Nolan apparently doesn’t feel that many corners have to be cut just because of a sub-$250 list price.
Probably the most impressive fact about the Nolan N85 was the quality that was delivered for the money and the N86 continues that tradition.
The N86 has the same “hard” clearcoat that we’ve praised on Nolan helmets for some time.
It feels more protective than other types and it covers our favorite Nolan silver paint, which is perfectly applied on this example.
That’s another Nolan specialty because the company controls every aspect of the helmet manufacture in their Brembate di Sopra factory, right down to the molded plastic bits, Pinlock inserts and clear face shields.
Nolan has kept with the program here, meaning that the N86 internal shape feels “Nolan-ish” and identical to the N85 (and other Nolan helmets).
As we said in the N85 review, Nolan helmets typically have a characteristic internal shape with a “Neutral” to “Slight Narrow” fit as defined in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ.
Our N86 is, like our N85, a size XL and the N86 feels correct to size. T
he internal shape has a slight amount of room front-to-back at the forehead and the shape is similar to the typical modern Shoei helmet.
The size XL N86 should fit a 60-61 cm “Neutral” to “Slight Narrow” head shape with no problems. This fit type should work for most head shapes.
We’re also assuming that Nolan will continue to offer the six different cheek pad sizes (thickness) for the N86 as they had for the N85, which should help customize the fit for different head shapes.
If memory serves us correctly, the padding on the N86 feels identical to the N85.
It’s slightly thin but it feels comfortable with no hard corners poking through. The removable Nolan “Clima Comfort” liner has a smooth finish that feels very comfortable next to the skin.
The liner is removable and the fabric is treated with an anti-bacterial coating.
All of the Nolan N86 helmets sold worldwide are now apparently prepped for the Nolan N-Com Bluetooth intercom system.
This means you can add an N-Com intercom to the helmet by inserting the intercom module into the recess on the left side of the helmet and popping in the mic and speakers into the pre-molded retainers.
We have an N-Com Bluetooth intercom module here but just haven’t gotten around to trying it yet; we’ll add it to the N86 to see how it works.
We’re also assuming that the price of the Nolan N86 is a factor of its single shell size to cover the XS to XXL range.
Note that this may have an affect on the proportions of the helmet shell and the amount of EPS and padding at the smallest and largest ends of the range.
The ear pockets on the N86 are semi-recessed with a relatively thick covering of the liner padding over the molded pocket for the N-Com speakers.
The new bottom gasket or molding around the helmet makes it difficult to mount a third-party intercom system, although a stick-on might work.
Also, it seems a bit difficult to fit eyeglasses or sunglasses in the N86, possibly due to the slightly narrow shape at the sides. This is despite Nolan’s claim that the N86 has an “Eyewear-Adaptive feature” that “accommodates eyeglasses”.
Score: We’ll give the Nolan N86 an “Excellent” rating for shape, comfort and padding with a very nice liner and padding that works well in hot weather.
Nolan N86 Face Shield, Eye Port and Outward Visibility
The view out the eye port from the N86 seems slightly below average in the vertical plane and about average in the horizontal plane, which isn’t quite the same as we remember on the Nolan N85.
We measured the clear face shield at 2.15 mm on the N86, compared to a nearly identical 2.10 mm for the N85. The face shield is claimed UV400 and it has anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings as does the internal sun visor.
Like the N85, the N86 face shield is Pinlock-ready and it comes with the Nolan-made Pinlock insert installed (Nolan have a license to make their own Pinlock inserts).
The internal sun visor on the N86 appears to be identical to the one used on the N85. It rotates downward with a lever on the left-hand side of the helmet, just behind the face shield rotating point.
The sun visor has an adequate amount of travel, but it does have relatively large indent for the nose.
It is also possible to hold the sun visor in an intermediate position due to its friction-based manual system, which is a plus.
The clear face shield on the N86 appears to be lifted directly from the N85 and that’s a good thing in this case. It has the same centrally-located lift tab with a small friction click-lock tab molded in.
The shield can be lifted very slightly, where it rests on the molding to allow demisting or ventilation — a feature missing from too many helmets, especially in this price range.
The face shield then lifts through 5 detents with a solid feel — same as the N85.
The eye port gasket on both helmets seals tightly against the face shield and both the N85 and N86 passed our “Leak Down Test” without a problem.
The face shield removal system installed on the N85 and N86 also appear to be identical.
A spring-loaded button in the center quickly and easily releases the face shield for removal and replacement.
Overall, the face shield on the N86 is very good but appears to have just slightly less outward visibility than we remember on the N85 for some reason. We had rated the N85 as “Excellent” in the table below.
Score: The Nolan N86 visibility gets a “Very Good”.
Nolan N86 Ventilation and Air Flow
Probably the most significant revision from the N85 is the new N86 ventilation system.
The top vents, chin vent and rear exhaust vent have been changed — unfortunately not all for the better.
The vents operate with a better and more precise feel than before, with the chin vent now having an easy-to-find slider that opens the two vertical slots on either side.
The top vents operate independently with large ridged sliders that are also easy to find.
