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.
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.
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.
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.
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.