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|Feb 29th 2016, 12:02 PM||#1|
2015 BMW S1000RR
Aim Solo DL - GPS lap timer & data logger
+ Amazing capabilities, easy to use on the track, can use with any vehicle, can create your own track, software is obscenely powerful; inexpensive for what you get
- Software is obscenely difficult to learn and use, some track maps may be out of date
A brief introduction to this review:
I got into track days about 3 years ago, right after I got my beloved 2013 Daytona 675R, and was going to about every possible one here at the Spokane County Raceway. I first did it just to go fast in a mostly safe environment, and realized that not only are track days super fun, they are also a great learning experience. I kept coming back because I wanted to improve each time I went out. I bought a GoPro to record my rides so that I would be able to review the footage and notice things that I was missing while actually riding the track, and was able to use that to improve my riding. However, I noticed that while the GoPro was able to give me a lot of useful info, I couldn't really get a lot of hard, quantifiable data from it. I started researching GPS lap timers and data loggers, and discovered the Solo DL, but didn't want to pull the trigger on it. Fast forward to 2015, when some lowlife stole my beloved 675R. Insurance paid me pretty good value and I decided to get a new S1000RR because, well, its an S1000RR. I could do a review about how awesome that is, but this isn't the place. One of the reasons I picked that bike, however, is because BMW "offers" a factory GPS lap-timer/data-logger. I found out, unfortunately, that these are nearly impossible to obtain. After almost a month trying to get one from my local BMW dealer (who I paid around $1300 in advance for the thing), I decided to just go with the Solo DL instead. At around $800.00 (including shipping, etc.), it was a great decision.
The main difficulty I had in getting the Solo DL was locating a store that would actually sell one to me. Also, most of the stores that do sell them are car racing stores, and it is not clear that there are not different units for bikes. I ended up contacting the US importer directly (as they are made in Italy), and they were EXTREMELY helpful. They were able to place my order directly over the phone, AND they even switched the standard cable shipped with the unit for the I needed for my S1000RR, only charging me the difference in price. That saved me around $70.00. I can't say enough good things about the importer here in the US. I can't recall the number, but they are in California somewhere and are easy to find with Google. The package arrived a few days after my order, and I didn't even pay for expedited shipping.
Review of the unit:
The Aim Solo DL is, quite simply, an amazing bit of tech. The folks at Aim make two versions of it: the Solo and the Solo DL. They make a whole bunch of other cool motorsport stuff too. The difference is that the standard Solo only has the GPS lap timer, and has no data logging capability. The DL, obviously, has a data logger. And what a data logger it is! It captures (in real time) around 40 different data sets from my S100RR, just about everything you can think of capturing. RPM, lean angle, throttle position, actual throttle (as it is electronically controlled), brake pressure front and back, etc. The DL stores the data alongside the GPS data, so you can tell where you are on the track and what everything is doing at every moment. It is an amazing tool, and gives way more information than an amateur track day enthusiast needs. It gives enough data that a professional race team could benefit from using one. The software is clearly designed for that purpose, as it is not easily accessible to the casual user.
- The actual unit is wholly self-contained, is small, and is easily mounted. It is about the same size as a 25' tape measure, and comes with installation brackets and such that you can fit in a variety of locations. No external GPS antenna to mess with. One cable to attach to the unit which provides power and data from the computer. On-board memory, so no messing with SD cards or anything. The memory capacity is several hundred laps, way more than you could fill even in a full weekend of racing or track days. I decided to not use the mounting brackets and just use industrial strength velcro to attach it to a fork tube mount I built for my iPhone. It has a convenient, built-in location for safety wire attachment as well, so I just safety wired that to the fork. Never had it move in the slightest though.
- Super easy to set up and use the track. Most tracks are either already programmed into the unit, and you can download just about every track in existence and add it to the unit. Gonna hit Sears Point this week and Imola next week? It's got the maps in the software and you can upload it to the unit. However, at least one track map is out of date (see below). However, for tracks with up-to-date maps, you literally just turn it on and it does everything automatically. No joke. Just press power and go. If there are multiple tracks nearby, you just select the one you want from a list and hit go.
- the DL is powered directly from the bike, and does not (at least on the S100RR) require any wiring. They have a cable that plugs directly into an existing port, and it is easily wired up. No batteries to worry about, and no wire splicing. They sell cables to plug into most bikes, and cables for basically any car with a computer. I didn't have to cut any wires or wire the thing to the battery.
