When a new helm custom arrives for a webBikeWorld review it goes into the studio for photographs and video. Next comes a close inspection of the features and a read-through of the owner's manual (hmmm...most of the time!) before taking it out for a ride.
The helmet is then usually loaned to various evaluators, with each person taking or recording their notes, comments and thoughts over a period of several weeks.
Most of the time I'm not aware of the list price until I'm creating the affiliate advertisements that go onto each review page.
That's when I visit the manufacturer's website and our affiliates to find both the list price and the current street price of the item.
Thus it was for the Nolan N85, and after riding with the pabrik helm during the last few weeks, I had a figure in the back of my mind, assuming that it probably cost about $450.00 or so.
But then I discovered that the list price of our Platinum Silver N85 is actually $249.95! At first I thought there must be a mistake, but then I discovered that is indeed the list price set by Nolan.
And if that wasn't enough of a surprise, I also found that the N85 sells for as low as $205.99 at one of our affiliates!
Amazement turned to shock, and after checking to make sure there wasn't some strange mistake, all I can say is this: I have no idea how Nolan has done it, because the N85 is one sweet helmet for the money.
Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality
The N85 in Platinum Silver looks very much like its brothers and sisters in the Nolan family tree, with features clearly derived from recent Nolan helmets. In fact, the N85 seems pretty much like a full-face version of the popular Nolan N104 (review).
Both helmets are designed for street/sport riding and touring, and both exhibit very high levels of quality and solid construction.
Also, there's that now-famous Nolan "hard" clear coat that has been described in several of our Nolan helmet reviews (and illustrated in the "Making a Nolan Motorcycle Helmet" video described above).
The N85 comes in basic black (gloss and matte), along with "Metal White" and the Platinum Silver version shown here for that $249.95 list price.
Other colors and graphics are available in the U.S. DOT version and even more colors and graphics are available in the European versions at slightly higher list prices.
The silver is just fine and it matches the other Nolan helmets we have reviewed, such as the N104 and one of our favorite flip-up helmets, the Nolan N-90 (review), along with the Nolan N-102 (review) and Nolan N-103 (review), all reviewed in silver.
The paint on this N85 is perfectly applied, without a wrinkle, dust bump or peel o' the orange. That Nolan "hard" clear coat is also perfectly applied and the finish on the N85 looks and feels identical to the N104. Nolan has this wired, no two ways about it.
The overall quality of the N85 is also outstanding, with all the switchgear, moving parts and liner again seemingly taken right from the flagship N104.
Even the heavy-duty "Microlock" chin strap retainer system is there, one more surprise in a helmet at this price range. And on top of that, they even throw in a Pinlock and anti-fog insert!
Nolan N85 Helmet Fit, Internal Shape and Liner
Nolan helmets typically have a characteristic "Nolan fit", with a "Neutral" to "Slight Narrow" shape as defined in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ.
At 60.5 cm and round in shape, my head is between a size L and XL. My head is also widest at the temples, but there are very few helmets that fit this head shape.
The N85 shown here is a size XL and although it isn't quite a perfect fit on my admittedly unusual shaped head, it feels very comfortable with just a touch of room in the forehead and up top.
It feels very much like a size XL Arai Vector 2 (review) to me, with its "Intermediate Oval" shape.
I couldn't find a direct numerical-to-letter cross reference size chart on the Nolan Italy or U.S. website, and our affiliates list the N85 in size XL as fitting a 61 to 62 cm head, which is about right for an XL.
I'd say 61 is more like the maximum size for the XL, because it feels slightly smaller inside than a typical XL. I tried a size large N85 and it felt pretty tight, so apparently this helmet is running a bit smaller than expected.
The fit is shaded just towards "Slight Narrow" from Neutral, and this should work for most head shapes, keeping in mind the slightly smaller than normal size and making sure the helmet matches your head shape. I'll hedge on this one, shading it with the graphics in the Shape Estimator table below as a "Neutral" to "Slight Narrow".
The padding isn't quite as plush as, say, the Arai Vector 2 or the very plush Shoei Neotec (review), but it feels comfortable with no hard corners poking through.
And the N85's removable "Clima Comfort" liner isn't as rough-feeling as the fabric in my Arai RX-Q (review). The liner is also removable and the fabric is treated with an anti-bacterial coating.
[UPDATE: Nolan said that six different cheek pad sizes (thickness) will be available for the N85.]
Note that there are a few different versions of the N85 available in Europe and some have different specifications.
Nolan N85 Face Shield, Eye Port, Outward Visibility and Sun Visor
Recent Nolan helmets have been noted for their new face shield design, which provides plenty of outward visibility and the N85 is consistent with that approach.
The view out the eye port is slightly better than average in the vertical and horizontal planes, but not as dramatically so as the N104.
We measured the clear face shield at 2.10 mm and the internal rotating sun visor at 1.91 mm thick. Nolan's literature claims that the internal sun visor can also be used as the protective face shield when it's in the dropped position.
The clear face shield is claimed UV400 and it has anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings; we're not sure about the internal sun visor.
The face shield is also Pinlock-ready and a Nolan-made Pinlock insert (they have a license to make their own Pinlock inserts) comes in the box -- yet another bonus for a helmet in this price range.
The sun visor rotates downward with a lever on the left-hand side of the helmet, just behind the face shield rotating point. The sun visor has an adequate amount of travel, but it does have a larger than desired indent for the nose and it is angled up on either side, so it's not perfect.
It would be better with a straighter lower edge to keep those distractions out of the rider's line of sight.
But all things considered, it's better than many other sun visor designs and it also can be stopped in an intermediate position due to its friction-based manual system, which is a plus.
The clear face shield also has a centrally-located lift tab with a small friction click-lock tab molded in. The shield can be lifted very slightly, where it rests on the molding to allow demisting or ventilation -- a feature missing from too many helmets, especially in this price range.
The face shield then lifts through 5 detents with a solid feel.
Nolan N85 Ventilation and Air Flow
The ventilation system on the N85 is better than average. The two top vents are easy to find, although we prefer a single lever to open or close the vents.
The top vents face forward when opened, and they push a good volume of air into the helmet through a series of vent passages through the EPS and on either side of the top part of the liner and down on to the rider's head.
The top vents have a stiff feel on this helmet, but they snap open and closed without problems. The openings face forward, however, which does add some wind noise, especially when riding a touring bike with a windscreen that directs air at the top of the helmet.
The chin vent has a small slider tab to open or close the shutter behind the plastic mesh screen. Note that down is closed and up is open -- it's not obvious, even when looking closely inside the chin vent with a flashlight.
The air travels up through the chin bar and exits along the top of the breath guard.
There's a secondary small vent at the lower part of the chin bar; it can be seen as the black square insert in the photos. We're not sure what this does -- it may flow some air through two small vent passages in the chin bar itself, but we haven't quite been able to figure this out.
In any case, ventilation from both the top vents and chin vent is better than average, although it is not possible to completely shut off the ventilation through the chin vent, so we're not sure how this will affect cold-weather riding.
Nolan N85 Sound Levels
The N85 is about average when it comes to noise control. The top vents will make a wind noise when they're open, as they face forward. It's especially noticeable when riding a motorcycle with a windscreen that directs the air towards the top of the helmet.
But tilt the head forward slightly, as when riding a sportbike, and the noise from the top vents pretty much disappears.
The lower part of the helmet is relatively quiet, however. The overall helmet shape and aerodynamics are good and we have not noticed any exceptional buffeting when wearing the N85.