Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Rough Guide to Camera Mounts for Motorbikes

In order to write this guide, I based it upon my experience of mounting a GoPro camera to my motorbikes. Whilst I have written specifically about mounting this make of camera, I have tried to keep it as generic as possible so that it could apply to almost any camera on any motorbike. I hope you find it useful.

The guide is quite long. You could go get a drink before reading it and then settle down comfortably to read it, or you could scroll down quickly mainly looking at the pictures, or you could go down to near the bottom, to see what I recommend!



















I adore my GoPro camera. It is small, very flexible, not too expensive, has great sound (no wind noise on a bike) and most of all, produces fantastic quality videos. I cannot speak highly enough of it. But, I soon realised that how you mount a camera to your motorbike is very important to the end result quality of your videos. I have tried a number of different methods with varying success, so I thought I would pass on what I have learnt.

For those of you contemplating the purchase of a GoPro camera, or indeed and camera to use on your motorbike, or for those that have realised the standard mounts that come with a GoPro camera are not very good, I present the “Rough Guide to Camera Mounts for Motorbikes”.

Not that I am an expert, neither have I tried every possible mounting system, but I have tried a few and I now realise how to tell the good, the bad and the ugly apart. Having now tried mounts that range in price from the really cheap to the expensive, I now have a definite favourite mount and there are some I will continue to use and others that are consigned to the “no way” box in my garage.

I have written here about all of the mounts I have tried and having read what others have said about different mounts they have tried, I have been able to give a score to each of the different mounts. At the end of this post, I have included my scoring sheet which presents my views numerically. With a maximum number of points of 35 being available, I have assessed each mount under the 7 categories of....

Ease of Mounting - how quick and easy is it to fix the mount to a motorbike?
Flexibility – can you use the mount in different ways?
Rigidity / Safety – how well is the mount fixed and is it safe?
Build Quality – is it well made and will it last?
Street Cred- it is fixed to your pride and joy, so does it look good?
Cost – is it cheap or expensive and is it good value for money?
End Results – how good are the end results of your video affected by the mount?

Saving the best until last, here are my views, starting with the worst.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Rather surprisingly, for a company that makes fantastic cameras, GoPro’s own handlebar mounts come in last with just 17 points. These are very well made and are very easy to mount to either handlebars or crash bars on a bike. They are very small and inconspicuous and therefore score highly on street cred, plus they are rigid in the way they are fixed. However, they can only be fixed at 90 degrees to your bars, with no sideways movement at all, which in most situations makes them totally useless on a motorbike! OK if you have straight bars, but if your bars are at any sort of an angle, they are no good at all.






GoPro’s own Handlebar mounts
















With swept back bars, the camera points sideways at an angle, with no way to adjust it.


















As there is no way to change the horizontal angle of the camera, the mount is useless and scores very badly because of this. In fact, this lack of flexibility is so bad, this issue alone relegates the standard GoPro handlebar mounts into last place. GoPro tell me they are going to make a fully adjustable mount, but until they do, I am afraid, they come last in my review.


------------------------------------------------------------------

In 6th place is something not for everybody. Given the lack of flexibility of the standard GoPro mounts, while I originally waited for a different solution to arrive in the post, I decided to make my own DIY mount. I went to a local photographic shop and bought the cheapest mini tripod I could find, chopped the legs off and screwed this to an un-used old sat nav clamp I had lying around. Using a GoPro tripod mount with a ¼ inch threaded hole, I was able to get this set-up to work on my handlebars.

It was very cheap and had good flexibily, but it moved in the wind if I went faster than about 40mph. It got me out of a fix while I waited for a new mount to arrive in the post, but even I admit, it wasn’t very good. People more able than me might be able to make a better job of it than I could, but there are much easier and better ways of mounting your camera!






My DIY mount. Don’t try this at home!


















------------------------------------------------------------------

In 5th place with 21 points is the GoPro suction mount. I have included this as you could mount any lightweight camera to it with the right ¼ inch tripod adaptor.

The best thing to say about this is it is really easy to mount and the suction cup is surprisingly secure, although you might want to consider using a way of tethering your camera to your bike in case it does come un-stuck. Clearly there are not many places you can mount this on a motorbike, but I tried the tank, the screen and even on the headlight, which on my bike has very smooth glass.

