Nolan N103 Motorcycle Helmet Review

[This Nolan N103 Motorcycle Helmet Review was originally published in the November 2009 issue of Rider magazine]

Another in the growing list of flip-up helmets, the new N103 is not only Nolan’s first helmet with a retractable sunshade, but it also accepts Nolan’s N-com communications system. The N103 features a polycarbonate shell with a pleasant, modern shape and chinbar that pivots up and out of the way for easy entrance and exit, even while wearing glasses. To actuate it, pull out the tab at the bottom of the central part of the chinbar, which causes a similar tab above it to pivot outward. Squeezing the two together releases the latch that allows the chinbar to be pivoted upward and opened. It features a stainless steel latching mechanism to minimize the chance of the chinbar opening under impact.

Nolan N103 Motorcycle Helmet
Nolan N103 Motorcycle Helmet

Nolan helmets are made in Bergamo, Italy, and the company has always done things a little differently. For example, rather than the traditional D-rings the strap utilizes Nolan’s “Microlock” adjustable quick-release retention system in which a serrated tab slides into a retaining clip for easy entry. It removes just as easily by opening a pivoting release mechanism and sliding the tab out; overall, it’s quicker and more convenient than D-rings.

The N103 utilizes a “Sanitized Clima Comfort antimicrobial hypoallergenic interior.” OK, I’m not quite sure what all that means, but I can tell you that the interior is comfortable, cushy, and both removable and washable. In addition to the conventional clear Lexan face shield that features quick, easy toolless removal, the N103 also comes with an internal, short, dark shield mounted within the shell that deploys with a sliding control. It operates with a little effort, functions like instant sunglasses but (like all such devices) does not cover as completely as a full face shield as it allows light to leak in around the bottom. It also retracts easily. The anti-scratch shield accepts an anti-fog insert that is included.

When it’s warm, open the top vent and also the chinbar vents; both controls are rubberized and easy to find while wearing gloves. The top vent sends a fairly concentrated blast to the top of the head, but it does not quite completely seal and leaves a cool spot there even when closed. The removable chin curtain is designed to seal the opening along the bottom of the helmet’s front and quiet the wind noise, but like all flip-ups the N103 generated more wind noise than a comparable full-face model. As a reminder, the extra-cost N-com communications system fits into a small open area within the shell that lives behind a snap-off cover. It includes a headset and allows for Bluetooth integration of a rider-to-passenger intercom, cell phone, GPS and audio equipment.

The new Nolan N103 retails for $399.95 and weighs 4.25 pounds, which is toward the heavier side for such helmets. Its strong points include its styling, convenience in terms of the sunshade, and the available N-com. Negatives are the wind noise and that top air leak. The N103 is DOT certified, and comes in four multicolors and a wide variety of solids.

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