What do owners think of the Nolan N91 Evo modular motorcycle helmet?

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Nolan N91 Evo: A SHARP 4 star modular crash helmet at a low price

The Nolan N91 is a polycarbonate, flip-up/modular helmet that was introduced as an update to the popular and well-rated N90. Even though the N90 was well rated – especially at this lowish price point – there were a few reported issues with it. So now, Nolan have released the N91 Evo version. As the name suggests, it’s an evolution of the N91 with upgraded comfort lining being the main improvement.

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Nolan N91 v N91 Evo

Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that the N91 Evo is only a slight evolution over the N91 – so this review covers both helmets. Where we’re talking about a particular Evo version feature, we’ll say so.

The main difference is in the comfort lining of the N91 Evo that was changed in response to some owners comments about the old N91 being too tight around the ears and difficult to remove and refit.

See our section on comfort and sizing below for more information.

You’ll mostly find the Nolan N91 Evo for sale now as the old N91 is being phased out (which is not to say if you do find a non-Evo N91 on sale, it won’t make a great bargain buy!).

nolan n91 evo hi viz orange modular crash helmet side view
Hi Viz orange version of the N91. If you look closely, the black tab below the chrome metal pivot is the chin guard lock.

Safety

Nolan’s modular helmets have a great reputation for safety, and the N91 is no different. In fact, at the time of writing Nolan are our fourth safest crash helmet brand with all eleven of their tested helmets scoring 4/5 stars for safety in the SHARP test.

So it’s no surprise that the N91 scored four stars too. Importantly for a modular, the chin guard also stayed locked and closed in 100% of the tests which is fantastic – and just what you’d expect from your modular helmet. Unfortunately, you’d be surprised at how few flip up helmets manage it, so that’s a big tick in the safety box for the N91.

See our definitive guide to crash helmet safety for more information.

Part of the reason for this great score will lie in the solid construction of the chin guard and mechanism, but part will also like in Nolan’s dual-action chin guard system that needs two buttons to be pressed to open the chin guard – as opposed to many manufacturers that use just one.

It might sound like pressing in two buttons might become a pain but apparently not – owners have reported it becomes second nature very quickly.

nolan n91 evo modular crash helmet silver front view
Showing single chin and forehead vents and drop down sun visor

If you do like to ride around with your chin guard up, the last thing you want is for it to slam down when you’re riding. So usefully, the N91 has a chin guard locking slider (you can see it just below the left chin-guard pivot point) – slide it towards the ‘J’ setting and it’ll lock it open.

The ‘J’ stands for the fact that it’s been ECE 22.05 tested and approved (or homologated) to be used as a Jet style or open face helmet. It also has a ‘P’ position meaning that it’s also approved for use with the chin guard down like a full face helmet. You may be surprised to know that lots of modular helmets aren’t both J and P approved which really means they’re only designed to protect you as an open face helmet, not full face.

Of course, that’s only legally relevant for ECE 2205 countries – but I’m sure those outside of the Eurozone and Oz might well be interested too!

Look here for alternative dual-homologated modular helmets.

Ok, other stuff to note about the N91 in terms of safety and the helmet shell?

Well, it’s a polycarbonate shell – as most cheaper helmets are – which is a strong and durable material and many five star safety rated helmets are created from polycarbonates. Note that Nolan mentions the name Lexan a few times in its marketing bumf in relation to the N91’s visor and shell; but Lexan is just a tradename of one company (Sabic) who supplies polycarbonate to manufacturers. So, as far as we’re aware, that doesn’t actually have any relevance – a Lexan visor isn’t necessarily any better than any other polycarbonate visor.

The N91 is only manufactured in one helmet shell size to cover all fitment sizes, which isn’t ideal for looks or safety (here’s why). And finally, it comes with a microlock 2 fastener – which are fine and safe, as long as you check the strap adjustment from time to time and as the strap stretches slightly over time.

nolan n91 evo ammersee modular crash helmet red white side view
The N91 Evo Ammersee

Helmet Noise

As you may or may not know, modular helmets are generally noisier than full face.

Reports are that the N91 is one of the quieter modular helmets around though. It’s possibly down to the tighter fitting of the comfort lining and lack of ear cut outs, as well as the chin curtain which owners say is effective at stopping wind blast getting into the helmet.

Having said that, don’t expect the N91 to be really quiet and do expect to wear ear plugs (as we all should if we’re going any distance). Also, if you’re coming to the N91 from a quiet full face helmet, we’d expect you to find it quite loud – much of the perception of how noisy a helmet is comes from how quiet it is in relation to your last helmet, the type of bike you ride and your riding position, amongst lots of other variables.

Ventilation

The Nolan N91 has a single chin vent and single crown vent.

