This past summer Garmin announced their foray into the cycling lights and cycling radar world. Yes, radar. They released their Varia cycling lights product line, which includes the Varia bike radar system that allows you to see approaching cars directly on a display unit or your existing Garmin Edge device. You’ll remember just a year prior I (very successfully) tested this product when it came out on a crowd-funding site. While the crowd-funding campaign fell short, Garmin scooped up the company this past winter and made quick work of getting the product to market. Since August, I’ve been using Varia in both beta and now final production form.
Now, before half of you skip to the comments to declare why bike radar is stupid without reading the post, understand two very specific statements about where I think the product works and doesn’t work:
A) Varia will NOT keep a car from hitting you as you ride down the road. Period.
B) What Varia does do VERY WELL is remind you when you’re out in the middle of nowhere with infrequent traffic and deep into exhaustion, that a car is about to approach – snapping you back to reality.
If you consider the product in those constructs, then you can approach it better as to whether the product makes sense to purchase. Got it? Good.
To be clear, I’ve been using a Varia trial bundle provided by Garmin to test with (a final production unit). Like always, I’ll be shipping that back to them in Kansas in the next little bit and going out and getting my own via regular retail channels. That’s just the way I roll.
To start, Varia comes in two different varieties. You can get it with or without the front display unit. If you get it without the display unit, then you’ll need a compatible Garmin Edge device (see later section on that). Also, technically speaking there are two variants of the radar unit – the RTL500 and RTL501. The RTL500 supports both flashing and steady-light modes, whereas the RTL501 only does steady illumination (aimed at countries that don’t permit flashing lights). The prices for either variant are the same.
In my case I’ve got the bundled version, so that’s all the parts you’re seeing here. The main difference being that in the non-bundled version you won’t get the display unit and you won’t get the front mounts. Other than that – it’s all the same.
Here’s what’s inside the box of the bundled version:
And here’s that pile of plastic goodness un-plasticized:
To start, you’ve got a bunch of rear radar mounts. These affix to the back of your seatpost, and have options for round seat posts as well as aero seat posts (look like a ‘v’):
Next we’ve got the Varia radar taillight unit (RTL) and the display unit (RDU), along with their respective micro-USB charging cables:
Here’s the charging cables – again, same as most non-Apple phones use:
Finally, we’ve got the front display quarter-turn mounts. These are identical to those that you’d have used if you had an Edge cycling computer, to attach that to your handlebars.
As for the weights, the rear radar is 63g, while the front display unit is 28g:
And to briefly compare sizes, here’s a look at the front display unit next to some Garmin head units. From left to right: Edge 25, Varia Rear Display Unit, Edge 520, Varia Rear Radar, Edge 810, Edge 1000:
As you can see I also tossed in the rear radar light, which is roughly the size of an Edge 520 GPS.
In many ways, the Varia radar is one of the more simple Garmin cycling devices out there to operate – with only a few options available on it. It may transmit a lot of data, but from a ‘things to press’ kind of standpoint, it’s relatively basic (in a good way).
To start, the unit is charged via micro-USB cable (same as used on most phones these days, Apple excluded). Garmin claims a radar battery life of 10 hours (in flashing mode), or about 5 hours in always-on mode. Though validating that is tricky since factors such as traffic will play into that. Battery status is shown on the display unit, and on the Garmin Edge units.
The battery is actually probably my only complaint about it. Not that it doesn’t meet the goal, but rather that I’ve had a few cases where I forgot to charge it. One handy feature though is that the latest firmware will actually turn the unit on and off automatically, based on the Garmin Edge usage – which means you won’t have to remember to do so.
Still, in the event you want to turn it on or off manually, there exists a single button on the top. This button when held down for a few seconds will power on the unit.
It’ll also allow you to change the light mode. One mode keeps the taillight in a ‘steady-on’ configuration, while the second mode keeps the taillight in a blinking configuration. This is required as many European countries require cycling taillights to remain in steady-on (and not blink). Meanwhile, most Americans will typically utilize the blink configuration (no regulations exist in the US around this that I’m aware of). Either way, you can simply change it by pressing the button. Alternatively, on the Edge 520/1000 you can change the light mode from ‘overdrive’ (steady-on) to flashing.
Next, when it comes to mounting, the unit uses the standard Garmin quarter-turn mount that’s been used for the last 6 years for all Garmin cycling products (except the speed/cadence & power meter sensors of course). Now, in the case of past products the mount was designed for usage on your handlebars to hold your bike computer. In this case, it’s turned on its head to mount the Varia radar (as well as the other Garmin Varia bike lights).
The kit as seen earlier comes with a few different seat post mounting options, depending on your seat post. For example, if you have an aero seat post, then you’ll need something more triangular in nature (which is included). Versus a round seat-post where you’ll use the…well…round, mount. The rounded mount is a bit more permanent of a mount in that you’ll use a hex wrench to install it.
Whereas the other mounts use a slightly enlarged rubber band to hold the mount there. I never saw any issues with the rubber band variant (all my seat posts I used were of the aero variety).
The unit doesn’t include any mounting options for mounting directly to your seat, nor anywhere else on your bike. I suspect we’ll see 3rd parties get into that space soon, especially as the Garmin bike lights release (the separate standalone lights). However, if you’re crafty, you can simply use the existing Garmin quarter-turn mounts to make your own bike mounts. I did that this past summer using a beta unit that didn’t include (yet) the official mounts:
You can pickup a box of two of these mounts (and a crapton of included rubber bands) for $12, so it’s easy to toy around with creative solutions. For example, if you had more of a touring bike, you could simply glue the mount to a small metal plate (like this) and then affix that to the back of the bike. Lots of potential options here for anyone with even minimal MacGyver skills.
Standalone Display Unit:
Depending on which package you’ve purchased, you might get a Varia Radar Display Unit (RDU) in your box. This little gum pack sized piece of blinkiness alerts you to cars approaching from behind, up to some 140 meters away.
