Announcing the Recon Jet

Recon Jet_matte_black

 

I’m going to begin by saying that it’s not in my habit to write posts in response to a press release. Reprinting a press release isn’t RKP’s editorial mandate; put another way, being a mouthpiece for some company’s PR machine rubs me the wrong way. I like having a chance to check something out before I write about it. There have been a few occasions when I came close to writing something in the wake of an announcement because I thought the company or product was interesting enough to be worth chasing, but for reasons I’m not entirely clear on, I didn’t ultimately find those situations compelling enough to warrant moving forward with a piece.

So this is a first for RKP. And I think it’s warranted.

Recon Jet_white

A new company, Recon Instruments, has introduced the Recon Jet, a heads-up display (HUD) for cyclists. Actually, it’s a lot more than that. In reading through the press release I had the sense that I could sit through an hour-long presentation about the Jet and still not understand all its functionality. The last time that happened was when I was introduced to Map My Ride founder Robin Thurston back in 2006.

If this were just a bike computer incorporated into a HUD, I wouldn’t be writing. This thing has more tricks than Batman’s utility belt. It’s a GPS unit. It has WiFi, Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity. Did I mention the HD camera? The polarized lens? Running all this is a 1GHz dual-core processor. This thing is more powerful than an iPhone 4s. Srsly. Battery life depends, of course, on just how much you’re doing with it, but will range between four and six hours. That’s not terrific, but where the Jet differs from most devices is that you can replace the battery while you’re out.

Its makers say the Jet is controlled by a precision optical touchscreen with gestures and clicks. It also includes a microphone and speakers. Voice commands could be just around the corner.

Recon Instruments says that the device adds only 28 grams to the glasses, balanced 14g per side. What I’m more curious about is what the glasses feel like on your head than what they weigh, and what screens below actually look like.

Recon_Jet_GUI_I

Those are just bullet-point capabilities, not actual features that either give you something useful or distract you from your ride. I’ve run across bike computers that promised the ability to recite Shakespeare, but were so hopelessly complicated in actual use that I took them off after only a week.

So this isn’t an endorsement. I’m not urging anyone to order a set, STAT.

Recon_Jet_GUI_II

This thing is open-platform, so other developers will be able to think up new capabilities for the Jet.

I have concerns about how much of my field of vision the Jet will obscure and I’m curious about how these will fare in a crash. I’m hoping there’s a crash replacement program of some sort.

In the early 2000s (2003 perhaps?), I began using a Garmin Geko. It was a mostly lousy unit, but I loved the VAM function on it when I was climbing. Garmin is way past that now and because at least some of us bought those early Garmin units (I also had an eTrex), we now have units like the new 810. To help encourage some early adopters of their own, Recon is offering an introductory deal on the Jet. Until the final stage of the Tour de France—July 21—people can order a Jet for $499. After that they’ll go for $599. According to Recon’s site, the Jet is not yet available. They anticipate shipping the first units in December.

Recon_Jet_George_Hincapie_IYes, they selected George Hincapie as their spokesrider.

I am the guy who said he didn’t need his phone to be able to play music. And on the first phone I owned that could do that, the process was more difficult than operating a Polar heart rate monitor, so I never loaded any of my music to it. I also said I didn’t need a camera in my phone. As an iPhone user, my phone now does tons more than I could have imagined. I offer that as a prelude to the question of just how much more I need my bike computer to do. It would be easy to play the role of hater and rag on how I don’t need to be able to make phone calls with my glasses while riding my bike. However, I’m aware that that one idea—make phone call with glasses while riding bike—would have sent 10-year-old me into sci-fi heaven.

Take that Dick Tracy!

I’d have gone on bike rides just so I could make a phone call. My iPhone does things I don’t want to give up. I imagine if I start using the Jet I’ll find some of the things it does indispensable. Maybe. I’m willing to find out.

If you self-select as an early adopter, you can order a set here.

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24 comments

  1. Alex Hillis

    I tried the Jet demo at Google I/O this year and was impressed. They are comfortable to wear as well, with the weight very well balanced.

  2. MattC

    Hmmm….that would probably require me to get a cell phone first I’d think…
    Guess I’ll pass and just have to look down to see my info…oh the HORROR!

  3. MCH

    I’m dissapointed that it doesn’t have integrated earbuds and an uplink to my coach. I’d really like someone yelling in my ear to increase the watts during intervals. Oh yeah, and night vision for my commute during the fall/winter.

  4. Peter lin

    Seriously terrible idea. The point of riding is riding, not a HUD. This year I got myself a wahoo speed/cadence sensor and ditched my old bike computer. At first I missed seeing my avg speed and time, but I found that I enjoyed riding more. I wasn’t constantly looking at the damn bike computer. Given how much I sweat on a ride, the usefulness of a HUD is both stupid and pointless. I’ve killed several iphone earbuds due to sweat and salt. I’ve also lost sun glasses several times on rides. The whole idea is just pointless to me.

  5. randall

    I’d disagree with others on the “usefulness” point. This HUD has many uses with specific purposes for most features. On the other hand, I would question the necessity of a HUD. ATMO, it’s only necessary for super nerds who think HUDS are awesome and are rich.

    I’m only half of that…


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks for the comments everyone. I’ll say that while I’m not convinced that it’s a real step forward, I don’t see the point in knocking it even before it’s launched. It might not work for your, or me, but it might be an exciting development for another rider. It seems unfair to call it a terrible idea until you’ve tried it. I’ll also say that I’m not someone who spends a lot of time looking at my computer. Occasional glances at current speed for a reality check and then checking in on the time of day is about all I check while I’m out. The other numbers only become curious after I’m home.

  6. Peter lin

    I’m sure someone out there will think “god I must have that.” As a software engineer and someone that likes tech gadgets, it has zero appeal to me. Then again, I also think google glass and iWatch are both pointless and stupid.

