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Since I'd very much rather not have something dangling on my neck/shoulders, I am inclined to think that tethering the camera to a bike through a handlebar mount is the optimal solution. The stabilization in modern software tends to eliminate fork shake, and the small rotations (for balancing) of the handlebar are likewise eliminated.

Yet when I look at what people are posting on social media, the images are invariably framed by a handlebar from below, and by two arms on both sides (indicating a chest-mount).

Can you compare chest-mounting to handlebar-mounting a sports camera?

Notes:

  • I would be moving the same camera between road bikes and MTBs, duplicating the mount on each in case of a handlebar mount.
  • Unless a camera maker certifies the camera to be safely collapsible in a crash, or a helmet maker certifies that the helmet will stop a helmet-mounted camera from making a cast inside my cranium, helmet-mounting does not seem like a good option.
Related
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    What are your priorities? Safety (minimising crash damage risk to you) or getting the best footage for youtube, or traffic "dashcam" or something else ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 4:10
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    Re the "safety" issues: Helmet camera mounts will rip away if you impact directly on the camera. Having the camera on your chest should be a non-issue: When have you ever impacted on your sternum severely enough to leave a bruise? And if you do, the small camera will be less of an issue than the tangle of rocks you just landed in.
    – arne
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 11:00
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    @arne Helmet camera mounts are often adhered with strong 3M tape, they do not easily rip away. And when you impact a tree during a fast DH, eveything in front of your chest could brake your rib. I don't have statistics on camera-related injuries, but as long as you can't provide some, please don't state that this is a non-issue. Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 13:40
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    @reciprocallettuce The mounts themselves will break, most likely the joint used to tilt the camera. And I don't believe the chest will be the first thing to impact even a tree since you are bent over during a DH. The head or shoulder will most likely hit first and take most of the impact energy. And if the impact is strong enough to break a rib with the camera, your shoulder will probably be broken to bits and/or your neck snapped from the forces on your head. And please don't say "neck brace" now, because ppl wearing those will wear chest armor, too.
    – arne
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 14:56
  • 2
    @Sam you know that wasn't his point since he asked for plural priorities
    – Paul H
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 16:47

4 Answers 4

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For MTB I'd say that chest and helmet mount are both good for different purposes. With a helmet mount you get a nice perspective for following someone. It's easier to track someone and the elevated position gives a nice overview. On the other hand, the last part is what makes it suboptimal if you want to capture the feel of a ride, because more overview tends to smoothen everything out. Technical terrain seems easy and flowtrails suddenly look slow. So if you want to capture the experience in a video, displaying the challenges and fun of a ride, stick to a chest mount. You even have parts of your body captured (arms), so the viewer can identify with the rider.

For road bike I assume (not my area of ​​expertise), that you want to capture the scenic ride or traffic situation. That means that your arms and handlebar will not be that interesting for the viewer. So a handlebar mount will be fine as you will not have anything dangling on your chest. The overview perspective might be nice, too, but you already stated you don't linke helmet-mounting cameras.

Conclusion

Handlebar mounting is ok for road biking, but decouples the viewer from the rider in mountain biking. Special case: Point the camera backwards to analyse your own riding position.

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    For road bike I assume (not my area of ​​expertise), that you want to capture the scenic ride or traffic situation. That means that your arms and handlebar will not be that interesting for the viewer. If you're lucky. A chest-mounted camera any any road bike with even a halfway-aggressive/aero setup would probably be more likely to capture the top tube, back of headset/stem, and the road under the front wheel. For a super-aggressive/aero time trial/triathlon setup you might get a pretty good view of your pedaling motion, though. Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 14:14
  • @AndrewHenle Good remark. But while OP asks for chest mounts this implies those might appear to be a realistic option and the intended posture will be quite upright. Anyway, that is just my interpretation and your comment makes a good point for road biking in general. Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 14:53
  • Compelling argument that the premise of the question (one style of mounting for both styles or riding) is flawed, and that switching from one to the other is best.
    – Sam7919
    Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 3:38
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A handlebar-mounted camera will probably capture no part of bike/rider, except possibly part of the front tyre. The footage will give a "free-floating in space" feeling without providing a fixed reference point, which isn't very appealing to the viewer as it feels disconnected, boring and doesn't convey a sense of speed.

Visible parts of bike&rider (helmet or handlebar+hands+legs) provide a fixed reference point for the eye and the viewer feels much more "in the action". Leg movements convey a sense of effort, hand & bar movements demonstrate the bike handling skills required to navigate a trail or fast corner. If a bike computer is visible in the frame, the speed or power display might also be interesting.

However, a chest/helmet-mounted cameras are more hassle to use and adjust. The camera needs to point forward when the rider is in bent-over position, during which they can't check the screen. Also, switching between drops and hoods on drop-bar bikes requires adjusting the camera. Camera harnesses also tend to bounce around on rough terrain. Riding around town or visiting a café with a camera harness is also not particularly fashionable.

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My camera is for road usage, and intended as a dashcam. I don't do MTB much.

So my gopro mounts on the stem, such that it looks over the handlebars. On the road bike, the brifters are at the extreme edges of the picture so its not wide. The image suffers in the dark from being almost useless, though that's partially the older camera with a longer shutter time in low light.

  • The camera points where the front wheel points. However if you're turning, its not looking around the corner where you're going.
  • You can see the camera's status LED and that it is recording
  • you may hear it beep when the battery runs out.

