Nolan N85 Motorcycle Helmet Review

Italian helmet maker Nolan, along with sister brand X-Lite, gets high-profile, worldwide exposure on the heads of MotoGP and World Superbike racers such as Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Melandri. Here in the States, the company is best known for its flip-up helmets, such as the N104 introduced last year. After a hiatus, Nolan has re-entered the American full-face helmet market with the N85, a lightweight, fully featured, mid-price lid.

Nolan helmets are designed, tested and manufactured in Italy, which allows the company to maintain rigorous quality-control standards. The N85’s polycarbonate shell has a well-rounded, aerodynamic shape with a built-in rear spoiler for stability at high speed. Closable chin and crown vents bring in fresh air, and hot air exits through vents in the spoiler. The optically correct, scratch-resistant face shield offers UV400 protection and comes with a Pinlock anti-fog insert, and the shield’s pushbutton removal system is among the easiest I’ve ever used. Inside the helmet is a retractable, fog- and scratch-resistant sun shield, which Nolan calls the VPS (Vision Protection System). It is as thick as a regular face shield and is designed to protect the rider’s eyes when the outer shield is up. Although the main face shield has détentes to keep it up in various positions, wind makes the shield flop around or slam closed, frustrating efforts to ride briefly with the shield up to get more fresh air.

Nolan N85 Motorcycle Helmet
Nolan N85 Motorcycle Helmet

Wrapping around the rider’s head is a removable, washable Clima comfort liner, which is breathable, wicks moisture and has an antibacterial treatment. Wrap-around cheek pads are designed to reduce wind noise, to good effect, and can be swapped out for a custom fit. What I really appreciate about the comfort liner is that its temple padding is designed to accommodate eyeglasses or sunglasses. On the other hand, the interior shape is a bit tight front-to-back for my long oval head. With some maneuvering, I was able to find a sweet spot that eliminated pressure on my forehead and the back of my skull, but I recommend trying one on before purchasing. The N85’s chinstrap has velour padding for comfort, and it secures using a Microlock adjustable quick-release buckle.

Weighing in at a modest 56.8 ounces, the Nolan N85 is available in sizes XS-XXL for $249.95 in solid colors (Platinum Silver, Flat Black, Black, Metal White) or $299.95 with graphics (Virage or Vortex in several colors)—a very reasonable price for a high-quality helmet such as this. It has a built-in compartment and port for Nolan’s exclusive N-Com Bluetooth communication system, which is sold separately.

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(This Gearlab item was published in the April 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)


  1. What the makers of motorcycle helmets fail to realize is that the very weight of the helmet may well be the deciding factor in the life or death of the rider involved in an accident. The point I’m making simply put, If you stick a heavy weight on the end of a stick and throw that stick. The weighted end i will strike first.
    In the case of a rider wearing a heavy helmet. Sure his head may well be free and clear of a head injury. But having the weight of his helmet causing a broken neck, doesn’t protect the rider in fact may have been the very thing that killed him
    .In my view there should be a ban on helmets above an acceptable weight, and that weight should be the very bare minimum.
    Also having experienced a collision wearing a open faced helmet, like all good Harley riders feel they must, for the whole image thing. I can say that I sustained rather severe facial injuries. Injuries a full face helmet would have avoided. it’s the, never going to happen to me attitude, and my mates will give me a hard time, thinking, that stops good sense from prevailing.
    My advice is to buy the absolute lightest full faced helmet money can buy. To hell with the expense, and wear protective clothing whatever the climate.
    The younger the rider the more bullet proof you think you are, but in fact it’s the older riders that have learnt to slow down and take more care, are far less likely to have accidents.
    If you don’t care enough about yourself, go visit some parents that have lost their son or daughter and see the pain and how the event has destroyed their lives. Then maybe if you care for those who love you, think about riding smarter than faster.

  2. Nolan has a good reputation. they build affordable motorcycle helmets with the highest of standards a company can have. I personally like Shoei, but that’s just my preference.. We all have them..

  3. I’ve put in over 600 miles on my N85 Virage (black) so far and one thing I will have to disagree on with the review is that the faceshield detents so far have not caused it to close on me at any speed. Though, admittedly, I have not gone over 80mph. Both, the thickness of the shield, and the detents are waaay stronger than in the Scorpion EXO 400 I had prior.


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