I’m pretty rough on my riding gear, and that includes the helmets I wear. Drops, scratches and bad weather are all par for the course for this rider. And I’ve learned that buying the $49.99 specials so often found at bike rallies just don’t cut it—at least not for the demands I place upon my equipment. So when I needed to replace my beat-up brain bucket, I decided it was time for me to upgrade, and the Nolan N-20 seemed to fit the bill.
The N-20 is a DOT-approved helmet offered in several very cool retro designs. I chose the Caribe style in flat black with a white rally stripe from front to back, with a retro Nolan logo across the front. (Other styles include the Player, Outlaw, Dash and Art, available in various colors and patterns.) The helmet’s shell is lightweight polycarbonate, and weighs less than three lbs.
One of the biggest gripes I’ve had about helmets I’ve worn in the past is related to the shields I’ve used, especially the snap-on kind. Sure, they work fine… for a while, until the snaps start to loosen and I begin to hear an annoying clack-clack sound when I’m on the road. Those shields also seem to vibrate, bouncing around and adversely affecting my vision as the bike traverses various road surfaces. And what if I didn’t want to wear the shield for part of my journey? I had to find a place to stow it without scratching it up.
The N-20 comes with a light blue pilot-style, optically correct face shield that is attached by way of a shield side-plate mechanism (looks like a big “metalized” button) on either side of the helmet. The mechanism allows the shield to be quickly raised or lowered. It’s the perfect distance from my face, allowing adequate air flow yet preventing rain from obliterating my vision. Unlike many aftermarket shields, if you don’t want to use the shield, it’s designed to remain in the flipped-up position, following the contours of the helmet without rattling or catching the wind. The shield can also be changed quickly—it takes less than two minutes to detach the shield and attach a new one. Extra face shields are available in light blue, clear, smoke and dark smoke (dark green) for $34.45, and metallic silver or metallic blue for $49.95. Longer shields are available in clear for $34.45, as well. All shields offer UV400 protection. Additional shield mechanisms come in chrome, dark inx and gold, and can be purchased for $23.40 a set.
The liner is made of antibacterial, antifungal material that wicks quite well, and is removable for cleaning—just hand wash with mild soap, rinse in cold water and dry at room temperature. A replacement liner can be ordered for $48.95, just in case.
Fastening duties are performed by Nolan’s patented Microlock retention system; an adjustable two-level quick-release system. The helmet ships with a removable Microlock cover, as well. Included in the package when my helmet arrived were not only instructions on the helmet itself, but a booklet on the Microlock system, complete with adjustment directions, a fitment guide and care instructions. This ingenious design pretty much eliminates the fumbling around when trying to fasten one’s helmet, attaching the strap quickly and easily. Having this type of retention system on the helmet requires buying a T-bar if you want to leave your helmet on the helmet lock of your bike ($10).
Nolan is also well known for its excellent communication systems, and the company’s MULTI Kit 2 Solo and MULTI Kit 2 Twin will work nicely with the N-20. These can be ordered on the website, as well.
I’ve had the helmet for several months, and have worn it around town, during Daytona Bike Week and on my ride to Outer Banks Bike Week in North Carolina. The high quality of workmanship is evident as the helmet performed impeccably. It’s eminently comfortable, with no hot spots so frequently experienced with cheap skid lids. The shield doesn’t vibrate and the side-plate mechanism doesn’t rattle. The sides of the helmet do not obstruct my peripheral vision, and once fastened properly, it doesn’t slide back or forward on my head, nor does any “wind lift” occur. And due to the helmet’s design and the liner’s wicking properties, my noggin doesn’t overheat even when the mercury rises. In fact, I can comfortably wear the helmet year-round.
Nolan helmets come with a limited five-year warranty from the date of purchase, or seven years from the date of manufacture. I fully expect my N-20 to last at least as long as the warranty period, which is the recommended time to replace a helmet anyway.
Nolan N-20 Helmet
Sizes XS-2XL, various styles and colors