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Whether you want to record the traffic around you or super-fast Alpine descents, here's what you need to know before spending your cash

Updated September 6, 2019

There are a couple of good reasons for cycling with a video camera. You might want to record interesting rides — climbing Alpe d'Huez, for example, or descending Sa Calobra — or you might want to collect video that could be used as evidence in the event of a road traffic incident, in the same way that a car's dashcam does.

road.cc Near Miss of the Day videos show the potential value of riding with a camera. Many incidents would be a matter of one person's word against another but for the video evidence.

Here's what you should look for when deciding what to buy...

Recording quality

Start looking into picture quality and you'll all of a sudden meet a whole lot of jargon relating to pixels and resolution.

• 720p consists of 1280 x 720 pixels (so over 900,000 pixels)
• 1080p consists of 1920 x 1080 pixels (just over 2 million pixels)
• 4K consists of 3840 x 2160 pixels (over 8 million pixels)

1080p is able to give finer detail than 720p, and 4K offers greater detail again. On the flip side, higher resolution tends to cost more and it takes up more memory for the same amount of time.

You'll also come up against fps, or frames per second, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Cycliq Fly12 HD Camera and Front Light - buttons.jpg

The Cycliq Fly12 HD Camera and Front Light (£175) shoots in a maximum resolution of 1080p and 60fps.

It also has electronic 6-axis stabilisation, meaning that the footage doesn't bounce around when you're trying to read the number plate of a car that cut you up.

"The footage is very good," said Dave Atkinson in his review for road.cc. "The 135° angle lens gives a nice wide view and the picture is sharp and clear, making it easy to read car number plates, for example.

"The six-axis image stabilisation does a great job of making the recorded image nice and smooth, although the horizontal stabilisation means that you get a bit of a delay and then a sharp movement when you start a turn. That's not so much of an issue when you're turning from one road to another, but it can make the video a bit choppy when you're out of the saddle, or you're struggling up a steep climb."

TomTom Bandit - 4.jpg

The GoPro Hero7 Silver (£224.99) will give you 30fps at 4K, while its big brother, the £349.00 Hero7 Black, will shoot in 4K up to 60fps and as Dave Atkinson found when he reviewed it, do an awful lot more beside.

The Acer Xplova X5 Evo GPS Cycling Computer (£299) features a 720p video camera that records 30fps with a wide 120 degree horizontal field of view.

"The footage from the X5 Evo is no match for a GoPro or Garmin ViRB in terms of colour, detail and overall visual appeal," Jez Ash said in his review. "It can't match a modern high-end smartphone camera either. None of those are direct competitors, of course, but if your main goal is to shoot beautiful film of your bike rides, this is not the tool for the job... If you see it primarily as a GPS computer with the video as an added bonus, then it does make sense."

You can get pretty good standard action cameras for not much money if you don't feel that you need something like a Cycliq. An SJCam SJ4000, for instance, is very well regarded and you can pick one up online for £73.99.

It shoots at a maximum resolution of 1080p, records on loops of 3mins, 5mins or 10mins (see Looping video, below) and has a battery life of 90 minutes.

One other aspect of the recording to consider is the sound.

When reviewing the Acer Xplova X5 Evo GPS Cycling Computer, Jez Ash said, "The microphone on the device is just about usable when completely stationary, but at any kind of speed it becomes useless – the combination of road vibration and wind noise (even at low speeds) overwhelms all other sound."

We also felt that the TomTom Bandit action camera could do with some sort of muffling device to improve the audio quality.

"When you put cameras of this kind in a mount the sound quality is awful most of the time," warns road.cc's resident video guy Matt Howes. "In fact, the sound quality of action cams generally isn't very high, although that isn't really the point of them; the quality of the video is much more important to most people."

Looping video

Looping video allows a camera to record continuously. When it runs out of memory space it starts to overwrite your existing footage. This is a really valuable feature, meaning that you don't have to delete unneeded footage manually and you'll never find that the camera has stopped recording because the memory card is full.

