In order to be able to communicate better what driving a bicycle in Zagreb is like, I have long been toying with the idea of building a simple bicycle camera stand. Since spending a few months assembling a 3D printer like the Prusa to be able to print out the camera stand seemed just a little bit excessive, I opted for the more down-to-earth, nuts, bolts, scissors and pliers approach.
These were my design goals:
- very cheap parts
- very easy to build
- robust enough to prevent damage to the camera
I focused on these because I wanted to allow others to easily copy the design if they want. Along the same lines, I assumed that a good number of people now have a phone with a usable camera which they would be willing to use. It makes a lot of sense, given that even my 3 year old phone has a 640x480px@30fps camera, a reasonable power supply, more than enough internal storage for footage, is light, small and all that for about 50€ second-hand.
The material you can see in the above picture (from right to left):
- two worm-drive hose clamps
- some thin rope (later found to be unnecessary)
- two ~12x2x0.2cm, pre-drilled metal plates
- two-side adhesive tape
- some rather small nuts and bolts
- a 25 cm piece of plastic cable raceway
- a strip of an old inner tube
So, the instructions. First of all, it takes about 45-60 minutes to build and not much advanced skill. You start by removing the cable raceway cover: we don’t need it. Take your phone, put it in the middle of the the cable raceway, mark its left and right edge on the raceway and cut out parts of the raceway side walls so that it can be folded at a 90° angle into a wide U-shape. I used a small saw, but you should be able to do it with a sharp knife or scissors as well.
Take the two metal plates. Mine have 4 holes each (3-4mm wide): if yours do not, I suggest you use a drill to make them. We will attach them to the sides of the U-shaped plastic frame. Place a metal plate over the frame side so that you will be able to attach it with 2 nuts. Take an awl or a sharp pocket knife and drill holes in the plastic frame. Push the nuts from the inside through the plastic frame and through the metal plate and then put and tighten the bolts on the outer side. Repeat on the opposite side of the frame. I suggest you use nuts with as flat heads as you can find, to prevent them from leaving marks on the phone.
With that in mind, cut out a 20x1cm strip from the old inner tube. We will use it to line the inner walls of the plastic U-frame, to protect the phone from the metal nut heads. Take the two-side adhesive tape, cut enough 1x5cm pieces to cover one side of the rubber strip and carefully put it in place, inside the plastic frame. When you do this, the inner side of the left, right and bottom walls of the frame should be covered by the rubber strip. It will also help grip the phone better, in addition to protecting it from nut heads.
Finally, take a look at your handlebar: it will probably not be perfectly straight and it might already have fixtures for a light, a cyclocomputer etc, leaving little room to mount the camera stand. You should think about where you want to put the camera and how long the camera stand “legs” will be. You then take pliers, bend the metal plates inwards at the right places and use the hose clamps to tighten them to the handlebar. I would advise putting a patch of rubber from the inner tube under the hose clamps to prevent damage to the handlebar, improve grip and (hopefully) dampen vibrations a bit.
And that’s about it! As for the final product, I’m quite pleasantly surprised by the stability of the image, the view from the handlebar, the robustness of the frame and the footage I’m getting. Here is (a relatively gloomy sample of) what it looks like…