Nolan X-Lite X-551 Dual Sport Helmet Review:

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by LoneStar, Nov 29, 2012.

  1. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    During my recent ride in Mexico, I spotted the Nolan X-551 helmet and got to try one on. I liked it but they didn't have the paint/size I wanted or I'd have bought it. They're not available here since not DOT approved, so I ended up (reluctantly) ordering one from FC-Moto.de in Germany. My previous experience with FC was not good but a fool and his money are soon parted.

    At any rate I decided to try my luck again. This time the Nolan did arrive in about 2 weeks. :deal

    Just opened the box today and haven't had a chance to ride in it yet but will give ride impressions tomorrow, weather permitting.

    A few pics and initial thoughts from the unboxing:

    (Ok motoweirdos - time to turn on the sexy stripper music :lol3)
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    Bubble wrap would have been nice
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    The box contained the helmet wrapped in a tight fitting bag, the Nolan Pin-Lock shield attachment, lube for the shield and instruction booklet.

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    Finish / Overall look and Feel
    Unwrapping the helmet, paint is well done and I like the graphics and style - didn't see any bubbles or goobers embedded. Overall impression is that it's a quality helmet.

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    It feels a little lighter than the Arai XD3 I have. Nolan Visor in its lowest position - XD3 in its highest
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    Strap is the classic D-Link style.
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    Chin curtain is removable with 3 snaps and two velcro tabs. Liner removes easily as well, and you can take the neck roll/curtain off it seems.
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    Shield:
    EXTREMELY happy to report the shield is clear of optical distortion - for real.

    The detents for the shield positions are firm and click in very solidly - unlike the XD3 which seems to rely entirely on the pressure of the mounting screws to keep it in place.

    There are 4 shield positions when the visor/peak is in it's highest position and 3 when at it's lowest.
    The first position opens the shield about 1" - I'd prefer a slight opening of 1/8-1/4 so we'll see how it works.

    3rd detent puts the shield edge line slightly higher than the XD3 and in 4th position clears the sight line entirely.

    Visor/Peak:
    Held on with three plastic thumbscrews that are very easy to adjust. The lowest visor position is about the same as the lowest position on the XD3. In it's highest position, it sits a little lower than the Shoei Hornet peak. From wearing it around in the house, it looks like the positions are perfect for me. Highest position gives good visibility, but would still be enough to block some sun.

    Measuring the vertical visor movement from the eye port line of vision, the 551 has roughly 2" of vertical travel, compared to my XD3 which moves up and down roughly 1" to 1-1/4"

    BTW, Nolan says to run the visor at it's lowest position at highway speeds.

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    Flip-Down Sunscreen:
    Never ridden with one, but after wearing sunglasses I'm hoping this is a good alternative to simplify life.

    The smoke grey screen moves up and down with a slider tab on the left side of the helmet, and it seems a little mushy. The screen doesn't "snap" up and down crisply, but since they've been on Nolan helmets for a while I'm guessing they work well enough. The mushy factor doesn't inspire confidence but we'll see.

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    The screen position, when down, sits closer to my nose and cheeks than any other helmets I've tried on, including the Schuberth C3 most recently. The gap on the Schuberth was really big and lots of sunlight bleeding under the dark lens would be distracting.

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    Eye-port Visibility:
    About as wide as the XD3 - possibly a touch wider, but with slightly less visibility at the lower right and left sides peripherally. The eye port has a different cut and raises slightly as it comes to the rear. Not much, but a little less visibility in those areas. You can see the area I'm talking about in the nose to nose XD3 / X551 pic above.

    Sorry guys, but I don't have a set of MX goggles to try the eyeport with. Just eyeballing it looks like the XD3 cut was designed for goggles specifically and I doubt the Nolan would work with them since the port tapers back. Possibly aviator style goggles with a narrow strap...

    Vents:
    There looks to be three vents - the nose vent and two on top of the helmet with one rear exhaust that remains open. The front opens downward with a crisp click, and the two top vent opening tabs are large and really easy to find. They click open and closed easily and positively.

    Fit:
    Ok, I'm guessing I have a XXL head that must fall on the medium oval shape, because I can wear either an Arai or Shoei. I'm guessing the Nolan is a medium oval, as it fits me snugly but with no pressure points.

    Swapping between my XD3, Shoei Multitec and the Nolan, the XD3 has more forehead pressure for me but not enough that I can't wear it all day, the Shoei feels good if not slightly loose and the Nolan just very snug with no immediately noticeable pressure points. The rep in Mexico told me the Nolans fit snug but break in well. We shall see.

