All-New Nolan N-102 Modular Helmet

story by Fred Rau, Created Oct. 14, 2005
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When they first came on the market over a decade ago, modular (flip-face) helmets were something I would never wear, or recommend to friends.

The chinbar retention systems and general structural integrity of this type of helmet construction just wasn't stout enough, in my opinion, to provide the proper level of protection, despite DOT approval. I even gave seminars around the country where I would demonstrate their weakness on stage by breaking the chinbars loose with my bare hands.

But both design and materials technology have come a long way in the ensuing years, and now there are more than a few modulars on the market that I feel I cannot only recommend, but wear almost everyday myself. Among the best are the Schuberth, the Caberg (also sold as Jarow and Arow), the HJC and the Shoei. Beware, though, that there are still a fair number of Chinese-built knock-off modulars being sold, particularly on the Internet, that use things like plastic chinbar latches. Avoid these like the plague.

A helmet is a very personal thing, and a model that fits and works well for one person may not necessarily do the same for another, but over the years I have found my favorites (in modulars) to almost always be made by Nolan. I started with their N-100 model, later upgrading to the newer N-100E, and then finally to the high-end X-1002. Each was an improvement over the previous one, and now Nolan has raised the bar yet again with their all-new N-102 modular. The Nolan N-102 is, by far, the best-designed modular I've seen to date, and a really good bargain at under $300, as it matches or betters others I've found at twice that price. A helmet is a very personal thing, and a model that fits and works well for one person may not necessarily do the same for another...

The chinbar, like all the Nolan modulars, uses double, hardened steel latches to make sure it stays in place on impact, but also has a new, patented release mechanism, called the "Centromatic." Like most other modulars, this is a one-handed, central-mounted release. However, I have often worried that those with a single lever or button under the center of the chinbar might inadvertently be released during an accident if the front of the helmet impacted something, pushing the lever up. Nolan has addressed this problem by designing their new release so that pushing forward on the underside lever does not release the chinbar, but instead causes a second lever in the front of the helmet to pop out from its recessed mount. While still pushing up on the bottom lever with your thumb, you then wrap your index finger around the upper lever, and squeeze the two together. Then, and only then, does the chinbar release. It's a clever and innovative system that makes the chinbar very easy to release, yet protects against accidental opening.

In addition, the N-102 comes standard with an anti-fog insert for the faceshield, a chin curtain, a fully-removable and washable liner that snaps in place, and a three-position adjustable dark sunshield over the outside of the regular faceshield. Nolan has also patented its unique "Microlock" chinstrap retainer my favorite among all quick-release retention systems I've tried. With the Microlock, the two ends of the chinstrap latch ratchet together, meaning you don't have to loosen and fumble with the straps to adjust the snugness.

There is a large upper vent that now opens much easier than before with gloved hands (a small complaint I had on earlier models), and two, independent smaller vents in the front of the chinbar. The chinstrap is velour-lined for comfort, and a new, larger neckroll in the back not only provides better neck protection, but reduces wind noise. Buffeting effect and wind noise are also reduced by a new shell design, with a molded spoiler in the top of the polycarbonate shell.

As with previous Nolan models, the cheekpads are easily removable and can be replaced with different sizes for a custom fit, the liner has built-in pockets for adding a headset, if you like, and the faceshield is easily removable without any tools.

All in all, a heck of a buy for $289 in solid colors (11 available) or $349 in blue, grey or red graphics.




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