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Hands on with Garmin’s new Varia bike radar and smart light system

Varia-Bike-Radar-Car-Passing

Today Garmin has introduced their Varia lineup of what they call ‘smart cycling devices’.  This marketing terminology basically translates to connected bike lights and a bike radar system.  These two products connect to Garmin Edge cycling computers for additional functionality.

At the core there are two products in the announcement:

Varia Rearview Bike Radar: This is a radar system you mount to the back of your bike that warns you of approaching cars.  It then integrates with a small handlebar unit or your Edge to display car information.

Varia Smart Bike Lights: This is a front and rear bike light set that can automatically adjust brightness and angle of light based on GPS speed information.

Within these two product sets I’ve had hands-on time at various points with the radar system, but no hands-on time yet with just the light portion.  Thus, most of this post will focus on that, since that’s what I know the best.

With that – let’s dive right into things.

The Varia Bike Radar:

Now, those of you astute readers may remember that Garmin acquired a bike radar company earlier this year – iKubu – which made the Backtracker bike radar system.  That radar system was announced as a crowd funded project one year ago this month.  I actually tested that prototype device on a few rides and was very impressed with how well it worked given how early in the product cycle they were.  Here’s the device it started from:

BackTrackerDevice

Following the January announcement, things went pretty quiet – which is totally normal for an acquisition.  What isn’t normal for any tech acquisition is how quickly Garmin has turned around to release a product on it.  Just 7 months since acquisition to product announcement is pretty unheard of.

Nonetheless, here it is:

Varia-Bike-Radar-Kit

This new product looks similar to the initial prototype, except shrunken down and cleaned up.  You’ll notice that the mount now takes the form of the Garmin Edge quarter-turn mount.  This is great in that it allows 3rd party companies to develop other mounting options for specialty bikes.

By default, the unit will ship with mounts for rear seat posts of both rounded and aero varieties.

So how does it all work?

Well first you’ve got the radar piece that sits on your rear seatpost.  This in turn detects approaching cars from behind and transmits that information wirelessly to the front display unit.  That display unit can be either the included small bike-computer looking display, or, it can also be certain Garmin Edge devices.

Varia-Bike-Radar-Components

The rear radar also has a bike light of sorts built into it.  You can keep it set for constant-on or flashing, and when no cars are around it’ll act just as a normal light in that respect.

Varia-Bike-Radar-Back-Waiting

But, as a car approaches it’ll start to slowly increase in horizontal width – expanding (and blinking) to warn cars that you’re there.  The closer the car gets, the more vigorous it blinks.

Varia-Bike-Radar-Back

Meanwhile, up on the front display it’ll show you where the car is, and the little yellow dot will slowly move towards you (the top).  The system can handle multiple cars, and will show one dot for each car.

Varia-Bike-Radar-Car-Approaching

Once the car passes, the system will turn green.

Varia-Bike-Radar-Green-Status

In many ways, the system is easier to explain and demonstrate in person – thus, I’ve put together a bit of a video showing how it all works:

As you can see, it doesn’t detect false positives like trees, poles, or even parked cars.  In fact, you’ll see at one point as the car (and bus) go into park, they effectively drop off the radar system – ensuring your not getting all sorts of useless data points.

Both of the units charge using a standard micro-USB port, so easy to charge:

Varia-Bike-Radar-Charging-Port

You can see below how the system looks on the Edge 1000, which probably gives a bit of insight into the integration on other Garmin Edge devices:

GarminEdgeRadar

You can see it shows the same light system along the right side of the Edge device, ensuring you don’t need to have multiple devices on your handlebars.

IMG_2993

The price for the radar is $199 not including the display, or $299 including the display unit.  The point there being if you already have a Garmin Edge that’s compatible you don’t need to purchase anything else.  Both units are expected to start shipping in Q3 (by September 30th).

The Varia Smart Bike Lights:

image

Next we’ve got the Varia Smart Bike Lights.  These lights follow in the footsteps of the recently announced Bontrager (different company) smart bike lights, which connect via ANT+ to a small head unit.  In that vein, the Garmin variant steps up the game by adding in integration with the Garmin Edge GPS units.

The front and rear lights feature the following functions:

Front Light: The beam will automatically adjust focus point based on your speed.  This means that as you speed up, the beam adjusts to aim further out (since you’re covering ground faster).  Additionally, the light will automatically illuminate based on the ambient light sensor within the Edge 1000.  This means if you go through a tunnel on a bright sunny day, it’ll instantly turn on.

Rear Lights: This can be installed as an individual or a pair.  In a dual configuration it’ll act as a turn signal – based on data from the Garmin Edge unit when you’re riding a course.  Additionally, it has the same ambient light feature as the front light.

Additionally, the units can be controlled via the Garmin Edge remote (that’s the tiny little pod you can place on your handlebars).  From a brightness standpoint, the front light has a brightness of 100 lux at 10 meters.  As part of that brightness it’ll automatically reduce brightness as a car approaches, to prevent blinding the driver.

On the rear light, it has both a steady and flashing mode.

As noted earlier – I haven’t really had any time with these lights – so I can’t comment first-hand on how well they work, or provide much more detail on the integration.  Don’t worry, in due time I definitely will.

The lights will also be available in Q3, with a price of $199 for the front light, and $69 for the rear light.  Or, as a bundle for $299 including the Varia remote.

Final Thoughts:

Varia-Bike-Radar-Green-Status

Overall I’m impressed with how quickly Garmin has brought this product to market, and, as I noted a year ago – I’m impressed with how well the product works (the Varia bike radar piece).  While it’s probably debatable if it’ll protect you from getting hit by a car, it’s certainly something that can increase awareness on both sides of the equation.  As a cyclist you won’t have a car sneak up on you, and as a driver – the vigorous blinking will serve as a secondary reminder of the cyclist.  Price-wise, the radar seems to be priced quite reasonably.

I think the Edge integration is precisely what this product really needed a year ago when it was all solo-cup by itself as a separate company.  By adding that integration they start to get into some potentially really interesting scenarios (for example, one could do VIRB Action Camera integration on approaching cars as a safety option).

On the separate bike lights, they too are interesting – but I’m worried that the lights are priced a bit high – especially the front light.  That said, I think the rear back lights having turn signals is definitely kinda cool, though whether or not a driver would notice/realize it is another question entirely.

With that – thanks for reading!  And as always feel free to drop any questions below and I’ll try and get them answered.

Support the Page! If you found this information here useful, you can help support the site by pre-ordering the Varia Smart Bike Lights & Radar through Clever Training!  The radar system is available here, and the bike lights are available here. In addition, if you’re a member of the DCR/CT VIP Program – you’ll save a bundle as well!

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224 Comments

  1. Radar

    Lot’s of cool tech to replace what will arguably work as well, a little piece of silvered plastic, AKA a mirror. A mirror also provides much more information as to lateral position, type of vehicle, width of it and any trailers, etc…Personally, I’ll trust what I see in a mirror rather than relying on and interpreting an array of blinking lights…doesn’t run out of battery either.

    • Ray

      Hi,

      Would it work with my Garmin Fenix 3? Do I have to buy the full bundle?

      Thanks!

    • Don

      I like this instead of a mirror. Every mirror solution seems to be a compromise and to not work that well, thought yeah I’d prefer a view over a blip led warning. Mirrors…. Tried the ones hooked to glasses but with prescription glasses the position of the mirror to see behind me means I’m not even looking through my glasses so I get a blury view. the handle bar solutions aren’t very aero, some stick out and are troublesome for that reason. One bar end one has bad reviews from my friend.

    • Tyler

      I think the tech is cool, but the execution/safety improvement doesn’t seem great for my uses (on road riding in rural areas.

      I just pulled the trigger on buying my first helmet mirror, so I’m anxious to see if that’s helpful and actionable, or more stressful.

