Sat nav options tend to revolve around a large screen displaying a map (like our favourite TomTom Rider 550) or a set of turn-by-turn instructions for you to follow to get to your destination; that’s kind of the point. However, for many riders and bikes, the idea of a large multi-colour display at the front of the bike – whether a standalone sat nav or a smartphone – goes against the grain, particularly on a retro or a custom bike.
That’s where the Beeline comes in. It runs a navigation app on your smartphone but instead of having to mount the phone on the bars or ahead of you, it sends turn-by-turn directions to a tiny screen that you fit the bike. Unless you know it’s there and following a route, you would barely notice it.
The Beeline has been designed to either send you to your destination by highlighting where to go at the next junction that it counts you down to (in Route mode) or the arrow can simply point directly to your destination and tell you how far you are away and let you work out the route yourself (Compass mode).
Related: Best motorcycle sat nav options
The display unit itself is less than 50mm in diameter and is around 15mm thick, so it’s smaller than a large wristwatch. There are several mounting options available, including a stick-on arm, a mirror mount, a ball mount and a traditional handlebar mount. The unit comes with a USB charging cradle and the battery is apparently good for 15 hours of riding.
Using it is easy: download the app onto your smartphone (iOS and Android) and use it to do the work; pair with the Beeline unit, update it and plan your route. This is familiar to anyone who’s used google maps, for example; input your destination (as an address, postcode or drop on the map screen) then choose your navigation options. It will generate several options or a straight line in Compass mode.
If you are in Route mode, you can decide to avoid motorways or tolls road, for example, or set waypoints to hit en route. Once you have chosen what you want, hit ‘Go’ and it sends the first instruction to the Beeline display unit.
Another interesting option is to import a GPX file (a route file) to your phone and use it as the route. This can be useful for shared routes from people, or perhaps for off-road trails.
This concept of using your phone to do the work and display the route options on a smaller screen is becoming increasingly common, even with manufacturers; KTM, for example, uses it on its bike’s TFT screens and Royal Enfield has a separate Tripper device on the latest Himalayan.
In use, it does exactly what it says it will; it shows a surprisingly large yet understandable amount of information to tell you where to go in Route mode. The large arrow shows the direction to follow while the dot indicates the direction to take at the next junction.
The distance in the middle is to the next junction and the graduated section at the top is your journey progress. In the meantime, the screen on your phone can show either the map view or mirror the arrow view from the Beeline unit itself.
In Compass mode, the app generates a straight line between your location and destination and points an arrow to the destination with an accompanying distance. You simply decide which route to take and it constantly shows you where your destination is and how far away you are.
Related: TomTom Rider 550 review
There is an automatic backlight on the display unit and in use, it is clear and works well. However, there are several drawbacks, none of which are specific to the Beeline but are to using a smaller display to show directions from a phone app.
The first is that it can get a little confusing if you have junctions or instructions close together, one after another. It also has no traffic information, so you could find yourself caught up in traffic on your chosen route.
However, it does have auto re-routing so if you find yourself in traffic and can get off, it will pick you up although it might try to put you back into traffic.
This is a very stylish and effective form of a sat nav for those who don’t want the full-size colour display screen ahead of them on the bike. It is subtle and barely noticeable yet gives enough information to be useful.
The routing options are very good, including the ability to import a GPX file and the compass mode is nice if you need to get somewhere but want to follow your nose to choose the actual route.
It doesn’t know about traffic problems and multiple instructions can be confusing but for a cool clean bike or a retro, it’s a great option.
Minimalist design and impact
Phone-app does routing, screen displays instructions
Can import GPX files
No capacity for traffic problems