Review: Cycling Camera Shootout!

October 5, 2015

A Comparison Blog

I’ve been on the hunt for a front and rear camera setup for a few months now. Trying to find the right cameras is hard as there are many choices available. Many of these choices are not well suited for cycling safety however. For cycling, I had a short list of features that I deemed as important.

  1. Accident detection
  2. Long battery life
  3. Loop recording
  4. Date and Time stamp
  5. Integrated lights
  6. User replaceable SD card

I cycle about 30-40 miles a day primarily for fitness. A large portion, about 80%, of these rides are in heavy city traffic. For my lighting preferences, I wanted an integrated light that flashes or pulses. In my testing, adding a light that flashes during the daytime hours does in fact get the attention of drivers. Drivers in front who are exiting from a drive or a side street are more likely to see you with a front flashing light. Drivers approaching from the rear are also more likely to notice you with a flashing rear light.

During a 2-month period I tested the following cameras and used them as both front and rear cameras.

  1. Garmin Virb (I had 2 of them)
  2. Rideye 1080p camera
  3. Cycliq Fly6
  4. Cycliq Fly12 (prototype)

 

Garmin Virb:

 

The Virb records in either 1080p or 720p, it has a user replaceable SD card and a user replaceable battery. The Virb does have loop recording but in this instance, it’s actually a negative of the unit. The Virb’s max loop time is 30 minutes. If set to loop recording, this means your video will be lost / overwritten every 30 minutes. If you are incapacitated due to an incident, the camera would more than likely loop over the footage and any video evidence of the incident would be lost. Loop recording is therefore, in my opinion, worthless on the Virb.

The Virb does not have accident detection or automatic saving of video files in the case of an accident. The Virb does not have integrated lights and battery life is fairly short. During my testing, the Virb’s did not fair well. When set to 1080p I was able to get an average of 2 hours and 30 minutes. When set to 720p my average run time was about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Since many of my rides are 3 hours total, this was unacceptable for my needs.

Another downside of the Virb is that when the SD card is full (assuming you have loop recording turned off) the unit will power down. This means that depending on how long your ride lasts and what the size of your SD card is, you might be charging the unit daily and formatting / erasing the SD card daily! This, along with the short battery life were the deal breakers for me. Video from the Virb was pretty good in both 1080p and 720p but it was not as sharp as I expected in either mode.

The Virb’s were used for about 3 weeks as both front and rear cameras before I decided they were not going to be acceptable my cycling needs. I gave one of the Virb’s to my nephew and I still have the other boxed up and in a closet.

The Virb is a fantastic action camera but it’s not well suited for use as a safety camera.

Taking a look at my original want list:

  1. Accident detection = NO
  2. Long battery life = NO
  3. Loop recording = YES (but not suitable for cycling safety)
  4. Date and Time stamp = NO
  5. Integrated lights = NO
  6. User replaceable SD card = YES

 

Virb Photos:

Virb video:

 

Rideye:

 

The Rideye records in 1080p, has accident detection, does loop recording and has long battery life. It also has a date and time stamp. It does not have a user replaceable SD card or a user replaceable battery. Also of note, the Rideye does not have a way to attach a lanyard. More on this later but trust me, you need a lanyard if you are going to ride with it. The Rideye is also lacking an integrated light.

Video from the Rideye is clear but it has a blue’ish tint and there is a bright spot on the lens that occurs in relation to the sunlight and your direction of travel. I was able to get an average of about 8 hours of recording time from the unit. The handlebar mount that comes with the unit is not usable and causes the camera to rattle and shake quite a bit which obviously effects the video quality.

The Rideye comes in either 8GB or 32GB options, There is no way for the user to replace the internal memory so if the card becomes corrupted or fails, the unit is a paperweight.

I ordered a GoPro adapter for mine so I could use it with my out front combo mount. The Rideye GoPro adapter is very cheap and will easily break. The Rideye does not have a way to accept a lanyard, so if the adapter fails the camera will sustain damage.

I am the owner / admin of CycloGPS.com and we have several threads going on now in reference to cameras. A moderator on my site, PiratePete, recently had his Rideye GoPro adapter break, his camera went flying and sustained damage. Here was the end result:

PiratePete has been through 4 Rideye units and all have been damaged by water ingress. It’s my understanding they do not like the water so riding in the rain is a no go with them.

