Dash cams for bikes

SMeBikers

Member
Region
USA
City
Santa Monica
I'd like to start a discussion about the pros and cons of having a "dash" cam on a bike. I couldn't find a thread about this and the various issues (other than helmet mounted GoPros), and I'm not even sure if this is the correct forum. Not sure of the difference between the General Discussion forum and the Ask the Community forum. If it's in the wrong place or there's already another one then please move/merge.

I've installed dash cams in our cars for years. I've also seen cyclists around here with helmet-mounted GoPros and that's not what I want. I'm thinking of a permanently mounted camera that's powered by the bike's battery that perhaps also operates in "parking mode" for a while when the bike is left somewhere.

Having them on our cars has been interesting and fun, as well as being a security device if something bad happens. Although, that could be a double-edged sword if you're the kind of cyclist who blows through red lights, etc.

I expect that vibration and image stabilization are significant issues, as well as that the cam needs to be waterproof, unlike a dash cam mounted inside a car.

Thoughts?
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
there are some out there. so far it seems more work then anything else. you would have to run wires for it and it has to have a card or stream.
 

Bitmugger

Active Member
Region
Canada
I did a couple searches for motorcycle dash cams a while back. They exist



There's others too. The 2nd one appealed more to me as it would be hidden.
 

m@Robertson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
I've been using one for years. The thing to look for is really high resolution coupled to electronic image stabilization (EIS) and decent battery life at that hi res. You want to be able to read license plates that pass by. As resolution and fps increases, battery life decreases. Its important to note you can get a cheaper camera but the need to read license plates - and for it to really work - means you are going to need something really hi res with a better than average implementation of EIS (NOT mechanical image stabilization).

I recently upgraded to this one:


Formerly I was using one of its predecessors. I upgraded because of the better battery life at hi res/fps for the more modern version. I also bought three extra waterproof cases at $10 a pop so I could attach the camera to my other bikes that I mount the camera to. If you use the waterproof box, you lose sound, but you gain the ability to just open the door and remove the camera so it can be swapped to another bike, or charged at a USB hub.


This is the base I use. It mounts solid, can be rotated and any GoPro mount can connect to it.


This bike uses a camera dedicated to that one bike. I bought a USB cable whose outputs are angled so they stay out of the way, and the cable powers up the camera when the display powers up. This is a common feature across all cameras I think.
PXL_20210323_003006785.jpg


This bike uses one of the camera boxes for the interchangeable V50X.

PXL_20210304_222855191.jpg
 

SMeBikers

Member
Region
USA
City
Santa Monica
there are some out there. so far it seems more work then anything else. you would have to run wires for it and it has to have a card or stream.
Thanks! Just looked at those links. There seems to be a lot of focus on having a rear camera, often just to be able to see what's behind. I found similar threads here. For that, I would just use a mirror... 😸

Thanks @Bitmugger - those look like what I'm thinking of, although I wouldn't need a screen.
 

m@Robertson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
there are some out there. so far it seems more work then anything else. you would have to run wires for it and it has to have a card or stream.
Nah. No need for wires or streaming or any of that. The camera does have a memory card inside of it. You set it to the desired res and loop recording and don't bother with that part unless you want to pull something off the card and give it to the cops. The camera will just record about a 1-3-minute segment (any larger and file size is unworkable) and record one after another until the disk fills to say 80%, and then it deletes the oldest recording as it saves a new one. Its totally hands-free and a feature on all of these cameras. They're meant to do this so they can just be started and left to themselves.

My older camera needed a usb connection to transfer files. This one I link above will do a bluetooth transfer to my phone after a review of the clip in an app. The files are standard movie files that anything can use.
 

SMeBikers

Member
Region
USA
City
Santa Monica
I've been using one for years. The thing to look for is really high resolution coupled to electronic image stabilization (EIS) and decent battery life at that hi res. You want to be able to read license plates that pass by. As resolution and fps increases, battery life decreases. Its important to note you can get a cheaper camera but the need to read license plates - and for it to really work - means you are going to need something really hi res with a better than average implementation of EIS (NOT mechanical image stabilization).
Yep, in my experience with car cams, fps is more important than resolution. A 4K is better at reading a license plate than regular HD but it's a completely different story when you or the other vehicle are moving. And isn't that the point? 😸
 

m@Robertson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
Yep, in my experience with car cams, fps is more important than resolution. A 4K is better at reading a license plate than regular HD but it's a completely different story when you or the other vehicle are moving. And isn't that the point? 😸
Yeah I forget what mine is set for, but IIRC I went for 60 fps and 2k res. As you say the fps is the key to that detailed view. It takes a little experimentation when you get the camera and then you can just forget about it.

Battery life - even when its good - sucks. I think my new one is good for about 90-120 minutes at where I have it set. Thats a lot for one of these. They charge really fast. An hour tops.
 

SMeBikers

Member
Region
USA
City
Santa Monica
Battery life - even when its good - sucks. I think my new one is good for about 90-120 minutes at where I have it set. Thats a lot for one of these. They charge really fast. An hour tops.
Yes, that's something I've never understood - we have a Ring doorbell camera that can run for over a month with a battery the size of a matchbox, yet every dash cam I've tried will drain a car battery overnight. WTF?!

Low voltage shut-offs work but if you always leave a lead acid battery at 40% it won't last long. Now I have a parking cam battery.

