The release of the new front and rear Fly12CE and Fly6CE bikes cameras by Cycliq at the end of 2017 signalled a substantial change to almost everything about the young Australian company. On the back of becoming a publicly listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange and personnel changes including a new management team, the testing and launch strategy for the new bike cameras was also completely different this time around. The results are new front Fly12CE and rear Fly6CE camera’s that are not mere upgrades, they’ve been completely rebuilt.
If you are new to Cycliq, the essence of this brand is their integrated camera and light units for bike riders. The unit for the front is called the Fly12CE and the one for the rear is called the Fly6CE. Cycliq are still hold onto a unique position in the market, although there are plenty of action camera’s available ranging from the ‘struggling’ GoPro to bike specific camera’s such as the Garmin Virb and Shimano Sport Camera, there have been no real contenders which integrate a good bike light and employ a useable looping function when recording video.
In this review you will get an in-depth overview of the key features and weaknesses of the new Fly12CE and Fly6CE. We begin with a quick QandA to provide you with bite-sized insights that is then followed by more detailed information, hopefully enough information for you to decide if the one or both bike cameras are right for you.
Rapid-Fire Q&A: The new Fly6CE and Fly12CE
What exactly are the Fly6CE and the Fly12CE?
Like the previous models, they are convenient bike lights with integrated cameras. For everyday use, you charge and use them as bike lights, the Fly12CE up-front and the Fly6CE for the rear. While running, they record video. For practical purposes, the video is a backup (evidence) in the case of an incident or if something remarkable happens while you are cycling.
Are the new Cycliq Fly6CE and Fly12CE better than their predecessors?
Yes, there are a number of improvements that will be described in more detail in this review.
Should I upgrade my old Fly6 and / or Fly12?
Probably not, while there are improvements, if your current cameras are in perfect order it would be hard to justify an upgrade.
Should I buy a Fly6CE and Fly12CE?
They are like insurance, when you need them they really pay-off. The trade-off for the high price tag is convenience. If you can only budget for one, choose the Fly6CE as it faces backwards and captures traffic approaching from behind.
If you want a bike safety-camera, the convenience and peace-of-mind factor are fairly convincing reasons to choose these ones.
Has the video quality on the new camera’s improved?
The rear Fly6CE has notably better quality and a higher resolution video than its predecessor. The front Fly12CE has subtle improvements (the video clarity is better) but also suffers from poorer handling of shadows and contrasting light condition so need to choose the right settings.
New buyers need to know that the Cycliq products are not in the business of competing against top-end GoPro action cams or with digital SLR quality action footage. If you want to capture video for video and film production, the Cycliq cameras are not the right choice.
What about video capture at night or in the rain?
As with most other cameras, the Cycliq cameras will also struggle in difficult light and weather conditions. The better the light and weather, the better the footage.
The cameras use the Garmin style mount, is this any good?
Yes, the mounts are a significant improvement and make it far more convenient to remove and recharge the units.
The design of both cameras is different, what has improved?
A reduction in size of both units and the Garmin style mount are the key benefits. The units also look more attractive.
Are there any problems with the new designs?
The short answer is yes, some of obvious improvements have been ignored such as an easy-to-see ‘recording’ indicator and easy operation of the buttons. Some Fly6CE units had ‘known’ problems with waterproofing and the front Fly12 can be erratic with video recording and battery life.
What else do I need to know?
The Cycliq Plus desktop and smart phone app have improved – the settings can be controlled with the apps. The Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) on the front Fly12CE is excellent however on the Fly6CE it doesn’t work.
A few of the teething problems are being sequentially resolved with firmware updates.
Ch Ch Ch Changes (The Backstory)
Cycliq first appeared in 2014 with a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign for the first Fly6 and after they released the Fly12 on Kickstarter, in December 2016 they went public and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Coinciding with this, the company underwent big changes in staff, structure, their marketing and their products. The two co-founders, Andrew Hagen and Kinglsey Fiegert have since stepped down from active roles and a temporary CEO, Chris Singleton now leads a new management team with Ben Hammond in the role of COO.
