Beeline Moto: Will this be the perfect ‘sat nav’ for bikers?
The Beeline Moto motorcycle navigation system takes a new approach to GPS-based guidance. We’ll be following the team behind it as they bring the new device to market, hopefully giving them a few insights into what bikers are looking for.
This article follows on from Jock’s article on Sat nav or Smartphone? >
After deciding that a sat nav is a better option for most bikers’ needs, the B&B Editor and I got chatting recently about our ideal satnav for casual use. The conversation was borne from our desire to swap sat navs onto different bikes while we were testing. Selfishly, I just wanted something smaller and simpler, less formal, more ‘just ride with a bit of support’ to give me confidence that I’d get there, but didn’t need to hardwire a harness onto the bike, nor spend a while planning a route, uploading the route and then remembering to have pockets big enough to store the lump that is a modern bike satnav. Sometimes, for all my OCD and incessant route planning, I just like to ride somewhere new with minimum fuss. And get home again before the pubs shut.
I don’t like relying on a phone, just because they’re as fragile as my ego and a dropped phone isn’t going to get me home. The device wish list had something big enough to easily read on the bars, or on mirror stalks, that easily fit in our pockets, had a battery life long enough so it would last a day or two of use without needing to be hard wired in, be able to recharge quickly and easily, have simple visuals to show us the direction of travel needed without a full-on display of roads and sundries. We wanted an app that was specifically designed to go with the device and make the interaction with the device painlessly straightforward. We wanted to be able to fit it to any bike easily, without the need for permanent mounts, swapping it between bikes easily done by hand, not tools, but with an option for a permanent mount available for our own bikes if we wanted.
We wanted updates and upgrades to the device executed via our (now) excellent phone app tucked safely in our pocket and all this in a robust, droppable package. We wanted it backlit. We didn’t want it to talk to us, we just wanted help if we planned a route in the app, or simply inputted a single destination. We wanted a step back from the intrusive, expensive nature of satnavs, but with the benefits of guidance on our handlebars. And we definitely did not want mobile phone notifications while riding, we wanted to be able to get away, literally.
We kind of wanted a lot, but not something that cost a lot, it had to be sub £200, ideally much less. We got all rose-tinted and thought of chucking a small device onto the bars of small bikes, putting a destination into the App and following our nose on a warm day, on roads we may not know but didn’t mind discovering, all with the safety net of this small device to help us along the way, without the need to stop and read a map or our phones.
And then we found the Beeline navigation system…
Just as we set ourselves up for world discovery and domination, I noticed Beeline Moto on Kickstarter. The great idea(s) we had, they’d already had them. Bugger. It was almost like they’d travelled forward in time, eavesdropped our conversation and then travelled back in time and implemented it. The bastards.
Not only had they clearly stolen our ideas through time travel, but it seems they’ve been going strong with the idea on push irons for some time. And now taking the device forward with a Kickstarter project for iron horses. Before us.
Deflated with them stealing our idea before we’d even had it, I did the only decent thing a grumpy Circus Bear would do and promptly backed the project with my own cash. If they were going to do the work, I’d happily let them and pay them to get my / their idea off the ground and onto my handlebars.
The tick boxes we’d set ourselves all seemed to be ticked and after reaching out to them (to see how industrial espionage works at this level) they were more than happy to have us come and look at the progress they’ve made, before they start production in December and start shipping the Moto version in February.
So, on a wet and windy November day I caught up with the Beeline team at their HQ in South East London. Sam, the business manager was happy to introduce me to the team and explain the process to date. Seems the founders, Mark and Tom, had the same frustrations on push irons that we did on motorbikes, of cost, fragility, fear of theft of an expensive phone, alongside the complexity and cost of a decent satnav. After two successful years of Beeline on cycles they took the next step into motorbikes. It may at face value seem like it’s a simple side step into the biker market, not least they are bikers themselves so know from first-hand experience what bikers go through. But from gloves on bikers hands that don’t play well with small touchscreens to something as obvious but complex as the speed difference between cycles and motorbikes and everything in between, the journey to a near-production spec product has not been without its challenges. With a bigger team in place when they hit the ‘Moto’ Kickstarter button, they meticulously thought through and took on feedback from their backers from the beginning. And they have around 6000 backers to date, which is impressive in a market of many voices for and against satnavs on motorbikes. I suspect myself and B&B’s Editor haven’t been alone with a desire for a simple, affordable modern navigation device on our motorbikes.
