By John Marsh
Cost: $159 (plus shipping: $13 to the U.S.)
Features: fully functional tail light and rear-view HD camera in one unit
How obtained: review sample from company
Available: company website
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: 30+ hours
Getting shot with a pellet gun on a ride only weeks before was still fresh in my mind when I first found out about the Fly6 combination tail light and HD camera.
Though I suspected it was a shot fired from a car behind me that bloodied my hip that day, I had no evidence. If only I had had the Fly6 then!
Because that’s exactly what the Fly6 was designed for: to keep a full-time watch over the vulnerable area behind you (your “6,” in military-speak) – and record it in case something goes wrong and you need a visual record of the event. The makers call it “incident protection technology.”
I call it brilliant.
In a unit not much bigger (only 105g and 100mm long) than your average tail light, you get a fully functional flasher AND high-definition 720p video recorder with audio.
It’s USB rechargeable with decent battery life (5+ hours on one charge) considering it’s both a tail light and a camera that runs full-time from the moment you turn it on. (The total of my two previous rides before writing this review was 4:57:30, and when I turned off the unit after the second ride, one beep indicated that there was still approximately 5+% charge remaining. Still, that’s not enough to cover one long day on the bike.
The Fly6 isn’t quite plug-n-play, but it’s close. When you receive it, you plug it into your computer with the USB cable (supplied) until fully charged. Then you turn on the unit while it’s still plugged into the computer and access a file containing the date and time to set up and save those so that all video contains an exact “time stamp.”
The Fly6 attaches to your seat post (with supplied mounting bracket, rubber straps, and spacers to fit both traditional and aero seat posts). The seat post-only mounting is both to ensure the proper recording angle and stability for the camera.
I admit that I was a bit flummoxed at first when I saw that the seat post was the only mounting option, since like so many riders, I prefer a seat bag to carry my tubes and tools. However, after looking closely at my bike and consulting the Fly6 website, I realized I could mount the unit at the junction of the seat post and frame, and it would work fine.
The website specifically points out that several Fly6 staffers also ride with seat bags, and that most properly set-up road bikes will have enough seat post above the frame to allow both. However, I could easily imagine that a shorter rider, with a seat bag of a certain design, would not be able to mount both their seat bag and the Fly6.
The result of my seat bag-Fly6 combo mount is that the seat bag shows up at the very top of the frame in the video captured by the unit. But it’s just a fraction of the overall viewing area and does not in any way block the important rear view.
The best aspect of the Fly6 is how easy it is to use. Here it is: Turn it on. Ride.
The power button turns on both the flashing light and the camera, so you literally need only to set it and forget it while you ride. You hear a series of beeps when you turn on the unit that correspond to remaining battery life, and you can see small bezel lights that rotate around the camera to indicate it is operating.
The camera records in a continuous 2-hour loop. The recording is stored in the unit on an 8GB class 10 microSD card (supplied) and downloads automatically to your computer when you plug in and turn on the unit after a ride. The 2 hours’ worth of video is split into 15-minute files to keep the size manageable (about 800MB).
The loop recording feature cannot be turned off. However, if you want to record more than 2 hours, you can purchase a larger microSD card (up to 32GB, which will allow up to 8 hours of recording).
Perhaps the coolest feature of the Fly6 is the “incident protection” function. When your bike tips past 45 degrees and stays that way for more than 3 seconds (for instance, in the event of a crash), the unit automatically triggers a program that stops the recording one hour after the incident. Thus, you have on your standard 8GB microSD card the hour leading up to, and after, the incident.
If you lay your bike down at a rest stop, or there’s another innocuous reason for the post-45-degree tip, you can simply turn off, and turn back on the unit to start the 2-hour loop anew.
The proof of the Fly6 is in the video captured at a resolution of 1280 x 720, at 30 frames per second, in the AVI file format. The camera records a 130-degree field of view, so you can see cars, other riders, and objects until they are nearly even with you on the road. (See the frame capture, above, of one of my riding buddies who is about even with my rear wheel.)
Playback can be done on any Mac or PC using a common video viewing software, like Windows Media Player.
