Picture it: you’re having the motorcycle adventure of a lifetime; you’re somewhere new, traveling down roads and paths you’ve never seen before, and just around every bend is a view more picturesque than the last. The scenery is gorgeous, the roads (or trails) are twisty, and you and your motorcycle are one. By all accounts, this ride qualifies as epic. There’s just one problem: you haven’t documented any of it. Once the ride is over, you’ll only have memories to refer back to, save for the few shots you took on your cell phone camera.
We know, for some of you even a cell phone is more technology than you’d rather be packing. For others, the social media life, and taking a million selfies to show for it, makes you throw up a little inside. This might surprise some of you, but there can be a happy medium. There is such a thing as documenting experiences for you to look back on later or to show your kids when they get older. If life’s about experiences a motorcycle will take you there, but a few gadgets will make the memories last in vivid detail.
Thanks to the march of technology, capturing and/or documenting your ride has never been easier. Whether you’re a track rider, adventure gal, or long-distance Iron Butt-er, these days there’s almost no excuse not to document your ride somehow. For this list, we’ve gathered six gadgets we use to capture our rides, plus one device we think has a lot of potential. Most of them should be small enough to toss into a backpack or saddlebag, so there’s really no excuse no to bring them with you. Curious what they are? Let’s get to it.
Ok, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to throw cell phones under the bus. These days they can take really good pictures and video, but there’s a reason why professional photographers still use the DSLR – the images are simply better. Having the ability to adjust the different camera settings to get the exact shot you want is far easier on a DSLR than on a cell phone, and being able to swap lenses adds to the creativity you can experiment with for each shot. As an added bonus, many DSLRs these days also have video recording capabilities so you can capture moving or still images.
Mirrorless cameras are all the rage in the camera world these days, and for moto travel, their slimmer size makes them easier to pack on a motorcycle. Now the price for a beginner-level DSLR or mirrorless camera with video recording capability can range anywhere between $500-$800 – that’s less than some cell phones. If all you want are still pics, then the entry-level price comes down even further.
There are several camera options out there from several well-respected brands. The Panasonic Lumix G7 mirrorless is great if you’re just starting out. Not only can it take still photos and record video, but it can do both in 4K clarity. It has a 16-megapixel Four-Thirds sensor, and you can opt for the Lumix g Vario 45-150mm F4 lens on top of the standard 14-42mm F3 kit lens to give you a little extra reach.
You’re going to notice a theme with this list: it’s largely made up of video cameras. The reason should be fairly obvious – what better piece of technology is there for capturing moments? One of the coolest gadgets out these days is the 360-degree camera, which as the name implies, records the riding action from nearly every angle. Then, as you play it back, you can scroll 360 degrees to see the action almost as if you were living it again. Like all cameras on the market today, many different brands and models exist. Some use multiple lenses and digitally stitch the images together, while others rely on just one lens to capture everything. Nearly all of them have apps you can access to replay the footage and share it amongst your social networks right from your phone.
The Insta360 One R is gaining traction as one of the best 360 cameras out there, which might be a selling point for you if you’d rather not buy from the 800-pound gorilla of the action camera market – GoPro.
Describing the Insta360 One R’s specs would take an entirely separate article of its own. But beyond simply being able to shoot 360 video, its highlights include being able to switch from a 360 camera to a wide-angle 4K 60fps camera just with a switch of a lens. It also features image stabilization, 5.7K resolution, IPX8 waterproofing, and a lot more.
One of the exceptions to the video cameras on this list is a GPS tracker like this Spot X two-way satellite messenger. GPS trackers won’t capture your ride on video, it’ll track you and/or your motorcycle anywhere on earth, even if there’s no cell signal. It’s completely reliant on satellites. This is especially useful if you travel alone, as there are functions to send simple text updates to friends and family telling them you’re fine. Or, should something happen, there are functions to send emergency services too. Because the Spot is always monitoring your whereabouts, it’s also tracking your ride, which you can then refer back to later for memory’s sake.
On a more light-hearted note, the Spot X has its own cell phone number, so if others want to get in touch with you (instead of solely relying on communication coming from you), they can. You can also link to social media accounts to share waypoints in case your friends want to follow in your footsteps.
