Anyone who follows me on twitter can’t fail to have noticed some cycling related comments recently. Yes, cycling is the current interest. I’ve ridden about 1100 miles in the last 6 months and have learned enough to bore you to death with talk of heart zones and various items of clothing you can buy to make winter rides more bearable.
But I won’t! Although I will say that I’m reliably informed by close friends that simultaneously wearing both my balaclava in ‘full ninja’ mode AND my cycle helmet cover makes me look like a ‘tit’. (Must be a blue tit or great tit with all that black and yellow, I suppose?) I only did it for the photo. In real life, you need to breathe to cycle so covering nose and mouth is not very practical (unless you’re a bank robber).
I’ve decided that I want a decent way of seeing what’s behind me (and recording it) while on the bike. I already have a little mirror I bought for rearward viewing, but it’s not very satisfactory and a camera would be a lot cooler (and more fun).
I also want to record what’s in front of me. Out on a ride today, someone very nearly pulled out of their driveway and into the road directly across my path. We both saw each other just in time and braked, but it was too damned close. Time to look at dashcam options!
What are the Dashcam Options for Bikes?
I had a look on Amazon and decided that the cheaper, ready-made, motorbike two-camera solutions don’t look good enough (poor reviews, unable to resolve a vehicle number plate) and the decent ones are too expensive (£200+). The main use for me is to see what’s behind me, and record both front and rear footage. I don’t give a damn about GPS coordinates or anything like that at this stage, but sometimes it’d be nice to see the scenery and wildlife. A rabbit ran out across the road right in front of me today. It would have been interesting to see what that looked like on camera. And yes, there’s always the ‘evidence gathering’ side of things too, which one hopes never to need.
So What About Pi-based Solutions?
It’s always a good idea to see what’s already been done before reinventing the wheel. There’s a very nice implementation of a two-camera dashcam using a Pi2, a Pi camera and a USB webcam over at Pidashcam.
It looks great, but I don’t want to bother with GPS at this stage and I need a screen to see what’s behind me in real-time. I also want to use some of the huge pile of kit I already own. So I’m going to do things a bit differently and go with a 2 Pi system and a small Keidei 3.5″ HDMI screen I bought on ebay 2 years ago for £20 and have only used once. This screen sits directly on top of a Pi A+ or B/B+ and connects via HDMI. It also has resistive touch (but I’ve never used that).
If that works out well I might upgrade the screen to something with higher resolution. For the Pis I’m going to use a brand new Pi3A+ with screen and Pi camera at the front. At the rear there’ll be a Pi Zero W with one of those tiny Pi Zero cameras.
The front Pi will act as a wireless access point and the rear Pi will connect to it. Both Pis will be set up to record video while powered up. The rear Pi will also stream its video to port 8090. The front Pi will grab that stream and display it, probably using vlc, on the screen so I can see what’s behind me. This is just the day 1 design ‘specification’ in my head. No plan survives contact with the enemy, so you can be sure it’ll change as we go. That’s half the fun.
A Few Useful Links With Info
I’m literally blogging this project as I go, so here are the links I’ve found thus far which I’ve gleaned code snippets and ideas from…
That was it for evening 1. Next will come further ponderings, a feasibility test and obviously some changes of direction.