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Nolan X-lite – Xlite X-901

Nolan X-lite
Nolan X-lite Review Summary
Review Summary

The X-901 is a relatively quiet helmet. It has nice graphics; the face shield has a small setting for defogging; it is DOT safety standard.

Fits “long oval” shaped heads best. The top venting needs further evaluation when weather changes. There is no mechanism to secure the extra length of chinstrap.

The original webBikeWorld “Quick Review” for the Nolan X-lite X-901 helmet that appeared on this page became the number one and two Google search results for this product.

That attracted some attention, and as a result, the folks at CIMA International (the agent for Nolan in the U.S.A.) thought we should try one for a longer-term, real-world review to see if its performance would change our minds.

If you read that review, you’ll recall that I wasn’t very enthusiastic about several features of this helmet after trying it on in a local motorcycle shop

I basically had two issues with the helmet in the Quick Review: it appeared to me that the helmet was designed to fit the “long oval” head shape only, and I thought the system of buttons was overly complicated and had a potential for premature failure.

The bottom line of the review was simply to make sure you try on the helmet before you buy it. Trying on a helmet before you buy it is always important, but especially so when purchasing online

I promised CIMA International that I’d “eat my words” if our original impressions were proved wrong. I have to say that although I’ve learned some new things about the helmet, and I admire some of its features, I believe that my concern about fit is still valid and the jury is still out on the reliability of the venting mechanism, as we shall see.

X-Lite X-901 Helmet Details

Anyway, enough said — let’s get back to the X-901 helmet review. There are a few things I really like about this helmet. The colors and finish of this particular design (the “Challenge” in red/black/silver) are very nicely done.

Part of the difference in helmet cost results from differences in the quality and durability of the finish, and the X-901 appears to be right up there with the best. The Challenge graphics are stylish and racy without having that “boy racer” look.

We have also found that the X-901is very quiet. You do hear a bit of wind noise — no helmet will be perfectly soundproof — but even on my BMW K75 with the infamous “BuffetMeister” windscreen (which is the ultimate sound torture test for any human/helmet combination!), the wind noise is very controlled. On a “naked” bike, the X-901 is quieter than most other helmets we’ve tried.

Now remember that I always wear properly inserted earplugs due to previous hearing damage, so as with any webBikeWorld helmet review, your experience may be different, but even the K75’s severe windscreen buffeting didn’t seem to affect the X-901’s ability to control the noise level. (For more information on earplugs and their correct fitment, see the wBW Earplugs and Hearing Protection page).

Another nice feature becomes apparent when you push once on the visor opening (yellow arrow, Photo 2 below); this pops the visor out about 1/8″, which lets in a nice volume of air through both the top and bottom of the visor with not much increase in noise volume.

Every helmet should have this feature!  Note that if you want to completely open the visor from the closed position though, it does take two movements, rather than one, to open it — first you have to push up on the visor latch, then you have to pull up on the visor itself. There is no finger tab on the visor to use to push it open; I think it would be better if Nolan added the tab on the visor to make it easier to push it open or closed.

To close the visor, you first have to bring it up past the half-way point (if it’s not already there). You feel and hear a click, and when you push back down, the visor snaps shut, flush with the helmet.

I’m assuming this “click-latch” design feature is necessary to allow the visor to remain flush to the helmet, and contributes to its quietness, but the compromise is that it takes a more hand movements to both open and close the visor than most other helmets.

X-Lite X-901 Brow Vent

The Quick Review also complained about what I felt was a complicated mechanism for the operation of the vents that I believed might have the potential for premature failure.

I was chastised by CIMA International for complaining about my problem in trying to figure out the venting system; maybe I’m dense, but both my wife and I still struggled with trying to figure it out when the helmet arrived, and we ended up having to study the owner’s manual to help us understand how to get everything to work.

Which isn’t a bad thing — you should always read the owner’s manual anyway, especially with a safety device like a helmet!

The point is that the operation of the entire vent mechanism isn’t intuitive, and I found it a bit difficult and distracting to find the flush buttons and operate the vents when underway, especially with gloved hands.

