Aldi bike cam light

August 14, 2019 at 21:52 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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As you may remember, a while ago my Cycliq rear camera light died on the operating table. Cycliq offered me a 15% discount on a new one, which was sort of nice and sort of not very generous too. Anyway, serendipitously, the very next week Aldi were offering integrated rear light bike cameras for just $69. So I bought one.

It’s clear that someone took a Fly6 to China, and asked a factory there to make something similar but at a very low price. It takes a lot of its design cues from the Fly6, although it’s a lot bigger overall. It has IPX4 waterproofing (which is less than the Fly6, but adequate for most purposes), similar arrangements of buttons and slot covers, and some similar features.

First up, it’s somewhat bulky and heavy. I don’t really care, but if you like your bike to look sleek and / or worry about weight, this is not for you. It uses a rubber bungee things to attach to the bike, and this is actually pretty good – one of the better designs of such things. Better, in fact, than the original Fly6 clip.

It can take a maximum 32GB microSD card, and records in 1080p, 30fps. The video files are broken up into 10 minute pieces, and you can fit about seven hours of footage on a 32GB card.

The light is quite bright, and has steady and two flashing modes, but it’s not spectacular. You can turn the light on and off independently of the camera; there are separate switches for the two functions. A dim green LED lights up to show the camera is operating. The camera automatically overwrites the oldest footage on the card as it goes, so there’s no need to manually delete files on the card.

The battery lasts for about 3 hours, some way short of the claimed 5-6 hours. When the battery gets low, the camera turns off and it bleeps, but the light stays on for a while longer. The manual claims it stays on for 1-2 hours, but it doesn’t; you get about 30 minutes of light before the battery goes completely dead.

There is no function that turns off the camera if you are in a crash, but the recommendation is to put a big SD card in so the battery runs out before your crash footage is overwritten. With the supplied 8GB card, this could happen, but with a 32GB card you are safe – the card will not fill up on a single battery charge.

The quality of the video is just OK. Less good than my 2nd gen Fly6 (which was only 720p), and I’m sure nowhere near the latest Cycliq cameras. There is no stabilisation or other tricks. As is often the case with these cams, the audio is as good as useless. Night time performance is pretty terrible; there’s note much chance you will be able to make out a number plate on footage taken when it’s not daytime. Also the lens seemed to get scratched very easily; it obviously gets dirt on it from it’s position above the wheel, and wiping it away has scratched the lens a lot in a short amount of time.

Here’s some samples of video:

Daytime – road

Dusk – off-road

Dark – Road

One thing you will notice is that the red flashing light leaks into the video, especially at night. That doesn’t bother me, but if you are hoping to capture epic footage for your cycling film, it’s probably not for you. Actually, if you want good video quality, it’s probably not for you. But if you just want a basic cam to record the daily goings on on your ride, it works quite adequately. My Fly6 lasted four years, so at a quarter the cost I will be quids in if it lasts more than twelve months.

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New Camera – Shimano CM-2000

June 27, 2018 at 21:40 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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A few months ago, the Shimano camera I have facing forward on my bike fell off. The clip isn’t all that great, and I apparently hadn’t secured it properly. After pinging across the road, it still worked – but the lens was cracked. A new lens cost $40, so I didn’t buy one; after all the camera came with a spare one (of a different shape for using under water) which I thought would be fine. Except that I couldn’t find it anywhere. And then it seems what remaining stocks of spare lenses that might have been around evaporated, and were no longer available anywhere.

The great thing about Shimano bike cameras though is that they are absolutely awful. Not the actual camera bit;  the physical design (apart perhaps for the clip) and the video quality is fine. No, rather all the other bits are awful. They WiFi connection is flaky as. The battery life is ordinary. The app is a disaster. The promised video editing software to overlay your data has never made an appearance. This means that, when launched, they retail at $500 but after a while are available for a song as no-one wants to buy them.

And it seems Shimano made a version 2 bike cam, and this too is awful, and is now also available for a song. A $149 song, in fact – which is not a bad price for a high-quality HD waterproof camera, even if none of the other features work. So I bought one. Although they still don’t include a handlebar mount, I was able it improvise a stem mount from the helmet mount and some cable ties.

