Review: Cycliq Fly 12 Front Light and Camera

by Bez 0

There are plenty of cameras on the market these days. Some are aimed at capturing your rad-to-the-power-of-sick antics on the trail, others are aimed at capturing the less enjoyable bits of road riding in case you need evidence, and some are jacks-of-all-trades. The Fly12 is aimed fairly and squarely at the evidence-gathering market, and has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it unique.

Cycliq Fly 12

On opening the box you’re rewarded with an aesthetically successful and reassuringly solid-feeling chunk of design. Its periphery is almost entirely uncluttered: just a block of aluminium and firm, rubbery plastic with a couple of circles in its face (one being the camera lens, the other a light) and some buttons and connection discreetly tucked in its bottom.

The unit attaches via a standard GoPro mount, and a tidy mount for 31.8mm handlebars is supplied. This should mean most roadies are catered for out of the box, but the commuter market probably has a fair few 25.4mm bars kicking about, for which additional shims will be required.

Also supplied is a 16GB micro SD card, which should be good for a couple of hours of dodgy passes and left hooks, but the unit claims to support up to a 64GB card. I happened to have a 128GB card kicking about, so I used that, and it seemed perfectly happy with it. Note that you don’t really need a huge card: once the card’s full the camera will just start overwriting the oldest file.

Cycliq Fly 12
The under-bar mounting makes it much easier to fit things like a GPS, as long as your cables aren’t too upset by it.

I’ve mentioned the light, so let’s get the review of that out of the way now: it’s a typical symmetrical beam knocking out a claimed 400 lumens in a diffused cone shape, and that’s about all you need to know. As far as the physical form of the Fly12 goes, you can think of it as a bit of a freebie: the battery governs the size and shape of the unit, and the LED is just tacked on the front of it. As such, it’s a useful addition as a backup and it also works well enough as an urban light (though it lacks any side visibility) and as a pulsing daytime light, but in my opinion it doesn’t cut it as a primary light for either rural road riding or off-road use. I’ll stick to my German dynamo lights to illuminate the open road, but I was very happy with the Fly12 as the urban commuting light on my Brompton (although to fit it to the 25.4mm bars I did have to use shims, which didn’t come with the Fly12).

Cycliq Fly 12

Anyway, you’re not buying this because it’s a light. You’re buying it because it’s a camera. A camera for capturing events on the road.

My first date with the Fly12 turned out to be more eventful than I’d have liked: as we passed another group of cyclists one of them rode into the back of the rider in front of him, and… well, you can see what happened: that’s what the camera’s for.

The lengths we go to, to bring you these reviews…
Can’t see the video? Click here.

A wrist injury for me, which meant no proper rides for me for two months. (For those with a cyclist’s sense of priorities: the saddle was a write-off but the bike was otherwise unscathed—oh, and I think the other guy was essentially OK too). But fear not: I could still potter around gently on flat bars for short distances, so I started testing the Fly12 on the Brompton instead.

Using the camera

For the most part, using the Fly12 works like this: you switch it on (by holding down one of the buttons on the back for a second or so), and it records stuff. That’s it. And that’s a good thing, because when it comes to evidence gathering that’s exactly what you want.

Cycliq claim that it’ll keep on trucking for 10 hours with the light off, which is one of its key selling points: as far as I’m aware, nothing else on the market comes close. I seemed to only get about 8 hours from it, though. Still leading the class by some margin, but not quite delivering on its promise.

Daylight performance is very good, with plenty of detail on offer.
Can’t see the video? Click here.

Incident detection is built in: if the unit senses a crash it’ll prevent the associated evidence being overwritten. It also uses its sensors to work out which way up it is, so you can mount it either way without having to change any settings, and to send itself to sleep when it senses that it’s stopped moving (you can turn this off). There’s also an alarm facility: leave the bike outside the cafe and it can make your phone bark if someone tries to make off with it while you’re stuffing your face with cake.

There is a single flashing light on top of the unit. The manual explains what its signals mean, but you’ll probably never remember it: so, if it’s flashing it’s working, if it’s not it not. It suffices. If you mount the camera under your bars you won’t even be able to see it anyway. The light goes orange to warn of impending battery demise (good luck with that if you’re colour blind) but it seems a little hit-and-miss: one day it was suddenly lifeless after it had been green for some time, other times it seemed to sit in the orange zone for a fair while. Charging, via the ubiquitous micro USB connection, is best done overnight as it takes a while. Oddly, the test unit seemed to occasionally not register a power source.

Night performance is inevitably marginal.
Can’t see the video? Click here.

