Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Good rider aids, or utter lunacy?

I tend to embrace technology. I love gadgets.

I also love motorcycles, but there is one thing I am very clear on. Using technology while on the move is the last thing a biker needs to do. We all know that to ride safely, we need to concentrate 100% on the road conditions ahead and we especially need to look at what other road users are doing. Anything that distracts bikers from concentrating on riding can only lead to problems.

I am therefore amazed at three motorcycle helmet manufacturers that are proposing to included on-board gadgets and technology within their helmets. Between them, they are suggesting we need Internet enabled helmets, with heads-up displays, inbuilt gps, the ability to make phone calls and send texts, see weather forecasts, and look at 180 degree rear view camera displays. Wait a minute, yes, all WHILE riding. Are they crazy? They all claim these sorts of features will help riders, but are they right?

Let’s look at what they are proposing.


The guy presenting on the Scully video (see below) already struggles with being able to read a sign at the side of the road, let alone look at the in-view displays he is suggesting.   He says he slammed into the back of the car in front when looking at a sign when riding. That means he is unable to ride properly now.

This is the guy that wants to fill our heads with wait for it….. gps maps floating in front of me….. an internet enabled heads up display mobile platform that takes data from onboard sensors, gps and rear view camera and renders this up on a heads up display. It is claimed with its onboard micro-processor and Android based OS, it is the smartest helmet on the planet.

It also has a 180 degree rear view camera with a screen built into the helmet so enabling the rider to look behind and to the sides, while looking forward at the same time. The video suggests we could make and take phone calls. It even has a full screen gps view(!). It even invites other developers to suggest other apps that could be used on their platform. Other information says riders can send texts using voice commands WHILE RIDING. This is idiotic.

Just take a look at the video, especially 2:25 for about 25 seconds. This is where you see the rear view camera view in your field of vision. I guarantee when watching the this your eyes will dart about looking at the heads up display and you will not concentrate on the road ahead.

Anybody wanting to buy one of these might be attracted by the technology, but I certainly wouldn’t want one and more importantly, I wouldn’t want somebody riding behind me who was wearing one of these helmets.


The first of the Reevu helmets have been available for some time and these existing models make some degree of sense as it gives a rear view of the road behind on a small screen just above your eye line. You do have to look up though and take your eyes off the road ahead. This though is not too dissimilar from moving your eyes to look in the mirrors mounted on your handlebars.

However, the new innovations that Reevu want to build into their new helmets take things to a different level. Here is one of their images.

It seems Reevu may be planning to connect the heads-up display to the motorcycle to show RPM, speed or fuel consumption, along with indicator repeaters and possibly high beam and neutral idiot lights. From their imagery, it looks like Reevu are also targeting heads-up gps. Can you possibly imagine trying to read this information while riding? The new helmets will use the small mirror above the eyeline for the rear view, plus it will also show the sort of information on the image above. Isn’t this too much to use while riding?


Nuviz claim the world’s first Head-Up display for motorcycle helmets.

This is different from the other two manufacturers as Nuviz is technology that gets mounted to the chin piece of existing helmets. This then projects a heads-up display onto the inside of the visor somehow. The type of information it displays ranges from gps maps and directions, weather forecasts, distance travelled, speed, estimated arrival time, gear selected, revs, as well as allowing telephone calls and listening to music.

It even allows you to take photographs and video. For the social media savvy, photos can be sent to your Facebook page while you ride. Yep, you read that right – WHILE YOU RIDE!

The system uses the Nuviz Ride Cloud app and once again, through mobile internet technology, this allows riders to share data such as routes before, after or even DURING the ride. Really, why?


Okay, so it looks as if this new technology may well be available soon – some of these manufacturers say the technology will be here in 2014, but one big questions remains. Will these gadgets help or hinder riders?

Some will love what is coming our way and will covet the technology for the sake of technology. That is okay, if it is safe to use. I have my doubts though, as riding needs 100% of your concentration all of the time. Gizmos that require us to move our view away from the road cannot be good, nor can the inevitable toggles and switches that we will need our hands to manipulate the data.

Is this really a good idea that will make riding easier, or is it utter lunacy, dreamed up to exploit a potential market? Time will tell.

I won't be rushing to buy any of it.


