Nolan 90N Helmet

By Ken Aiken - the Gear Guy on


The N90 full-face helmet with the flip-up chin bar is newest model introduced by Nolan. I own the N101 and N102 models and was very interested in seeing what improvements had been made to this one.

First, let me state that the N101 is the only helmet I’ve ever crash tested and the resulting asphalt marks have convinced me of the importance of wearing a full-faced lid. However, when taking photographs, talking to people, and slowly cruising around town the flip-up chin bar provides me with the convenience of a 3/4 helmet.

The patented Microlock clasp on the chinstrap is the way to go and has always been one of my favorite Nolan features. Forget about D-rings: this ratchet clasp system is easy to use even when wearing winter gloves.

They’ve improved pin-lock system for their patented anti-fog insert, which works better than any other anti-fogging system I’ve ever tested. The two plastic pins now rotate to securely hold the anti-fog shield rather than simply relying on friction pressure.
Another bit of design tweaking is a slightly wider neck roll to help filter noise –and prevent cold air ripping up the back of my neck.

The N90 venting system returns to a more simplified manual setup where four vents –two on the chin bar and two on the top of the helmet—are popped open or closed like toggle switches. They’re easy to manipulate on the fly while wearing heavy gloves, something that the more “advanced” push-button venting system on the N103 lacks.
To my mind, the biggest improvement is the hinge/release for the face shield. Their old design required a learning curve to remove/replace the shield and somehow I always managed to lose one or two component pieces of the system. I put up with this problem simply because no tools were required and I often switch from clear to a tinted shield depending upon light conditions. The new “Centromatic” method is mechanically simpler and only requires pushing a button on each side.

However, changing face shields has become a moot point since the N90 has an integrated tinted shield. Move the switch lever on the right side of the helmet back and shades shaped like a pair of sunglasses flip down. Move the lever forward and it retracts. This is a huge improvement over the external sunshield on the N102 that tended to get scratched and caused a considerable amount of helmet noise. Another major advantage is the tinted sunshield/sunglasses can be used while the chin bar is in its fully raised position—something the company says not to do (because of liability issues) but everyone does and there is even a lever on the right side of the helmet for locking the chin bar in the upright position.

I prefer the three-piece removable liner on the N102-N103 to the single-piece, machine-washable helmet liner on the N90, but this is just nitpicking. It’s not as if I wash the anti-bacterial liner every couple of weeks.

The N-Com Mobile system is now standard on Nolan helmets. Two pop-out inserts on the helmet allow the custom communication systems to be quickly installed – something that was a bit more complicated on my old N101 and N102 models. The “basickit2” plus the “intercomkit” allows outbound communication by wire to a passenger fitted with the same Nolan system. Auxillary to the basic kit2 is “mobilewire” for the cell phone and “multimediawire” for bike-to-bike, GPS, MP3, and CD player. The “Bluetooth kit2” eliminates the physical wire while allowing outbound communication with the passenger and connection to Bluetooth devices like a cell phone, GPS, and MP3 players. The N-Com Mobile system is battery operated, but another auxiliary wire allows it to be recharged from the bike’s electrical system. This is easy if you have a Powerlet socket, but requires some adaptation to an SAE system.

The N90 is quieter than the N101 and N102 and I find the vent controls easier to use than on the N103. The N90 offers only 6 monochrome choices, versus 27 different color/graphic options for the N103 and has plastic chin latches instead of stainless steel, but the N90 costs almost $175.00 less than the N103.

To sum it up: Nolan has retained their best helmet features in the N90, modified some that I didn’t think could be improved, and brought their design to a new level with the new “Centromatic” system and integral tinted shield. Made in Bergamo, Italy these are not Chinese-manufactured helmets and, biased or not, this is just another feature of Nolan helmets that I happen to like.

Colors: Various black and silver tones plus white.
MSRP $299.99 (but I’ve seen prices as low as $219.99)

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