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A Complete Guide to Helmet Cameras

The city of San Francisco estimates that there are now 128,000 trips by bicycle each day, and more than 15% of residents are “frequent cyclists.” That growing number is good news, but it also means more people who may encounter a close call on their commute, which is why so many people are turning to helmet cameras.

Over the past decade, there’s been a 37 percent increase in cycling accidents across the country. Many of them are hit-and-runs by distracted vehicle drivers, and they’re a lot more difficult to track because cyclists are more likely to be injured and miss important details law enforcement needs to investigate, such as a license plate number, car description or even the series of events that lead to the accident.

Many cyclists don’t end up reporting those incidents, so it’s impossible to know just how frequent they are. But as bicycle lawyers, we unfortunately see it frequently — a cyclist is injured in a crash with a car, and the driver speeds off without helping the cyclist or exchanging information.

A proper bike helmet can act as a second set of eyes and capture details you might otherwise miss in such an incident and become important evidence. It’s just one of many tools that can keep you safer on the road and help you to create an overall better ride.

Remember to also:

  • Wear protective gear, such as a helmet and clothing that will protect you from road rash if you do encounter a crash.
  • Wear bright colors. Your goal should be to be seen. The more visible you are, the more aware drivers will be of your presence. In the day time, opt for bright colors and in the dark, wear reflective gear.
  • Ride a bike that fits. A bicycle that is too big (or too small) will be much harder to control and can cause an even worse injury.
  • Plan your trip. If you can arrange a commute that’s lower traffic and avoids any hazards, you’ll be more likely to get to your destination unscathed. (Pro tip: Planning can be made easier with a bike helmet.)

These tips may save your life, making a helmet camera an added bonus.

What to Look For in a Camera

When considering a helmet camera there are two main qualities you should consider: image quality and battery life. Shorter journeys don’t require as much battery life, but if you’re venturing out for long rides, it should be one of your top considerations. You don’t want your battery to die mid-ride and be useless for half of your commute.

These days, most cameras have pretty good quality (just look at your phone for proof of that). The biggest factor for quality will be video stabilization. Good stabilization will make choppy footage more clear and easier to watch. Even if you have a relatively mild ride, little cracks or bumps in the road will show up in footage and make it harder to review later on.

Finally, always check about helmet mounts. Some camera companies, like GoPro, have specific mounts for their cameras. Finding a helmet mount shouldn’t be a problem, but it’ll save you some hassle to look ahead of time.

A few top-rated cameras:

GoPro Hero9 Black: Among many, this is the top-of-the-line choice for action cameras, say the tech experts at WireCutter. Its excellent video quality and stabilization make it good for activities with lots of movement. There is no ride that is too much for this camera. It runs about $350 and separate helmet mounts start at $15.

Insta360 One R: If you want versatility, this may be the camera for you. The ability to swap out different lenses means you can change the effect of your footage (a 360-degree lens for the camera will ensure you don’t miss a thing). You have a little better editing ability with the Insta360 One R over most GoPro cameras. It starts at $450 and helmet mounts at $17.

Garmin Virb Ultra 30: Like the GoPro, this camera has great stabilization and video quality, but it gives users a big bonus: fitness tracking. Link it to a Garmin fitness wearable and you’ll be able to track heart rate, speed and even G force. Helmet cameras can be fun to use in addition to safety, so some add-ons are good to have.

Prove Liability in a Bicycle Crash Case

Sharing busy roads with motorists can be dangerous, but the right tools and tips make it easier to address if something happens.

Taking detailed notes after a crash can be a big help to personal injury attorneys and police if you’re in a collision. You should record the time, weather, damage and anything you heard during the accident. Writing these details down as quickly as you can after the accident can mean you remember more, and can give your bike injury attorney a leg up in convincing an insurance company that you deserve compensation.

A bike helmet camera may be able to capture things you weren’t aware of at the time, like a car making a wrong turn or mistakenly using a bike lane. It can also show that you were following the rules of the road and not doing anything to contribute to the accident.

Prevent Unwarranted Tickets, Fines

If you’ve been wrongly ticketed or fined for being accused of breaking a law, you’ll want to have helmet camera footage handy. Your safety may have depended on a maneuver that was otherwise a violation or hazards in the roadway could have forced you to ride in unprohibited areas. These instances are all too common, especially along urban commutes where drivers endanger cyclists by not knowing general rules of the road.

With a helmet camera it’ll be much easier to prove you were acting in the right.

Create Better Rides with Helmet Cameras

Are there aspects of riding that you would like to become better at? Maybe you’d like to improve your technique or navigate busy streets better.

Beyond being a safeguard, helmet cameras can step up your ride and areas you want to improve. Watching back footage can help you note potential risks, find alternate routes and even prepare for longer or more difficult rides. Look for distractions, areas where you remember having difficulties or note the scene in busy areas. By doing so, you’ll know what to improve for the next ride.