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I would like to mount my smartphone on my bike's handlebar. However, I am worried about that the vibrations when cycling will damage my smartphone's internal electronics.

I am using a trekking bicycle in a city and sometimes travel longer trips with it. The surface I usually ride on is:

  • Asphalt (including rough and bumby asphalt streets)
  • Cobblestones
  • Gravel roads

I am not doing mountainbiking with it and I am aware of that having an accident with my bike will probably damage my smartphone as well. I also know that a dedicated bike computer is doing better under different weather conditions. But that are not the things I am concerned about.

My smartphone is a Samsung Galaxy S Plus, so not a special "outdoor" smartphone.

Will the vibrations during cycling damage my smartphone?

  • Done 510 hours with my Xperia Active mounted on the bike, 3/4 road the rest mtb. So far so good. Mount is home made. The fact that everything is very well packed into a modern phone should help. Things moving independently of each other internally is what would be troublesome. – Ifor Apr 11 '13 at 11:18
  • @Ifor is the Xperia Active a kind of an outdoor smartphone designed for such circumstances? I just have a "normal" smartphone, I will add this to my question. – Uooo Apr 11 '13 at 11:22
  • 4
    Make sure the mount is secure so the phone doesn't dislodge. This is probably the biggest danger to the phone, especially with things like cobblestones. If your phone has a wrist strap, I recommend that you use it as a "safety-line" for your phone. Wrap the wrist strap around the handlebars, and put the phone through the loop to secure the phone to the bars. This is a little bit of extra security if your mount manages to break or work itself loose. – Kibbee Apr 11 '13 at 12:54
  • @Kibbee I'd find doing that with the wrist strap would risk the screen smashing straight into the headset tube, or if the wrist strap is particularly long, potentially reaching into the spokes or brake caliper. – yollooool Jan 22 '18 at 23:13
  • @yollooool So you're saying that you'd prefer the risk of the screen hitting the headset to the certainty of it hitting the ground? – David Richerby Jan 23 '18 at 1:23

10 Answers 10

17

The vibrations will be hard on it. The result will not be instantaneous failure, but an increasing likelihood of failure after perhaps several hundred hours of riding.

The likelihood of damage can be greatly reduced with a resilient, shock-absorbing mount of some sort (I assume most commercial mounts include some shock-absorbing function).

Most important is to avoid mounting in a way that the device will bang against the handlebar, or rattle in its mount. A mount that is too flexible can actually increase the G force the phone is subjected to.

  • 1
    Agreed. I'd go with a snug hard-foam "case" (a foam block with a hole carved on it) where you insert the phone, while the foam case itself is firmly attached to the bike. Some foams (like those used in swimming pool noodles) have intrinsic damping properties. Any kind of rattling should be absolutely avoided. – heltonbiker Apr 11 '13 at 13:40
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    I know this is a very late comment, but I'm skeptical that the vibrations encountered in road biking (even on cobblestones) would damage a solid-state device with no moving parts and very few mechanical connections (soldered, mechanical switches, etc). I think the only danger would be having it fall off the bike, which could break the screen. – Carey Gregory Sep 12 '13 at 0:36
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    @Uooo - Sorry, but all I can offer is personal experience and some knowledge of how electronic devices succumb to failure. A modern cell phone contains almost no parts subject to mechanical wear, so vibration is low on the list of their enemies. Liquids are their chief enemy, severe shock next (being dropped), and electrical damage last (static). – Carey Gregory Sep 12 '13 at 4:20
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    The point is that the G force on a phone can greatly exceed the G force present at the handlebar under the wrong conditions. "Rattling", where the phone is banging against a non-resilient surface, would be the worse -- essentially like dropping the phone repeatedly. There's also a slight danger of resonance, where the phone vibrates violently. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 12 '13 at 10:57
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    I'm extremely skeptical and would need to see evidence to convince me, but the comments section here isn't the place to debate it. Not sure if I can come up with a question appropriate to bicycles.SE, but I'll give it some thought. – Carey Gregory Sep 14 '13 at 5:12
11

I have had my phone attached to the handlebars in a little sleeve made of gaffer tape and some clear plastic I got out of the recycle bin and it's been good for a few years (I've replaced the sleeve thingy a few times as it disintegrated). For protection it's got a strip of high density foam at the back of it so that it doesn't clunk on the gooseneck when I go over bumps.

The phone is smashed to crap, but that's from me dropping it on the ground. I've fixed the glass a couple of times and I can tell you, the innards of those wee things are packed in so tight that vibration is not going to do anything - the'yre not made of clockwork. The rain and mud might be a problem; hitting the road might too, so make sure whatever you use is secure and waterproof.

