review

Beeline Velo

6
£99.00

VERDICT:

6
10
Simple and stylish navigation system that's simple to fit and use, but performance is patchy
Good at getting you to a specific place you don't know
Good battery life
Simple to use
Not good with multiple waypoints
Strava/GPX integration patchy
Sometimes freezes
Favours complicated quieter routes
Weight: 
55g
Contact: 

The Beeline Velo is a simple and easy to use route-following device that's quick to set up and great if you're doing point-to-point rides and you're not sure of the way. The app needs to be a bit more robust, and some of the advertised features don't work, so at the moment it feels a bit like a work in progress.

The Beeline majors on simplicity. The physical unit is mostly a screen; there's no GPS chip inside, as the smartphone app (iOS/Android) takes care of that part of the process. The unit does contain an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer though, which it uses to gauge movement to show you accurate information. There are four touch buttons on the front to access the device settings. They're not great in gloves but you rarely need to do anything while you're riding.

> Buy this online here

The circular unit is IP66 waterproof and the silicone rubber case acts both as a case and a mount: you simply wrap it around the bar or stem of your bike, and off you go. There's no mount to remember, and moving it between bikes is simplicity itself.

Beeline Velo - open.jpg

You can't use the Beeline without also having your smartphone with you; that may be an issue for you but I always carry my phone anyway. The unit pairs via Bluetooth Low Energy, and even though it only has a tiny 350mAh battery it'll run for a claimed 30 hours if you keep the backlight off, or 10 hours if you have it on all the time. The 200x200-pixel black and white screen is easy to read in daylight and you only need the backlight after dark, so a charge will probably see you through anything up to a 400km audax.

On top of that, the app doesn't chew through your phone battery too much, although it does use the GPS chipset for navigation and mobile data for on-the-fly routing so you can't have your phone in airplane mode or anything to save the battery.

Setting up the Beeline is simple. The pairing process worked very well on my Android phone and once you're paired you can get navigatin'.

The interface is simple: a big arrow that tells you the direction of the next waypoint, a distance countdown to said waypoint, a dot to show you which way you're turning next, and extra information in the middle – if it's a roundabout, or a forked road, for example. So all you need is a route to follow, which you sort out via the app. With, in my experience, mixed results.

Beeline GPS-1.jpg

Unfamiliar surroundings

There's one thing that the Beeline is really good at: if you're going somewhere you don't know, or you don't know the best way to, then you can type the address into the app and it'll find you a route which you can navigate using the device. Generally speaking, it does a very good job of this. The routes that it picks are sensible and reasonably quiet, and it knows about traffic-free options and other infrastructure.

Once you're on your way the GPS is easy enough to read, turns are (generally) self-explanatory and the app is quick and efficient at re-routing you if you do something it doesn't expect. It's rare that an instruction is ambiguous; sometimes it won't give you an instruction at a straight-on junction and sometimes you'll get extra instructions when there's no turn, but it's no worse in that regard than other GPS units I've used.

> GPS cycle route planning made easy

The dot indicating the direction of a turn is more granular than just a simple left or right, and does a pretty good job of indicating what manner of turn it is. The way that the direction arrow moves into the junction before it switches to the next instruction is nicely implemented too.

So that use case works really well, and I've used the Beeline like that with excellent results. If that's the way you're likely to ride most then you'll probably find it a pretty well-polished experience. Generally speaking that's not how I ride, though. I'll do a loop from home, or I'll have picked out a route I want to do and be looking for a GPS to guide me round it. And the Beeline doesn't do either of those particularly well at the moment.

Quiet or direct?

You can add multiple points to a route, so it's easy enough to draw a loop joining up a few spots, and the app will route it on the fly. If you're doing that then you're quite likely to be routing on roads you know, and if you are you might notice that the Beeline app has a tendency to favour quiet routes over direct ones. Sometimes that's what you want, and sometimes not; it's very difficult, for example, to route through Bath on the main through road as the app will have you diving off through side streets and along shared use bits: you need a waypoint every hundred metres at some points just to keep it on track. An option to adjust the routing criteria would be useful, which is what many other apps have, usually along the lines of fastest/quietest/flattest.

Another issue with routing multiple waypoints is that the connection between the app and the GPS can be patchy. The app isn't keen at all on you missing out a waypoint you've added, and has a tendency to freeze the GPS display if you do. I never fully got to the bottom of why it happened, but it did on several occasions and always with multi-waypoint routes. The only option from there is to quit the app and start again, and as there's no option to save your route in the app you have to do all the inputting again.

You can – in theory – bypass the routing bit of the app, because it syncs to Strava and that gives you access to whatever routes you've created there. Which would be ideal, if it worked, but it doesn't, at least not very well.

The Strava routes come in as points with straight lines between them, not following the roads. You can opt to route to the roads, but the maximum number of waypoints supported is, for whatever reason, 23 – fewer than even a very short loop would normally contain. Even if you create a Strava loop where all the waypoints are on a junction it doesn't work, as when you load the route in the Beeline the waypoints it puts in are in different places. To be fair to Beeline, it knows that the Strava implementation isn't quite there yet, but it's advertising the unit as Strava-compatible when in reality it's not, at least in any meaningful way.