    In Mexico, when I tried on the XL and XXL, the opening was very tight and felt like I was tearing my ears off sliding my head in, but once in it fit great. That was my only concern with the helmet.

    Today however, when I slipped it on it didn't seem as tight slipping over my head. Maybe I pulled the straps harder to spread the opening, but it wasn't the painful experience I remembered. Trying it on several times vs the XD3, it's a little tighter through the opening but not much. My XD3 is 3 years old as well so the padding is not as stiff either.

    How the Italians remove a helmet
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    Some other thoughts
    I'll make no bones about it, I haven't found the right helmet yet... hoping this Nolan turns out to be a good one.

    In the past I've looked at almost every DS helmet out there - the Shoei Hornet fit well and had almost no distortion, but the visor was too short for anything but decoration.

    The Joe Rocket I tried briefly was cheap and had bad habits in wind.

    I've also rigged visors onto my Shoei full face helmets with varying degrees of success. They worked well within limits.

    I've tried on the AFX version as well as Icon and others but they weren't right for me.

    The XD3 was the best compromise at the time, but I feel it's significantly overpriced for its design. It looks good, the visor actually works as a visor, it has a bunch of vents and it's built well, which is goodÂ… but, the shield has significant distortion down low and minor up high. Not terrible when closed, but when opened for ventilation when you're sweating in some tight tricky stuff and trying to judge inches and hits, it's like looking through a coke bottle. The bottom edge of the shield lies directly in your sight line and blocks a lot of visibility when open. The shield does not stay in position due to detent design other than fully closed when at highway speeds. I also find it slowly works it's way down when open until you finally realize your vision is blocked. The vents, though good, aren't easy to adjust with gloves or when riding.

    Arai XD3, Nolan X-551, Shoei Multitec w Giro visor
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    Initially the Nolan looks good - seems like a lot of helmet and features for the money, which 2 weeks ago was around $298 including shipping. I also loved the XD3 initially so time will tell if the Nolan works.

    I'll do a ride with it tomorrow and post results here.
    #1
  2. pschuyler

    pschuyler Adventurer

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    Good looking helmet, what safety specs does it meet?
    #2
  3. bearbuck

    bearbuck Adventurer

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    #3
  4. pingvin

    pingvin Been here awhile

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    Used the X-551 this year. Had several Schuberths S1 and R1 and no way I'm having a helmet without integrated sun visor for touring. After killing my last R1 (saved my head in a high sider), I gave the X-551 a try. But not 100% happy:

    1. Sun visor not as good as Schuberth (might be other options than stock that's better). Not talking about mechanism but Schubreth was at least as dark but still clearer (if that made sense).
    2. Not as quiet as Schuberth, which i didn't expect either so not a big thing (Schuberth is VERY quiet)
    3. My nose touches the helmet. Combination small head/big nose...but it's not THAT big. Very annoying, might try cutting out some material. Not much, actually takes a little bit of wind pressure before touches, still annoying.
    4. Fits OK but still gives me a head ache. Might not be an issue for others, guess a pressure thing?

    Good:
    1. Cool design, works for any bike
    2. Though not as good as Schuberth, the sun visor is still a nice feature
    3. Even at higher speeds (say 130kph), you don't really notice the beak, nice job on aerodynamics

    So all in all not that happy, but my main issues may not be a problem for others.
    #4
  5. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    Thanks Pingvin - good to get some real world feedback

    The other Nolan helmets I've tried on have always felt very close and barely cleared my chin. This one feels roomier but I'll see if high wind causes the sunscreen or other parts of the helmet to touch

    I've pretty much decided I'll end up with a Schuberth for my visor-less helmet in addition, based on the fit and the recommendations of friends who have much more road & travel time under their belts than I. I prefer a visor helmet and am hoping this one works well and can use it for many of my trips.

    If I could design my "perfect helmet", it would be a flip face helmet like the C3 or MultiTec with a visor :lol3
    #5
  6. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    I got a chance to take an hour and half ride with the X-551 today, on local twisties with maximum speeds of about 70-75, but didn't get the chance to do Interstate with continuous high winds.

    First and immediate impression: Incredibly light weight of the helmet. Turning my head when riding was effortless and quick. I know that seems odd but there was a noticeable difference from my XD3. Likey.

