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Beeline Velo navigational bike computer review

13 Nov 2019
Verdict:

A nifty, no-frills navigational tool perfect for the commute

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Easy to use, funky, faff-free navigational device with great battery life. Perfect for urban journeys
Against 
Not ideal for journey planning and pricy for what it offers

The Beeline Velo navigational bike computer is a very simple gadget. The computer – which looks more like a GPS multisport watch face than what we commonly refer to as a bike computer – fixes onto a bike’s handlebar or stem depending on your preference.

Using bluetooth technology connecting the computer to your phone and the Beeline App, easy-to-read directions are displayed on the screen for riders to follow on their commutes or leisure rides. 

Beeline, the company behind the Beeline Velo navigational bike computer (gadget and app), launched as a Kickstarter in London in 2015. Co-founders Mark Jenner and Tom Putnam felt that navigating unfamiliar journeys by bike using your phone as a satnav was not only clunky, it could be quite dangerous. The digitally inspired solution was conceived and a few months later the Beeline bike computer (and its app) was born.

Buy from Wiggle now for £99

Ideal for navigating unfamiliar urban areas, the information provided is deliberately minimalist. The following information easily fits onto the one-inch-wide, round display screen:

(1) current direction of travel; (2) how far the next navigational cue will be indicated by a distance in metric or imperial units; (3) the direction of said next navigational cue; and (4) the journey progress in the form of a schematic gauge.

There is also a system for alerting the rider if they have gone ‘off route’. The arrow that was white against the black computer background indicating your current direction of travel changes colour and the distance displayed on the screen now tells the rider how far off route they are.

Stylish functionality

The device itself is both stylish (in a GPS or smart watch way) and simple to use. It boasts a 30hr battery life and is recharged by the fairly mainstream micro-USB. The screen is IP66 rated making it dust, shock and waterproof.

There are no real buttons to touch save one that ends the journey. And it clips onto the bike via a silicone mount – available in an array of colours – that stretches to accommodate most stem or bar handle shapes and sizes. Everything about it is slick and easy. You won’t need an allen tool for this one.

Simple and slick app

The app is very simple to use also. It’s a Google Maps style app. In fact, it even uses Google Maps data. The setup is fairly idiot proof: download the app; pair your bike computer with your phone (this will only need to be done once) and you’re one step from being able to make your first journey.

Interestingly enough, the Beeline computer isn’t forevermore wed to your phone. If you were to lend it to others, all they would need to do is download the app themselves to use it. 

In terms of planning a journey, nothing could be more straightforward. All the rider needs to do is answer the question on the page that appears every time the app is opened: ‘Where to?’. And even that has been simplified by Google Maps data stepping in to offer its usual uncannily insightful prompts.

Alternatively one can build a route on the map also displayed, marking the destination and a number of waypoints. Or you could upload a GPX file (even from Strava) to set off on a road ride or a mountain bike adventure. 

Buy from Wiggle now for £99

As always with deliberately simplistic gadgets there will be shortcomings to pick at. One seems quite major however: the fact that within the app you are not able to input where your journey is to start. During the review period, it would route you from wherever you happen to be at the time of planning your journey, be in your bedroom or the bus.

This meant having to wait until you are next to your bike in the position from where you intend to start your ride to get the accurate journey up and running on the Beeline App which will frustrate those seeking to get themselves and the device all set up ahead of their journey. And on a cold wet day or when you’re time pressed, even the less organised will find this little irksome.

However, Beeline has since been in touch to tell us that it is now possible to move the starting point to wherever you like by holding the pin and doing a drag and drop.

Whose purpose does it suit best?

Another flaw is of course its limited use cases. While it’s ideal for the busy-bee (or purely inquisitive) bike-riding city-dwellers for whom this gadget will make getting to and between their various errands more simple, it’s hard to imagine it being the gadget (or gift) or choice for many others - regular commuters, pleasure riders on road or mountain bikes - due to the limited data display and limited functionality app. 

It is a guidance device. A cynic might even describe it as a slightly technologically improved compass.

Follow the arrow

Personally, my biggest difficulty with the device was getting to grips with the arrow way of sign-posting direction. Unlike other bike computers dedicated to navigation, the user isn’t following a waypoint marked on a digital map or a written instruction (‘third exit’ for instance). Instead the user is left to discern which of the options – turn-offs or, at a junction, angled roads – the device wants you to follow.

Where turns-offs are few or easy to follow, it’s easy. However in denser grid plans or at junctions involving a number of roads at angles, the arrow can make for too vague a guide in my opinion. Especially if you throw into the mix other road users or rush hour.

Buy from Wiggle now for £99

All in all, I can imagine a number of ways in which the Beeline Velo navigational bike computer would make the life of a commuter in an urban area a little easier. Yes you could just use your phone, Google Maps (or another navigation app) and the appropriate phone mount but actually this is quite a nifty alternative that will protect your phone, its battery life and the rider.

However, for £100 there are plenty of other GPS devices, including ones that similarly link to your phone, that offer a lot more functionality and more detailed mapping.

None of them come with such an array of funky colours to choose from, though.

This review was amended following response from Beeline about movable starting points

Price: 
£99

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