Nolan N21 and N21 Visor open face crash helmet review.


Nolan N21: great value open face helmet with sun visor.

Nolan’s N21 open face helmet is designed to look a bit fighter pilot and a bit vintage at the same time – which I guess it pretty much does. It’s also designed to work for both daily commuters who want a lightweight helmet and some sun/wind protection but like the convenience of an open face lid – as well as for touring types who maybe sit behind a screen and like the freedom an open face helmet gives.

nolan n21 skydweller helmet front view
Nolan N21 in Skydweller graphics (available with visor and non-visor N21s)

So Nolan made the N21 in both visor and non-visor versions (though the non-visor version still has a pull down sun visor).

But it looks like the ‘visor’ version has been the most popular, because it’s made in more colours and there’s tons more available to buy online so, in this review we’ll be mostly looking at the N21 Visor. But because they’re essentially the same helmet, most of the stuff in this review covers both helmets.

Both models are mainly designed for slower speed, commuter type riding. And Nolan has tried to make them compact by producing the helmet in two shell sizes and fitting a close-fitting comfort liner and padding into the N21 to try and keep it from looking big on you when you’re wearing it. It should also make it more easily stowable if you’re looking for a helmet you can store in your scooter or in panniers.

So, that’s the idea of the Nolan N21. Read on for the detail…

  • Polycarbonate open face helmets
  • Visor and non-visor versions
  • ECE 22.05 certified
  • Wide visor for great vision
  • Both versions have sun visor
  • Micrometric fastener
  • No internal ventilation
  • Useful helmet lock hoop
  • 2 shell sizes
  • Sizes XXS-XXXL
  • Expect to pay:
    • N21: £100-£130
    • N21 Visor: £120-£180

Best places to buy a Nolan N21?

Please click below to visit the Nolan N21 helmets pages at our recommended stores and Amazon UK. And if you buy from any store, we get a small sum from the sale at no extra cost to you – a massive THANKS! (it’s how we finance the site).

Buy from SportsBikeShop


Owners generally love their Nolan N21s.

They find them light, comfortable, love the great all-round vision from that large clear visor (N21 Visor owners only obvs) and the sun visor works really well. They also rate the build quality really highly too.

nolan n21 tricolore helmet front view
Front view of the N21 Tricolore

The only slight niggles are that the sizing can be a bit of a squeeze (see Comfort/Sizing section below) and there’s the obvious issues of it being a bit noisy and lacking the protection you’ll find in helmets with chin bars.

But other than that, with Nolan’s excellent reputation for making high quality, protective helmets, and with the N21 (Visor or no visor) being particularly stylish and available at a very competitive price, it’s hard to see how you can go wrong. Well worth a look.


 (more about helmet safety)

Both N21s are open face helmets so it goes without saying that there’s precious little face/chin protection if you have an accident. But then you knew that and you’re still interested in one, right?

So if you take that as a given, how well will the N21 protect your head (as opposed to your face)?

Well, we suspect it’ll do pretty well. It’s a polycarbonate helmet (AKA plastic) which are generally a cheaper helmet – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t offer great protection.

Nolan are specialists in producing helmets out of plastic. Of the 15 helmets tested to date by the UK’s SHARP helmet test labs, 14 have been classed as either polycarbonate or thermoplastic (polycarbonate is a thermoplastic) so there’s a decent bit of historical data to look at.

nolan n21 visor motorcycle helmet dolce-vita_corsa-red
Nolan N21 Visor in popular Dolce Vita stripe design.

Every single one of those tested helmets has scored a 4/5 star rating – which is a pretty incredible and a consistently high score.

So, we’d probably not be stretching it too far to expect the N21 to score four stars if it were tested today – which it won’t be because SHARP don’t test open face helmets (something that may well change in the not too distant we hope).

You might see that sort of score and think that’s good enough for you. However, it’s also worth pointing out that the N21 – whether Visor version or not – has been designed to offer a particularly wide view of the road ahead. That’s obviously great for safety as it hopefully means you’ll not find anything hiding in your peripheral vision while pootling along.

The N21 has also got a nice and easy to use micrometric strap – they’re both safe fasteners and super quick to use and tighten up firmly. If you’re new to helmets, micrometric fasteners are much easier than the usual alternative which is the double-d ring fastener (though most folks do get the hang of those pretty quickly too).

All in all then, based on Nolan’s track record, we’d expect the N21 to offer good levels of protection for an open face helmet. Though of course if you want better protection for your face, have think about a full face helmet or a modular (the best of both worlds).

And if you are considering a modular, please check out our top 10 modular helmets list and our safest modular helmets page too.

Helmet Noise

(more about helmet noise)
nolan n21 visor motorcycle helmet classic_flat-black
Side view of the N21 Visor matt/flat black with both visors fully dropped.

