Mounting a Tripod on a Motorcycle.

When searching the web, and you put in a search for "Mounting a Tripod on a Motorcycle", you get a million returns for a camera mount *for* your motorcycle. There are few places that actually talk about how to bring a good quality photographic/video tripod along with you on your motorcycle. Being a photographer and a motorcyclist, I've wanted to take my good camera gear with me, pull over to the side of the road, and set up a tripod for some quality long exposure shots with high apertures/depth of field. A tripod is a must.

I have a Manfrotto 3021Pro tripod that is built like a tank. It's heavy steel/aluminum construction.

3021pro tripod3021pro tripod3021pro

I have a few motorcycles and the most appropriate bike to mount a tripod to, is the ZZR1200 since I have SW-Motech racks and Hepco-Becker bags on it already.

At first, I thought I'd just drill some extra holes in the side rack, and bolt a couple of Manfrotto Quick Clamps to it and be done with it.


If you turn over the clamps, there are 5 holes that can be seen. These holes are perfect for mounting the clamps to anything.

1 - 1/4 - 20 - Standard threads for regular camera thread - Blue Arrows

2 - M5 - 30 metric threads that thread into the clamp - Green Arrows

2 - Holes that are counter sunk to accept a bolt that pass through the clamp - Red Arrows.

clamp clamp clamp

The single 1/4 - 20 thread isn't really designed to mount the clamp. It exists to mount a camera stud to the clamp. The other holes, are more appropriate. At first, I was just going to thread some bolts into the M5 threads. The clamp is aluminum, and I didn't feel good about really tightening down the bolts into the clamps. I was afraid of stripping the clamp if I put too much force on the bolts. I decided that it would be best to use the counter sunk holes in the clamp with full length bolts and nuts. I figured that was the most secure way of mounting the clamp since I could put as much force on the bolts as I'd want to, without risk of damaging the clamp itself.

The side rack without a bag, is a perfect place to mount a tripod. However, if I were to do that, I wouldn't be able to use that side for luggage as I would have the clamps bolted to it. I had to think of some other way.

I decided that I would try and mount the clamps to the SW-Motech top rack, via the SW-Motech universal adapter.

Here is the top rack without the universal adapter.


Since I am already using a universal adapter to mount my Hepco-Becker top case onto the top-rack, I wasn't keen on modifying something that I still use. I then remembered that I had bought something extra when I was going through putting hard bags on the ZZR1200.

I had bought one of these, and it came with a universal adapter plate!


All I would have to do, is modify what I already had, to accept the clamps and I'd be done!

*Note* - I bought my rack several years ago, when SW-Motech was promoting their "Bags Connection" line. The part that is metal, in the above image, that connects to the universal adapter plate is slightly different.

I wanted to use existing holes where possible in the Universal adapter plate. The adapter plate is a nylon honeycomb, that has some pre-molded bolt holes. I had to find some holes that would allow me to mount the clamps, with just the right angle to clamp the tripod legs. I ended up using two of the existing holes, and drilling two new ones. I lined up the new holes with an opening in the honeycomb to make it work. I used fender washers to spread the load out, and I put red thread protectors on the exposed extra threads. I wanted to have a visual clue if the nuts somehow were to work loose even though I put ny-lock nuts on the bolts.

When testing the tripod and the clamps, there is some geometry that you need to be aware of. As the tripod legs spread, they are no longer parallel, but two legs can still be in the same plane *if* you have a good tripod.

There is only ONE angle/location on the tripod legs where you can clamp them down.

To avoid finding the *sweet spot to clamp* I could have put two clamps along a single leg of the tripod, but that isn't as secure as clamping two legs and getting an added benefit of a usable mount, on the motorcycle.

Here is what I ended up with.

*Note*: I used the silver clamps I have, but they are identical to the black ones except for the turning knob, which I like better on the silver/older clamps.

Finished Mount on SW Rack

Finished Mount on SW Rack

Finished Mount on SW Rack

Finished Mount on SW Rack

Finished Mount on SW Rack

Finished Mount on SW Rack

Finished Mount on SW Rack

Finished Mount on SW Rack

After a night's sleep...

I went to bed thinking about the extra weight and complexity of using the metal rack that attaches to the universal plate. Was having the rack necessary? I decided that I would make a simple bracket and place it under the clamps. I would then directly bolt the clamps on top of the little bracket and then to the nylon universal plate.

after a night of sleep

In the image above, all I have now are the clamps, my new-fabbed bracket, and the nylon universal plate. After looking it over, I decided it was weaker.

it's weaker

I put the rack back on, and threw my newly created bracket into the trash. Oh well.

I noticed one of the holes I had drilled was recessed below the rack surface.

When I tightened the clamps down onto the rack and universal plate, a small corner of the clamp didn't have anything under it, and it deformed ever-so-slightly.


In the image below, you can see that the corner of the clamp "just touches" the edge of the rack.

not enough material

Here is a close up the the "lip".


I made some "inserts" to fit under the clamps. They are the exact thickness of the rack material.


A nice close-up of the two inserts I made.


Another shot of the inserts I made.


Now, the clamps have a nice platform to fit against. Wow- it looks like I machined those inserts in this image!

Nothing but a sharpie and hand tools baby!!!!

after the inserts

The finished mount.


Pictures of everything mounted on the Motorcycle

Just the clamps on the rack, on the ZZR1200. That's' my radio antenna on the left side of the image.

finished product

Without the tripod.

the bike

With the Tripod.

the bike

A different angle with the tripod.

the bike

When I started this project, I was looking for an easy way to transport my tripod around. I never meant for it to be a way to mount a tripod on the bike while the bike was moving.

After putting things together, the pictures below show different ways the camera can be mounted.

I think it is a pretty good "stop and dismount" kind of set up.

Once still, my motorcycle can become the tripod now, as I stop along the side of the road.

With this configuration, I can;

on the bike

Some different angles. I like how clean and simple it all is.

on the bike

In the image below, I don't have one of my photography heads installed on the tripod. Remember, I started this project as a way to take my tripod around.

on the bike

Now I've put a head on the tripod and mounted a camera. In my mind, the use of this set up is in stopping along the way, getting the camera out of a side bag or tank/seat bag and popping it into the tripod or taking the tripod off the rack.

Camera on bike

The Tripod is a Manfrotto 3021Pro and the head is a Manfrotto 484RC2. The Camera I am taking pictures with is a Pentax K7. That's my Pentax K10.

Pentax on a motorcycle

Options for using the camera on the tripod while still on the bike.

Pentax on the ZZR1200

More images of the camera on the tripod on the bike.

Pentax on a Bike

With the camera set up like this, there is too much shake to consider leaving the camera mounted while riding. It's cool though, as a way to use the camera with the bike stationary.

Pentax on the bike


The mount turned out better than I thought it would. I ended up drilling two holes and making two little inserts, while making use of all the stock parts of the equipment.

Because I made use of the SW-Motech universal adapter plate, anyone with a SW-Motech top rack can use my mount. Since my husband has an FJR with a top rack/top case, I can easily have him take my tripod on his top rack if I have to use my top case.

Since it's SW-Motech, everything can be disconnected and the bike remains stock.

The 3021Pro is NOT a compact tripod or travel tripod. The 3021 is a full featured tripod that makes a photo shoot that much easier.

If you have an SW-Motech system with a top rack, this is a pretty neat way to mount the excellent Manfrotto Quick clamps to it and take a full size/featured tripod with you.

Lauren, Jan 31th, 2010