Riding on the road leaves us cyclists vulnerable. The Fly6 – a globally successful Kickstarter campaign from Australia – aims to reduce that vulnerability, by serving as both a rear light and camera to literally watch your back.
As a light, the Fly6 is underpowered compared to the latest crop of rechargeable LED options, only putting out 15 lumens on its brightest setting. We had hoped for a little more power from a light this size. But even though it lacks punch, the four dimmer settings and two flashing patterns will still attract plenty attention.
At 15 lumens, the Fly6 is underpowered compared to the latest crop of LED lights
The Fly6's battery life is on par with many other USB rechargeable lights on the market. It's lasts about five hours at full power and roughly six with the lights off and just filming video. The unit chirps when your turn the light on and off, letting you know how much charge is remaining – four chirps for full battery, three for 75 percent and so on.
When recording 720p video at 30fps, the Fly6 can't compete with action cameras from GoPro, Shimano or Garmin on resolution, but the video it produces is still plenty crisp. The wide angle plastic lens has a wide 130-degree view, but is likely to get covered by mud and grime flicked up from the back wheel.
A bit of mud from the back wheel covering the camera
720p is the Fly6's only shooting option too, so it really doesn’t compete as an action camera. Even when compared to a GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition set to the closest possible recording settings (at 720p the lowest available frame rate is 60fps), the video from the GoPro is sharper and picks up more detail in the shadows. Our Fly6 unit seemed to shoot at a lower exposure than the Hero 3, creating darker footage. Check out the difference below:
Video: Fly6 vs GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition
Having said this, the Fly6 is not designed to be used as an alternative to an action camera; it's intended to be used as a safety camera. Only recording at 720p was a conscious decision from the designers to help keep the price of the unit reasonable. At US$135, the Fly6 is considerably cheaper than the GoPro we are comparing it to, and comes with all the mounting and storage accessories, whereas with the GoPro they have to be bought separately.
Before using the Fly6 you must set the date and time by plugging it into a computer. Then, once it's charged and mounted on your bike, simply turn it on and you're ready to go – a single button turns on the device, and starts the camera.
If the Fly6 detects your bike has been tilted at more than a 45 degree angle for longer than three seconds – either from a crash or when you lay your bike down for a break – it goes into shutdown mode. This means that the unit will turn itself off one hour later to protect the footage on the card – incase it is needed as evidence. To exit shutdown mode, simply turn the unit off and back on again. We like what this feature does, but just be aware of it incase you stop for something early in your ride and don’t want the recording to end.
The Fly6 also carries an ingress protection rating of 54, meaning it will survive any torrential downpour, and P2i nanotechnology coating makes the device water repellent inside and out.
We tested the Fly6 against a GoPro Hero3 Black edition set to similar settings
The Fly6 is ready to go straight from the box. It comes with an 8gb class 10 micro SD card, a USB cord, two mounting brackets, straps and adapters for standard and aero seatposts and spacers (zero-, five- and 10-degree) for adjusting the camera angle included.
While 8gb may not seem like much storage, it holds about two hours of 720p footage. Once the card is full, the Fly6 loops back and records over the beginning. Storage can be upgraded with an aftermarket micro SD card.
An AVI compatible player is required to play the footage post-ride (Fly6 recommends VLC, which is free and works on both Windows and Mac computers). The Fly6 breaks the video up into 15-minute segments and time stamps all the footage, making specific pieces of a ride easy to find.
Everything you need for the Fly6 comes in the box
While we like the idea that if an incident were to happen, it would be caught on camera, the Fly6 has made concessions to hit it's price-tag – so there's room for improvement. Some sort of WiFi or cloud compatibility that automatically uploads the footage would be a great step to improving it. There is also the size and weight of the unit – it nearly touches the bottom of our saddle bag even when mounted just above the seat collar. Without the mounting bracket the unit weights a plump 107g and measures 111mm tall.
Unfortunately accidents do happen on the road, and an animosity between drivers and cyclist does exist in some places. Until there is a massive cultural shift, the Fly6 and other covert camera products will continue to gain popularity. While a rear facing camera may not prevent accidents, it does offer an indisputable account of events that have taken place.
The Fly6 is a seamless integration of a rear light and camera. While it lacks super bright LEDs and the ability to record 1,080p video, it doesn’t necessarily need them. It's meant to watch your back, and it does that pretty well for a reasonable price.