Best bicycle mountpoint for action camera

Lockdown, maturing technologies and dropping prices have nudged me into an unexpected new diversion: filming bike routes. I’ve always found virtual trainers and on-line cycling simulators vaguely interesting. But not that interesting. I was into Zwift for a long time, then one morning I woke up and discovered I wasn’t.

Nowadays for the time being Rouvy is my virtual cycling world. It suits me fine. Rouvy is real life video and real life routes, some user submitted and the quality can be variable. Having said that, there is a certain quirky charm in some of the amateur videos that is missing from the professionally shot official routes. I fancied giving it a go for my tri club‘s local routes. With cameras coming down in price, it was worth a punt.

There’s loads of good information out there on how to film from your bike, but I couldn’t find much on the best way to attach the camera to your frame. I’ve tried filming from under the handlebars on a quadlock mount, and that works ok but the bike movement is noticeable, especially out the saddle.

So I decided to try an experiment. I chose to film a 5km out and back run along the Broom Park railway lines just outside Durham. Rouvy allows you to create run routes too and I thought this might make a good test (even though I don’t have a treadmill).

I have two Apeman action cameras, an A77 and an A100. The A77 was an impulse buy and is a bit cranky. I lost the battery cover while trying it out in the Tweed Valley Tunnel run in 2019 and haven’t done much with it since. The battery cover loss isn’t actually such a big deal after all since a bit of old cut-to-fit credit card does a surprisingly decent job.

I’ve just bought the A100 as it was cheap, and has image stabilisation. So here was my setup:

A77 on handlebars and A100 on headtube

The A77 (top) is easy to fit on the quadlock mount. Fastening a camera to the headtube of a modern frame on a gravel bike with a chunky headtube was far trickier than I expected. The diameter of the headtube is close to 60mm and most brackets or clamps are not designed for this size. I wasn’t averse to putting the big chunky clamp for my DSLR on the headtube but it was just beyond its limits and didn’t really work. So in the end I chose the universal solution: A couple of plastic cable ties and a basic bolt. Seems ok.

Results were mixed. Exasperatingly, the A100 was tilted slightly upwards, and gave a nausea-inducing view of the just-above the path. The A77 view was much cleaner. The difference was less conclusive than I thought; I was expecting the headtube mounted camera to be much more stable, but in reality I’m finding it difficult to be objective about how much difference there really is. The A100 is a fraction of the price of a GoPro so I expect some differences, although the basic spec (4K and image stabilisation) is what I’m really interested in.

The main question I have about the A100 at the moment is what FOV to choose: Narrow, Medium or Wide. What’s best for a Rouvy film? I suspect Wide but I need to do a few tests to compare the differences. Annoyingly, the A100 seems to forget changes to its defaults between power cycles so everytime I switch it on, I have to change the FOV to whatever I want. I don’t know if the default setting can be changed.

The video below shows my handlebar/headset comparison. I have to say I’m pretty disappointed. The uptilt on the A100 makes the comparison very difficult. The video has about 4 or 5 clips of the same section of railway path. The brake leavers on the A100 are a frequent intrusion, and I’m going to scratch my head on getting the camera further out front. Attaching a broom handle to the top tube (cable-ties!) was one thought. Always interested in others.

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