Inexpensive cycling camera and an external battery for long rides, walks, hikes and blading

CVE member Steve Lubin shares his cycling camera kit journey, customization and current configuration. The lessons Steve learned and applied to his kit can be used by cyclists, walkers, hikers and rollerbladers.

Use cases:

Bike rides with constant recording up to at least eight hours using the Anker 10,000 mAh power bank external battery.  

Rollerblading, walking or hiking with as-needed recording: we have not tested this use case with the Anker 10,000 mAh power bank external battery, but we expect it could last at least sixteen hours and possibly significantly longer. 

By Steve Lubin
CVE Member
CyclistVideoEvidence.com

I started my bicycle camera experiments with a Cycliq front camera in mid-2018 and a rear Cycliq camera about a year later.

They had good video quality and I like the camera/light combination but I often take rides of four hours or more and the run time was not long enough.

I tried to extend the time with an external battery, and this worked OK on the rear camera but on the front camera I had to wait until the internal battery was depleted before I could plug in the external battery.

On both cameras connecting the external battery was awkward because the waterproof doors had to be left open when the battery cable was connected.  This felt vulnerable and it defeated the camera’s waterproof protection.

In early 2021 the rear camera stopped working.  I contacted Cycliq and they said they could probably fix it if I sent it back to Australia.  After I spent $40 Mailing it to them, they emailed me and said the camera was not reparable.  They offered me a 20% discount on a new camera, but this seemed inadequate, so I looked elsewhere for new cameras.

I bought several Dragon Touch Vista 5 cameras on sale for less than the cost of a single Cycliq camera (some for $25 on sale).  They are similar to their current Vision 3 Action Camera.  They are cheaply constructed and require a case to be waterproof.  Cases and a wide variety of mounts came with the cameras.  I killed one camera by riding in the fog with no case.  The road splash got into the camera and it stopped working.  I dried the camera with low heat in an open toaster oven and it started working again.  The second time I attempted this the camera died permanently.

I operate the Dragon Touch cameras in 4K mode, 30 fps with image stabilization.  I find that in shadows or low light any lower resolution is not good enough to reliably read license plate numbers.

The Dragon Touch cameras have very good video quality and image stabilization and accepted an external battery but were glitchy about continuing operation with the external battery connected.  I cut holes in the waterproof case for the external battery cable connection into which the cable ends fit snugly, and this has prevented water from damaging the cameras.  However, the sound recording was almost completely muted with the case on.

In order to record sound, I bought a Ghost Drift camera for around $250.   This is a very solid feeling camera; it is waterproof without a case and comes with a waterproof power cable.  It had no problem accepting the external battery and still being reliable.

Even set at 4k with 30 fps it does not record with as good a resolution as the Dragon Touch camera.  Because of this I continue to use the Dragon Touch in the front and the Drift in the rear.  That way I can get the sound from the Drift and the license plate number from the Dragon Touch.

The combination has worked well except the unreliability of the Dragon Touch with the external battery.   When I mentioned this to Craig, he mentioned that he spoke with tech support at AKASO and they recommended removing the internal battery when using an external battery.

I have been experimenting with running the Dragon Touch without the internal battery for the last few weeks and the camera seems much more reliable.  It seems to have some small internal power supply which will even keep the clock running during brief unplugging.

Thank You Craig!

I have been using Anker 10,000 mAh power banks as my external batteries. Anker used to sell these with a narrow profile but now it appears they only sell flatter (phone shaped) versions.  The narrow ones fit on the brackets more securely.  I have ridden in the rain and had no problem with the exposed cable connections.

I use a 6” USB cable to connect to the Dragon Touch camera and the Ghost supplied waterproof cable for the Ghost Camera. The Ghost cable is about 2 feet long, so the extra length has to be tied up with the velcro strap. The Ghost cable has an unusual combination of connecters which I could not find anywhere else.

I have been using 256 GB Lexar cards in all the cameras and they seem to work fine.  I format the cards before each ride but I don’t think I have to, especially for the Ghost camera.  The Dragon Touch asks me to format the card each time I start it up and I oblige.

The battery and card combination will record at least 8 hours without overwriting or recharging.

I made a bracket for the rear camera battery and light and use Velcro cinch straps to attach the battery.  The bracket is an “L” shaped steel strap attached with the brake bolt.  It has a turned down tab on the outer end to which I screw the light mounting clip.

rear Drift

In the front I use a cheap bolt on handlebar mount with a built in Go Pro mount which matches with a mount supplied by Dragon Touch.  I added an aluminum strap turned up in front for the light mount.  The strap also stabilizes the battery.  I apply soft rubber tape to the battery mounting surfaces of both the front and rear brackets to keep the battery stable and rattle free.

front Dragon Vista 5 in case

That's my kit

That's my cycling camera kit that can also be used for walking, hiking and rollerblading.  I hope you found this helpful in considering your own camera kit.  Please let me know your thoughts in the Leave a Comment window below.