      I clip a flashing light (intended for runners) to the back of my jersey to improve visibility.
      There are long, straight stretches (but hilly) on the roads I ride, so I feel the higher positioning is helpful.

    • You should look at these mirrors. I have them both of my bikes. They work well for me, no aero disadvantage, relatively easy to install. Looks like there’s similar mirrors on eBay that are cheaper, but I know these work.

      link to avt.bike

    • Sean

      I clip a Basta Superflash to the back of the helmet on the lower strap. You don’t feel its there and it can’t get much higher than that. When I ride with the bunch it gets turned off but solo always on.

    • Darwin

      Really. A mirror. How does this alert and warn cars of your presence and proximity? Oh.. it doesn’t.

    • Andreas

      … but a $5 LED rear light does.

    • Paul

      I wouldn’t look at this as a replacement or substitute for a mirror, but as an enhancement.

    • Lee Mead

      I have just purchased the Edge 520 & the Garmin Varia Rear Radar & they are not yet compatible. I have spoke to Garmin UK & a firmware update is required on the Edge 520 before it will support the Varia. Please note before you spend your money. Regards Lee

    • Hey just logged into Garmin Connect. There is a software update for the 520 that makes it compatible with the Varia Radar lights now.

    • Christian

      Hello, deos they gave you a release date?

    • For Varia Radar it’s already out. For lights sounds like a few more weeks.

  2. Steve

    Ray – any word on when the Edge integration will be ready and if it will be available for the 810?

    • I’m awaiting details on exactly how it’ll be implemented within the Edge 810. It has some level of integration – but the details are still a bit unclear.

    • Robert

      They originally said that the Varia would be compatible with the Edge 1000, 520, and 510; although the 510 compatibility would come in the future with a firmware update.

      Now on the Varia website, the only device showing as compatible is the Edge 1000.

      I’m hoping this is a glitch being that it’s Sunday night near 11P, and that the 520/510 compatibility will happen…

    • I believe the website has always only shown Edge 1000 compatibility while they work out what level of compatibility each unit will have. While the press release specified the different models in total.

    • NY-Attorney

      Before you buy, you may want to wait until Ray find the time to complete his review of Bontrager’s ANT+ Light System. It does not have radar and does not integrate with the Garmin unit, but it meets my personal needs better. Perhaps it would be yours as well.

    • Robert

      This isn’t the first time that something has changed on the Garmi website.

      The original fenix 3 website said that it would have a ‘find your iphone’ feature, like the vivosmart, and after it finally shipped, there was not on the feature list any longer, and the Garmin tech, when I was asking about a different problem on my fenix 3, acted like I asked if pigs could fly, and denied that it was ever a possible feature.

      So I take the removal of the Edge 510 and 520 from the varia product site to be bad news…

      The 520 page still says it’s compatible, with a firmware update ‘to be announced’. Maybe…

      But the varia site did list more than the Edge 1000 as being compatible at one point.

      But I suppose this is inevitable, as the product matures towards the ship date. It’s just discouraging…

      Thanks, Rainmaker, for your site. It helped talk me into the fenix 3, and it’s been awesome, so far.

    • Fwiw, the Fenix3 ‘Find your phone’ feature was finally released in the previous firmware update. ;)

    • Robert

      Really? Oops… I did not know that.

      I found the ‘sleep’ setting, by accident. It’s getting more complicated, but more useful.

    • Michael

      Hi, any news regarding integratin of varia radar within the edge 810?

  3. Tim

    Does the radar pick up people riding behind in a pace line? Or may it’s aimed far enough to the side?

    • Gabe

      Tim – Great question

      im curious about this as well.

      we deal with cars in our groups and sometimes riders will pass the peleton on the left – knowing if a car is behind you and attempting to pass the group would be very safe.

      Not to say that we don’t already attempt to look back but it’s certainly added safety.

      Honestly im not sure how effective that light bar is. it’s not bright like the super blinky – i think it should start flashing as a vehicle passes the bike. Like slow flashing to fast flashing.

      Thoughts?

    • Robert

      I would hope not. I don’t care, at some point, if someone is lapping my tire. They kinda do that at their own peril. I always try to announce when I’m lapping someone’s tire, as I’ve been hooked twice, and I did hook someone last year, but I really had no idea they were there, and we were heading into a tight corner…

      It’s the dang CARS and TRUCKS I worry about. I’ve thought that the Google Glasses could be an interesting biking safety device, as they could help monitor things sneaking up from behind if they could be made to look backward.

      It’s pretty sad to think that bikers would have to have a camera pointing forward and backward in case of a crash…

    • Fraser

      It doesn’t pickup riders behind you, list vehicles approaching you at a greater speed. If when the vehicle gets close behind you and can’t pass ( thus maintaining the same speed as yourself ) the blinking stops but was soon as the vehicle speeds up to pass you it shows on the screen. So to answer your question … Bikes you are riding with won’t set it off unless the are coming at you at great speed.

  4. Hunter

    You mentioned turn a signal for the rear light, you mean like a traditional car blinker?

  5. Craig

    There’s already plenty of dynamo powered lights that get brighter as you speed up. And they have a light sensor, so turn on automatically when its get dark. eg look at the Busch & Muller Luxos.
    I’d rather not have lights that depend on GPS, and yet more batteries to charge up.

    • I would assume though that the people who would buy this device (the ANT+ enabled lights) have approximately 100% overlap with those who already own an use a Garmin GPS on a daily basis.

  6. Patrick

    Man I want this. I’ve had pretty good experiences with the SeeSense light which does very much the same thing but it uses light sensors to detect incoming cars – which means it only works well at night. The SeeSense also has some extremely attention grabbing strobe patterns for drivers, and it’s also very very very bright.

    From the video, the Varia light blinker doesn’t really grab the driver’s attention. Slowly increasing horizontal blinkers would mean nothing to me as a driver. Hopefully Garmin can patch this via software to strobe, or somehow increase the brightness of the LEDs. The radar technology clearly works, the light part should be easy enough to tweak.

  7. Sam

    Will be cool if they integrate the turning lights with the shifters.

  8. Paul Davies

    Product page says only compatible with Edge 1000

    link to buy.garmin.com

    Don’t see why it can’t be integrated into older devices. All use ANT+, shouldn’t be a problem other than Garmin chasing upgrades. I won’t be buying one on that basis – no room for the Edge 800 and the new display as well on the stem.

  9. Swan

    Any idea on run times?

  10. Sebastien Gagne

    Could we have a video of the “vigorous blinking” from the radar ? In your demo it seemed that the light was in a “always on” setting.

    Thanks for all these informations

    • I looked through all the videos I shot and I didn’t record one with the vigorous blinking. The reason was actually kinda silly: I was taking photos of it and kept on missing the ‘blink’ (lights), so I just tapped the button on top, which switches it between blinking and steady.

      That said, I’ll probably get some time with it again in the next few days (I just was able to borrow it), so will take it out for a spin and get a more full-featured video.

  11. Duane

    Depending how this works, the sensitivity of its rear detection could be useful for draft detection in triathlon. There are host of challenges here but it has interesting potential.

    As for its primary use I’m not sure how much utility I would find in knowing about approaching cars. What do I do with that information? I’m already riding to the side and making every effort to ride responsibly and share the road. I’m sure they have thought through this a bit but I’m unclear how it makes me safer.

    • Don

      There are times I’ve taken more of the lane on a downhill to avoid road surface problems at high speeds when no cars are around (a look of the shoulder before going), but along the way a car might come up behind me eventually and I wont know he’s there and I’m reluctant to look behind me at 35mph on a bike with a curvy downhill narrow-ish road. heh

    • I am not sure how riding on the side is responsible. In my opinion it best to use the centre of a lane to discourage cars to overtake too closely and use the other lane for overtaking. At least that’s how I learned in Germany.