It’s definitely better than version 1 – especially in low light. But the clip is exactly the same. And on the third outing with the new camera, it too pinged across the road after going over a bump. Luckily, the lens was not broken (the design means it’s a bit less vulnerable than version 1), and it still works…

Shimano Sports Camera CM-1000

July 19, 2016 at 14:32 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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CM1000As you may have noted elsewhere in my blog, I have another camera in my bike arsenal. I’d been thinking about a front-facing camera as a counterpart to my Fly6 on the rear, and had seen the CM-1000 a few times. It looked quite good – the main attractions being it is waterproof without needing a housing, and quite low-profile. The RRP seemed to be around the $460 mark though, which seemed quite a lot, given that’s about the price of the Fly12 (the front light / camera combo from Cycliq). It also didn’t seem to have that important feature of the Fly range – the ability to automatically overwrite old files, meaning you don’t need to faff around deleting thigns to make space on the memory card.

Then I spotted it online from an Australian retailer for about $160. This was too good an opportunity to pass up, although it did cross my mind that if it was being discounted that heavily, perhaps it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be…

cm1000 on barsThe camera itself looks smart enough, but shortly after getting it out of the box I discovered the first problem. It doesn’t come with a handlebar mount. This is a camera specifically for cycling made by the worlds largest bike component manufacturer. And they don’t give you a clip to mount if on your handlebars. Unbelievable. The mounting is a GoPro style one, so there are plenty of mounts available, but it’s a strange omission – which meant I couldn’t actually use the camera until I bought a mounting for it.

The camera can record at a range of resolutions, angles and frame rates, which are set via a phone app. You connect the camera to your phone via wifi, and can control the various settings, as well as downloading or deleting files and using the phone screen as a viewfinder. This should be good, but unfortunately the connectivity is extremely flaky. It just rarely successfully connects to the phone. And since I upgraded my phone to the latest version of Android, it has never worked. The only way I can now adjust the settings is to us an old android tablet I have, which seems to connect somewhat more successfully. The Google Play store is full of one-star reviews complaining about this, so it’s not just me. I’m not sure if it connects to iDevices more successfully, but for all intents and purposes the app is useless.

This means the camera really can only be used as a basic camera – you can start and stop recording, and then pull the memory card out to copy and delete the videos. Bad luck if your memory card fills up during your ride – you can only delete files with the app, but it doesn’t work, especially when you need it to.

Having said all that, the video quality is good. It records in full HD, and can also record at high frame rates (up to 120fps) if you want to do fancy slo-mo shots. (Although good luck getting the app to work to change these settings…). It has a wide-angle lens, and the setting include a very wide angle mode which captures a lot of your surroundings, if somewhat ‘fisheye’. The sound, however, is terrible. These types of cameras rarely have good sound, mostly picking up wind noise. However, the CM-1000 is a slightly loose fit in the mounting (the original part, not the bit I had to buy) – which means you not only get wind noise, you get a loud rattling sound over all your videos.

Here’s a sample video, taken with the camera pointing backwards on the bars. Note the car who overtakes closer than the legal one metre!

video
(not sure what went wrong with the YouTube upload there – looks very grainy. The original is way clearer.)

What else? Oh yes, the battery life is not very good. I don’y get much more than 90 minutes of recording from a fully charged battery. So I have to charge it up every day in order to record my 45 minute each-way commute.

Apparently you can connect an ANT+ sensor to it, so it can record other data along with the video, such as speed or cadence. I haven’t tried this, but apparently all this does is create a text file of data sampled every second or so whilst the camera is running. When the product was launched some years ago, Shimano promised a video editing app that would then overlay this data back onto the video, but it never eventuated. Given the last firmware update was now almost a year ago, and the current firmware clearly isn’t perfect, I wouldn’t hold your breath that the video app will ever appear. I sense Shimano are no longer actively supporting this product.

So all in all, it’s not a great product. The video quality is good, and it’s nice that it’s waterproof. But everything else is hopeless. For $160, I’m quite happy with it. Had I paid over $400 for it, I’d have been sending it back.

 

From ‘d!ckhead’ to ‘Sir’ in the blink of a camera…

June 4, 2016 at 15:57 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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patrolThe other evening I was riding home from work when I happened to ride past a Highway Patrol car. Usually they just ignore me, but on this occasion, the officer evidently felt the need to share his opinion of me. Leaning out of the window, bogan-style, he yelled across to me.

‘Where’s your helmet, dickhead?’

