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Test Driving The SportVue Motorcycle HUD

8
November
2005
  Posted at 09:30:20 AM
  File under  Product Review Safety Gadgets
  Author: Mike Werner
  Location: Normandy, France

I've written before {link} about Motion Research's SportVue HUD (Heads Up Display). For those of you who don't know what a HUD is, think fighter airplanes.... they have data projected into their helmet visor. The SportVue MC2 HUD is similar, except you don't see targets, but telemetric data. Anything that can make a motorcycle rider's life easier and safer has always been something that interests me. However, initially, a HUD for motorcycles was not something that I would take serious. That has changed ! Here is my tale:

I got my hands on a MC2 HUD system and gave it a twirl. Obviously, it's not something you just buy, take out of the box and ride away! This is serious stuff, so it needs to be installed properly.

The box when it arrived looked far smaller than what I expected. Notice the AA battery next to it.

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Inside the box, things even got smaller and more miniaturized A couple of wires, metal bits, control box.... even glue.

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

The display unit itself is small and weighs next to nothing. That's a good thing, since it's going to be positioned on your helmet... The black thingy on the left is to remove the battery cover (2 AAA batteries), and on the far right, you see the mirror that project the data into your helmet visor. Not visible on the photo is the on/off switch, which is located completely to the left.

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

The control box, that's the unit that sits inside your motorcycle, and retrieves the data and transmits it to your HUD display is smaller than a box of cigarettes (for those of you who still remember what they look like). The connector is coupled to another connector from which the wires to different parts of the motorcycle are connected (more later). You'll see two round things below the unit. Those are control buttons, used to setup the system. The unit transmits wireless the data to the HUD, so need to attach the control box to the HUD.

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Two mounting supports are provided that are glued on your helmet visor. Motion Research have been smart enough to provide right and left handed ones !!

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Installing the Control Unit


I had decided to have the unit installed on my KTM LC4 Enduro. The reason was that I wanted to see how the unit worked on the road, but also when riding off road (since I'd be standing on my pegs, I wouldn't be able to see the dashboard). Since I was born with two left hands, I didn't want to mess around installing the unit, only to discover that the engine fell out of the motorcycle. So I brought my KTM to the KTM dealer in Rouen, Moto-Passion.

There, the chief mechanic, armed with the instruction booklet in English (and him being French, and not knowing a word of English only used the photos of the booklet), set to work. Motion Research has said it would take about 2 hours and it took exactly that. Their tech-support was very good. After having emailed them with the brand and model of the motorcycle, they told me which wires go where....

A big part of the 2 hours, was spent trying to figure out where to install the unit. It has to be accessible, so not many places were available on an enduro motorcycle.

The first part was to install the speed sensor. This involves placing a sensor and a magnet at the front wheel:

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Quite a simple job, had the mechanic not broken the metal support. So he ended up making a new support to hold the sensor.

The magnetic unit is the most easy to install (even I could do that), but you need to ensure that you put the polarity in correct, i.e., the yellow marking should face the sensor (Note to Motion Research; make sure that the marking can not be washed off... it did in our case).

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Motion Research provide special glue to hold the magnet. Make sure that the magnet rotates properly under the sensor, and that there's no distance bigger than 10mm between sensor and magnet.

Then the sensor wire was looped back to the control unit.

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

We decided to place the control unit behind the front light housing. It would be placed on the left (for the viewers on the right), behind the turn indicator.

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

For the electrical power I was in luck. I had already had installed in the dashboard a 12V accessory plug, that would only give electricity when the electric contact was on. So that was a good place to tap into the 12V system. Make sure you don't install it on a permanent ON electricity lead !!!

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Next thing he wired the control unit into the light's housing:

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

It sits very snugly, and what's more important, it can be easily accessed when you need to set it up. Here you see the A and B buttons from the control unit, taken from the side of the motorcycle.

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Finally, the RPM wire was connected up to the KTM's control box. Very simple operation, tap into the green wire, and we're in business:

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Mounting the HUD on the helmet


According to Motion Research, this had to be done carefully. Now I understand why!!! You can not just glue the unit on to the visor without making sure you've got a great and clear reading of the display.

This is something best done with 2 people. The display is turned on by pressing the button at the end of unit (no motorcycle is needed at this point). The unit displays a message "NO SIG", meaning no signal is being received. By moving the unit around the top of your visor, position it until the message is crystal clear. Don't put it too low, or too high. Once you've got the perfect area, have the 2nd person mark the location with a marker.

