The 11 Best Cycling Camera – Helmet or Handlebar – Cheap/Top/360
The Best Cameras for Cycling Compared: from cheap to top. Where to mount a bike cam (handlebar, helmet, & more…), how to choose an action cam, and some 360 models
So what is the best camera for cycling? Is there a product that can claim to be the best bike action cam? Let’s see what we find out for the year 2023.
Recently action cameras have turned into the staple of mountain biking, many bicycle tourers and bikepackers went intensively into vlogging, and even road cyclists are starting to use action cams, especially cycling safety cams.
You rarely see a single rider who doesn’t have one of these strapped on his/her helmet or on the handlebars (or chest, or… we’ll see).
Due to this huge and ever-growing demand, there are many manufacturers who have introduced new action cameras on the market. GoPro is a world-renowned brand, but are still GoPro the best bicycle cameras?
There are many others like Sony, Garmin, and Olympus which are coming out with impressive stuff. And then a plethora of cheap Chinese brands that are getting better and better.
We put together a list of the best action cameras (in our opinion) for cycling. Several of these we tried ourselves in our numerous touring and bikepacking trips, while for others we relied on reviews from friends and online. Read on to find the one to capture the most thrilling moments of your biking life.
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How we compile our gear guides: during the almost 10 years of cycloscope.net our team personally tested dozens of similar pieces of gear. For what we can't test personally, we involve other people in the cycling community to give their feedback and opinion about gear they have used. Our decade-long experience in bicycle touring enables us to find the key cons and pros of every product we mention.
Akaso started as one of many Chinese action cam brands, but while many have failed, they managed to keep it up and quickly became one of the best brands for budget action cams, with their V50 and Brave series.
So, if you’re a bike rider and looking for the best helmet camera to record your trips but you don’t want to sell a kidney, the AKASO V50 action camera is our recommendation, probably the best budget camera for cycling for the specs (updated for 2023 to 20MP and 4K with a 60-fps image).
In a nutshell, the Akaso V50 Elite is an affordable action camera packed with impressive features. With its compact dimensions and lightweight build, it’s easy to handle.
The camera’s 4K/60FPS video capability, 20MP images, and included accessories make it an attractive option for both beginners and casual users.
However, there are some minor drawbacks such as touchscreen responsiveness issues and the performance of the Akaso DV app. Despite these quirks, the V50 Elite offers excellent value for money and serves as a great entry point into the world of action cameras.
For those seeking an affordable action camera with reliable performance, the COOAU Cool Series SPC 05 is a contender to consider. While its battery life might fall short for longer recording sessions (more than 40min), its kit includes an incredible array of mounts and accessories that cater to various shooting scenarios.
The COOAU Cool Series SPC 05 is powered by the Sony 0V4689 20MP sensor, delivering impressive results across its various video resolutions, including 4K 30fps, 2.7K 30fps, and 1080P 30fps. Its 170-degree fisheye effect captures a wide field of view.
The action camera boasts a 7G lens with f/2, supporting resolutions like 4K at 30fps and 1080P at 60fps. The camera’s extensive settings allow users to fine-tune parameters such as shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and more. Wi-Fi connectivity enables easy control via the smartphone app.
With dimensions of 59 x 30 x 41 mm and a weight of 66g, it’s conveniently portable. The camera is encased in a waterproof housing, allowing depths of up to 40m (updated for 2023).
Equipped with a 1200mAh lithium-ion battery, the COOAU Cool Series SPC 05 offers longer runtime compared to similar models but still falls quite short for those needing long recording times. The package includes two batteries and a remote control battery. The battery compartment provides easy access for quick swaps.
The camera offers EIS stabilization for smoother footage, although a gimbal is recommended for optimal stability. The action cam also supports various functions like slow motion, time-lapse, and video loop.
The COOAU captures images at 20 megapixels and offers adjustable settings like ISO and exposure time. It supports RAW format and different aspect ratios. Video recording includes resolutions up to 1080p at 60fps and 4K at 30fps, accompanied by EIS.
The Cool Series SPC 05 by COOAU is an excellent budget-friendly choice for those entering the world of action cameras.
With remarkable 4K recording capabilities, extensive settings, and a host of accessories, it’s a solid option for beginners.
