A cycling inventor has explained how getting lost in Kilburn sparked the idea for a ‘cycling compass’ which has raised massive amounts of cash for production just days after launching on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.
Mark Jenner, 30, said that the idea for the BeeLine - a navigation device - came while he was cycling around his neighbourhood of Kilburn and West Hampstead and wanted to choose his own route and explore new places while still arriving safely and on time.
He and his team describe the concept as ‘fuzzy navigation’.
Mr Jenner, a former secondary school teacher and management consultant founded BeeLine with his business partner Tom Putnam in April this year.
He told the Kilburn Times: “One of the things I love about north west London and Kilburn is how the old streets are windy, interconnected and unpredictable. The only problem is, this can lead you to easily lose your bearings.
“When I first lived around the area, I liked to spend Sundays cycling around to find the hidden parks, churches as well as cafes sprouting up but often found I missed out on this when I was stopping and starting using conventional maps or GPS device to get somewhere.
“So I started developing a device that would efficiently get me from A to B while allowing me to adapt my own route. There was also a safety element to it, as it means you can travel fluidly and concentrate on the road rather than constantly looking for the next turning on your screen or a map.”
The BeeLine takes the GPS signal from a connected and compatible smartphone and allows you to input your final destination. Instead of providing turn-by-turn directions like a car satnav, the BeeLine acts like a compass and indicates the direction of your final destination, but leaving the choice of route entirely up to you.
The small screen displays an arrow showing which direction you need to be heading in, along with the distance remaining. The app also allows you to add points along your route to the final destination, so you can avoid certain areas or make sure you pass your favourite coffee shop on the way to your final destination.
The company reckons that the simplicity of navigation offered by the BeeLine allows cyclists to “rediscover the fun of cycling with their new-found freedom as BeeLine lets them pick their own path, unlike most navigation devices that use turn-by-turn GPS navigation.” Sounds like a novel way of navigating through a new city but might not be much use if you’re running late for work.
The BeeLine features an e-paper screen providing crisp and clear information in all light conditions, with a backlight for night riding. It uses Bluetooth to communicate with the partner app on a compatible smartphone, and inside the device is a magnetometer, accelerometer, and gyroscope. It’s fully waterproof and the battery is said to be good for up to four weeks between charges.
There’s a simple silicone strap to attach the BeeLine to handlebars, so it can be removed easily, and attached to any bike you’re riding.
You can also use BeeLine without navigation, and it’ll perform like a regular cycle computer, displaying your current speed and distance or a clock.
Tom Putnam, co-founder of BeeLine, says: “We have worked very hard on the design to ensure BeeLine slots seamlessly into a cyclist’s lifestyle. We’ve been working with an industrial design agency and electronic engineers to get BeeLine to where it is today, and now we’re launching on Kickstarter to raise funds to go into mass production. We are very excited to be bringing BeeLine to the Kickstarter community.”
The BeeLine inventors are seeking £60,000 funding and are nearly halfway there with 29 days to go. The £30 ‘extra eager bee’ discounts have gone, but you can still get one for £35 with an ‘eager bee’ discount. Delivery is expected in August 2016. You can pay another £10 for personalised engraving. The full retail price when it launches is expected to be about £60.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.