We live in an age where everything – even mountain biking – is recorded and shared. Plenty of riders own the best MTB action cameras, even if part of the appeal of heading out of town on your mountain bike is to escape from a device-saturated world.
In 2004, a young entrepreneur named Nick Woodman managed to produce a robust (if rudimentary) little action camera that was small enough to attach to handlebars. That camera was the original GoPro, and many of us have been shooting footage of our singletrack exploits and mishaps ever since
Action cameras have mirrored all other digital device technologies by evolving with impressive speed (and there are plenty of other apps for mountain biking to try out). Since the original GoPro, there have been nine new iterations, and the market for the best MTB action cameras is now wonderfully diverse, with many options.
And it’s not all just for fun and bragging rights. There’s no better way to learn a new trail before riding it than meticulously replaying somebody else’s footage. For coaches and riders wishing to improve their cornering and technical riding posture, footage of you doing it wrong is a lot stronger evidence for correction than some cursory words of advice. And for new riders watching how experienced riders tackle all types of mountain bike trail can be handy and inspirational.
Continue reading to see our list of the top MTB action cameras on the market. Then check out our buying advice at the bottom of the article for some tips on what to look for when it comes to choosing the best MTB action camera for your riding needs.
Best MTB action cameras
The GoPro range just keeps on improving, with the HERO10 Black boasting a brand new processor that makes it smoother and slicker than its predecessor, with a quicker boot and faster transfers too. Frame rates have also doubled over the HERO9 at higher resolutions, while stills have been boosted to up to 23MP. In other words: the image quality is more amazing than ever.
The front-facing live preview screen introduced with the HERO9 is now smoother and more responsive, while the HyperSmooth image stabilization works better than ever with horizon leveling now supported up to a massive 45-degree tilt.
The lens has also been improved with extra scratch resistance; it’s also more hydrophobic (water repellant) but unless you plan to ride underwater that’s probably not going to affect you much.
The only real downside (apart from a battery that struggles to keep up) is the hefty price, but at least you can see where the money’s going.
GoPro’s product development people have analyzed their customers and know exactly which features are useful – or superfluous. The HERO9 Black isn’t the most up-to-date camera in the range (that’s the HERO10 above) but it remains popular because a) it’s still better than most other action cameras out there and b) because now it’s not “the latest” you can find some good deals on it.
Rest assured, the HERO9 will serve your purposes just fine; it addresses all the issues you could possibly encounter with a mountain bike action camera. It won’t render unusable footage in tricky forest lighting conditions thanks to its wide dynamic range sensor technology, and its HyperSmooth image stabilization works a miracle on potentially bumpy footage. The display allows you to perfectly frame your point-of-view riding composition on any handlebar mount, and it’s brilliantly robust too, with waterproofing up to 10m.
Best of all is the voice command function, which means you can control the camera while on the move by shouting at it instead of having to dismount and fiddle with with frustratingly small buttons in gloved hands.(opens in new tab)
In the world of consumer electronics, we have come to accept that not all Chinese products are awful. Yi is an enormous Chinese camera manufacturer, and its simply named 4K is a terrific value offering.
As the naming convention indicates, you’ll be recording your ride in broadcast quality 4K footage, and to ensure it looks even more professional there is electronic image stabilization to make those rooty trail sections watchable.
Other standard features include excellent audio (to ensure rider commentary or hub noises are accurately rendered) and voice control. It’s nearly as good as a GoPro HERO but for nearly half the price. The only caveat is an absence of weather sealing, which means you’ll have to buy a waterproof casing.
Another action camera that’s on par with most GoPros and the Yi 4K is the Osmo from DJI. This camera records in 4K at 60fps and includes two integrated screens so you can frame your shot and play it back.
Another impressive feature is the ability to record in 8x slow motion to capture high-speed moments in ultra slow-mo.
At $199, this is a great option if you’re on a budget but still wanting to capture quality video and utilize good features. DJI also offers a trade-in program, so customers can get a discount for returning their older generation model. That’s only available in the United States and mainland China, though.
The Ghost Drift uses a different design to most action cameras, which sets it apart from the competition. While most cameras look like GoPro clones, the Drift is longer and slimmer. This means it can be mounted on the side of a helmet as well as the top.
The camera packs some impressive specs. It can record in 4K at 30fps or at 1080p at 120fps. A 330-degree rotational lens means that your recording will always be well-oriented no matter how you mount the camera, and the horizon line will always be parallel to the frame.
There’s also a dock on the side of the camera so you can attach an LCD screen or a battery pack. The standard battery on the Drift will last three hours when recording, or if you have the battery pack attached, it’ll last for five hours.
The Brave 7 action camera can record in 4k, however, it will only be in 30fps. This camera also has two integrated screens for framing shots and reviewing your videos. Included in the box is a remote as well.