  12. David Manley

    Should be easy to integrate into the 800/810 devices and the smaller ones.

    If they do I’d be very likely to buy but wouldn’t want to mount two devices.

  13. Luis

    def getting this one!

  14. Tyler

    I’m confused.

    I thought the tail got brighter, AND flashed/strobed as cars approach?
    The bar getting wider doesn’t seem like it would accomplish much in daytime/twilight riding.

    From Garmin’s product page:

    • Artur

      I’m also interested in this. I think blinking would be much more useful, than just widening. But on the video all I could see was a simple widening. Is there an option to control this function? Thank you Ray!

    • John

      The mode in the video is only the steady mode which was mentioned. There is an additional flashing mode which will flash brighter and faster as cars approach. You should be able to switch between modes.

  15. Tyler

    Oops. Botched the HTML.

    Garmin page quote:
    Tail light unit brightens and flashes to notify approaching traffic of a cyclist ahead

  16. Mike

    I have the same concerns as Radar with lateral position. I want to know if I’m about to be hit (again) and need to take evasive action. This is cool tech, but I’ll wait until it’s 2-dimensional.

  17. Al

    Would the sensor pick up cyclists in your draft as well? Or only cars?

    Can see this being very useful for triathlons and group rides, heck, even commuting!

    • Artur

      I would definitely be interested in the answer of this question as well re: radar detection of other cyclists traveling behind. If it does pick them up, it’ll cause many false alarms.

    • In my previous testing it didn’t pickup other cyclists. I’ll validate again in the next few days when I have hands back on the device again (and will shoot a bit better video).

    • chukko

      Personally i am not interested in detecting cars, but i would use it on the tail to check if the following rider is still with me – so it would be great if the radar was able to detect cyclists.
      If you could configure that – even better.

    • Michal Maliarik

      I belive it will pick up only object which are traveling 10km/h faster than you are. So it will pick up other cyctlists only if they are faster than you (catching up). If other cyclist are riding similar speed like you are, they remain unnoticed.
      I tested it and it works.
      It does also pick up motorcycles.

  18. John

    This really needs to be able to turn on a rear-facing camera when a vehicle gets too close!

  19. Scott E

    Wow, I recall the original crowd funded review and it is hard to believe a polished product is ready for the market so soon. Having gone with the Mio 505 head unit due to the dismal Garmin 1000 launch, I might have to rethink the ecosystem given the invested collective set of sensors, Virb camera and now radar/light set.

    Looks like I’m going to need to build one of those massive DCR charging stations….

  20. Grega Juvancic

    Ray, how would that work in a group ride or a race, for that matter? Would it tell you that you’re about to be overwhelmed by the peloton or caught by your competitors you’ve been trying to escape all day, thus saving you much needed energy by not needing for you to look back? :P :D [/off sarcasm]

  21. Ted H

    this is VERY interesting. I’ve been contemplating getting the rear camera/light combo… but I like this radar option… if they can embed a camera into the taillight… then it would be exactly what I want.

  22. Nate

    2 Questions:

    Will the radar record those cars as data points on the map? That would be hugely fascinating to collect data on traffic conditions via bikes. This would greatly enhance the rider data sets Strava sells to city planners.

    What is the power for the lights? USB charging or replaceable battery?

  23. Troy

    Do you feel this would be effective on a highway with traffic travelling 100km/hr+?

  24. Burnnerman

    BTW, I think you meant right side of edge 1000 not left side, in your description, since the pic looks like the bar is on the right.

  25. Mark

    The Varia Rearview Radar really cries out for a HUD. And by a happy coincidence, this would fit perfectly with Garmin’s “V” names infatuation. So I’m looking forward to Ray’s upcoming review of the Garmin Vizsomethingorother.

  26. Gabe

    Ray – thoughts about interviewing drivers who pass a cyclist using these devices ?

    Not sure how you would set that up.

    Seems like a project for the local news

  27. Stump

    How does the rear light look from a cars perspective?

  28. Jack Reeve

    Will it be compatible with the new edge 520? The Garmin website only talks about the edge 1000

  29. Alexander Liffers

    Do they mix and match nicely, such as using the radar as a back light with the front light, and using an existing Edge 510 as the head unit? I quite like the 520 (came from a 305) and want to get a little more life out of it, although the 520 with maps for when I just want to tour new areas makes it tempting at that price point.

  30. Jonathan

    Thanks for the great review. Perhaps I missed it but the demo didn’t show multiple cars passing at the same time. The review says it will display each and every car within radar’s range.

    I could see this is very useful in tandem riding. I have a mirror on the helmet but the view is blocked by the tandem stoker. I rely on the stoker to call out cars but she’s not as reliable as the radar.

    Does it work for motorcycles? There are lots of motorcycles where I live.

    • If you check out the earlier Backtracker demo link I did, you can see the multiple cars there.

      I can’t quite remember if a motorcycle passed by when I was shooting the video, but either way when I go out again with it I’ll get video – plenty of them here too.

  31. Kapudan

    I like this! Especially the interaction with the driver!

    Living in a hotspot in Germany means plenty of cars with different skills of the drivers! So its good that the drivers will get informed via die red lights of me!

    The increase of the light beam in addition will remind them to pass me carefully! Because that is the biggest issue with cars IMHO. It is not their presence, more the poor skills when passing! Mostly squeezing between me and the incoming traffic on the other lane!

    That i can see the cars behind me its good, but like electronic helpers in cars you are not supposed to get used or lazy and start to only rely on them! You still need to double check and verify and used as on source of information to base your decision on.

  32. Vlad

    Does the rear light unit in the radar bundle have an off mode? I would like to have the option to extend the battery life.

  33. Mike Robinson

    Hmmm… I’m sceptical how the Varia would work when commuting in heavy urban traffic when you have cars, buses and other vehicles all around you.

  34. Stuart Brown

    I am really quite interested in the lights. Do the Varia lights have quarter turn mounts on the bottom?

    I have an integrated bar/stem combo on one of my bikes, which has a sort-of-aero top section. Getting standard brackets for lights and computers on it is a no-no. I have a custom mount that attaches to the bottom that currently has one quarter turn mount on it. If I could put the Varia light on that, then put the Edge on the Varia, that would give me the ability to use lights on that bike. Does the Edge remove the need for the remote completely?

    The more devices using the same mount type gives more flexibility and the likelihood that more specialised mounts will become available, which I really appreciate.

    How heavy is the front light? Would it be comfortable to mount on a helmet?

  35. Andy

    Any chance it will integrate with Garmin watches in the feature? Or just head units?

  36. Greg

    Ray,

    How does the radar function in a group ride? Does it pick up riders behind me? I’m curious how sophisticated it is!

  37. Colin

    Just to be clear, this only works with the Edge 1000, correct? If that’s so, it’s a darned shame. I don’t want a huge Edge 1000 on my bars, nor do I want two devices. I’d buy this in a heartbeat if it worked with my 510.

    • John

      Just the Edge 1000 today, and the 520 when it ships. The Edge 810/510/25 will all get compatibility in a forthcoming software update in “Q3”.

  38. Eli

    Are the lights and radar using open Ant+ protocols or private Ant? Seems like the data required for the turn signal could be useful for an indicator that could be up front to know that a turn is coming up and what direction the turn is. (hopefully will have distance to turn in there to)

    • Eli

      The way the garmin blog mentions about the light:
      It also focuses the light ahead instead of all around, shining 100 lux at 10 meters and features a high-beam cut-off to prevent blinding oncoming vehicles.