Word is that the Nolan N21 offers reasonable noise suppression for an open face helmet. Of course, if you’re sat on a naked bike with the main visor down (on an N21 visor) then because the visor drops down nice and low, that’s going to stop a some of wind noise blasting straight into your helmet. But if you’re in a non-visor version, it’s about the same as most open face helmets – and that’s pretty noisy.

Obviously, it’s all dependent on the type of bike you’re on and how quickly you ride, along with a whole multitude of other variables. But the concensus among Nolan N21 wearers is that it’s not as quiet as a full face helmet and there’s quite a bit of wind noise – especially at speed.

A fairly predictable result I guess because open face helmets don’t stop noise getting in as well as most other helmets. But if you want to ride quietly as it’s possible in an N21, buy the visor version, sit behind a screen, ride slowly and stick in some quality ear plugs and you should find it all hunky dory.


(more about helmet ventilation)

Ok, Nolan N21’s are open face helmets so there’s no shortage of air getting in towards the front of the helmet.

Nolan N21 Durango helmet solid white side view
Another non-visor Nolan N21, this one’s the solid gloss white Durango – the one with the vent holes.

But your head’s a different matter. There is a version of the non-visor N21 called the Durango that actually has three small air inlet holes above the eye port. But, rather strangely, none of the other models have any vents whatsoever.

The Durango lets air into the shell where it’ll take a small amount of ventilation into the air channels in the liner and onto the head.

The rest of the N21s have to do without any ventilation at all so you’ll have to make do with any air that seeps around the visors.

It’s probably not really a problem for most of us, but if your riding’s done in mostly hot weather, then you should probably look elsewhere because you’ll end up with a very hot head most of the time (poor you 🙂 )


(more about visors)

If you buy a Nolan N21 Visor, you’ll get an external pull-down clear visor to cut out wind and rain. It’s a large polycarbonate visor that drops down nice and low and, like visors on full face helmets, it can be pushed up out of the way when you don’t want it.

Whether the visor’s up or down, owners say you get a great field of view with the N21 Visor and the optical quality of the visor’s very good.

A couple of useful links…

All our Open Face helmet reviews
Top 10 All Helmets List

Nolan don’t advertise the N21 Visor as having a quick release visor. But if you want to pull it off for cleaning, it is a toolless job and pretty quick. Close the visor, pull off the side plate and pull the visor off to remove. Putting the visor back on again is more fiddly, though shouldn’t take long once you get the hang of it.

nolan n21 visor motorcycle helmet slate grey side view
Slate grey N21 Visor

Unfortunately there isn’t a Pinlock antifog available for the N21 visor and it’s not advertised as antifog treated either, so expect things to fog up when it’s cold – until you get moving and get a bit of wind circulating behind the visor.

Sun Visor

(more about sun visors)

Both versions of the N21 have an integral drop down sun visor and both stow away into the helmet’s shell (you can see exactly where it stows because it’s behind that raised area on the front of the helmet above the eye port).

The sun visor’s made of polycarbonate (like all visors and sun visors) and it’s UV400 which offers maximum protection against UV. It’s made out of a Lexan polycarb which is a trade name but it’s supposed to be good quality polycarbonate. And it’s also anti-scratch and anti-fog treated which is a good touch (not all sun visors are and they can be a bit of a pain on cold or rainy days).

nolan n21 dolce vita helmet in red rear view
Rear view of the Dolce Vita graphic N21

If you buy the N21 Visor, you can either drop down the sun visor by pulling it straight down using the lip on the bottom left of the sun visor. Or, if your main visor’s down, you can use the slider on the left hand side of the helmet.

On the regular N21, you don’t get the slider but there’s a small tab bottom left of the sun visor to tug it down.

The word on the sun visor from N21 owners is that it works very well. It slides down over most glasses without a problem, the tint level seems to be about right (it can’t legally be tinted any darker and used on the road) and it drops down nice and low, giving a good coverage against the sun.

Comfort and Sizing

(more about comfort and sizing)

The Nolan N21 is made in two different helmet shell sizes – with the smaller shell used for fitment sizes XXS-L and the larger for XL-XXXL.

That’s about right for a lower priced helmet. And Nolan do say they’ve tried to make the N21 a compact helmet – so it seems smaller on the head.

Having said that, if the size you’re after is at the lower end of those fitments, it could look a bit oversize when you’re wearing it. For instance, if you’re a size XXS, you’ll be wearing a helmet that has the same shell as size L but padded out to fit – and that can mean it’ll look oversized on you.

nolan n21 skydweller helmet rear view
Another view of the Skydweller graphic N21

Same goes for you if you wear a size XL helmet as you’re wearing the same shell size as someone in an XXXL.

And we’ve found a couple of N21 owners who do reckon their helmets look a bit big when they’re wearing it. Not that it’s necessarily a problem – just if you’re a bit of a fashionista and care what you look like, it’s something to be aware of.