 

Never leave home without one

Be sure to never leave home without a camera attached to you or your bike and be sure to submit all of your near miss incident reports to CVE's free Incident Management System.  

 

Wishing you safe cycling, blading, walking and hiking!

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7 Comments

  1. Bruce Dughi on November 16, 2023 at 5:35 pm

    I have the same Dragon Vista 5 but recently switched to a body camera since it has longer battery life and I use its tripod mount so it is not waterproof. The problem with the body camera is that I cannot open some of the files. The files exist, but there will be a series of files that do not open even as files above and below open. I am back to the Fly6 for the rear as it is easy and dependable.

    I will write more about the body cam later. I think they have potential since some have very long battery life. I have had this camera die after sitting a few days after being charged so now I charge right before I use it. Not sure what that is about but the batteries are not replaceable.

  2. Steve Boswell on November 16, 2023 at 11:15 pm

    This is really intriguing and I appreciate your taking the time to describe your set-up. Very clever!

    I’m currently running Cycliq cameras, front and rear. Since my rides are usually less than 2 hours and I use separate running lights, I currently have no issues with battery life. But, if I was going to go back out on a tour, this is the set-up I would want to emulate. You’ve inspired me to start thinking about how to set up a similar system and I thank you. Well done!

  3. Bob on November 17, 2023 at 5:29 am

    Seems like a lot of equipment to mount on a bike for errands around town where one needs it most. The equipment should probably be removed from the bike when shopping in a store to prevent vandalism and/or theft. I had a light stolen so now always remove them, and my bike computer, when leaving my bike locked up outside of a store. My light was stolen while my bike was locked up at our public library.

    • Craig on November 17, 2023 at 5:43 am

      Hi Bob,

      Steve’s camera kit is permanently mounted for his very long rides. You should read my article for a camera kit that can be quickly mounted and dismounted in a couple seconds. I use my e-bike for all of my local transportation and shopping as you describe.

    • stlubin on February 2, 2024 at 2:17 pm

      It is a lot of equipment. I use another bike that does not have a camera for errands. I’ve thought of modifying the mounts so they can be easily removed. The front mount has two screws that attach it to the bars. If I could find or make a mount with a hinge and a thumb nut it would be easy to mount/move. The rear bracket would require something more complicated since it is mounted on the brake bolt.

  4. Tim Hurley on February 2, 2024 at 3:38 pm

    I was inspired by the Drift Ghost XL after reading your review, and even more inspired by the recent $99 price for the white version. I want a camera that’s as low-profile as possible, and that will connect to the underside of my cyclometer mount (BarFly or K-Edge) to reduce cockpit clutter. The Ghost satisfies those criteria, and has what seems to be a decent “dash cam” mode. I’m not looking for “action cam” footage, so ease of use for incident recording and being out of the way are my primary concerns.
    Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to use the cameras. They’re shipped with a “quick guide” that offers the usual basic setup instructions. But, I was finding a lot of functions while toggling through the camera’s controls that weren’t listed in the guide. Page one of the guide directs users to Drift’s website where the full manual can be downloaded.
    There is no full manual. The only manual available for download is the quick guide. After a week of silence and three attempts to get their attention, Drift’s customer service wrote back to tell me that no manual exists. Despite what it says quite clearly in their own documentation. They offered to answer any specific questions I had, but that’s not really how these things work, at least not for me. I usually refer to the manual periodically over time as I need to review certain functions I’d forgotten about. I wasn’t convinced customer support would be up to this task, at least not on a very timely basis.
    So, sadly, the cameras are now on their way back to Amazon. I suppose they may be worthwhile if you enjoy poking around with electronics and figuring them out on your own. I was hoping for a more user-friendly experience. Back to the search for the ideal product…

  5. Justin on February 15, 2024 at 8:31 pm

    I use 3 cheap dash cam cameras from a car. I hook them to an external battery via their usb plugs and put a simple usb switch plugged in series to turn everything on and off with one buttton. No formatting cards, no separate batteries and all the cams are WiFi enabled so I can download right to my phone any key vids I want. Mostly I use it now to catch the crazy moment of my lil boy doing goofy stuff in the front basket of my bakfiet. He has a toy drill he wields as we bike around. Also just point out birds to me. You know sun sfuff.

    If enough people reply here I will post a video of the camera setup, cost and performance.

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