(The Gear Loop) - With the likes of Wahoo, Garmin and Hammerhead all battling it out in the pro cycling computer space, it feels like the designers behind these things are currently embroiled in a perpetual game of oneupmanship.
We recently had the pleasure of testing the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar and were bowled over by its battery life and the sheer amount of data and metrics it pumps out, but couldn’t help thinking it’s getting too much. There are only so many graphs you can pore over post-ride before the joy of cycling starts to diminish.
The Beeline Velo, which was launched after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015, aimed to change all that by offering simple navigation, a stress-free user interface and robust route-planning functionality that draws on real data collected from thousands of bike rides to determine the best (and safest) route for pedal-powered machines.
This latest iteration is a complete overhaul of that original device, sporting a neater overall package, new rocker switch buttons and an improved navigation interface that strays from the rotating arrow of the previous gen to a more detailed overview of the upcoming junction.
If you’re not bothered about performance metrics and simply want reliable navigation, a clear interface and the easiest user experience, the Beeline Velo 2 is perfect. It’s not expensive either and the updates to the interface and route planning are welcome additions.
Granted, the build quality could be slightly better and there’s no option for gravel and mountain bike riders, but we enjoyed the simplicity and found it to be a very useful addition to the bike on a daily basis.
Beeline Velo 2
- Simple navigation
- Excellent route planning
- Upload data to Strava
- Great value
- Lacks most performance metrics
- Won't work with existing mounts
- Unit not the most robust
- Can't attach external monitors
In the Loop
Everything you need to know about the Beeline Velo 2 in short:
- LCD IPS circular display with LED backlight
- Resolution: 240 x 240 px (266 PPI)
- Active area diameter: 32.4 mm (1.28 inch)
- Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Ambient light sensor
- Bluetooth 4.0 low energy connection
- Turn-by-turn directions
- Simple and quick re-routing
- Speedometer, average speed and distance tracked
- Strava integration
- USB-C charging
- 11+ hours battery life
- Weather sealed
Design and build
The Beeline Velo 2 is noticeably smaller than its predecessor, but doesn’t scrimp on display by reducing the bezel and using more of the real estate for display purposes.
Fashioned from ABS, PMMA, polycarbonate and TPU, it’s a very plastic-feeling device and lacks the heft and reassuring build quality of the company’s own Moto unit, which can be optioned with a metallic bezel.
That said, the Velo 2 costs just £79.99/$99, so we’re not exactly going to black mark the thing for build quality, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it would survive being dropped or run over.
The fiddly touchscreen of old has been replaced by a clever rocker switch system that allows for four distinct areas on the Velo 2 to be pressed. It makes interaction feel a lot more deliberate and purposeful, while negating those accidental swiping moments of the past.
Attaching the new Beeline to a bike couldn’t be simpler, as the company uses a quarter-turn locking device that is installed with a couple of provided rubber bands. We mounted ours on the stem, but it will just as easily wrap around the handlebars.
Unfortunately, the locking system is slightly different to those offered by Garmin et al, so you will have to put up with a couple of mounts if you want to retain your current bike computer.
The screen itself is bright and really easy to use, with a general onus on high contrast black and white to ensure upcoming junctions and navigational instructions are as crisp as possible.
Interface and navigation
Simplicity is key here, and although the Beeline Velo 2 offers an impressive suite of sensors, the main functionality is navigation.
Users will first have to pair a new unit with the Beeline app, which is as simple as scanning a QR code on the Velo 2 unit or heading to your usual app store. Once installed, your smartphone will pick the device up using Bluetooth and we have to admit, it’s far simpler than anything offered by Garmin.
We managed to pair our Beeline Velo 2 in a matter of seconds, despite having other units previously connected. This is thanks to a refreshing lack of menu screens within the app, which meant we found the option to unpair an existing device quickly.
Once connected, users have the option to simply record a ride, or plan a new ride, which uses a Google Maps interface to search for addresses, place names, postcodes or local businesses and then suggest the best routes.
As soon as the start and end points are punched in (the start point defaults to the rider's current location), the app takes a few moments to kick out the suggested routes.
This is new territory for Beeline, as it now offers a Fast, Balanced or Quiet route, drawing upon its reams of existing cycling data to produce options that are safe for cyclists. After each ride, users are adviced to rate the quality of the route, which all helps Beeline build a more accurate picture of the quality of roads and their suitability for cyclists.
The Fast routes do exactly what they say, and produce the most direct path to an intended destination using cycle-safe roads and specific cycle networks. The Quiet option deliberately selects less busy roads and those that have been flagged by the community as particularly good for cycling. Balanced, unsurprisingly, pitches a mix of the two to the rider.
As with Google Maps on a smartphone or desktop, it’s possible to add multiple stops along the way, reorder those stops and alternate the start and end points. It’s about as simple as it gets and we loved how easy it was to plan a route.
There is also the option to change the route type to motorcycle, should you own one, as well as save the route for future, import a GPX route and change the map type to terrain, hybrid and satellite.
This proves useful if you want to discover a few hidden gems in the area, but Beeline doesn’t currently distinguish between cycling types, something Garmin recently introduced. There’s no option for purist gravel riders or those on mountain bikes, although the founders of Beeline told us it can route off-road to an extent.
We recently used the little Beeline Velo 2 unit to navigate around London during a few days spent in the Big City for work purposes. It proved absolutely faultless during every ride, offering up route suggestions quickly, re-routing even faster when we strayed off course and defaulting to the much safer London cycling networks, rather than plonking us on busy roads.
Thanks to the Google Maps interface, it was possible to quickly search for places, such as bars or restaurants, while the option to see an estimated arrival time and a remaining ride distance made journey planning more precise.
While riding, it’s possible to press down on the lowest rocker switch to cycle through a variety of menu screens, such as an ETA read out, speedometer and overall riding time. Although we found we stuck to the navigational instructions most of the time.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to plan a stop-off or re-route via the device, so it’s a case of pulling over somewhere safe, fishing out your smartphone and interacting with the app that way. This obviously requires signal or Wi-Fi, which could be an issue if you’re heading off-grid.
The only issue we found was with the first few moments of a ride, especially if we kicked things off from a pavement or pedestrian area. Sometimes the Beeline Velo 2 would take a few moments to get its bearings and catch up with the correct heading. Generally, the route suggestions were great and worked well even when we used the device on the more rural local routes we are accustomed to. We've not yet been routed through a farmer's field or down a completely unsuitable dirt track, for example.
What's more, the latest interface is far more precise when it comes to navigating tricky junctions, as the junction preview icons makes it clear exactly what exit to take. Beeline’s unique Compass Mode is still a joy to use, but we found the new alternative to be far more detailed and intuitive, drastically reducing the chances of taking a wrong turning.
We also found battery life to be excellent and the diminutive unit easily lasted a few days of on and off riding with very little impact on juice. Beeline claims 11 hours, or more if you turn the brightness down and avoid using the buttons, and we can’t see why that wouldn’t be the case.
It also charges very quickly via a standard USB-C cable, with up to a 30 per cent charge - or two hours of ride time - in 20 minutes when the battery is completely drained.
The Beeline Velo 2 is a cost effective and smart alternative to expensive bike computers. Granted, it can’t compete in terms of performance metrics, but for those who enjoy the purest form of cycling, exploring new places under their own steam and generally longing for pedal-powered adventures, the Velo 2 feels like the perfect companion. Overall, the build quality could be improved upon, but Velo 2 proves excellent value for money when you compare it to cycling computer rivals. Perhaps the biggest compliment we could pay it is the fact we have one now permanently attached to the stem of our generic commuter bike.