motorcycle helmets these days.
Unfortunately, the sun visor on the N-104 is of the spring-loaded type and it’s either “on” or “off” with no in-between setting, like the Neotec.
So in this case, it was almost like the designers re-invented a wheel that didn’t need re-inventing, because because we prefer the internal sun visor on the N-90, which is (more or less) a friction-based system and it has a smaller nose cutout besides.
The slider for the sun visor on the N-104 is located on the lower left-hand side of the helmet. Push the black button forward and the sun visor drops into position.
To release it, press the red release button and the spring retracts the visor. We’d rather have a simpler friction system that would allow height adjustments of the sun visor.
Also, although the sun visor rotates down far enough to remain out of the rider’s line of sight in theory, it has a large cutout for the nose, which is distracting.
Three different evaluators rode with the helmet and each of them mentioned this as an issue — something that should be an easy fix for Nolan by simply reducing the size of the cutout.
One more thing about the sun visor on the N-104 — the slider is located just about where you might want to install a clip-on intercom system.
I’m sure Nolan wants you to buy an N-Com system to fit the N-104, but if you already own another type of intercom, you may have problems fitting it to the N-104.
Your intercom system would need to have a microphone with a wire long enough to reach back to the module, which would have to be located farther back along the helmet than is standard.
Rotating Flip-up Visor
The rotating flip-up visor on the N-104 works very smoothly and precisely and it has a quality feel. The release system is similar to the N-90; pull out the bottom red button on the chin bar, then squeeze it along with the upper red button that pops out.
This releases the visor, which then rotates smoothly up to the raised position.
It’s spring-loaded and the tension raises the visor and provides enough resistance to keep it raised.
The mechanism also has a detent and a sort of cam at the uppermost position to keep the rotating visor open (but note that the N-104 is not dual-homologated, so you shouldn’t ride with the visor raised).
Score: We’ll give the Nolan N-104 an “Outstanding” rating in this category for the face shield and eye port. The internal sun visor gets a “Very Good”.
The ventilation system designed for the N-104 is quite different from the system used on the N-90. The chin bar and the top vent have a rectangular slider with heavy “V” shaped serrations, making it easy to find and use when wearing gloves.
Slide the chin bar button up and the wing-shaped front vent opens. The vent seems large, but there are no direct vent channels through the chin bar.
The path that the air takes up to the top of the chin bar and through the vent port on the N-104 appears to be a bit convoluted.
Although the chin vent is adequate, it’s not quite as efficient as the chin vent on the Neotec, or even the dual flip-open chin vents of the N-90. Air can be felt coming through, but the effect isn’t as dramatic as it is in those other helmets.
However, we do prefer the single switch on the N-104 chin vent and top vent over the dual chin vents and two top vents on the N-90.
The top vent on the N-104 is excellent in both operation and performance. Push the slider back one click and the top vent opens; push it a second time and a brow vent opens. This is a unique system and it both operates very well and it provides strong air flow in large volumes.
The flow of air can be immediately felt through the brow and top vents and the air streams directly on to the rider’s head in a more focused path than it does in the Neotec.
The Neotec’s system makes the air feel like it’s coming in on a “sheet” of air, while the N-104’s top vent feels like the air is coming in through a “tube”, more directly on to the rider’s head.
In any event, both the Neotec and N-104 top vent systems are outstanding, and it’s actually kind of interesting that there are two completely different approaches to providing upper ventilation — and both work.
Once more, it just doesn’t seem all that difficult to design a venting system that works, which really makes us wonder why so many other helmet manufacturers keep getting it wrong!
The N-104 includes a large chin curtain firmly attached underneath the chin bar. It’s a better design than Nolan employed on the N-90, because the N-104 chin curtain feels sturdier.
The helmet also has excellent aerodynamics, with little lift or buffeting and the ventilation system seems to make good use of the exhausts, which are nicely integrated into the styling of the helmet in the rear.
Score: The Nolan N-104 ventilation system gets an “Excellent” rating.
Nolan N-104 Sound Levels
The slightly thinner-feeling padding in the size large, as noted above, may contribute to some slightly elevated noise levels in the N-104. It’s not as quiet as the Shoei Neotec, which has extraordinarily thick and plush padding and a thick neck roll, which helps mask the noise.
