We live in an age where everything – even mountain biking – is recorded and shared. Plenty of riders own the best action camera for mountain biking, 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 almost 20 new iterations, and the market for the best action camera for mountain biking 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 best action cameras for mountain biking. 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 action camera for mountain biking for your riding needs.
Best action camera for mountain biking
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As competition to be the best action camera for mountain biking keeps increasing, GoPro has to keep upping its game in order to keep itself on the top of the pile. While some releases haven't always lived up to the hype, looking at you Hero5 series, the Hero11 camera brings with it loads of properly great, genuine user experience-improving features.
At the center of the flagship GoPro Hero11 Black update is a brand-new larger 8:7 ratio sensor. Other than an upgrade in photo quality, the new sensor doesn't bring any improvement in video resolution. What this almost square 1/1/9-inch sensor does offer is some really useful features. There's a new Hyperview (141-degree FOV) digital lens and Horizon Lock (up to 2.7K) is built in rather than needing an additional hardware add-on. Once you have your footage you can crop your video to 9:16 for TikTok, 1:1 for Instagram, and 16:9 for YouTube without losing quality too. A bigger sensor also means improved image stabilization software with HyperSmooth 5.0.
The form factor stays the same as previous Hero generations, but inside you get GoPro's Enduro battery as standard. The battery is said to not only increase battery life but also improve cold-weather performance.
The Hero10 might have been bumped off the top spot by its successor but that doesn't mean that the GoPro Hero10 Black isn't still a worthwhile consideration.
Video quality and Hypersmooth 4.0 are still some of the best available and if you aren't into the 360-horizon lock look or interested in sharing your video clips across a variety of different social media platforms, then the Hero10 is going to offer you much the same as the Hero11.
You don't get GoPro's new Enduro battery as standard with the Hero10 but it's only a $25 / £25 upgrade if you need the added battery life or cold-weather performance.
Onto the price, weirdly GoPro currently has the Hero10 listed at the same price as the new Hero11 on their own site. That makes getting the better Hero11 a no-brainer. However, as it's an older model you should be able to find some deals on the Hero10 which could make it more tempting.
Launched in 2020, the Hero9 Black is now the oldest action camera that GoPro still officially sells and subsequently one of the cheapest at $299.98 / £299.98.
As it was once at the helm of GoPro's action camera line up you get a superbly durable camera that features some great specs. The sensor is the same as the Hero10 and is capable of 5K/30FPS video and it features a slightly older version of GoPro's Hypersmooth image stabilization. It's compatible with all manner of GoPro's Media Mods if you want a cheaper vlogging setup too.
The Hero9 is more prone to offers and deals but unless you can get a really good discount, it's hard to recommend the Hero9 over the Hero11. If budgets can stretch the Hero11 is only $50 / £50 more with a GoPro subscription and is easily worth the extra money.
Many riders were dismayed to see the small, ultra-mountable Session camera dropped from GoPro's range. Good news for those who are only interested in POV footage as GoPro has a new Mini action camera.
It's not quite as small as the old Session was, measuring just 52.4 x 38 x 51.2mm and weighing 133g it is considerably smaller than a standard GoPro making it easier and less cumbersome to mount and wear. Despite its compact size, the Hero11 Black Mini packs a serious punch in the spec department. In fact, it has exactly the same processor, sensor, stabilization, and video settings as the Hero11 Black. You also get a second mounting point on the rear of the camera making it easier to affix under a helmet peak or other tight spaces.
The catch, well to make the Mini smaller GoPro has sacrificed both screens instead opting for a small black-and-white display showing basic info on battery life, mode, and available recording time. That means framing a shot requires a little more guesswork or involves the faff of pairing it to the app and previewing through your smartphone. You also don't get a photo mode and the battery isn't removable.
Arguably the most adaptive action camera 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 of 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.
If you are looking for the most creative angles or want the ability to reframe your shots after the ride, then opting for a 360-degree action camera is going to open up a plethora of effects and flexibility.
The Insta360 brand is built around 360 cameras and its latest X3 is its most powerful camera yet. High-quality 5.7k 360 footage captures everything around you which can then be fed into Insta360's smartphone app or desktop app for editing and reframing. Reframing can be everything from simply setting the perfect POV angle to wildly distorted perspectives. It's not just the added editing flexibility that makes 360 video a tempting proposition, the X3 has superb stabilization too.
The X3 isn't just about 360 footage either, it can shoot 4K/30fps or in 2.7K/60fps Maxview which gives a huge 170-degree POV. There are other neat tricks the X3 can do, like the invisible selfie stick mode where the camera edits out the selfie stick handle.
Bear in mind working with 360 footage is a bit more complicated than regular action camera footage. Reframing adds another step to the editing process and 5.7k 360 files take up a lot of memory. The X3 also has a huge battery which on the plus side gives it a decent battery life, but does add a noticeable amount of extra weight when mounting it to a helmet.
For more, see our full Insta360 X3 review.
Action cameras don't come smaller than Insta360's tiny Go 2. Weighing in at just 26.5g (claimed) means the Go 2 is almost unnoticeable when mounted to a helmet. Shooting in the Pro Video mode gives you a pretty wide 134-degree POV with the footage being smoothed out by Insta360's FlowState image stabilization. It doesn't have the best quality with a maximum 1440p video resolution and a bit rate of
80Mbps (most cameras have over 100Mbps) but that's still more than enough if you are just wanting to upload quick clips to social media.
The Go 2 itself is IPX8 waterproof, however, the case that the Go 2 relies on to extend its short internal battery life isn't. The case does add some useful extra features though, controlling the camera remotely through WiFi and acting as a tiny tripod.
Unfortunately for DJI, they released the brand-new Osmo Action 3 at the same time GoPro launched its Hero11, which unfortunately overshadowed the Osmo Action 3 somewhat.
The Osmo Action 3 also isn't able to compete with the Hero11 when it comes to video specs and high-end features either. Saying that the Osmo is still a great action camera at a competitive price.
The Osmo Action 3 boosts one of the widest fields of view of any standard (non-360) action camera which means it fits more in the frame which is ideal for engaging chest footage and it features front and rear screens for simple framing. The footage is decent too and the EIS stabilization does a good job of smoothing out vibrations as long as there is good light. DJI uses a magnetic mounting system too which makes removing and attaching the camera really easy, plus it can be mounted in either landscape or portrait orientations.
The Akaso Brave 7 LE has a pretty impressive spec with its front preview and rear touchscreen displays, 4K recording, and built-in stabilization. While these features compete with the best action camera for mountain biking, they fall a bit short in terms of performance when directly compared to GoPro, Insta360, or DJI's top offerings.
Where the Brave 7 LE trumps them all is price. It dramatically undercuts all of the big players, as well as Akaso's own Brave 8 too. That means that if you don't need the best quality possible, are happy to tolerate a bulky waterproof case, and occasionally buggy smartphone app, then the Brave 7 LE is going to be the best budget option.(opens in new tab)
This Welsh product mimics the original GoPro formula of a compact action camera in a separate weatherproof casing. The lens’ 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. It comes with a 64Gb memory card and even includes Free Accidental Damage Cover for the first year.
The downsides to the Olfi are its lack of a touchscreen or front-facing display. 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.
What to look for in the best action camera for mountain biking
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?
Pure resolution isn't everything, dynamic range plays a very important role to produce clear and crisp footage. 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 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 when it comes to the best action camera for mountain biking.
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.