      Makes me wonder how the beam spread of the front will look. Spotty? The beam shape is a very important part of higher end to see with lights. I’ve used lights that while very bright don’t have much spread which makes it hard to tell where I’m going at speed in the dark. If this is just a to be seen light where you’re using street lights to actually see around you then I guess it wouldn’t matter.

      Open ant+ would mean other light makers could create lights that work with the data and the possibility of turn signals in other locations (helmet, backpack, vest,…)

  39. Alan

    ​Of course, this is pretty cool and I’m all for anything that increases safety.

    More thoughts:

    1. I can see behind me with my helmet mirror. It’s a $15 item.

    2. Depending on an electronic device for safety may not be the best thing.

    3. Cyclist safety will be improved when​ the motoring public is properly educated on how to drive and distracted driving is eliminated.

    4. Garmin’s video (link to youtu.be) cites 40% cycling fatalities from being rear-ended. They don’t provide the source for that data. I’ve seen data that says 15% of motorist/cyclist collisions are rear-enders. Maybe the number goes up if just looking at fatalities? My point is that most collisions are right hooks, left hooks, failure to yield at intersections and driveways, etc. The device won’t help any of those. Garmin wants to sell the device and so wants to create a market for it. They seem to think scaring cyclists will help create that market.

  40. Tim B

    Cool stuff and as usual, great job, Ray!

  41. Peter K

    Would be good if the rear light could function as a break light based on deceleration from GPS head unit- I think all road users would intuitively understand a red rear light in daytime or brighter rear light in night time as a ‘I’m breaking’ signal, which works quite well for all other vehicles on the road!!

  42. I am pretty sure that the Varia bike radar is illegal were I am (The Netherlands). A bike like should be constantly on, flashing is not allowed. Most clip-on bike rear lights have a flashing mode but nobody uses it because it can get you fined.

  43. Greg

    What’s up with the 4 hour battery life, that’s pretty bad imo

    • Happy Runner

      I wonder what mode that was in. The light can be steady, flash, or totally turned off. It would be interesting to know the battery life in “radar only” mode with no light.

  44. PhilBoogie

    This looks stupid:

    “The closer the car gets, the more vigorous it blinks”

    Shouldn’t that work the other way around? At first detection of a car it should blink, light up in the most noticeable way. The closer the car gets, the more annoying it becomes for the driver if it starts to blink more vigorously; it should dim.

  45. David

    I wonder how the radar will react if I am out on a group ride and there are bikes behind me. Will the radar detect the other cyclists as cars?

  46. scott buchanan

    I read this article when it was first posted but wanted to see what others though before commenting. I have to say I’m still scratching my head and thinking its a product that been launched ‘because we can” rather than having any useful function. The only cars behind me that I’m interested in are the ones that are going to rear end me at 50mph the others…. who cares? As for the lights? Meh! am I going to replace my Exposure Blaze rear light and Equinox/Diablo front for Garmin’s? I don’t think so! add the extra handle bar clutter and distraction and I’ll left thinking that Garmin is humouring one of its very senior managers with a pet project.

  47. Hammer

    The radar picks up only cars or will it actually detect riders behind me? Do you know if the radar knows the difference between riders and cars? If the radar picks up riders while I’m in a group ride I’d assume I’d have non-moving indicators and assume a moving indicator is a car, unless a rider is passing me. Anyway, just wondering if this is something designed for riding alone or capable of use in many scenarios.

  48. Jack

    Do you know if Garmin Varia will be compatible also with Garmin Fenix 3? Many thanks.

  49. Stuart Brown

    What angle does the front headlight need to sit at on the bars? The promotional material shows the Edge on top of the light, but if you need to angle the light downwards slightly (like my existing bike headlights) then that will pretty much make looking at the computer a lot harder. If it’s angled up to make reading the computer easy, then the light is going to be pointing into the sky?

  50. Brett

    Looks like I am going to have to sell my 800 to get an 810 then, as my wife likes the look of this for me!

    Or Ray, will we be seeing a 820 coming soon?

  51. Jean

    The blink on the Edge 1000 is iT only visible in ‘map’ modus of Aldo in a ‘datafield’ mode?

    Much appriciated

  52. Ken Schneider

    Does this radar unit cause a car’s radar detector to beep?

  53. Larry Seja

    I like the concepts of the radar system with display. I have currently have Garmin 510. I’m guessing from I’ve read I would need to purchase a Garmin 1000 in order to use the headlight. But, I can do without the headlight using my current system seems to work just fine.

  54. NY-Attorney

    When discussing the new lights, you mention very early on that “[t]hese lights follow in the footsteps of the recently announced Bontrager (different company) smart bike lights, which connect via ANT+ to a small head unit. In that vein, the Garmin variant steps up the game by adding in integration with the Garmin Edge GPS units.”

    I have the Bontrager setup, including the Ion 700 RT, the Flare RT, and the Transmitr remote. The Transmitr remote is about the size of Garmin’s Edge or VIRB remotes. I find the system incredible. I do not consider integrating the lights with the Garmin GPS unit a plus (for me). Having the separate remote allows me to control my 2 lights (or up to 7) in a very dynamic way, switching through 3 solid, one flashing, and one strobe mode on the front light, as well two solid, one flash, and one strobe on the back light. It can also be configured for turn signals, etc. The lights on the remote indicate what mode each light is in as well as the battery status of each light. Having its own little remote, rather than Garmin GPS integrations, means I don’t have to be on the right page of the GPS menu system when I need to make a change and always see the battery status of the lights when I am done with my ride (the Transmitr remote show it to me). It is also one less thing the GPS system needs to monitor, increasing the battery life of the GPS.

    Bontrager does not, however, have any radar product to my knowledge.

    I encourage you to do a review of the Bontrager lights and come to your own conclusion. You seem to be in Garmin’s camp (and who wouldn’t be given their great products) but in this case the Bontrager competition is worth looking at.

    • Yup, I actually have the Bontrager lights – and, have the majority of a post written on them.

      That said, I think it’s overpriced (just like the Garmin lights).

    • NY-Attorney

      You could not be more correct, they are overpriced. However, out of fairness, nearly everything reviewed on your blog, and nearly all the technology that you and I enjoy on a day to day basis, is overpriced to some extent. It is just a matter of degree. You and I are tremendously fortunate to have the excess income necessary to play with these products.

      With that said. The Bontrager ANT+ lights are tremendously overpriced, not just slightly. This can be demonstrated by comparing the set of ANT+ lights to their siblings, which are exactly the same minus the ANT+ features.

      Pricing on Bontrager’s website:

      Front lights:
      ION 700 R = $120
      ION 700 RT (ANT+) = $160

      Back lights:
      Flare R = $60
      Flare RT (ANT+) = $80

      So, if you want the ANT+ models, you will pay $60 more for the lights themselves. Then, because they do not integrate with the Garmin Edge series, you also need to by the small head unit to control them. That is called the Transmitr Remote and sells for $70.

      Thus, the same lighting system with ANT+ is $130 more dollars with ANT+ than without.

      Nonetheless, I am very happy with the system. I usually would not have splurged, but having just purchased a new bike, and re-discovered my love for night riding, I decided to do it, and am glad I did.

  55. SurlyWill

    If the rear blinkie isn’t bright enough … they may be missing the mark.

    On the front … the light should get BRIGHTER when it detects headlights as this is when you need YOUR light to not get washed out by oncoming car lights.

    Perhaps there could be additional rear blinkies that can use the data from the radar to adjust themselves.

  56. Pak

    Good creative products.

  57. Efrain

    Is there a way to attach the radar to a saddle bag?