The chin vent has a panel that flips out when pressed and allows ventilation to the chin and back of the visor. The top vent is opened/closed by a slider right on the top of the helmet which allows air into the top of the helmet, through channels moulded in to the polystyrene shock absorbing liner then around the scalp, exiting through the single rear exhaust vent.

nolan n91 evo modular crash helmet silver rear view
You can see the rear spoiler and exhaust vent

The chin vent is easy to use in gloves while the top vent is a little fiddlier, sitting right on top of the helmet and being relatively small, so it’s trickier to find in gloves.

Owners seem to think that ventilation is average at best and poor at worst. There’s not much sensation of air around the scalp and while you can feel some air pushing on to the back of the visor, it’s not really enough and certainly not enough to keep it from fogging up.

If good ventilation is important to you, you might want to check out one of these helmets that are great for ventilation.

Visor

Visor fogging may not be an issue though as the Nolan N91 Evo comes Pinlock ready, though there isn’t a Pinlock included inside the box (in Europe) which is a shame – so you’ll have to pay the £30ish it costs for an insert on top.

The visor itself is reportedly OK – for most people.

It operates on a ratchet, seals well against rain and is quick-release. It looks like Nolan have given the quick release mechanism lots of attention because it operates on a separate pivot mechanism to the chin guard and it’s easy to use, unlike some other modulars.

nolan n91 evo modular crash helmet matt black side view
This one’s the plain matt black version

The only issue some folks report with the main visor is that the ratchet mechanism doesn’t always hold the visor open, with some owners saying it can slam down at any speed. It doesn’t seem to happen for everyone and Nolan don’t apparently acknowledge it as a problem – but if you buy an N91 and find it happens to you, you might want to swap it for another as it might be that you’ve bought a duff one.

Sun Visor

The sun visor’s operated by a slider on the left hand side of the helmet. Its analogue, meaning that you can partially slide the visor across and that’ll partly lower the sun visor. It’s a matter of personal preference if you like that sort or prefer the type that’s either fully lowered or fully retracted, usually by pressing a button to spring the visor out of the way.

A few owners have said that it’s not really tinted enough, though that’s a problem with pretty well all motorcycle helmet sun visors, as manufacturers try to ensure they’re legal in all territories and don’t interfere with vision levels too much.

Likewise, a couple wished that their sun visors dropped a little lower to stop that potentially annoying band of un-dimmed light along the bottom edge of your vision. Again, sun visors have to accommodate the wide range in variation of owners’ faces, so if that’s an issue for you, you’re probably going to have to hunt around A LOT – or read through quite a few of our crash helmets with sun visors reviews because if owners have mentioned that a particular sun visor drops down lower than average, we’ll mention it.

Chin Guard

As mentioned above, Nolan flip-up helmets seem to have particularly solid chin guards because not one of the chin guards on their modulars has ever come unlocked during safety testing when tested by SHARP. Which, obviously, is excellent and the best performance by any flip-up crash helmet manufacturer.

nolan n91 evo strip modular crash helmet side view
Nolan N91 Evo Strip

The Nolan N91 is also dual-homologated in the ECE testing zone (i.e. Europe), meaning it’s designed and tested to work as a full-face helmet as well as an open face. Again, lots of modulars aren’t.

Other than that, the chin guard is opened by pressing two red buttons; one on the front of the chin guard and the other tucked underneath it. That’s Nolan’s patented dual action system and is probably one of the reasons their system works so well under impact testing.

It’s apparently easy to use too – pressing two buttons rather than one becomes second nature pretty quickly and owners are happy with the way it operates. So no worries here.

Comfort & Sizing

The Nolan N91 and N91 Evo is available in sizes XS-XXL. However, quite a few owners said that they had to return their N91 for a size larger because it fits particularly snugly. It sounds like there’s a slight issue with the sizing of the N91 helmets which are a tad small, but also that the comfort lining is particularly generous meaning they can feel tighter than other helmets.

So we’d suggest if you’re going to buy a Nolan N91 and you’re between sizes (see how to measure your head here), it’s probably worth buying a size up (so if you’re between M and L for example, order the L).

On the internals, the N91 Evo has what Nolan call their Clima Comfort lining. It ticks all the right boxes as Nolan say it’s designed for comfort and is anti-microbial and hypoallergenic too. It’s also fully removable and washable.

nolan n91 evo modular crash helmet silver inside view
A look at the internals. Note second red chin guard release button inside the chin guard

The comfort lining is the major difference between the N91 and the N91 Evo.

With the N91, quite a few owners complained that the comfort lining was too tight, particularly around the ears. Unlike many helmets, the comfort lining of the N91 presses directly against the ears (many helmets have cut-aways meaning there’s space for the ears away from the liner) which some owners found very uncomfortable.

