Someone asked me recently what has been my favorite of all the gear I have used and reviewed over the past ten years. It’s a tough question, since I’ve had the opportunity to test quite a few pieces of high-quality gear, including protective clothing, accessories, and miscellaneous farkles, but since they are such an integral part of my ride, I’ve always looked forward to the chance to try different helmets. I’ve worn a bunch of them, from high-end models to lesser lids I refused to even write about because of their poor quality, but one that sticks out as a favorite was Nolan’s N44 Crossover, first introduced about eight years ago.
Kind of an oddity at the time, the N44 was one of the first helmets to feature a drop-down sun shield, but more notably, also one of the first to offer a new approach to versatility with a design that, through interchangeable parts could be used in six different configurations. I think at the time Nolan called the N44 a “modular,” or a “crossover” but I thought “transformer” was an even better descriptor. I also called it a “helmet for all seasons” since I felt it was a great fit for a Wisconsin rider like me where, when hearing praises or complaints about the weather, natives will often say, “Give it a couple of days.”
Until its shelf life expired, on hot days I wore the N44 with just the chin guard, vented peak, and no face shield, lowering the dark UV400 sunscreen when I wasn’t in a shady stretch. Four big intakes on the crown and exhaust vents also helped keep my noggin cool. When I was feeling nostalgic, I could use the N44 with no chin guard or face shield, and poof—a ‘60s style ¾ open face. Pushing the riding envelope in November and March, the top air intakes could be closed, while the face shield, chin guard, chin curtain, and neck roll eliminated frostbite, though admittedly there was little that could be done about snow.
Nolan’s newest version of their forward-thinking N44 is the N70-2 GT, and though it looks a lot like the old N44 and has the same quality Nolan fit and finish, there have been some significant updates. I got an N70 dressed in the newly-offered brilliant hi-vis chartreuse, now a ubiquitous color for anyone working around traffic; it is also available in white, black and two graphics designs. It still has the familiar detachable chin guard which locks in solidly with stainless latches and is claimed to offer as much protection as that of a full-face. By removing the chin guard, I can slip the helmet on and off without removing my glasses, though of course one drawback is it’s easy to misplace that part (I once drove off with mine on the pillion seat; fortunately, replacements are available).
The drop-down sun shield, one of my favorite features, has a new, larger shape and has three detents for position. It’s scratch and fog resistant, so no problem going without the face shield. A word about that face shield: I have not tried any full-face or modular helmet that has a wider field of view. In fact, I can’t see the edges of the helmet in peripheral vision. Like the N44, the N70-2 GT’s face shield has three detents, one at about an inch open, a second at the top of the face opening, and a third fully retracted. In my review eight years ago, I noted that the system for removing/installing the shield is one of the most user-friendly and quickest I’ve ever tried, enabling fast change-outs for weather variations and bug issues; that has not changed.
I have never been able to understand why some helmet makers make a pinlock insert an option. Nolan includes one at no extra cost, and though it can be kind of a pain to install, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t just leave it on since it’s the best preventative for fogging in any temp.
Another unique characteristic of the N44 and now the N70 (actually of all Nolans) is the “Microlock2” chin strap latch. A notched tab slides into a receiver and locks; lifting a lever releases it. This patented feature is quicker, glove-friendly and just as secure as the D-rings other manufacturers favor, but doesn’t work with on-board helmet locks. However, Nolan thoughtfully includes a helmet strap “TBar” which slips into the Microlock2 and provides an attachment for most helmet locks or cable locks built in on many bikes, and the strap fits nicely on a HelmetHook (see sidebar).
I still have my old Nolan N44 for comparison, and I found the newest version a definite upgrade in comfort. From the padded strap to the removable neck roll to the plush liner, the newest crossover felt snug and comfy, though I found I do have to sneak my hand in to straighten out my ears after donning the helmet. The N70 has larger air intakes on the crown and two extractors on the rear for ventilation coupled with a good-sized vent right in the bottom of the face shield. On my wife’s kitchen scale the new Nolan in full dress (face shield and chin bar) weighed in at 3.7 lbs., which is where most Lexan Polycarbonate shell helmets fall. With face shield, chin bar and neck roll installed, I’d judge its quietness at speed to be about average when compared to full face helmets, but of course it depends on which of the six helmet configurations you choose and what kind of windshield you have.
Apart from its versatility, I was also impressed with N70-2 GT’s price. At about $360 for the Hi-Vis model ($10 more for graphics), to me this helmet merits a high “bang-for-buck” ranking. The N70-2 GT is available in two shell sizes, XS through XXXL and is comm system or emergency stop signal ready. For more information, visit Nolan-USA.com.
Pros: Amazing versatility, low price, high comfort
Cons: Easy to lose interchangeable parts, so many decisions!