    • Mark Manner

      Hi, I have my Varia mounted to the back of a saddle bag that is attached to my seat. It works fine in that position. I used a spare Garmin quarter turn mount and rubber band and looped the band under the reflective strip that is on the back of the bag (there is a loop of some sort on all the bike bags I have, probably to let you clip a light on). It is secure and relatively level.
      Mark
      PS-as to how I like the Varia in general, I think it is a pretty useful device. I initially thought I would use it mostly out in the country where few cars exist, but I find that I also use it in city riding. It basically never misses a car coming up, but does have some false positives seemingly related to large reflective metal things (like grain silos out in the country in a turn).
      M.

  58. Efren

    So, does it work when riding on a pelotón or not ? False alarms from other riders ??

  59. Chuck

    I just pre-ordered the Varia rear light / radar from your link. I do think that the rear light is way to dim, but I wanted it for the rear prosecution. The battery life sounds short for my long rides, and I’ll probably keep my two Nite Rider Solas rear lights. To bad all the lights are not brighter. Thanks again Ray!

  60. Chuck

    I wanted to say “rear protection”

  61. Ben

    Garmin should buy Cycliq for the technology in the Fly6 and integrate that technology into the Variq. A small camera in the Variq with looping functionality as in the Fly6 would be great. I have been riding with the Fly6 for over two months now. Very, very bright in its highest flashing mode, with various levels of dimming for daylight hours.

  62. jack

    Is compatible with Fenix 3?

    • No, at least not at this time.

      To be fair, I’m not really sure how that’d work out. The benefit on the Edge series is the mount to the bike with the larger display to be able to use the edge for incoming cars. That’d be really tricky on a small watch factor.

    • chukko

      One way to do this would be to implement the radar display as a Data field (could be even done as Connect IQ field if Varia Ant data was accessible and understood). Not sure what are the limitation of Connect IQ data fields – if it could be a vertical bitmap, it would look the best.
      Other option would be a full featured Varia Bike app – which would mirror the functionality of Bike profile with radar info integrated.

  63. Bryan

    I have read at least two questions about group rides or riders behind with no answer that I could see.

    If a rider is drafting behind me is the radar going to pick them up and run the light in high mode, run down the batteries etc. Will distinguish between other riders and vehicles. This is an important question that really needs to be answered.

    If it does pick up other riders then this device becomes a solo ride only device which in an of itself is not bad unless your always the last person in line on the group ride. LOL

    Ray, did you test this product within a group ride?

  64. Robert

    If you want to outsource any of that testing, just ask… ;-)

    I think that it would be hard for it to pick up other riders due to the footprint that could reflect the signal back to the receiver. I’m thinking that it won’t pickup riders because a rider is small, and ‘soft’. It would seem to be easy to threshold the signal returned, and weed out softer returns.

    It would also be nice to know what the frequency is they are using.

    • Yeah, last year it didn’t pickup a single rider, but again, things might have changed since then. The weekends are the only time I can reliably ensure there are large groups of cyclists (5-20ppl) at the two nearby parks.

    • Terry

      It shouldn’t pick up other riders in a group because the radar works on differential speed (doppler). So, unless another cyclist is approaching from behind, the radar shouldn’t detect them. I don’t know what the speed differential is set to, would be nice to know.

    • chukko

      I doubt differential is used for detection, as then all surrounding objects would need to show too. But thats quite easy to verify.- as this would mean all the cars that slowed down to your speed would disappear from the display. Anyone to test?

  65. Pak

    Work in edge1000 v5.0

  66. Shaun Callaghan

    Are you guys starting to see these available yet?

  67. John

    Ray, is the unit configurable to sound an alarm on the stand alone head unit or on the edge units? Thanks!

  68. Hrvoje

    I have received my Varia radar yesterday to use with my Edge 1000. Here are some comments/issues:
    – It is designed to be mounted on seat post, so this means no place for seat bags or bags on the rear rack. I have made my own mount, it is possible to separate part of the rotating mount and fix it with screws to separate holder on my rear rack – similar to licence plate.
    – The unit pairs and works well with Edge 1000 – display of approaching cars and sound alerts are really good, I see no need for separate display unit.
    – Manual states that it should be mounted as high as possible, but I think I have no problems with position on mine (just above rear wheel).
    – Tracking and detection works really great for distant cars. The unit tracks cars that are coming around 150m behind without any problems and pretty reliably .
    – Tracking of cars that suddenly occur behind the bike is not good or reliable – In my several short rides, I had two occurences of cars driving just behind me which were not detected at all.
    – I had several false detections, mostly large metal objects (like trash containers) or cars that were coming from left or right roads behind me. False detections are not a problem, it is easy to see that these objects do not come close, and they quickly go out of focus.
    – I had one “radar disconect” issue on Edge – the Edge had to be restarted to repair connection with the Varia. I also had Edge crashing once, just after wake up from sleep and connecting to Varia. I do not remeber Edge crashing before pairing with Varia radar.

    For a first iteration, I think it works pretty well and could be recommended.

  69. Larry Schwartz

    Received my Varia Radar today and took a quick 20 miles ride with the unit. I have it mounted above my fly6 light/camera with no issues. (I’m 6’2″ with a 60cm bike so I have lots of room on my seat post) I have an Edge 1000 paired to the Varia, which was very simple.

    The Radar works as advertised. I rode on busy streets, side streets and long curvy roads, only once did a car sneak up on me that I didn’t see on the Edge. The display on the Edge 1000 works well although I do wish there was a beep/tone when a car appears. I thought I heard it once, but not on a consistence basis.

    When I ride home I have to take a left hand turn on a busy street and it’s always hard to see the oncoming traffic. With he radar tonight I had no issues, and made a very smooth turn.

    Really no complaints and highly recommend as probably the best safety gadget you can add to your bike.

    • Hrvoje

      I think that the beep sound occurs when Varia starts tracking – for the first car that appears on the display. For all other cars that are being tracked in the same session there is no sound.
      I have ridden few more times with Varia and tracking of distant cars is really great. Tracking of cars just behind the bicycle could be improved, it is difficult to guess when the car will pass you just by looking on the screen. I think that the movement of the dots is preprogramed, not based on actual car position.

  70. Al B.

    I sounds like cyclists in a group pace line are transparent to the Varia, correct? How about motorcycles? Will they show up on the display like cars? I just received my Garmin Edge 520 and would like to know how it works together with the Varia. How does the warning show up on the display when it is in the regular display mode, e.g. speed, distance, time page.?

  71. Paul

    Will this work while connected to an external battery? I do a lot of riding over 4 hours, and I’m getting ready to do some touring on some pretty rural and not too cycle friendly roads in the US southwest.

    I think this would be a nice thing to have.

  72. Garmin response about Edge 520:

    I will be happy to help you with your question about the edge 520 and Varia support. We are currently working on the software update to allow the Varia system to connect to the edge 520. The software will be available as soon as possible.

  73. Santa_Cruz_Mike

    I too have a problem with mounting on the seat post, it won’t clear the rear luggage. So it has to go on the rear of the rack.

    And I’m really surprised that even after a year on the market Garmin hasn’t introduced some kind of real light that includes a capability for their turn signal feature. I saw an image of 4 large left and right arrows (2 each direction) though it wasn’t clear if they blink in sequence or not. But I can’t find it again and anyways mounting a bunch of stuff (radar, brighter tail lights, turn indicators) all under the back of the rack seems really insane. Not to mention the entire DYI project to do it is fun for some but others of us would rather be out riding than in the garage.

    I’ve been using Garmin products for many years (using one of the first handheld GPS devices for sailing) and have thought they are great products. And I even know quite a few folks that work over there and they are really smart people. Why haven’t they gotten around to solving this obvious problem? Is there a simpler “crowd requests” project that doesn’t ask for money like the “crowd funder” project, just says “we really, really (, really!) want this!?” :)

    Lot’s of other great questions too that seems Ray is taking on that Garmin should be “manning” up and taking responsibility. They say “We are making improvements to our forums!” Let’s see if it translates to a more responsive customer presence?