The chin vent provides a slightly above average volume of air that flows up on to the back of the face shield along the top of the chin bar. There are no direct vent ports through the chin bar on the N86.
The top aren’t quite as successful.
The newly designed forward-facing vents are supposed to flow air down through large vertical holes in the EPS near the forehead, then through large channels molded into the EPS along the top of the head.
But the liner design seems to prevent a lot of the air from being directly felt by the wearer and the air must first flow down vertically and then make a 90-degree turn to get through the channels along the top.
This may also be part of the problem.
We tried several bikes and seating positions but just don’t seem to be able to feel the air coming through the helmet.
It does — there’s no doubt about it — but it would be nice to have that refreshing wave of air that you can feel on the top of your head with the better designs.
So the N86 drops slightly here also in our ratings.
It’s not that the system is weak; indeed, it’s probably better than most helmets at this price point or higher. It’s just that the N85 seemed to have better all-around performance…
Score: We’ll rate the ventilation system of the Nolan N86 as “Very Good” overall.
Not much difference between the N85 and N86 when discussing noise control; both are about average.
The top vents on the N86 generate some wind noise when they’re open, as they face forward.
It’s especially noticeable when riding a motorcycle with a windscreen that directs the air towards the top of the helmet.
Riding behind a windscreen that blocks most of the air results in a fairly quiet ride
But air that flows on top of or along the sides of the N86 bring the noise levels up to average to slightly louder than average in our opinion.
Some overall wind noise just seems to come from around the helmet in undefined areas. The overall helmet shape and aerodynamics are good and we have not noticed any exceptional buffeting when wearing the N86.
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.
From “J.S.” (May 2016): “I just picked up the N86 this spring. I have to say, it is a very well built helmet. Everything feels like quality. It is worlds above the AFX I had.
The ONLY point I would make is that it does seem to run small. I got a large, and it is pretty tight, mainly when taking it off/putting on. One on though, while snug, it has not been uncomfortable at all.
The horizontal view doesn’t bother me, I see the road just fine.
All it does is acts as a sun visor, I can live with that. The sunshade, itself, has worked very well. It could maybe be slightly darker, but it is a ton better than having to cram in sunglasses.
I LOVE the microlatch system. That works so damn slick I am not sure I want a helmet without one again.
It also came with a Pinlock insert. The face shield detents are STRONG. Amazingly strong, the visor doesn’t even wiggle.
It could use a smaller detent for fresh air, but the Pinlock does well in preventing fogging.
Ventilation, I think, is very good. Better than anything else I have owned so far. I would recommend this helmet in a heartbeat.”
From “J.Q.” (October 2013): “I enjoyed your recent review of Nolan’s N86 full-face helmet.
But I wished you would have urged the company to make it available in a higher-visibility color, as you have often done with other hats.
Nolan’s N104 modular helmet proves that they do keep a supply of yellow paint around the factory!
I wrote to Nolan USA about this and got a quick response; the official said he would notify the company that customers (well, at least one potential customer) were asking for a hi-viz option.
I had been looking at (the) Shoei GT Air (review) (which does come in yellow), but it’s a bit beyond my budget these days. The N86 might be a reasonable alternative – if it was a bit brighter.”
From “G.K.” (September 2013): “I’ve been reading your reviews for a few years now and appreciate all the work and apparent arms-length opinions and real world reports.
Every time I read a helmet review a thought flashes by: “how would my glasses fit into this helmet?”.
Right now my HJC flip allows the arms of my glasses in be-grudgingly with it flipped up. This effort will eventually bend the arms. (Decades of experience talking here).
I’m asking you to include a rating of ease of use for glasses wearers.
For instance: like no helmet there, slides in fairly easily, struggle but still possible, must chop out helmet liner, not humanly possible. Keep up the good work.”
Rick’s Reply: Note that we did comment on the eyeglass fit with the N86.
But, like many things I’ve discovered in nearly 14 years of doing these detailed evaluations and reviews, the answer is “It all depends” — another way of saying “there is no black and white here”.
Eyeglass fit is correlated to helmet fit — another reason to make sure your head shape matches the helmet internal shape. For example, my “Round” head doesn’t fit correctly in the “Slight Narrow” N86 helmet.
This makes it even more difficult to fit my eyeglasses. Others with a correct head shape match for this helmet don’t have the same problem.
I have several reviewers who help with the helmet evaluations, and some don’t wear eyeglasses, which also makes this feature difficult to evaluate. And it also depends greatly on the eyeglass type.
I can usually squeeze a pair of the Randolph Engineering Aviator eyeglasses (review) into any helmet, because they have strong, straight temples covered in thick flat plastic.
Many times, I can not come close to fitting a pair of “normal” eyeglasses with curved temples, but the Randolph Engineering glasses will fit (although sometimes with a lot of pressure if the helmet has a narrow shape.
So you can see (sort of a pun) that this is a very difficult feature to evaluate.
I’d love to be able to say — about many things — something like “this is the best helmet” or “this helmet has the best ventilation” or “eyeglasses will fit in this helmet”.
But if we did, surely someone would disagree and we’d basically be back to square one.
Ah, problems…The life of a reviewer isn’t just all fun and games with brand new stuff to play with! 😉