How to Mount a Camera on a Motorcycle: HelmetCAM, Suction & Fixed Mounts
Now that you’ve thought about what you’re planning to video and how you’d like to do it (see previous post), here are some thoughts about ways to mount the camera.
We’re aware that Helmet CAMs are all the rage. We even own a GoPro ourselves. But we’re not fans of the helmet-mounted camera and here’s why.
- You can't change the angle of the shot. Wherever you are looking, that's what you're getting. If you look down at your gauges, so does your video. If you look behind you to check traffic, guess where the HelmetCam goes?
- You can’t easily adjust the camera. I once lost an entire sequence because I thought it was powered on when it wasn’t (I couldn’t see it up on my head!)
- Depending on the camera you may not have a good zoom function; you might find your target turned into a speck on the horizon.
Apparently we’re not the only ones who feel this way:
“Mounting a video camera on a motorcycle helmet is difficult. Modern helmets have all sorts of wacky curves, put there for either styling or aerodynamic purposes. The larger the camera the more difficult it is to mount on a helmet.” ~ WebBikeWorld Review
Camera Suction-Cup Mounts
These usually stick to the bike's tank or windscreen. Again I’ll be blunt: we're not fans of using suction cups on motorcycles - period. (And if you worked here, and heard how many customers had their phone, GPS, etc fall off their bike, we think you'd feel the same.)
The potential for the suction to become loose and disengage with all that road vibration is just too great. And there are better ways to get the shot you’re after.
Fixed Camera Mounts
A reviewer on WebBikeWorld noted: “In mounting a video camera on a motorcycle, the mount becomes very important and must have a wide range (degrees of freedom) of movement to compensate for the crazy angle at which the camera will be mounted. But after the camera is lined up, the mount must lock down solid to hold the camera steady.”
We noticed the same things as we experimented with taking video ourselves. In addition to the above, they were also terribly ugly and/or too shaky. In fact, vibration is the #1 problem cited by most riders (especially given the shape of our roads these days).
So we designed our own motorcycle camera mount. Thanks to our patented ‘third generation’ design, the Swivel-CAM motorcycle camera mount solves some key problems:
- Rotation: 360-rotation and Ultra-Swivel at top and bottom to give you a huge range of positioning and angle-ability
- Aesthetics: Ultra-slim rod gives it a streamlined look
- Heights: Available in different height options
- Universal: Works with any camera with tripod threading – even popular action cameras like the GoPro
- Vibration: Anti-vibration features are built in
Does it really work? Check out the video below, taken with our GoPro and the Swivel-CAM motorcycle camera mount!
- Tracey Cramer
Shooting Video While Riding a Motorcycle
Many riders have discovered the possibility of re-living their grand "adventure vacations" through video. The problem is, after a minute or two, an unchanging view from the saddle becomes… well… boring. If you want to make your video as exciting as your motorcycle ride, here are some things to consider. Your answers to these questions can also help you decide what equipment to get.
What and Where
What – specifically - do you want to video? Will it be mostly scenery alongside the road? I’ve pointed my camera to the roadside to catch onlookers during the Patriot Ride and action along Main Street in Sturgis.
Maybe you want to video your buddies either ahead of you (I’ve got some cool footage of a long snake of bikes through a big curve) or behind you.
The answers to these questions lead us to the next set of questions: what angle do you intend to shoot from?
- Mainly straight ahead?
- Off to the side or beside you?
- Behind you?
Windshield: Through it or Around It?
There are pros and cons to both. Shooting through a windshield cuts down on wind noise immensely (a video is barely tolerable with that kind of wind noise). If you’re going to edit your video you can drop out wind noise. A disadvantage of shooting through the windshield is that you may get reflection from the sun on the curve of the shield.
If you want to shoot around bikes with fairings or large windshields, you’ll need to look for a longer-reaching mount or one that attaches away from the center of the motorcycle (such as the Swivel-CAM).
Watch for a future post on the different styles of motorcycle camera mounts!
- Tracey Cramer
Four Tips for Choosing a Video Camera for your Motorcycle
In other posts, we've talked about things to consider before you shoot video, and compared different styles of camera mounts.
Now let's talk about the camera. We’re not going to try to recommend a camera; we’re simply not experts in this field and they change too quickly anyway. But here’s what we’ve learned in 6+ years of shooting video while riding a motorcycle.
- Quality matters. Cheaper cameras will be susceptible to every vibration, and - let's face it - you can't eliminate vibration entirely when you're on a motorcycle (even if you're using the best Motorcycle Camera Mount on the planet). So get a quality camera. Depending on how you're mounting it, the size and weight of the camera matter as well; generally, the smaller/lighter, the better.
- Learn how to use your camera. Make sure you know when it is and is not recording. (On some cameras it's hard to tell, especially if it's a HelmetCam stuck to your head where you can't see it. I once lost a key sequence because I thought the low-battery light meant the camera was recording.)
