It is hard to deny that the Recon Jet has been one of our most anticipated products here at AeroGeeks HQ. A full-featured cycling computer built into a heads-up display would have been science fiction just a few years ago, and yet here it is sitting on the desk in front of us. Our fascination and excitement has led us to write not one or two but five separate articles about the Jet and its features, not to mention countless WiR mentions. So some of you may be wondering then why it has taken so long for us to finish our review. Well, there were two reasons. First we wanted to make sure we got a few specific items right, and second … we really were enjoying our time with them.
The Recon Jet
Considering all that has already been written, we will keep our product recap brief. And for those just reading about Jet for the first time, you can check out our First Look and Interbike articles for the full details.
The most important thing to realize about the Jet is that it is more than just a heads-up display. The Jet comes packing a 1 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. To keep track of you on the road there is GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. And to keep you connected, there is Bluetooth 4.0, ANT+, and Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n). You get all of this in a package that weighs just 30g for the computer and display alone (the battery and glasses add another 55g, for a total weight of 85g).
Upfront is a 2.1 MP camera that can shoot 720p video and still images. There are also dual microphones and a built-in speaker. Behind the camera is an optical touchpad that we found to have no issues interacting with sweat or muck.
The battery pack itself is a lithium-ion battery that Recon says can go four hours (at 20°C, with connection to third-party sensors and smartphone as well as moderate use of the camera and maps). The pack can easily be swapped out when you run out of juice, and new packs will set you back $59.99.
The team at Recon wanted the lenses on the Jets to be more than an afterthought, or only worn with battery and screen attached. Their hope is that you keep your Jets on (with the battery and screen removed) while you’re sitting at the local coffee shop, post-ride espresso in hand. To that end, the lenses were designed to be much more than what you find displayed in your local 7-11. Instead, they offer superb clarity and feel much more high-end. The lenses themselves are available in four options. Our Jets shipped with the Meteor Gray lenses. We also grabbed a pair of clear lenses for nighttime. Recon also offers lenses in Nova Yellow and Spectral Red Polarized. For those looking for prescription options, Rochester Optical offers Recon Frame inserts for $199.
We’re not going to lie; the very first thought that went through our heads when we wore the Jets was simply “bad ass.” We finally had access to all of our metrics right in front of our face at all times. This was everything we wanted, and more. After all, we know we’re not the only ones that have gotten into a troublesome situation while spending too much time with our heads pointed down at our computer. With the Jets, you simply glance just below your field of vision and the information is there—no head tilt needed.
We typically rode with Speed, Cadence, and Power front and center. On another screen was time in the saddle and distance covered. To switch between screens, you simply flicked up and down on the track pad. To be honest, at first we found the navigation complex. There is a two button rocker switch at the bottom of the Jet’s display unit, and we tended to press the wrong button when trying to start and stop our rides. However, after three or four rides, we had full control of the Jets and were quickly and easily navigating the screens.
Head over to http://engage.reconinstruments.com/ to customize the screens to your needs. You can choose up to four data screens. We tend to like four screens for longer rides, and just two when we are suffering. But it’s all personal preference. While there, you can also customize which maps the Jet has stored in memory, as well as browse their app center. And while we didn’t get a chance to try it, the Garmin Virb app offers some very interesting opportunities as a rearview camera.
We did notice a weight difference while riding with the Jets. That’s not to say that these will weigh you down. But relative to a pair of Oakleys or Rudy Projects, they were heavier. They won’t bother you neck or shoulders—they are nowhere near that weight. For us, the weight came into play when we tilted our head down. The Jets felt as though they wanted to slip forward off of our face. Although not once did that actually happen. The arms held firmly each and every ride. We actually came to find this weight as a reminder that we should always be looking forward. With no computer below us, there was no reason to look down.
Early on we thought that the display might be a distraction. As technophiles, it is all too easy to be distracted by data as we ride ourselves straight into a parked car. Yet a computer display is really nothing all that new. The Jet just simplifies it and puts it right in front of your face. So once the initial novelty wears off, the Jet quickly becomes a favorite—and familiar—training partner. All the information you want, right where you want it.