The unit works by connecting to your Garmin Varia wirelessly, and then displaying car status. The unit is charged in the same manner as the rear radar – via micro-USB. Garmin claims 10 hours of battery life on it.
Next, just like all head units Garmin makes, it too uses a quarter-turn mount. Thus you can mount it easily to anywhere on your handlebars.
Heck, you can even mount it to a top tube of your bike. But the goal with this should be to be within your peripheral vision, as the unit oddly does not include any beep/noise function (whereas an Edge unit will). Just to re-iterate: It does not beep, buzz, or otherwise make any noise when cars approach.
Speaking of which, the unit will display a small white dot as a car approaches from behind. As the car gets closer, the white dot will ‘rise’ from the bottom of the display to the top of the display. Also, it’ll display a yellow light at the top.
Once it reaches the top, you’ll get a small green light indicating the coast (or road) is clear.
There will be multiple dots for multiple cars, such as below. The two white dots below the blue dot are for battery status. The front dot indicates the battery status of the display unit, while the rear dot indicates battery status of the radar.
As you can see, it’s fairly darn simple. But, I believe for most people, it’s also a bit peculiar to use by itself becasue it adds more junk to your handlebars. And realistically if you’re reading this you likely already have a cycling head unit on there. So why not use that instead?
Using a Garmin Edge display:
In addition to using the Garmin Varia with the included (depending on bundle purchased) display unit, you can also ditch the display unit and use it directly with your Garmin Edge device. At present, that includes the Edge 1000, Edge Explore 1000, Edge 520, and Edge 25. Down the road it’ll also include (in some manner), the Edge 510, Edge 810, and Touring Plus.
In using these devices instead, the Varia radar information will be displayed directly on the Edge. Or rather, the Edge of the Edge. The bike computers will use the sides of the Edge’s display to show you traffic information – it’s actually pretty darn cool and one of the cleanest ways to display that information that I could think of.
To do this, the Edge communicates with the Garmin Varia using ANT and ANT+. In talking with Garmin, the majority of the work they had to do after they acquired BackTracker was in converting from Bluetooth to ANT/ANT+ for the communications. You’ll note that I use both ANT and ANT+. That’s because Varia talks in two distinct ways.
First is that using ANT+ it broadcasts itself using the standard ANT+ Lighting Control. This is the same public ANT+ profile that the Bontrager ANT+ enabled light system uses (as well as Garmin’s Varia front/back lights). As such, technically speaking either product can control each other. However, the Varia radar also uses private-ANT to transmit the radar-related information, for which no public ANT+ profile exists.
I’ll start with the Edge 1000, and then show how it works briefly on the other compatible head units as well. To begin you’ll need to pair your Edge 1000 to the Varia unit. To do so simply go into the sensors menu and search for the Varia lights, just as you would for a new heart rate sensor or cadence sensor:
It’ll find the Varia unit and then form a ‘light network’. What this means is that all of the lights talk to each other, rather than directly to the Garmin Edge. Why do that? Well, it allows the Edge unit to only use a single ANT+ channel when talking to multiple lights. Rather than one channel per light. The Edge 1000 has 8 channels available, but those channels can quickly fill-up if you were required to have one per light (i.e. one headlight, two rear lights, plus the radar light, and then things like heart rate, speed, cadence, power, or action cam control each taking a channel). Obviously it’d be a lot of gear on your bike, but not impossibly so.
Once the light network is formed you’ll have a new menu that you can show all included lights. With just the Varia radar in there, there honestly aren’t too many options to poke at (you’ll get more options when you add in other standalone ANT+ lights):
But you can use the test option to validate connectivity to the radar’s light, or change the mode from flashing to steady.
Next, if you head into the ride mode you’ll notice at the top of your screen you’ll see a little icon that sorta looks like a upside-down WiFi symbol. This is the radar symbol – and indicates that radar is connected and transmitting to your bike computer. If this disappears, it means that either the radar unit is off or fell off.
Now if riding along with no cars, you’ll see no information on the side of the screen – as to not clutter things up. But, as soon as cars come into view the Edge will chirp (beep) and display a cautionary color on the edges of the screen’s display:
This indicates that cars are approaching from behind. Additionally, you’ll now see a small white dot on the Edge of the screen, one for each car. These dots will migrate to the top of the screen as the car approaches you. You can see in these back to back pictures (above/below) that the lower white dot is a little bit closer – I took them about one second apart (it moved from the bottom of the cadence field to the top).
Once the cars are clear, the edge of the screen will flash a green color that indicates all is clear (and gives a slightly different ‘all clear’ beep). Eventually it’ll remove the green edge if no further cars are present:
Now, there’s also the rare red color on the edge of the screen. This is for fast-moving cars, which trigger a higher ‘threat level’ than just orange/amber. Essentially this is a ‘wake up, you’re about to be overtaken by a high speed vehicle’. Again, going to the purpose of this – it’s to make you aware of that specific car. On some roads, that might be a perfectly acceptable speed for a car. Whereas on others it might be way out of the norm and an indicator that you may want to look back and see what’s up.
Now, while all of that jazz is going on up front on the display unit, the rear tail light is actually changing to react to traffic as well. As traffic gets closer the red taillight bar will ‘expand’. You can see this when I set it on a post, where the size of the light bar increases in width (in case you’re wondering why the 2nd image it doesn’t yet show a car, it’s simply because it was in the split-second before the display unit updated).
The taillight doesn’t make any sounds by itself, only your Edge unit.
Just to briefly show what the whole interaction looks like on other Edge display units, here’s a quick gallery of the Edge 520. It operates virtually identically to the Edge 1000 in this manner:
And then you’ve got the Edge 25. Now in that case things are a bit different. That’s because the Edge 25 lacks a color display, or the real estate of the larger Edge devices. So to begin, when you pair it you’ll see a little light icon displayed right before you start riding, that indicates connection:
Next, as you’re riding you’ll get the left side displaying the Varia radar state of incoming traffic. Just like the other displays it shows a small moving dot for each car. And like the others it chirps when a new car shows up:
For the commuter – this is quite frankly awesome. It’s shown in such a clean and simple way, on a small unit that’s perfect for bike commuting. Of course, in high traffic city environments the Varia radar isn’t so useful as on quieter roads.