- Practice. Pick a time when traffic is light on your favorite short twisty road. If you can get a friend to help, all the better - you'll find you can use the extra help. Don't be surprised if it takes an entire afternoon to get comfortable with all your motorcycle video taking options.
- Speaking of the ROAD ... The quality of your video (or photos) is directly proportional to the quality of the road. If you're on a road that looks like this one (like most of the roads near our home!), getting good video is a challenge no matter what kind of camera or mount you choose (but starting with the Swivel-CAM Motorcycle Camera Mount is a good bet)!
- Tracey Cramer
The Secret to Enjoying Cold Weather Rides
I saw a motorcyclist out riding this weekend. It was 42 degrees at the time.
It made me think about riding. More specifically, it made me think about riding in cold weather. Doing so can be less than enjoyable if you're not prepared. So what is the secret to enjoying cool weather rides?
Controlling wind chill!
When it's 40 degrees F and you're riding at 60mph (with no wind), the effective temp is only 25 degrees Fahrenheit (danger of frostbite in 30 minutes!). Check out the chart below showing just how much wind affects the ambient temperature.
Bundle up all you want, but if you can't get the wind off you, it's not a fun ride. Bundling up also makes it hard to operate the controls and isn't really all that effective if the wind is still getting through key spots on your body.
There is so much to say about this topic that we’ve broken it into several parts. In this post we’ll get started – from the top down (that would be your noggin for you southerners)…
In cold weather, there’s no way to get around the most common-sense item: a full-face helmet. You can keep your half-helmet or 'beanie' helmet for warmer weather, but make the investment in a full-face helmet if you expect to ride in cold or wet weather. Our advice: get one with good venting.
For those who argue that their full-face helmet fogs up in the rain or cold, we have a solution for that (and it's less than $20): get yourself an Anti-Fog insert. Problem solved.
Yep, this deserves its own category. Because when it gets down into the 40’s and you're going 70 mph, you don't want ANY skin showing. A neck warmer or balaclava is just the ticket. It will also keep rain water from sneaking down your neck. Simple but effective!
- Tracey Cramer
Giving a Gift They'll Love: 4 Questions to Ask When You're NOT the Biker
Getting a gift for a biker isn't easy. Bikers can be choosy. They're after a certain "look." And they may already have accessories on their bike.
And if you're not close to them (or perhaps not as familiar with motorcycles in general), it can be hard to know what to buy them.
We have a few tricks to help with that!
Every biker likes to talk about their ride (some ad nauseum, but that's another story). So engage them in conversation, but sprinkle in questions like:
- “What model Yamaha [Harley, etc] do you have? Why did you get that one?”
- “What kinds of accessories do you have on your motorcycle?”
- “Do you take long trips? Do you use a phone or GPS?”
- “What is your favorite ‘comfort item’ when you ride?" or "What do you WISH you had to make your ride more comfortable?”
Be prepared; this conversation can take awhile and go off in unexpected tangents (“I remember the time I got lost in the Serengeti...”).
The up side? You'll get a lot of information you can use to your advantage. For example, you might find out they have a GPS but no good way to mount it (we do that!). Or that they get cold or hate it when they run into rain on their trips (Desert Dawgs anyone?)
And just so you know, our return policy is extremely liberal. If you buy a gift from us and you (or they) want to return or exchange it, we don't give you hassle. That's the advantage of dealing with a small family-owned business!
To get you started (and heck, just for pure entertainment), here's a YouTube playlist of gift idea videos featuring Leader employees (and our kids!).
- Tracey Cramer
How to Keep your Hands & Fingers Warmer
They’re hangin’ out there with no protection from the windshield or fairing. Yep: your hands (and by extension, your fingers). So what’s a rider to do?
Today’s riding gloves are way better than I remember them being twenty years ago (actually I've been riding longer than that but who's counting?). Still, there are drawbacks. The biggest one (in my opinion): Gloves add bulk, which can make it more difficult to grip and definitely more difficult to shift gears.
In the past I’ve had heated grips on my motorcycle. Let me tell you, that was heavenly. But it’s not a perfect solution:
- Wiring them through the handlebar was a P-A-I-N.
- They don't protect from rain.
- I can’t prove this, but I’m convinced they drain the battery faster
Until recently, there were only a few products available that attempted to deal with wind chill on the hands, but they simply didn't work well. We know - we tried them and were disappointed.
What you need is basically a "fairing" for each hand that allows you to adjust the area of protection for each hand. The ATV and dirt bike market figured this out long ago and I can’t figure out why the cruiser market hasn’t embraced this concept!
One of the better ones we've found is the WingShields by Brukus, which are made of a tough polycarbonate that makes them extremely difficult to break, yet light (and clear, which we like). You clamp them to the handlebar or mirror stem and align the curved shield ahead of your hands.
With a few extras like these on our bikes, we've been able to extend our riding season - and start earlier in the spring!
- Tracey Cramer