In November 2017 I sent a spontaneous enquiry asking whether any new products or upgrades were due, it felt like the right time for news. A week later I was surprised when prolific gadget man DC Rainmaker published a ‘first look’ of brand new Fly6CE and Fly12CE cameras. Cycliq then released an announcement of their new products with the sale of these new models pinned for the end of November. The Marketing and PR was now outsourced with a different a testing and launch strategy.
The Fly6CE is the fourth generation rear camera for the West Australian business and the Fly12CE is the third generation front camera. The CE stands for ‘Connected Edition’, a tribute to the major overhaul and the ANT+ and Bluetooth integration.
Out of the Box
I received a Fly6 CE and Fly12 CE for review in February and it gets a new and attractive packaging that gives you that all-important ‘experience’ as you extract a box within a box complete with neatly packaged accessories. Bonus points can be awarded for finally shifting to packaging which easier to recycle.
The new cameras come with a USB-C charging cable, this a new format for Cycliq and in my own personal collection of charging cables, and it is the first USB-C device. The other end of the cable has the familiar USB interface, which can plug into your computer or USB wall-socket charger. I particularly liked the little ‘Cycliq’ tag on the cable which makes it much easy to identify… it’s the little things. You get everything you need to mount the Fly cameras and both come with an included tether.
This time around there are no microSD cards included, not even a measly 8GB card which means you have the purchase the necessary cards separately for each unit. Previously the Fly6 would come with a 8GB micro SD card and the Fly12 had a 16GB microSD card. This is a good start to get you started but for many riders, it is just a start.
When queried about the ‘missing’ microSD cards, Cycliq COO Ben Hammond says, “We previously only provided 8GB microSD cards with the products, and had a lot of feedback that customers upgraded to a larger card. As such, we decided that rather than include a larger card, which would have had an impact on the retail price for the product (or keep including the 8GB card which people weren’t using), we now offer the cards for sale separately on the site.”
An important tip when shopping for microSD cards, don’t simply buy the cheapest because cheap microSD cards may not work. You need to choose a card with sufficient performance (and not just capacity) to handling video recording. Generally you need a Class 10 (speed) card and be aware that there are a few other confusing labels used so the best approach is to double-check the Cycliq website for a list of compatible cards. Cycliq are now also selling their own branded cards but of course you can price check.
Officially, Cycliq say that 32GB Class 10 SD cards are supported for Fly6 and 64GB for the Fly12CE and I also recommend getting these respective sizes. In the Australian Cycling Forums one member reported successfully using a 128GB Micro SD card however the retail prices are insane for fast microSD cards with this storage capacity.
Design and Mounting
Both cameras’ now use the quarter-turn mount that is common for Garmin cycle computers and lends a substantial improvement. Taking each unit off the bike and putting them back on is fast and easy, it beats fiddling with screws or velcro plus the units are both a little slimmer.
The dominant red plastic faceplate on the Fly6CE bike camera is now gone and instead it sports a sleek and glossy finish. The rubber seal that covers the charging port and microSD card slot has now moved to the top of the unit but in comparison with the previous Fly6, it is fiddly. The rubber seal needs massaging to ensure that it is properly seated and even then, I’m not really certain whether it will keep the water out or remain secure while traversing bumpy terrain on the bike.
To mount the Fly6CE, Cycliq continue to look after cyclists with rounded seat tubes and with aero seat tubes. Simply choose the correct ‘insert’ to pair the mount with your seat tube. The mount can now remain permanently fastened to the seat tube and the camera is then easily clicked in or out. I found this mounting solution secure, with the velcro it is not rock-tight so can still twist but on the whole it works well.
The front Fly12CE is a complete rebuild, the rounded silver housing from the old Fly12 is gone in favour of a modern and compact matt black housing. Access to the charging port and micro SD card slot is now through a precise hinged door that closes very securely and makes the unit feels like a quality construction.
An aluminium handlebar mount is provided and this allows you to mount the camera on top of the handlebars or below. I prefer mounting below because the camera is away from my hands and it is neater however the brake and gear cables can get in the way. Instead of using the Cycliq mount, I use an aluminium K-edge mount that pushes the entire mount forward and provides better clearance from the cables.