Something else to be aware of is that a few owners reckoned they found their N21s sized a bit too small (i.e. they were usually a size M but found they needed a size L with the N21). So if you’re wanting to buy an N21 and you’re unsure of your size or between sizes, we’d opt for a size up.

Inside the N21 you’ll find Nolan’s Clima Comfort liner. They’re typically nice and comfortable liners and they’re removeable and washable.

In fact, apart from the ocassional person finding their helmets a bit of a squeeze (so ended up ordering a size up) the vast majority find the Nolan N21s really nice and comfortable helmets.

nolan n21 visor helmet in silver side view
Side view of the Nolan N21 Visor in silver

It does help that because it’s an open face lid, everyone also finds it’s a particularly light weight helmet too – that always helps with comfort.

Looks & Graphics

There’s a huge array of graphcs available if you’re looking for an N21.

In the non-visor N21, they tend to be plainer blacks, whites and greys of all types (matt, gloss, flat, solid, metallic – you get the picture), along with the Dolce Vita range that have a simple go faster stripe over the top.

You can get those colours with the N21 Visor too but there’s also the Skydweller, Playa, Quarterback, Flybridge and Getaway graphics.

As per usual, we’ve added some of the designs to this page – but for a wider range along with any new graphics that have been launched – as well as any Nolan N21 deals – please click the links below that’ll take you straight onto the Nolan N21 pages at some of our recommended retailers. Cheers.

Best places to buy a Nolan N21 helmet?

Please click below to visit the Nolan N21 helmets pages at our recommended stores and Amazon UK. And if you buy from any shop, we get a small sum from the sale at no extra cost to you – a massive THANKS! (it’s how we finance the site).

Buy from SportsBikeShop

Nolan N21 Visor Video

Here’s a guy pulling his N21 visors apart. There aren’t really any decent review videos around but this video gives you a decent look at all the parts and the internals and how they work.

Other stuff – fasteners, bluetooth,  build quality, warranty

As mentioned, the Nolan N21 has a micrometric fastener. They’re great and easy to use. There’s also a helmet lock loop on the chin strap of the N21. That’s a metal loop sown onto the strap which you can use to lock onto your motorbike. Could be very handy that if you don’t have anywhere to stow your helmet.

nolan n21 visor motorcycle helmet flat black and yellow side view
Black and yellow N21 Dolce Vita

If you’re looking to fit a bluetooth headset, word is that there are recesses for speakers inside the N21 and there’s just about space outside to clamp the control unit on – so you should be OK there.

One overriding opinion expressed by N21 owners is that – for the price – the quality’s excellent with good quality materials used and the fit and finish being very good.

Which is probably why Nolan are confident enough to back it with a 5 year warranty (manufacturing defects). But that’s a class leading warranty, especially on a lower priced helmet.

Crash Helmet Buying Guides & Top 10s

For (hopefully!) other useful information to help you when buying your next helmet, check our various Motorcycle Helmet Buying Guides - or have a look at our Top 10 best helmet lists where we've got the top 10 best rated helmets overall along with Top 10 Best Budget/Top 10 Safest/Top 10 Best Full Face/Top 10 Best Modular/Flip-up/ Top 10 Best Sportsbike/Track helmets.

Good Alternatives to the Nolan N21?

arai urban v blitz brown open face helmet side view
Arai Urban V

You can find all our Open Face helmet reviews here for a great selection. But here’s some choice picks.

Arai’s Urban V is a high quality fibreglass open face helmet with cunningly hidden ventilation channels that work well. In the US it has been Snell certified too (called the Classic V over there) so should work well if you ever need to put it to the test.

Bell Custom 500

Bells Custom 500 is a low profile fibreglass open face (full carbon is available too) that’s made in 5 different shell sizes. It comes in a range of very cool retro schemes too.

shoei jo Waimea helmet side view
Shoei JO

The Shoei Jo is another quality fibreglass offering – this time with pull down visor and using the same shell tech as their full face lids.

Bell Broozer

Finally, how about a thermoplastic open face helmet with a proper protecting removeable chin bar. The Bell Broozer also comes with a clear and dark visor in the box and is excellent value for money.

Best places to buy a Nolan N21?

Please click below to visit the Nolan N21 helmets pages at our recommended stores and Amazon UK. And if you buy from any store, we get a small sum from the sale at no extra cost to you – a massive THANKS! (it’s how we finance the site).

Buy from SportsBikeShop

Star Ratings

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nolan-n21-and-n21-visor-open-face-crash-helmet-reviewThe Nolan N21 doesn't particularly stand out but it's a great all round package. It's stylish, it has an effective twin visor system (if you buy the N21 Visor that is) and it does everything well. And it's very competitively priced, great quality and lightweight/comfortable according to owners. Oh, and it's built by Italian helmet maestros Nolan who are known for making helmets that are really protective (though obviously, if you want to max out on protection, go for a full face or modular helmet instead). Having said that, if you do want an open face helmet, and you like getting value for money, then the Nolan N21 is a real contender.


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