One button on the back lets you snap photos, while the other acts as both the power switch and the control for the light, cycling through whichever modes you’ve configured in the app (see below). I wish there was a separate button for the light: the fact that a long press turns the camera off means the same long press couldn’t be used to turn the light off. So “off” is just a mode you cycle through, meaning that if you want to get from “low” mode to “high” you may have to briefly switch the light off—which isn’t exactly ideal.

The app

One particularly interesting feature of the Fly12 is its accompanying iOS app. (At the time of writing, the Android version is available as a beta, ie available but not quite finished yet.) It lets you review footage from your iPhone or iPad and export a clip to a file, and it also lets you adjust the settings of the unit. For instance, you can configure which of the numerous light modes you want available, set it to road or off-road mode, turn incident detection on and off, and so on.

Even with the video export there are some bells and whistles, too: you can hook up to a Strava recording of your route to overlay additional information, and there’s also the option of adding “tramlines”. These are intended to indicate where on the road represents a certain distance from the ends of your bars (you specify your bar width and the height of the camera in the app) but unless you’ve mounted the camera with perfect pitch—and there is no practicable way of ensuring that—well, see for yourself in the video below. Habitual YouTubers might appreciate the novelty value of them, but they’re of no value from an evidential point of view. [Bez has provided a detailed explanation of how to calculate distances using camera footage – click here to read it – Ed ]

The tramlines are a cute idea, but of questionable value.
Can’t see the video? Click here.

The app is, unfortunately, a little frustrating. Some aspects are functional but relatively minor (connecting can be a slight faff, and don’t forget the wifi password you configure for your unit otherwise you’ll need to do a hardware reset), some are just annoyances (please make the awful video footage behind the main menu stop), some are bugs (the app told me I had updated firmware available, but then told me the unit was too low on battery to install it—even though I’d just fully charged it), but the biggest issue is the editing process.

Videos are recorded in five minute chunks. Within this you can pause at any point and then go into edit mode, or you can go to edit mode first and then pause. When you do this, the app will select a range from five seconds before your pause point and ten seconds after. You can then drag a pair of markers on a track to move the start and end points of the clip, but you can never accurately see where those markers are: no timings are ever displayed and if you try to play the video it moves the markers away from where you left them.

All I want is to be able to set the start and end points of my clip, but this method forces endless trial-and-error editing, with each export taking around a minute for every 10 seconds of clip. Oh, and there’s no means of joining two five-minute segments together, so try not to crash too close to the start or end of a video. It’s pretty infuriating to be honest, although of course there is always the traditional option of taking the card out and sticking it in a computer.

Low light performance isn’t bad.
Can’t see the video? Click here.

All this became less of an issue at the end of the test, though, when the app no longer wanted to connect to the unit at all.

And it’s round about this point where you start wondering whether the cost of the unit is venturing too far into diminishing returns. I own Cycliq’s rear-facing Fly6 camera, which is £99 and fundamentally does exactly the same thing: you switch it on and it records stuff, incident detection and all. It doesn’t have an app, it has a smaller battery (though musters a not-dissimilar runtime, in my experience) and, more significantly, it only records at 720p instead of the Fly12’s full HD 1080p at 45fps. But I’m forced to hold the £99 Fly6 in one hand and the £249 Fly12 in the other and wonder why Cycliq didn’t just change the shape, stick a cheap white LED on it, and make it another affordable winner.

Works off-road too, y’know.
Can’t see the video? Click here.

Conclusion

In one respect Cycliq have repeated what they achieved very successfully with the Fly6: a camera which is neat, tidy, easy to interact with and lasts long enough for most people’s idea of a proper ride: a fit-and-forget item that you can just turn on and off. If Cycliq had left it there, and kept the price closer to that of the Fly6 as a result, I’d be screaming at you to go and buy one and I’d have one myself.

Cycliq Fly 12

As it is, a good chunk of the £150 price difference between the two units seems like it’s gone towards features which aren’t essential and in some cases aren’t reliable. The larger battery, the better sensor and the light are all worthwhile; but the Bluetooth, the wi-fi and the app are all (to my mind) unnecessary bells and whistles. And while I’m sure the niggles will be fixed (maybe that firmware update would help—if the app could get its act together and install it) they’re unnecessary bells and whistles that don’t work as well as they should.

Overall: Much as I’m frustrated by Cycliq making the Fly12 a lot less affordable by filling it with stuff that didn’t need to be in it, if you want a camera to just sit there and do a good job of recording your day’s ride then the Fly12 is very, very good at that.

Review Info

Brand:Cycliq
Product:Fly12
From:cycliq.com
Price:£249
Tested:by Bez for 3 Months