For the price, it's impressive that this camera can shoot 4k, even if it’s only at 30fps. The other downside is that this camera is definitely heavier than others. At just over $100, though, this is certainly a camera to consider if you’re on a budget and don’t mind compromising on weight.
The ACT74 is certainly the cheapest camera on this list. At around $60, it’s impressive that the camera boasts a 4K resolution at 30fps. And if you record in 1080p, you will get 60fps.
The 2021 version of this camera has most of the standard features you would expect too, including electronic video stabilization.
The downsides are that this camera is heavy and does not have a long battery life – just 90 minutes, despite a charge time of two to three hours.
If you’re looking for a cheap option to test the waters of action camera filming, this could be a good option – just be aware of the trade-offs.(opens in new tab)
This Welsh product mimics the original GoPro formula of a compact action camera in a separate weatherproof casing.
What is very distinctive about the Olfi is its orientation: it mounts in the portrait view, instead of landscape – which makes sense for a cycling camera. The lens’s field of view is a generous 166 degrees and it captures footage via a 16mp Sony sensor, which means that if you want to process still images they should be of very usable quality.
The downsides to the Olfi are its lack of a touchscreen or sophisticated voice commands. But for the price, this remains a compelling 4K action camera. And you can control it via your smartphone, thanks to WiFi integration with an app.
The Kaiser Baas is another action camera that can shoot at 4K but only at 30fps. The Baas is similar to other cameras at that resolution and price point. As to be expected, it’s also on the heavier side.
There is only one screen on the backside of the camera, compared to two screens featured on other cameras. But it still has all of the standard features found on most action cameras, such as mobile app compatibility and video stabilization.
If you’re not so worried about video quality, Kaiser also makes other models that are cheaper. For instance, the Baas X250 shoots in 1080p and is cheaper than this X450.
Arguably the most adaptive action cameras available is the Insta360 One R which uses a modular design to offer users a choice of lenses to suit their shooting requirements. Insta360 has three lens options: a 4k wide-angle lens, a 5.7k 360 module and a 5.3k Leica-engineered 1-inch sensor unit. It’s not just the lenses that can be changed as the modular design gives options for different cases, mounts and bigger batteries for epic days shooting.
The One R performance is punchy as well with excellent video quality backed up with well thought-out features such as wireless mic support for RØDE Wireless GO or Apple AirPods for crisper audio and even the ability to use an Apple Watch as a remote control.
What to look for in the best MTB action cameras
What minimum camera resolution should I be looking for?
Unless you plan on watching your footage on a large computer screen or TV monitor, resolution isn’t critically important.
You are never going to try and capture a still image from your rolling action cam footage and attempt to print it to A3 wall poster size. At best, you want to view your footage at 4K, but even that is a bit much, as video recording technology leapfrogs ahead of screen capabilities.
However, resolution capabilities on MTB action cameras are getting more and more impressive. Many are now capable of recording at 4K and 60 frames per second, and the GoPro HERO9 and HERO10 Black go even higher.
Why is dynamic range important in an action camera?
What is more important than pure resolution is dynamic range. This is the ability of a camera sensor to capture the broadest possible detail in a scene, between its brightest and darkest tones.
The human eye has much better dynamic ability than any camera, which is why you can drop from an exposed trail in direct sunlight to gloomy forest singletrack and not struggle to see where you’re going. A camera would struggle to have to capture all the detail of a scene in dappled light, with sharp drops of sunlight and deep shadows. For an MTB action camera, dynamic range is crucial – not resolution. You don’t need the most pixels, but rather the best ones.
What camera features and functions should I consider?
Then there are ergonomic considerations. Is it easy to attach to your handlebar, chest mount or helmet? Does it have image-stabilizing properties so that when you’re ping-ponging through a rock garden the camera captures footage that’s viewable rather than nausea-inducing? And are the buttons and functions easy to operate with gloves out on a trail? Perhaps you don’t want to bother with buttons at all, and prefer voice prompting? These are all features that are essential on the best MTB action cameras.
What are the differences between fisheye, wide-angle and 360 lenses?
Most action cameras choose a wide-angle or fisheye lens to capture as much of the scene as possible. Different brands offer different distortions and fields of view so it’s worth watching some footage before buying to see if you like the look of the footage. Fisheye has a curved barrel distortion whereas a wide-angle has a linear distortion. The best action cameras will offer different fields of view and distortions so you have options to pick the one best suited to what you’re filming.
In recent years 360 cameras have made huge leaps forward in quality. These cameras record a full 360-degree scene and allow you to pick and choose your framing and effects in post-processing, while also offering incredible stabilization, which can be a huge advantage when recording high-intensity moments. The disadvantages are that they require a lot of editing as well as computing power and memory as the video files are huge.