Other locations I've also had the camera mounted

  • in front of the head tube - too low and brake/gear cables move in front and can snag. Same goes for a fork mount - its too low to be useful. And it points in-line with the frame not the wheel

  • Recumbents, I have the camera mounted to the bottom bracket, which is at the extreme front of the bike. This gives a very narrow view out the front and misses anything "beside" the bike. Also it shows pedals and feet on every crank. This stays in-line with the bike frame, not where the bars point.

  • Chest mount - Not ideal from a crash perspective - if your chest hits the deck you'll have a hard plastic case between you and the ground. Even with a spreader plate design, this will break your sternum or ribs.
    For MTB this gives a very "rider's view" angle, but tends to have enormous arms on either side of the shot. Can be hard to get a good vertical angle here too because your body moves around on MTB and on the road - a hard sprint or power effort means you lean forward so the camera will be pointing at the ground.

  • Helmet mount - This is probably the highest viewpoint on a bike, so camera has a top-down which can be handy. The view is aimed at whatever you're looking at, so one camera can even look backward if you do.
    The weight can be significant and certainly makes the helmet heavier, and the camera can catch branches more than a smooth helmet.
    In a crash, the helmet's function may be compromised by an inability to slide as designed.

  • Shoulder, arm, and wrist mounts. These are all a variation on the chest mount, and give you more open views on one side of the body while making it a little harder to see the other side. I'd presume you would wear the camera on your farside, (nearest the road centerline) which is the side cars pass you on.
    Hand/wrist mounts let you move the camera around, though framing a shot can be hard. It will always be crooked.

Some of these niggles can be resolved with a gimbal, but that is more weight, moving parts, and added cost. And gimbals want to maintain stability in all directions, so turning a corner can upset them.

I suffer from motion-induced nausea, and there are some videos I can't watch for more than 30 seconds without having to turn away. Strangely, if its a recording of my riding, then that effect is much reduced. But views from a helmet that is moving around a lot can be unpleasant to watch.


The best viewpoint, would be a "follow-me" drone that is just behind and above you. However that's totally unfeasible on the road or when travelling. Might work acceptably in a small area, but that would give a very video-game perspective.

One oft-overlooked point is license plate capture. If using the camera as a dashcam, then being able to read plates is useful. The Gopro has too much compression and tends to blur plates in the medium distance. I had an older Kaiser Baas camera before that, which was capable of showing a plate on a car doing 100+ km/h in the other direction. However this may be better on more-modern cameras.

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    One note about helmet mounts and mountain biking specifically, mounting on the chin bar of a full-faced helmet provides an arguably better perspective than a chest mount without needing the harness.
    – Paul H
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 16:50
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    @PaulH Agreed--the chin bar mount seems extremely popular for good reason.
    – MaplePanda
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 18:03
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    I saw today on a video that they mounted a 360 degree camera on an extendable pole, both on the handle bar and on the seat tube, in both cases the camera can be well above the riders head and not compromise the helmet.
    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 20:23
  • @Willeke yeah I've been tempted to attach a camera to my bent's flagpole, to get some elevation but its a lightweight thing and had too much vibration to be useful.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 23:17
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You wanted a comparison, so I dug through my riding footage archives to do just that. I think these amateur clips offer a different point of comparison than professional-grade YouTube content.

https://i.sstatic.net/qsgv5.jpg

Some observations:

  • Road bike with chest mount
    • I think it actually looks pretty good, compared to some other answers' opinions. It looks pretty dynamic still, and you have the bars to act as a stationary reference point.

I don't have any footage saved for road bike handlebar mounts, although I have tried them. They're probably the best option for road riding in my opinion as straps and helmet weight are both uncomfortable after a while. Your bars tend to be more stable than while MTBing, which also helps.

  • Mountain bike, top of helmet

    • Doesn't look very good in my opinion, especially using an older camera with poor image stabilization. It's just too shaky (since it follows your head movements), and the lack of reference point can be unsettling.
  • Mountain bike, handlebar mount

    • Pretty wobbly due to how your bars get whacked around by terrain. It is quite interesting seeing the bike leaning through corners though.
  • Mountain bike, chest mount

    • The best option for non-full face helmets in my opinion. Seeing the arm and handlebar movement adds interest for me, and I think the perspective is at a nicely balanced height. Also, it's a naturally stable spot, and if you're a more analytical rider, you can watch your arms (front-back axis) and legs (up-down) axis for how well they're reacting to terrain and hence stabilizing your torso.

For full face helmets, the chin bar mount is a good alternative to the chest mount. You don't have to deal with the chest straps, and the perspective is a little higher up such that the camera isn't pointing straight at your stem. The camera is also tucked away well enough that it doesn't pose much of a safety hazard.

Elaborating on safety, I agree that helmets are not certified with cameras mounted to them. However, some manufacturers do incorporate safety-oriented features intended for accessory mounts. I've seen some magnetic mounts, self-releasing clips, etc. I suppose it's a personal question of risk tolerance at some point. In addition to the "camera smashes through helmet and into your skull" factor, there's also how attaching stuff increases the helmet's lever arm length, affecting the chances of rotational injuries.

Oh, if you have the money, hardware, open space, and the relevant licensing, drones can give some pretty cool results as Criggie mentioned. Check this out for example: Tomas Slavik | Red Bull Valparaiso Cerro Abajo 2022

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  • As a corollary, you can get much more creative with camera mounting than these "classic" options. For a while, I had a 3D printed GoPro mount attached under my old road bike's kickstand mount (between the chainstays), which looked pretty damn cool with the road whizzing by 15cm away. I was also working on a mount using the bottle cage bolts on a full squish so I can monitor my rear suspension usage throughout a ride. Lots of options available.
    – MaplePanda
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 6:40

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