Nikos said...

The ubiquitous journalist and author LJK Set right once wrote the only useful significant technical advance in motorcycle technology was the electric starter. I agree.

Unknown said...


without looking at the video (until I get home) My first thought would be to develop a "Heads Up" display integrated into your windscreen at 50% opacity . . . sort of like what they put into cars but only data you need to see whilst riding. Like MPH, perhaps RPM and temp gauge. For other functions they should only enable when you are going ZERO MPH:;

that's only my first thought. I may think of more things later

Riding the Wet Coast

RichardM said...

I'm not sure that it is complete lunacy but as depicted in the video, a complete distraction. HUD has been successfully used for years and I think there are some basic design principles being violated with these designs. Things like the rear view camera are way too distracting. Much more so than a rear view mirror than you can see around. In these implementations, it blocks your view.

The City Mouse in the Country said...

To a certain extent I can see using GPS, although the other things I agree with you 100% on.

Luckily these helmets will be priced out of most people price ranges for the time being...the problem with technology is that it never stops to let our poor minds catch up to it.

biker baby said...

I wouldn't mind trying GPS if it was only audio and not visual. I prefer to keep my eyes on where I am going and on things around me. As for the rest of the features...too distracting.

Learning to Golf said...

My new rider aid is a 2013 Atlas.

Yes, I have a cell phone, even though it is a dumb one now that I am retired. Plus I would never leave home without my computer.

I can NOT text and drive, forget about riding. Once on the road technology isn't part of my equation. I really am old school and paper maps are the order of my day!

Chiller said...

I'd like to have my speed imprint on my visor, that could useful

Canajun said...

I'm of two minds on these new 'advances' in helmets. First of all heads-up displays have been used by pilots for decades now, and if flying at Mach 2 doesn't require your full concentration I don't know what does. So I think there's some value there. What I don't like is they have become too gimmicky, not only providing basic operating metrics (speed, RPM)and navigation information but also the texting, cell phone, and rear view camera capabilities. That's where information overload really becomes problematic. I see lawsuits on the horizon.
(As an aside, how good is a rear view camera if you are carrying a passenger?)

Axel said...

Utter nonsense, and dangerous. While I think that the safety benefits of a SatNav can outweight its dangers (less U-turns or sudden stops/turnings vs distraction),and its clearer then a beermat on the fueltank :), there is some merit in the actual discussion on banning even hands-free phonetalk in the car. As we ride open face most of the time, no temptation anyway.

Trobairitz said...

My first reaction would be: Do we really need more distractions? It is hard enough to dodge the distracted drivers out there, but I'd hate to add distracted motorcyclists into the mix.

The HUD in the visor seems short sighted to me. As in you take your view off the road to look closer. Would it be akin to looking at the rain on your visor instead of looking beyond it? ie changing your focal point.....

It is interesting that Canajun points out the technology has been used by pilots. Me thinks they have a lot more training on the devices and on a continual basis than the average Joe/Jane on two wheels would.

Just my two cents.

SonjaM said...

I am very low tech on my bike, except for the occasional use of a GPS in unknown territory when scootering. No GPS on my Harley though, I use old fashioned maps when I travel with my Sporty.
Anyway I love to ride with all senses. Isn't one purpose of riding to get away from the "being online at all times". Thanks for the heads-up, but I am not going to buy this. +1 what Nikos quoted.

Ottawa Rider said...

For the Scully, he says it will enhance our senses...

How does playing music "enhance" our senses? It just makes us more unlikely to hear a honk or a horrendous accident happening beside you!

I would love to listen to music as a ride but I am always too worried it will be a distraction and keep me from being safe.

Doug Klassen said...

I occasionally use a GPS when riding and find it handy but still a bit distracting. Beyond a GPS I don't see much need for lots of other techno-input on a bike but then I'm not a younger, technology obsessed rider.

Unknown said...

I'd love to try it/them out! Come on Gary, get with the future..

Do you use your phone connected in your car - yes of course I know you do as I have had conversation with you like it. Whats the difference bike / car? As the person in control you know when you need to pay more attention to one thing that the other but I'm sure the small rear screen in the right hand corner would be got used to pretty quickly.