  7. Kyle V.

    I think these will benefit the racer crowd more than any other group of cyclist. Having a timer, your power output and/or heart rate right in front of you would be a huge improvement for interval training because you wouldn’t have to look down while pedaling so hard you see Jesus (limiting your multitasking is a good thing when in a state of oxygen deprivation). That being said I think they have to get these into the $100 to $200 range for it to become common place.

  8. Peter lin

    A question for everyone. How often do you loose or break your riding glasses? How would you feel about loosing or breaking an expensive device that costs several hundred dollars? Ignoring my own bias opinion, how practical is this kind of device? Given the power requirements of GPS, would you be happy with a device that only lasted 60-90min?
    @Kyle – I agree with you. For pro racers or serious racers that are sponsored, it may be worth it.

  9. Peter lin

    @Scott – attach shield would make much more sense to me and it would definitely fix the battery issue. That’s assuming you can still flip it upside down when you don’t want it. My biggest concern though is distractions and increase in accidents. It’s bad enough dealing with drivers that think cyclists are obstacles, I don’t want to crash in a group ride because someone was busy with their HUD.

  10. LesB

    Thinking about where this can go….
    One of the radar detector manufacturers has their units coupled to a user database, and users get alerted while on the road about location-specific hazards to the lead-footed: Smokeys, red light cameras, etc.

    This kind of feature in a Recon Jet descendant could warn cyclists about potholes, broken glass, traffic. Put out an alert for a group needing an extra rider, etc, summon someone in the neighborhood with an extra patch.

    The tech is not at that place yet, but I want one of these. But for now, other priorities.

  11. Kyle V.

    @Peter – Are you any safer when people in a group are busy messing with the computer on their bars? We all know its happening currently, I’d actually expect this to make that aspect of group riding safer. Though I’m assuming you can see through the information being displayed.

    @Scott – I’m with you I’d expect these to be best as a display unit. Let something else do the computing and complicated stuff to keep this sort of thing as simple as possible and increase the battery life.

  12. david

    When I’m on my bike I want to see the trees, the birds, in short the scenery around me. Hell, I don’t want to look through numbers to get at why I ride the bike in the first place.

    It isn’t about data, it’s about the experience.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      David: While I haven’t actually tried the Recon Jet, based on what I’ve read, the HUD isn’t in front of you full-time. To see it, you look down slightly, but you don’t have to move your head. If you couldn’t get away from the HUD at all, I’d be concerned for a rider’s safety, but from what I’ve read, you only see it when you want to.

      Michael: Likewise, it occurred to me that this could be really handy for anyone riding a TT.

  13. michael

    as I dabble in the occasional TT and tri, the ability to maintain head position is primary. looking down at a computer to check your wattage is counter to that. the HUD is worth it just for those who take on these types of events on a regular basis i think. Not everyone has the ability to internalize perceived exertion to such a high degree that they could not benefit from this tech.

    but i’ll wait for field time, reviews, upgrades and price drop before committing. i’ve never been an early adopter for ANYTHING.

  14. Bikelink

    +1 to Kyle V. There are very different types of riding out there. When I’m doing threshold intervals on a figure 8 2.2 mile road I’m not noticing if birds and trees exist, but would love to not have to be nodding down to ensure I’m crushing the wattage keeping it up to a certain high (for me) level. When you say HD camera if that’s a video camera then that’s worth it right there for use during races. Conversely I don’t want wattage or hr during racing..but perhaps lap count or time would be great.

  15. Paul Kepper

    I will just stick to riding my bike and concentrate on that. Too many things to worry about make me crash! I am heading to RAGBRAI and I have to pack light, these kinds of things are just too much. I have my necessities and I’ll be fine. Cycling is becoming a little out there for me. Brian Bruns a travel writer wrote Rumble Yell, http://www.briandavidbruns.com/BDB/Rumble.html a comical look at RAGBRAI and cycling and it really put some things into perspective for me, I have given it to all my bike buddies. That is why I am sticking to just what I need and nothing more!

  16. 1centaur

    There has never been a complex graphical user interface device that did not have significant flaws that needed to be fixed in versions 2 and 3. You can tell from just the comments here that critics will outnumber fans 10-1 when this thing goes live and is tested by journos. But longer term, integration of stuff we might like to look at with our glasses is a good idea, maybe with voice control. By 2017, this has potential.

  17. Peter lin

    I don’t now about others, but when I’m hammering on flats or spinning up a cat1 hill, sweat is pouring like a torrent. How are these glasses going to handle these extreme conditions? I’m sure I’m not the only one that has killed several pairs of ear buds on a lifecycle. I’ve yet to find a pair of ear buds that will actually last longer than 2 months of extreme sweat.

    If the electronics aren’t hermetically sealed and the charger port isn’t protected, it’s going to become a useless piece of plastic in a few months. Devices like Glass don’t have to deal with these types of extreme conditions.

  18. LesB

    Peter lin:
    For years I have stashed my cell phone in the uber-humid environs of my jersey pocket with no baggie or other protection, and have never had a problem.

    At the option of the manufacturer, electronics can be designed to operate in adverse environments. So how these will fare in the field depends on how the manufacturer prioritizes this in their design.

  19. Adam

    @Peter Lin – take it easy, mate. Like Padraig says, it’s a little harsh to knock it before you’ve tried it. I remember the same arguements about electric shifting, but now people swear by it. Others don’t care for it.

    Sure, there may be flaws and room for improvement, but that’s how we progress. Such a determined canning of it makes me think you’re trying to start-up a competitor or something.

    Wait and see how the first users go and what they think of it. And just because it might not be for you, doesn’t mean it’s not for others. I’m going to wait and see before I cast judgement.

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