X-Lite X-903: a great performing, innovative touring helmet.

x-lite-x-903-featured

Review of the X-Lite X-903 touring crash helmet.

The X-903 is Italian helmet maker X-Lite’s top-dog touring helmet.

X-Lite set out to make it a compact touring helmet with outstanding ventilation (designed using fluid-dynamics) and with a shell made of complex composite of carbon, aramid (Kevlar) and fiberglass to give – what they hope – is ‘the best possible helmet experience’.

x-lite x-903 impetus black yellow helmet front view
X-903 from the front. This one’s the composite fiber Impetus graphic.

Which I guess is what most premium-level helmet makers set out to do most of the time. But, looking at the spec sheet of the X-903, there’s a bunch of interesting and unusual features that starts you thinking that in this case X-Lite really means it.

Like what?

Well, an unusual magnetic quick change visor assembly for one. Then there’s EQRS; an active carbon liner; liner positioning control; adjustable Pinlock, and a few other bits and bobs that, at the very least, makes you realize that this isn’t a churn-it-out, bog standard helmet.

No, it’s been properly thought through.

Which is all well and good. But does it all stack up when you’re in the wind. And has X-Lite made a real standout touring helmet?

Looking to buy an X-Lite X-903?

Please click below to visit the X-Lite X-903 helmets pages at our recommended stores – all checked for great online ratings. And if you buy from any store, we get a small sum from the sale at no extra cost to you – a massive THANKS! (it’s how we finance the site).

Overall/Summary

In their quest to make the ultimate touring helmet, X-Lite’s really gone to town with the X-903. Not only has it got pretty well every recent innovation on it (EQRS, Pinlock, Micrometric 2 fastener), but there’s some new ones too such as their fantastic magnetic quick release face shield system.

x-lite-x-903-ultra-carbon-modern-class-flat carbon side view
Ultra carbon X-903s aren’t actually much different to the standard composite versions

But it’s no novelty helmet. It does all the basics very well too – it’s comfortable, quiet and the aero’s great. Plus both the sun visor and face shield really work when you’re in the saddle.

All in all, there are few touring helmets that’ll beat the X-903. Ok, it’s not cheap, but when everything comes together as well as it does on the 903, it actually represents great value for money too.

If you’re on the hunt for a fantastic touring full face, then you really should take a look at the X-Lite X-903.

Safety

 (more about helmet safety)

The X-Lite X-903 is DOT certified but hasn’t been tested by any independent safety testers like Snell or SHARP.

In fact, Nolan/X-Lite hasn’t ever had their helmets tested by Snell, so we can’t really get any idea of safety levels of their helmets there.

But they have had their European helmets tested by SHARP, so maybe that can give us an idea.

x-lite x-903 modern class flat black touring helmet side view
Composite fiber Modern Class flat black X-903

Over the years, X-Lite has had nine composite fiber helmets tested by SHARP. Seven scored four stars and two scored a maximum five stars.

That’s an incredibly high safety score – but don’t forget that’s testing on ECE standard helmets and we don’t know if X-lite made any changes for their US DOT helmets.

One thing that’s worth noting though is that X-Lite says it’s had the X-903 independently tested for rotational impact by an ECE and Snell testing station based in Italy.

They don’t say what the results actually were, just that they passed the same rotational tests MotoGP and Superbike helmets have to pass for FIM homologation.

Guess that’s another tick in the box – but it would be good if they’d tell us the results tho!

With the X-Lite X-903, they’ve added quite a few features that should contribute to safer riding or improved protection if you do have an accident.

To keep you out of trouble, the X-903 has a wide and tall face shield for extra all-round vision. It comes with a Pinlock antifog insert in the box and features adjustable pins so you can position the Pinlock just right and out of your line of vision.

Behind that, there’s a drop down sun visor which is fantastic to ensure you can actually see if you forget your shades or tinted shield.

x-lite-x-903-ultra-carbon-nobiles-crash-helmet-rear-view
Rear view of the X-903 Nobiles graphic helmet

And there are a pair EQRS cheek pads in there – designed to help paramedics easily remove the cheekpads so they can pull your helmet off without disturbing your head/neck too much. It’s one of those features you’ll hopefully never need but worth having in there anyway – you never know.

The lid itself is made to be extra compact and is made in 3 shell sizes to optimize fit – not only does that make for a better looking helmet but reducing the size and optimizing fit helps to make for a helmet that can manage impact better.

X-Lite sells the X-903 in two variants – there’s a composite fiber and an ultra carbon. But both use a composite of fiberglass, aramid and carbon fiber, just that there’s more carbon fiber used in the ultra carbon, not least for that lovely weave effect as a top layer.

All in all then, the evidence points to the X-Lite X-903 being a safe place to stick your head. And should you hit the deck, we reckon the composite fiber shell should do a good job of minimizing injury.

