Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Nolan N103 Outlaw

The Italians really know how to build a helmet. I was shopping for a helmet for quite some time before deciding on the Nolan. I saw a special on the Discovery channel which featured Alpinestars protective riding gear (also Italian) and Nolan helmets. They went to the factory and had engineers explain their process for developing and building Nolan helmets. It was very interesting and convinced me to look into Nolan further. I talked to a few people who own them and the only criticism they’ve had is that they feel the Nolan helmets are noisy and heavy. I agree with both assessments, but you can easily mitigate the first with some ear plugs and the heavy thing just makes me think that I’m getting more protection so I’m ok with it. The main reason I purchased the Nolan was for the communications. I bought the “Outlaw” flat black model. I wanted as few wires and cords as possible in terms of the communications system for the bike so I purchased the Bluetooth comm unit for the helmet. The helmet comes with a boom mic, but you need to purchase the comm unit separately. My BMW Navigator III GPS (special Garmin GPS for BMW, but it is almost identical to the Garmin StreetPilot 2820 model) unit is the central nervous system of the bike and the helmet connects to it via Bluetooth which is wonderful when it works. I’ve been on rides and the connection will drop off for no reason. At times I regret not getting the hard-wire system, but I’m stuck with this now and have learned to deal with it. I think I’ll save the GPS discussion for another post. Back to the helmet… It is a flip face helmet so when I stop for gas, I don’t really need to remove the helmet. I can just flip up the front and I have full visibility. This saves time. The flip face is also useful for quick water and PowerBar stops. Another useful feature is the retractable shaded visor. Nice when you are wearing regular glasses and the sun decides to come out. Instead of stopping and putting on sunglasses you just need to drop down the shaded visor on the fly. There is an outlet to plug an iPod into the helmet. I don’t do this very often, but the sound quality is quite good with the built-in speakers. The Bluetooth has eight hours of “dormant” battery life which is a challenge on long trips. I recently purchased a charger so I should be able to charge the helmet Bluetooth on the fly through the bike’s battery accessory socket. I have also connected a Vizalert heads-up display to the helmet, but I will save that discussion for a later post. All in all, a nice helmet with several features and some scalability.

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