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Question: How can I reduce the vibrations to the handlebars on an all-aluminium road bike? Either to the rider's hands or to the camera, or both.

I have been riding an all-alloy road bike for the last couple months, and while its so much faster than the MTB its terribly tiring.

I've suspected that its a harsh ride because there are lots of buzzes and rattles that come and go with different road surfaces.

A recent night ride demonstrated the problem in pictures.... I have a gopro on the stem and here are some comparison shots.

Example Smooth Here's some tarmac which is less than a couple months old. Its really nice on which to ride: enter image description here

Example Buzzy Here are two stills cropped to show lights at night. The road is chip-seal which is quite common locally. enter image description here enter image description here

A video at night time was no good, but here's a short clip showing the buzz in sunlight.

Hand interface I've tried

  • Padded Cycling gloves - helped a little with the hands, but they were cold. I've been wearing my full hand cycling gloves with no padding.

  • Hand positions - I'm 99% on the hoods, either near the bend or up on the brake hoods. I never use the drops, they're out of reach, and the tops only occasionally. On a long ride I might put hands on top of the brakes for some variety ("high hoods")

  • Bar tape - I've fitted some bar tape which is labelled as "cork" but was really a diamond-shape of firm foam. This helped, but the hand position is now unnaturally squishy.

Yet to try:

  • A shorter stem, the old one is 120mm long. Finding one is difficult because its an odd sized quill stem. Still searching.

  • A replacement front fork of steel or carbon ? Seems like an expensive solution for an older bike.

  • Lower tyre pressure helps, but I'm over 100 KG so I can't really go lower than 100 PSI on 25mm tyres.

  • Replacement bars ? Would carbon bars be any better at damping the vibrations?

  • Other suggestions?

Camera mount I've got one of these on my stem. There's a layer of dense foam underneath which helps a little.

enter image description here

There are other mounts like this one, but they have no vibration take-up mechanism, so I'm leery about dropping money on them. enter image description here

Searching web sites like instructables.com has returned steadicam-type mounts for hand usage, but not for biking.

Summary: How to reduce the road buzz that is transmitted through the fork/frame/stem and the handlebars?

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    The bad news is that any method of shock mounting a camera effectively against really bumpy roads would probably involve not only more space (elastic suspension), but adding substantial mass to the camera for added inertia. It's something I've been thinking about messing with, though, so if anything comes of it I'll make a proper answer. :) – junkyardsparkle Jan 2 '16 at 7:09
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    Also, you're right to be leery of anything involving more couplings and extending the camera further from the bars without the express purpose of dampening, since this will only tend to amplify the visual effects of vibration. – junkyardsparkle Jan 2 '16 at 7:24
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    Honestly, you're never going to get good images from a moving bike at night. Try taking the same photographs hand-held while stationary and you'll get results that aren't a whole lot better, and probably worse than your "smooth" example. – David Richerby Jan 2 '16 at 10:06
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    @DavidRicherby Sorry the still photos are there because they illustrate how much the bars vibrate. I'd like better footage, but to get that by improving the ride. My current best hope is to find some kind of quill stem with damping. – Criggie Jan 2 '16 at 10:51
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    @Frisbee Fit is totally important, but my question is specific to reducing the vibration received through to the handlebars. I know my fit is sub-optimal and I'm working on it. BTW my stem is 140 mm long, measured it just now. And we're both right about distance to the drops vs hoods; its just that I have high hoods (thumb web right up under the brake cable, able to brake, closer to front) and low hoods (on the outside curve of the bars, can't reach brake levers, closer to saddle.) High hoods are about the same distance from saddle as drops. – Criggie Jan 3 '16 at 4:31
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Besides double taping the handlebar, the wider the tires the less pressure you can use:

enter image description here

from http://oaksandspokes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/pressurechart121405B.jpg

Also you can use slightly less pressure in the front tire than in the rear because this is the one that bears most of the weight, for example: your could try 87 psi in the rear and 80 psi in the front for 32mm tires.

I'm not very sure but I think that in old road bikes (from the 90's) you had clearance to put up to 28mm front, and 25mm rear tires.

  • Nice image - I've brought it in-line with your text, while quoting the original source. Lower pressure is worth a try, but I'm 100 KG / 220 pounds, so off the top of the chart by two squares :-\ – Criggie Jan 3 '16 at 5:29
  • I've gone from 23mm tyres to 25mm "thick slicks" on both wheels, more for puncture resistance and their really cheap price. I'm 94 KG as of this morning, and running them at 100 PSI. This feels better while riding, but hasn't done much for the camera image. – Criggie Jan 14 '16 at 19:27
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I have an aluminium bike with a rubber dampener built into the handle bar, it's part of Specializeds range, not sure if there are general versions.

A suspension fork would iron out more bumps than a carbon one, but may not fit your bike.

I've taken videos from a handlebar mounted camera too and I think there will always be a lot of jolting that is impossible to dampen. Low light will make this worse.

I think the best answer is to use a helmet mounted cam, so the suspension system is your body and neck. I've seen some fantastic videos of the New York alley cat races and they all use helmet cams. They also need strong necks!

How much image stabilization can your camera provide?

