When you’re out on the road, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of having cameras on your bike. If the unthinkable strikes, on-board cameras provide a record of the events and some clue as to just what happened. After all, anyone who has ever been in a crash will tell you the same thing – “I don’t know what happened; one minute I was riding, the next I was sliding on the pavement.” Cameras offer the rider an opportunity to put those critical seconds back together, and, in a hit-and-run situation, maybe even a license plate number, too.
When it comes to the camera position on your bike, ideally, we’d all opt for specific front and rear cameras. And how about building a light into them? That’s the general idea that Fly6 came up with, and exactly why we got one for review. (We actually ended up getting two for review – a Fly6 Original and just last week we received the new Fly6. This review is based on the original. For our future Final Thoughts article will be working with the new model).
The Fly6 camera records 720p at 30fps, and all you ever have to do is turn it on for the recording to start. The video is stored “in a loop;” that is, when it runs out of space on the microSD card (sorry, microSD only, microSDXC is coming in the next iteration, as is 1080p recording and better battery life) it simply deletes the oldest video and keeps going. This feature is remarkably useful – no more worrying about capacity or space; if something happens, pull the latest files (15 minutes for the Fly6 Original and 10 minutes for the new Fly6) and never worry about whether you were recording ever again. There’s something to be said for peace of mind, in that regard.
A set of bike lights are also integrated into the camera, which can be turned on and off as needed. While the battery life isn’t particularly stellar at five hours (when compared to other lights on the market) on a full charge, it’s by no means poor, either. That’s close to a century ride for most users. What’s interesting is that if the battery gets too low, it will turn off the camera so at least you have a flashing light (for at least one and a half hours) before the unit shuts down. However we do have to say that the light portion of the original Fly6 is anemic at best; coming in at 15 lumens (30 lumens in the new Fly6 which should be a healthy improvement). Other vehicles will be able to see the light at dusk and the evening, but the LEDs simply weren’t bright enough to be seen in daylight hours.
What really impressed us was the mounting hardware for the Fly6. It comes with enough equipment to put permanent mounts on two separate bikes, a round tube and an aero tube, at the same time. No more messing with attachments and grommets and such. Just pull the Fly6 off of one bike, pop it on the other, and off you go. There are also inserts to adjust the angle of the camera on the seat tube, to make sure you capture what’s actually behind you—as opposed to a great view of the sky or your rear wheel—and different lengths of rubber attachment straps to fit anybody’s tube shape, no matter how skinny or fat. Frankly, this is the mounting standard others should adhere to when working out the logistics of actually using a safety camera/light, and we applaud Fly6 for getting it right.
Where we did find that the Fly6 runs into trouble is during wet weather. The camera boasts a 130 degree field of view, but is easily obstructed by water or debris on the lens, especially whatever gets kicked up by your rear wheel when conditions aren’t perfect (the Fly6 does use materials that help shed water off the lens but in wet conditions it can be overmatched by not just water but the gunk and grime that gets kicked up). We found that water alone wasn’t a huge problem. Although when it dries it leaves a film that distorts portions of the picture, making license plates a little more difficult to read than we’d like. On the plus side, the unit itself will survive just about anything in terms of inclement weather short of a full-blown hurricane. Of course we don’t recommend riding in a hurricane, but if you are, you’ll at least have the video proof to show your buddies.
If you’re going to ride on the road, you need cameras for safety. At $249 (for the new version), this is the most affordable option, integrates with a light (which you also need), has expandable storage, and will record any ride you’re likely to do short of a century. No one likes to think about the worst case scenario, but the reality is that we share the road with cars, trucks, vans, you name it – and not all of them are friendly to us. As triathletes, we are often out there alone, where nobody is there to witness an accident. For about a pair of tires, the Fly6 will not only see what happened, but will help others see you in the process.
[Updates made 11/24 to better reflect the difference between the Original and New Fly6]