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Best cycling action cameras: capture your cycling adventures

Joseph Delves
29 Aug 2021

Never miss a trick when you're out on your bike with our pick of the best action cameras for cycling

Pics, or it didn’t happen! What’s the worth of your pro-level cornering skills and Sagan-Esque descending if nobody sees them? Action cameras that are petite enough to fasten to a handlebar or helmet and tough enough to survive thumps and downpours are the ideal solution for preserving your exploits.

Also able to take static pictures, action cams are as popular with wannabe sports film directors as with those just looking to capture some vacation memories.

They're useful away from the bike too, of course – plenty of people now use them instead of a traditional camera thanks to their sturdy construction and small size. We’ve rounded up a host of our favourites below. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list of what to look out for.

The best cycling action cameras

GoPro Hero 9 Black

Buy now from GoPro for £329

GoPro’s top-end Hero9 takes all the firm’s well-known features and couples them to a whopping great 23.6-megapixel sensor. Allowing the Hero9 to shoot astonishing 5K video, this is twice what you could manage with the Hero8. Presuming you don’t mind dealing with gigantic video files, this also now lets you pull high-resolution still pictures from your footage – meaning there’s less need to choose between moving and still image capture modes.

GoPro’s already class-leading HyperSmooth stabilisation has also been updated, making sure this footage is as attractive as possible. Considering it already produces footage so smooth you’d assume it had been created with the aid of an external gimbal, this is splendid news for cyclists who often suffer when attempting to film on bumpy surfaces. Looking at the camera itself, there’s also a new colour screen on the front for composing selfie-style shots.

Along with a modestly increased battery life, there’s now the option to add supplementary lenses, plus the existing array of accessories. Somewhat larger than previous models, the touch screen on the back has also expanded, although happily, the overall weight is about the same. The software features on the camera have also grown. In a somewhat postmodern twist, the Hero9 now allows you to set it up to capture a timelapse of the sunrise you’re too lazy to wake up for it.

Considering how bored your loved ones might otherwise be, the TimeWarp 3.0 mode, which lets you shift between timelapse and real-time, should help cyclists produce much more exciting records of their rides.

Weight: 158g, Waterproof: 10m, 5K video: up to 30fps, 4K video: up to 60fps, 1080p video: up to 240fps, Stills resolution: 20MP, Battery life: up to 120min, Other Features: It’s got 5K recording!

Buy now from GoPro for £329

GoPro Hero 8 Black

Buy now from GoPro for £259

GoPro scores positions one and two, indicating its dominance of the market. Now a couple of years old, the Hero 8 is the better part of £100 cheaper than its younger sibling but nevertheless has pretty much all the same principal features. This includes optional media mods enabling you to add lighting, pro audio, and even supplementary screens.

Allowing you to either keep it simple or build a complete system of different accessories from either GoPro or third-party suppliers, it’s an excellent option for both casual users and aspiring filmmakers. Both these groups will also benefit from the camera’s remarkably buttery HyperSmooth 2.0 image stabilisation and ability to capture super slo-mo footage. Essentially, there's not a lot that the GoPro Hero8 can't achieve for the average cyclist.

Three levels of stabilisation make obtaining clear footage of rides on uneven surfaces an actuality. At the same time, the SuperPhoto + HDR (high dynamic range) mode ought to allow you to reduce blur and better expose stand-alone pictures. Benefiting from the most comprehensive range of mounts and accessories, at only 122g you'll hardly notice its addition to the bike or your helmet.

Now reduced from its original price, unless you really need the enormous megapixel count found on the Hero9, this probably represents the best value proposition.

Weight: 126g, Waterproof: 10m, 4K video: up to 60fps, 1080p video: up to 240fps, Stills resolution: 12MP, Battery life: 50-110 min, Other Features: highly adaptable

Buy now from GoPro for £279

DJI Osmo Action

Pretenders to GoPro’s near-monopoly come and go. Well-known for producing drones, DJI is one of the best equipped and persistent. In fact, when it launched its first action camera, it punched pound-for-pound with GoPro’s Hero7 Black. However, since then, GoPro has released two new cameras. So, where does that leave the Osmo Action? Generally still in a pretty solid position.

Tactile to use and recognisable as following the conventional action camera format, the Osmo Action profits from twin screens permitting you to compose your shots both from in front or behind the lens. In use, the camera’s in-built image stabilisation is pretty reliable, so your footage won’t be headache-inducing, even when taken on the bumpiest of roads. However, to accomplish this, the Osmo Action crops heavily into the image, meaning you’ll end up with a more restricted field of view than on the GoPro.