One interesting tidbit on the Edge units is that the Edge will automatically turn on the Varia lights from a power-off state when you power on the Edge unit. Essentially Varia goes into a sleep (or perhaps sleepy) state and then the Garmin device can awaken it, thus saving you from forgetting to turn it on. The inverse is also true too – when you shut off your Garmin Edge, it’ll shut off the Varia. This helps to ensure you don’t forget to turn off the radar, saving battery.
So now that I’ve talked about how it works – let’s talk about whether it works. I’ve used Varia a lot. In a lot of conditions. From the hyper-busy streets of Paris (including the famed and traffic filled Champs-Élysées), to the quiet country and suburban roads just beyond the city, to the mountains of Switzerland, Canada, and Austria. It’s gotten a lot of play on a lot of bikes over the past few months.
In general, it does an extremely good job at recognizing cars and alerting me of those cars approaching from behind (it doesn’t do anything for traffic coming from the front). Garmin has tweaked the software once already since release (the firmware can be updated), to increase sensitivity slightly – resolving some earlier oddities I saw with mopeds.
It’s important though to understand a bit on where and when Varia won’t trigger though. Here’s a bit of a list of things that don’t trigger it – starting with the obvious:
– It won’t trigger when you pass a tree, light pole, or statue
– It won’t trigger when you pass parked cars, trucks, airplanes, or blimps (yes, I’ve tried)
– It won’t trigger when another cyclist is riding with you, or even a few cyclists riding with you
– It won’t trigger for traffic coming from in front of you (other oncoming, or just in front of you going the same way)
– It won’t trigger for any car going below 6MPH (10KPH) or going above 99MPH (160KPH)
– It won’t show more than 8 vehicles concurrently
There are then some cases it might not always trigger:
– I’ve seen cases where when a car pulls out from a side-road (perpendicular) onto a street behind you and matches your speed, it might not catch it.
– When there are multiple cars that are perfectly aligned behind each other, it’ll only show a single car. However, once the first car passes or moves, it’ll then show you the second car still there.
– Sometimes it doesn’t always catch smaller mopeds going the same speed – though, it appears the latest firmware updates seems to have resolved that for me. Larger motorcycles are no issue.
– Sometimes it won’t show cars that stay the exact same speed as you for prolonged periods of time. Essentially these appear to drop-off the radar, even though they might be there. For example, if both you and the car are going 18MPH, and doing so for 10 seconds, the car might disappear from view. Once the car increases speed to overtake, then it shows back up again.
Finally, there are some cases that I should note:
– If you’re standing on the side of the road, it will sometimes trigger on approaching cyclists. Not all cyclists, but it appears to be those cyclists with larger bikes. For example in Paris it’ll almost always trigger on an approaching Velib (bike sharing bike) when I’m stationary, but not so much on a single-speed bike. Not sure this matters, but just a fun observation.
– Once a car decelerates, it disappears from view. Meaning, if the car stops on the road and you continue – it’ll drop off the radar. Logical, but figured I’d point it out.
Now, are any those scenarios deal breakers? In most cases no. They represent low-risk situations as far as I can see, because the cars in question aren’t overtaking you (yet), but rather maintaining speed.
So where is it most useful? For me – it’s on roads where traffic is infrequent and where my speeds may be high enough that the wind noise makes it impossible to hear approaching cars. An example would be descending, or just on a windy day out on country roads. One specific example was when I was riding in the Austrian Alps I was descending at relatively quick speeds on winding roads. Yet, many drivers in that region will drive exceedingly fast through the twisty routes – far faster than I could bike descending. And, they’ll also overtake bicycles as soon as possible (good idea or otherwise).
In this case it was often hard to hear approaching cars, but the radar picked them up quite nicely – giving me a tiny bit of warning on roads that I otherwise wanted to fully concentrate on my handling. I found a similar scenario while riding out on rolling country roads on a windy day – where I couldn’t hear approaching cars that were few and far between. This reminded me to get closer to the side of the road.
For those looking for a bit of an on-road demonstration of how it works, here’s a video I did this summer that walks through usage on the Garmin Edge 1000 and the Varia Radar:
Finally, one reader recently posted a comment on my preview post about a unique scenario that he uses Varia in, which I thought was interesting:
“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.” – Jerry (Oct 14th, 2015)
Definitely an interesting case I hadn’t even considered – and, I think the first time I’ve ever directly quoted a reader in a review too!
Frequently Asked Questions:
Here’s a round-up of questions that I commonly see around the Varia radar.
Will the Varia prevent a car from hitting me?
Simply put: No. But, it may prevent a car from hitting you if you’re the one that’s not paying attention. It won’t prevent a car from hitting you if you’re on the side of the road minding your business and a car crosses the line and hits you. But if you’re out in the middle of the lane on a quiet road somewhere and don’t realize a fast approaching car behind you – it may give you just that little bit of warning to get out of the way and onto the shoulder area (or edge of the road).
Can Varia be used as a standalone taillight?
Sure. It’s not the brightest of bike lights in daytime, but is more than functional as a taillight at night.
Can you change from blinking to steady-on mode?
Yes, you can change to and from either mode by using the button on the Varia radar.
Can Varia be used with more than one display unit at once?
Yes, you can actually pair it to more than one Edge unit (or an Edge + the Varia Display unit). During testing I often did that, just to see if there were any differences. This could also be interesting for tandem bikes where each rider has their own head unit.
Can you put the radar on the front of the bike?
Sure, but it’s going to basically just show you traffic that you can already see. And it probably would be rather un-aerodynamic facing forward.