Riding back-to-back with the N-104 and Neotec brought out the distinctions and differences.
The Neotec is right up there and the N-104 controls noise slightly better than average and probably much better than average when compared to other flip-up helmets.
The wind noise levels along the sides of the N-104 are well controlled, but we do notice slightly more engine and motorcycle noise, which doesn’t seem as well damped, another indicator that the padding isn’t quite as thick.
The ear pockets in the N-104 are generous and nicely padded, with additional liner covering the EPS. The ear pockets are molded to fit speakers and the Nolan N-Com Bluetooth system will fit right in.
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 wBWEarplug 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.
This Nolan N-104 in size large weighs in at a reasonable 1741 grams (3 lbs., 13-1/2 oz.). This puts it near the middle of the range of the flip-up helmets we’ve reviewed to date on the wBWMotorcycle Helmet Weights page.
Our Nolan N-103 (review)was a size XL, so the comparison is somewhat irrelevant, but just for the record, the XL N-103 weighed 1891 grams, while the Nolan N-102 (review), also in size XL, weighed 1850 grams.
The N-104 bears its weight well, with excellent balance.
As we noted in the Neotec review, some helmets feel lighter than they actually are, while others feel heavier. The Neotec feels slightly heavy, while the N-104 feels lighter than we expected.
Note also that all of the helmets reviewed on webBikeWorld have been weighed and the weights are available on the wBWMotorcycle Helmet Weights page, along with a chart that lists the helmets by weight and shape on the wBWMotorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: The Nolan N-104 gets an “Excellent” rating for reasonable weight with good balance.
The N-104 uses a “microlock” chin strap retainer, which seems a bit thick. It works fine, however, and some riders prefer this type of retainer system.
The system has a unique design that accommodates the extra length of chin strap after the microlock system is adjusted to the rider.
The chin strap padding on the N-104 is adequate but it could be longer. The strap has a plastic snap to secure the extra length of chin strap.
The helmet meets the U.S. DOT safety standard when sold in North America and the ECE 22.05 standard when sold in Europe.
UPDATE: The N-104 is now dual homologated as both a P and J helmet, so it can be worn with the rotating flip-up visor in the raised and locked position (see N.A.’s comment in the Owner Comments section below).
The Nolan N-104 has has a five-year warranty, which effectively covers the helmet for its usable life.
The Nolan N-90 was one of the favorite flip-ups in the webBikeWorld garage.
But the N-104 bests it in almost every dimension and, in fact, the N-104 sort of makes the N-90 feel its age (although the N-90 will remain in production as a lower-priced alternative).
The N-104 has a very high-quality, precise and solid feel. The build quality on our example it outstanding and all of the features are carefully designed and have been evolved over more than a decade of Nolan N-series flip-up helmets.
The pricing structure of the N-104 is also very aggressive for a top-of-the-line flip-up helmet made in Italy.
In fact, the N-104 is significantly lower priced than the Shoei Neotec — and the street price difference is even more dramatic.
There are some differences, however, in these helmets that actually make choosing between them relatively easy.
Besides the price difference, the Neotec and the N-90 have a similar internal shape — neutral to round — while the N-104 has more of an “ECE” or “X-Lite” or “European” style fit, which is neutral to slightly narrow.
From “R.P.” (February 2015): “Have been riding motorcycles for over 30 years and as my main means of transport I have used many helmets. About 13 years ago I purchased my first Nolan Helmet and never looked back.
However the Nolan 104 has been a very big disappointment for me.
I have only had the helmet for just over 2 and half years and found that my N-Com system, right speaker started to drop in and out.
I found that the foam was coming away from the shell of the helmet. Then two days ago the flip top release catch fell off. So not impressed with this helmet is this a one-off? Don’t know.”
From “B.F.” (June 2014): “First off, thank you for maintaining your website. It is an invaluable source of detailed and technical minded information on gear!
I’ve read your review of the Nolan N104 and just wanted to let you know that I recently purchased a size XL, and weighed it on my kitchen scale at 1954 g, sans Pinlock shield.
