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 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 comes in 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.
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.
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 also 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
They usually have a 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 of the 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.
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.
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
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 we have reviewed.
That’s doubly good 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 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.
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.
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.
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!