If anything notable happens while you're riding — anything you want to keep as recorded evidence, for example — you can save it before it's overwritten.

The Cycliq Fly12, for instance, chops the video into 5-, 10- or 15-minute segments (depending on your preference) and when the card is full, it deletes the oldest footage.

It has an incident detection system built in. If the camera detects that it is tilted more than 60° from the horizontal, it triggers an automatic process that locks the current footage, and the segment either side. You can also press a button on the Fly12 to do the same thing.

Size and weight

Chances are that you want a camera that's small and unobtrusive, especially if you're planning to mount it on a helmet as opposed to the bike, but you might want to balance that against battery life; a very light weight camera can sometimes have quite a short runtime.

The least obtrusive camera that we've reviewed on road.cc is the 62g RoadHawk Ride R+ Cycle Edition Camera, but that's unfortunately no longer available.

GoPro Hero Silver - 1

Something like the GoPro Hero7 Silver (£224.99) is considerably larger — 62 x 45 x 28mm and 94g — while the Cycliq Fly12 measures 103 x 59 x 35mm and weighs 195g, but it's a light as well as a camera.

xplova x5 evo v2

The Acer Xplova X5 Evo GPS Cycling Computer mentioned above — which features a 720p video camera — weighs just 122g.

Battery life

Battery life varies considerably between different cameras and, as mentioned above, there's often a balancing act between size/weight and runtime, so make sure you choose something that suits your needs.

The Cycliq Fly12 has a battery life of about 8hrs with the camera on and the light off, 5hrs with the light on low, and a couple of hours with the light on full power. With regular recharging, that'll cover most people's needs.

Cycliq Fly6 - 1

Cycliq's Fly6 rear light camera (£116) gives you up to seven hours of continuous recording in camera-only mode and four to five hours with lights on.

GoPro reckons that you'll get from 1:20hrs to 2:30hrs of continuous recording from a fully charged battery in its Hero cameras, depending on the video mode, while TomTom claims up to 3hrs of nonstop recording with its Bandit.

Mounts

Chances are that you'll want to mount your camera to either the handlebar or a helmet, or facing backwards on your seatpost. You can get chest mounts too, which are great for mountain bike videos, but we've found them a bit cumbersome and not particularly comfortable for long rides. If the mounts you want aren't included in the package you'll need to budget for them separately.

A Cycliq Fly6 rear light/camera, for example, comes with a standard mount, but a rear pannier mount costs £22.99.

GoPro helmet mount - 1

A GoPro Hero camera comes with adhesive mounts but a vented helmet strap mount costs £19.99 and a handlebar/seatpost mount is £34.99. A Cycling Combo Mount for a Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is £34.99 too.

It's worth checking what's in the box before handing over your cash.

Apps

These days cameras have apps that can make the user experience a whole lot easier.

For example, you can connect your Cycliq Fly12 to your smartphone and have access to all the settings, so you can configure the camera the way you want and control it (if you ride off-road you have to turn the tilt feature and emergency alarm off otherwise it will sound when you lean too far over in a berm or lay your bike down). You can alter the settings via a computer desktop app too, while another desktop app allows you to edit video.

If you simply want to use a camera to record any road traffic incidents that occur, you won't spend much time editing footage so app capability can afford to be pretty basic. GoPro's desktop app, on the other hand, is designed for making more impressive action videos. You can add photos and time lapse sequences, for instance, and sync music to your videos — well beyond anything you'd want for everyday footage of riding through traffic.

Apps are also used for firmware updates. Of course, you need to make sure than any app is compatible with your phone and/or computer.

Warranty

Most cameras come with a 12-month warranty. Cycliq, TomTom, Garmin and GoPro, for example, give you a warranty that says their cameras will be free from defects in workmanship and materials under normal use for a year.

