If you’ve read our 2018 MT09 review, you know I got back into motorcycles on a whim. With that, I really wanted to pick up an Icon Variant but didn’t want to pony up the cash after the expensive purchase of my MT09. So, I went to my local Cycle Gear and picked out a helmet which had the “ADV” styling that I wanted, but at a lower price point than the Icon Variant. What I ended up picking out was a Bilt Explorer helmet in the Hi-Viz Yellow finish. After over 7k miles with this helmet on, I think it’s time to give it a review.
Why Pick the Bilt Explorer?
Adventure style helmets are very popular, even for riders who don’t own adventure bikes such as myself. Looks are subjective, but I think adventure style helmets look way cooler than the standard street helmet. Aside from that, the large visor on top of the helmet helps stop the sun from blinding you making early morning and late evening riding much safer. Inside the helmet, you’ll find a drop-down sun visor which eliminates the need for carrying around sunglasses. For an adventure helmet, it has all the right features.
Aside from the features and design, the real reason this helmet is so attractive is the low price. At the full price of $200 it’s not a particularly great deal; however, it’s not uncommon to see the Bilt Explorer marked down to $99. At this price, there are not many other helmets which include an internal sun visor and a DOT approval rating. That being said, the DOT far below ECE or Snell rating, so the actual safety of the Explorer is a little questionable, especially with the EPS foam problems I’ve encountered (more on that later.)
Noise and Comfort
All adventure style helmets are noisy thanks to their shape. The Bilt Explorer, in particular, is a very loud helmet. At speeds lower than 45mph the noise is manageable, although annoying. At highway speeds, the wind noise is overpowering and will quickly cause a headache. I ride with earbuds that seal out the outside world decently well, and the wind noise is still pretty loud. I knew that a $99 ADV helmet was going to be loud, but I think the Explorer is unacceptably loud.
As far as comfort, it’s somewhat subjective as your head may be a different shape than my head. The materials inside the helmet are pretty cheap, but they’re no different than you would find in other cheap helmets. The shape of the Explorer fits my head very well other than slight pressure on my ears which is unnoticeable on short rides but turns into agonizing pain on long rides.
The ventilation is a little disappointing as well. There are two vents: one large one on the chin and a set of two on the top. The vents on the top provide a noticeable amount of ventilation at highway speeds. Unfortunately, you can’t open or close the top vent while you’re riding due to the stiffness of the mechanism. I honestly can’t tell if the chin vent does anything, as there is already an insane amount of airflow in the mouth area thanks to the lack of chin curtain.
7k Miles Later… Broken Helmet
The day I bought my first riding jacket, I hopped on my bike and went for a 5+ hour road trip. Shortly after leaving I pushed the mechanism for the drop-down visor up, which should’ve pushed the sun visor down in front of my eyes, but nothing happened. I pulled off the to the side of the rear and took my helmet off to see what was going on. Some part inside the helmet had broken and caused the internal sun visor not to operate. After looking into this problem online, it appears to be relatively common for this helmet. The fix requires removal of EPS foam which I am personally not willing to do.
A broken internal visor is a minor issue, especially for a $99 helmet. The next issue I’ve had with this helmet is more serious: loose EPS foam. EPS foam is the lining on the inside of the helmet which is designed to save your skull in the event of a crash. The EPS foam on both the left and right cheeks has come unglued from the shell. Luckily, they are wedged into place so it’s not like the EPS will fall out, but a high impact crash could force the unglued EPS foam out. This kind of failure is unacceptable for any motorcycle helmet at any price.
Before the drop down visor breaking and the EPS foam becoming loose, I would’ve recommended this helmet, especially if you can find it on sale. Due to these broken parts, I cannot recommend this helmet, especially considering the EPS foam is what will ultimately save your life in the event of a crash. Also, the lack of speaker cutouts makes it impossible to fit speakers inside the helmet.