I suspect that Varia is one of those products that a small number of cyclists will love to hate on. They’ll see it as a useless piece of tech that doesn’t save the cyclist from being hit, and otherwise just a waste of money. But in a Venn diagram those people would likely near completely overlap with those that haven’t actually used it. Interestingly, in watching feedback on my Varia radar preview post from those that have bought and used the product (you) – they’re generally quite happy with it.
Which, is actually what I’d say as well. No, it won’t keep that car from hitting you – but it will keep you aware at a time you’re not paying attention. It’ll snap your focus back when you’re 4 hours into a hard ride on a quiet country rode and a fast moving car approaches from behind. Perhaps you’ve lost focus a bit and are more towards the middle of the lane – this will remind you to get to the edge of the lane or the shoulder. And that tiny reminder just might save your life when some motorist is texting on their phone and doesn’t look up to see you there in their lane.
From a technical standpoint, the unit is well implemented and really nails the experience of what it should be – but especially so when used with a Garmin Edge devices. I personally wouldn’t bother to purchase the bundled version (with the dedicated display that’s $299USD), but rather would only buy the single radar portion ($199USD) and use it with a supported Edge device. I think it’s just way cleaner on the handlebars and beeps too (unlike the dedicated Varia display unit).
I’d also note that I don’t think it’s entirely useful in a city environment since it beeps constantly, but out in the country and on quieter roads? Absolutely – for that it’s great.
Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.
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Garmin Varia Radar Tail Light – select dropdown for model
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(Second paragraph of the “Final Thoughts:” being should be behind.)
I imagine all the cars passing you thought you were crazy going along with a go-pro pointed at your arse. 🙂
Great review as always Ray.
All the best!
Any ETA on Edge 810 availability?
And what does “some manner” mean???
” Down the road it’ll also include (in some manner), the Edge 510, Edge 810, and Touring Plus.”
I asked this morning for clarification on those dates, and will update as soon as I have it.
As for ‘some manner’, it’s because Garmin hasn’t been 100% clear on to what extent the implementation will look like. I suspect there will be small differences – just like there are between the Edge 25 and Edge 520/1000.
I think a lot of us would buy the Varia radar if it was supported by the Edge 810, but now as the beta firmware still has no support I’m not sure if it will really get this update anytime soon.
I just got an email from Garmin telling me that with a software update, the Varia taillight will now work with the 810.
Any idea if the varia would work with a trailer attached to the bike (such as a chariot child hauler)? I’m not concerned that the trailer would activate the light, but more importantly block the radar field.
I suppose the light could simply be attached the the trailer, however I would prefer to have it mounted to the seatpost for when I wouldn’t have a trailer attached.
The easiest solution is just to add another quarter turn mount, so you have one on the seat post and one on the trailer, and stick the light on whichever is appropriate for that ride. That way the light is also marking the actual back end of you + trailer, just in case a driver approaching hasn’t noticed the trailer attached to the bike.
Will, I have been using a Chariot for a few years and would strongly recommend 2 very bright taillights for your Chariot, preferably mounted as far apart as possible on the rear “handlebar” ; I think this helps drivers recognize the Trailer as something wide and not just a narrow cyclist. Varia would be nice but primary visibility and recognition/perception of the trailer are more important in my opinion.
Works great on our Thule chariot. I just strapped it to the handbar on the back and it works great even at the extended distance from the bike to my edge 1000. It’s great for this and where I found it the most useful
The carrier will block the signal if on the bike, so just add another turn mount to the carrier…its easy to untwist and put back on bike.
I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t assuming you can mount it properly. You might want to add another blinker as well for visibility. In case of a crash, the trailer should hopefully offer some crash protection.
One important performance spec I didn’t pick up in the review is how far away does the device detect a vehicle and how much time do you have to react. Naturally relative speed is an important variable.
140 meters is the outer edge. I found that seems to be about right, maybe a touch less.
You touched on riding with others, but I wanted to clarify: if I’m doing a group ride (with say, 10-20 people) will it still pick up cars? I would assume that once enough cyclists are behind me they would block the radar, but I’m wondering at roughly what number that would occur. Thanks Ray!
Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to ride with 10-20 other people. 🙁
I used mine for the first time last weekend in a group ride of 15 or so. With about 6 cyclist behind me the Varia identified cars that I couldn’t even see yet in my “Take A Look Cycling Mirror. ” I was impressed.
What’s the maximum distance the head unit can be placed from the radar to be and still be effective? I am guessing it’s limited by the ANT/ANT+ transmission distance? If the effective distance is within 10 – 15 feet, it might not be a bad idea to pair the Varia up with the head units of other riders if you are all riding in a group.
Seems to be quite some distance. Just tried it, I put the sensor near the street and then walked perhaps 6 car lengths down the street (clear of unit) – no problems, it kept on showing me traffic.
Then i did the same with two parked cars in between me and the unit (simulating blockages from riders) – still no problems.
Obviously, I don’t know how well that might hold up over the course of an entire ride, but for the 1-2 minutes seemed to work.
Ray, excellent review as always. Quite agree with your findings. I’d add that I find it really useful on quiet country roads when riding two abreast having a natter. You can quickly drop back and let the car overtake easily. Also I’ve noticed when in a chain gang it doesn’t give false positives with other riders as it’s only looking for objects with a different relative speed.
Keep up the great work. Many thanks.
With reference to your point about it being useful when wind noise makes it difficult to hear approaching cars.
It would also be a potentially useful device for any cyclist who is deaf or hard of hearing.
Totally agree – I’m too hearing impaired and on the bike I tend to have high awareness of what’s behind me, as I like to know what’s approaching, perhaps more so than a hearing person might. This does, at times, mean I have to look behind me more, thus taking my eyes off the road, where I’m going, which is not a good thing.
The Varia is a incredibly useful in that respect and will only serve to aid people like me in situations where we should be paying more attention to what’s ahead, the road furniture and pot holes/debris you see on our public roads.