Check out our camera reviews here

We'd really like to know about the cameras road.cc readers are using and whether or not they're any good. Please tell us in the comments below.

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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

23 comments

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Team EPO [216 posts] 7 months ago
3 likes

They might have improved the Cycliq but I found it was good by day but poor by night.  Some day footage from London

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29iZ1l_Zr3U&t=41s

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StoopidUserName [684 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes

wish they'd make the cycliq cameras with the battery life but without the lights (that is, smaller/more compact). 

 

basically I wish they'd make cameras I could use on my commute without charging once or twice a day (too much faff). Twice a week I could live with. cycling is meant to be simple!  3

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Mungecrundle [1542 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

My cycliq fly 6 (older model to that shown) has been a reliable friend for 3 years or so. The flashy light modes have recently stopped working, they now stay solid on which is fine by me though.

Only gripe is the lens, being plastic, is prone to micro scratches from the dirt that inevitably gets wiped off, rather than lovingly rinsed in crystal spring water. A little t-cut and half an hour polishing gets the worst out but the lens should be glass or at least a more resilient plastic. Maybe they have improved the design, but it is something I would add to my list of must have features when it does get replaced.

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brianlescargot [15 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

Cycliq video lights are a great concept let down by awful reliability. I went through several Fly6/12 models both the old and the new CE models. The kept shutting down on their own and the newer Fly 12 bracket kept breaking. Eventually I gave up returned each and every model under warranty and bought a GoPro Session with battery extender instead. 

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James Walker [18 posts] 7 months ago
4 likes

I can't understand why bike cameras are so big. You can have really fancy cameras built into your mobile phone which take up very little room and yet all bike cameras are huge in comparison. I'd like to film my bike ride but I don't want a great big appenditure stuck on top of my helmet which basically says "I am a tw*t". I would have thought bike helmets would have fancy cameras built into them by now (forward, aft view etc) with a nice battery pack hidden into the polystyrene somewhere and a USB connection to download and charge etc etc?

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bike_food [213 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

I use a GoPro hero 5 session on the rear and a standard hero 6 on the front, both with k-edge mounts, super solid, great quality, both waterproof so no need for cases. Tried a cycliq front light and sent it back after it turned itself off randomly mid ride a number of times.

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Awavey [618 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes
Team EPO wrote:

They might have improved the Cycliq but I found it was good by day but poor by night.  Some day footage from London

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29iZ1l_Zr3U&t=41s

I was certainly disappointed the Cycliq wasnt as good as Id expected it to be at night based on others footage Id seen, though it is streets ahead of the GoPro Hero I had before, but I think that highlights its more than about how to choose a new camera, theres a whole part missing about whats the best configuration,where is best to fit the camera on the bike & whats the best settings for these cameras to get the best out of them in a variety of conditions.

 

 

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RM [1 post] 7 months ago
1 like
James Walker wrote:

I can't understand why bike cameras are so big. You can have really fancy cameras built into your mobile phone which take up very little room and yet all bike cameras are huge in comparison. I'd like to film my bike ride but I don't want a great big appenditure stuck on top of my helmet which basically says "I am a tw*t". I would have thought bike helmets would have fancy cameras built into them by now (forward, aft view etc) with a nice battery pack hidden into the polystyrene somewhere and a USB connection to download and charge etc etc?

https://cyclevision.com.au/blogs/news

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BehindTheBikesheds [3322 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

No point having 4K if your frame rate is only 15fps, that's just ridiculous, you might as well have 1080 at 30fps, if you want to do slow motion then you're better off having 720p at 60fps over a poor frame rated 4K.

The Ion Air Pro 3 records 1080p at 60fps and 720p at 120fps.

If you want something cheap but good quality there's an ebay seller that has a few of the Wi-fi Ion Air Pro at £30 posted for used (bar mount or helmet mount variants) and £50 for new ones, this is exactly what I have been using for a few years now. I bought mine from Staples originally with all the mounts for the same price with a special Black friday deal. There are also some camo versions which are rated down to 49ft water depth.

