Since it was founded in 1974, Cycle Gear has grown from a single store in the Bay Area to 98 retail stores in 31 states, and it claims to be America’s largest retailer of motorcycle apparel and accessories. Having carried other brands of apparel for years, in 2011 Cycle Gear launched two in-house brands: Bilt, a value-priced line that comes with a five-year warranty, and Sedici (“16” in Italian), a higher-end, European-inspired line that is guaranteed for life. By creating its own designs and working directly with manufacturers in countries like China and Pakistan, Cycle Gear has eliminated the middleman, allowing it to keep prices low.
When the Bilt Explorer arrived, it came with a catalog featuring the new dual-sport helmet on the cover, offered at an introductory price of just $99.99 (regular price is $199.99). Believing you get what you pay for, I expected to be underwhelmed. But when I took the helmet out of the box and began to familiarize myself with its features, I reconsidered.
With the increasing popularity of adventure bikes, dual-sport helmets—with their dirt bike-styled peaks and pointed chinbars—are all the rage. The Bilt Explorer fits right in with a very angular, aggressive appearance. The shell is made of injection-molded ABS plastic and is lined with expanded polystyrene. Closable vents are located in the chinbar and crown, exhaust vents are located at the back, and the comfort liner is removable and washable.
Other nice features include a clear, removable face shield with a protruding lip along its lower edge that makes it easy to open from either side rather than fumbling for a single small tab. The Explorer has a spring-loaded, retractable sun shield that’s opened by sliding a tab and instantly retracted by pushing a button. The helmet is secured on the rider’s head with a D-ring chin strap that has a small snap on the end to keep it from flapping in the wind.
Though generally comfortable, the Explorer feels tight on the sides on my long-oval head, squeezing my ears and cheeks and putting uncomfortable pressure on my temples when I wear sunglasses. Other than the temple pressure, once I moved the helmet around to prevent my ears from being folded over and got it situated on my head, it was reasonably comfortable.
The made-in-China helmet has some shortcomings. It’s quite noisy, and even though its shape looks sleek, when riding at speed the peak and sharp edges get caught in the wind with small turns of my head, putting pressure on my neck. Also, the mechanisms that open and close the vents are balky, and ventilation is fairly limited.
Still, at $199.99—or less if on sale, as many Bilt items often are—the DOT-approved Bilt Explorer helmet is a good deal. It’s available in sizes XS-XXL and silver, pearl white and matte black. The Explorer comes with a five-year warranty, and Cycle Gear has a 7-Day No Hassle Helmet Exchange program.
For more information:
Visit your local Cycle Gear store or cyclegear.com
(This Gearlab product review was published in the March 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)