The biggest question I have is will it set off a radar detector? If the answer is yes, I see that as a bonus, speeding traffic will probably slow down and be more attentive to their driving.
I agree – beeping at me is great, but beeping inside the car 150m behind me is even better.
I’ve been using it for a while, getting my review ready and everything, and I can only say that is the piece of equipment that has impressed me most this year. It just works.
Many will argue it is a very expensive light. Well, maybe, but it all depends on what price tag you put on your safety.
Ray – have you interviewed any motorists if they felt the blinking lights provided better safety/notification?
do they even notice that the rate of blinking changes as they approach riders using the Varia?
As a driver, naturally as a cyclist as well, blinking lights do get more attention from me. So for that regard, it is safer. It’s against the law in the state of Washington to have a blinking headlight – blinking taillights are OK on bicycles – but i do it anyway because it gets the attention of drivers.
In general blinking lights are better because they draw attention, see this article. link to londoncyclist.co.uk
I am certain that a headlight that is only on for half the time is not as good for being seen. I have my headlight steady, night and day. I do use flashing rear lights during the day thoe.
Thanks for the review. As one who rides alone in the boonies that have less than zero traffic with the occasional high speed jerk… I can see this being useful.
It would also give me the perfect excuse to ride in the back on big group rides. “I would love to come up and lead the group, but you really want me back here protecting you with my radar… please keep going.” 🙂
This comment/question is related to the varia headlight. I noticed that after updating my 520 firmware to V3.0 there are Ant+ (PM, HR, and Speed) and BT (iPhone) when paired to the headlight. I’ve been in contact with Garmin but still no word on my case. Just wondering if anyone else has experienced dropouts with their 520 when paired to the radar or in this case the front light?
I saw Edge 520 dropout when BT was paired, though that was all pre-v3.00, which was supposed to include some additional logical to minimize dropouts. I haven’t re-enabled BT yet since that update (meaning to), to see if it fixes it. I was seeing dropouts on other ANT+ devices.
I’ve seen random errors shown on the screen, but everything kept working as normal
Yup you are right Ray. I disabled the BT on the EDGE 520 and low and behold…stable…no drop outs. Same with my edge 1000. This is disappointing though because my wife likes the live track feature and i like to see any incoming calls/texts. That was the whole point I thought.
I wish Garmin had an option for their ANT+ radar unit to automatically turn on their ANT+ VIRB camera.
What a splendid idea. Garmin, ‘you listening?
Hi Ray, good stuff as always. I completely agree with all your points. I have jerry-rigged a Garmin mount on my Topeak seat bag so I’ll post that when I get a good pic of it. I just wonder how we’re going to mount all these additional lights. I have a Fly 6 and like the idea of the dual Garmin Varia rear lights – I see a market opportunity here for seat stay mounts for to make use of additional bike-frame real estate!
I make the statement again. Thank you first for the review. It one those that till you use it you feel it alot of money. Now that own it it no issue the money it works. But my BIGGEST complaint was first that no sound warning unless you have edge and do . But I would like it to buzz my Garmin fenix watch when a car comes . That should surely not be so difficult to implement for the days i ride with music don’t hear the beep. I have Feninx 2 will buy a 3 if you add that function but sure can do it on the 2 too.
I surprised that no one has asked for this feature.? Especially you seeing you have so many watches would just make awesome sense to have the watch vibrate and you look down then you see the car as extra warning.
I for one hope Garmin does nothing at all to make it easier for people to ride while listening to music instead of traffic!
You really shouldn’t be riding your bike while listening to music.
Still a great idea, especially for deaf people
Any word of a colour blindness mode for using it on the Edge devices? I’m red/green colourblind (as are roughly 10% of the worlds men) and I wouldn’t be able to see the difference in the red/green for faster moving cars. I would also probably have difficulty with the Amber/green on the bundled head unit.
Awareness of this problem has spread reasonably well through a lot of the tech world with web design tools taking it into consideration and games/software having a colour blind mode but in the sports tech industry they don’t seem too aware/botherred by it. Odd when it can affect >5% of their customer base.
I own a Varia/Edge 1000 combination and have done several rides at this point. For me it’s all about the beep – I look at the display just for confirmation. And the red/green thing isn’t the big flag. You can tell from the speed of the dot that “something wicked this way comes.”
Agreed about he beep and that why the buzz on the wrist though the watch would even work better hell buzzes me when reach certain distant and it really gets your attention. The whole system is about AWARENESS then they should make it so it uses all the possibilities to so just that
Very few cyclists are hit by cars from behind, most are taken out at junctions, roundabouts (traffic circles), side roads. I can only see this device increasing my paranoia when cycling as there’s nothing it can do to really help me – unless I’m cycling in the middle of the road.
Most drivers in England are pretty good with cyclists but there’s 1% who are idiots and I just need to keep my fingers crossed for those guys, no matter what devices, high-viz, lights, or helmet I might have.
Would be useful to warn of cheeky drafters on Triathlon events though!
A recent League of American Bicyclists report cited findings that 27% to 40% of cyclist fatalities in the US were “hit from behind.”
Ray, have you noticed any detrimental effect on the Edge’s battery life at all? I’m guessing that one more sensor channel in use and possibly slightly more display processing isn’t going to affect battery life hugely, but just wondered if you had picked up on that at all?
The Varia drains the Edge 1000 battery about 30% faster. I’m only getting about 6-7 hours on an Edge 1000 charge now whereas without Varia, I get 10-11hrs (with Bluetooth and the backlight off, obviously)
I have b using the Varia Radar since early September and I have not noticed any battery issues with the Varia added. I have an Edge 1000 with the following sensors connected: Speed/Cadenace, HeartRate, Vector, Varia, Bluetooth with LiveTrack. On a 4:30 hour ride, I still had 45% battery power.
I have not noticed any changes in battery life of my 1000 but maybe Ray has a more scientific approach !