The default approach for the NSW police is, in my experience, to be rude and aggressive. With the notable (and honourable) exception of the velocops, my interactions with highway patrol officers has rarely been pleasant. However, this was the first time I had ever had a police officer shout outright abuse at me.

I stopped, and a conversation ensued, where I pointed out I was unable to wear a helmet for medical reasons. He continued in the same aggressive tone, ‘Yeah? Yeah? You gonna tell me what it is? What’s wrong with you?’.

barcamThen, suddenly, he clocked something. I have a camera mounted on my handlebars. And it was pointing in his direction. Suddenly his tone changed. No, he didn’t need to actually see my medical certificate. He was just concerned for my safety. ‘Ride carefully, sir’, he implored me, before pulling away.

I run cameras partly for fun, partly in case a driver does something dangerous around me, so I have evidence.

But it seems they are also necessary protection against aggressive policing.

Fly6 rear bike camera review

August 21, 2015 at 16:17 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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fly6boxAs will have been apparent to regular readers, a little while ago I kitted myself out with a rear-facing camera – the Fly6.

This has already been the subject of numerous reviews – not I’m not going to let that stop me offering my own opinions! What attracted me to it was that is is uncompromisingly designed for cycling – this is not an ‘action camera’ that also works for cycling, but was designed from the ground up for putting on the back of a bike.

To that end, it has an integrated rear light (with the usual flashing and steady modes), the necessary fixings for a seatpost and is waterproof. This last point is crucial – a fair weather camera is no good to me, and given it’s position above the rear wheel it’s going to get pretty drenched in the rain.

The other thing I liked about it is that is records video on a loop, automatically deleting the oldest footage once the memory card is full. This means you never have to worry about having to delete old files, or it stopping recording because the memory is full. As far as I know this is the only such camera that has this small but exceptionally useful feature. It records in 10 minute segments, each recorded as a different file, which does mean if you want to make an epic movie of your ride you will need to stitch them all back together in a video editor. It also means it’s much easier to locate the footage of a particular bit of your ride, and the file sizes remain manageable, which I think is on balance more helpful.

It has a an integrated rechargeable battery that is good for about 5 hours of recording, and good for several more hours of just lights after that – claims that seems about right from my general use. Hence you don’t need to be recharging it too often – twice a week is fine for me. The various bleeps and flashes when you turn it on tell you the current battery level, and are clear and easy to understand. Once the battery is getting low the recording stops, but the light remains working for several hours – another bonus, and much better than my other rechargeable lights, which have a habit of dying mid-ride.

It comes packed in a lovely box with every accessory you could imagine – shims for different seatpost angles and also for aero posts (for those hardcore time triallers out there). There are two clips, so you can have a clip on a couple of bikes, a charging / data cable and a 2GB memory card (enough for about 1.5 hours of recording). There are also a bunch of stickers, and a small manual to get started (the full manual is available as an online download).

fly6 cameraThe video quality is I think good. It’s up there with the lower-end action cameras  – it records at 720P, which for some purists is not good enough, but it’s plenty OK for most purposes. Details are crisp, number plates are easy to read. You can see some footage here, but there’s plenty more around on the web. In the dark obviously things are a bit less successful, but by no means useless; on a street with good streetlighting you can still make out most of the details. If it is very dark, then things do just become a blur of points of light, but I guess for a sub-$200 camera that’s asking a lot. The sound is OK – it’s never going to be that good on such a small device, but it is better that I expected, without too much wind noise. It will pick up intelligible speech in the vicinity, providing there isn’t any background noise – so essentially sound recording works if you are stopped (if you are moving, then it’s unlikely you’ll hear anything over the wind / tyre / traffic noise).

Since I’ve had it, I’ve used the footage once to go to the cops to report someone for poor driving, and taken many many hours of entirely boring footage of me cycling to work. It’s been drenched by heavy rain, with no problems at all, and the battery life holds up well.

fly6 on bikeSo it everything unrelentingly positive, then? Well, there are a few niggles. The clip design is not the best. As I mentioned, it comes with two clips. I mounted it into one of the clips to fit to the bike – and it was immediately clear that it is very unwilling to come out of that clip. I’ve been at it with some tools, lubricated it with oil, hauled at it – but it took a lot of effort to get it out. (top tip – do it with the clip mounted on the bike). It’s also impossible to get out without some sort of tool such as a small screwdriver (or the tip of a key), as you can’t push back the tab on the clip with your finger whilst pulling the unit out of the clip. All this means that half the time I just use the rubber straps to take it on and off (which is easy to do in any case), but it does mean the little rubber shim can get lost (if has a sticky pad to hold it to the clip, but repeated taking it on and off loosens this quite quickly).

