Over recent years, Action Cameras mounted on your helmet, body or bike, have become very popular among Bikers and Cyclists. Indeed, thousands of people worldwide now have fitted cameras for sport, bike touring or mountain biking, both on and off-road.
For road use, cyclists and motorcyclists with fitted cameras, have recorded thousands of instances of dangerous driving which has resulted in an accident, or near miss. It is not uncommon to hear of these recordings being used as evidence in court, or perhaps used as show-and-shame on video platforms like YouTube.
However, the purpose of this article is more for the fun side of camera use. Helmet cams are an extremely popular accessory which enable the rider to record their trips and tours, then edit these recordings to create interesting films for your family and friends.
Helmet cameras come in various shapes and sizes, from bullet to box shapes. The box types are usually supplied with a clear plastic waterproof enclosure, for all weather protection. They can even operate underwater, which is probably not what you want as a cyclist – not on purpose anyway.
Although I call them helmet cams, you don’t actually have to mount them on the helmet, as they can also attach to your body or the bike itself. We will look at mounting a bit later.
However, HD isn’t everything, and great videos can be recorded using cheaper versions of action cams, so don’t worry if the budget is low, recording your trips is the important thing here.As with most things in life, the more you pay the better the quality. Helmet cameras are no exception. Ideally, a camera with a HD (High Definition) chip is preferable giving a better quality images with a wider angle view, but is more expensive. Some have a video resolution of 1080p, producing cinema quality video. Also, the higher end cameras can have nice color touch screens, GPS and Bluetooth. All very handy features, but not totally necessary to be honest.
A good example is my own head cam – a Rollei action cam – boasts being HD, but only has two video resolutions VGA: 640*480 (60 frames per second, and 720p: 1280*720 (30 frames per second). However, despite the ‘lower’ quality I have taken some excellent trip recordings. Soon I shall post a video of my trip on the Miagmo, Greenways track in Eastern Spain.
For reference, see the table below for typical video resolutions.
|1080p||30 fps||25 fps||1920×1080 16:9|
|960p||30 fps||25 fps||1280×960 4:3|
|720p||60, 30 fps||30, 25 fps||1280×720 16:9|
|WVGA||30 fps||60 fps||848×480 16:9|
|VGA||30 fps||30 fps||640×480 4:3|
Most cameras record the video to a standard or micro SD card. It is worth checking when buying your action cam, that a SD card is supplied with the camera. Mine wasn’t, and it felt like opening a present at Christmas finding that the batteries were not supplied and you couldn’t play with it. Actually, the card supplied with most cameras are not that large, so you will probably end up buying a larger capacity SD card anyway. At 720p resolution, my camera can record up to 1 hour 40 minutes on an 8G card. If you record at 1080p however, your recording time will be seriously diminished, so go for a larger card e.g. 32G. If you go for a card larger than 32G, check the camera will work with it. 32G is the largest mine can handle.
Mounting your camera
As mentioned, you do not have to fix your camera by mounting it on your helmet. Available are mounts which enable you to fix the camera to your handlebars, plus you can also buy chest harnesses. However, my preference is mounting the camera to the helmet front. Why?
When mounted on the handlebar, your video can be quite unstable when riding down stone or rocky tracks even with the anti-jitter camera operation. With the harness mount, your view is always straight ahead and can get a bit boring after a while.
Having the camera on the helmet enables your viewer to see exactly what you saw during the ride, including those mountain or forest views to your left and right – a bit difficult to do with the forward facing mount.
I have seen various pictures of the different areas the camera can be mounted. I am not keen on mounting the camera on top of the helmet – as seen above – two reasons.
- Makes you look a bit daft
- More seriously, a low branch could snag the camera and force your head back rather quickly. Not nice.
Mounting the camera on the left or right of the helmet looks a bit better, but still could get caught on something, and force your head round. My own preference is to mount the camera to the lower front of the helmet instead. My camera was supplied with a helmet mount, see the photo of where I have positioned it.
Here are my reasons:
- The action camera looks far better there, not quite so obvious.
- When you duck your head to dodge branches etc, you know your camera is below the line of the top of the helmet, so should be safer.
- Gives a more realistic view of what you saw on your trip, the camera being only 6 or so inches above your eye line.
One last point. You may notice that I have fixed the camera using plastic cable ties (zip ties). I did this because I do not fully trust the adhesive pads to keep the camera secured over time and weather. However, some people do not recommend this, as they say that in an accident the camera could push further into your helmet, causing further damage. It’s a good point, but looking at the plastic mount supplied, I think this would break first anyway. This is only my opinion or course, and you should secure the camera how you see fit, with your own safety in mind.
So, there you go. By mounting a camera on your helmet you can record your trips, and have just as much fun creating a DVD of your experiences. There is a ton of free software available online which you can download to edit and create your videos, so you don’t have to break the bank to get creative while maintaining your health & fitness.
I would love to hear of any of your experiences with your action cameras, so please feel free to leave a comment below.