Vibrating a camera to death
Late last week I was reading about a weird phenomena people were seeing with modern/high end phones having the camera systems die or be crippled when they are mounted on motorcycles, mountain bikes, dirt bikes, etc… One common thing is in most of these cases the phones are mounted to the handlebars. The bars in most bikes almost act as tuning forks for vibrations in the chassis/front wheel and capture road vibrations, and engine vibrations direct from the fork/chassis.
I was skeptical of if this was actually affecting top of the line phones like the iPhone 11 Pro I have now. and in a quick 15 second google search there are big threads on iFixit, Apple, Reddit, etc… of people having their cameras die rapidly when mounted on a bike. Here is one example thread on the Apple forums.
The failure is from the Optical Image Stabilization systems on modern phones failing. These are magnetically or servo actuated lenses inside the camera that move to keep the image stable. So they move and are prone to failure in certain vibration frequencies and amplitudes.
My phone has a mount that is on the handlebars on my Yamaha Tracer 900 GT, and hasnt had any issues yet, but I figured I would think about how I could reduce the vibrations the phone feels when riding.
Coming up with a solution
Looking at the cockpit of the motorcycle I was looking at places the phone could go that would meet the following requirements:
- Not interfere with the dash display
- Not interfere with the bar movement or my controls
- Isolate vibrations from the chassis/engine
- Isolate vibrations from the fork/wheel
- Keep the phone easily visible at a higher eye level so when looking at GPS/Maps I dont need to take my eyes off the road long.
- Should not modify the bike
One of the well used locations by others is a plate that mounts to the wind screen bolts and having the phone there. I am against this as the wind screen itself has a ton of vibrations and buffeting, I wanted something more stable.
In the above pic you can see 2 bolts that hold some plastic fairing in place. That mounts via some rubber grommets to the tank, which has its own isolating rubber bushings it sits on. It is centrally located, and should be able to keep a phone there out of the way easily. I don’t plan on using a tank bag on this motorcycle anytime soon so this space is largely unused. I immediately took some measurements, and drafted up a prototype design (printed in inexpensive clear PETG).
The pic above is the first functional test, I had one design I did before this that validated a lot of the design but my measurements were off in one key dimension due to a math error. But this design above is what I largely ended on with some minor tweaks.
I went for a ride with the NylonX Printed plate and noticed while the high frequency buzzing vibrations from the bars are gone, there was a lot of bouncing still because the front of that plastic under it is unsupported and everything is just rocking on the rubber bushing front 2 bolts. So I had to rethink this a bit and come up with a better solution.
Playdoh and Grounding wire
I looked at the bike again and removed the plastic hoop that the first iteration was sitting on. My goal was to NOT modify the bike in any way… But I noticed 2 more bolts in line and 30mm ahead of the ones I was already using. The problem is I have no idea of the clearances and spacing under the plastic fairing which is complex and curved/angled in 3 dimensions.
A solution I thought could work was using some modeling clay/play doh in a ziploc and squishing it between the fairing and then taking measurements off it to get a ballpark estimate on the sizing under the plastic. I also used 14GA solid grounding wire and bent it along the contours of the metal tank under the plastic, and the plastic fairing itself to illustrate and measure the contours I need to work in.
My first iteration on the prototype was solid, it was a good fit with only some minor tweaks being needed to accommodate the multiple angles of the plastic hoop.
In the above pics you can see the placement and dimensions I was working in. I needed to fill the space between the plastic cover and the bushing/mounts under it so I could bolt securely to it. I secured the shim in place wiht some thin VHB tape on the bottom to keep it from moving, and then to reduce the chance of any vibration of the plastic on the shim, I put some Moleskin tape on the front of it.
I did have to break one rule about modifying the bike, and did have to drill 2x 5mm holes in the plastic. If I remove the mount it should be easy to just put bolts in the holes and it should look largely stock.
The final designs had to adapt to a lot of angles and spacing, with the lower shim following some of the same contours and bolstering the bodywork to keep it from shaking. I also added cutouts and Ziptie locations in the mount to accommodate securing charging cables.