To open the top vents, you press a flush button on the top of the helmet (red arrow, Photo 1) one time to open the top two lateral forward vents, then press again to open the central top forward and rear vent. Then there’s a second button to close both vents (yellow arrow, Photo left).

As long as you open or close the vents prior to your departure, this may not be a problem, but we did find it difficult to locate the flush buttons with a gloved hand once underway. The benefit of the flush vent system (I assume) is that the flush vents and buttons probably contribute to the quietness of the helmet.

X-Lite X-901 Chin Vent

Both reviewers found that the top vents really didn’t seem like they flowed much air that we could feel, so it didn’t seem to make much difference whether the vents are open or closed, although we did find that the noise level noticeably decreased with the top vents closed.

But, this may also be because it’s been extraordinarily hot here in the Mid-Atlantic (U.S.A.) region this summer — 49 days of over 90 degree Fahrenheit weather so far and counting, with very high humidity levels but no rain. Nothing feels cool in these conditions!

So I’ll wait until it gets cooler (I never thought I’d be begging for winter!) and conduct some further evaluations; it’s much easier to feel where the air is coming from inside a helmet when it’s cool.

The front chin vents also work via a latch. From a closed position, you press the bottom latch (red arrow, Photo left) and the two chin vents (blue arrows) pop open. But this time there’s no latch to close them — you have to push each one in individually to close.

I was concerned about the complexity and reliability of the latch mechanism in the Quick Review and mentioned the potential for one of these parts breaking. There are a lot of moving parts that make up the vent functions.

I’m sure someone will think that I’d do anything to avoid “eating my words” from the Quick Review, so I expect that some of you won’t believe this…… but on my very first ride, the left chin vent got stuck when I tried to push it back in to close it (see red arrow, photo below)!

I couldn’t figure it out why that vent wasn’t closing while riding, but when I got home I messed with it a bit and it finally popped back out and it now seems to be working normally.

The lesson is to make sure that you press on the part of the chin vent that is closest to the chin vent latch to close those vents.

X-Lite X-901 Vents

Also, I was disappointed to find that the chin vents don’t vent air onto the face, as you would expect; it appears that they are only designed to vent air up onto the inside of the visor through some holes in the upper part of the chin bar.

It’s been too hot to tell if this will help reduce fogging; my guess is that it will. But it’s important to note that the EPS material inside the chin bar doesn’t allow air to flow to the wearer’s chin or face.

It seems to me that it would be fairly easy to add some venting holes in the chin bar to allow the air to flow on to your face, but I suppose this would decrease the volume of air flow up to the visor to prevent fogging.

But, since the visor has the feature described above that pops the visor out about 1/8″ and allows air to flow from both the lower and upper parts of the visor, it would seem the chin vent/visor anti-fogging system is redundant.

One more thing about the venting mechanism: CIMA International told us that they have only received two helmets for repair under warranty for repair of the vents. They also told us in an email that the helmets are warranted for “3 to 5 years”. I could not find any mention of their warranty policies in either the owner’s manuals or the X-lite website.

The point of this discussion about the X-901’s venting mechanism is that there is a compromise here. If you don’t mind the fact that this helmet is different and slightly more complex, then the payoff is a quiet helmet, because I assume the design is meant to keep the air flowing smoothly over the flush buttons and vents.

I wish the vents flowed more air though, both to the face and across the top of the helmet; this would then be two strong points for the X-901, both quietness and good airflow.

One other minor quibble that I didn’t cover in the Quick Review and that you wouldn’t notice until you ride with the helmet for a while is that there is no way to secure the extra piece of chin strap. So it ends up flapping in the breeze, unless you tuck it up under the secured section of the strap under your chin.

I’m not sure if this was an oversight — a recent review of the X-901 in a print motorcycle magazine claimed that Nolan eliminated the piece of “hook and loop” fabric that comes with the European version of the helmet (and is described in the owner’s manual) because they were afraid of U.S. liability laws, but I don’t see how this could be true, as both the recently reviewed KBC VR-1 and OGK FF-3 helmets included a snap to attach the extra piece of chin strap, and many other helmets I’ve seen have some type of strap retention feature.