You can’t mention action cameras without thinking about GoPro. The Hero 11 is the newest flagship from action-camera’s inventors GoPro, an innovative model that comes with quite a few updated features.
With the late 2022’s model Hero 10, GoPro had already made some major changes to its most popular product, namely a front-facing color LCD screen, which finally solves the issue of framing yourself while vlogging, a larger back screen, and the usual improvements in resolution and image stabilization.
When comparing the 2022 Hero 11 vs Hero 10, it mostly goes down to the all-new GP2 processor, which speeds up the user interface, doubles the frame rates, and powers up what is probably the best image stabilization algorithm in the world of action cams.
The resolution reaches 5.3K up to 60fps (4K video: up to 120fps, 1080P: up to 240fps) with an impressive 24.7MP for stills. Battery life is slightly improved and highly dependent on the use, from 1 to 32hrs estimate, but more so is low-light performance, the Hero 11 gives really satisfying results in dim environments.
The new camera-to-app cable makes it super-quick to transfer content and upload videos and photos to the cloud while the GoPro recharges.
Since already the Hero 7 era, GoPro’s cutting-edge construction makes them waterproof up to 10m even without a case, so finally eliminating the issue of muffled audio.
The built-in microphone has indeed been improved, even though it is still mono and not comparable to the Sony.
Software controls have been introduced, such as exposure control, protune, touch zoom,and others.
Garmin recently went into the action camp market with a couple of models, which are quite interesting and present an innovative approach.
The VIRB Beach Camera has voice control, built-in GPS (of course) and external sensors with connectivity to Garmin devices, able to capture performance data like speed, elevation, heart rate, and G-force – to prove how fast, how high, and how far you went.
It has one of the best bike camera display (1.75-inch touch screen) and a bundle of included accessories that make most competitors pale in comparison. You can record ultra-high-definition 4K/30-fps footage also underwater with the waterproof case.
It is equipped with three-axis image stabilization, which permits you to capture steady and smooth videos. You can also use a free desktop application to edit, compile, and share your footage from a camera. The high-sensitive mono microphone records clear audio, although this is not the main selling point here.
Your purchase comes with a SanDisk micro-SDHC 32-GB memory card, case, chest harness, floating handle, helmet/head strap, bike handlebar mount, and anti-fog kit.
World-leading brand in commercial drones, DJI manufactures one of the best 4K action cameras for cycling.
Super-small and compact, it packs a lot of hi-tech, including 2 LCD displays (DJI Osmo Action was the first action cam with a selfie screen).
The Osmo Action 4 sets itself apart with a groundbreaking feature – its 1/1.3-inch image sensor, offering exceptional low-light performance and higher image quality.
This, coupled with DJI’s innovative image stabilization technologies, waterproofing up to 18 meters, and advanced shooting options, makes it a formidable contender in the action camera market.
In terms of performance, the Osmo Action 4 excels in capturing detailed images and videos, particularly in challenging lighting conditions while the device’s integration with the DJI Mimo app enhances its capabilities, enabling features like live streaming and remote control.
However, it faces tough competition from GoPro Hero 11, which offers a slightly more refined ecosystem and higher resolution options.
While the Osmo Action 4 surpasses the Hero 11 in low-light situations, the latter excels in certain use cases. Both cameras are priced similarly, making the choice a matter of prioritizing features.
However, users seeking the highest resolution might consider alternatives in the market. DJI has certainly raised the bar with the Osmo Action 4, putting pressure on competitors like GoPro to innovate further.
The Olympus TG-Tracker is a rugged and bulky action camera with a lot of interesting features and an affordable price tag. Designed like a mini camcorder, the Olympus (6.35 ounces) is more than twice as heavy as the GoPro and almost double its size.
But it also has a foldable and orientable display, a lot of external controls, and it’s waterproof without a case of up to 30 meters/100ft.
With all these tracking capabilities, the Olympus TG Tracker can also be used as a great-performing cycling safety cam.
It is equipped with five inbuilt action track sensors that automatically capture extra data to compel your audio and video. These include GPS and an accelerometer. e-compass, temperature sensor, and barometric pressure sensor.
The Olympus TG-Tracker records your ride like a cycling computer (and even better)! All these data can also be recorded independently from the video and viewed in the app.