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Then, remove the glue strips and place the HUD on the visor. Motion Research include a small Allan-type key that you can use to shift the vertical position of the display if needed.

Here's a view in the helmet. You can see the display, but you can't read it since the camera was outside the helmet:

Motion Research's SportVue MC2 Motorcycle HUD

Setting up the HUD


Once you've got the control unit placed inside your motorcycle, and the HUD is mounted on your helmet, you're ready to setup the system.

You turn on the HUD, and then turn on the ignition of your motorcycle (WITHOUT starting it), while pressing the B button on the control unit. That places the control unit into setup mode.

What you need to set up:
  • Wheel diameter (inches of the tire surface).
  • Units (Kph or Mph)
  • Gear change by speed and RPM (you "teach" the system at what speeds and RPM you shift gear)

Once you've done that, you're ready to Rock & Roll.

Riding with the HUD


First, you need to start the HUD unit. You simply press the button at the end of the HUD unit. A red light goes on. You can change the intensity of the light by pressing it a 2nd or 3rd time. This is handy if you're riding at night or in bright daylight.

Start your engine, and the display suddenly shows you "0 N". That means you're doing 0 mph (or kph) and you're in Neutral. At the very top are two bars, showing the revs.

Open up the throttle and you see many more bars aligning towards the right, showing your RPM in graph form. Nifty !

I took off on the KTM motorcycle like a bat out of hell. Seeing the RPM evolve and the speed changing rapidly was great ! My initial tests were for the speed read-out so I'd hooked up my GPS on the handlebar as umpire. The speed indicator from the HUD was 99% accurate, the KTM speed was off by some 3-4 kph !! So much for trusting your speedometer. At least the KTM indicated speeds were on the high side

I took to the country lanes driving around Normandy. Here the device really came in handy. There are many police speed controls nowadays, and not once did I need to lower my eyes to check on my speed. You can see the speed from the corner of your eyes. You don't even have to look at the unit.

I drove with normal glasses alternating with sunglasses. At times the sky was covered with dark clouds, at times there was an intense winter sun. The HUD was always clearly visible. Not once did I not see the display !! Very efficient !

Riding into villages, the unit came in really handy. Slowing down behind cars and in traffic, I not once had to look at the dash !! Just keep an eye on the HUD display without really looking at it. I kept perfectly to the speed limits. I even passed a police speed trap, and saw immediately that I was riding at the perfect speed.

I then arrived at a long stretch of road, and opened up the thumper. Despite losing my false teeth and kidneys due to heavy engine vibrations, I managed to get to 155 kph (honest officer, it was only 90 kpg). I noticed no drag on the helmet, so the aerodynamics of the HUD are fine.

Next came off-road. I went on to a tractor trail, full of ruts. Standing on my pegs, making sure that I was not going too fast, I drove along this trail for several kilometers. The unit was fantastic ! Seeing very rapidly that I was in whatever gear was God-sent. Only twice did the unit show the wrong gear, but that I guess is a "learning" thing. I'll need to adjust the unit for lower revs (gear changes are different on-road than off-road). It comes in very handy when you are riding in 1st or 2nd gear, because at times I see some ruts, and don't know whether I can still downshift or not. Just a glance at the display, and I'll see that I still have a gear left. No more guess work.

The aerodynamics of the HUD unit is such that I did not feel anything on the helmet. There's no drag, extra weight, nor any extra noise. I used a BMW System 4 helmet.

Summary


I'm sold! The unit works as advertised, and proves to be a bit more than just a gadget. I'll admit that you can live without one, but why would fighter jocks or top-of-the-line car drivers be the only ones to have the fun. Now, you too can have fun on the motorcycle with a great device.

Does it make your life safer? Yes, I'd say so. You don't need to be checking on your speed the whole time. Just looking down to your speed indicator takes time, and your eyes are not focussed on the road and the traffic ahead. It takes time to refocus and in that time, the car in front of you can have hit the brakes.

The MC2 HUD will also display radar detector information if you have one, but due to the French laws, I was not able to test that (it's totally illegal to have a radar detector in your possession

This would make the great Christmas gift for the biker who's got it all !! The unit costs $389.

According to Motion Research, if you have multiple motorcycles, you don't need to buy multiple HUDs. You need mutliple control units, which can be linked to a single HUD.

Click here to access the SportVue website. (There's a video of what you see in the helmet).





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