It works ok, but on a bike it looks cumbersome and downright ugly. One added benefit as bobscoot showed us on his blog is that it can also be mounted inside a car on the windscreen.

Here are pictures of the suction mount on my tank and headlight....





Suction mount on tank










Suction mount on the headlight













Mounting it on the headlight may seem a bit odd, but as my GoPro has a wide angle lens, I did like the results when looking backwards at the rider, because you can see the handlebars and it gives you a great idea of what the rider is doing as you can see their hands. Check out the view looking back from the headlight on this clip....




Overall, this suction mount doesn’t score very well because of the lack of flexibility, the potential for falling off and the poor street cred, however, used for short duration fill-in shots during a longer video, the results can be quite good.

------------------------------------------------------------------

The GoPro stick on mounts come in 4th with 22 points. Personally, I don’t like these, but they have a lot of good points, including the fact they are cheap, easy to use and the build quality is good.

























For me, the downsides are that I don’t like the constant changing view as the rider moves their head to check traffic, look in mirrors etc. I am also not keen that you have to stick the pads to your crash helmet! My last negative is that they are not at all flexible, because once stuck into place, they can only give one view from the helmet position. I can see however how some people like them and on his blog, RazorsEdge2112 is an example of this – he has posted some videos on his blog with a helmet mounted camera.

You can remove the camera leaving the sticky mount on the helmet, so people who ride (say) a motorbike and a bicycle could use the camera on two different helmets, with two sticky mounts.


------------------------------------------------------------------

We now come to the top three.

In 3rd place we have the RAM mounts with a U-bolt clamp. These scored very well with 24 points.






Chrome Ram Mount, with a U-bolt clamp fixing at the bottom, ¼ inch male thread ball connector and a GoPro tripod mount.














Here are some pictures of my camera mounted to my bike using this Ram mounts system.





Front view of the Ram mount on my handlebars

















Rear view of the Ram mount on my handlebars










Until very recently, this was my main method of fixing my camera to my bike. It is nice and simple, very flexible and very rigid. The main place it is fixed is on the handlebars using the U-bolt as a wrap around fixing. The quality is very good and the parts are not very expensive. They are readily available via the internet. Numerous angles can be achieved and adjusting the camera position – up, down, sideway, forwards and backwards is very easy – just undo the large wing nut, move the camera and do it up tight again. You have to be slightly careful that you don’t scratch your handlebars and I used some electrical tape to do this by wrapping it around the bars where I then mounted the u-bot fixing.

There are only two real drawbacks I can see. First, it can only really be mounted to the handlebars and second, it takes about 10 minutes to fix the mounting bracket and you need to do this with a spanner. Not a great problem but moving the mounting bracket to gain some flexibility for different shot positions is not really practical.

However, you can ride all day with this mounting system, secure in the knowledge that it isn’t going to work loose.


------------------------------------------------------------------

Coming in at second place is the Ram Mount with C-Clamp. This has been awarded 25 points out of 35, so it is scoring pretty high in most of the seven categories.

I haven’t actually used this clamp mount myself, but my Canadian friend bobscoot has. He wrote about it on his blog Wet Coast Scootin.






The Ram C Clamp mount













bobscoots GoPro camera mounted on his bike using the Ram C clamp











The main benefit of the clamp is its flexibility – it can be fixed to just about any tube or rail on your motorbike. Used in conjunction with the same type of mount bar and ¼ inch tripod mount (as in number 3 above) your camera can be fixed in many different positions and configurations on your bike. I have also given it a good score for cost, as these C clamp arrangements are not too expensive.

The downsides are it doesn’t score very high on street cred – it is not the best looking mount and it is also slightly bulky. Bob has told me the build quality is reasonable but it would have been better for the Ram C-clamp had finer threads and perhaps more rubber between the "claws" for better "gripping" action. Perhaps electrician's tape would make it hold a bit more secure. Because of the coarse threads and the small tightening knob, you can't get a lot of torque on the screw. It would be better if the knob was larger to get a more solid grip for more holding pressure. Bob found that even if you turned the knob very tightly, the whole clamp with the camera mounted would tend to "slip" out of position. Perhaps the electrian's tape would have solved the problem.