Helmet Noise

(more about helmet noise)

The X-Lite X-903 is a well-built helmet with a decent comfort liner – both of which usually help make for a quiet helmet. But that’s only part of the story.

It’s also got plenty of ventilation and those ventilation holes let in noise too – especially when the vents themselves stick up into the air stream and generate turbulence.

x-lite x-903 impetus red white blue helmet side
X-Lite X-903 in Impetus graphic

Thankfully, X-Lite seems to have done a good job all round with the X-903 because owners mostly reckon it’s a pretty quiet helmet.

Whether you’d agree is gonna depend on the bike you’re riding and what sort of fairing you’re sat behind (or not) as well as the speed you’re going and a ton of other factors.

Either way, while it’s regarded as a quiet helmet, don’t expect to be able to ride without some quality ear plugs in place.

Ventilation

(more about helmet ventilation)

The X-903 has a simple and pretty conventional arrangement of vents – that’s a single chin vent, a single forehead vent and a couple of rear exhausts.

The good news is that X-903 owners reckon it’s a great setup and the helmet vents really well.

Both chin and forehead vents are easy to find and easy to use too – even in winter gloves.


A couple of useful links…

All our X-lite helmet reviews
Sports/touring helmet reviews


That chin vent is a large sliding open/close panel that directs air straight onto the back of the face shield to help out with demisting.

x-lite x-903 ultra carbon nobiles carbon blue yellow side view
Ultra Carbon X-903 Nobiles comes in four colorways at the time of writing

The top vent is a sliding switch on top of the vent that allows air into the helmet to circulate through a very generous network of venting channels cut into the polystyrene shock absorbing liner.

It’s then pushed/pulled through the helmet and out the pair of rear exhaust vents.

The comfort liner includes large panels of netting so that cooling air can get to your head and easily pull moisture and heat away.

And should you need a little more ventilation around the shield, there’s a useful cracked-open position to let air in while still protecting your eyes.

All in all, X-Lite look to have created a really effective ventilation system on the X-903. And combining that with a Pinlock means you shouldn’t struggle for clear vision either.

Shield

(more about shields)

The face shield on the X-903 does pretty much everything you’d want from a shield.

x-lite-x-903-ultra-carbon-modern-class-helmet side view
Another X-903 with carbon finish – the Modern Class

It’s been designed to give a wide field of view for good peripheral vision. It’s also Pinlock anti-fog insert ready and X-Lite throw a Pinlock max vision insert into the box.

That’s a great antifog solution which complements the antifog coating they already put onto the face shield.

The X-903’s Pinlock pins are actually adjustable. That’s so you can move the anti-fog insert around a bit to position it just right as well as increase/decrease the amount of air behind the insert if you want.

The shield lifts with a central opening tab. That’s OK and means you can open it with either your left or right hands, unlike some shields with only a left hand opening tab.

But it’s X-Lite’s magnetic visor assembly that’s particularly eye-catching here.

It’s a way to simplify the removal and refitting of a face shield and, according to owners, X-Lite has dropped on to a really fantastically simple system.

Essentially, there’s a pair of magnets on each side of the shield – one on the helmet and one on the shield itself.

x-lite x-903 ultra carbon Cavalcade crash helmet side view
Another design – this time the Cavalcade graphic.

To remove it, open up the shield, pull down a lever and the shield pops off. Repeat on the other side. Couldn’t really be simpler.

To replace it, the magnets attract each other so they pull the shield into exactly the right position and and click the face shield into place.

That’s it. Job done.

Seems like Nolan/X-Lite has really developed a class leading system here – and owners love it.

Finally, if you like to ride along with your shield cracked open a little, there is a city-riding position on the X-903. Happy days.

All in all, X-Lite has done an excellent job with the faceshield on the 903.

Sun Visor

(more about sun visors)

Any touring helmet worth its salt should have a sun visor, and the sun visor on the X-903 is operated by a lever right behind the left hand visor pivot.

x-lite x-903 modern class metal white motorbike helmet side view
You can spot the sun visor lever right behind the face shield on this solid metal white X-903

That’s one of the best places to put it and leaves most of the left hand side of the helmet free to mount your comms headset.

The sun visor drops down pretty low out of the box, but its drop is adjustable. Some sun visors are fully up or fully down affairs but with the X-903 you can adjust it to anywhere in between.

That’s especially useful if you find sun visors rest on the bridge of your nose. I know I do and it’s mega-annoying. But with the 903 you can get the drop just right.

Usefully, X-Lite has also added an anti-fog coating to the sun visor too. That’s very sensible but very unusual because most helmet makers don’t bother.

Finally, X-Lite markets the sun visor as UV 400, which is excellent. That’s about the highest standard this side of a welding mask, and means it cuts out over 99% of UVA and UVB.

