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Nick Tunstill makes a Beeline for smarter navigation…

Technology surrounds us these days and is now widespread even in the motorcycling world. Love it or loathe it, tech is here to stay and we bikers are able to take advantage of an array of software-controlled devices from riding aids on motorbikes to communication and navigation. How much we use is down to personal preference and requirements.

Personally, I am more on the analogue side of the fence. It is probably an age thing, a slight reluctance/inability to grasp how all the endless menus and permutations of the modern technology embedded in our devices and machines actually improve our day-to-day lives.

One of the issues I struggle with is that devices now offer so many options that I don’t actually need or want that they seem overly complicated to use and also overpriced as a result.

GPS navigation via sat nav devices have been around for many years now, and very good they are too. But am I the only person who finds them a bit pricey, especially the high-end brands? Anything associated with motorcycles seems to attract a premium price for some reason, from luggage to clothing, and GPS navigation devices are no different. Make it motorcycle-specific and the price seems to go through the roof.

Of course, these days it is perfectly possible to find your way around using a phone and freely available software. There are disadvantages; battery life, water damage and the possibility of it falling off your bike are just a few. You will need a decent phone mount and that can easily set you back £50 to £100, with all the various options, before you start using it.

When I came across Beeline a year or so ago I thought it looked like a possible simple, cost-effective solution to finding my way around on my motorbike. I took the plunge and coughed up £149 and ordered a unit. This gives you the standard plastic unit, charger, sticky pad mount and an elastic

strap mount. This is really all you need to get you going. The system works via an app on your phone which is freely downloadable. There is a metal edition for another £50 and other mounting options if you are feeling flash.

Now you are looking at someone who struggles to use the remote control to navigate around a modern TV schedule, so if I can set up Beeline and use it, anyone can!

Once the app is downloaded then the device can be charged, paired with your phone, mount on your motorbike and you are ready to roll. There are a couple of simple options to set up, such as units, time format and type of activity (you can use Beeline on a cycle as well).

The Beeline unit is just an inch in diameter, weighs nothing and can quickly be taken off and stuck in your pocket or swapped from bike to bike. I really like this feature, no faffing around with swapping mounts or having to buy extra ones. Has Anyone got more than one bike? Quite a few people out there I suspect. I use both mounts frequently on some gnarly off-road terrain and never had any issues with the Beeline on either mounting system.

It’s unobtrusive enough that if you accidentally leave it on the bike and wander off it will more than likely still be there when you return. Beeline also looks pretty neat on a motorbike, especially if you have a classic, cafe racer or stripped-down machine and like the retro look.

The basis of GPS navigation is getting you from A to B successfully and Beeline offers two options for this. Compass mode simply constantly points you in the right direction. It’s pretty self-explanatory really but a really nice option if you are out exploring with a destination in mind but no fixed timescale. It actually captures the essence of motorcycle travel perfectly, when the journey is more important than simply getting somewhere as fast as possible. A great way to find new routes!

If you are riding offroad or green lanes then it is the best option. I tried plotting a turn-by-turn route for trail riding but it didn’t work that well. Compass mode was a lot better.

The other option is standard GPS navigation with turn-by-turn directions, journey progress and distance to the next turn. Using the software, which is based on Google maps so familiar to most, you plan your journey with a simple interface. It is also simple to import GPX files. You can save routes, track your trips and take advantage of other easily accessible features. Standard sat-nav options such as avoiding motorways, tolls and ferries are built in. Once set, pop your phone in your pocket and off you go. Your phone is out of the way and you don’t need the screen on if battery life is an option. A big arrow shows you the direction of travel and you only see the information you really need. This means you can concentrate on the ride with minimal distraction. Distance to and direction of the next turn are indicated plus roundabout exit lane numbers.

It takes a short time to get used to it but, once you are dialled in, it works well both in town and out on the open road. The only places where it is less reliable are in built-up city areas with many turns and lane options. It works but is not as clear as a full-on satnav with a screen. I have found myself using Beeline to get me 95% of the way to a city centre destination, then using Google maps via Bluetooth to give final verbal directions. 

You don’t need to worry about charging the unit. The battery lasts for 30 hours in use and for weeks in standby. I have left mine for weeks on end and it still fires up without an extra charge. If it pours with rain, the well-made device is watertight and the backlit display works effectively in all conditions.  And that’s really it…the simplicity of Beeline makes it a unique product in the motorcycle market. The designers have done a great job in identifying an area where technology can be harnessed with simple functionality and improve our riding experience. 

Is it a replacement for a full-on GPS system? Well no, and yes! If most of your journeys are work-based or time critical then a traditional sat nav will be a better option. But if you have more than one motorcycle and exploring at your own pace is what you ride for, then Beeline fits in nicely. If it had an audio option it would cover all bases.

As an aside regarding using phones for navigation, I have had battery issues and also damaged phones by getting them wet or by dropping and busting screens when riding in the past. I bought a rugged Dodgee (don’t laugh) Chinese phone for around £100. It is waterproof, drop proof and its battery life is several days! Perfect for motorbike trips. It is not as trendy as an iPhone but does the same job without the worry of damaging expensive equipment and is a fraction of the cost.

 

Pros -

Inexpensive (relatively)

Lightweight and durable

Simple to set up and use

Easily transferable to other bikes (or cycles)

Long battery life

Compass mode for exploring

Looks cool!

 

Cons - 

Trickier to follow at complicated junctions

No audio option

No extra features such as speed camera alerts

 

Score 7 out of 10

Have a look at https://global.beeline.co/ for full details

Buy from Amazon HERE.

 

Thanks to Nick Tunstill from Catalan Adventures for the article, originally written for a UK magazine, check out his website for trail riding holidays in Spain.

 

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