It seems like Nolan listened closely and have redesigned the N91 Evo to be more comfortable in this respect and to ‘incorporate the chin strap into the inner comfort padding.’

Unfortunately, we don’t have any feedback as to how much better the N91 Evo is over the older N91, so if you use an N91 Evo, please do let us know (thanks!).

Similarly, a couple of people commented that removing and reinstalling the comfort lining was a pain with the old N91. You can struggle and get it out, but it was double the trouble getting it back in again. Hopefully that’s sorted with the N91 Evo too.

nolan n91 evo ammersee modular crash helmet silver front view
Front view of the N91 Ammersee in black/white

Looks & Graphics

You’ll find most places only sell the N91 Evo (though you can find its predecessor the N91 on sale/clearance).

It’s available in the usual range of solid colours as well as a couple of hi-viz versions in yellow and orange. There’s also a classy plain silver version available too.

Otherwise, there aren’t too many designs to choose from, though Nolan are sure to launch others from time to time, so if you’re interested in buying an N91 Evo, we suggest you click a couple of the recommended retailer links you’ll find below to see the latest designs and prices.

At the time of writing, there’s the Ammersee design and the plain Outlaws available; you’ll find examples of those up and down the page.

Best place to buy this Nolan crash helmet?

You'll find this helmet at Amazon UK. Click the link to drop through to their Nolan Helmets page - but make sure you only buy from the most reputable sellers.


Other stuff – audio, weight, buffeting, build quality, chin curtain, warranty

The N91 and N91 Evo are designed to work with Nolan’s N-com communication system only. That’s not to say it won’t work with others because it will, just that you’ll have to adapt them to fit. Apparently, that can be tricky because of the thick rubber skirt on the N91 so reports are that it works best with communicators that’ll stick to the helmet shell.

nolan n91 evo hi viz yellow modular crash helmet side view
Here’s the hi viz yellow version

Like many flip-up helmets, the Nolan N91 isn’t the lightest. The medium version of the N91 weighs about 1.67Kg (3.7lbs) so it’s not lightweight, although it is about bang-on the average weight for a modular. So it’s not overly heavy like some reviews report.

There aren’t any reports that the N91 is particularly subject to buffeting which may be testament to the fact that Nolan paid quite a bit of attention to the aero on the N91. Build quality is said to be very good by many owners and it does come with a chin curtain in the box too – said to be very good for keeping the chill out and reducing noise.

Finally, Nolans come with a 5 year warranty (7 years from manufacturing date that you’ll find somewhere inside the helmet, though you may have to remove the lining to find it). So that’s as long as warranty’s come – so far.

Crash Helmet Buying Guides

For (hopefully!) other useful information to help you when buying your next helmet, check our various guides - or have a look at our top helmet lists where we've got the top 10 rated helmets overall and best budget/safest/full face/flip-up helmets.

nolan n91 evo modular crash helmet silver flip up view
Chin guard opens just above eye line.

Alternatives to the Nolan N91 Evo

There’s lots of competition in the flip-up helmet market at this price point and some fabulous helmets to be found. The AGV Compact is a SHARP 4 star rated modular with sun visor and free Pinlock. Then there’s the very light 4 star Lazer Monaco – a bit more expensive but a great helmet with a photochromic visor as standard. You might also want to check out the excellent Cabergs – the Duke and the Tourmax – both 5 star rated and excellent buys.

Finally, if you’re considering a step up in build quality, there’s the Shoei Neotec – that’s a fibreglass flip-up that’s well rated in almost every area and is SHARP 4 star safety rated too. It’s about double the money from the N91 though.

For more alternatives, why not check out our Top 10 flip up crash helmets page?

Definitely want a Nolan?

Here you'll find all our Nolan crash helmet reviews and previews including full face, flip-up and open face helmets.

Overall/Summary

The Nolan N91 was a bit of a slightly flawed gem. A great priced modular polycarbonate crash helmet that scored really well in the SHARP safety testing and is a well built, quality piece of kit. Owners say it’s pretty quiet (for a modular) and both the main visor and the sun visor generally work well.

It also seems that Nolan listened to first gen N91 owners and upgraded the internals with the N91 Evo to make it more comfortable and, hopefully, to remove the pressure points some owners felt around their ears. If that’s sorted (we’re quizzing Nolan for answers at the moment and if we hear back, we’ll let you know – as well as up the comfort star rating) then the Nolan N91 Evo is really worth considering – especially with its great safety rating and competitive price.

Looking to buy a Nolan?

We recommend checking out Nolan helmets at Amazon UK but make sure you only buy from the most reputable sellers. Please click the link and you'll drop straight onto their Nolan helmets pages (then use site search).

Star Ratings

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