We were shown the cycling models and the gradual steps through the preproduction Moto samples, which look very promising at this stage. Even taking the simple interaction with the device, it’s not just the numbers of buttons that were given plenty of attention, even how the buttons ‘feel’ was considered. I like that they’re confident enough with their product, software and hardware, that how the button ‘presses’ is something they spent time on. That’s the benefit of having a team with biking and product experience. It looks like the production models will have plenty of ideas run through them, into them and planned for the future at the first point of sale. The team describe updates and upgrades in terms of months, not years. They look at this device as something that will evolve, not something they’ll just release and sit back on.
There is still some Beta testing to be carried out. Ideas to be considered. Do they want speed alerts? Can they sharpen up changes of lanes, exits from one carriageway onto another, is the message on the screen informative but straightforward enough? There is scope to consider and implement the great feedback and suggestions from the backers, as well as the Beta testers. Biker & Bike has been asked to join the Beta team, and we are impressed enough at this stage of the process to get involved.
Yes, the device is more than a map, less smart than a phone, less detailed or as intrusive than a costly full fat satnav from the likes of Garmin or TomTom, but it’s cheaper at £150 than both a good phone or satnav and these points are at the very root of the concept of Beeline Moto. They unashamedly want to give you something simple, something modern and intuitive, something that doesn’t require prohibitive levels of understanding. If you can work a smartphone, you can easily work one of these. If you have a brain, this will not nanny it, it’ll nudge it. You still need to think about your riding and in all honesty, coming from someone who knows their way around most of Western Europe, I often let the sat nav take control, and that isn’t always the most rewarding experience. Something is lost when that level of control guides you. Beeline Moto doesn’t aim to do that, they seek to help, not dictate. That last part was written in bold on my wish list when they time travel stole it.
At this stage, with a few months to go, Beeline Moto aims to provide a waterproof (IP67), pocketable (comparable in size to my 46mm Samsung Galaxy watch), 30 hour use on one charge simple navigation device, run in conjunction with what looks like at this point in time, an intuitive App that will handle routes you want to go on, routes you went on, record rides you’ve done, with the ability to update and manage the device from your smartphone. No more compromise within a navigation app on your phone, the Beeline Moto app will manage the device which also allows you to share routes with other users in a Community they intent to encourage and support. Been with a mate, or ride with a club that does routes you can never remember? No worries, the App and Moto device together can record, re-run or simply share those routes. Want to ride somewhere new? Check the app, find a route, activate it and off you go with the Moto device showing you the way. All in seconds, via Bluetooth, no laptop or other device required.
We’ll revisit Beeline over the forthcoming weeks and get our hands on their Beta models in January and let you know how it’s coming along.
But if all this seems interesting enough to you already, you can get involved by pre-ordering a device and the various mounting options here.
The production model will retail at £150, including mount, but at the moment you can pre-order one for £110. You can order additional mounts at an extra cost of course if required.
Do I think that is the right price? Well if they can meet the expectations then yes, I really do think it’s worth that. Half the cost of a decent motorcycle satnav, much less than a good smartphone. Less than a lot of products you can buy for your bike, it has the potential to be a good middle ground and middle price to the main competition of phone and satnav. At Biker & Bike we fully intend to use it for longer journeys than their average user, with trips in the UK and into Europe planned in 2019, so it’ll be interesting to us to see how this device copes.
And for you map only users, perhaps it’s time to use the maps still to plan, but perhaps use some 2000’s technology to execute those plans? Become a semi-Luddite in 2019 maybe?
We’ll keep you all in the loop as we head into the New Year with Beeline.
Jock has been impressed enough with what he has seen of Beeline to make his own investment in the product via Kickstarter, and will be helping the Beeline team with the beta testing phase of the product.
The Biker & Bike team will also conduct a full independent review of Beeline when the production version of the unit and app are made available.