On both cameras you can use the optional tethers, an important feature particularly for cyclists who tackle rough terrain. As I found the twist-mounts secure, I eventually removed the tethers because the slack in the elastic was simply annoying and I was confident that the quarter-turn mount was secure.
The new stuff
With the glossy black surface of the rear Fly6 CE camera and the matt black of the front Fly12 CE bike camera, along with the notably different design style – the two units don’t immediately appear to belong to the same family. Perhaps the next generation Fly6 will follow the styling of the front Fly12.
Both now share most of the technical capabilities and finally the rear camera gets MP4 files. The old WAV files on the Fly6 were a real pain, firstly it was different to the Fly12’s MP4 and secondly on an Apple mac it was a bit harder to access and edit. Both units deliver 1920 x 1080 maximum video resolution with up to 60 frames per second. Riders with the older cameras will also notice that the ‘thumbnail’ videos are no longer created.
Both bike cameras come with optional Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) along with optional idle mode and incident protection. The idle mode and incident mode trigger the camera to turn off after a while to save power or save footage from being lost. As these bike cameras are designed to loop and sequentially delete the oldest video file, these two settings offer a form of protection but it is also possible to accidently trigger these with inactivity or angling your bicycle too far over.
The settings can be controlled via a smartphone app or desktop app and once you are happy with your settings, there is usually no need to adjust. Your only chore is to charge the units regularly but with the looping function, you don’t even have think about clearing or viewing old footage. I am familiar with the burden of clearing footage on GoPro’s, Contours, Sony Action Cams and Garmin Virbs and the don’t want to go back to that.
Bluetooth and ANT+ are the foundations of wireless connectivity on bikes and these wireless standard have been adopted in both units. You can (potentially) connect with a cycle computer and control the camera or change settings from this. There is some Garmin connectability that has been reported as being shaky. I tried unsuccessfully to pair with a Magellan cycle computer so feel that connectability and integration with other cycling devices is early days.
Fly6CE and Fly12CE Runtimes
The Fly12 CE boasts up to 8 hours battery life and the Fly6CE has 7 hours however this is not necessarily the actual recording time. Like any bike light, the brightest light setting will suck more power, which obviously influences the total recording time. For the Fly12CE with a 64GB card with the medium flashing light setting, I was usually able to capture an entire 4-hour ride and the result was about 50 files of 1.2GB (5 minutes length) with the 60 fps setting. If I drop the frame rate to 30 fps this saves 100 – 200mb per file.
On the fly6CE I couldn’t get promised recording times despite testing over many, many rides. Typically I retained the same setting;1080p at 60fps with no lights and no EIS (on a full charge). This should have given me just over six hours but I struggled to get more than four hours. This is a real problem for me because the older Fly6 cameras were able to give me a longer runtime and I regularly cycle for more than four hours.
Both cameras have a feature called HomeSafe that was also in the last version fly6 rear camera. If the battery levels drop below a 12%, the video recording will stop and the remaining power will be used for the lights. For the Fly6CE this gives you between to two hours riding time with lights (depending on the setting) while the Fly12 provides around 30 minutes. In planned software updates, Cycliq are planning to provide more control over the HomeSafe settings including the ability to disable completely.
While the Fly12CE fared better than the Fly6 in delivering longer recording times, it displayed erratic behaviour at times. For example, during one ride (following a full charge) and setting the medium pulse and 60fps recording at 1080p, I got a mere 2.5 hours total recording time before the camera went into the HomeSafe mode. On another ride I turned the Fly12CE off midday during a short stop, then started it again and as the lights were flashing, I assumed all was well. Only later did I discover that the camera didn’t record at all, but I can’t explain why.
Most of the time, the Fly12CE works exactly as expected but a small questionmark remains. I assume that future software updates will improve stability and during the last month have not reported any lost footage or runtime problems.