The only cycling cam in this review to have a 204 degrees FoV, really ultra-wide and immersive, maybe too much. While it is great to have more surroundings in your capture, this is also harder to manage, and some unwanted stuff can get into the frame.
There is an option to change the FoV to a handier 157 degrees, although it is a bit hidden in the menus.
Olympus TG-Tracker action camera comes with a 1.5-inch LCD tilt-out monitor screen, no other action cam has that. You can view your photos and videos as well as customize multiple settings according to your requirements.
The Cycliq Fly12 Sport, now in its third generation, offers cyclists a reliable incident-capture camera that excels in ease of use and footage quality.
With compact dimensions and weighing just 150g, it’s a great addition to your setup. While the light output has slightly diminished, resulting in a smaller form factor, its battery life and performance still impress, though it’s influenced by riding habits.
The Cycliq Fly12 Sport is a straightforward yet effective cyclist’s dashcam that excels in capturing essential footage for incident documentation.
Its simplicity, combined with strong build quality and advanced features like image stabilization and incident detection, make it a dependable choice for riders seeking reliable evidence in case of road incidents.
While not as versatile as some action cameras, the Fly12 Sport’s straightforward operation and quality performance make it a compelling option for cyclists who prioritize safety and accountability.
However, riders looking for extensive video editing capabilities or high-end action camera features might find it lacking in those aspects. Overall, the Fly12 Sport serves its purpose well as a reliable cycling companion for capturing and documenting rides.
The Insta360 One RS presents an innovative modular approach to action cameras, comprising a Core display piece, lens modules, and a battery base.
Its adaptability allows it to transform into different camera types using three available lens modules: 5.7K 360-degree, 4K Boost, and a 1-inch Wide Angle. This is an amazing and unique flexibility that caters to various shooting needs.
The Insta360 One RS truly shines due to its unique modular design, which allows you to switch between various lens modules. This innovation makes it incredibly versatile, perfect for capturing diverse perspectives in different situations. With its 360-degree lens, you can create immersive content and later edit it creatively by changing the frame. On the flip side, the 4K Boost lens offers superior image quality, ensuring your shots look sharp and clear.
What’s fantastic is how user-friendly it is. The waterproof feature, along with the mounting bracket, provides an extra layer of convenience. The package also includes useful accessories that add to its overall value. However, it’s essential to note that if you’re a professional seeking top-tier image quality, this camera might not meet all your expectations.
One aspect to consider is its modular system. While it’s a fantastic concept for versatility, it introduces some durability concerns when compared to all-in-one action cameras. Yet, despite its limitations, the Insta360 One RS remains an excellent choice, especially for content creators who want a camera that balances adaptability with ease of use. It’s all about finding that sweet spot between creativity and practicality.
Now, if you want to splurge with top professional quality, check the Insta 360 ONE RS 1-inch, with its 1-inch sensor (the biggest for any action cam) it boosts unparalleled image definition.
GoPro MAX is the 360 model from GoPro, designed for versatility. As opposed to most 360 cams, here you have the option to shoot traditional GoPro angles, with a choice of 13mm, 16mm, 19mm, and 27mm.
An unbreakable stabilization feature, a user-friendly app, and full manual controls (bitrate, shutter speed, white balance, exposure, and so forth), make this expensive cam a great choice for those who can afford it.
Its front-facing display is a fundamental feature in the 360 cams world, and with its large one, GoPro made the MAX the ultimate product for cycling vloggers, also thanks to the reliable live-streaming capabilities.
The camera has two lenses, like every 360 cam, but can multiply them to four through a digital lens function, allowing shooting in any direction without moving the camera.
These lenses include narrow, wide, Max SuperView, and distortion-free linear. All the field of you at your fingertips.
MAX’s HyperSmooth is the king of stabilization, which delivers the clearest and smoothest video when compared to other action cameras (except maybe the sadly discontinued Xiaomi MADV). You can also change its horizon leveling whenever required.
Using the mobile GoPro app, you can easily transform 360-degree footage into conventional photos and videos. You can edit, playback, and share this content with your friends, family, and social media.
Directional audio in Hero mode lets you prioritize sound from either side of the camera, no matter which lens you’re using perfect for logging.
This is pretty much the standard feature on every action camera on the market. But not all of them perform the same, and you have to keep in mind that image stabilization is maybe the key feature when using a cam for cycling.
