I received my Garmin Virb Elite (for my full review of the Garmin Virb Elite click here) for Xmas and immediately ordered a bunch of different Go-Pro compatible mounts, for various purposes and which all fit the Virb just fine.
In another blog entry I will fully review the Garmin Virb Elite itself, but in this posting I want to go over the aero-bar/tri-bar/triathlon-bar mount that I put together using a GoPro handlebar mount, the links/arms and adapter links that came with the Virb, as well as the also-included knobs and a long-shafted knob that I bought/came as part of another mount.
This system works well for me, allowing the Virb to be safely tucked under the aero-bar, and still allowing it a good view of the road/action as well as giving me easy access to the Virb and the Virb’s display; including the Dashboard readings (like MPH, distance, etc) and settings.
But to be specific – when I say ‘put together’ it was just that; I simply screwed the parts together, though I probably took a good fifteen to twenty minutes playing with the various mount’s combinations and positions to get the exact angle and position that I wanted. And then I did a bit of messing around and re-positioning while out on the road.
This is what works for me, it may or may not work for you due to personal preferences or the differences in aero-bars. Other mounts and adapters may (will) work too, and might even work better for you.
Of course you will be using your Garmin Virb Elite and the included cradle for it first of all. Make sure the Virb is secured in the cradle properly, and I would recommend using a lanyard in the little lanyard slot, at least initially. I plan on using the lanyard whenever the Virb is mounted on the bike, just to make sure.
A rough road, not tightening things quite enough, high speeds, etc – can loosen the mount and links and thumb knobs so why not use the handy little lanyard slot in the back of the Virb? You can get just a lanyard for the Virb, the Garmin mounting arm/links kit that has a lanyard included, make your own lanyard, or do what I did and used a 60-pound test leader line made of stainless steel coated with nylon – there are tons of these available in various lengths. It makes a great safety lanyard without being obtrusive, and it has ready-made connectors on the end and it’s coated with plastic so it won’t scratch your handlebars or anything, yet it’s strong with the inner stainless steel line.
Next you will need this Handlebar bike mount (identified in the description as a ‘handlebar tripod mount’ for some reason). This one worked great for me as it has its own thumbscrew/bolt/knob, a two-part rubber protective liner as well as another single-piece thick rubber spacer for smaller bars – which was perfect because my aero-bar is smaller than the handlebar, likely your’s will be too. But if you use another aero-bar you might not need this extra spacer (which comes with the mount). This mount also has a locking swivel mechanism which could be swiveled and locked, via little tabs inside the swivel part, into any of four positions. The mounting part itself has three prongs/tabs to connect other mounts/arms/links to. But unlike the Garmin links and adapters this does not have the little teeth in the joint system that is supposed to keep everything from working loose and such. After a long ride there does seem to be a slight movement and I have had to readjust it a few times while riding.
There are a ton of handlebar mounts, I liked this one because it was thick, seemingly pretty heavy-duty without being metal, had extra rubber spacers/protectors, and had a swivel base, as well as not having too many extra parts hanging out.
There’s some other nice ones that may work for you instead, or if you just want to mount the Virb (or GoPro) to the handlebar directly, like the cheap but nice clone of the K-Edge here or Garmin’s own handlebar mount (which is nice, but expensive – I have yet to see a direct clone of this particular latter type, though there are a number of somewhat similar ones with a few more parts involved).
The only problem I had with this part was the small screw that is used to tighten the part that rotates in the various positions – this worked loose often. Inside the rotatable base are tabs to set it to any the four positions, and then a screw to hold it tight. Unfortunately this screw should have been a little heavier duty so that it could be tightened more, and perhaps the swivel part should have had teeth like Garmin mounts. I solved it by coating the screw and the two parts that can be rotated against each other with superglue. It was more just to keep the screw tight than to make the whole thing stronger or to hold it in place, it just needed to be stopped from loosening. Once done with that it has never loosened up again. Of course then it can’t be rotated ever again. But the mount is cheap enough where you could get a couple if you needed it to. Perhaps something like Locktite for threads could be used.
You need this long knob if you use the above handlebar mount as it has the wide three tabbed connector, which requires a longer shaft. You can find just the long knobs sold separately from anything else, but mine was included with some other mounts that I bought.
If you use another mount, like one that has a double tabbed design, or single, then you won’t need this – the shorter shafted knobs will work.
This knob is what I used to connect the handlebar mount to the right adapter link.
The adapter link-to-popular industry mounts is another that is included with your Virb, and again – you can buy extras. This is what connects to the handlebar mount. The two thinner tabs go into the three-tabbed handlebar mount, and this assembly goes horizontal in the case of my installation, all of which helped to make sure the Virb was going to be a little offset from being snug against the left aero-bar, yet with enough clearance so the Virb wouldn’t rattle and rub against the curved rear part of the aero-bars. Since this is a real Garmin link it has the “Teeth Locking” system on the Virb-mount end, but none on the other end since it is an adapter and must connect to GoPro-compatible mounts. The tooth system seems to work well to keep it locked into place even if the knob isn’t tightened quite enough.
