Dedicated motorcycle Sat Navs are bulky, expensive and complicated. You could mount your phone to your bike and use Google Maps instead but then your phone might fall off, get wrecked by the rain or you’ll get to where you’re going but your phone battery will be dead.
There has to be a better option.
Well, as it happens, there is. It’s this Beeline Moto, which is a clever little way to get turn by turn directions without the faff of a dedicated device and the risk of mounting your phone.
What makes the Beeline so clever is that it pairs with your phone and issues turn-by-turn instructions using arguably the best route guidance available: Google Maps.
What’s in the box
I’ve tested the standard Beeline Moto which comes with:
- The Beeline device (a discreet display that’s 50mm in diameter)
- A bar mount with 2 x tough rubber O-rings
- Sticky-pad universal mount (Go-Pro mount capable)
- A USB charging station
- Simple instructions
I mounted the Beeline to my Ducati Hypermotard’s flat bars with no issues (and also to my bicycle). You can mount it on pretty much any bike with the sticky-pad universal mount, which has a fixing mechanism that works directly with Go-Pro mounts (which are about the stickiest mounts I know of).
You can also purchase other accessories including a ball adapter which will work with any RAM mount.
The actual device is very simple, and the display resembles a basic fitness watch; a clean and clear LCD display which is easy to glance at to get the info you need.
One of the best touches is the Compass mode, which is different to the Turn-by-Turn navigation that we’re all used to on the increasingly complicated full-fat GPS devices. Compass mode just points in the direction of your destination (which has its plus and minus points, as I’ll discuss later).
It has its own dedicated app, which is very simple to use. It uses Google Maps, therefore it’s an intuitive interface that’s well-proven. The coverage is worldwide, therefore anywhere that Google can tell you to get to, you can get to with the Beeline. No faffing around with map updates and the like.
The device itself has a scratch-resistant screen and is fully dust and waterproof to IP67 standards.
Setting up & Navigating
The setup really couldn’t be simpler. If you’ve ever bought a new dedicated motorcycle sat nav in the last decade, you’ll know they still require quite a bit of plugging in, map updates (via CD-ROM, remember those?) and on some of those GPS devices the route planning was done via software on your PC. Arrgh! It’s a wonder they ever took off.
Anyway, the Beeline is very simple to setup. Download the app, pair the device with the app/phone over Bluetooth and you’re good to go. Call up a route in the Beeline app, hit go and it will send it to the Beeline and the directional arrow will be there waiting for you to get going.
The Beeline has four buttons on the outer dial, these are used to power on the device, cycle through the settings menu and then – when in navigation mode – the two side buttons allow you to sweep through the different displays to show your turn indicator (or direction arrow if you are in Compass Mode), your current speed, the distance to your destination, your trip time and a natty little display of your phone and Beeline’s battery level.
It charges via USB and Beeline claims the battery can last up to 30 hours in navigation mode (10 with the backlight).
You can switch units from Miles to Kilometres and the unit displays useful secondary information next to the main directional arrow, including a dot which shows you which side the next turn is going to be on and how far until that next turn. In Compass Mode you just get the arrow which wanders around depending on which direction you’re heading in.
The display is easy to read, the simple arrow is all you need to be able to glance at and this is where the monotone display (a little bit like that on an Amazon Kindle) wins hands down over a multi-featured, multi-coloured sat nav. As distractions go, it’s almost distraction-free.
Basic route planning is as straightforward as it gets but, as with the fully-featured motorcycle sat navs, you can make it really complicated if you want to.
For a simple route, just plugin where you’re going in the app and hit start. Boom! It’ll be good to go before you can pull your clutch in.
You can modify the default route in the app by selecting a point on the screen and adding that as a waypoint. You can add 23 different waypoints (including your destination point) to customise your route.
Need even more flexibility? Then you can import a GPX file that’s as detailed as can be and the Beeline app will plot that route and send the directions to the device.
You also don’t need to have the postcode and jump through all those frustrating steps that some of the older sat navs make you enter. Have you ever used a sat nav that makes you enter the postcode, then road name then town, arrgh! With the Beeline you could enter ‘Donington Park’ into the destination and it’ll know exactly where that is and take you there.
One area the Beeline loses out to the full-featured motorbike Sat Navs, like Garmin and Tom Tom, is the Scenic Mode or Winding Road mode. These are options in the other devices that take you down motorcycle-friendly roads.
On the Beeline you can get halfway towards this mode by selecting to avoid motorways but it’s not as good as the motorcycle-focused modes on the big devices.
You can also use Compass Mode if you are adventurous, like a challenge and want to simulate the motorcycle-friendly route of the Garmin and TomTom.
Compass mode doesn’t give turn-by-turn directions and instead just has an arrow that always points towards your destination. As you ride along the distance to destinations reduces (hopefully!) as you press on. For Compass Mode, you need to read the road signs and have an ounce or two of common sense.
For me, Compass Mode is great when riding around London as I just want something that gives me a general idea of where I’m going. I half know anyway and pretty much all roads will get you there eventually and so Compass means I spend more time with my eyes on the road. If I’m feeling lost, I can glimpse at the screen and get back on track. I find this better than a strict mistress telling me exactly where to go and then getting upset if I don’t quite take the EXACT turning I was asked to.
Also the turn-by-turn in town isn’t quite as sharp as I’d like it to be (if I was relying on turn-by-turn). It can be a bit hazy and when you’re faced with two roads that are metres apart, it’s a lucky dip as to the right one. With a full sat nav display you’d be able to see which one of the roads you need to turn into.
On a long ride out of town, I prefer to stick to turn-by-turn and I mix that in with going where the hell I want anyway, safe in the knowledge the turn-by-turn will be re-routing as I go. I’ve never been a turn-by-turn kinda guy, which I think is why I got into motorcycling in the first place..
The Beeline will go for hours without needing a charge. It relies on your phone for navigation, so obviously you have to keep an eye on your battery life. However the drain with the Beeline is far less than it would be if you were mounting your phone and using that for route guidance. You can keep your phone in your pocket, with Bluetooth and GPS enabled but the screen can be switched off (and I’m guessing the route guidance graphics in Google Maps would eat battery life too), so battery drain is far less with the Beeline. On a 24-mile journey, my battery indicator had dropped by 12%, which is acceptable.
The Beeline is a niche within a niche. If you ride around Europe and love your fully-featured sat nav, I am not sure that the simplicity of a Beeline would work for you. If you mount your phone on your bike and use it for navigation, I don’t know if the £149 asking price for a Beeline will tempt you to keep your phone in your pocket.
However, if you fall between these two stools, the Beeline warrants your attention.
If you want a simple device to give you the confidence to explore new roads or take some of the strain away from navigating to a new destination, then the Beeline is a great bit of kit that’s hard to fault.
The Beeline Moto retails for £149 (or £199 if you opt for the metal-case).
See the Beeline website for the full specification or you can order from various online retailers, including from Amazon.