Relive that crazy crash, massive air or stunning sunset with the best MTB action camera, including GoPro and GoPro alternatives. Record and share your POV rides
Whether it’s to record that special alpine ride or uplift day at the bike park to relive at home and share with friends, or just to help improve your riding and line choice on local trails, an action camera is one of the most popular gadgets for mountain biking. So much so that the beep-beep-beeeep of the GoPro at the start and end of a trail is as familiar as any birdsong.
Today’s cameras are incredibly powerful and complex, capturing sharp images and rich colours with amazing stability, even in low light, but they are also expensive and offer different advantages and disadvantages depending on what you want to achieve. Here’s our guide to the best action cameras for mountain biking to help you find the right one. Some of the cameras here have been reviewed by us, and some come recommended by our expert colleagues at Techradar.
1. GoPro Hero 10 Black
Best overall action camera for mountain biking
Weight: 153g | Resolution: 5.3K video: 60fps/4K video: 120fps/2.7K video: 240fps | Battery: 1,720 mAh | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: Excellent stabilisation. Powerful processor.
Reasons to avoid: Expensive. One of the larger/heavier cameras.
According to our colleagues at Techradar, the Hero 10 Black boosts performance over its predecessors with the powerful GP2 processor. This gives it the ability to shoot 4k video at 120fps, which is great for high definition slow motion.
The touchscreen works well, and the screen at the front lets a riding buddy check your camera angle is dialled before you drop into a trail. The Hypersmooth 4.0 stabilisation is superb. It might be ubiquitous and the obvious choice, but there’s a reason GoPro still dominates the market.
2. GoPro Hero 9 Black
Still a great option at a decent price
Weight: 158g | Resolution: 5K: 30fps/4K video: 60fps/2.7K video: 120fps | Battery: 1,720 mAh | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: Improved battery life. Front screen.
Reasons to avoid: Rear screen issues. Superseded by the Hero 10 and 11.
It might be a few years old, but the GoPro Hero 9 still stacks up against the best action cameras on the market, and at a reduced price. Yes, there’s not the same 4k slow-motion capability as the latest models, or cropping for social media, but the basics are here are top notch.
The front screen is a great addition for vlogging or checking your camera angle, the footage is crisp and bright and the Hypersmooth stabilisation is as level as a Rolls Royce’s suspension.
Best GoPro alternative; small action camera that’s compact discreet
Weight: 42g (Camera and clip mount), 64g (Charging case) | Resolution: 1440p: 50fps | Battery: 30 minutes (150 minutes with case) claimed | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Small, light, versatile. Footage is sharp and smooth. Can be up and running quickly.
Reasons to avoid: Clip mount doesn’t fit all helmet peaks and snaps easily. Wind noise is obtrusive.
The Insta360 is much smaller and lighter than its rival, with a much lower resolution, but it’s still a very worthy alternative to a GoPro. It excels as a neat, unobtrusive, portable option for grabbing clips on a routine ride, as you can be up and running in seconds, even if you didn’t plan on shooting any POV footage.
Using it doesn’t interrupt the flow of a ride but it does a great job of capturing the moment. With a better visor mount and improved microphone I’d probably give it top marks.
What to look out for in the best action cameras for mountain biking
There’s so much technical data and jargon associated with an action camera that it’s hard to know where to start. But most action cameras these days do a good enough job that you don’t need to lose sleep over the details. Much more important is how easy they are to use and how well they work over rough terrain in a range of lighting conditions. In the UK, you’re typically riding in trees, which limits light penetration and causes the camera to use a slower shutter speed, which can make footage blurry. So lens quality and aperture are important. As is a good mount and intuitive controls.
What resolution do I need?
Unless you’re viewing on a massive TV, resolution is not as important as you may think it is. Equally, most of the latest GoPro models can record at 4k and 60fps, which will be ample for most riders. Hey, if it’s good enough for all the YouTube Vloggers and Pro riders on the World Cup and Red Bull Rampage events, then chances are it will be fine for squids like us bumbling around the woods!
Ever wondered why most promotional videos for action cameras are out in crystal clear conditions and blue sky days? That’s because more light, and consistent light, allows the camera to produce the crispest, sharpest images. But mountain biking, particularly somewhere like the UK, is not usually like that. This is why the dynamic range of the camera – AKA its ability to capture the detail in the lightest and darkest areas – is arguably more important than pure resolution, as we’re usually riding from bright sunlight to dark woods multiple times along a trail and a camera needs to adapt to those changing light conditions as well as record detail.
How important is battery life?
This depends on what you are hoping to achieve. If you want to capture a day at a bike park with multiple long descents, then you’ll want a battery with a good life or the possibility to take a spare. If you just want to record a few trails at the weekend when out for a couple of hours, then this will be less important. Usually battery life impacts the size of the camera, so if you want the smallest, lightest option then you’ll have to take a hit on battery life.
Where is the best place to mount my action camera?
Most riders go with the head or the chest. The head is the most stable part of the body when riding, so will give the smoothest footage with the least camera shake. But mounting to the top of your helmet has plenty of disadvantages, such as adding weight at the highest point of your body, reducing head clearance when there are low branches, and potentially digging into the ground if you have a crash. Also, if you’re riding solo, it can be quite a boring viewpoint that makes trails seem tamer than they really are.
A decent option if your helmet/camera allows it, is to put the camera under your peak. This makes it less vulnerable in a crash, and still gives a really stable mounting point.
The chest mounted viewpoint can look really dynamic, as a wide lens will show your arms/bars/front wheel/forks moving around, which gives a great insight into how busy you get when riding a technical trail. But it’s not as stable as the head, so the camera needs better stabilisation, and some riders don’t like running a camera in front of their chest in case they crash.
Of course there’s nothing stopping you mounting a camera to your bike, and this can produce interesting results and great b-roll, such as looking back at the shock working or drivetrain turning. But for forward facing footage, we find it tends to be the least stable option and produces quite boring footage, as you can’t see the rider working to control the bike.
Buttons or apps?
When it comes to operating a camera mounted on your helmet while wearing gloves, a good physical button with obvious feedback, always seems to work better than having to get you phone out, navigate to an app, connect to the camera, then start or stop the recording. Voice control can work well, and apps are useful for checking the angle of a camera and changing settings, but we’d always recommend something with a physical button.
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