 

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TedBarnes [80 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes
RM wrote:
James Walker wrote:

I can't understand why bike cameras are so big. You can have really fancy cameras built into your mobile phone which take up very little room and yet all bike cameras are huge in comparison. I'd like to film my bike ride but I don't want a great big appenditure stuck on top of my helmet which basically says "I am a tw*t". I would have thought bike helmets would have fancy cameras built into them by now (forward, aft view etc) with a nice battery pack hidden into the polystyrene somewhere and a USB connection to download and charge etc etc?

https://cyclevision.com.au/blogs/news

That looks interesting, and apparently almost ready for release. I'd be intrigued by any reviews and how any compromises made to get the cameras and batteries included affect its primary function as a helmet. 

$450 Aus is apparently about £250. So not as outrageously expensive as I assumed, and not that bad compared to the cost of a helmet + 2x cameras. Assuming it's actually a half decent helmet and not the equivalent of a £20 Tesco special.

The issue with helmet cams for me is the uneven weight distribution. Even if the camera doesn't weigh much, it's sat right on top so makes the helmet feel very top heavy. Distributing the weight more evenly, and lower, could make a huge difference. It seems a bit heavy at (they say) about 490g. I'm sure you'd struggle to have a helmet + 2 cameras weigh much less, but do you need a rear helmet cam?

It also has 2 inbuilt, non-changeable 32GB SD cards. I can understand why having SD card slots and still meeting safety standards would be difficult, but can't help feeling that a mkII helmet with 2x 64GB cards when SD card prices have nudged down a bit would be a better option.

They also give that limited storage space as the reason for only 30fps at 1080p rather than full 60fps, though I suspect the battery & heat impact of higher frame rates is part of the reasoning too. 

Ideally, I'll be able to catch one of the MkI helmets cheap when the MkII version comes out...

 

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alansmurphy [2249 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes

A rear camera often tells you more than the front facing one... How quickly they've come up behind, left the manoeuvre late and close passed...

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TedBarnes [80 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes
alansmurphy wrote:

A rear camera often tells you more than the front facing one... How quickly they've come up behind, left the manoeuvre late and close passed...

(assuming this was in response to my comment about needing a rear helmet camera) - I agree on rear cameras, and I had a classic example over the summer: someone tried an overtake, then pulled right into me when they realised a car was coming the other way. They tried to argue there must have been a queue of bikes they were trying to get past (it was a sportive). Rear camera showed a completely empty road... 

However, I'm not sure I see the benefit of the rear camera being on the helmet, rather than a fixed position like a Fly6. I just think a rear helmet cam would probably be a bit all over the place, but not following your gaze like a forward facing helmet cam usually does. Head movement would actively take someone coming up behind you out of the camera's view if you do a shoulder check. 

More viewpoints is always going to better, but without being silly I think 1 fixed rear camera, 1 fixed handlebar camera and then a forward helmet camera is going to cover most incidents. 

 

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alansmurphy [2249 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

You're probably right on the movement. I got a rather cheap helmet cam with front and rear in it (think it was more aimed at skiing/snowboarding). I aimed to use it to film dashing overtakes with the bike gang, it's still in the box  1

 

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ibr17xvii [441 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes
bike_food wrote:

I use a GoPro hero 5 session on the rear and a standard hero 6 on the front, both with k-edge mounts, super solid, great quality, both waterproof so no need for cases. Tried a cycliq front light and sent it back after it turned itself off randomly mid ride a number of times.

How do you go with the battery life with the GoPro?

1-2 hours isn't enough for me which puts me right off these.

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tonyleatham [67 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
brianlescargot wrote:

Cycliq video lights are a great concept let down by awful reliability. 

This.

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StuInNorway [308 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes
ibr17xvii wrote:

How do you go with the battery life with the GoPro?

1-2 hours isn't enough for me which puts me right off these.