Especially for mountain bikers, but not just for them, the bumps can make your footage incredibly shaky, to the point of being unusable. You want the best image stabilization ever, even at the cost of sacrificing image quality.
The technology that is used for image stabilization in most cases is gyro or optical. Gyro has a sensor for electronic movement for the eradication of shakes.
On the other hand, optical image stabilization has lens movers that counteract any jerks or shakes. But none of them both are better than the other.
Size & Weight
The best action camera for cycling needs to be lightweight and it doesn’t need to be that big either. No matter how you use it, your camera needs to be lightweight and small in size for ease in use.
Video & Photo Quality
It is obvious that going for a better image quality will require paying for it, quite a high price if you want the best.
The minimum resolution on a modern action cam is 1080p but you should go for a 4k if a (semi)professional-looking quality is what you want to achieve.
The top cams nowadays can record 6K footage, but do you really need that? Do you have a computer capable of editing that footage? 6K quality is much higher than 4k or FHD but not all displays can reproduce it, the file sizes are huge, and the battery drains faster.
Yes, you must keep in mind that with better image quality battery life will get influenced heavily.
On the other hand, 6k and 4K resolutions enable you to crop the video and still have an FHD video. (4K is 3840 x 2160 pixels, against the 1920 x 1080 pixels of FHD), which opens interesting video-editing possibilities.
But if you’re not a pro videomaker, just want to try out recording some bike adventures, and don’t want to spend too much, we recommend going for a 4k or even a FHD (1080px) action camera.
Primarily, there are two main mounts that you can use for your action camera on a bike: handlebar and helmet.
With the helmet mount, you will get a more immersive experience. The angle will change as you turn your head and the video will be a lot more engaging, but also a bit confusing if you move your head too much.
The video from the handlebar mount is not very engaging but the view will be a lot more stable. You will have to compromise on the shock absorption feature, cause the handlebar gets all the bumps.
On the other hand, you can easily turn a handlebar camera on yourself, and even talk into it while you’re cycling – cycle-vlogging – pretty trendy… but you’ll need good audio features for that (more about audio later).
Very popular among mountain bikers is the chest strap camera mount, which shows the front of the bike and the terrain in detail. Cool angle for tricks and action footage.
There are many other ways to mount an action cam on a bike: using selfie sticks (tied with zip-ties or such), or movable clamps – just to mention a couple.
The availability, compatibility, and variety of the mounts should be taken into account when choosing a video camera for cycling. GoPro-compatible mounts became the standard, with many Chinese brands using the system.
Classic camera screw-mounts, on the other hand, enable compatibility with tripods and selfie sticks. Adapters screw/GoPro are also easy to find and cheap.
Does a Cycling Cam need to be Waterproof?
Most of the bike cameras mentioned here can easily survive a big splash of water and even medium-light rain. This should be enough for most cyclists.
Some of the cameras also come with depth capabilities and they are inherently waterproof, some require an underwater case, which usually compromises the audio recording, while other up-market models have a full impermeable construction
Ease of Use
The user-friendly factor of a cycling action camera is a big deal for us cyclists. It’s not just about convenience; it’s about safety and staying in the moment. Think about it – when we’re out on the road, our hands are often covered with gloves for warmth and protection. So, having a camera that we can easily control without fumbling or taking off our gloves is a game-changer. It means we can capture those breathtaking views, unexpected moments, or even just switch on and off without missing a beat.
And let’s not forget about the ride itself. We’re focused on the road, the wind, the rhythm of our pedals – not fussing around with complicated controls. When the ride is done, we want to relive those memories without the hassle. That’s where the simplicity comes into play again. Being able to quickly review and share our adventures without a tech struggle is a real win.
So, yeah, ease of use isn’t just a feature; it’s like a riding buddy that’s got your back – helping you stay safe, keeping things simple, and letting you focus on what you love most: the ride.
If you like to map new horizons then you should go for an inbuilt GPS feature as well. This is not going to be the primary feature of your camera but it’s nice to know where each picture was taken.
Built-in GPS indeed, adds a geotag to each of your shots, making it ultra-easy to create nice photo maps with apps like Komoot or Strava.
All modern action cams work with SD cards, but not some don’t support 64GB or 128GB cards.