(Note: X-901 owner “J.D.” wrote to say that there is a small loop of material attached to the right chin strap; this loop is designed to tuck in the loose chin strap end. He mentioned that it took him a while to find it also. I don’t have enough loose material after I secure the helmet to reach the loop, so it may or may not work for you as a chin strap retention device – Rick).

The most critical complaint of the Quick Review centered around the fit of the X-901. When I originally tried it on in the store, I was surprised to find that neither a large nor an extra-large would fit my round shaped head. The X-901 was a very tight fit on the sides of my head. I tried an XXL, but that didn’t fit either.

My opinion was — and remains — that this helmet will fit only the so-called “long oval” head shape as described by Arai. I am consistently a size large; the size large Arai Quantum/e and Quantum/f, the Shoei RF-900 and TZII, the OGK FF-3, and many others fit me perfectly.

But it is my opinion that there is a compromise here: the unique “stretched” shape of the X-901, which gives it its aerodynamic form that helps reduce noise, also causes the helmet to be narrower than others and therefore much more suitable for “long oval” shaped heads.

I learned from correspondence with CIMA International that it turns out that the helmet I tried on in the store (and I assume all standard X-901’s) come with an “A” helmet liner.

A “B” helmet liner is also available for rounder heads like mine. It feels like it gives more room at the top of the helmet. So the helmet that was sent to us for review had the “B” liner installed. The sales representative in the store didn’t mention anything about a “B” liner, and I wasn’t aware that this was an option, so I never asked about it.

It’s also interesting to note that there is no mention of an available “B” liner for rounder shaped heads on the X-lite website, on any of the online store websites that sell the X-901 (that I’m aware of), or in any of the 8 different owner’s manuals that come with the helmet. Perhaps Nolan realizes that the helmet is a better fit for the “long oval” shape and they had to design a different liner for those customers?


The bottom line is that the X-901 is uncomfortable for me to wear with my head shape. It causes a lot of pressure on my temples, and is not a correct fit for me. But the good news is that the other webBikeWorld reviewer does have a “long oval” head shape, and he had no problems with the fit, and in fact mentioned that the helmet was very comfortable.

The whole point of the Quick Review was summed up in the last line where I wrote that I don’t recommend that you purchase this helmet without trying it on first, as many webBikeWorld visitors do when purchasing from an online vendor.

Our longer term review of the X-901 confirms our opinion on this point — if you have a head shape that works with this helmet, you’ll probably like it, and many users report that they do like it.

But if you have a round head like mine, make sure you try one for fit prior to purchase. And also be sure to ask about the “B” liner!  If the X-901 fits, you may well find that although it is a bit different than current helmet design practice, its features may be just what you’re looking for.

Here’s a thought — if you buy an X-901, send me an email with your opinions and I’ll post them (without using your name, of course!) on this page.

We’ll see if I still need to eat my words!

More Features of the X-901

Adjusting feature to ensure face shield remains flush. Lower chin vent/spoiler claimed to reduce frontal buffeting. Removable, washable liner made of 30% Dri-lex and 70% Coolmax material. Includes Pinlock fog resistant inner visor liner. Has visor pegs for installing tear-offs. Designed after 1,000 wind tunnel hours. Includes lower chin wind protector and also a breath guard for optional installation. Helmet comes with a nice helmet bag for storage.

wBW Product Review: X-lite (Nolan) X-901 Helmet
Manufacturer: X-lite (the composite fiber division of Nolan helmets) List Price (2004?):  Around $340.00 – $370.00
Colors:  Large assortment of colors; also many colors available in the Checa and Challenge replicas. Made In: Italy
Review Date: 2004?
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!

Owner Comments and Feedback

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From “N.P.” (12/10):  “Just thought I would email even though this it way late! I have had an Xlite 901 for about 5 years. So here are my long term comments.

FWIW, my comments are based on (Ohio) 4 season riding on a Honda Shadow with windscreen and 4 season riding on a 50cc Honda Dio Cesta in Tochigi Japan without a windscreen.

At first, the helmet fit perfectly tight. After about 3 months it changed to a more comfortable fit. At 5 years, it is a bit loose and could use replacing. It has always felt tightest front to back on my head, but much better than other helmets I have tried on.