Comfort and Sizing

(more about comfort and sizing)

The comfort lining inside the X-903 uses the same carbon filament tech X-Lite uses in their racing helmets like the X-803. Which is why they came up with the strange ‘carbon fitting racing experience’ name.

Think it must’ve been lost in translation a bit, but you know what they’re getting at: it’s a racing liner that uses carbon somewhere.

In the case of the X903, it’s a racing style liner designed to give excellent ventilation – and it uses carbon filaments in the fabric to keep it anti-static and help regulate temperature.

That cooling’s helped along because X-Lite uses netting panels in there to help the air reach your head and pull heat away.

The lining’s adjustable as well. Quite a few helmet brands try and make their helmet linings adjustable in some way these days. For X-Lite, they’ve included something called LPC or liner positioning control in there.

That’s a strap that runs front to back over the head that allows you to slightly adjust the liner and reposition the helmet. So, if you buy an X-903 and find it sits too low on your head, you can adjust the strap at the back which will pull the front of the helmet up a little.

I’d hope you wouldn’t need too much adjustment (if you do, you might want to consider getting a different size helmet in the first place!) but it should help with micro adjustments to make the helmet sit just right on your head.

And don’t forget: most helmet authorities say getting a helmet that fits just right is your number one priority to maximize protection from any helmet.

OK, we’ve looked at the featuresi inside the helmet, but how’s the X-903 feel?

Well, it’s good news. If you’ve got a medium oval head shape (and most of us have) then owners reckon it’s a very comfy helmet.

x-lite-x-903-impetus-black-yellow-helmet-rear-view
You can see the track heritage in the lines of this X-903 Impetus

Even though it’s not the lightest full face helmet, weighing around 3.3lbs (1.5Kg) for the ultra carbon version (and another 3.5oz (100g) on top for the standard composite version), owners say it feels light weight when you’re wearing it.

Owners also reckon that the aero is good, with little buffeting reported. And if you need a helmet that’s great for glasses, X-Lite has created ‘Adaptive Eyewear’ cheekpads.

Rather than a regular glasses groove, they’ve added a pre-cut section of the cheek pads that you can pull away to create your own glasses groove.

Overall, there don’t seem to be any issues with the fitment or comfort of the X-Lite X-903 – as always, to get the right fit when buying online, check out our fitting guide then order from a store who’ll do no-quibble returns (see our recommended stores below).

Looks & Graphics

At the time of writing, only solid composite fiber X-903 helmets are being imported into the US. It’s not such a problem in that it’s more or less the same helmet as the ultra carbon – which is still a composite helmet just with extra carbon on the outer layer.

So there’s a solid black and solid white helmet available – please click straight through to the X-903 pages at our recommended stores below to see the latest deals and find out if they’ve brought in the ultra carbon version yet.

Best places to buy an X-Lite X-903?

Please click below to visit the X-Lite X-903 helmets pages at our recommended stores – all checked for great online ratings. And if you buy from any store, we get a small sum from the sale at no extra cost to you – a massive THANKS! (it’s how we finance the site).

X-Lite X-903 video

Here’s a pretty comprehensive 8m30s look around an X-903 Ultra Carbon Cavalcade.

Other stuff – fasteners, audio

Most stores should sell the X-Lite X-903 with a micrometric 2 fastener – though the helmet is also made in a double-D ring version too so it’s worth checking before you buy.

It’s been designed to integrate with Nolan’s N-Com bluetooth system. And if you already have a headset, there’s decent speaker cut outs in there so it should work with most popular 3rd party kits too.

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.

Good Alternatives to the X-Lite X-903?

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Shoei RF-SR in white

First up, you should take a look at the Shoei RF-SR. It’s a Snell certified (and SHARP 5 star) helmet with EQRS and Pinlock along with that legendary Shoei build quality.

If your budget can stretch (*quite a bit!), then the Arai Signet X is a sports touring helmet designed for longer oval head shapes. It’s Snell certified and comes with a Pinlock – and it’s a great all rounder helmet.

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Arai Signet-X

For less money than the X-Lite, the Scorpion Exo ST1400 is another great performer. It’s got a sun visor, EQRS, Pinlock, and it’s lightweight – and comes with a 5 year warranty.

scorpion exo-st1400 gloss carbon frontview
Gloss carbon Scorpion ST1400

For other fantastic alternatives, have a play around with our Smart(ish) filters, check out the motorcycle helmet gallery or take a look at our top ten helmets list.

Looking to buy an X-Lite X-903?

Please click below to visit the X-Lite X-903 helmets pages at our recommended stores – all checked for great online ratings. And if you buy from any store, we get a small sum from the sale at no extra cost to you – a massive THANKS! (it’s how we finance the site).

Star Ratings

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