Bilt Dexter Shoes Reviewed

Affordable, lightweight, and casual, but lacking in support and protection.

Bilt Dexter casual riding shoes.
Don’t set your hopes too high, but for quick trips in town, Cycle Gear’s Dexters will probably get it done.Andrew Cherney

I’m not an ATGATT guy, but I do go the extra mile to make sure my dogs get decent protection. Even if I take a quick spin down the block wearing textile shoes, they’ll at least be ankle high. And no Chuck Taylors here, thanks. So, uh, what was I doing with a pair of Bilt Dexter riding shoes then? They’re casual polyester lace-ups with little to no armor, which, now that I think about it, describes a lot of the current “comfortable urban riding shoes” popping up everywhere.

The short answer to why I have them is, “Because I’m cheap.” As I was flopping and freelancing my way around the moto industry last year, there came a point when I found myself needing a pair of current casual shoes for an urban press ride—and fast. Time was in short supply and a quick buzz to my favorite gear company was out of the question, at which point I found myself desperately stalking the aisles of the store snobby motorcyclists love to hate until they really need something—Cycle Gear.

Bilt Dexter shoe.
The Bilt Dexters are a lightweight casual street shoe with a low price point and a pretty bare-bones feature set.Andrew Cherney

You know the knock on Cycle Gear. Low-priced. Okay selection. Subpar quality. Always a sale. The Wal-Mart of moto gear. But it seemed to me that lately, it had stepped up its game a notch or two. Stocking quality, reputable brands in addition to its in-house flyweight stuff, which in its defense (or is it my defense?) has also gotten better over the years. Or that's what I told myself anyway when I went shoe shopping in a panic and had to spend my own money. Next thing you know, I was trying on a pair of Bilt Dexters.

Bilt is one of Cycle Gear’s in-house “economy” brands, which means cheaper materials, fewer features, and, generally, offshore production. But damned if I didn’t give them a shot anyway. First they hooked me with their casual sneaker-like appearance, a black-on-black polyester upper with a hint of contrast stitching and reflective piping around the heel, with all of it riding on a white synthetic sole. They’re marketed as a “lightweight casual sport boot,” but the only thing putting them a notch above a pair of Keds is the lightly padded top ankle section. The medium-height Dexters hit just above the ankle, with a lace-up closure using multiple pairs of eyelets, and a side zipper that slides down for easy exit (or entry). We suppose the reflective piping around the heel counter is a good thing, but it’s just the one pipe—not much to reflect there. The so-called “synthetic gear change pad” is a joke; there’s nothing reinforced or padded about this area of the toe box, and it’s doubtful it’ll last through more than a year of constant shifting. I’ve had mine for six months and am starting to see signs of fraying already.

Bilt Dexter shoe on bike.
They’re light, they’re comfortable—but they’re not really “bilt” to last… Or to protect you. That circular logo patch is the only thing covering your ankle bone.Andrew Cherney

Wearing them is the saving grace—because Bilt tends to skimp on the protective stuff, the Dexters feel pretty light on or off the bike, which truth be told is actually what sold me on them (even though I should know better). I knew I’d be riding a three-wheeler in Southern California so I felt the trade-off in convenience for protection was worth it, especially at their $79 price point. The fit is a bit narrow and there’s virtually no arch support from the internal footbed, but you can always pop in an aftermarket insole. On the other side is a pretty generic outsole with a not very deep tread pattern, so don’t plan on doing any gravel strafing. Uh oh, know what? All that -- even the price -- sounds pretty much like a pair of classic high-top Chucks. Except the Dexters are probably slightly tougher.

Make no mistake, the Dexters are just casual shoes with token bits of protection baked in. There’s no shank support, and a Bilt 3-D rubber patch is what passes for armor over the medial and lateral ankle bones—which crush pretty easily I’m told. But like I said, I’m a cheapo, and they felt light, looked good, and, wouldn’t you know, were on sale the day I tried them on. That said, they’re perfectly fine for a pair of $49 shoes, but don’t buy them thinking they’ll give you state-of-the-art protection. They’re great for short errands around town, but “skate inspired” also usually doesn’t mean “touring appropriate.” Do I think they’re more protective than straight-up street sneakers? Probably, but if you want a truly protective riding shoe, you’ve got to aim north of $100 to really fit that bill.

Sometimes I’ll find a decent Bilt product at a friggin’ great price, and then sometimes it’ll turn out to be utter crap. The Dexters are smack in the middle—they’re neither very good or completely horrible, and quite possibly better than nothing.