Welcome to our guide to the best way to carry a mirrorless or DLSR photography camera on a road bike. If you love photography and love riding a road bike, sometimes you might want to take better quality camera equipment than a simple of action camera or mobile phone to capture that special moment or stunning landscape. There are lots of parameters to consider, including weight, lens selection, ease of access, waterproofing, protection, impact on handling and comfort whilst riding. There is no perfect solution, but read on for our tried and tested recommendations.
1) Forget the full frame DSLR and 24-70 and 70-200 F2.8 lenses. It should really go without saying, that they're generally too big and inconvenient unless you're a professional photographer on a paid gig. But then you probably wouldn't be out in your lycra in the first place
2) Handlebar bag – Ortlieb Ultimate 6
Bikepacking has becoming very popular in recent years but handlebar roll bags don't make for convenient camera storage on the bike. We recommend the Ortlieb Ultimate 6 range of bags. Whilst not particularly aero dynamic and available in a somewhat confusing range of options and sizes, they do meet the most essential requirements, especially if going on longer rides or multi-day trips:
Protective and waterproof case with camera specific padded inserts
Bag is easily detached from the bike and can be carried with the supplied shoulder strap
Waterproof top pocket to display Garmin / Wahoo GPS device and mobile phone whilst riding
Minimal handle bar clutter doesn't affect bike handling or hand position on the bars and it's obviously not sweaty on your back
Enough space for 1-2 mirrorless cameras with lens, a smaller DSLR or larger mirrorless camera with 2-3 lenses
It's an expensive option but not one you're likely to regret. Once the clamp is on the bike, you'll find yourself taking the camera on more rides or commutes than ever before
3) Handlebar bottle bag - Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag It's small handlebar water bottle or feedback, with two sections each with its own pull cord. It's overpriced for what is and your knees might catch it out of the saddle, but for a simple one camera setup it can work well. It does complement a bike packing rig well though.
4) Frame bags, saddle bags, panniers, fork bags Don't do it! They all fall into the category of bikepacking or touring style of riding and are generally too much hassle and faff for regular road riding usage. They're mostly not the best place on the bike to store a camera either and rarely offer good protection for your equipment.
5) Shoulder sling bag – Thinktank Turnstyle V2 5L
There's a bewildering array camera specific and sports specific sling bags. However, there's very little crossover that works well for road cycling. Our recommendation is the Thinktank Turnstyle V2 5L. It's a well thought out, camera specific sling that can be used with no adaptions on the road bike and pulls double duty as a great bag off the bike:
Secondary support strap is included. This key design feature prevents the bag and camera from swinging around and can be stowed away when not required. Very few bags offer this in such a small form factor and we would not recommend riding any sling bag on a road bike unless it has 3-point support
Protective camera inserts, waterproof rain cover included
Space for 1 small to medium mirror less and 2-3 lenses or 2 small cameras
Lightweight and doesn't impact bike handling. It also converts to a waist pack too.
The key compromise here is that some people don't like riding with a bag on their bag. In winter months this is less of an issue, but it is perhaps not ideal when mercury hits 30c and you're planning to ride fast and wear a mesh lycra top to keep cool. For many ride scenarios though it works really well and is obviously out of the wind and aerodynamic! There is an argument to suggest the hump on your back could improve aerodynamics by filling the space behind your helmet, but we've not tested this one. For an extensive review renowned photography equipment test site, see Philip Reeve's two articles. Be warned, you may get distracted with the stunning photos https://phillipreeve.net/blog/a-photography-ride-through-spring/ https://phillipreeve.net/blog/a-look-into-phillips-camera-bag-september-2019-edition/
6) Shoulder / waist sling - Peak Design Everyday Sling 3, 5, 6L
It's our go to off the bike bag and with a third party second harness or tether can work well. It can also be used as a waist pack. However, we'd only recommend this for slower city rides.
Unless you're mountain biking we would not recommend backpacks for road cycling. They're simply too big and sweaty on your back
8) GoPro action camera chest or shoulder harness
If you have a small mirrorless camera, it's possible to attach them via a mount to GoPro style action camera chest or shoulder harnesses. Some of them even come with a camera tripod mount rather than the GoPro mount. Theses harnesses are reasonably unobtrusive once on, but do limit the size and weight of the camera and lens combination you can safely carry. Obviously there's no waterproofing for the camera, but it does mean you could use the camera to capture video footage.
For this type of carry, you're really looking at small MicroFourThirds and APS-C Compact cameras that are ideally weather sealed and used with a weather sealed lens too, or perhaps high quality compact cameras. If you're riding where the weather is sunny like it is in Valencia, you may extend the potential use of this kind of harness. Fortunately, they're available for less the £10 upwards, so it's perhaps a good cheap option for dry rides.
9) Camera Straps
There are probably as many camera strap systems available as there camera bags and again most are not suitable when riding a road bike, as they typically sit too far down your back or do not have a 3-point harness or security tether to prevent the camera from swinging around.
Off the bike we use Peak Design straps and anchors but do not recommend them for riding. However, companies such as SkinGrowsBack and Mettle Cycling offer solutions that attempt to address these problems. We've tried similar options with customisations including the Black Rapid Curve and generic straps available on Amazon like the Waka Rapid. They never inspire total confidence, but generally work well with some limitations.
It's worth taking a look at Francis Cade's video for a review of the Skingrowsback strap How I Carry my Camera while riding a Bike - YouTube
Again you're limited to one camera and one lens, both of which should be ideally weather sealed and not too large. They're not super comfortable, but are not as sweaty as a sling. As such, we would have to recommend people test them or buy them with the acceptance it might not see much good paced road cycling use. If you find them comfortable and secure, they're a great option and we're looking forward to testing the Mettle Speed strap in the future. The quest never ends! https://skingrowsback.com/products/3point-cycling-camera-strap
10 ) Change your camera? - jersey pocket
We'll have a separate article soon, highlighting the best cameras to use for road cycling and mountain biking, but in the meantime, if you're determined to take high quality photography on your rides it might be time to reevaluate your current kit. If you're using a DLSR or even a high end mirrorless camera, it's likely to have a quite a large body and require comprises if riding. It could be time think about a second body or digging out an older compact that's not seeing much use.
If for example you're rocking a Sony A6000, Sony RX100, Ricoh GRIII, Panasonic GX9 or GX880 or Olympus M-M10 Mk III, Fuji X-E3, Canon PowerShot, Nikon Coolpix camera, you might find that it fits in one of your jersey pockets. Certainly many of the small options will. Our tip here, is to never put them in saddlebag, unless you want a cracked screen. For a cyclists review of the GRIII
11) Trunk bag
If you leave a rack on your bike, trunk bags may be an effective option. Racks can be lightweight and unobtrusive, whilst supporting a good sized waterproof bag, into third party camera insert padding can be added very cheaply. The bags are out of the way and out of the wind, affect the handling less than a handlebar bag and kit can be quickly accessed. A high end solution like the Tailfin carbon rack might be the way to go if you've got the budget. We also like the murdered out black look of the Giant waterproof trunk bag.