A big storage capacity is always good but if you are not the type to film your entire 4-hour ride, and can remember to frequently transfer media between your devices, then even a memory of 32GB will work well for you.
Another important point for you to consider before buying the best action camera for cycling is battery life. As there is an increased demand for lighter, smaller cameras with power packed in their lens, batteries will always have a hard time.
The battery technology is the one that really lags behind in all technology. Therefore, our options are going to be limited here, you won’t find a high-quality cam that will last more than 4 hours of continuous recording in the highest settings.
Field of View
Field of View is a parameter measured from the front lens and expressed in degrees. It is the equivalent of focal length in traditional photography.
A 140-degree FoV means that the camera is able to cover 70° from either side of the lens as well as up and down. A lens with a 10mm focal length has a Horizontal FoV angle of 120°, and a Vertical FoV of 100°.
An action camera is by definition, a camera that can capture as much action as possible without you having to aim, thus the wide Field of View.
Typical FOV values are (Linear 90° → Wide 130° → Superview 170°), by including more surroundings, the result is a more immersive video.
Technically, the FoV is determined by the amount of space between lens and image sensor (the further the lens is from the image sensor, the narrower the FOV). On GoPro, the field of view is determined digitally by cropping and scaling the widest possible image.
Wide angles though distort the image. Most action cameras, however, have distortion control settings built into them that slightly reduce FOV but take away 95% of the distortion, without noticeably reducing quality.
360 cams have a 360° field of view, like a sphere, which means they capture everything around them. The result is odd, but you can then crop the image obtaining any angle you like, any perspective of the surroundings. Of course the narrower you crop, the more resolution you lose. 360 cams are great for bikepacking videos and cycle touring vlogs.
If you are looking at high-end options then you will have Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi, and NFC. However, these connectivity options are not mandatory for normal operation but with these, you can live stream or watch your ride after connecting your action camera with other devices.
It’s hard to come out with a winner here, is there really such a thing as the best bike camera? It really depends on your intended use and your budget.
If you want something cheap, we recommend the AKASO V50
How an action camera is different from other rugged or traditional cameras?
Action cameras are specifically built for sports. A very sturdy construction, small size, and a lightweight are the most important characteristics. Most of them can shoot slow-motion videos at a high framerate and have wide lens angles. Action cameras are built for action and to be used in action. The controls on these cameras are straightforward to access and in some cases, you can use them completely hands-free too. The rugged or traditional cameras are larger and more delicate, they are not designed to be used in action situations.
Where should I mount my cycling camera?
Primarily, there are two main mounts that you can use for your action camera on a bike: handlebar and helmet. With the helmet mount, you will get a more immersive experience. The angle will change as you turn your head and the video will be a lot more engaging, but also a bit confusing if you move your head too much. The video from the handlebar mount is not very engaging but the view will be a lot more stable. You will have to compromise on the shock absorption feature, cause the handlebar gets all the bumps. On the other hand, you can easily turn a handlebar camera on yourself, and even talk into it while you’re cycling – cycle-vlogging – pretty trendy… but you’ll need good audio features for that (more about audio later). Very popular among the mountain bikers is the chest strap camera mount, which shows the front of the bike and the terrain in detail. Cool angle for tricks and action footage. There are many other ways to mount an action cam on a bike: using selfie sticks (tied with zip-ties or such), or movable clamps – just to mention a couple.
Read more on our full article!
Box style, cube styles, bullet-style: what’s the difference and which one is the best?
A majority of the camera for cycling fall into the category of Box style. They also come in a vast range of resolutions. On average their FoV is around 160-degree. The cube style is compact and you can mount it in a small area. These are extremely lightweight and there is only one button on them to start and stop the recording. The average FoV here is around 140-degree. You might not find many resolution options though. These action cameras are very sleek and long in design but there are no major brands on the market that specialize in this style of action camera. There are some Chinese models available but quality is going to be slightly off.
Should I go for FHD, UHD, 4K, or 5k?
It is totally up to you, which resolution you should consider for your rides. The best in class is 4K and the video quality is going to be exceptional. This is again the case with UHD as well but both these formats also consume a lot of battery. FHD and HD are good choices for you if you go on long rides because they are good with picture quality and also don’t consume much battery.
Read more in our full article!
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