The MO team have used Spot products before during adventure rides and are comforted by the peace of mind it provides should anything go wrong (and knowing us, they usually do). A subscription service is required to get the full benefit of the Spot system, but we think it’s worth it. Learn more at the Spot website.
While we often talk about the importance of capturing your ride in order to remember the happy memories, we often forget how convenient it is to capture your ride in case things go south. We’re talking about crashing of course, and whether you’re in your car or your motorcycle, the importance of having a dash cam could mean the difference between an insurance payment in your favor or walking away wrongly accused and empty-handed.
The Innovv K5 is the company’s latest Powersports-dedicated dashcam, complete with 4K HD recording at 30fps, IP67 water-resistant design, a smart parking mode, a built-in G sensor, and GPS.
We first tested the original K1 model back in 2016 and came away mostly impressed with its compactness and usefulness. The K5 addresses many of the issues versions K1-K4 have had and provides a front and rear camera system that’s discreet and very useful, especially if you get in a wreck and find yourself needing to prove your innocence. That alone should be reason to give this one a close look.
Here’s another one for all the track riders out there, street or dirt. The LitPro is next-level data gathering and analysis for every level of rider. The device itself is the black trapezoidal object in the lower left of the photo above, and what you do is stick it on your motorcycle (or helmet if you’re a dirt guy/gal), push the button, then go ride. After your session, you can download reams of data onto the iOS app (sorry Android users), where you can then compare your analytics lap by lap. Info like brake points, corner speed throughout the turn, exit speed, and much more are available to you.
Beyond that, you can also access data from other users who have also ridden that track to compare data. The LitPro founders are all motocross nerds, but road course fanatics convinced them to build a version of the app for the guys and gals who prefer to stick to pavement. Both versions of the app are extremely sophisticated; with the ability to analyze line choice and airtime (for the MX version, obviously) to determine the best way around. If you like data and nerd out on finding ways to utilize it to make you faster, you’ll be impressed with its capabilities.
Amazon and Jeff Bezos have yet to flood the sky with drones, so the opportunity is still there to capture your ride with these eyes in the skies. Granted, it’ll take some effort to capture parts of your ride with a drone – and there are a lot of different models out there – but getting a bird’s eye view of the ride ahead has produced some of the most beautiful footage we’ve seen. If you’re wondering how you’d ride the bike and capture footage at the same time, fear not – some drones have the ability to track and follow you. Meaning, you can set the drone to track, put on your gear and ride away (at a reasonable speed, of course). The drone will follow from above.
Of course, for most of us, getting drone footage of us riding means enlisting the help of a friend (or neighborhood kid) who can pilot one. If you know such a person, the result will be infinitely more dynamic. And if you’re worried about cost, you don’t have to be. Entry-level drones like the Snaptain S5C are designed to be extremely user friendly, records in 1080p definition, and won’t break the bank with its $75 retail price. The sky is the limit from there, as features – and price – can ramp up dramatically after that.
Of course, there’s no way we could round out this list without including GoPro’s latest action camera, the Hero 9. We’re including the top-o-the-line Black model because, well, it’s simply incredible.
GoPro has become synonymous with action cameras in much the same way Google has gone from a noun to a verb – you just know what it is. 5K video, 20MP photos, a front display (finally!), livestreaming capability, GoPro’s amazing Hypersmooth 3.0, Timewarp 3.0, and a really cool new feature called Hindsight, which somehow has the ability to capture video 30 seconds before you actually hit the record button. What?
If you’re reading this list and have no idea what a GoPro is, we’d be astonished. The de facto king of action cameras, the GoPro – any GoPro – is our go-to when we absolutely have to capture our ride. Sure there are better cameras out there when it comes to hardware and specs, but like the iPhone, the infrastructure around GoPros is so huge it’s far easier to use it. You’ll no doubt fall into the rabbit hole of acquiring accessories for the GoPro like we have, but that’s simply par for the course. The options and features list for the GoPro Hero 9 is long, and frankly, there’s been so much hype about this camera you probably know it already. Its $450 price tag is a little steep, but this is one of those times where we really think you get what you pay for.
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