MC Tested: NUVIZ Head-Up Display (HUD) For Motorcycles

$700. Big as a ‘90s cellphone. And totally awesome for navigation.

NUVIZ head-up display
A HUD for motorcycles is finally here. Founded in 2013, Nuviz expected to have product to market by late 2014. Three years later the San Diego, CA, based company finally has salable units.Photo: Julia LaPalme

Head-up displays (HUD) have been around in aviation and the automotive world for years, and the concept makes a ton of sense: Display pertinent info such as speed, directions, and time on a screen in front of the pilot, so data is readily available without having to glance down at the instruments.

With the release of the Nuviz, there’s finally a HUD for motorcyclists, and we’ve already logged a full day’s riding on it so we can give you the lowdown on how it works.

If you want all the details about the Nuviz, keep reading. But if you’d rather get the Cliff Notes version (and see the device’s display in action) just watch the video below.

First, the important stuff. The Nuviz carries a hefty price of $699, adheres to the right side of your helmet’s chin bar, and projects info on its own small transparent screen, not on your helmet’s visor. It does not have a rearview function and currently does not incorporate a Bluetooth communicator, which is a huge hang up for me since it means slapping another expensive device to the side of your lid. Thankfully Nuviz says it’s working on a firmware update that will add a communication feature, and the system’s remote already has a button for that purpose.

So what does the Nuviz do? It’ll play music from your phone, allows you to place and receive calls, offers turn-by-turn navigation, lets you shoot still photos and video, and permits you to easily check the time, your speed, and other info at a glance without looking down at your handlebar or the bike’s dash.

head-up display screen
This is what you’ll be looking at with the Nuviz on your lid. The screen is small but vivid, easy to look past but right there when you need it.Photo: Julia LaPalme

The kit comes with the Nuviz assembly and a small circular handlebar remote, and in combination with the Nuviz app on your smartphone you have everything you need to get started. I’m handy with tools but I usually struggle to set up and get familiar with new electronics, yet I had the Nuviz mounted and functioning within 15 minutes. The interface and controls are streamlined and intuitive, and the app—which you use to download free maps and create routes—is as simple as they come. The Nuviz has it’s own GPS transmitter, so you don’t need your phone (or cell service) for navigation.

The display itself is small but it’s easy to glance down and focus on the clear, sharp, bright image. The entire head of the ‘90s-cellphone-size device is adjustable so you can dial in the angle of the display, and the camera lens that protrudes from the front of the unit is likewise adjustable. Activate the camera via the remote and the HUD shows the camera angle so you can get the image framed up perfectly. Tap the camera button once to shoot a photo, or hold it down to start recording HD video.

NUVIZ screen
Holding down the lower left button on the Nuviz remote takes a screen shot of whatever is on the HUD. This is one of two navigation screens—the other shows speed front and center with next-turn directions on the left and remaining travel time/distance at bottom. Navigation the Nuviz’s strongest feature.Photo: Spenser Robert

Far and away my favorite aspect of the Nuviz is the navigation, and that’s definitely the device’s strongest feature. Everything from the app functionality to the map display and spoken directions is excellent, and it makes it easy to get where you’re going and avoid getting lost. If you’re used to mounting your smartphone on your handlebar or piping Waze through your Sena or Scala, then you might not find the HUD that helpful, but I appreciated not needing to look down at a screen or having to rely solely on spoken directions. I have a famously bad memory, so those directions typically fall out of my head the moment I hear them.

NUVIZ mount on Shoei helmet
With the HUD unit removed you’re left with the low-profile mount affixed to your chin bar.Photo: Spenser Robert

With most of its features running (video recording and GPS, for example), Nuviz says the battery will drain down in about 3 hours. Under normal use (meaning navigation and the occasional photo or video), it’s expected to last 8 hours. My first go with it was about 5 hours with roughly an hour of video-recording time, and at the end of the day the battery still had 50 percent charge remaining. The battery is swappable via a hatch on the side of the unit, and the cell looks to be the fairly common A123-type cylindrical lithium-ion setup.

HUD controller app
The Nuviz engineers said that designing the remote to fit all of today’s bikes was a huge challenge, but they seem to have succeeded. The app is another great success. It’s streamlined and easy to use, and necessary for creating routes.Photo: Julia LaPalme

At this point you’ve probably already had a few thoughts run through your head regarding the Nuviz’s size and appearance. It is big, and it is ugly. It’s fairly heavy, too. My wife’s kitchen scale says it weights 8.5 ounces, and that doesn’t include the mounting plate or the speakers and mic that live inside the helmet. Half a pound is a fair amount of weight to have cantilevered off your lid, and I certainly noticed the added heft while riding. Wind noise and drag are also evident, though thankfully only when you turn your head.

Speaking of turning your head, you’ll need to get used to doing just that to check your mirror. The HUD sits in the line of site with the right rearview mirror, so you’ll need to cock your head slightly to check your six. That may not be the case with your helmet and your bike, but plenty of other journalists at the press launch reported the same problem.

NUVIZ mounted on motorcycle
Hey man, you’ve got something on your face… There’s no denying the Nuviz is awkwardly big, but then again do you remember how big cellphones, SD cards, and action cameras used to be? With time this technology is going to improve drastically.Photo: Julia LaPalme

And of course there are safety concerns. The Nuviz can be distracting and it could also catch on something in a crash. Helmet manufacturers (Arai in particular) and racing/track-day organizers warn against gluing GoPros and other devices to your helmet because they pose a snag risk, and while I’m confident the Nuviz would readily peel off in an accident, it could still play a factor.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether or not the Nuviz is worth it, in terms of price, functionality, and safety. I feel the same way about this first-gen HUD that I did about Lasik 15 years ago—the concept is really attractive, but I’m content to wait for the price to come down and the technology to improve. So for the time being I’ll keep rocking my Sena 10C with its built-in camera and Bluetooth communicator, because in my mind the only thing the Nuviz offers is the convenience of at-the-ready navigation, and my cell phone works fine for that.

PRICE: $699
VERDICT: The first of its kind and excellent for navigation, but the size, price, appearance, and lack of a unit-to-unit communication feature are big drawbacks. We're certainly excited for Gen 2, though.