I also had a bunch of problems connecting it to my PC. When I got it, I connected it, and it appeared as a drive, and I was able to set the time and date and so on. But then, a few days later, it stopped connecting. My PC then started reporting ‘USB driver failed to load’ when I plugged it in. I tried it on several PCs, and got the same result each time. Reading the Fly6 forums, this is not an uncommon issue.  Since then I have upgraded the firmware on the device (which entailed using a different PC it apparently would connect to) which seems to have helped, as it now connects to my home PC. My work PC still won’t connect though (although it did once, but never again, so I don’t think it’s a permissions thing). Not a major drama as I can just remove the memory card to get the footage, but it’s a bit frustrating.

Those gripes notwithstanding, I am very happy with my purchase. It does what I need it to to do with a minimum of fuss, is low-profile and discreet and is easy to use.

Apparently there is a Fly12 front camera in the offing. Something to consider….!

Tailgating motorist

July 20, 2015 at 22:32 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Almost a year to the day since this incident, I today experienced another rather unpleasant situation on the roads. I wasn’t hit, but was somewhat spooked. I was riding up Burns Bay Road this morning – traffic was moderate, although had bunched up a bit around me because of a red traffic light half-way up the hill.

video

Then I heard a car behind me start on the horn. Then it got closer and closer. And sounded the horn again. And then got really close, the driver gesticulating for me to move over.

Move over to where, I’m not exactly sure, as there was no way she was going to get past without going into the other lane. More the the point, I wasn’t going to head into the gutter so she could try and squeeze by anyway.

It’s a little hard to judge, but I reckon she was around 50cm off my back wheel at the closest. I could hear the engine right behind me, and honestly thought at one point she was going to clip my back wheel. Which, of course, would not have been pleasant. As in ‘serious injury’ not pleasant.

Once she finally got past (having been behind me for all of twenty seconds – apparently my safety is less important than those 20 seconds of here oh-so-valuable life), she called out through the window:

           ‘Move over. You’re going to get killed!’.

The irony of this statement is, of course, stark. I laughed out loud at this, in part from relief that she was no longer behind me, but also as I thought of what she actually meant:

           ‘I’m a bad driver. I might kill you!’

As the eagle eyed of you will have spotted, I do have footage of this incident. Yes, I have joined the legion of cam-toting cyclists, and not that long after the last incident equipped myself with a rear-facing camera – a Cycliq Fly6. I will do a review of it in due course – I’d meant to do it a while back, but not got around to it.

After reviewing the footage once I got to work, I took myself off to the local police station to report the incident. As I could see it, there were three possible offenses being committed – driving too close to the vehicle in front, incorrect use of the horn and aggressive driving.

I showed the footage to the Constable on duty, and whilst sympathetic and interested, initially he told me there was nothing he could do. I held my ground, and asked to speak to his superior, and after some discussion it was agreed that I could make a report. The key in all of this was agreeing that I was prepared to go to court; once this was established it all became much easier.

Was there a bit of fobbing me off initially? Perhaps, but I have to say once we were over that, the police could not have been more polite and helpful. I made my statement, he took the footage, and promised to call me back with more information.

True to his word, he called me later that day. He had spoken to the motorist, who initially had been dismissive and aggressive, but once was told that there was video footage suddenly became rather more cooperative and contrite.

He had also asked the traffic division to look at the footage, to see what the best course of action would be with regards to charges. Here things were a little less successful. ‘Misuse of the horn’ was virtually impossible to get past a magistrate, in their opinion. Tailgating was a possibility, but the difficulty would be in proving just how close she got. We were travelling fairly slowly, and the prosecution would need to prove that she was so close to me that at those speeds she would have been unable to stop if needed. This they thought was tricky, as establishing exactly how close she was, and how fast I was travelling, was very hard to do from the footage – certainly it was unlikely to be solid enough to convince a magistrate (reasonable doubt and all that). Interestingly he said that had my rear wheel been in the shot, it would have helped tremendously – both to give perspective on the distance, and also to see the wheel rotation to measure speed. So there’s something to bear in mind – angling the camera down to take in the top of the rear wheel and the road behind you is a worth considering if you want the footage to stand up to court scrutiny.