Good therefore, but not the best.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Finally and in 1st place is a system I have recently purchased and tested. It is a combination of a Cardellini clamp and a Manfrotto head. This arrangement scored a whopping 29 out of 35 in my review.

I found out about this mount on somebody’s blog (sorry but I cannot remember who’s blog it was) when I saw a piece of film made about the clamp. It is really technology from the movie industry that has been borrowed by some people with motorbikes to mount their cameras, and I have to say, it out-performs just about every other mounting system I have seen.








From bottom the top – a Cardellini mini clamp, a Manfrotto 118 spigot adaptor, a Manfrotto 482 Micro Ball head, a GoPro tripod mount and my GoPro camera















The assembled mount














So why does this mount get the top score? I have given it 5 out of 5 in 4 categories: Ease of mounting – you just tighten the screw thread by hand and it is fixed; Flexibility – you can put it just about anywhere on your bike as the photos below demonstrate; Build Quality – it is superbly made and already incorporates neoprene pads to protect whatever you are fixing it to; End Results – the wide range of places you can mount this clamp means your end results are simply the best achievable.

It also gets good marks for street cred – it looks like a professional bit of kit mounted on your bike. I have scored it 4 out of 5 for rigidity / safety only because it is possible to and therefore you might be tempted to, mount it in potential risky places, like too close to a wheel.

The only area that I marked it down on is the cost – it is considerably more expensive than the other types of mount, but in my opinion it is worth it. If you have spent a considerable amount on a camera, why wouldn’t you spend a bit more than the other options to get fantastic results?

I have included here pictures of some of the mounting options that I found on my red bike. Bearing in mind there are far fewer places to fix a camera mount on my red bike than most other bikes, I think you will agree the flexibility this mount gives is a considerable benefit.





Camera mounted on handlebars













Camera mounted on frame downtube





















Camera mounted on rear swinging arm














Camera mounted on rear number plate / rear license plate
















Camera mounted on swinging arm














The results of using the camera mounted in these various and very flexible ways are amazing. The video I made of riding through London last week (copied below) was filmed using this mounting system and I am very happy with the results.




In summary, the different methods of mounting a camera are many and varied. Different systems will be better for different people – I guess it really depends what you want from your video camera and how you want to use it.

Whichever system you use, I wish you all the best with it and may it help you to produce fine videos. For those that are interested, here is my scoring sheet and you will need to click on it to read it properly. I totally accept that other people might score each system differently to me!










If you have managed to read all the way down to here, congratulations!

28 comments:

Bleiglass said...

Very informative, thank you

bobskoot said...

Gary:

very comprehensive, informative review. I'm going to look closely at the RAM C-mount again and get some rubber from inner tubes to wrap around the bars which should make them more secure. I was just thinking of getting a few more U-bolts with RAM balls and mount them permanently in a few locations.

as for your bar mount, I think it would be more ergonomically pleasing if you got a RAM U-bolt and mount it upside down on your left side swept back bar. This would make it nearly invisible.

I really liked your video with all the differing POV's

bob
Wet Coast Scootin

682202 said...

Gary,

Great write-up. It shows there is some proof in that "you get what you pay for". The Cardellini clamp is now on my to get list. I frequent a local camera shop that caters to professionals, they have loads of grip equipment, but I have never seen a Cardellini clamp. So I suspect the cost issue is due to low production volume and high quality standards.

GAW

Gary France said...

Bleiglass – Thanks, I am glad it helped. How is the repair going on that new bike of yours?

Brother Bob – I tried the underslung option for the handlebars, but it wouldn’t have worked as the camera would have hit the tank. Ouch, I wouldn’t have liked that. I realise what you mean though – the mount / camera does look a bit odd sticking up like it does in the bars of my custom bike. My Road King will be back soon from the painters, so I am looking forward to finding neater solutions on that bike for my long tour.

Trying inner tubes sounds like a good idea.

682202 / GAW – Thanks. I tried so many different ways of getting this to work, it seemed a good idea to share what I had discovered. I too had never heard of a Cardellini clamp and I think it was so specialised for the movie industry that it seemed to have got stuck there, but I am glad it has made a break for freedom into what we do. I expect you are right about why it is expensive.