One of our biggest concerns throughout the testing process was battery life. And this is the reason we tested both a black and white set of Jets. Our first pair tended to last 90 – 120 minutes. Enough to get a workout in, but not enough for the long Sunday ride. We mentioned this in a WiR, and Recon was quick to respond. They expect four hours of run time, and sub-two definitely wasn’t up to their standards. So our white Jet frames went into a UPS box, and a few days later a set of black Jets showed up at AG HQ. With the new pair, we were able to go 3:30 before we ran out of steam (emphasizing the “we” there – the Jet’s battery was still going strong). So we will call that a win for the Jets. That being said, if we had needed to go over four hours, swapping battery packs is a painless exercise. Simply reach up to the battery back, press the release mechanism, and the battery pack comes right out. Andrew Starykowicz, a Recon sponsored pro athlete, tells us that most of his workouts require a mid-workout swap, which is accomplished in just seconds every time.
Another item we noted was the size of the display unit—it can impair the peripheral vision on your right-hand side. While that never bothered us on most solo rides, when we were in a peloton, or simply merging after overtaking someone, we definitely noticed it. Instead of glancing to the right, you are forced to turn your whole head. This may not be a big drawback triathletes, but those who like to ride in groups should take note.
Finally, there is the issue of race eligibility. Unfortunately, as they stand now, the Jet is not race legal in WTC races:
Section 4.04 ILLEGAL EQUIPMENT
(b) Unless pre‐approved by the Head Referee, communication devices of any type, such as cell phones and two‐way radios are strictly prohibited during the swim segment of the Race; (DSQ) and
(c) Cameras, phone cameras, and video cameras are prohibited unless permission is given by IRONMAN. If such permission is given by IRONMAN, it is the athlete’s responsibility to notify the Head Referee of such permission prior to the start of the Race. Athletes seen with an unauthorized camera, phone camera, or video camera will be disqualified.
The Jet can both communicate with a cell phone (though as long as you weren’t carrying one, you might be ok) and includes a camera. So racing with it is currently a no go. If you share our belief in training like we race and racing like we train, this is a big inconvenience. But even that being the case, the benefit of having our data always at hand tended to outweigh the fact that, come race day, we used a different computer. Also, to account for this throughout our testing process, we tended to train with both our standard computer and our Jets. But if you’re looking to purchase the Jet to totally replace your computer on race day, you may be out of luck. One final note to close out the weighing of pros and cons is the fact that since we no longer had to look down at a computer while training, we removed the subconscious excuse to rest (even just for a few seconds), which helped us get just that much more out of our training. We’re out there to make every second of our workouts count, so this was a plus for us.
[Update] Recon reached out to us concerning race eligibility: “Recon is in contact with WTC and working toward clarification regarding use of the Jet as a cycling/running computer in competition. Jet was granted provisional approval by WTC last fall. We are now working towards official and broad approval. Until such approval is granted, permissibility of Jet for use in WTC races is subject to the discretion of the head referee at each WTC competition. We recommend that racers check with the referee for their particular event, in compliance with Rule 4.04.”
Some product reviews are black and white – you should either buy this product or not. But when it comes to the Recon Jet, we land in a bit of a gray area. The Jet is designed for a specific set of athletes looking to train with their metrics always at hand. And for this group, the benefit of a single device serving as their sunglasses, computer, and display needs is a huge win. Even the impairment of your right-hand side peripheral vision will be at most a slight inconvenience to these athletes. For the rest of us, the Jet is a slightly more complex buying decision. And with their price drop to $499, they’re a value when compared to buying both a set of high-end sunglasses and a cycling computer. What’s more, if you already have a computer you can use on race day, the decision is even easier. Clearly there is a reason we have kept the Recon Jets for so long, we fall squarely within that second group. Yes, not being able to race how we train is a real downside to us. But having the data right there in front of us without ever having to move our head out of the aero position is exactly why we were so excited for the Jets in the first place.
[UPDATED 4/13/2016 regarding race eligibility]