Generally, both footage and stills come out of the Osmo Action looking rather nice, although perhaps not quite as nice as the GoPro. Battery life and wireless connectivity are also similar, although there’s no GPS inbuilt if you want to geo-locate your footage.

Essentially, the Osmo Action is a safe bet for a camera. However, it doesn’t currently compete all that well with equivalent or better spec models from its larger rival. Should this change, and these things frequently do, there’s no real reason not to buy it.

Weight: 124g, Waterproof: XXm, 4K video: up to 60fps, 1080p video: up to 240fps, Stills resolution: 12MP, Battery life: 50-130 min, Other Features: n/a

Insta360 One R Twin Edition

Like Nixon, do you want to record everything? The multi-part Insta360 One R Twin Edition could be the solution. When you first see the tiny-planet images generated by a 360-degree camera, the effect is pretty wild. Also allowing you to pick views from any angle later and organise them into more conventional footage, it means you’ll be sure never to miss your friend failing to unclip, even if they're behind you. Of course, image quality won’t be quite as good when shot in the round, still, it's a pretty cool feature.

Normally this image quality issue makes 360-cams a niche product. However, the Insta360 gets around this thanks to a modular design that combines multiple lenses capable of capturing both formats. This sees either standard wide-angle or 360-degree type lenses attached to a recoding module and separate interchangeable battery. The result is a camera you can repeatedly build to fit your requirements.

Cleverly, this interchange functionality doesn’t prevent it from being watertight. What it does leave it with is a tricky to use postage stamp size screen, which is only just large enough for composing your shots, and rubbish for reviewing them. Moving onto more conventional features, the Insta360 does an OK job at stabilising your footage, while exposure and colour rendition are generally reliable, if not wholly up there with the best.

Annoyingly, any footage captured will also need to be picked and edited using Insta360’s own software. Allowing it to apply more powerful processing than available in-camera, this is nonetheless a bit of a fiddle. Happily for non-360-degree footage, this can at least be achieved via your mobile device.

Affordable and fun, the Insta will gain aficionados among those looking to investigate 360-degree video but that don’t want to commit to a dedicated setup. Elsewhere its features are solid if not mind-blowing.

Weight: 121g, Waterproof: 5m, 4K video: up to 60fps, 1080p video: up to 200fps, Stills resolution: 12MP, Battery life: around 70 min, Other Features: Modular construction

Kaiser Baas X450

Want something economical to play around with and not too bothered about getting mega image quality or super stabilised footage? The Kaiser Baas X450 is a dependable pick from the sizable pool of more affordable 4K resolution cameras.

With a wide screen on the back and a matching smartphone app, composing your scenes is easy. Using the standard GoPro action camera mount, there’s also a heap of attachments and accessories available.

Image quality is usually satisfying, with colours, exposure, and contrast levels more reliable than the average produced by lesser-known brands. Image stabilisation, another important characteristic of how pleasant your footage will be to re-watch, is also above-average. It’s also able to snap crisp 14-megapixel stills.

So, besides being limited to a maximum of 4K video at 30fps, what else do you miss out on? Unlike more elegant models, it’s not natively waterproof, so it will need to be fastened in the included case if you want to get it wet. This isn't a big problem for image quality, but it's not ideal for audio.

Overall then, the Kaiser Baas X450 is a reliable introduction to the action camera genre that should impress anyone not yet accustomed to more elaborate options.

Weight: 73g, Waterproof: With included case, 4K video: up to 30fps, 1080p video: up to 60fps, Stills resolution: 14MP, Battery life: 90 min, Other Features: n/a

What to look for in a cycling action camera

For reasons too complex to get into here (but that any camera geek will happily bore you with), simply comparing the key specs won’t always tell you which is the most desirable action camera. Sure, if you want to shoot a particular frame rate for slow-mo or require a particular resolution, you’ll need to look out for those specs.

However, some cameras still just manage to create nicer footage, often thanks to better stabilisation, exposure metering, and colour rendering. Making sure your exploits will look golden and sunkissed rather than bleached out, there’s also ease of use, wireless connectivity, and accessories to consider too.

Video quality

Most action cameras will be able to shoot in HD, while some can even record in 4K. Others will have a 240 frames per second count that allows 8x slo-mo. Truthfully, with video quality, price pays, and you will find the more expensive options will come with the better quality.

Stabilisation

Regardless of tyre diameters and suspension technology, there's no way you will fully neutralise the rattle of riding your bike. Almost all cameras will have some form of stabilisation. GoPro has some of the very best.

Connectivity

Many cameras can now connect to mobile phone apps that allows for simple uploads, instant playback and on-the-fly editing. Some options, like GoPro, will even have companion apps that allow you to combine clips, add music, edit imagery and upload to social media without needing a desktop computer or laptop.

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