Canajun said...

Gary - Great review and lots to think about when my camera arrives. I already have a RAM mount setup so that will be where I start, but your number 1 configuration looks like the one to aspire to.
Thanks for putting this together for us.

Chris Luhman said...

Great post Gary. You did a good job with all of the options. You should include my PanaVise 809 too. It's far better than the GoPro suction because of the ball head. I will have to look for the Cardellini clamp. I am not fond of the RAM handlebar mount because of the wrench required to move it.

iansolley said...

you amaze me with your detail - but suffice to say I bought the number 1 with your advice!

Gary France said...

Canajun – Thanks. RAM mounts are very good and a great place to start, but you can get more interesting shots with the Cardellini clamp. We want to see many vids when you have your new camera!

Chris – I think we are on the same page when it comes to Ram mounts – good, but needing that wrench is just a little bit too inconvenient. A suction mount with a ball head would be a definite advantage over a regular straight suction mount, for sure.

Ian – Oh, I just love the detail, but it drives Mrs France crazy! I look forward to seeing the clamp on your bike in St Tropez!

Bleiglass said...

Ordered a Cardellini mini today from panavision.co.uk, at 35.67 + VAT.
Thanks again for the review.

Gary France said...

Bleiglass - That is where I ordered mine from. I hope you find it as good as I did.

mccolo said...

Wow. I'm amazed at the quality of the images. It's the camera that impresses me.

Gary France said...

mccolo - I agree, the camera produces excellent results.

Sojourner rides said...

Excellent review of mounts and your mounting experiences. I noticed that you didn't try out the GoPro harness mount--probably just as well. I think that it works well if you're tall! I'm not and found it to be frustrating as I only captured really nice images of my instrument panel!

I'm also curious about the mounting methods that extend the camera out of reach. I guess this is fine if you're unconcerned about recording time and are aiming to capture a whole trip. To get out of the city, I do a lot of riding in city, in congested traffic, which I won't want to capture often. So, I'd like to be able to reach the camera controls at all times and these out of reach locations would make that difficult--but it surely produces some interesting perspectives.

I'm going to try the helmet mount next to see if I like that one. Thanks again!

Again, thanks for this excellent information!

Gary France said...

Sojourner - I didn’t try the chest mount as on one of my bikes I have a tall screen and the view would have been through the screen all the time, so to me that seemed as if it wouldn’t give the best quality. I also like the idea of the mounting system to be very “fixed” so that the picture doesn’t move around as the rider moves – that is why I prefer not to use a helmet mount of chest mount.

I wouldn’t worry about putting the camera in a position that is out of reach, because I don’t think you will want to use the controls when you are on your bike. The reason for this is simple – one of the reasons the GoPro is so good is its small size, but that means the controls and screen are very small. You will find that when trying to turn the camera on / off when you are on the bike means that you hit the button to do this, but sometimes you don’t do it properly, because it is so fiddly. After a few failed attempts to turn it either on or off you will get into the habit of checking it (I now always check whether I have done this properly) and because the controls screen is on the front of the camera, you have to get off the bike to do this.

On a long ride, I therefore wait until I get to the area that I want to shoot and then stop and turn the camera on, then leave it on – it has a very long recording time, so this reallt isn’t a problem. Plus, it is far safer to turn it on and leave it on than to be constantly thinking about whether to it on or not.

My suggestion would be to get clear of the congested traffic, then stop and turn the camera on. Who wants to film traffic anyway?

Graham said...

Thanks Gary for such a detailed review of the various mounting options for the camera. I am certainly impressed with the Go Pro camera (is it the Hero HD model?) and will be adding that to my shopping list together with a Cardellini mini clamp. On my R66 trip I used a Bikecamera.com Super Clamp with stud and socket head. It was quite easy to set up (I mounted it on various parts of the bike) and even with my clumsy Canon MVX250i video camera mounted it seemed secure and produced good results.
See http://www.bikecameras.com/Mounting_Clamps.htm#SuperClampStudSocketHead
I envy you on your big ride USA. I did R66 in 2 weeks but a 4-5 month ride across the States seems a far better idea! Good luck.