Consider the 'looking down at instructions on a tank' moment - that has more potential for trouble than what the chap says about looking at a road sign albeit clearly he couldnt have been much kop as a rider.

Gary France said...

Nikos – I sort of agree. Electronic ignition has helped a lot too.

Bob – I think you are on the right lines. Too much information when riding will certainly be a distraction, but making other data available when stopped might be okay.

Richard – I agree, the rear view camera view is a waste of time and money. Bearing in mind the rear view will change as you move your head, I am sure people will be riding along looking at the rear view and moving their heads to get a better view. That is just silly.

Robert – You are certainly right about the price taking it out of range of a lot of people. The problem I have with gps in the helmet is we have it already on easy to read screen just in front of us mounted near the handlebars. You don’t tend to look at the screen for too long to be able to understand how far to the next turn, where you need to go etc. If you can easily do that on a (relatively) cheap gps unit, why would you want to complicate things and include it in your helmet?

Gary France said...

Biker Baby – I do use the audio part of my gps sometimes, but I find I do also need to look at the screen for confirmation of where to turn etc. I agree that the rest are too distracting.

AHD – LOL. I love the bit about your new rider aid. There are a lot of people like you who prefer the straightforward paper maps approach. I think there is a place for some technology to accompany maps (I use both) but for these helmets take things way too far. I can imagine them getting banned in Europe for being too distracting.

Chiller tek – I agree, something simple like that could be good.

Canajun – I 100% agree with what you have said. I didn’t think about the passenger part, so that is an excellent point. If somebody really needed to have all these gadgets, they probably wouldn’t have any passengers anyway.

Gary France said...

Axel – Yes, open faced helmets would present a problem to this technology. It is interesting what you say about the potential for banning even hands-free phones in cars. I read an article about that today, but I cannot see that happening. Some do believe that sat navs shoud be banned. See

Trobairitz – You make some very sensible points here. There are already enough distractions, let alone introducing more. As for having to changing your focal point through having to refocus, I have read this is not the case, as the HUD images are aligned with a distant focal point to make refocusing un-necessary. I suspect you are spot about pilots and training. The only training a rider would get is how to turn it on and I suspect nearly everyone would want to get on their bikes straight away to test it out.

Sonja – That is going to be the main point with many people – “Isn't one purpose of riding to get away from the "being online at all times"” is absolutely right – riding can be a pure joy with just your thoughts to accompany you.

Gary France said...

Ottawa Rider – The guy from Scully worries me greatly. Somehow the words ‘profit before safety’ come to mind. It was watching this video that really got me thinking about this subject and what he had to say had me very worried. I wouldn’t want him riding anywhere near me with all those distractions. The video was my worst nightmare about riding a motorcycle.

Doug – I am technology obsessed, but not to this extend. GPS, yes. Phones, text, music, in-vision heads up, no way!

Nick – he got distracted by looking at a friggin sign, and what’s worse, he admits it! You do however have a point Nick and yes, I agree I would want to try them out, but just to see what they are like. But would I be willing to actually buy one of these helmets to try it out? No. Would I want to risk a heck of a lot by even potentially being distracted while riding? Again, no. Would I want somebody riding behind me who was wearing one? No. Yes, I do use my phone in the car, but hands-free only. It is a big stretch to compare using a hands-free phone to these distractions though.

resa said...

where i live in the green mountains of vermont, usa; we can't even get reliable cell phone signal, gps mapping constantly misdirects travellers to the 'ancient roads' which are now seasonal snow machine trails (i know because we have rescued several lost travellers on our farm). I would not dare depend on this technology. A current map and savvy local citizen is the best bet in our neck of the woods.

Dar said...

Somehow I missed this post, but here's my 2cents. As a relatively new rider of 3 years there is absolutely no way I would want one of these. There are already enough distractions on the road and I al already processing information quickly. I think I would like GPS in a audio format - but no maps popping up in my visor. I think there are going to be road blocks for this technology where I live because they are looking at the laws for distracted driving and technology, I think this would be considered a distracts lie device. As for Scully guy if he can't even manage thr road space around him when he us looking at a road sign & piles into a car maybe he should hang up the keys. The thought if him driving and not paying attention to the road environment and paying more attention to what is being projected onto a visor display is a very scary scenario particularly if he is sharing my road space.