Perfect for riding in places like this (Nevada)…or anywhere in South Dakota that is not within city limits. Agree that wind noise can be a big problem. When it’s howling it can be very difficult to hear, even at low speed.
You noted: In my case I’ve got the bundled version, so that’s all the parts you’re seeing here. The main difference being that in the non-bundled version you won’t get the display unit and you won’t get the front mounts. Other than that – it’s all the same.
Does it make sense to use only the radar/light unit? I don’t have any other toys on my bike to connect to, rather not add any as I mostly commute to work during the day. Is there an audible sound with just the light/radar unit or is it an overpriced light without a companion unit?
I’ve got the same question 🙂 Is it possible to use the rear radar only ?
Had my first ride using the Edge 520 and Varia Bike Radar and think its works well. You know sometimes you get the feeling that something is behind you and look around but nothing is there? Well had the same felling, the radar showed something right behind me for a while. I ended up looking around and there was nothing there and at the same time the spot disappeared off the screen. Spooky, tingling felling…
if it worked with a 920 and vibrate like Dawid said count me in : )
I got one — I really love it. It’s great for SE Asia where you can be pedaling down some road through a rice paddy and have someone fly up behind on a bongo truck. I hear the beep and check mirrors and plan my dodge. I just wish they came up with a Varia XL that had double the battery built in — mine doesn’t want to work as a radar/light while its plugged into an external battery. 10 hours rated vs real world rides that are longer don’t mesh well.
Also while I appreciate the integration with the taillight it isn’t a very good taillight. I’d rather it get the most attention when furthest away, and then move from trying to get attention to trying to assist in determining position. Flashing disco party lights are kind of hard to place at night, and can even lead to fixation where it draws some in. I really like the PDW Danger Zone as it seems easier to place than one bright spot at night.
Question for Ray and a comment on use:
Q: How do I get the Varia radar to turn on automatically when I power up the Edge 1000? I see that the Varia radar unit will power down when the Edge 1000 shuts down, but not power up? Just updated software on both units to no avail. A setting I am missing? Thx!
On the busy secondary roads where I sometimes ride that have wide shoulders, I generally stay in the shoulders. The Varia is very helpful when deciding whether to steer around stuff in the shoulder or not. If cars are coming I may slow down instead or wait till they pass to navigate around questionable stuff in the road. OTOH, if all clear, just steer around using the traffic lane with ease. Also great for planning turns, etc. Love it!
Are you going to review the Varia front light, too?
Unrelated to the Varia specifically, but why are flashing lights prohibited in Europe? When I’m on four wheels, it is a LOT easier spot a flashing red light than a solid red light, especially when the weather conditions are bad. Solid lights can easily be mistaken for reflectors or reflections (especially those tiny single led lights), whereas a flashing light sort of adds “movement”, which quickly draws attention. At least with this light, it does change/expand as cars approach so that should make the rider more visible. The $100 price difference means I’ll be waiting for Edge 510 support, or use the extra as proceeds toward updating to a 520.
I’m not sure why it is forbidden in the United Kingdom. It’s probably some old out of date law that was introduced before flashing LED technology was invented.
However, I do remember that a couple of years ago a chief constable somewhere in England criticised the law and said that if any of his officers imposed a fine on a cyclist for having flashing rear lights, that he personally would pay their fine for them.
I’ve tried to find a link to this story but I can’t
UK law has been changed so flashing lights on their own are OK.
link to ctc.org.uk
UK law also requires pedal reflectors so pretty well all clipless pedals are technically illegal but I have never, ever heard of this law being enforced.
Its from the moth effect:
link to visualexpert.com
Basically a blinking light on its own will cause a driver to drive towards the light leading to a blinky being less safe then steady state light
Historically, at least in the UK, it was to do with flashing lights being reserved for emergency vehicles. link to legislation.gov.uk which was revised in 2005 to allow flashing lights front and rear on bikes. If the moth effect for flashing lights was that important, you’d be seeing emergency vehicles stopped at incidents and vehicles indicating while waiting to turn being hit every day of the week.
Incidentally, when I bought my first set of LED lights in about 1993, the shop staff told me that they’d had a “casual” visit from a police officer who wanted to check these fancy new lights out; he told them that having them flashing was “illegal, of course, but I think we’ve got better things to do than prosecute cyclists over that”, with a strong hint that any light was better than no light.
This is complete nonsense. You need to learn to read. The article says nothing of the kind.
The new Varia is absolutely brilliant. I bought it on an impulse because I rather like gadgets. However, it is extremely useful and I find that as I have come to understand how it works and what it reacts to, my confidence in it has grown and it is extremely reassuring – to the point that I feel that there is something missing if I ride without it.
I agree with an earlier poster here that it seems to produce a very heavy battery drainage on my edge 1000.
Also, one infuriating thing is that if you switch it off because you’re as stop somewhere, then the edge 1000 doesn’t recognise again when you switch it back on and you have to go into the edge settings to disable and re-enable the connection.
It’s a shame that the edge doesn’t have a little icon on it which allows you to search for devices. I can certainly see that you might not want the edge searching for devices all the time because this would add to the battery drain problem. But it would be nice to be able to trigger a search more quickly than having to route through the menus – especially now that winter is here.
I’ve been riding with one of these for a couple of months now, and once you get to know what it will and won’t do, it’s a great piece of kit. My only real criticism relates more to the Edge 1000 in that you can only have sound ON or OFF. If you want a beep when a vehicle is detected (which I certainly do), you have to endure all the other beeps too. Not a major issue if you’re “free” riding, but all my rides follow courses so I get multiple beeps every time I approach a turn or junction – if I route through a built up area I can end up sounding like R2D2 on speed. Plus, with the unit constantly beeping, my ears/brain tend to switch off to it after a while so I miss the “approaching vehicle” audible warning anyway. Yes, each type of beep is distinct, but my ears haven’t managed to tune to that. It would be great to have some control over which audible alerts are active.