I'm expecting the bike install to be way easier than routing cables behind interior trim, avoiding side-curtain airbags, etc. So, I'm willing to experiment with different models, as I've done with dash cams.
 

WattsUpDude

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
San Francisco, Bay Area
Camera stabilization is a lot more important on a bike than on a car since it's got a much shorter wheelbase and may not have much if any suspension. That's the reason I use Viofo cameras in the cars and GoPro or DJI on the bikes.

Here's a snippet of my daily bike commute. A regular "dashcam" would have very, very shaky footage.

And here's a snippet of my commute home in my car. Definitely not as smooth as GoPro or DJI footage even though it has a longer wheelbase and suspension.

I don't think I would like a permanently mounted camera on the bike. It's too exposed and it's another thing that would attract the wrong type of people to mess with it if it was parked during a grocery run. Instead, I use the "quarter-turn" mount that the DJI Action Cam uses for ease of install and removal. The battery lasts typically longer than my commute and if I needed to power it for a longer period, there's a USB port that powers it from my Yamaha.
 

SMeBikers

Member
Region
USA
City
Santa Monica
Camera stabilization is a lot more important on a bike than on a car since it's got a much shorter wheelbase and may not have much if any suspension. That's the reason I use Viofo cameras in the cars and GoPro or DJI on the bikes.
Those clips are a good comparison between cameras. I probably shouldn't be comparing car dash cams to what's needed for a bike, in traffic.

FWIW, a trigger for upgrading our dash cams a few years ago was seeing a bike versus car crash. We thought that a car had hit a bike in an intersection and we stopped to see if we could help. After looking at the footage, the bike had blown through a red light and hit a car that was legally driving through the intersection. The biker took off and the car had body damage. I wasn't happy with the resolution at the time - the front cam was 1080p but the rear wasn't. Not sure if that would have helped the driver but I learned a lesson.

Bikes and now scooters here are a big problem. Especially at stop signs, traffic lights and on the sidewalks (which is illegal here). My son at about 9yo was hit by a cyclist barreling down the sidewalk when my son walked out of the library.
 

m@Robertson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
All this got me to thinking that I have had this camera upgrade since February but aside from an initial peek on my home system (which is totally out of its league trying to process a vid like this) I have never really looked at its output.

So after going downstairs and grabbing it off the charger, I:

  1. Plugged it into a standard USB cable on my office PC. Windows recognized it and I pressed the touch screen to enable it to be recognized as a USB drive.
  2. Clicked on the file and dragged it to my desktop. Each is 3 minutes long and about 1.05 GB (!)
  3. Double clicked on the file and the video played in full res. Used frame advance and license plates are easily visible.
So... easy peasy. The cops will be able to identify my assailant.

I uploaded the file to Youtube. The original was in 2k and 60fps, but even the reduced res of YT allows the reading of the license plates, although its not as clear.

I tee'd the vid up to when I am starting off from a stoplight, at a spot where I go up off the street, then back down when the bike lane reappears. Look at how the handlebars move but the scenery/buildings don't, as well as how stable the view is as I go up and down the sidewalk ramps. You can see the bars jouncing but not the scenery. Glad I stuck with this brand when I upgraded. Well worth the $99.


This is the bike I rode in this morning. The basket on the front is what you are seeing in the vid, and you can see the camera as well.
PXL_20210607_155312243.jpg
 

SMeBikers

Member
Region
USA
City
Santa Monica
That stabilization is impressive! I have some vid and frames of 4K dash cams in cars that are nowhere near as good.

Yep, video files can be huge, depending on the resolution, frame rate and compression. 1Gb is fairly small and some cams use custom encoding that won't work without paying for the CODEC.

YouTube won't have the best quality, especially for a 4K video.
 

WattsUpDude

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
San Francisco, Bay Area
Posted this elsewhere on the site but I think it's relevant here, too.

Never thought I'd care about gimbal-like stabilization on an action camera but it's pretty cool to have. Here's my Hero 9 + Max Lens Mod mounted to my front fender on some rough gravel and single-track riding while pulling the kiddos in the Burley.

 

SMeBikers

Member
Region
USA
City
Santa Monica
Posted this elsewhere on the site but I think it's relevant here, too.

Never thought I'd care about gimbal-like stabilization on an action camera but it's pretty cool to have. Here's my Hero 9 + Max Lens Mod mounted to my front fender on some rough gravel and single-track riding while pulling the kiddos in the Burley.
Wow! I've been tempted to get a GoPro in the past and maybe now's the time. There's a guy I often see on a regular bike around here who has FOUR GoPros on his bike helmet: front, rear, left and right...
 

WattsUpDude

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
San Francisco, Bay Area
Wow! I've been tempted to get a GoPro in the past and maybe now's the time. There's a guy I often see on a regular bike around here who has FOUR GoPros on his bike helmet: front, rear, left and right...

This is my first GoPro. I always thought they were over-hyped and over-priced, especially since there were so many other inexpensive alternatives. The first action cam that had stabilization that I was really impressed with is the DJI Osmo Action. It's terrific. The Hero 9 has stabilization that's just as good and has that really cool "horizon lock" feature that mimics a gimbal's ability to have a straight horizon. And as cool as the video is from the Hero 9, it took them a long time to get the firmware in a reliable state. It would sometimes freeze mid-ride or fail to boot 1/10 times. Definitely not good for a commuter camera. But since the last firmware, I've had no issues.