The Rideye was used for about a month and mainly as a front camera. I never really felt that the unit was safe and secure when using their GoPro adapter. I was constantly worried that the GoPro mount would break. I did find several other stories via a Google search who had their mount break, thus causing damaged to their cameras

My original want list:

  1. Accident detection = YES
  2. Long battery life = YES
  3. Loop recording = YES
  4. Date and Time stamp = YES
  5. Integrated lights = NO
  6. User replaceable SD card = NO

 

Rideye Photos:

Rideye Video

Fly6:

 

The Fly6 records in 720p video (I do wish it was 1080p), it has loop recording, a flashing rear light, accident detection, long battery life and a date and time stamp.

The unit has 3 flashing modes for the rear light option. I generally have mine set to high flash and I get an average of about 7 hours of battery life. I find that since adding the Fly6 with it’s flashing rear light, that motorists approaching from the rear are more likely than before to move over and give me space. I have asked several drivers if the flashing light caught their attention and they said that it did and it helped draw their attention to me, thus noticing me when they otherwise may have not.

I have had a few issues with the Fly6. One of my seat post mounts broke in half (luckily it was at home and not on the road) and I have had a few of the mounting bands break. Cycliq was quick to respond to my support ticket and the parts were replaced at no cost to me. I have since started using the rubber bands from my Garmin 520 and in my opinion, it gives a better look to the unit when mounted.

Video is crisp and clear and I have no issues being able to read the plates of cars that get too close. I have been using the Fly6 for about 4 months total and I am very pleased it. The Fly6 is now my choice for a rear camera option.

In the future, I’d like to see 1080p video and a lanyard attachment. I’d also like to see a stronger seat post mount bracket and stronger mounting bands. So far, my Garmin rubber band mounting solution is holding up well.

Looking back at my original want list:

  1. Accident detection = YES
  2. Long battery life = YES
  3. Loop recording = YES
  4. Date and Time stamp = YES
  5. Integrated lights = YES
  6. User replaceable SD card = YES

 

Fly6 Photos:

Fly6 Video:

Fly12 (prototype)

 

The Fly12 is Cycliq’s forthcoming front camera solution. I currently have a prototype unit that I am putting through its paces. The Fly12 records in 1080p, has accident detection, loop recording, front lights, long battery life, user replaceable SD card and a date and time stamp.

Since the unit is currently in testing mode, I won’t dive to deep into the feature set as they are ever changing. At the moment there are 9 different front light settings.

Constant On: High, Medium, Low

On with pulse: High, Medium, Low

Flash: High, Medium, Low.

I keep my unit set to Medium Flash mode for my daytime rides and I have noticed that the flashing light has attracted drivers to my presence. Since I started riding with the Fly12 I have noted a significant reduction in drivers who pull out in front of me when exiting from a drive or a side street. The video from the 1080p camera is crisp and clear.  The Fly12 can connect to your smartphone via bluetooth or WiFi.

Cycliq is also developing a companion app for the Fly12. With this companion app you can adjust the Fly12 settings, view and share videos and log into Strava. When logged into Strava you can add Strava overlays to the selected video clip right from inside the app! Once the video is created with these overlays, you can save and share them as well! You can add speed, heart rate, elevation, grade, cadence and a map as overlays at the time of this writing. As previously stated, the Fly12 and this companion app are in prototype phase so things may change as the unit and app progress.

So far I am getting about 7 hours from the unit running it at 1080p 45FPS and with the front light set to medium flashing mode. I have been using the prototype unit for about a month now.

Looking back at my original want list:

  1. Accident detection = YES
  2. Long battery life = YES
  3. Loop recording = YES
  4. Date and Time stamp = YES
  5. Integrated lights = YES
  6. User replaceable SD card = YES

 

Fly12 Photos:

 

 

Fly12 Videos:

Cycliq Fly12 with Strava and map overlay from raqball on Vimeo.

Cycliq Fly12 with Strava and map overlay from raqball on Vimeo.

Finding the right camera setup can be confusing as there are plenty of options out there. Most of these options are action cameras that were created with other activities in mind. I have decided on keeping the Fly6 as my rear camera of choice and thus far, the Fly12 is looking to be a solid contender for the front.

I know I feel much safer riding with the cameras and can’t see myself riding without them in the future. One last video to show why cameras are needed. This is a combination of a recent incident recorded with the Fly6 and the Fly12.

Fly12 and Fly6 Combo from raqball on Vimeo.

Ride safe everyone!

Bio:

My name is Kris and I’ve been an avid cyclist for about 15-years. I cycle about 5,000-6,000 miles a year and do so mainly for fitness. I live in Southern California and the nice weather here offers me year round cycling.

I am the owner and admin of CycloGPS.com, which is a forum for GPS cycling computers and accessories. I can be found there under the username of raqball.