How well does it work on twisty mountain roads?
How “behind you” has a car to be, to be shown? In the mountains a car might be more to the side and behind, or even pop out behind a rocky turn in the road.
The radar seems to have quite a wide field of horizontal vision, so unless it’s actually hidden behind a bend, you’ll still probably pick it up. I often find if I’ve just gone through a cross-roads, the Garmin will pick up traffic crossing perpendicularly behind me if there’s a wide visibility splay on the junction.
Same goes for dips and humps in the road – as long as the vehicle remains visible, I’ve found the Varia tends to see it, though I would assume the vertical field of vision will be much less than the horizontal.
The radar is strictly line-of-sight, so detection distance is shortened when a hill is between my bike and a car approaching. Makes sense, but definitely something I keep in mind while riding as cars tend to pop up on the Varia suddenly as they crest a hill behind me.
Did you get to use the Varia remote? I vaguely remember reading about it in another post, (maybe the preview post??).
The Varia lights actually just arrived today, and that’s what includes the Varia Remote. Will try it get it all unboxed and onto the bike this weekend. A surprisingly heavy box…
Perhaps you can review the Bontrager ANT+ system at the same time for a nice compare and contrast, which I would really be interested in seeing. Perhaps I should be switching from Bontrager to Garmin lights.
Haha – Jerry’s comment seems like his mates taking him for a ride, they’re clearly just using Jerry’s gadgetry to make “safety” an excuse not to do a pull on the front!
Haha.. I give them grief about it all the time. They keep yelling “car ! ” and I keep having to tell them “I know ! ” I do however think they like it enough to get one on their own.
Seems like linking this data to a camera would be useful similar to this device:
link to lanesight.com
Varia front light weighs like brick. Ray What are you thought about getting it to buzz you on the watch?
Can you please ask Garmin if that would be possible?
I’d like a lights out mode since I already have a bike light. I assume it would make the battery last longer for the radar feature.
Does anyone know (or have tested) if this will set off a car’s radar detector? I saw a brief blurb about this a month ago, but it was inconclusive. To paraphrase REM and a former news anchor, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”
I tested it with my Valentine 1 (which does all the bands) from 20ft away and it did NOT set it off.
Great review, Ray. I have one of the Varia tail lights and use it with an Edge 1000. I think you nailed the use case of rural highways vs urban environment. This is exactly where I find this device to be useful and where it isn’t. I really like this product and think it does a lot to increase situational awareness. I do have two complaints:
1. The idea of the tail light changing with approaching traffic is a good one. The problem is that the tail light is all but worthless and is approximately what a cheap blinkie does now. For a product like this, it needs to be in the 60-100 lumen range to be really effective. As for this, it’s a great idea but the implementation is poor. I bring another tail light when I ride so it can be seen. I’d like to see this fixed in v2.0.
2. I noticed that you are using this on a non setback seat post. My bike has 25mm set back and with the two seat post mounts that work with a round seat post, I find that the width of the tail light is such that it will graze my legs when I pedal to the point it drives me nuts. I fixed this problem by using the aero seat post mount on the round seat post which has the net effect of moving the unit farther aft where it is out of the way. I’d like to see Garmin make a mount that moves this farther aft and I’d like to see them make the unit narrower. Another alternative would be to make a seat mount that attaches to the rails and moves the unit aft of where a seat pack would be or to include a chain stay mount.
These are problems, but they are v1.0 problems on an otherwise really great product that definitely enhances safety.
Thanks for the review.
I am getting quite a few false alarms, with eight on the last 30 mile ride. On the previous 40 mile it was about twenty false positives. Most are when I am alone on a country road, but some also in the city, usually with no cars in sight. If a white dot appears it is usually right behind me. It will go back to green in a couple of seconds. I have tried moving the unit higher on my seat post by removing the small saddle bag for my repair kit, but no statistically significant change (I am teaching that in an econometrics class right now so had to put it in). I can live with it, but if it is happening less for other people I will try to exchange for another unit.
I didn’t see this on the first few rides but have started getting more false positives as well. Usually it shows up as right behind me and moving fast.
Ray, one area where I would think this device would be great …. but haven’t seen anyone mention … is the announcement of all electric or hybrid vehicles running on their battery, I have good hearing and normally am always aware of vehicles sneaking up from behind but once in a while get surprised when I look around and see a car following right on my wheel when I’m more to the center of the road and they are one of these hybrids that don’t make a sound ! can scare the crap out of you … now I would assume that one of these contraptions would prevent that ? what ya think, Droid (oh by the way the salted caramel cupcake was good on my recent and first trip to Paris … )
Glad you enjoyed the cupcakes! The salted caramel are my favs (well, that and Nutella Banana). So many extra miles run as a result….
Excellent point. I wondered about that too–as more electric and hybrid cars appear on the roads, a product like this becomes ever more valuable for us bikeys used to relying on hearing loud 4-cylinder gas engines rolling up behind us.
Do you know if they will make amount that will allow the Varia to be use with bags or the clips on camelbaks? seems like Garmin missed the mark on that one.
I haven’t seen any mounts, but at the same time I saw them demo it on a bag: link to youtube.com
Now, that’s the Varia lights and not radar, but same-same as far as concept.
That’s a cool thing.
It would be very nice if it could be paired with the multisports watches as well.
I don’t have an Edge, but I’m using my Vivoactive on my bike.
Is there any chance Varia radar gets support on cycling/tri watches? I am pretty happy with using just Fenix 3 when cycling, and data field showing radar with possible vibration would be just what I want.
I’m a little surprised you didn’t mentioned in your in-depth review the additional benefit the Varia brings for the hearing impaired.
