The NUVIZ Motorcycle HUD Makes Riding Easier and More Fun
More than just a head-up display, NUVIZ integrates many functions into one easy-to-use interface.
When we first heard about the NUVIZ head-up display, we were intrigued. This device attaches to your motorcycle helmet and claims to offer much of the integrated functionality of the dearly departed Skully helmet for about half the price. But Skully went bankrupt without delivering any helmets. There's a new owner in town who wants to "make it right," but the NUVIZ is very real and available to buy right now. To prove it, NUVIZ sent us one of their head-up display units to review.
What It Is
The NUVIZ itself is a device a bit larger than a smartphone that mounts to the outside of a motorcycle helmet. "NUVIZ easily fits on most full-face motorcycle helmets with a curved helmet mount using a high-strength adhesive pad (similar to the typical action sport camera mounts) which is installed on the right side of your chin bar," says the NUVIZ web site. There is also a small wireless controller with a few buttons and an up/down toggle switch. This gets mounted to your bike to control the NUVIZ while you're in motion.
And there are many features to control. Once the NUVIZ finds a GPS signal it can display a speedometer, preventing you from having to look down to check your speed. A map display is also available, either just showing the surrounding area or guiding you along a planned route. A Bluetooth connection to your phone allows you to play music or make phone calls through a headset that installs into your helmet. There is also a built-in camera, which can take either 8-megapixel still shots or 1080x30-frame-per-second video while you ride.
Aside from the head-up display, there's nothing particularly revolutionary about any of these functions. I already use a GPS or my iPhone to navigate and a GoPro to shoot video while I ride. There are many Bluetooth headsets available that can handle music and phone functions. But the integration of all of these functions into a single unit is what makes it unique, as well as the head-up display to present the information in a clear visual format. During testing my phone stayed in my pocket, rather than a handlebar mount, while the NUVIZ handled these tasks for me.
Installation and Setup
The process of making the NUVIZ ready to use is somewhat lengthy, but not difficult. There are just many steps along the way. The box includes nearly all of the components and tools you will need to set up the NUVIZ. One of the first steps is to install a microSD card (not included) and the rechargeable battery into the back of the unit. And here I encountered my first problem when the plastic battery cover broke off the metal electrical contacts when I tried to remove it. This was not a critical issue, as the contacts still worked. I taped the plastic battery cover on to keep the unit sealed, and it functioned perfectly throughout my testing. But if I had just spent $699 on a NUVIZ and had a part break at the first step of setup, it wouldn't exactly give an excellent first impression.
I downloaded the NUVIZ app to my phone and followed the instructions to pair the controller to the main unit. All three components could then talk to each other. I then installed a software update through the app to fix an issue with low headset volume. It definitely needed this fix, and it addressed the problem before I ever used it.
I also downloaded maps to the NUVIZ, also using the app. Maps are stored on the microSD card, so no worries if your ride takes you through areas with no phone signal where Google Maps can't download them on the fly. NUVIZ lets you install as many or few maps as you want. For example, rather than the entire USA, I only installed maps for the six New England states, since it was unlikely I would ride outside this area during my testing.
Then came the physical installation. The main NUVIZ unit sticks to the chin bar of your full-face helmet. I use a modular helmet, where the entire front of it, including the chin bar, swing up. This makes it easier for me to put on and take off the helmet without removing and losing my glasses. NUVIZ makes no claims whatsoever that it will work on a modular helmet. I would have used an actual full-face helmet if it didn't work, but I actually had no problem with it at all. I just made sure to be careful when opening and closing the helmet not to knock the NUVIZ around too much.
Once the unit is installed, NUVIZ recommends waiting 24 hours before riding to make sure it sticks properly. The unit can be removed from its base for storage or recharging.
I then installed the headset into my helmet. The two speakers fit perfectly into holes where Nolan had intended their own integrated Bluetooth headset to go. I stuck the microphone to the inside of the chin bar with enough slack on its cord for it to move up and down when I opened and closed the modular helmet. If you already have a Bluetooth headset such as the popular Sena models, you can use this with the NUVIZ instead of the included headset as long as it uses the same Bluetooth protocols.