    Cheers, and have a great (“non-“) Labor Day Weekend.
    Mike

    • NY-Attorney

      Wait for Ray to find the time to review the Bontrager ANT+ Light system. You can see my comments about the system above. I do not use it for turn signals, but it does have that feature depending on how you mount it. I have never seen the feature used other than in Trek’s promotional videos. With respect to mounting, it also is very to mount wherever you want it. I have it mounted on my seat post, but it also came with a clip to mount to saddle bag or a backpack. Good luck.

  74. Moderator Forum Into Sports Cycling Varia Garmin 520 Compatibility response:

    Sorry for the trouble. Software is close and should be available in a couple weeks.

  75. blake

    Can Someone please tell me of this unit can be tethered as we all know about Garmins dodgy tabs and I’d hate for this thing to go flying off down the road – and any definate news about compatability with edge units? Is it coming to the 510?

    • Happy Runner

      No ability to tether. You will get a RADAR DISCONNECTED message on the Edge 1000 when it falls off and is out of range, so at least you can go back and look for it.

  76. blake

    Had this back from Garmin

    “I can confirm the Edge 510 will be compatible with the Varia Headlights and Tail lights once the software is released. ”

    I did ask about tethering the unit but the didnt answer that question! So can it be tethered???

  77. NY-Attorney

    I have written about the Bontrager ANT+ Lights above, and mentioned they could be used for turn signals, but I have never done that.

    Today I came across the Zackees LED Turn Signal Cycling Gloves. Since I am considering a pair of gloves (even though I usually prefer to ride without gloves) I thought these might be interesting. They are pair of gloves with LED lights on each glove that form an arrow. When you signal a turn, you can bring your thumb and forefinger together to activate the lights. You can find them on Amazon.

    Has anyone tried them? Thoughts?

  78. Jiří Pavlovský

    Today I went for my first ride with the Varia. I must say I’m very pleased with it. It definitely makes me feel more safe knowing that I won’t be swept by a car that I did not notice.

    But a boo to Garmin on the seatpost mount. When I tried to mount it, the screw went all the way through the mount. I could only throw it to dust in

  79. Happy Runner

    Couple of notes that I have not seen mentioned:

    1. When the unit detects a car and is in “car approach” mode with the stripe down each side of the Edge 1000, that stripe is ON TOP OF the fields in the data screen. In other words, the display screen does not reformat or narrow to account for the area taken by the radar display.

    Generally, this is not a problem if you have five fields or less displayed because the data in those fields is centered and does not go edge-to-edge (exception Di2 gear display). Once you have six or more fields displayed, such that there are two fields sharing the same line (one on the left, one on the right), the radar display covers up a portion of the data field, such that you won’t be able to see it.

    2. Once the Varia is enabled and paired, there is no turning off the “radar connected” icon in the top right of the screen on the Edge 1000. If you disable the Varia or turn it off, you will still see the radar connection icon and it will blink red at you until you actually re-boot the Edge 1000 (simple Sleep will not clear).

    As others have noted, it works very well and has “gee whiz, wow” appeal. Yes, I could buy a mirror; yes, I could turn my head around and look behind me. But for convenience, especially on a long aero ride in the country, it’s pretty nice.

  80. JL

    Thanks for the comprehensive review.
    May I know if you tried out the Varia with the Edge 25? How are warnings displayed on the small screen of the Edge 25?
    Was also hoping they would make the Forerunner 920xt compatible with the Varia since its screen is no smaller than the Edge 25, any news from Garmin to introduce 920xt compatibility?

    Thanks!

  81. Varia updated to 2.20 version

  82. Jiří

    As listed here link to www8.garmin.com:

    Changes made from version 2.00 to 2.20:

    Made improvements to ANT+ connection stability when connecting to Edge 1000.
    Made improvements to reduce the number of false detections.
    Added UI improvement to indicate button press using LEDs.
    Fixed collection of bugs.

    • Jiří

      After first ride with the new firmware I’m somewhat concerned.
      Seems to me that while some false positives are gone some “false negatives” are introduced.
      For example it won’t report a car that is going slowly behind you. Once it accelerates it will notice it.
      I definitely felt more secure with the previous firmware version.

    • Happy Runner

      It is only suppose to report cars approaching you, so it doesn’t seem like that’s a false negative but rather how the system is suppose to operate.

      If you are going faster than the car behind you, then that car is not a threat to your safety because it is not going to pass you. Like you say, once the car accelerates, the system reports it to you because then it is a threat because it will eventually pass you.

    • chukko

      That is a matter of personal preference. You might not be interested in cars who approach you slowly, but i definitely would.

      And the sensible behavior might be completely different based on whether you are interested in alerts only, or if you want to be aware of the situation behind you. IMO it would be much more universal if the device supported multiple scenarios based on what user wants. I would be more interested in monitoring the situation behind me (including slower cyclists) than purely alerts for quickly approaching objects only.

    • Jiří

      I find the current behavior problematic.
      For example if there are several cars approaching in a close formation only one is reported.
      And when the first one passes you the radar goes silent and gives no more warnings and then suddenly another car tries to overtake you.

      Seems to me, that I could put more trust to the radar with the previous firmware version. But I used it only on couple of rides so far so it might be that I don’t have enough of observational data to correctly judge its behavior.

  83. Happy Runner

    Will the VARIA trigger a car’s radar detector (e.g. FuzzBuster, Escort, Valentine)? I have no idea what frequency the Varia transmits on. Does anyone know if it will trigger a radar alert in a standard car radar detector? Maybe if you own a radar detector, you could do a test for us! :)

    If it does trigger car radar, that would be an excellent feature!

  84. My friend got one. Love it. But that there is no sound on the standard head unit kind dismal on Garmin. Can’t believe that that would not be part the product for that price. So you basically have to go buy a Edge 1000 to get the sound warning. My buddy did . But really feel it is a huge mistake in the product from that point. We don’t want to ride starring at the unit . You want to ride hear the sound look to confirm see the car and be happy. This like Camera manufactures as pro photographer you sometimes wonder if the designer actually used the product and went hell how could missed that. The cost to put sound in the standard unit would not even be factor but would make great product Fantastic and work even better. Hope you can influence them/Garmin to add that to the head unit with out getting and Edge 1000 .

  85. Jean

    Actually not a beep but a vibration-kind-of-device in the heartbelt

  86. Jim

    Not sure what to do with information that a car is coming. Seems like an overly expensive gadget that doesn’t provide me anything further to save my life. I don’t think there is anything any company can do to other than to use radar to trigger a series of cameras that click on when a car is within 3ft, film from back, side, front and send immediately to police via smart device. Providing I don’t die the driver might learn to keep the law of 3ft in mind when passing if they get hit with fines or jail time. Another problem is that way too many cyclist are also distracted, don’t care and impede traffic by riding out too far into the road and would inaccurately depict the driver as faulty.

    • Howard

      Exactly what I was thinking. So it flashes red?? Do I now just dive off the bike into the bushes now? It should replace plain old ‘awareness’. I would start by taking your ear phones out and listen to your surroundings (at least the road side one).

    • Steve

      When I’m riding on well-traveled roads I certainly stay to the right of the lane. When I’m heading down curvey or big downhills on less-traveled roads I tend to move towards the middle of the lane so I have better maneuverability and control. With the increased wind on the downhills I tend to hear approaching cars less. I would imagine the Varia would give me notification that something is approaching and that I could ride more defensive by slowing down and staying more to the right. The quicker I move to the right to give the driver more room shows the driver you’re respecting him and I feel like I’ll be less likely to be hit… or intentionally grazed.