- While the software is difficult to learn, it is amazingly useful. You can overlay a track map with any data captured. Want to know your RPM range throughout an entire lap? You can do that. Want to know how much brake you are applying before turn 1 vs. Turn 3? You can do that. Want to compare your RPM, lean angle, and brake pressure entering turn 1 between your best lap and your worst lap? You can do that too, and even watch them simultaneously on the same screen! Want to create an ideal lap using your best split times from 20 different laps, using only the best sections from all your laps? You can do that too. The software is AMAZING once you figure it out.
- Would you like to put the captured data onto your GoPro footage? The Solo DL will export your data into a format that you can use with dashware to allow you to do that. Caveat: This takes some work, as the data needs to be played with in the Solo software to get it to work right. Also, you have to pre-plan for it, because of the way dashware works. On the other hand, you can buy Solo's smartycam, which will automatically integrate the data logger info with the video it records. Downside is that the smartycam is UBER expensive... Think 3-4 gopro's for the same price. Not really worth it IMHO, but maybe you won the lottery. (If so, you could donate a smartycam to me, and I'll review it! ). Interesting tidbit, if you do have an S1000RR, the HP data logger from BMW does NOT allow you to export data AT ALL, so cannot be used for this purpose. Knowledge is half the battle...
- Don't have a specific track, but want to get the same information from your weekend canyon carving? It can do that also! Want to take your bike to the dragstrip instead of a road course? It has a dragstrip mode. Want to create your own "track" of side streets or time your route to work? You can do that. All of these things can be done with just a few button presses on the unit without having to hook it to a computer.
- This thing is versatile. Do you also have a car that you like to take to the track? Just change the unit setup (actually pretty easy) to work with your car, get the CAN or IBD plug for your vehicle, and off you go. Hell, this thing even works with GO-CARTS! The software actually has different modes for cars, motorcycles, go-carts, formula cars, boats, shifter go-carts (yes, a separate mode for shifter vs. non-shifter), and motorcross bikes. You can basically use this thing for ANY motorsport hobby. I guess maybe not redbull stunt planes or lawnmower racing, but that's about it! You can use the GPS lap timer without any data logging though, so I suppose you could even use that for your lawnmower races.
- The timer display is fantastic! Once you are out on the track, the display is clear, and the lap times are in large, easy-to read numbers. The unit has smaller displays for a lap counter or other things, and you can change the display yourself. Underneath the current lap display, you can choose to have it show your best lap time, the previous lap time, or other things. Not only that, it will also tell you if your current lap is on pace to be better than your fastest recorded lap. It automatically compares your current GPS position and time against your fastest lap, and will tell you if you are on pace to beat your best lap. This, of course, only works on maps for which it has accurate maps... (See downside #1 below).
Everything has its downsides, but honestly I can only think of two real issues with the Solo DL.
- At least one of the existing track maps is not up to date. The Spokane County Raceway track map appears to be the old layout, where the front straight was the dragstrip, not the current configuration. I was at a shared car/bike track day and one of the car drivers had the exact same problem with his Solo DL, so I know I didn't just get a defective unit. The Solo DL has a real-time lap display, and a fastest lap predictor built in. If you are on pace to beat your best saved lap, it has a function that will notify you of this. However, because the track map for SCR is incorrect, it does not display even lap times, because it doesn't recognize the start line, as it thinks the start line is on the dragstrip. You CAN set it up as a new track by physically going out to where the start line is, setting that as the start line on the unit, then doing one lap, and it will remember the new layout. I have not tried this function on the track, but I have tried it by setting up a track" around my neighborhood streets, and it works. If the map is out of date, it causes problems when trying to read the data because the start line it is looking for on your laps is on the OLD front straight, so it doesn't recognize laps in real time. You can add a start line in the software, which will calculate your laps there. I have yet to try another track as I don't yet have a truck that would make the trip from here to the west side tracks. Will be remedying that this year and will see how it does at the Ridge. It is also my understanding that Aim will not be updating any of the GPS maps for the Solo in the future, although I could be wrong about that.
- The software package it comes with is insanely detailed and difficult to use. The manual is translated from Italian, so its, um.... challenging to use/understand. The learning curve is very steep and not intuitive at all. You are going to have to spend hours trying to learn how to use their analysis software. It is tedious, and the manual is not very helpful. I cannot stress enough that the software is really, really, really, really, really difficult to learn. There are several forums out there to help you learn the software, and there are even some youtube videos as well. It is worth the effort though, because once you figure it out, the software is a really amazing tool.
- Um.... No color choice for those who feel that such a thing is important? I dunno... Can't really think of any other downside to this thing! It's pretty damn awesome.
I don't have any pictures at the moment, but can post some up if anyone wants them. Also, if you have any questions about it, just post em up or PM me, and I'll be happy to try to answer what I can. Sorry for the encyclopedia-length review, but I hope it answers some basic questions.
|aim, gps datalogger, gps laptimer, review, solo|
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