The Beeline navigation compass is another Kickstarter darling done good. But why has a cycling navigation device, without GPS, such a success?
Beeline Smart Compass Review: Second Screen Done RIGHT!
For some the world of Kickstart is a place where dreams go to die – sorry it is true. But for cycling gear, it seems that Kickstarter really does propel devices into the mainstream. Beeline launched on the site in 2017 – at the time being in the top 0.2% of funders – people clearly saw the potential of a good product… and as the hardware is now sold around the world and in brick and mortar stores, it seems they were onto something. Let’s take a look at why the Beeline has been a hit!
One of the early Wahoo products was the Wahoo RFLKT, the idea being you had a low power display providing a data feed from your smartphone, giving you all the benefits of a cycle computer within the cost… but it was a bit naff. Beeline has taken that idea and perfected it.
I really want to describe the Beeline system as a GPS navigation system, as that is the easiest place to pigeon whole it. But that is wrong. The Beeline is as the name suggests a smart compass, which is frankly something I didn’t think I needed.
Beeline Smart Compass Design
Coming from the world of the regular cycling GPS the Beelines spartan circular display intially seems to be lacking… a lot, but infact everything you need to get you around town, or out for a care free spin is there:
You can get the rubber casing in four different colours, grey, blue, red and yellow. Whilst my love of all things yellow is well-documented, I actually feel that the yellow casing for the Beeline, is the best option.
Look at it from this perspective, if you are going to use the Beeline display on a rented bike, such as the Boris Bikes in London, you are much less likely to leave a yellow rubber disc attached to the handlebars than you are the more subtle grey.
In the box:
- Beeline device (main unit and silicone strap/case)
- Micro USB charging cable
- Stainless steel keyring
- Beeline stickers
The Beeline is from a design perspective, as the actual display unit is really quite forgettable, just a quite thick piece plastic puck with a mono screen and four touch sensitive buttons
You get an idea of how portioned the unit it when you take it out of the rubber case to get access to the micro USB port – something you’ll probably do once a month. The rubber strap/case/mounting system somehow elevates this dull plastic puck into something inherently friendly, and I’m honestly not sure why
Perhaps it is something to do with how the case literally gives the impression of a classical compass? It is certainly a less serious device than comparable GPS units.
- Device weight: 120grams
- Screen: 200 x 200
- Touch bezel – NOT screen
- Size: 65mm diameter, 18mm depth
- Battery: 350mAh
- 30hrs without backlight,
- 10hrs with backlight
- standby 2-3 months
- Water resistance: IPX66
- Waterproof Micro-USB charging port
- Sensors onboard: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0
Using the Beeline
I tell you what, absolutely love this little device. I didn’t think the beeline was actually going to work, After only that after only a few rides, I founded a very very intuitive device. I think you recognise that the beeline is something special when you first attached it to your bike, Simply turn the rubber casing around, and press the two halves together. It really couldn’t be easier.
I don’t think anyone would try to argue that te Beeline is an attractive device. Broadly, I don’t feel that it fits with the overall aesthetic of my bike. This round grey puck, perched on the handlebars. The vast majority of GPS units we have today, such as the Polar V650, and the Wahoo Bolt series, all give a nodd to towards fashion, with their streamlined anaesthetics. Not the Beeline.
A possibly reasonable descriptor would be to compare a wasp, with the bumblebee. The wasp is straightforward vicious and is going to get the job done. By comparison, a bumblebee is somehow much more friendly, something you be able to easily forgive any errant behaviour. That is the Beeline.
The beeline, and doesn’t have a great feature set, per say. It lacks GPS, doesnt connect to your oter cycling sensors. But with it’s aim being a general guidance direction device, it is unencubered and responds snapily when you need to be pulling left or right, and is similarly quick to recalculate.
And that, maybe part of Beelines winning formulae. By simply writing that the Beeline is recalcuating I am engendering a very simple bluetooth screen with more skills and power than is actually the case. You see, the recalculation, is done by the Beeline app, taking data from my phones GPS, the direction arrow is then shown on the Beeline device.
Simple but effective use of technology here. Why go to the trouble of trying to reinvent the wheel with a GPS device, and an in house navigation software when you can utilise the phone in a persons pocket, and the API which Google provides?
The Beeline setup is exceptionally simple. Download the app from the relevant store
Allow the unit to pair over bluetooth
Ensure any appropriate firmware updates are downloaded
Once you have registered with the app, you are good to go. It is worthwhile noting the Beeline also produces a mounting kit to allow their smart compass to be attached to a motorbike. As such there is a route toggle in the app, whether you are navigating via your own pedal power, or using a donor cycle – sorry, I mean motorbike 😜 (Before anyone gets uppity, I do own a motorbike!)
When you’ve put your route in and start to cycling along, the Beeline does give a small nod to the expectations of a cycle head unit, providing the rider with:
- Trip time,
- Distance to turn,
- Distance ridden
- Distance to destination,
- Speed (both analogue and digital)
Interestingly enough battery life for both the device and your phone, which when you consider what the device is doing and how the Beeline relies upon the phone to work, that’s a very sensible display choice!
If I was going to put any criticism to the unit, it is that I wish the unit had a fractionally longer rubber stream as on all of my bars, the stretch slightly deforms the holding rubber cup with the stretch
Beeline Smart Compass Conclusion
I’m not sure if I would want to be cycling with the beeline in heavy traffic, or in the middle of London. There I’m much happier, with my absolute directions displayed on a big screen, such as the Hammerhead Karoo.
However, If out for Sunday cycle, even following a specific route, the beeline is brilliant. Some days, you want absolute clarity on your ride and all the available data at your fingertips. But some days you just want a gentle guiding hand, providing you with a general indication of direction, rather than an absolute “turn here”. In those situations, I haven’t found a device as effective as the Beeline.
Similarly, in most devices, organising for cycling directions can be a pain in the neck. Especially if you dont know the exact address your need. With the Beeline app, just touch the location on the map, hit go and you are off. It really is that simple.
I think the best case scenario, for the Beeline, is as mentioned, gentle Sunday spins. But where it really shines as something special is when you have a rough idea of where you’re going, but don’t know the absolute route.
Perhaps using a Boris Bike in london as an example, you are not going to be able to easily fix your GPS to those handlebars, and running Google Maps with the volume of your phone on max is always less than optimal. Then it clicked, why Beeline includes a little metal tag in the box. So you can easily keep the Beeline hanging on your communter bag from a strap where you can see it, or if desired, in seconds strap it to your hired bike.
Often companies produce products that we really dont need, but make ourselves want. Beeline has produced a great product, that I didnt realise I needed, and now I really want for my next trip to the city.
If you are commuting and need a little help with the guidance around town – buy the Beeline
On that, I’m going to give an easy 4/5 as it is a little expensive compared to a full GPS head unit, but if you can afford it, you’ll love it