Don’t forget the lights
There are no surprises when it comes to the light capabilities. The front light delivers up to 600 Lumens and you can choose from steady, pulse and flashing modes each in high, medium and lower power modes. The rear has a lower output but has a range of different flashing modes, some particularly eye catching and in my view, very effective in making you visible to traffic approaching from behind.
During the day I generally used the medium pulse setting or more basic flashing setting for the front Fly12CE while on the rear Fly6CE, the mode would depend upon whether I was riding solo or in a group. Within a group I usually set the rear light to ‘off’ to avoid distracting riders behind me. The rear Fly6CE, like all of its predecessors, has rotating LEDs that are always on when the camera is recording and this is enough for me in bunch rides.
For everyday use, the Fly6 and Fly12 are bike lights first (and video recorders second) and their reliability and performance as bike lights has always met my expectations.
The bike alarm feature has been retained; if you park your bike for a short while, you can activate an alarm via the smartphone app. If the camera detects movement, it sounds a fairly loud alarm sound. I am a bit scared of this feature as I have enabled it both accidentally and on purpose while testing – when the alarm is triggers, my heart starts to race and I am always stressed trying to turn it back off again. If this is a feature that you could use, it is a bonus, just don’t forget to deactivate the alarm when you are ready to ride.
Are you on or off?
With the new design, both cameras also receive new buttons; while they look nice and are well integrated into the design, they also come with a few problems which I would describe as ‘problematic”. It is worth stressing that I have already been conditioned by the previous Cycliq cameras so if you are new to this brand, you may not necessarily share my views.
Both camera’s have in-moulded buttons on/off which only give you subtle tactile feedback to let you know you have pressed it. The buttons lack immediate audible or visual feedback. In other words, you feel a slight click when you press, but you then continue pressing and have to wait for the camera to actually turn on or off. If you press the button for a short moment then release… nothing happens. As a ‘user’, timely feedback from electronic devices is important and generally the Fly6 requires 3 second before it beeps (and lets you know it is turning on/off) while the Fly12CE needed up to 7 seconds… which is painful when you just want to start your ride.
Cycliq confirmed the delay and offered some hope, “Yes, it does currently take around 4 seconds (sometimes a little longer) for the 12CE to switch on/off after the power button has been pressed. The reaction for toggling through light settings should be immediate and isn’t something that we’ve had reported by any other customers. We are addressing the longer than expected power on/off time in the next firmware update.”
I can confirm that once the units are on, toggling the light setting is immediate, but the on/off needs to improve.
Some weeks into the review I discovered a miniature LED on one side of the Fly12 camera that is a recording indicator. This is a useful feature but how am I supposed to see this tiny light while riding? Even if I were stationary, I would have to lean forward and try and identify the tiny LED between the brake and gear cables. My verdict is that this ‘recording indicator’ LED is very poorly positioned, in fact, a clearly visible recording indicator in easy view while riding has been one of my biggest criticisms of the previous Fly12 cameras so it is a real shame that such a basic and useful feature has again been overlooked. The previous Fly12 was on the right track with a recording LED on top however it didn’t help cyclists, like myself, who mount the camera underneath the handlebars where the camera really belongs.
Cycliq offers a different opinion. Ben Hammond says, “The previous edition of the Fly12 had the indicator light positioned on the ‘top’ of the device, so it would have only been visible when mounted on the handlebar mount. To allow for visibility for all riders regardless off the mounting position (i.e. over the top of the bars or under their bike computer) it was decided to position the indicator light on the side of the unit so that it could be viewed in either position simply by looking at the side of the unit.”
My practical experience contradicts this. I specifically attempted to spot the recording light while riding but it is neither convenient nor safe.
Both units can be set to beep at intervals as an audible alert. But I am the type of rider that wants a visual confirmation that the unit is recording and I want to be able to see this immediately and not wait or get distracted by a beep. As a hot top for Cycliq, why not allow the Fly6 and Fly12 cameras to be coupled and then set two recording lights on the top and bottom of the fly12 CE so that riders can immediately confirm that both cameras are recording.