The right angle link is another one that comes with the Garmin Virb, it has the double connection at one end and a single right-angle tab at the other. You can buy extras, see my mention of this below.
The single right angle tab in this fits into the adapter link double tabs, and one of the (below) short knobs screws into this one to hold it together. This link I set vertical so that the double threaded tabs go into the Virb’s mounting cradle – so the Virb is upright.
This piece also has the “Teeth Locking” system on either end, especially important as the Virb cradle goes directly onto it, and since the Virb is a bit ‘heavy’ (relatively) it is needed to make sure it doesn’t work loose over time.
I used one of the two short knobs (included with Virb Elite) to connect the adapter link to the right angle link, and the other at the top of the right angle link to connect to the Virb’s cradle mount.
For the right angle link, adapter link, and knobs I’d recommended buying extras so you don’t have to disassemble your aero-bar mount everytime you need the parts for another mount and vice versa.
Tighten everything down, but be aware that these are all plastic mounts with some light metal threaded sleeves, so don’t tighten it until you strip the threads or break the mounts. Make sure your lanyard is safe and secure and give it a spin, you’ll be able to tell how much you need to tighten each knob after a bit; with the lanyard on you’re safe to not tighten them too much until you are sure how much pressure you need to put on them.
I have to admit that I took quite some time messing around with the various mounts, adapters, and links and the many iterations that could be configured – until I got it positioned just right for my purposes.
Initially I was thinking that I wanted to build my own mount of some sort, or use a pair of mounts on either side to sling the Virb in the exact middle. But except for a slightly better visual angle for the camera I didn’t see the need to go to that much trouble, and I really didn’t want a Rube Golbergian style conglomeration attached to my aero-bar.
What I did want was a cheap, secure, and good-looking mount system that was customized to my preferences, would allow a good view of the road for the Virb’s camera as well as let easily view the Dashboard display for speed, etc. I got all of this, and all for around $15 (not including the links and knobs I already had from the Virb itself).
With the Virb on the widest-angled lens choice there is a bit of the aero-bar on the side shown in the video but I normally don’t use the ultra-wide setting anyway. I could eliminate this by angling the whole mounting system slightly so that the Virb is farther toward the center but it doesn’t seem necessary for my purposes. That is the nice thing about this system; all of the parts can be adjusted to achieve any angle, though it involves loosening each section to adjust all the angles of the links and adapters; not a big deal.
I know other people have had trouble with the loosening of the Garmin adapters and links as well as the GoPro-compatible ones, especially with the beefier Virb attached to multiple attachment units. I occasionally may have to tighten something once during a ride, but nothing more than doing so once during a water break or at a stop sign.
And some of this may be because of the vibration of the aero-bars – after all, they’re hanging way out over the front with just mount points toward the back. When I am not down on the aero-bars I notice there is some vibration in the video during recording with the Virb, but once I drop down onto the aero-bars the picture becomes bit steadier. Not exactly uncommon from other video that I have watched, both with video recording from cameras on the aero-bar as well as on the handlebar itself sometimes. It’s slight though.
Where I have mounted the Virb is an excellent and safe position in general though, and affords me a good view of speed, distance, direction and info from any ANT+ sensors I happen to be running – but a small amount of vibration does creep in, and a bit of audio hum from my gummy, slicky treadless tires. Concerning the latter though; this seems to be just the dynamics of my particular bike and set up as I got the same with a previous video camera mounted directly on my handlebars.
Unfortunately the three hour battery life that Garmin claims doesn’t seem realistic for my particular camera, nor for other people’s like the always-thorough DC Rainmaker. More like less than two and a half hours. I could cut the video quality, turn off the GPS (which would mean most of the functions on the Dashboard wouldn’t work), but it’s an easy matter to add a few small external battery packs – and they’re great for charging a phone too.
I picked up a bunch of el cheapo ones from discount stores – $5 each gets a 1800 mAh rechargeable battery pack with a USB port, the ones I got are like two rectangular blocks and strap on beside each other right at the base of the aero-bar. You can get all kinds of them including nicer ones than I got, though mine work really well and seem to be durable. I also have a larger, higher capacity battery pack that still fits pretty well on the aero-bar, mounted vertically (see pic). A shorter USB cable (the one shown here is a bit long) would round it out.
As you can see in the pics I used a rubbery flashlight bicycle mount to secure them. I don’t think I have ever used this little rubbery thing for a flashlight, but I have attached many things to the bike with it including batteries and pepper spray, and used it to hold straps in place.
All in all I am extremely happy with the set-up and positioning of the Virb on my aero-bar with the mount I assembled. I am also very happy about using the Virb itself and how well it mounts in any direction and configuration, and I love the ability to use the display on the Virb as I am riding and as it is recording video.
For my full review of the Garmin Virb Elite itself click here.