GEAR Special Section: Helmets & Comms
Choosing a new helmet has become more complicated than ever. What was once a simple choice of color and fit, has become an overload of features and matching Bluetooth® technology. Even if you don’t communicate with other riders, you probably want your GPS, phone, music player, and so forth communicating with you. And while there were only separate comm systems before, helmet manufacturers are now selling combined helmet/comm systems. Here are the lastest options…
This review appears in the Fall 2012 BMW Motorcycle Magazine. To see the complete “Helmets & Comms” special section, order the Fall 2012 issue or a subscription in print from our online store, or purchase and download it now in our digital edition.
Italy’s Latest Modular Helmet
Nolan has been manufacturing modular helmets since the original N-100 in 1998, upgrading its features regularly as innovations come along. I’ve been a fan of their helmets from the beginning, mostly because they fit me so well and it’s generally hard to beat a Nolan for its combination of quality, pricing and features.
When compared to the older N-103, the N-104 is lighter (about 5 ounces, making it just under 4 pounds), sports a built-in spoiler for improved stability and a nice-looking shape, and is now built using two basic shell sizes, which means the overall size is more proportional to your head size.
The increased size of the viewport and faceshield is probably the most obvious change. Simply put, it’s huge. Both wider and taller, the increased field of view is amazing and a big safety factor. The N-104 uses a Pinlock antifog system and comes installed in each helmet.
The new ventilation system is called Airbooster. It uses tubes built into the shell that pull and direct the airflow and has more vents than the previous models. There’s a chin, brow, top of helmet, and two exhaust vents. You can positively feel the air flow.
|+ Specs: Lexan® polycarbonate shell
+ Features: Modular style, increased eye port, internal sun shield, removable liner, Pinlock anti-fog system
+ Approval: DOT, ECE-2205
+ Sizes: XXS-3XL in two shell sizes
+ Warranty: 5-year
+ Price: $450 (solids), $500 (graphics); B4 N-Com $370
+ Info: nolan-usa.com
The four-piece inner lining is removable, washable and made of a wicking, breathable, anti-fungal material. It’s not only very soft and comfortable but appears strong and durable.
The neckroll is removable for summer riding but I did find an increase in wind noise riding without it. Otherwise, this is a very quiet helmet which Nolan attributes to the rubber gasket that completely surrounds the faceshield.
The general operation of the N-104 is smooth and gives a secure impression when fastening the chin strap, sliding the inner sunshield and, most importantly, latching the chin bar into place. The new two-finger opening mechanism centered on the chin bar works remarkably well with one hand.
The N-104 is made to fit the Nolan B4 N-Com system sold separately. Fitting a different system might be a problem since the sun shield slider is located just where you might want to install a clip-on intercom. You would need a stick-on unit and long microphone wire to reach it.—Ken Singleton
To complement the new Nolan N-104, Nolan has introduced the B4, a Bluetooth 3.0 communication kit specific to that model. While all the previous generations of N-Com were based on a headset and a separate Bluetooth module located on the left side, outside of the helmet, the B4 comes as a single kit that fits inside the N-104, which is designed to receive it without any modifications.
The installation takes just minutes: the electronics and the slimmer battery fit like a cartridge behind the lower trim in the back of the helmet. The keypad mounts on the left side and is easy to operate with gloved fingers thanks to its raised rubber buttons.
The B4 features rider-to-passenger communication, and bike-to-bike communication between two B4 systems up to a distance of a half-mile, or up to four additional riders equipped with their own B4, one at a time. Music players and other devices can be connected via a wire using a standard headphone jack and other Bluetooth-enabled devices such as a cell phone and a GPS can be paired.
Firmware updates as well as pre-setting of the radio stations, volume controls, etc. can be done by connecting the B4 to a computer via the USB cable (included) with the N-Com Wizard program. The B4 is compatible with previous generations of N-Com Bluetooth.