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.)
I’ve tried numerous amounts of Bilt gear with no luck at all. I purchased riding boots – the elastic broke when putting int on the second time. I purchased winter glove liners, they ripped a the stitching the first time I put it on and it makes no difference if I have them on or not.
From my past experiences, I’ll NEVER buy another Bilt product again. Its just way too budget. If it cant handle me putting on my body without breaking, how can I expect to cover my hide when I’m sliding across pavement?
Shame too – Bilt makes up probably 80% of my local CycleGear’s inventory.
I bought a Bilt Helmet at the Marine Corp Exchange… BAD IDEA. I was out of town at another base when I bought the helmet. I got home, the helmet broke (chin bar on modular helmet came loose). There is not way to contact the manufacturer, because there isn’t one. Cycle Gear told me I had to take it back where I got it but that was 8 hours away. I FINALLY got someone at Cycle Gear to let me mail it back to them and they did switch it out, but then I found out they had it on their site for 1/2 off… obviously because it was a piece of junk helmet. They would not let me exchange for a better helmet because I didn’t buy from them… Annoying not to have an actual manufacturer to deal with. I returned the replacement helmet for a refund and am shopping for a helmet from a real helmet manufacturer.
I have this helmet and I think the review is pretty spot on. It’s a budget helmet for sure though. The flip down sun visor is very flimsy. Even at low speeds (24-35mph) using that alone causes it to flex and vibrate in the wind.
As mentioned the chin catches the wind badly. Cross winds can put a lot of strain on the neck causing fatigue to set in sooner than desired.
I thought the noise level wasn’t too bad, but that may be because the sides of the helmet are pretty tight. Try putting your Sena headphones in and your ears will be pinned and hurting. I’ve had ear plugs pulled out just trying to put the helmet on.
I wouldn’t say it’s a bad helmet. The beak really helps on those sunny days and once you get your ears situated it’s not uncomfortable. It’s just a budget helmet. If you can’t afford anything better you could do worse. That said, I wouldn’t recommend it.
I have 3 helmets, HJC-RPS10, Joe Rocket, Bilt Explorer. Bilt Explorer is my 2nd favorite after my RPS10. The issue is my round head and oval internal shape of Bilt Explorer that presses my ears a bit hard. Quality, it falls into entry helmets and I like the fact that liners are removable and washable. At high speed, the beak could cause buffering a little bit, and believe me because lacking of the chin curtain, it takes up a lot of wind which contributes to high noise level.
I have bought some bilt gear to begin my adventure bike riding phase. The helmet , jacket and pants were all a great value and have served me well. Im not a big review writer but the warrenty alone is worth what i paid. I am off tomorrow to buy yet another helmet.. hoping for the same good luck
I purchased this helmet last week. They finally had one in dayglo
And my size. I asked for the sale price and received the helmet
for $99. Ok I wasn’t expecting much however I was pleasantly
surprised. I have a Nolan N85 which I really enjoy. I will agree
with the responder who said the helmet is narrow. I could
fit my flat speakers for my old style J&M CB system. My Nolan
allows the CB plus the speakers for my HBC 200, so that I can
Listen to music and report lane changes on the CB during group
rides. I truly hate D rings. I am wondering if anyone noticed
The similarities between this helmet and the LS2 adventure.
The wind noise is not objectionable and I can ride shield up. The shield
is hard to lower on the move and the inner visor is kinda tight
for easy on the move use.
Overall, a nice helmet for $99. Try it on as Bilt sizes are on the
small end of the spectrum and this helmet favors a narrower head.
Bought the new Bilt Explorer helmet for my son for Xmas. The rear visor mounts snapped on the first ride when he flipped up the shield. Also, when he took it apart he noticed that the top vent holes didn’t go through the styro lining material. Cycle gear gave him a shelf model as a replacement. On that one the vent holes didn’t even go through the helmet shell. Waited 3 weeks for another one, vent holes don’t go through the styro, one rear visor mount broken after use, and the shield was spider cracked where it mounts on one side. That’s it, done with Bilt anything.
I think Bilt is just an abbreviation for Badly Built if my adventure helmet is anything to go by. One of the peak allen bolts vibrated loose and fell of in long grass, whilct the lever to raise and lower the internal sunvisor is so stiff and baulky that the visor would wither not lower or would suddenly snap up leaving one blinded by the sun!
About 2 out of 5 (and did I mention LOUD?)