Update your firmware
That’s is not just a pretty headline, rather it is a small chore that all Fly6CE and Fly12CE owners should complete. The Fly6CE was reported by members in the Australian Cycling Forums to suffer from random crashes, which would shut the camera down and cease recording. I also experienced this and followed the recommendation to upgrade the firmware that effectively resolved it.
Link: Latest Cycliq Firmware
Even if you have a brand new Fly6CE and brand new Fly12CE, it still may not have the latest firmware so I recommend that all owners to check the firmware version and upgrade. The process is clearly described and involves a few easy-to-follow steps. A new firmware is due for release in shortly so stay tuned to Cycliq as they are actively working on improving the cameras.
A prerequisite of cycling gear is that it needs to withstand the elements. Wet weather riding can be unavoidable and although rain and spray can make any video footage unusable, you still want your electronics to remain waterproof.
Both units are IP-56 certified and built to withstand adverse weather however one batch of Fly6CE cameras had a faulty seal for the charging port / microSD slot. I discovered this after a wet weather ride and noticed that the flap has lifted and the insides were wet and full of dirt. Shortly after, the lens fogged and it was time to report to Cycliq customer support. I provided the requested photos and a replacement was quickly dispatched by the friendly staff member.
COO Ben Hammond offered further details on the fault, “This issue was due to human error on the manufacturing line. With regard to the flap and water seal, we have had this extensively tested and certified by SGS Australia to IP-56 water and dust ingress resistance. As with all electronic devices (e.g. Garmin Edge unit) if the flap is closed correctly and the device is sealed per the instructions, water ingress won’t be an issue. We also coat our products’ internal components with a nano-coating which increases the dust and water resistance, here is further information on hydrophobic nanocoating“
In the QandA section at the beginning of the review, I stated that Cycliq are not in the market of competing with the likes of GoPro for video quality. This isn’t suggesting that the footage is inferior, quite the opposite, the footage quality and clarity in the latest generation is better than ever. Sometimes new buyers however expect that they will get cinema quality video footage during all riding conditions though that is simply not realistic within this price segment. Most cameras struggle during difficult conditions such as rain, low light or darkness and the Cycliq cameras are no exception.
The front and rear Cycliq FlyCE cameras deliver HD quality footage (1920x1080p) at up to 60 frames per second (fps). With the 135° angle, the footage has some curvature and even with a lower frame rate (30 fps) and lower video resolution (1024 x 720), I was generally happy with the level of detail and ability to recognise vehicle number plates.
I was able to test the video directly against the previous Fly6 and Fly12 models and the following video shows the differences along with sample footage and features.
In comparison, the new Fly6CE gets a massive improvement, the slightly green and washed out video has been replace crisper and clearer video and a higher resolution. The video is smoother and has better light handling so it gets a big thumbs up from me.
For the Fly12, the new video footage appears (at a glance) to have a similar quality though is notably darker. Looking more closely you can determine that the video quality is indeed superior – there is reduced fragmentation and compression artefacts. The new camera delivers smooth and clearer images though at a glance comparison, the older Fly12 appears to be sharper because of the compression.
But the big issue with the Fly12CE is balancing areas of different lightness. The moment it is overcast and the clouds are saturated white or there is any strong contrast, shadows or direct sunlight, all of the darker areas quickly get lost into blackness. I was frustrated by this until I found the HDR (High Dynamic Range) setting which balances the light and fixes the problem of extreme dark areas. The HDR setting is a must – regardless of the weather conditions, the HDR option will improve the video if you have any concerns about the poor contrast and shadows. The flip-side, you only get a maximum of 30fps at 1920x1080p and not the full 60fps, but maybe that will come in a future update as this is essential.
Another feature I recommend is the EIS – Electronic Image Stabilisation, but only on the front Fly12CE camera. I tested a section of pavé and was stunned at how well the footage was corrected. On the road bike with high tire pressures, my front wheel was bouncing all over the place but the EIS managed to covert it into watchable video. In contrast, the EIS for the rear camera didn’t show the same improvement, if anything the detail was compromised and EIS was not an improvement for the Fly6CE. There is another catch; you can’t have HDR and EIS on at the same time.