The Finished Design
I printed a super thin sub 1mm hole pattern test of the top plate to verify everything lined up, then printed the full 4 hole plate in NylonX again. It was immediately clear that the new mount was night and day more stable while still not transmitting almost any vibration to the phone. The phone was so stable that the camera could run while riding and not even really show much shake cause the Optical Image Stabilization system could handle it!
The NylonX material is important as this will be exposed to hot sun and cant tolerate much softening or melting. I would have rather used a white filament to really avoid any sun heating damage, but black just looks better and this mount should handle close to 80C without any softening, and 115C is the actual certification for this material before it starts to lose integrity. Nylon is also one of the more durable thermoplastics out there that wont break, shatter, or crack under stress under a lot of conditions. It is also pretty UV stable.
The plate is mounted not only with the bolts, but has thin strips of VHB tape between the surfaces. This keeps the plate stable in addition to the bolts but also protects the plastic from any wear from the mount being on it.
In the end it took a few nights of design, prototype, riding, re-design, and printing to get this done, but I am incredibly happy with the result.
Is the design available for Purchase? – Yes it is! As of 4/1/2021 I have this listed as a finished product at JK3D.us!
Designing a phone holder
Only big change I needed to make was to set it up for the phone sit horizontal as it would make it easier to keep my eyes higher when glancing at a map. The concern I had then was keeping the phone well positioned and not prone to moving or coming out over hard bumps.
The RAM Touch-Charge X Grip mount comes with a rubber band thingy to hold the phone in place, and a small foot to keep the phone from sliding out when it is vertical. Well with the button placement on the iPhone 11, the foot didn’t extend long enough. So I took the stock design and made my own that is much longer and cleared the power cord.
I took more measurements and made a small bar that goes on the right side and attaches with VHB tape, and then made a longer saw toothed adjustable bar that goes in the stock hole/mechanism on the RAM Mount. The result is a Phone mount that now keeps the phone centered and stable without the need of the rubber band strap thing they include.
Now the phone is in a good eye line, centered, stable, and has virtually zero vibration from the engine/chassis/road of any high frequency. It also gives me better access to change the wind screen height.
Where can you get the mount/plate?
Well I’ve started a 3D printing/Design business and this is one of the products listed, you can find it here:
Planning for some longer rides/bike camping this summer still
I took the bike out to shake down the new mount, but also to test some ergonomic changes I made to the bike (brake lever angle on the hand and foot brake primarily). And to test out if there was any issues with the new Givi Crash/protection bars that I added last week. The ride was up lookout mountain near Golden, CO which is a fantastic road for practicing low speed cornering techniques.
Now that its clear that shit is going to start to close back down a bit due to COVID, I am trying to figure out plans for some longer motorcycle rides that keep me away from doing normal things like staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, etc… This largely means bike camping, which is good as I have all the gear for it, but I haven’t had the opportunity for years to do it. The other concern is that virtually all of Colorado is currently in the mountains camping as well.
Motorcycle camping and motorcycle backpacking present some significant logistical challenges I am trying to address in almost all of the modifications and updates to the bike. My old motorcycle handled this pretty well, but I had 9 years to figure out how to make that bike handle it. I’ve had this bike for ~ 7 months now and am still figuring out how to accommodate everything.
The storage space on this bike is a bit smaller than the large cases I had on the Sprint, but even issues like “where do you store the helmet if you go backpacking?” “Will there be space for all the riding gear to be stored on the bike if you go hiking or backpacking?” are key considerations.
My Goal is to do a large ride that largely replicates a lot of the loop I did when I first moved to Colorado in 2011 with maybe some wandering into Idaho and Utah. Everything I am doing on the bike is in prep for planning for these rides.
A video if the 2011 trip is here: (I had gopro’s running in stills mode for a timelapse… the result isn’t the best video I’ve ever done… )
A play list of my 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 bigger motorcycle trips is here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJ3UdgGGW8UmfRI39sIkHqnpTGP3xhV6u