  87. Aindriu

    The only problem is that it WILL get in the way of a bike back (they are placed under the saddle). Nice idea but pity they didn’t emit a beep on your ipod touch (i listen to music when cycling). Flashing lights on the garmin might not be that noticeable

  88. Eddy

    Hello Guy`s,
    hope my english is good enough….
    PLEASE can anybody tell me:

    o
    With the Radar Sensor, how long will the Battery of the Edge 1000 last ? I Ride often 6 hours and with Display Light particially on i reach 6% at End.
    o
    Think with Radar it will last less.

    thanX, Eddy from Europe/Austria

  89. Ron Rauch

    Do you have any update on when the EDGE 520 will be updated to pair with the Varia bike radar? Alternatively, is the Varia RDU available to purchase separately? (I purchased the 520 in anticipation of the compatibility upgrade.)

  90. New versión 520, 3.0, suports Varia now

  91. I want to get the radar system, but have an Edge 810 mounted on a Trek Domane. Choices are:

    Get the dedicated radar display, and keep the 810. (+$100)
    Get a 520 and sell my 810 (+$299)
    Get a 1000 and sell my 810 (+$499)

    Most biking done in bright daylight. Old eyes, and no desire to wear reading glasses while riding.

    What’s likely to be my best option? Willing to spend money, but only if there’s a commensurate benefit. Any opinions?

    Thanks,

    Richard

    p.s. I was an original backer of the radar project, and they kindly sent a discount coupon. It’s what’s gotten me off the dime…

    • Larry

      Richard – I was a backer of the original project also, but purchased my radar when it first came out so the discount email came a little late for me.

      I’m in the same boat with my eyes..I have a Garmin 1000 and I”m very happy with the larger screen and software updates seem to come first to the 1000 then trickle down. I’ve had my 1000 for about a year now and have had no issues. The radar works perfect, probably one of the best bike investments I’ve made in a long time. So if money is not an issue I would go with the 1000.

      Good luck!

    • Happy Runner

      I think the dedicated radar display is awkward; looking at your Edge head unit is what you are going to be doing naturally anyway. I am really impressed at how the information is conveyed in such a way (graphics/colors) that it can be taken in very quickly. And my eyes are pretty bad!

      I would not rely on the Varia as a tail light for daytime riding. Its just not that bright. For that you need something created for daytime use, such as the DesignShine light (designshinelighting.com). The top two brightness settings on a DesignShine tail light are actually not recommended for use at night because they are so bright they would blind a drive at night. Perfect during the day, though.

    • I’d agree. Once you go Edge showing Varia status, you can’t go back. I haven’t touched the Varia head unit since. Just such a cleaner look to things.

    • It arrived, and I just came back from a 90km ride. Ray was right: the Edge 1000 display showing the car “dots” is fantastic. I also generally like the Edge 1000.

      I was on my usual Saturday ride (up the coast from Del Mar to Oceanside for my fellow San Diegans), and there was an organized ride along my route. I was bouncing between groups of cyclists all day. NEVER did a bicycle show up on the radar; only cars.

      It was fantastic to see the array of dots accurately representing cars arrayed behind me. If the device tracks azimuth, it’d be great to have a Varia screen on the edge that showed where the cars were. That way you could know if it’s one or two lanes over, or, gulp, right behind you!

      I LOVE the beep signifying the change from “I don’t see any cars” to “a car is somewhere behind you.”

      Radar isn’t a replacement for your eyes. I still used my rear view mirror (and turning my head). It just adds another indicator, and IMHO increases safety.

      I did get a few “oopsies.” I got a few “Varia Error 1:2” messages (what’s with that?), but they went away by themselves. And it definitely doesn’t report cars that are tracking behind you at your pace. (Agree this is more a feature than bug.) I think a few cars snuck through without being detected. But, all in all, great performance. Don’t rely on it as your only defense, but it sure can help as part of a defense system!

      For me, this was a good purchase. I declare it useful! :-)

    • Good to hear!

      On the Varia Error 1:2, I only started seeing them the other day while doing final review photographs. I thought it was a me-thing though, because I had two different Edge devices (or Display + Edge) connected to Varia, and seemed to be related to me powering one off – like it was tripping up on multiple displays temporarily until it sorted itself out. I had basically connected one Varia to four displays: Edge 25, Edge 520, Edge 1000, and Varia Display Unit – just iterating through photos. So not a normal scenario.

      Be curious if you were using two displays or just the Edge.

    • Just the Edge 1000. Other devices: Scosche Rhythm+, Bontrager Duotrap ANT+-only, Stages power meter, iPhone 6+, Shimano DI2 Ultegra (D-Fly).

      Just came back from my 2nd ride. No errors this time. It was even more useful going around Fiesta Island (sparse auto traffic). The beep remains my favorite feature — it worked 100% of the time to let me know a car was approaching.

    • Bart

      I will get it now and again, usually when I have my Vivoactive paired as well.

  92. Burnt Bird

    Any word on when the 510 will be able to link up with the Varia? I understand the 520 update was earlier this week.

  93. Brian Hoy

    I’ve been waiting awhile for the 520 and varia to be available in my area and I have to say it was worth the wait. On only the second ride with the varia, it saved my bacon. My shoulder check only revealed one car well the varia indicated two, giving me the heads up to check again. Sure enough car number two cut right in front of me to make a right turn with no regard to a cyclist. make all the pros and cons you want, the Varia paid for it self today.

  94. Michael

    I have two questions:

    1. Does the Edge 1000 radar side bar indication work also in display landscape mode?

    2. Can both the Varia products (Rearview Radar and Smart Lights) be installed simultaneously and controlled by a single Edge 1000? If yes, will there be two rear lights or just one?

    Thank you if anybody knows..

    • Chris

      I can confirm that the Edge 1000 shows the radar display in landscape mode. I was concerned about this myself as mapping works so much better in landscape mode, and didn’t want to switch back. I also tried the Varia headlight today. Overall, I’m very impressed with the whole system. I rode about 43 miles tonight, half in low light and half pitch black. It just worked so well and the headlight is tremendous.

  95. Guy

    It does work with the Edge 520. I got the 520 yesterday and today I received the varia rear radar. Updated the software on both and to my surprise they paired. I just went outside for a test and it does pick up traffic and works perfectly. I’m thrilled!

  96. Jerry

    Just wanted to chime in here. I have a 520 and Varia. The combo works great. The Varia works as advertised and to perfection as far as i’m concerned. I have noticed cars give me a wider birth due to the lights. I’m more aware of the traffic coming up behind me and it makes me feel a little safer. It will not pick up riders behind you. The guys I ride with like it as well mainly because when i’m in front of them they know when the traffic is coming up because of the light flash variations. It’s just nice to have that extra level awareness. Hope this helps.

    Thanks to Ray for the article as well. Keep up the good work.

  97. PhilBoogie

    1) “There will be multiple dots for multiple cars, such as below.”

    That’s clever.

    2) “the rear tail light is actually changing to react to traffic as well. As traffic gets closer the red taillight bar will ‘expand’”

    That’s stupid. The further away the car is, the more light the unit should put out, because of the distance. As the car gets closer, the unit should put out less light as the driver is now closer. I wouldn’t be surprised if drivers were annoyed by the brighter light when they get closer. Garmin getting things backward here.

    3) I live in the city. How can I get it to power up after I’ve left town and am in the countryside; I don’t want to be bombarded buy the continuous beeps while still in the high traffic area.

  98. Frank

    I have been using the “Varia” for the last month. I did notice some “false positive” indications early on. Once I performed the firmware update the number of this type of indication dropped off.
    The radar triggers when an “object” whatever it’s type, is moving 10 kilometers’ faster, in relation to the Varia. This being said. If the object is moving at the exact same speed as the Varia this object will not be indicated. The rider must still be vigilant regardless. The only concern I have with the Varia is it’s lumens’ is rather low at 16. I would gladly give up some battery life in order to have a brighter L.E.D. array. I believe a firmware update could easily address this.

    thanks

  99. bike with lot of small instruments. it is good, I do sometime feel to put headlight infront of my cycle. this will really help.