    Second impression: There was noticeably less helmet drag in the wind. For lack of a better way to describe it, the helmet seemed to flow more easily through the air. Likey II.

    Third: Face shield completely free of distortion. Mucho Likey III.

    Fourth: Excellent visibility - which surprised me since the eye port tapers back compared to the XD. I'm guessing either your face sits more forward in the helmet or they just cut the port back more, but peripheral visibility is excellent. I was surprised. The area to the lower right and left I mentioned when first trying it on seems to fall where your arms are when riding and I had no sense of less visibility.

    Fifth: Wind noise... about the same as the XD3... maybe less. Subjective.

    Sixth: Sunscreen flipped down easily, and slightly bonked my nose but returned to position and had no issues with it touching, even at 75 mph. Other than a slight bonk when it's initially deployed, it's clear of my schnozz. Judicious use of a Dremel and sanding drum could clearance it a bit probably. It is clear of distortion as well and when deployed behind the shield there was a very slight degradation of clarity (two pieces of plastic) but not enough to bother me. The gray could be a tad darker for my taste, but it helps. I had no sense of bright sunlight glare coming under the edge, which I was concerned with.

    At 75 mph, riding with the screen down and shield completely open, I had no eye watering as I sometimes get with sunglasses. Weird surprise but good for me. Also, to note that the shield detents would only hold the shield either completely open or at it's first open position.

    Visor/Peak: I rode with it into the setting sun, at it's highest position and it still protrudes enough to block the sun. Continued to ride with it at highest position up to 75 mph and at that speed I felt a slight lifting - more so than the XD but not much. Nolan says to run at highway speed with it in lowest position, so I adjusted it while riding and when fully down felt no lift or drag. No strong crosswinds to see if it catches air yet - the XD3 is great in that regard - but I suspect it will be good.

    Venting: At about 40 mph, when I popped open the top vents you could hear the wind noise increase in the helmet. I didn't feel a significant change with the venting, but the temp was about 68 so I'll be able to judge better when it gets a bit warmer...

    ***NOTE - realized I didn't have the front forehead vent beneath the visor open - will update

    Comfort: From the initial get go, the helmet felt good. Slight pressure across the forehead but it was even and not much. The cheek pads were comfortable and snug, but not tight like my XD. After about 20 minutes I didn't notice any pressure or discomfort in the helmet or on my forehead. I felt no pressure on my ears so after some long rides I'm hoping it stays that way. My XD3 seems fine as well, but after a long day in it my ears hurt. Hope this holds true.

    The chin strap seems slightly more forward than the XD and felt good.

    I'm 6'4" and my R1100GS has brutal buffeting at my head level. This helmet has less buffeting so I guess the aerodynamics are better. Being lighter it may also be more subject to wind gusts so we'll see.

    Overall impression is very good - after about 30-45 minutes I forgot it was on. What I began to realize was that my attention was on riding and not the helmet... thats great :deal

    On this short appraisal, the only negatives I've noticed are that the sunscreen takes two or three attempts to get it all the way back up into the helmet - it goes about 90% up and takes a couple or three attempts to completely disappear. That and the shield detents aren't as strong as they sound. At 70, it looks like position 1 and all the way up are the only two settings that stay, but I'm betting that the first position will pop closed at 80.

    Impressed with the 551 initially - I'll update again after some serious time with it.
    #6
  7. RomaDakota

    RomaDakota Illuminatus!

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    I have been riding with one for over a year and a half. Came from an Arai XD and prefer the X-551. I do not have the detent or the sunscreen issue. I am not easy on helmets and ride probably 85% of the days. I have been very happy with the helmet however the vinyl underneath at the base of the cushioning is starting to crack. My Arai did the same. After a year, I added the Bluetooth comm.
    I like the paint finish on your helmet.
    #7
  8. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    Great to hear Roma - are you happy with the N Comm system? I've not used one but may add it since the helmet is set up for it
    #8
  9. No False Enthusiasm

    No False Enthusiasm a quiet adventurer

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    Thanks for this write up, LoneStar.

    Where did you purchase the X-551?

    NFE
    #9
  10. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    Hey NFE - it's not available in the US. RevZilla had a blurb page saying it was about to be DOT processed and available but it's an old page. BearBuck contacted Nolan and they don't seem to plan on offering it here... yet.

    After I tried it on in Mexico, I wanted one and started searching the net. Found some in Great Britain but the shipping was a lot so I ended up getting it from FC-Moto.de and total was about $298 inc shipping.