The GPX route

The other option is to download a GPX file from Strava (or another routing program) and use that; the Beeline app can route to the nearest roads if it's a road route or just direct you as the crow flies between the waypoints on the map if it's not. This works much better than Strava, and if you stay on route then it'll normally get you round fine. Sometimes there are missing instructions or superfluous ones, but it generally wasn't an issue. The Beeline app won't re-route if you're using a GPX as your base route: you're tied to what you planned and you won't get any instruction to rejoin it, other than an arrow pointing back to where you left it. If you hit the route further along, though, the Beeline will notice and start routing you again.

All this isn't to say it can't work: it certainly can, and when it does it's an elegant interface that's easy to follow. A year or so down the line I can see this would be an excellent way to follow routes on your bike: the battery life is good, the instructions are intuitive and the setup simple. But at the moment there's a bit too much glitchiness in the app which needs to be ironed out before it's a genuinely useful all-rounder. At the moment it's good at point-to-point navigation with a single destination in mind, and less good at everything else. Overall, the concept is good but the implementation needs work.

> Buyer’s Guide: 13 of the best cheap GPS cycling computers

At £99 it's not expensive, but really you're not paying for much more than a display here; the phone is the thing doing the heavy lifting so it's not as good value as something like the similarly priced Bryton Rider 420e which is a full standalone GPS. If you're just doing single-destination point-to-point rides then the Beeline will already feel like a finished product. If your needs are more varied then Beeline still has a bit of work to do before the Velo is a genuine contender to a more conventional GPS.

Verdict

Simple and stylish navigation system that's simple to fit and use, but performance is patchy

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Beeline Velo

Size tested: N/A

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Beeline says:

Finding your way on a bike can be frustrating, endlessly stopping to check on your phone that you're heading the right way. This is solved in Beeline's simple, connected bike computer. Beeline Velo keeps you on track with its simple, glanceable interface, as well as doing all the things you would expect from a bike computer, like recording speed, distance and time. Beeline takes care of navigation, so you can enjoy the ride

Setting up Beeline Velo couldn't be simpler. The bike computer easily attaches to any bike. Route planning is done quickly and simply in the companion app. You can then put your phone safely away in a bag or pocket, and you're ready to go

Beeline Velo's interface is kept intentionally really simple. It conveys only the information you need and nothing more. No detailed maps or distracting data with this bike computer. Just what you need, instantly understandable in moments

The Beeline app (iOS & Android) makes planning routes a breeze: quick location search; save favourite places; drag and drop pins to create your perfect route; save routes and share with friends. No PC connection required!

Want to try something new? There's a wealth of great routes out there created by adventurers who've gone before us. Take advantage of it by following their routes. Import GPX files into Beeline in seconds. Check out our blog for some examples.

Beeline Velo is a smart bike computer, connected to your phone and the cloud. This means it can get better through software updates and we're committed to doing just that. Since we launched Beeline Velo we've released 8 major feature updates based on the feedback we've heard from our community, and we've got plenty more in mind.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Beeline:

Phone requirementsiPhone running iOS 9.2 and above

or

Android phone with Google Play running 7.0 Nougat and above

Bluetooth 4.0 capability required

Does Beeline work with my phone?

Recommended bar dimensionsMinimum diameter: 20mm Maximum diameter: 35mm

Orientation settings for either handlebar or stem mounting

DimensionsDevice diameter: 65mm Device depth: 18mm

Strap length unstretched: 190mm

BatteryCapacity: 350mAh

Battery life in use

– without backlight: 30 hours

– with backlight: 10 hours

– blended: 20 hours

Battery life in standby: 2-3 months

Charging: micro USB

DisplayScreen technology: memory in pixel

Resolution: 200 x 200

Active area diameter: 30mm

SensorsAccelerometer

Gyroscope

Magnetometer

ProcessorARM Cortex

ConnectivityBluetooth 4.0 low energy

MaterialsSilicone rubber

Nylon

ABS plastic

Glass

Interface4x capacitive touch buttons

Water and particle resistanceIP66 rated when installed in strap (not rated outside of strap)

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Nicely made.

Rate the product for performance:
 
6/10

Really good when it works, but some things don't and there are issues with the display freezing.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

No problems during testing, silicone case keeps it safe.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10

55g isn't going to kill you on the hills.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

£99 isn't a lot for a GPS but it's not *really* a GPS, more a glorified display. Your phone is the thing doing the work here.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Good when it worked, which wasn't quite often enough.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Simple to use, nice interface, easy to swap between bikes.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Connection froze on multi-point routes, Strava integration doesn't work, no option to pick faster/quieter routes.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Nothing's a direct comparison; full GPS units that do turn-by-turn routing start at just over £100 with the Bryton Rider 420e.

https://road.cc/content/review/271739-bryton-rider-420e-gps-computer

Did you enjoy using the product? When it worked, yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Not until the app and firmware have gone through a couple more iterations and Strava sync works properly.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? No

Use this box to explain your overall score

I really liked it when it worked, which wasn't quite often enough. Updates will no doubt improve it, but all the functions the website says it has should already work at point of sale.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 189cm  Weight: 94kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

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