  • I've now graduated to a swank new holder I made out of perspex (with a clear plastic and gaffer tape cover I can put on it when it rains) – stib Sep 1 '15 at 5:03
  • I don't think you can assess the mount's effectiveness using a phone that is 'smashed to crap' – Bent Spoke Cycle Repair Feb 8 '16 at 7:23
  • good point @BentSpokeCycleRepair. Since I wrote this I've moved to another phone, but still have a home-made holder, and no damage to the phone despite regular commuting and the occasional spot of MTB-ing. – stib Feb 8 '16 at 22:21
  • @stib good job - and much better example. I'll +1 although I don't ride with my phone on the bars. (Scaredy cat) – Bent Spoke Cycle Repair Feb 9 '16 at 9:37
  • I'm a dreadful Strava junkie so I've always got it on my bars as my bike computer / speedo. Stops me leaving my phone behind, which was a regular occurrence before. – stib Feb 10 '16 at 1:31
8

Yes, it can.

I had my HTC One (M8) mounted to my handlebars and after only ONE RIDE the camera broke. The focus element of the camera was a moving part that just couldn't stand up to the shock. The phone still worked fine, but phones w/o cameras suck so I had to get a new one.

  • Welcome to Bicycles @Jon. I edited your post to make the point clearer. – andy256 Aug 31 '15 at 7:33
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I just ruined my iphone6+ after a hard mountain bike ride (much harder than I have ever done before) and I had the phone attached to the handlebars. The vibrations ruined the screen is permanently cloudy.

I have done this for many rides before but nothing like this ride.

I have learned my hard lesson.

  • 2
    Gidday and welcome to SE bicycles. Sorry to hear about your phone. Can you please edit your answer with further details on the mounting? Was it padded in any way? Did you dump the bike at any time, or have any single really-big impact? Does your bike have suspension? Did the problem get worse throughout the ride or did it come on suddenly? Did you have anything else inside the mounting (like an external battery) – Criggie Feb 6 '16 at 23:12
3

I use mine filming in my Velocity Clip, and I have not had any problems yet. I have at least 40 hours of Downhill Mountain biking video. I'm using a Motorola Droid 4.

3

I have been motorcycling with my iphone attached with a Ram Mount. No problems ever, and that's constant vibration. I wouldn't worry.

3

If you have any HTC phone with a "dual camera" at the back (HTC M8 e.g.), then don't do this - this is a known issue. It has sth. to do with the two cameras misaligning due to the vibration. The camera will then be unable to focus, and you won't be able to use it at all anymore. Learned this the hard way as well :)

3

I used cheap eBay cases and a expensive Quad Lock. I have wrecked to phones now. Pixel 2 and HTC one m8 previously, basically it was camera issues. The one m8 started to vibrate the lens non stop. And the Pixel2 forgot it had a camera..... Basically any constant vibrations will damage your phone.

3

I got a RAM mount and put my new iPhoneXR into it on my Honda VTX1300 (sorry not a pedal bike). Did about 600 miles through Colorado and Wyoming... and my optical stabilization was done. The phone has always been in a case since the day I bought it and was never dropped. But after the ride the front facing camera would focus in and out like 100x second.... and you could hear something rattling around in the camera if you shook it gently.

Took it to Apple Genius Bar. The Apple guy immediately asked me if I had mounted it on a motorobike. I said yes. He was nice and said that it was considered "accidental damage" but that it would be our secret and he repaired it under warranty (replaced the camera). He said the vibrations damage the optical stabilization in the front facing camera.

Might have to get an old TomTom or a Garmin or something for visual GPS while riding. I have a bluetooth headset and can carry my iPhone in my pocket but I like having a physical map in front of me.

So be warned. Maybe older phones (with less camera tech) won't be affected or will take longer to break.

Safe riding.

-wb

  • All cameras suffer from vibration - whether it be motor-induced or road buzz from chipseal. The mount is really the place to damp the vibrations. My gopro is useless on the aluminium road bike on chipseal, and worse again in the dark. – Criggie Jun 15 at 2:45
  • Noted this is about a motorbike, but the important points are consistent between question and answer. Welcome to SE! – Criggie Jun 15 at 2:46
  • It's not quite clear how this carries over to pedal bikes, since motorbikes are faster (makes vibration worse) but also have suspension and larger, lower-pressure tyres (makes vibration less). But I agree that this is still a useful post -- thanks! – David Richerby Jun 15 at 12:50
1

I believe that my iPhone 6 got damaged after several rides with it attached to my handlebar. The "believe" part is there because it could have just started malfunctioning as any other digital device, however it functioned very well, until I made these few rides.

I ride a road "Specialized bike. The Torontonian streets are chipped quite a bit. And you can have few bumps while fast riding. The phone was attached to the handlebar with this device

enter image description here From https://www.amazon.ca/Mpow-Universal-Rotatable-Slide-Proof-One-button/dp/B01LT0W8HW

And it was in a sturdy Otter case.

So the phone is being repaired for a 120 CAD. Charger port and some inside chip were damaged. And I'm thinking maybe "Top tube bag" would be a bit safer since they are less rigid and therefore transmit less impact on the phone.

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