    **BTW you need to search the site for "X-lite" or "X-551" or both - they are branded under X-Lite and not Nolan - and it also looks like they raised the price by $100... that sux. Still a great helmet and I'd buy another at that price as well.

    A word of warning on FC-Moto... they have great prices but are really bad about communication. Last year I ordered a Uvex Enduro Carbon and never heard a peep about it. They didn't charge my card, but they also never told me that the Uvex had sold out and they had no plans of restocking. When I finally got a response it was curt and when asked what helmets were actually in stock since the website showed everything as being in stock they never responded. CC was not charged thankfully.

    This time I did get an email showing it being handed off to DHL so at least I knew it was in process. Got it in 2 weeks.


    BTW this paint scheme is the "Hyper" and is offered in black w white accents and or white with black.

    Here's the website - they are not on the Nolan website BTW - and shows all the paint schemes http://www.x-lite.it/catalogo_13.jsp?iditem=105
    #10
  11. Xeraux

    Xeraux Archvillain

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    Dood.

    Thanks for the write up!

    Helmet looks great and the interior looks absolutely top notch.

    I was really wondering if the "peak" was actually useful. So many of the "dual-sport" helmets', other than the Arai XD series, "peaks" are little more than a styling element. It's good to know that the 551's peak is actually functional.

    :thumb
    #11
  12. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    Xeraux, I'm out of my league compared to you when it comes to helmets :lol3

    Whether its the angle I hold my head or just the peak design, I'm finding the lowest setting for the visor/peak actually TOO low - wow imagine that :deal and at highest it still works about like the Shoei
    #12
  13. No False Enthusiasm

    No False Enthusiasm a quiet adventurer

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    Thanks for the detailed info.

    BTW, have always enjoyed the high quality of the photos in your ride reports.

    NFE
    #13
  14. RomaDakota

    RomaDakota Illuminatus!

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    Generally I like it. Best for some tunes on a longer trip. Bluetooth to the iPhone and you can control (stop, play, volume, next song) from the helmet controls. Distance for point to point helmet communications is a bit limited. Install was a bit fiddly.
    #14
  15. mario33

    mario33 Howling around...

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    I dont like flip-down sunscreens. They can cut your nose out while in a fall. And falls are quite expectable while off the road. Not that I wish it for anyone... Just my 2 cents.
    #15
  16. Hikertrash

    Hikertrash Long timer

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    How would they cut your nose? My nolan N90 flip down sunscreen did not lock, so it would move up easily by pushing up with my finger.
    #16
  17. Twilight Error

    Twilight Error Going nowhere slowly

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    I've got the same wonder.
    1. If the helmet pivots on your head enough to drive the internal visor into your nose, you need to find a different helmet - the fit sucks.
    2. The internal visor does not lock down and there is nothing to hold it in place. I can move the visor of my 103 with a flick of the forefinger.
    #17
  18. pingvin

    pingvin Been here awhile

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    Had 4 helmets with integrated sun visors and crashed with all 4, 3 of them big crashes writing off bikes (it's a reason why I've had 4) and 3 of the crashes with sun visor down. No problems with my big-ish nose at all :D Not saying it' couldn't happen but least of my worries in a crash...
    #18
  19. Xeraux

    Xeraux Archvillain

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    This.
    #19
  20. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    Have had some quality riding time with the helmet and must say I'm very happy. It fits my head perfectly and is very comfortable. At 70 mph, the helmet exhibits less of the effects of buffeting than my other helmets and I've had no issues at all with visor lift at high speed. I have tilted my head back at 75 mph and the visor doesn't catch air. The shield stays in its positions at 70-75.

    Venting may flow less than the XD - if the shield is open it blocks the forehead vent so it doesn't flow as much.

    Without the chin curtain in, a lot of air flows up into the front so when the temps dropped it was noticeable

    Pingvin, you'll be happy to know I experienced the sunscreen/nose issue today. After working it a few times, it seemed to loosen a little and finally locked into place just a bit lower than previously and in high wind or if I tilted my head up slightly it contacted my nose. I may dremel out the nose slot a little bit or just leave it up a little. I could see how it could be an issue under the right conditions.

    Have not tested it in rain yet.

    I think I finally got lucky and found a great helmet for my head shape and riding setup :deal
    Will go ahead and order a couple of spare shields methinks... heck I might order another helmet and stash it away :lol3 seems like every time I find something good they change it or stop making them :deal
    #20