He was looking into predatory driving, but this was usually reserved for more serious offenses where people were actually injured. Again, he felt this would be tricky, as I would have to have felt like I was in mortal danger. Did I feel that? Well, a bit I suppose, but certainly nothing like  I felt in the seconds before I was actually hit last time. He was still looking into this, but felt it was a long shot, and again unlikely to get up before a magistrate.

So all in all, it’s unlikely that this will go any further. But in another way, I got the result I wanted. The driver got a somewhat confronting call from the police, and had to acknowledge her driving was far from perfect. Hopefully she’ll think a little harder next time.

It was also an interesting exercise to understand how the police work on these types of matters. I felt the police were diligent and helpful, and explained to me clearly the problems they foresaw in proving the case in court – which ultimately is what dictates their actions on what, if any, charges to lay. So top marks to Constable Taylor of Chatswood Police station.

That it should be so hard to get any offense proven is I suppose an indictment of the way the system works, but also helps to clarify where the problem lies. Yes, I know some cyclists have had issues with police being uninterested in incidents of dangerous driving, but I suspect it’s actually more about the overall court system – which in turn is a reflection of our societal biases. Ultimately the police want convictions, and if the courts were more sympathetic to cyclists, the police would be putting more cases forward. That will happen as our overall society becomes more accepting of cycling as a legitimate form of transport that deserves protection against poor driving. Which will happen . . . .  eventually. Perhaps?

Anyway, here’s a few top tips if you run a camera and need to report something to the police:

  •  Angle the camera such that your wheel is visible in the shot. Helps to establish distances and speeds. Telemetry from a speed sensor is also great.
  • When you go in to make a statement, be clear that you are prepared to go to court (if course, to do actually need to be prepared to go…!)
  • When you make your statement, ensure you cover how scared / vulnerable / in danger you felt. Don’t ham it up, but don’t play it down.
  • If necessary, be somewhat persistent. But always be polite and respectful.

Videoing my ride

September 17, 2013 at 21:03 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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I’d been toying with the question camerafor a while – it’s something that is a growing trend amongst cyclists, as evidenced by the endless youtube footage if cars carving up cyclists. Should I get a camera for my bike? The main motivation for attaching a camera to one’s bike seems to be in order to capture bad driver behaviour and, if the worst comes to the worst, to use as evidence. I don’t suffer much from bad drivers, but I was vaguely curious try out a camera.

So I bought one on eBay – a very very cheap one. $20 from China, complete with handlebar clamp and integrated headlight. What’s not to like? Well, the video quality, obviously, but I thought I give it a go before splashing out on something expensive.

So here, ladies and gentlemen, is an entirely uninteresting ten minutes of my commute – it’s the section through Sydney’s CBD on the green bike lanes. Probably the only interesting thing is the cycle cops on duty at Pyrmont Bridge (I spot them and push my bike through that section – it’s about three mins in), merrily giving out tickets to riders without helmets or those who ride through the red bicycle light at that spot (a bicycle light which, due to a wholly inadequate sensor, rarely turns green) whilst ignoring all those scofflaw pedestrians doing exactly the same thing.

copvideo

Oh, you’ll also see me ignoring a whole load of similarly useless bicycle traffic signals that give cars priority (any signal that only gives cyclists four seconds of green per phase is just asking to be ignored, IMO), whilst paying closer attention to those where pedestrians might be crossing. The other strange thing is the camera perspective – it seems to be quite a narrow angle, which gives the impression I am much closer to things than is really the case. At 7.15, for example, you’d think the guy on my right was seriously invading my personal space – it looks like his elbow is right in my face. But actually he was probably two metres in front of me.

I would probably use the camera more, but the battery is pretty hopeless (it only just lasts out for my thirty minute commute), and, more to the point, after I’d had it about a week I dropped it onto my concrete garage floor. It now rattles a lot, and whilst the pretty lights all flash away merrily it no longer appears to actually record any video. Oh well. It was an interesting experiment, but not interesting enough to make me want to splash out on a more expensive camera. Or not until I’ve carpeted the garage, at least.

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