D. Brent Miller said...

I also solved my mounting solutions with a clamp, but I use a Manfrotto Super Clamp which is made for attaching to bars in a photographic studio. Not terribly expensive, I mount it on my engine guards with a couple of accessories that includes a quick-release tripod mount and the GoPro Tripod Mount attached to the quick release. Very solid. I also use a RAM Mount on my handlebars--multiple use for GPS and the camera.

Gary France said...

Graham – You are very welcome. Yes, it is the Hero HD wide model. The Super Clamp looks good. R66 in 2 weeks must have been fun. I hear there is not much left of the original road though.

Brent – I too use RAM mounts sometimes, especially for my GPS. I took a quick look at your website and it looks interesting. I am going to take a longer look this evening. Thanks for taking a peek at my blog. Good luck with your GoPro camera!

Bren Maguire said...

Thanks for reassuring me on the mount. I found this clip on youtube a few days ago and have been trying to figure out exactly which mini clamp it is?
Also I'm in Dublin Ireland $100 for the clamp and head from filmtools.com sounds very reasonable for a nice bit of kit, but $125 to ship..ouch! So my search continues on this side of the pond for both bits to put my flip ultra HD on? Any help or tips or info greatly accecpted

Bren Maguire said...

forgot the link...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNIKmImbTFc

Gary France said...

Hi Bren,

The clamp in the video is a Cardellini mini clamp, but for some reason is seems slightly shorter than the versions I have. Maybe they slightly changed the spec, but don’t worry – the slightly longer version now available is probably better!

I didn’t get mine from Film Tools. I got mine from Panavision in London. It will be cheaper to get it shipped from there. Don’t forget you also need something like a Manfrotto 118 spigot adaptor, and a Manfrotto 482 Micro Ball head to connect your camera to the clamp.

Go to this website... http://www.panavision.co.uk/panastore/ type cardellini in the search box. A few items appear. You need the Cardellini mini clamp and the Manfrotto Micro Ball Head.

For the Manfrotto 118 spigot adapter to connect the Manfrotto Head to the clamp, this is where I bought mine.... http://www.morrisphoto.co.uk/manufacturer~categoryid~158~sub~Adapters+and+Studs~man~Manfrotto.html

You should find these suppliers and their shipping costs a lot cheaper. Good luck

Bren said...

Hi Gary,

excellent info and many thanks,hope you have a great trip and look forward to reading your blog,I'll get to cross the states someday too,just gotta get the lottery numbers lined up! :-)
There's a friend of mine doing a round the world trip at the minute on a GS1200,he's got some great pics and fottage along with side splitting humour.I'll include a link,well worth a look and read.
Keep the rubber side down..

http://backtobroke.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2010-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-08%3A00&updated-max=2011-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-08%3A00&max-results=40

This is a copy and paste link but his blog is "back to broke" enjoy

Gary France said...

Bren – you are very welcome. I had the idea for this sort of an adventure holiday many many years ago, so sometimes these things are a long time coming. I will take a look at the Back to Broke blog. Thanks for suggesting it.

Milwaukee Dan said...

Thanks for pointing me to this part of your blog Gary and thanks for all the research, very helpful.

Gary France said...

Dan - You are very welcome.

rajco said...

interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you
motorbikes

Chillertek said...

Gary thanks for the link to you post. I have found this very interesting. Altough the mounts you are using are for tubular frame unforunately I cannot use these on my machine YZF-R1. It looks like for the moment that the GoPro plastic stick on mounts will be my best option. It is also very hard to find a nice flat peice of fairing to stick it onto.

On my new GoPro I initially stuck the suction mount on to the tail piece facing rearwards, which worked ok but was a bit shakey for my liking. And also I don't like the camera sticking up there where I can't see if was still there or not.

I think I will stick with the stick on mounts for the moment until I can find something better.

Do you think that the camera needs a tether. I am thinking that it could come off pretty easily at 200+kmh speeds.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!! This is so very helpful! Thanks for replying tO my cmment on youtube and directing me to google to find this :) much appreciated! Happy Riding in the New Year! :)

Anonymous said...

Gary,

I know it's an old blog post but just wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences, it is very helpful

Knowledgeseeker