Fly6 - A Tail-Light With An All-Seeing Eye

Wed, 04/30/2014 - 9:32pm -- mhayes


Overview

The Fly6 is a brand new cycling accessory that makes you say "I wish I'd thought of that!" Combining a rear tail-light and a recording device into a solid 132g package, the camera/tail-light hybrid watches the world from behind.

As stated on the Fly6 website and Kickstarter page, "The accessory was born out of a bad experience. Kingsley & Andrew, good friends and the inventors of Fly6 which is based out of Australia, decided to bring to life the concept of making motorists more accountable for their actions after Kingsley was hit by a high velocity projectile from a passing car while cycling. Every cyclist has a close-call or harassment tale, sometimes several. Wouldn't it be great to catch the act on film and even be able to use it as evidence to prove your claims?"

The Fly6 Kickstarter campaign caught my eye after reading a review on BikeSnobNYC. Curious to test it out myself, I shortly thereafter received a pre-production Fly6 in late March and decided to put it on some bikes for real-world testing. The bullet points of the Kickstarter campaign were simple yet bold; Easy-to-use, auto-looping, hydrophobic technology, 15 lumens of strobe power, 720p resolution, did I mention ease-of-use…


First Impressions

The packacking is clean and presents the Fly6 as a high-end electronics gadget to be sought after by cyclists. Each unit ships with an 8gb microSD card, USB cable, two sets of seatpost attachments including what appears to be supple, yet nearly unbreakable, silicone straps. A shim and set of long straps is also included to accommodate aero seatposts. Bevelled shims are used to keep the Fly6 on a level viewing plane when attached to your seatpost.

Fly6 Box

The quick-start guide got me up and running in 5 minutes. All I had to do was simply open a file on the microSD card from my Macbook to initially set the current date and time. The camera charged overnight and I was set. Attaching the camera was ridiculously easy as you simply match one of the bevelled shims to the slide-clip seatpost attachment that best keeps the tail-light level. The silicone straps attach easily on one end and you just stretch around the post and reattach on the other side. Remarkably, while the straps didn't feel like they would hold the Fly6 centered, I must say that the straps kept the camera straight and didn't walk down the seatpost - even during a mountain bike race!

Fly6 Contents

Turning the tail-light on and adjusting it is a snap. There are two buttons on either side of the unit. One turns the power on; the other adjusts the light strobe intensity or turns the light off completely. There are a three light intensity adjustments and the strobe is great for capturing drivers' attentions. Even with the light strobe turned off the camera LEDs remain lit to alert people that they are being filmed.  The USB cover keeps the port and microSD card dry and out of harm's way. It was a bit tight to close but once sealed it never did pop open during testing.

Fly6 mounted on a bike

Fly6 closeup

Real-World Use

I got straight to the heart of the durability test by taking it to its first mountain bike race. I wondered how the Fly6 would fair on the back of a 29+ hardtail jostling around the Lost Valley trail. As stated in the 'product features' on their website, the Fly6 is extremely easy to use. I turned the unit on and turned the light settings to off with two clicks of the right water-resistant button. The recording LEDs spun endlessly around indicating it was recording. That's it - race time.

Fly6 at a race

The Fly6 was like a fly on the wall capturing racer's rolling past me at the start and quietly staying out of my way. I was so focused on not coming in last place that I set it out of my mind until I crossed the finish. Lo and behold the little guy was still attached to the seatpost and still in the same centered position - it didn't even creep down the seatpost with each jarring rocky drop. I have to say the Fly6 is definitely secure to one's bike. Yes, it's a bit long in length and that may create mounting problems for some road riders with short seatposts and a seatbag in place.  However, I've seen many installs online where riders have successfully mounted the Fly6 to the seat tube and still capture great footage.

