REVIEW: Zona rear-view camera and display

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Over the last week or so, The Bike Insurer has been in possession of the Zona rear-view camera and helmet display.

It’s a brand new device when it comes to being on the market but it’s one that’s been in development for almost 15 years.

Zona’s aim is to provide bikers with a clear view of the road behind to improve safety. The difficulty for the company and CEO, John Hale, was in making sure that the helmet display didn’t interfere with riding.

Zona believes they’ve created a unit that does exactly that, so The Bike Insurer put that theory to the test.

What is it:

Zona is a rear-view camera with a helmet display system that allows bikers to get a clear view of the road behind them.

How much does it cost:

Zona units are available for £195 until the end of June. It will cost £239 from then on.

Summary:

We’ve gone from sceptics to superfans after just over one week. We’d used Google Glass, a similar device previously, and despite the good intentions of that, there were limitations to the display that we thought would extend to the Zona too.

We were wrong. It doesn’t interfere with riding and gives a clear view of the road behind.

The Good:

A really useful bit of kit that improves awareness. It does exactly what it’s supposed to. Brilliant battery life, too, with the camera powered by the bike battery.

The Bad:

Takes a little getting used to. It looks harder to fit to your bike than it actually is.

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Our review of the Zona rear-view system in full

Before the test

On delivery of the Zona I was a little concerned with how easy the system would be to set up.

There are brackets to fit the camera to the rear of your bike and cables that need wiring to your battery. That means you’re probably going to have to remove your fairing and it all begins to look a little complex.

When it came to fitting the camera to the bike, it turns out we were worried about nothing and it was actually pretty simple to fit. The bracket at the rear of the bike is easy to attach and while I had to remove the fairing, it was a straightforward operation.

Next was fitting the helmet display, which was simple again, despite how snug my helmet fits. 

First thoughts

Once the Zona was attached it was a case of tweaking the position of the helmet display until I was happy with where it sat.

I was really impressed at how much you could see through the helmet display when I got it into the right position to ride.

The screen was bright and clear, and while it wasn’t 4K quality, it was more than enough to see what was behind me.

I felt like Robocop and was really surprised with just how big the display appeared; it’s only a couple of centimetres in reality but to the eye it looks like a huge screen.

Still weary, I sat at the roadside watching car after car go past me without turning in my seat, waiting until I felt comfortable enough to set off.

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On the road

The Zona does exactly what it’s supposed to do. I could see what was going on directly behind me with a little glance and I was amazed at how much information your eyes and brain can process.

Even with my visor open travelling at speed, the display didn’t wobble and stayed exactly where I’d positioned it.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it improved my riding but it made me so much more aware of what was happening on the road behind me.

And it didn’t – and shouldn’t – replace lifesavers either, it compliments them brilliantly.

As I rode around the M25 in heavy traffic, the combination of mirror checks, lifesavers and the awareness the Zona provides meant I was able to see when people changed lanes, when they drove up my backside and when they pulled out to overtake – but it never distracted me from the road ahead either as it doesn’t sit in your line of sight.

Can it do it in the dark?

After a few hours out on the road in daylight I was really intrigued to see how the rear-view camera would work at night time when there was no natural light to rely on.

I went one further and decided to ride down a B-road with virtually no lighting to get a good read of how the Zona would cope.

I was amazed at how well it did. I noticed headlights in the helmet-display before I spotted them in my mirrors and while I couldn’t read licence plates, it was clear and obvious enough when a vehicle was approaching.

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Am I going to buy one?

I had the Zona rear-view camera and helmet display fitted to my bike and lid for most of a week but it was over the first couple of days in possession of it that I did most riding.

And I didn’t lose any battery life in that period. It was only on day three that I lost a bar of battery according to the indicator (a lot like the one you have on your mobile phone).

I decided to try to charge the unit up while I was on the move using the Micro USB attached to the battery and it worked brilliantly – it would also double up as a phone charger too which is nice to know if you’re on a long trip.

Things to improve

I was really surprised at how well the Zona rear-view camera and helmet display worked.

My only real concern was the fact that it was difficult to remove the camera at the end of each ride – leave it on and it’s begging to be stolen.

Next page: Interview: Zona rear-view cameras