Having used a number of bluetooth headsets over the years, I can tell you that I generally loathe the technology. For starters, it usually means an add-on item that involves wires snaking around my head and neck, with some sort of cumbersome box precariously latched to the side of my helmet (or worse, permanently affixed). Over the past decade, the technology has gotten better, especially with the popularity and compatibility of bluetooth devices, but I have yet to see an elegant solution in this space. Most of this boils down to the UX.
With leather riding gloves, hopelessly small buttons become impossible to manage, and heaven forbid I am wearing thicker winter gloves. Voice-activated controls are sketchy as well, especially when on a revving motorcycle, and somehow my audible commands to change an MP3 track have me instead accidentally calling ex-girl friend, which only leads to more frantic fumblings for the right button/command combination — keep in mind, this is all while riding a motorcycle at speed on a freeway, an endeavor already with its own set of perils.
At this point in time, I have pretty much given up on a good integrated solution. Established manufacturers don’t seem to be answering the call (pun intended) by upgrading their offerings to keep pace with technology, and add-on systems are still cumbersome and inelegant solutions. Yet, I still have the desire for intercity rides where I can listen to turn-by-turn directions, and long highway treks where my Pandora stations could make the miles pass a little quicker.
One small company is helping me keep the faith a this point, as the motorcycle gloves from BEARTek are showing some promise. Devising a glove-based bluetooth controlling system, BEARTek has devised a clever way of controlling one’s smartphone while on a motorcycle, making at least part of the connected-rider equation look promising. I have some business notes though…of course.
Placing six touch-points on the fingers of motorcycle glove (it looks like they have other models for snowmobilers, skiers, etc as well), BEARTek’s system makes it easy for one to adjust the volume, changes audio tracks, and answer calls with ease and minimal distraction.
Half the issues I have with current systems are that I have to take my clutch hand off the bike, and bring it up to my helmet in order to fumble with an add-on system. Not only does this make for an awkward position, but in the process of knocking my helmet around, one of my two hands is hopelessly far away from where it should be while riding a motorcycle.
However, with BEARTek’s system, simple commands are made with slight gestures, which cuts down on how much of a rider’s attention is taken away from actually riding the motorcycle, as well as keeping the intrusion to the riding position at a minimum. Chewy.
Launching the idea on Kickstarter, BEARTek is currently about $40,000 from reaching its funding goal for the project, though a $170 pledge gets you a pair of the company’s motorcycle gloves through the funding site (they have their own website as well). A very innovative and smart idea, if you happen to like the gloves being offered, we would recommend picking a set up from the American company (we would be interested in hearing some reviews from readers as well).
As much as I love this idea though, it is still a non-starter for me. For the same reason I don’t buy the bluetooth integrated helmets that are on the market, I have no interest in buying a generic brand motorcycle glove…even if it has a very smart bluetooth system built into it. Instead, I would like to see BEARTek license the technology to companies like Dainese, Alpinestars, REV’IT, etc.
A licensing deal would not only be a better business move for BEARTek, but it would benefit riders as well, as they would get the protection they are looking for with the name brands, but also the value-added technology developed by BEARTek.
Paired with a bluetooth enabled helmet (Dainese/AGV anyone? Or better yet a universal system where an Arai helmet talks to a pair of gloves from Alpinestars), this could be a real knockout punch item. We’ll have to wait and see where things go, but it is good to see some innovation going on in the motorcycle apparel space. Keep it up guys.