I still run an older Gopro hero 3 on the front, with the Bacpac battery box. Gives me 3-4 hrs, for "long" rides I can simply use the USB socket on the side of the bacpac to a battery pack and charge on the go.  I'll run a 32MB card full long before I run out of power (which at 720/30 is just under 6 hrs, then I swapped cards for the final hour or so of the ride... Usually I'd not need the extra card, by was doing one of Norway's biggest rides with a friend and had agreed to stick together.... plenty time to admire scenery as he slogged up the hills, althoug he left me standing on the gravity assisted bits)

 

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Sriracha [173 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Resolution and fps is only part of the equation. Without a discussion of shutter speed you risk ending up with 60 hi-res images per second all marred by motion blur. That's even before the ravages of noise reduction.

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rix [268 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

I've been using Cycliq's Fly6 new and old versions. New one has better video quality but is very difficult to use. Basically you need a manual and smartphone app to use it. It is very complicated.

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hawkinspeter [3933 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

I've got the Fly6CE (i.e. newer model) and the date-time stopped working properly - it kept losing hours and then resetting itself to 2018.

I tried contacting Cycliq's support and they are useless. I got one reply stating that they were extremely busy and then a while later got a reply pointing me to how to change the date-time. I've tried responding that I already knew that, but haven't had a reply from them in months. Are they going out of business or something?

I wouldn't bother with Cycliq again until they can sort out their support.

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Tom_77 [27 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

If you're after something fairly basic that isn't going to break the bank then the Polaroid Cube is pretty good. They're selling them for £30 (+£4 delivery) on amazon.co.uk

It does 1080p @ 30fps, it's 35mm x 35mm x 35mm and weighs very little. Quoted battery life is 90 minutes, but if you plug it into a USB powerbank it'll run for hours on end.

I've got two on my bike now - one on the handlebars and one behind the seat. I have a sample clip on YouTube.

 

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Tom_77 [27 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

Before the Cube I had a Chameleon. Quite an unusual design with 2 lenses that you can swivel. Unfortunately I couldn't find a way of mounting this on my bike and getting good front and rear coverage. Also, the video quality wasn't that great and the camera itself is on the large size.

You can still get them on Amazon.com, wouldn't really recommend it but it might fill a particular use case for somebody.

 

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quiff [160 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

I've got the Fly6CE (i.e. newer model) and the date-time stopped working properly - it kept losing hours and then resetting itself to 2018.

I tried contacting Cycliq's support and they are useless. I got one reply stating that they were extremely busy and then a while later got a reply pointing me to how to change the date-time. I've tried responding that I already knew that, but haven't had a reply from them in months. Are they going out of business or something?

I wouldn't bother with Cycliq again until they can sort out their support.

Same - mine (now c.18 months old) currently works fine when used as a standalone camera, but the time stamp is wrong, and it will no longer connext to the desktop app so I can change that and other settings and update the firmware. The included seatpost mount was great to start with, but within about 9 months the siliconised lining which gripped the post peeled away, meaning it's now just a nylon strap which spins around the seatpost.  

However, much happier with it than with the entry level GoPro Hero which I bought at the same time to use on the front / for family use. The battery life on that is only about 80 mins, and the recording doesn't loop, which means I'm forever charging and deleting it (or, more usually, forgetting to).  

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LastBoyScout [626 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

I use a Veho Muvi K2 NPNG on a K-Edge handlebar mount.

Depending on settings, it will do up to 4 hours recording time. I normally get 2.5 hours out of a full charge on highest resolution, but the big advantage of this one is you can easily carry a spare battery (or 2) in a pocket.

Can pick them up for around £100 on eBay, comes with waterproof case and various mounts. Spare battery around £15.

I've had some minor issues with reading certain memory cards that were fixed by formatting the card.

Think they've updated them a bit since I bought mine. Thinking of getting another one to mount under the saddle pointing backwards.