Heads up displays have been around for decades. They’ve been in use by the military for over 60 years and commercial aviation for around 30 years. Back in 1988 you could actually buy an Oldsmobile with one. But it’s only in recent years that they’ve become more commonplace in the mass consumer market, slowly trickling down from luxury cars like BMW and Mercedes, with Mazda introducing it in all but the lowest spec of their new Mazda 3.
Given a rider needs to have their attention looking at the road as much as possible, a HUD seems to make sense for motorcycles. Being able to know your speed in suburban areas or getting directions via GPS on a HUD seems much safer than looking continuously down at your instrument cluster. We’ve therefore taken a look at three options that each take a different approach but are all specifically made for motorcycle riders.
The first motorcycle HUD we’ll look at is unique in that it’s already available to purchase. No future promises, no relying on crowd funding to bring it to production. You can go to their website and buy it today. It’s also not a true HUD either, but it’s the closest thing you can currently get so we felt it deserved a closer look.
The Bike-HUD is actually the brainchild and creation of one man, Dave Vout from England. His original goal was to develop something to help him better see behind him and the idea of a HUD with rear view camera was born. Ironically, the Bike-HUD ended up not offering any rear view capabilities but may do some with an upgrade module in the future.
As stated, it’s not a true HUD in that you don’t see the information displayed on a transparent screen. Instead, it’s in effect a small screen that sits at the bottom left or right of the rider’s visor and the company prefers to use the term near eye display. It is capable of showing the rider their speed, gear, a tachometer plus even if your indicators are on. It has a track mode that shows lap and split times and a countdown timer for timed sessions. An app is also available that provides basic turn by turn navigation when coupled to an iPhone.
Gearing up for a ride is already a time consuming process and I’m not sure if I like the idea of having to attach/put on another piece of gear every ride, let alone finding a place to store the cable when not in use. On the other hand, it does eliminate the need for recharging batteries. I’m also not totally enamored with the idea of a large (albeit rounded) object sitting within my helmet which though unlikely, could come loose in a crash.
In comparison to the Skully AR-1 and NUVIZ below, the Bike-HUD already looks a bit like yesterday’s technology. It doesn’t have the great looking display the other two promise to have nor the sleek and futuristic look of them. But the Bike-HUD is already here and there’s no guarantee those other products will become a reality. And given this was all started by just one guy, we’re pretty impressed. Price is approximately $485.
The AR-1 by Skully Helmets is different to the two other systems looked at here as the motorcycle HUD has been integrated with the helmet itself. So in fact, you’re purchasing a helmet that comes with a HUD and not a HUD that you attach to any helmet you own. That’s both good and bad.
Good because it should mean the HUD is perfectly calibrated for the rider. It also means there’s an inbuilt rear vision camera that pipes the footage to the HUD which could be a nice safety feature. Voice commands control the device, allowing you to use the GPS, make telephone calls, play music and so on without touching any controls. Whether all that is a good thing for a rider to be able to do is probably another topic.