The convenience and utility of flip-up, modular-style helmets make them indispensible to many riders, especially those who need to communicate frequently and clearly with others without a chinbar in the way. You can also eat and drink without removing a flip-up, and some eyeglass wearers find they make life much easier, too. Today their safety has advanced to the point that many, like the Nolan N104 tested here, are both DOT and ECE-2205 certified, the latter of which means the helmet and chinbar have been tested to the same standard as a full-face helmet.
Nolan has a habit of making big improvements from generation to generation of its flip-up models, and as such just about everything on the new N104 is redesigned. At 3.8 pounds in a size large, it’s three ounces lighter than the N103, but most noticeable are its greater comfort and quietness. The removable and washable, four-piece Clima-Comfort liner breathes well, is said to wick away perspiration and is treated with natural silver salts to be antibacterial and antifungal. I found it much more comfortable, soft and snug than the N103 and among the top three for comfort in our flip-up buyers guide (May 2012).
The comfort liner also helps reduce noise in the N104, largely because of the wind-protector neck roll insert, which can be removed if it becomes too hot. But I think its low sound level is primarily due to the new, more aerodynamic Lexan polycarbonate shell design, which has a slippery shape and built-in spoiler. Two shells, one for XXS-L sizes and one for XL-3XL, help keep the helmet’s weight and overall size proportional to the rider. Like many flip-ups, the fit positions the chinbar quite close to your chin, but it opens and closes easily with one hand using a dual-action lever release, and has stainless-steel latches for security. The velour-lined strap secures with an adjustable Microlock quick-release that is so easy to use it makes D-rings seem archaic.
Closeable vents in the chinbar, forehead area and top of the helmet can be opened independently with gloves on, and effectively channel air to the crown and exhaust vents in back through tubes in the EPS foam liner. This Airbooster system works quite noticeably in warm weather, and the open vents don’t increase noise.
None of this would matter if you couldn’t see where you’re going, so the N104 has a large eyeport and optically correct face shield that is easily changed with a pushbutton release. It comes ready to accept the included Pinlock anti-fog insert for damp or chilly weather, which is so effective several helmet manufacturers have adopted it as standard equipment in addition to Nolan. The N104 also features Nolan’s VPS internal scratch- and fog-resistant sunshield, which deploys down from the inner crown with an easily used slider. Press a button and it pops back up instantly for tunnels or areas where imitating a fighter pilot is frowned upon. The VPS tint level is near ideal for sunny weather and its size provides good coverage without hitting my nose, but it’s important to keep it and the face shield clean, since you’re looking through two shields with it deployed. Nolan also offers a tinted face shield for the N104.
The Nolan N104 modular helmet has built-in pockets for speakers and comes ready to install its latest Ncom B4 Bluetooth communications system. Sizes XXS-3XL retail for $449.95 in solid colors and $499.95 in Voyage and Action graphics.
For more information: Call Cima International at (866) 243-5638 or visit nolan-usa.com
(This Gearlab article was published in the September 2012 issue of Rider.)