  100. I just got my Varia radar today. A quick question I cannot seem to find the answer to…

    I have the Garmin headlight which turns on automatically when the Edge 1000 is switched on. However, I have to manually hold down the radar button and turn it on to connect it with my Edge each time. Is this normal? Seems a little frustrating…

  101. James Gill

    I’ve posted a video of the Garmin Varia light working at night, and changing with speed on the TitaniumGeek page

    link to titaniumgeek.com

  102. Shaun Callaghan

    I have been using my Varia radar with my 520 for about a month in some pretty rainy conditions (Vancouver) and so far it works great further raising my awareness to cars behind. Two things i’d like to see added
    1. A camera recording on a loop like you get in the fly 6 tail light
    2. Increase in the brightness of the light

    add those two things and this would be fantabulous

  103. Bud

    I often ride on access roads next to the interstate. Unfortunately, the radar works too well in this situation as it picks up all of the interstate traffic that is beside me and the notifications blend with the traffic that is directly behind me. Might there be an update in the future that allows for calibrating or adjusting the “scope of coverage”?

  104. Greg Hancock

    I mainly do group rides, what does it do with a bike behind it ? does it recognise a bike as a car. it would be good if it didn’t and when you went to the back of the group it could warn you and the group of approaching cars.

  105. AK

    Hi
    Any news on the Garmin 810 firmware update for the Varia, thanks

    • Sorry, thought I posted an update somewhere about it. In any case, from about 10 days or so ago, from Garmin:

      Edge 810: “Varia updates have targeted delivery in Q1 (there will be two phases and it should all be complete by the end of Feb).”

  106. Nicole T. Lewis

    Thank you for the great review! I have a Garmin Edge 1000 and just ordered the Varia.
    I also plan on running my Lupine Rotlicht on the back in low light conditions. I hope that it does not interfere with the Varia unit!

  107. Stuart B.

    I have a Varia headlight, 2 rear lights and the radar.

    When the radar is connected to the light network, pressing the buttons on the Varia remote control makes the turn signals on the rear lights work – but no feedback appears on the Edge connected to all of them.

    Pressing the buttons on the screen of the Edge to control the indicators and it doesn’t work. However, if you disconnect the radar, both the remote and the Edge work and the feedback of which turn signal is flashing appears.

    Am I right that the radar should have this affect? Is this by design? It means I can’t indicate when commuting in the dark and use the radar? Which means about 50% of the year I have to choose one or the other.

    Anyone experience anything similar?

  108. ron

    Need assistance! I need a radar unit that picks up cyclists coming up from behind me and makes a beeping sound when this happens, similar to a metal detector. Too many times, the cyclists neglect to announce they’re passing on the left and clear me with a foot or two of space. Thanks!

    • No such product exists today. The only way the Varia radar will flag another cyclist (in my experience) is if they are coming up on you at great speed (compared to yours), and if their bike is laden with lots of junk (i.e. doing a cross-country trek). It’s the only time it ever happened for me (while I was standing still and it went by).

    • Jiri

      Ride faster and nobody will pass you ;)

    • Robert

      Unfortunately, nothing protects you from rude and butt head riders.

      It’s sad to have to worry about such louts, but that’s the way of it. Mirrors? A big stick?

  109. Michael Curtis

    I was thinking about getting the Varia™ Rearview Bike Radar, but I had a long hanging saddles bag. I do have space to attached to the saddle. Is there a mount for that?

  110. frede

    Would you recommend the Varia 22lm Smart Bike Tail Light as well in addition to the Rearview Radar Tail Light, or do you think the Radar Tail Light is sufficient on its own ?

  111. Mark Don

    I already bought a varia bike radar. It’s really amazing. I think It is best for me.

  112. Antony Wright

    I plan to buy just the light but mount it on a 6 inch extension of my left handlebar or front frame steering column. That way I also see the very bright blinking red light which will alert me much better than the little display that costs $100 more. Has anyone tried this?

  113. Tomek

    Im interested, but… can the radar be charged while used? I often go on 10 hours + trips, and this when it would be most useful…

    • Kevin Klasman

      Can it be charged while in use? Based on a quick test in the house, I’m thinking no. I turned it on, then plugged it in, and the light turned off. I was able to turn it back on while plugged in, but the charging LED went off, suggesting that charging while in use doesn’t work.

      I’ll have to try a real test; run down the battery to near exhaustion, plug it in, turn it back on, then see what happens. I’ll post results when I get them.

      The inability to charge while in use is a real negative. I’m a randonneur and regularly do rides longer than 4 hours and the radar is even more valuable late in rides when tired and awareness begins to diminish.

      I could have two, and swap them out so I can charge the dead one separately. But that’s expensive, and one more thing to carry and manage.

    • Nicole

      As far as I have experienced, this light cannot be charged while being used and I find that it may light for 1.5 hours or so. Not long enough for long rides!

    • Happy Runner

      I haven’t done a ride over four hours but that is no problem for the battery.

      The solution to have a backup is probably best, but if you can only use one, you may want to take advantage of the ability to turn the light on/off from the head unit, using it for sketchy roads and turning it off on safe roads.

    • Robert

      My problem is the opposite: My Edge 520 battery barely lasts an hour and a half. I’m shocked with how quickly the battery dies. The Varia will likely outlast the Edge.

      Is there a way to get the battery swapped? I’d hate to have to buy another Edge unit. It’s definitely a lot less battery life.

    • Tomek

      I got one and during 6 hours + ride yesterday in 2 degrees Celsius Varia battery outlasted Edge 820… does not appear to be possible to charge while being used though..

    • Bsquared

      Yes, radar unit can be charged while in use. I rode a double century in May and confirmed this works during the last hour of the ride. Battery pack in top tube bag, long USB cable along top tube. Radar battery was dead and I let it charge a couple minutes before turning it back on.

    • Happy Runner

      How long did the radar unit last before the battery was dead?

    • Bsquared

      I get 3+ hours on a full charge. I use it 5 days a week and charge to full after every ride. My radar is over a year old and displays traffic on my Edge 520 head unit.

    • Michael Curtis

      I have found my Garmin Edge 520 battery life is now very poor when the radar is being used. It barely got to the end of a 3.5 hour ride a few weeks ago.

    • Robert

      My 520 battery range plummeted, and I found that I still had the backlight on longer from winter trainer setup. It’s amazing how much life that backlight sucks off the battery. It’s hard to believe that it would just be the varia that was exhausting your battery as it’s just a sensor. Unless there is some other incredible amount of activity that we aren’t aware of.

    • Michael Curtis

      Thanks for the feedback. I haven’t changed my backlight from the default, but I may shorten it after your feedback.

    • Robert

      I have mine on the minimum. I may have actually turned it off. In daylight there isn’t much of a need.

      See how that works.

      I’ve had the varia die before my Edge. I’m glad that Garmin put the charge port on the far end of the unit. If I needed to for a long ride, I’d consider using a battery pack and a cable. With the edge, I don’t think I can do that, at least without turning the thing on its side.

  114. A friend bought me a Varia TL 300 rear light as a present recently..
    I upgraded the firmware straight away (2.50) before pairing with Edge 520 (11.10).
    Not impressed – brake light function way to delayed behind actual deceleration.
    Had friend return it, as a complete waste of money IMO.

    On the design front, here in the UK, it’s required by law to have reflectors front & rear.
    Cateye make a rear light the lens of which is also a reflector – job done.
    These Garmin rear lights are… all black. Well done guys, smart design, NOT!
    How hard could it be to incorporate reflective material into the case? Not very I reckon.
    Good concept, but not really worth the current asking price.