There are numerous options for installing the controller. A few brackets are available for handlebar mounting, or you can stick it directly to a flat surface. Since my Honda Shadow broke right before I received the NUVIZ, I used my wife's Suzuki Savage and stuck the controller to the top of the gas tank opposite the fuel filler.
On the Road
While this photo was actually taken with the NUVIZ (more on that feature later), the head-up display information is not displayed in the captured image. It isn't possible to take a photo of what the rider's view inside the helmet with the HUD actually looks like, so I've replicated it here with a little Photoshop work. I assure you what you actually see in the helmet looks very much like this picture. The real head-up display is sharp and easy to see in all lighting conditions, from the sun shining in my face to the dark of night. Although I am at the age where I usually need to take off my long-distance glasses to read, the NUVIZ was perfectly clear with my glasses on.
One of my fears was that the NUVIZ display would distract me from paying full attention to the road. Fortunately, this was not the case. The HUD sits below your normal line of vision as you ride, providing a clear view ahead. Though you don't have to move your head to see the display, you do have to shift your eyes down, which is faster and safer than physical movement.
The Suzuki Savage I used for testing, like many cruisers, has its speedometer on top of the gas tank. This requires the rider to look straight down to check speed, taking their eyes far off the road. Immediately I appreciated having my speed available to view on the NUVIZ anytime at a quick glance.
Speed is available on its own display, as well as on the map display, which is the view I usually used. If you're just out cruising around aimlessly, the map focuses shows an overhead view of the surrounding area, which you can zoom as tight or wide as you want.
While navigating a specific route, the angle changes to show you the view ahead, with your route marked in blue. The next turn and distance to it appear on the left of the screen on the map and speedometer views. If you miss a turn, the NUVIZ quickly calculates an alternative route to put you back on course without making an annoying and potentially dangerous U-turn. Spoken directions are also clearly audible through the helmet headset.
The headset also does a pretty good job playing your music, too. Another screen on the NUVIZ lets you start and stop the music, and displays the song and artist name currently playing. NUVIZ supports many types of audio input, including streaming services like Pandora and Spotify. Unfortunately, there's no way to choose from different sources on the fly, most likely to reduce possible sources of distraction, so it's best if you start your music before you hit the road. This is not a big deal and an old habit for anyone who already rocks out while they ride. Audio quality is crisp and clear, but don't expect any booming bass from these tiny speakers inside your helmet.
Incoming phone calls can be answered from any screen by pressing a button on the controller. To make an outbound call, scroll to and select the Phone menu, then select a name or number from a list of your phone's recent calls. There's no way to bring up your phone's contact list or look up a nearby motorcycle shop within the NUVIZ interface, but you can make such calls directly with your phone using the NUVIZ as a Bluetooth headset. Obviously, that would require pulling over to use your phone. While it would be more convenient to access your contacts through the NUVIZ, the existing functionality keeps it simple and less distracting to use while underway. Besides, chances are that anyone you're going to call while riding is someone you've already called recently anyway.
The final menu lets you select from any routes you've created in the NUVIZ app. This is something you do off the bike before you ride. Many route selection options are available that bikers will like. You can set not only your destination but also any number of waypoints along the route. That way you can make sure you avoid the busy road in the center of town, as or take that twisty section next to the river even though it's not quite on the way. With enough waypoints you can make a complete loop, starting and ending in the same place. You can also set a variety of route preferences. Some, like highways and toll roads, are familiar to people used to Google Maps. Others are more specifically for bikers. You can deselect the "Unpaved Roads" option if you're a cruiser rider like me, or select it if you're a dual-sport rider specifically looking to leave the pavement. You can also select or deselect tunnels so you can listen to your engine echo off the walls inside.
Routes that you create in the app are transferred to the NUVIZ itself when everything connects by Bluetooth. Simply choose a route from the menu and off you go. To create a new route you'll have to pull over and use the app.