At a glance, the specifications indicate that the technology and functionality is almost the same for the front and rear camera’s, but in practice the video quality, video file sizes and results of the electronic image stabilisation setting were notably different. Under the hood they are different beasts.
Cycliq offered an explanation on the difference between the two cameras, “We use a different DSP (Digital Signale Processor) on the front and rear cameras. We have separate manufacturing partners for the 12CE and 6CE, using different chip sets,” says Ben Hammond. “We are always looking to optimise the IQ and EIS algorithm and will be releasing new updates for the 6CE which – based on our beta testing – will improve the EIS. Like with all consumer electronics products we have regular updates to our firmware which will continue to optimise the image quality and stabilisation algorithm.”
Concerning the light handling on the Fly12CE, this has been acknowledged and improvements are due, “Again, with the two different chipsets we have different results between both cameras, however we are about to release the next firmware update for the 12CE”, notes Hammond. “We are in the process of testing, but having seen the images this morning, this known issue is addressed (re: HDR and the contrasting light rendering images darker and also flare coming out of tunnels into daylight).”
Cycliq provide two desktop applications and a new smart phone application that I tested on an Apple mac and iPhone (iOS).
On the computer there are two applications, one application allows you to view and adjust settings of connected Cycliq devices while the other application allows you to load and edit video you have captured and then share. As the software names were the same I changed them and called the first one Cycliq Settings and the second, Cycliq Sharing.
Editing and sharing footage is a familiar step-by-step process. The software appears polished though it also crashed a few times. It does allow you to overlay Strava data and add tramlines, which are visual guides to show how far (or close) a vehicle passes.
The smart phone iOS app combines both of these tasks into one and I regularly used it to check and change settings. This app does a good job of locating any compatible Fly units and allowing you to connect over Bluetooth. You need to bring a little patience as it takes a few seconds to update after any settings. For example, if you press ‘Record’ to start recording on a unit, you have to allow a few moments before the app refreshes… so just clicking repeatedly will just lead to chaos.
The iOS app wouldn’t allow me to view or edit footage from the phone and the Cycliq website has hard to find note. This is only available for the previous Fly12, so good news if you own one of previous generations; you are still supported and can do a bit more than the new ones. It is fair to assume that we can expect the functionality to be expanded in future though in my case, I am not really missing this myself as I would edit on the Desktop where I feel I have more control.
Overall, the interfaces and usability of the desktop and smartphone apps have improved and I expect more features and options to be available in future updates.
Pros and Cons
+ Still the best integrated bike light and camera
+ Video footage is insurance
+ Improved video quality in the new units
+ Improved design – compact and stylish
+ Convenient mount
+ Firmware fixes and fast customer support to rectify issues
– Pricey, particular if you get both units
– Total battery (runtime) has reduced – runtimes are lower than claimed
– No visible recording indicator (in the field of view)
– On/Off buttons are slow to react
– Still some reliability issues
– Poor weather and light conditions
The new Fly6CE and Fly12CE provide improvements with the slim design, great mounting and improved video, particularly with the Fly6CE. Cycliq are on a journey to deliver a more rounded technology. Even though Cycliq have no serious ‘direct’ competitor, a period of change for the West Australian company has also meant that a number of teething problems were introduced where the first FlyCE customers were the guinea pigs. To their credit, Cycling are addressing many of the fixable problems swiftly and further optimisation is on the cards.
The best starting point is the Fly6CE as this provides the invaluable video footage of traffic from behind. It is a compact and easy to use bike light/camera. At $259 it still represents a healthy investment but the pay-off comes when you want or need the footage.
The front Fly12 CE camera is ‘nice to have’…. really nice to have. Priced at $339 it is a couple of hundred dollars more than you would pay for a great front bike light. But of course as a safety camera it complements the Fly6CE. The design is better than ever and it now uses the convenient 1/4 turn mount which means you can use it with a dual cycle computer / light / camera mount.
For more details on the Fly6CE and the FLy12CE visit: cycliq.com
[correction 19.06.2018 – The Cycliq Front Fly12CE max. Lumen was corrected and increased to 600 Lumens]