I’m a bit disappointed to see it’s put on 60 grams from the N103 model, and definitely notice the extra 390 grams compared to my XXL Shark RSI…
I might be returning it. I just thought you might like the info for your site.
I was surprised how heavy it was after reading that they reduced the weight compared to the N103. I’m now thinking that reduction only applies to certain sizes.
I suspect it’s because the helmet only has two shell sizes — the large you reviewed was at the top of the smaller shell size. With the smallest shell and the least padding, it would theoretically be the lightest.
My XL is the start of the largest shell size, and would have the most padding, making it the heaviest, in theory.”
From “D.G.” (January 2013): “What the Nolan N102 (review) does that the Shoei Neotec (review)and N104 don’t do? The N102 allows you to take off and put on your helmet without removing your prescription glasses.
Again i had problems with sizing, eventually fitted into the XL in the N104, Large in the Neotec, after years of wearing a Medium in the N102.
Consequently, while the N102 was a very snug fit in my VFR800 panniers, you could feel it taking up the slack, the Neotec fits nicely into them, while the N104 is impossible to close, making the “Helmetlok” a must.
The N104 keeps out the water better then the other two, while the Neotec has the best ventilation. Noise levels appear to be similar despite the Neotec having distinct gaps between the helmet and the flip down chin bar.
I still prefer the double action release of the Nolan’s, the indentation of the Neotec while a mechanism mitigating accidental opening, i believe is inferior and also acts as a bug catcher as do the top and chin vents.
Vision is vastly superior from the N104, making speedo and head checks a breeze.
I prefer the Neotec internal visor mechanics as well as the shape over the spring loaded N104, just something else to go wrong. cant really spot the difference in the quality, but for the extra money its got to be there, time will tell.
I still prefer the double jointed design of the Nolan helmets as it tends to sit further back and closer to the helmet.
Although again something else that will wear out, while the simplicity of the Neotec means it might last longer.
The perfect flip-top is not made yet … wonder what the new BMW is like … i have awful memories of the crap they put out in the mid to late 90’s … ugh!”
From “N.A.” (August 2012): “I have good news: the N-104 is now dual-homologated! I just bought one today (in The Netherlands) and the ECE homologation markings mention it is homologated both as full-face (“integral”) and as open-face (“jet”) helmet (here is a photo).
The P/J marking on the face shield sticker and the label from the third picture (this label is located on the padding between your chin and the chin strap) has the following meaning:
“188.8.131.52.2. The approval number followed by: 184.108.40.206.2.1. a dash and symbol: “J” if the helmet does not have a lower face cover “P” if the helmet has a protective lower face cover, or “NP” if the helmet has a non protective lower face cover”
So the face shield sticker as well as the ECE code (on the N-104) confirm that it’s dual-homologated.
It is my guess that they did not change the helmets, I assume they simply did not execute the extra tests yet at the time your review-sample was produced.
One more point for the N-104! I think I will enjoy using this Nolan impact hat :).”
From “M.H.B.” (May 2012): “The N0104 arrive from the dealer with a scratch on the shield that evidently happened at the factory and slipped through quality control.
Fortunately it was high on the shield which hid it from the inspector.
The helmet is true to size XXL, but fits snuggly on the head. Eyeglasses must be put on and taken off after the helmet is attached.
The wind noise was a little more than expected. The chin strap could be longer and naturally fit near my Adam’s Apple, but I was able to move closer to my chin.
The helmet (white) kept my head cool and the sun shield worked well. Would recommend the helmet for purchase.”
From “S.S.” (March 2012): “Just for your info, I received my Nolan N-104 medium size. The sticker at the back of the helmet states that the weight is only 1640g for a medium.
After using my $50 cooking balance, my final result is 1722g for a medium, compared to my very old Shoei Syncrotec medium at 1640g. Thanks again for your recommendation!
This is my personal review of the latest Nolan N104. My previous helmet was a Shoei Syncrotec (yeah the old Police type, but without the M5 LED). The padding was not getting younger and it was getting pretty noisy.
Therefore I read most of everything that you could find on the Net and try some display helmets when I was in Atlanta.
