*Special Note: The motorcycle rider in the video is Dana Seero!*
I enjoy motorcycle riding and try to attend several track days each season. With the availability of many small, light camcorders on the market, it’s now pretty easy to record your sessions for playback and training. However, since they are attached to the bike and the bike leans at extreme angles in corners, it’s difficult to discern lean angles without wagging your head back and forth.
In 2010 MotoGP (the world’s top-level motorcycle racing) introduced “gyrocams” on several top competitor motorcycles. These cameras are gyroscopically stabilized in the roll axis so they always remain vertical, making the motions of the motorcycle from side-to-side are evident. The video is much more compelling, and much more useful as a training tool.
I started looking around for an affordable gyrocam setup and discovered there weren’t any. A number of “gyrocam” videos turned out to be fixed cameras with video editing – not exactly real time.
Radio Controlled (RC) airplanes and helicopters provided a possible low-cost technical solution. These devices use compact, relatively low-cost piezo gyroscopes to control flight in conjunction with small, light servo motors. Using one of these electronic gyros to control a servo seemed possible.
Eventually I discovered the Dunehaven GS-1 integrated gyro/servo unit. This $74 product combined a MEMS gyroscope and servo motor in a compact, sealed unit. A quick test with aluminum angle, a $40 keychain camera and a camera bracket designed up quickly in SolidWorks and made on our Dimension 3D printer demonstrated the potential.
There was just a slight packaging problem, though. Even a relatively slow, middle-displacement motorcycle like my Suzuki SV650S regularly hits speeds of 100+ mph on the track. The twin cylinder engine revs to over 10,000rpm, creating vibrations throughout the bike. And modern sport bikes don’t have much room, so any gyrocam setup had to be relatively compact.
The next version of the concept used a plastic housing that attached to the gas tank opening and provided a little more rigid platform. The initial tests confirmed that vibration was problem #1, mounting was problem #2, and the camera technology was a remote third in terms of difficulty.
The majority of bikes locally seemed to be using the GoPro Hero camera, so I sketched up a housing for the gyro/servo and battery, and a bracket to hold the camera. We oriented the center of the camera as closely as possible with the center of the lens while still maintaining good balance. The housing and camera arm were made from ABS Plus plastic on one of our Dimension 3D printers. This proved to be faster and less expensive than any alternative: the camera swingarm was less than $5 in material to build!
The first test of the GoPro and the new housing was successful – to a point. The camera bracket I’d quickly sketched up in SolidWorks turned out to be too flexible. The camera bounced up and down a few times each time the bike hit a bump in the pavement. While the gyro kept the camera level, the shaking made the video unwatchable.
At this point, I did what many customers do: called CAPINC, specifically our Principal Engineer Keith Pedersen (most of the rest of the staff volunteered not to volunteer). I asked him to use SolidWorks Simulation to make the design stiffer. Keith also had some questions about the vibration environment on the motorcycle.
A few hours later, Keith sent me a new design. This camera bracket deflected 1/3rd as much under load, minimized the vibration, and as an added bonus, used less material! A Triple Play!
Riding around traffic rotaries seemed to prove this version might work. But it’s really track day riders who want a product like this. So I took a vacation day and headed off to Tony’s Track Days, for a track day at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH.
So how did it work? You tell us!