Being a mountain biker first and a roadie second - and with the weather finally cooperating for some solid mountain biking - I opted to take the Fly6 on another singletrack run around Bluffview and Zombie Trail. Again, the little tail-light with 'perks' followed me around the hillsides capturing some great footage of the riders behind me. Some mud was flung onto the unit at a water crossing but most of it slid off thanks to the hydrophobic coating on the Fly6 external and internal parts. This nanotech kept the water rivulets following off of the lens and only the stickiest of mud remained on the unit.

Fly6 footage on a mountain bike

The Fly6 is primarily designed for road cyclists looking for a silent sentinel to capture driver bad behaviors, close calls and any other incidents. The rotating LEDs around the camera alert drivers that an all-seeing eye is watching the scene unfold. Watching your back, the Fly6 offers peace of mind in case a dreaded event ever occurred. The time and date stamped video footage is clear enough to be used in a courtroom and I found it works reasonably well in low light conditions such as an evening ride on city streets. The Fly6 camera is outgunned in truly dark situations but most riders are out during the day and it still serves its secondary purpose as a tail-light in the evening hours. The strobe effect did a great job alerting the locals during my after-hours riding near my house in 'satellite only' country.

Giving the the camera and light combination a true shakedown I sent it out on one of Lisa's Team Revolution group road rides. Thankfully there were no incidents to highlight in this review! It was encouraging to see folks in cars give a nice berth when passing and the Fly6 captured every moment of the ride with its microSD card. The pre-production unit shipped with an NTFS formatted 8gb card and the production unit will ship with an 8gb card. You can put an even larger card in, say a 32gb, but you will probably run out of battery power before it uses all of the recording capacity. My longest ride during testing was 3.5 hours and it still kept plugging along. When the battery does drop to 5% charge, you will hear three long beeps before it goes into power-save mode and turns the camera off leaving only the lights operating for up to another hour or so.

Fly6 on the road

The single biggest feature of the camera itself is its two-fold auto-looping feature and 'incident protection.' The auto-looping feature is fantastic in that when you turn the device on it will immediately record until the memory card is full and then begin overwriting the earliest footage until your ride is over. This may be the only camera that doesn't have the dreaded "OUT OF SPACE" capacity message. The 'incident protection' feature is designed to capture and save the "bad incident" if the Fly6 is tipped at an angle greater than 45 degrees for more than 3 seconds. It's basically assuming you got crashed out by someone or something. The camera will record for an hour after the incident and then automatically shut down so it 'saves' the impact and doesn't overwrite it. That being said, you must take caution when stopping for a break on your bike and not lay it down on the grass without first shutting off the Fly6, otherwise, it will go into protection mode an hour down the road and you'll be wondering what happened to the rest of the footage. This happened to me post-race at Lost Valley when I set my bike down and it took me a reread of the online manual to figure out what happened.

Fly6 usb port

Once plugged into a computer with the supplied USB cord, I viewed the files using Apple QuickTime. Fly6 recommends the VLC Media Player which also worked just fine. The files are recorded in the .AVI file format and are separated into folders uniquely named by capture date. The files are broken down into 15 minute chunks ranging from 800mb to 1.1gb in file size. The 720p video quality is pretty good for a camera at this price point. I was able to make out license plates and faces as they approached closer to the camera lens. The automatic white balance kept the picture quality in check and helped compensate for dusk conditions. Again, the camera is not designed for night-time use. The strobing lights did reflect in the video but didn't obscure any details that would prove important in a courtroom setting.

Fly6 file structure


Final Thoughts

After learning about the Fly6 I was intrigued. After testing the Fly6 I am sold. I've been talking it up to folks I've been around on rides and plan on getting one for my wife. This rugged dual-use cycling accessory offers peace of mind, captures deeds I often wished I could 'burn to memory for evidence' and is a nice, functional tail-light to boot. It is also fun to use on trails and at races! The $159 price tag is more than reasonable and I've heard rumors that they are working on a front-mounted light/camera model as well.

Highly recommended

Bonus Video - (right click save-as to view in your preferred video player) 9mb super-duper compressed file just to prove it works on the trail. NOT actual quality. This was a 500MB file in its original form.

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