The video is fairly clear and sharp, if at times jumpy (which may be a result of an older video card in my computer). You can clearly view passing cars, any fellow riders you happen to be in front of, and watch the scenery roll by in a view you’ve never seen before.
The key is vehicle identification. The clarity of the video allows you to capture and read license plate numbers, pick out the make and model of a car, etc. All of this would be necessary in the case of any harassment – or worse – in a hostile interaction with a vehicle. And that’s the true purpose of the device.
(See the photo of my wife’s car, above, featuring a fake German license plate; Georgia is among those states that does not require a front license plate, so I asked my wife to follow and pass me to capture this photo. Note the time stamp in the lower right corner. And the photo below shows what getting buzzed looks like. Note the clear visibility of the front area of the minivan where the plate would be in front-plate states.)
“Fly6 is a safety camera, not an action camera,” the makers state. “It is designed to record what happens behind you during your ride so you can enjoy the ride ahead. There have been a number of motorists caught being aggressive to actually hit-and-run incidents caught on Fly6. The police get involved and serve justice where previously these motorists would get away.”
Their hope is that as more drivers expect riders to have such cameras on board, the drivers will increasingly police themselves.
I’ve used a flashing tail light full-time on all rides for over two years now, and I’ve always “felt” that drivers give me a bit more space because of that. The Fly6 has provided me video evidence that supports what until now has been that purely anecdotal feeling.
While its flasher is rated at only 15 lumens, the Fly6 is comparable in brightness to my older, AA-battery powered Radbot tail light. It also features 3 individual LEDs below the main flasher, as well as those bezel lights that rotate in a circle around the camera at the top of the light. All told, it’s quite a “cacophony” of lights, and it does seem to catch the attention of drivers.
(So even if you don’t feel the need for the video-tail light combo, you still may consider another full-time rear flasher as a safety tool.)
The Fly6 is not a panacea. It’s not meant to replace a mirror. Nor will it prevent harassment, or worse. But it works as promised, is easy to use with its set-it-and-forget-it functionality, and is another useful safety tool for road riders.
Just like a helmet, the true benefit comes to fore only in the case of an incident or accident, but that’s exactly why – and when – you want to have it. And the full-time flasher may well serve to provide an extra safety buffer around you as you ride – an added benefit.
FlyLites, the company behind Fly6, is currently working on an upgraded model. I’ll be one of about 20 testers worldwide providing feedback on that new model, and will provide a review when it is ready for market. That’s expected near the end of this year. Among the upgrades or changes to the new model are a few that have been previously reported (and address some of the shortcomings noted in my review): shorter size of the unit, longer run time, and an upgraded camera and lens.
Next week, we’ll feature a review of the Rotor QXL Rings, by Paul Smith.
See all our Product Reviews (230+, in 30 categories, available to Premium Members) at http://www.roadbikerider.com/product-reviews/25
Our other recent Product Reviews include:
LifeBEAM Helmet, by John Marsh
Safety Wing, by Jim Langley
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Giro Attack Shield Helmet, by Jim Langley
HubBub Helmet Mirror, by Jim Langley
Foam Roller Primer and Product Review, by Rick Schultz
Niterider USB Stinger Tail Light, by Paul Smith
Niterider Lumina 700 Head Light, by Paul Smith
Niterider Lumina 220 Head Light, by Paul Smith
RBR reader Ceci Bentler sent us a note not long ago about a bit of cycling lingo that she thinks might only exist in Minnesota. We thought it might be interesting to see if anybody has another regional (or other) term for what Ceci is referring to. Or any “oddball” term for any other aspect of cycling, for that matter. Here’s what she wrote:
“Just an interesting factoid I discovered today that doesn't seem to exist on any bike or Minnesota slang websites. There's a term for riding "double" on a bike that only seems to exist in Minnesota. It's called riding "buck". A survey of my childhood friends and of my family resulted in various interpretations including riding on the handlebars, sharing a banana seat and holding on for dear life, or standing on pegs protruding from the hub.”
If you’ve got a term you think is unknown to others, feel free to share with me by replying to this email, and I’ll gladly compile them and share the lot in a future issue. – John