Making a Beeline from A to B

Using your phone as a GPS on a motorbike is both good and bad. Good because you can have a rich navigation experience like Waze (though that’s got some UX flaws that show it’s really optimized for cars) but bad because you expose your phone to the elements (this winter killed my Pixel2 even in a case!).

I’d thought about getting a dedicated navigation device for my bike (especially one that maybe supported TPMS sensors) but most of them were either overkill, overly expensive, or geared more to off-road use than I’d ever need. I also got a Fobo Bike2 so didn’t need the TPMS capabilities either.

Beeline_June19_0046

Despite some less than great crowd funding experiences I came across the BeeLine Moto project. It seemed like an interesting concept, and as they’d already gone through the process successfully with their cycling device it seemed like a lower risk than some other projects I’ve backed.

It took a little longer than originally planned to arrive, but they were good at keeping communication with the backers open, and to be honest I’m glad they took a little longer to iron out the issues with the hardware rather than rush it out as it gave them time to fine-tune the firmware and the accompanying app and deliver a solid little device.

As you can see from the picture above, the navigation experience is very minimal. You define a route (either a single destination or multiple waypoints) in the companion phone app and press go and then put your phone in your pocket and follow the directions on the device. The phone still needs to be on as the routing happens on there, and it uses bluetooth to talk to the device, but it keeps it out of the elements.

In “route” mode, directions are provided with a combination of the big arrow (current heading), the floating dot (direction of next turn), distance to next junction and type of junction (in the image above, taking the second exit at the upcoming roundabout / traffic circle). It also shows distance to your destination on the tick-marks at the top of the display. If you deviate from the planned route, just like Waze it will automatically recalculate as you go.

In “compass” mode you get to explore the roads to find your destination – you enter where you want to go, and the arrow simply points to your target to help you find your way.

The device is small, but simple to use (the buttons are all glove friendly, and the unit is weatherproof – IP67 rated), and the mounting seems pretty secure (I opted for the RAM mount as I already had the clamp for my bike, but they offer a number of different solutions for different scooters and bikes). Popping the device off to charge on the USB charging base is quick and easy, though as the battery life seems great you won’t need to do that too often.

I’d love to see a couple of new features added – specifically real-time camera locations and speed limits (one of the more useful features of Waze!) – as well as the ability to display more information when simply riding as opposed to actively navigating to a destination. Luckily that’s just software, so fingers crossed they can solve that problem for us. The app itself has already been updated a couple of times to improve the experience, and the routing has improved in the short time I’ve been using it.

From a hardware perspective I’d like to see a light sensor added to make the backlighting dynamic (rather than simply time based, though you can turn it on from a button), and integrate charging into the on-bike setup so I don’t have to take it off to charge, but those are minor things.

It would also be fantastic to have the Fobo Bike2 sensors also work with the Beeline Moto so alerts could display on the device as well… hopefully they’ll find a way to work together if enough people have the same combination of hardware!

All in all, it’s a great little device to add distraction-free navigation, and I’m very pleased with having backed this solution … just wish I’d found it before my Pixel2 took a stone to the back!

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