Ventilation is ok, but not good enough. It is too hot in the heat of summer and fogs at every stoplight in winter. I have opened and closed them on every ride without failure. Fortunately, the windbreak mech is good enough that I have opened and closed it 10 billion times without breaking it.

Even with the Pinlock system and every OTC treatment, it fogs miserably. Actually, it fogs least with all vents closed!

Overall, because of its ability to keep winter wind off my face, be quiet, and feel comfortable, I have just lived with the fogging and venting issues. I have promised myself a new helmet next summer!  Thanks for keeping this review posted so I can use as a baseline looking at future reviews.”

From “J.B.”:  “My user review may be a bit late, but I just used the Nolan X-901 on a 2k mile trip. I have some comments to add. First, the negatives: Even though I have an oval head that fits into an Arai Signet or Profile, the helmet was very tight and painful on my ears. There is a ridge of foam under the ear padding that caused pain on the cartilage on my ears. I had to smash down the foam with my thumb to solve the issue. After that it fit pretty well.

Secondly, as the review noted, the chinstrap is made of very stiff and scratchy material and, although mine had a loop, it was placed very high on the strap and the end would come loose in the wind. Because of the angle the end was cut, the sharp edge scratched my neck. My reaction was that with a relatively high-end helmet, couldn’t they afford softer and more comfortable chinstrap material and a decent, workable way of securing the end of the strap?

On the plus side, the helmet is quiet, vents well and relatively light. I love the pop-out visor and after a while, got the hang of working the other vents. Even in 90 plus weather, the helmet was fairly cool. With the included wind guard installed under the chin area, the shield fogged pretty quickly. It may be that the guard has to be used with the breath guard also supplied. In hot weather, I left them out.

The quality of the helmet, paint, etc. is quite good. The distributor, CIMA International, has been very helpful with parts and accessories. They sent me free replacement manuals, screws and buttons when I stripped a couple of shield mechanism screws because I didn’t read the directions. So A+ for customer service. If they improve the strap, I’d buy another one….”

From “M.B.”:  “You asked for readers to post reviews, here’s mine: feel free to edit as you see fit for the website:

I recently purchased the Nolan x901 for a few reasons – first, I have some hearing loss and wanted as quiet a helmet as possible. I always wear earplugs but found that at highway speeds, the noise level inside my HJC full-face helmets was still pretty intense. Second, I have an oval head, and a medium helmet in other brands is either too tight front to back or loose on the sides, and at high speeds, the helmet starts to move around. Third, I wanted a helmet that offered decent venting for the hot days of southern California.

So far, the Nolan works well for me.

First, it is extremely quiet, and although some wind has to come through, it is far less than my other helmets. It is a very snug fit however, and if I didn’t have an oval head, I wouldn’t be able to get into it, let alone wear it. It’s a M2, although I am not certain if that’s a A or B lining. It is quite tight against my ears and cheeks, and I suspect for anyone with any fat on their face, it might be too tight. However, I like the snugness, and don’t find it uncomfortable.

The venting works very well, and I did know how to operate the vents thanks to your earlier review and the instruction manual. I rode in the early morning today, and with the top vent partially open, could feel a nice cool breeze over the top of my head, which tended to balance out the heat generated inside the helmet. With the top vents fully open, even more so. The noise level changed slightly, but still less than my other helmets.

The visor lift feature is a blessing – when noise isn’t as much an issue, and you want some cool air, pop open the visor and you get lots of air, and even at 50-60mph, the visor shields the eyes fairly well and yet you’re nicely refreshed.

I don’t ride with gloves except on the coldest of days, so for me operating the various buttons was not difficult. There’s enough of a tactile difference between the controls that I didn’t need to see what I was doing.

I couldn’t find any hook and loop device or a loop to slip the extra strap underneath, but I just tucked it in as I do on my other helmets and there was no flapping around.

I purchased this online through the Dennis Kirk outlet, the price was unbeatable, which of course added to my satisfaction. I would have paid more and still been quite happy.

As your review stated earlier however, this will not fit the average head.”