Living in a small town in the US means that everything you want to buy for your bike (helmet, jacket, etc.), you not be able to find it at your local dealer.
I was going to buy a SCHUBERTH C3, but the fit was not the greatest for me.
The medium was too small around the ears and cheeks while the large was to big for my narrow oval head (in fact a possible fit was a large helmet with only the medium head insert).
BMW dealer did not have it in stock in the color I wanted and by the time I was ready to buy, the New Nolan N-104 was out on the market as well as the Shoei Neotec.
Since the SCHUBERTH C3 is very expensive ($700) I decided to go with a less expensive option, i.e. Shoei or Nolan.
The main factors for choosing the Nolan over the Shoei and SCHUBERTH were price, weight and noise control. The medium Nolan weighs 1722 g compare to my old Shoei Syncrotec at 1640 grams.
Note that Shoei Neotec is at approx. 1780g. So I purchased the Nolan N-104 Action Helmet (Flat Grey/Red/Black) for a total of $370 (USD) which is about half of the price of the C3.
Out of the box overview: The helmet looks great and very stiff in the close position.
The visor seems to be too flexible (compare to Shoei). When you open the flip-up (chin guard…) the helmet shell is very soft and the internal mechanism produces some “cracking noises”.
Very not as strong as my old Shoei.
Sun visor mechanism feels great and even if some people may complain about the lack possible position of the sun visor, for me I like it the way it i.e. on or off, and the spring loaded off button is just great!
My head size is between 57 cm to 58 cm pending where and how you measure it and it is narrow oval fit.
At first try, the Nolan N-104 felt way much better than a Schubert C3 and my old Shoei. I little snug around the cheek bones and as other mentioned, but the padding will certainly break in.
First test ride: I did not do a back to back test with my old and new helmet since my spouse is gone riding my old one…but I decided to test it without ear plugs (I know, that was stupid) to get a better feeling on the possible noise reduction of the N104.
The noise level of the helmet is horrible without ear plug. While riding in “Jet” mode, the sun visor holes on the side of the helmet create so much noise that you can not ride for a long time at high speed.
Good for light traffic commute! When in full face position this wind noise disappeared but you now face a rushing wind sound, especially noticeable just at the rear of the side plates of the rotating visor, especially on the left side (ON-OFF sun visor mechanism switch).
But if you place a hand on either side at the rear of the side plates and completely stops the wind rushing noise.
Noise Source: The ON-OFF sun visor mechanism switch also creates like a suction noise while the sun visor is down. If you put your finger on it, the noise disappeared. I was very disappointed by this first experience.
From wBW,”“…although the sun visor rotates down far enough to remain out of the rider’s line of sight in theory, it has a large cutout for the nose, which is distracting”.
I agree with them but I sure that my little brain will get use to it!
On my return trip I decided to use my cheap ear plugs, I would say that the sensation was way much better than without them! I would estimate that 80% of the noise level was gone and it is now (at least it seems) better than my old Shoei for noise reduction.
The left side is still a little bit more noisier but must of the issue reported above without ear plugs are mostly solved regarding noise level!
Fit and comfort
Ratcheting chin strap (I will never go back to double D-Ring…).
Vision is just amazing.
Soft face shield.
Rushing wind sound around face shield release mechanism/rotating flip-up.
Does not feel as “solid” as my Shoei or a Schuberth.
Sun-visor large cutout for the nose.
Unable to ride (more than 5 minutes) without ear plugs.
Will I buy again? That remains the “holy” question… Even if I would recommend this helmet because the price vs. benefits, I will probably not by a Nolan again.
I will either exchange it (if my wife let me spend the extra $$$) or save my money for a Shoei Neotec or SCHUBERTH C3 for my next helmet….(or even better a BMW System 6 since I should be back to Canada by the time I need to replace this helmet).
If you can afford $600 to $700 for an helmet, go with Neotec or C3. If you have a tighter budget, Nolan N104 is the best option on the market today!”
Editor’s Note: Note that we always ride with high-quality, correctly fitted ear plugs. As we say, “all bets are off” if you don’t wear ear plugs when riding and you will damage your hearing, permanently.
Our findings on noise level comparisons are always based on wearing ear plugs.