Thanks to YouTube and the masterful technology of GoPro cameras helmet cams continue to flood the internet with at worst, mundane rides through the countryside, and at best, crashes that make the viewer sitting safely in their chair at home wince.
Attaching a GoPro or other action camera to your dirt bike or ATV helmet and capturing a winding spin between trees or what it's like to blaze through some whoops is pretty much the norm these days when it comes to riding two- or four-wheelers. Heck, we should know. We post helmet cams from amateurs and pros at least once a week which prove to be some of our most popular content.
The value of mounting a camera to your helmet, handlebars or even your chest is primarily for entertainment value especially when it comes to the weekend warrior. However, many riders especially those looking for a possible racing career can learn much from watching themselves ride. It's hard to absorb the moment to correct mistakes when riding along at 50 mph but the opportunity to watch your point of view later along with pause and slow motion can be an important training tool.
However, whether you simply want to show Mom and Dad or use a camera system as a piece of the puzzle to land on the podium, it's a bit more involved than simply affixing a camera to your helmet and hitting the "On" button. First, you need to get a camera.
Best Action Cameras
Hands down the GoPro is the best money can buy. Every year the company seems to outdo themselves and produce an even better mountable camera with all sorts of bells and whistles. The HERO7 line is the latest and greatest achievement as well as the most compact and least expensive. The HERO7 Silver and Black editions up the ante in price and features so do your research, find a budget and go from there.
Though GoPro is widely considered the best their competition is stiffening especially with Sony's Action Cam.Garmin and also manufacture modestly priced mountable cameras that get the job done.
Where to Mount the Camera
Once you've decided on a helmet camera now comes the most important part to operating one. Where to mount it. Many schools of thought exist, and similar to any riding accessory, what suits you best might not suit another. Therefore, try several areas but to get you started we'll provide some tips. The helmet used can also determine where mounting a camera is available because of the location of air vents.
This Troy Lee SE3 helmet actually prevents a top-center mount because of an air-vent so the camera is located on the more ideal forward position spot
Mounting on the top-center of your dirt bike helmet, though common, is actually not the best spot, we've learned. It tends to make the actual riding speed look slower and the surrounding terrain flat. If you've watched any riding videos you'll also notice the top-center mount tends to grab too much of the visor, as well. You can still learn from it but as far as getting across on-screen the excitement of the actual ride, you might be disappointed.
Side Mount View
Therefore, mount the camera either on the side of your helmet or on the front by inching the camera forward just behind the visor or on the mouth guard. Some riders even attach a camera under the helmet visor though this area can be tricky depending on the size of the visor, the camera and mounting system. Plus it can be distracting but if it works for you then it's a viable spot.
Visor Mount View
A handlebar mount is also a good POV but you won't capture the controls. Therefore, if you're using a mounted camera system for training purposes you can't watch how you react using the clutch, throttle and brake under certain circumstances and conditions.
Finally, a chest mount is becoming more popular with riders as it puts the viewer in the driver's seat, so to speak. The only issue with this method is wearing a harness is one more piece of equipment and a get-off that puts you face first might not harm the camera but could certainly imprint the outline of it in your chest. A chest protector can help but you'll still feel the impact of the camera in a bad crash.
Angle the Camera Correctly
Once you've mounted the camera it's imperative you've angled the lens correctly or you'll just have an hour's worth of the sky or the ground. So give it a test run before you head off into the woods or race around the track. Secondly, if you crash this is where most riders forget to check the camera is still in place. (That's where a chest mount has an advantage.) Of course, if you're in a race, forget the camera position and hope it's still recording your ride otherwise take a minute to double check the lens angle.
Additionally, record with as little options switched on as possible. The more features you enable the shorter the battery and memory life. For example, some cameras record in 4k but unless you have a television that displays in 4k there's no reason to use this feature. At any rate, like the first time you rolled the throttle it probably didn't go as planned so practice until you figure out the right setting and best placement.
If you're new to the action camera craze then you might wonder what the resulting video looks like. After all, riding dirt bikes isn't exactly a smooth stroll down a paved highway. Fear not. That's how GoPro made a name for itself. The good action cameras use image processing technology featuring high resolution and high frame rate video that ensures crisp footage and something far too complex to discuss here. Trust us, it works. With this in mind, make sure you choose a camera that boasts this technology or don't bother with recording your ride.
Action cameras are designed to withstand extreme conditions and environments including crashes. Most come with protective housing units for durability and waterproofing. You can also buy aftermarket housing units for even more protection.
Have fun and upload your crashes, I mean, awesome ride through the whoops so we can all see it.