But you won't have to pull over to take scenic pictures or video of your ride. The NUVIZ has an integrated camera which has its own dedicated button on the controller. A single press will take an 8-megapixel picture of whatever you're looking at. (The above photo is resized for the web but otherwise untouched directly from the NUVIZ. Note that HUD information is not displayed.) Press and hold the button, and it will start recording video at 1080x30 frames per second—not exactly GoPro quality, but plenty good for later review or posting on YouTube. The audio portion of these videos comes from the helmet microphone and is better quality than the lavalier microphone I normally use with my GoPro. Wind noise is minimal, but speech is recorded clearly, and if your bike makes a bit of noise that comes through on the recording as well.
A fully charged battery should last for a full day of riding. I gave the NUVIZ a full charge when I received it, then used it for approximately five hours throughout a week of testing. At the end of the week, the battery display indicated that I still had two out of four bars of life.
Room for Improvement
This is one of those all too rare occasions where the product actually lives up to all of my expectations. They were rather high, given the claims NUVIZ makes about its extensive capabilities. But the NUVIZ did everything the company claimed it would, and did it well. Still, nobody's perfect, so here are some suggestions for making the NUVIZ even better.
Of course, the battery cover that broke off my test unit is at the top of my list. I'm sure a stronger design or an easier method of removing it would solve this problem.
When it's on, the NUVIZ operates quickly and efficiently. This likely comes at the expense of a rather long power-on process. It takes a few minutes to boot, make Bluetooth connections to your phone and the controller, and find enough GPS satellites to determine your position and speed. Make turning on the NUVIZ the first step of your ride preparation process and it's not a big problem, though if you're in a garage it still may not find GPS data until you go outside.
The master volume control works great, but one time when my wife called me en route, I had no way to turn up the phone volume. My music had been playing just fine, and the spoken GPS directions were perfectly audible, but I would have had to pull over and adjust the volume for my phone call separately. This definitely falls into the realm of "first world problems," but it's an imperfection, so I mention it.
The built-in camera is good, but if you're serious about photography you may be disappointed. It can't always keep up with rapid light fluctuations, such as when you ride under trees and rapidly switch between sunlight and shadow, causing the exposure to be a little bit off. Night performance is also not great, though not bad considering that I was only lighting up the road with the Savage's single halogen headlight. But for taking a quick snapshot of a scenic view as you ride along, it's perfectly fine for the average rider.
When I showed off the NUVIZ to other riders at a local bike night, one of them asked if it would make a Bluetooth connection to his radar detector. The NUVIZ has no radar detector support, but imagine if it did? The detector itself could be stashed out of sight, while visual and auditory warnings came through the NUVIZ. Plus, if you are unfortunate enough to get pulled over, you wouldn't have a radar detector in plain sight. Not that we would ever encourage speeding, of course.
And while we're talking about additional Bluetooth connections, it would be great if the NUVIZ could connect to other riders' intercoms. It will already connect to the one in your helmet if you have one other than what NUVIZ provides, so why not the rider or group of riders who are already talking amongst themselves on their Sena headsets? The technology is already there. It just needs the software to do it.
These suggestions and nitpicks aside, I found the NUVIZ to enhance my riding experience in ways I never imagined. In the past, I had no complaints about putting my phone in a Ram Mount for navigation. But after experiencing the NUVIZ, I feel like I'd be taking several steps backward going back to that. I never needed music or telephone communications in my helmet before, but now I've been spoiled.
But the navigation features of the NUVIZ are by far my favorite feature. I routinely fight Waze or Google Maps to detour to or around certain areas I do or do not want to ride. But an intentional detour like that is as easy as adding a waypoint to my route in the NUVIZ app. It seems like NUVIZ understands that bikers don't always want the fastest or most direct route from point A to B, and provides ways to accommodate that. And the head-up display itself is top notch, with excellent image quality in all lighting conditions. I was actually less distracted when I glanced at the head-up display than I would be looking down at my phone and trying to read it while in motion.
Is it worth $699? I believe it is. It's a significant chunk of change, for sure, but when you consider the combined cost of a Sena 20S Evo Bluetooth intercom ($299), a Garmin zūmo 395LM motorcycle GPS ($499.99), and a GoPro Hero6 Black camera ($499.99), the NUVIZ seems like a real bargain. It combines the functionality of all of these devices and provides a head-up display—something none of the other devices offer. In that context, not only does the NUVIZ seem reasonably priced, it seems the best way to add the numerous features it provides to your riding experience.
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