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    As far as suspension forks and cameras, keep in mind that the effect on what the camera "sees" is affected far more by angular changes than simple lateral movement, which means that effects to the rear wheel of the bike that cause it to pivot on the front wheel are just as significant as effects to the front wheel. You can demonstrate this by watching the beam of a bike light while lifting the front and rear wheels an equal amount off the ground. – junkyardsparkle Jan 2 '16 at 9:00
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    It's also possible to do image stabilization in post-processing, though I don't know the details. – David Richerby Jan 2 '16 at 11:30
  • I've had the helmet on the camera before and it works quite well. However I saw Michael Schumacher's skiing accident a couple years ago, where the helmet function was compromised by the mount, so no to helmet mounts. I have tried a wrist-mount and it was quite wobbly-chest or shoulder mounts will likely be similar. My fav mounting point was on the head tube, but neither of my current bikes supports that now. The MTB has centerpull brakes, and the road bike downtube and top tube leave no part on the headtube for the fitting. – Criggie Jan 2 '16 at 22:26
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    @DavidRicherby I know youtube always offers to stabilise my uploads, so that helps. I'm keen to solve the problem rather than treat the symptom though. – Criggie Jan 2 '16 at 22:27
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In theory, wider (and possibly thicker) tires ought to help though that may be anathema on a road bike.

E.g. I have a aluminium "hybrid" without suspension, with 700x32 Marathon Plus tires, which don't seem to me especially "buzzy" (I do like padded gloves though).

If the tires were e.g. 32mm instead of your 25mm, that means the contact patch is bigger and so the pressure can be lower.

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    Agreed, forgot to include wider tyres as an option. – ynnekkram Jan 2 '16 at 16:05
  • @ynnekkram and ChrisW - I've already gone from 22 up to 25 and any improvement was small enough to be unnoticeable. Mind you I also went from minor tread to totally slick road tyres. – Criggie Jan 2 '16 at 22:21
  • The niggly nit-picker in me wants to point out - The contact area is the same area size regardless of tyre shape at the same pressure. The contact patch only grows in size because of the lower pressures achievable by a wider tyre. – Criggie Jan 2 '16 at 22:23
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    @Criggie schwalbetires.com/tech_info/inflation_pressure suggests that 32 mm could be 30% less than 25 mm (though it also expects you'd be at 125 psi not 100 psi on 25 mm). – ChrisW Jan 2 '16 at 22:28
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For your hands, doubling up on padded bar tape is a cheap solution which a lot of the pros will do when racing cobblestone or bumpy roads.

For video, I'd opt for an inexpensive helmet mount (straps preferably but sticky pads do work) but if you've got cash to burn then you could look at either a bike or chest mounted gimbal which will produce smooth video regardless of terrain.

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    I used to have a camera on the helmet, but I saw what happened to Michael Schumacher in his skiing accident. NO CAPES! erm NO helmet cameras! – Criggie Jan 2 '16 at 7:11
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    Completely agree with you in relation to the helmet cam, something I'll be changing soon. Sugru could be a cheap alternative – ynnekkram Jan 3 '16 at 15:30
  • You can get chest mounts for cameras, too. That avoids the worry of helmet mounts but can give a strange viewpoint, sometimes. – David Richerby Jun 19 at 13:14
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Old question I know but still relevant, to reduce/eliminate the gopro shakiness try a k-edge or similar solid, one piece mount.

I tried all of the mounts shown above with poor results before trying the k-edge out front mount which secures tightly to the bars & provides excellent quality footage. There are too many moving parts in the gopro mounts & it's impossible to lock them down tight enough.

I also use the saddle mount with a hero session which again provides excellent shake free footage.

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    I've tried this too - the out-front mount amplifies the buzz that is in the stem. Putting camera out on a longer arm means it buzzes worse. – Criggie Jun 19 at 9:14
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Updated - I have fitted two layers of new bartape in the hooks, and one layer elsewhere.

Padded gloves were moderately effective, but came with new problems like sunburned wrists and blisters on the web between my fingers. So I still wear my $4 gardening gloves but with the padded half gloves over the top.

The camera is still poor at night, but the image has been improved by removing some of the padding and clamping the mount directly onto the stem rather than through layers of spongy shock absorber. I think the foams let the camera wobble about more than mounting it hard.

Tyres, for other reasons, I changed the front tyre from a thickslick to something with a little tread. This has also reduced the perception of buzz.

Its still a heck of a noisy bike ride though. The only other options short of a new bike is a replacement front fork in steel or in carbon, and I doubt 1" threadded steerer tubes are available on carbon forks!

  • I'm up to 28mm tyres now and a slight decrease in pressure has helped phenomenally. Currently running the front at 90 and the rear at 100 psi. – Criggie Jun 17 '16 at 4:32
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If the vibrations in your handlebars are so strong that they feel nasty, then you have too much pressure on your tires.

Every road/bike combination has an optimum tire pressure at which the tire has the least rolling resistance. If your pressure is too low, you deform the rubber too much, losing energy; and if your pressure is too high, your bike vibrates too much, losing energy.

With your light-weight bike and your slim tires, you seem to have too much pressure for the chip-seal roads that you ride on. Racing bikes are built for the smoothest roads, only, and the roads you ride on seem to be too rough. So, I would recommend to lower your tire pressure if you hadn't said that you are already at the minimum that you feel safe with. As such, the natural option is to put on wider tires that allow for lower pressures. This will very likely reduce your rolling resistance on those chip-seal roads.

Another theoretical option would be to increase the mass of the frame, especially at the front. Like a really, really heavy steel fork. Carbon will only make things worse. The heavier the frame, the less it follows the vibrations of the road. But I would go for wider tires, if I were you.

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