Whilst I’m certain Garmin didn’t design the Varia with this in mind, it is an added awareness aid for those of us who struggle to hear well, perhaps relying on vision more than sound, is a welcome benefit/bonus. While some may bemoan the cost of the rear light itself but for people like me, it is absolutely worth every penny and will no doubt help our awareness of what’s approaching and to some extend, add an element of safety and reassurance – thus reducing the need to look behind every time, every minute…
I agree totally. I’m also hearing impaired and the Garmin Varia is for me a precious help for my safety.
Just spent the first weekend riding with the Varia/Edge 520 combo, and I must say I’m really impressed! The unit did a phenomenal job picking up cars at a distance — much, much farther away than would be possible to hear. It was very helpful to understand the “algorithm” as Ray has described it (large object closing in), but it led me to wonder whether a tweak to the algorithm would make it even better: when there’s oncoming traffic or blind turns, traffic behind tends to slow down to your pace while waiting for the opportunity to pass, and thus disappear off the radar (it’s no longer closing in). At least when it’s paired with an Edge device, it ought to know when the bike is moving, and thus, if the unit picks up a car and then it stops closing in, so long as that “stationary object” is there while the bike is moving, the head unit could at least signal that there’s the possibility of a car still being there as opposed to giving the green “all clear”. It seems to me that a false positive is strongly preferable to a false negative in this application. Anyway, just a suggestion — perhaps worth passing along to the engineering team in case they haven’t explored this… Thanks, Ray!
I have ridden a few times now with the light attached to an Edge 1000. I recognise the positive comments. I find additional benefit in that my hearing is not sensitive enough to consistently pick out how many cars are behind and, in the past, have been surprised when a second car squeezed past.
It is a useful supplement to, and not replacement for, my ears.
Lastly I am guessing here, but if it showed vehicles which are holding position behind you, then when riding in a group it would also pick up those you are riding with.
I have not noticed any affect on the 1000 battery life, longest ride with it has been 4 hours (40% battery used) though so not really tested.
Great idea and needed due to the increasing number of electric and hybrid vehicles on the road!
I’d like to see this radar adapted in a camera system.
I wish I had time to try to implement a cycling logger… I’d build it, hope to be bought out for millions, and retire. Sadly, I’ve proven to be too slow for this, so here’s my dream setup with the goal of being able to record traffic events while riding – mainly commuting – as evidence of traffic violations and/or issues (note to developers, I’m an EE and can be bought 😉 ) :
– vehicle-distance-triggered hi-rez (10MP+) photos for license plate capture; this is why I’d buy a Fly light, but I have found my 1080p action cams to be lacking in resolution for reliable license plate capture… would have an IR flash/lighting for capture in poor lighting
– 360deg video camera; REALLY wanted a CENTR gyro-stabilized on top of a helmet for this, but oh well (with looping memory recording and event tagging) to capture the details beyond the license plate
– remote-activated turn signals; I’m VERY happy to see this arriving in the marketplace
– GPS tracking
– logging; track all of this data, time-synced, hopefully within one reference file.
Being able to add other riding data would be nice too: bike light power status, speed, cadence, power, HRM, etc.
Amazon is advertising it as Edge 810 compatible. I assume they mean future, not now???
Loved your incredibly detailed analysis of the VARIA. I purchased one which is interfaced to my Garmin EDGE 1000 and as you conveyed it works brilliantly.
The VARIA is an amazing safety device. But it is potentially very distracting. Wind, road noise, head gear all make it nearly impossible to hear the default audible tone emitting from the Edge 1000 as a result of a threat from behind. Constantly looking for a threat on the display of the Garmin is potentially dangerous (at almost any speed) and can have the grave consequences of a crash due to electronic distraction. I do not look at my bike computer while I am riding and have never considered it a dangerous distraction like that of VARIA.
I have asked Garmin (via Garmin Ideas) to consider allowing users to amplify the tone of the Edge 1000 and or change the sound of the the tone specific to VARIA threat detection. I would like to ask that you with your influence as a reviewer consider also reaching out to Garmin to explore how VARIA could be improved and be more safe by allowing users the ability to control and increase tone amplification when a threat is detected.
Agreed. I don’t find it particularly distracting but the audible needs to be louder so I don’t have to think about it so much.
Again the vibrate on the watch it is the best possible way even vibrate and tone. Would make it so super awesome.
Does the Varia Taillight (not the Radar version but the taillight from this bundle: link to buy.garmin.com) also alert traffic behind you like the Radar version?
Today I bought it, here is my, maybe funny, story why:
On last saturday i was on 120km ride. Alone. Im not any pro nor amateur level cyclist. Im cycling because I love it. Was nice winter weather, around 8C. I really enjoying the ride, nice views and after three days of rest i was verry happy with my legs 🙂 I was ride a lot on local roads between small cities, when legal speed limit is 90km/h. As DCrainmaker mentioned, its normal that you cannot hear approaching car when its windy or on a fast descend. But was not my case. Sunny weather, low wind, my speed on flatty road around 35km/h. And than, from nowhere, car beside me. I was so surprised, shocked, that my HR jumps immediatly to my treshold zone 🙂 It was electric car. Due to was very light traffic and driver of electromobile ahead me with big distance nothig bad happens. But i was so scared that i was near falling from bike. I feel same as someone scare me at night behind the corner. So this is another reason for devices like varia radar, silent electrocars.
Nice work. i think, community is getting used to your outstanding reviews 🙂
Here is a question: would Garmin Varia work with 4iiii Sportiiii to provide visual warning information?
Any news on possible watch integration with the fenix 3.
In Ray’s latest blog on Garmin sales he mentioned Varia radar is supported by Vivosmart HR – so there is hope that more expansive watches will get supported in the future.
Not everyone agrees on the law about blinking lights in the European Union: some countries allow flashing lights for bikes, and therefore produce lights that blink. These lights can also have the European certification (the CE mark you see on so many items).
And an item with the CE mark can be used legally in any country of the European Union. So people argue that even if some countries explicitly state that blinking lights are illegal/only for emergency vehicles, you can get around that by buying blinking lights that have the CE mark.
Also, you rear brake cable housing between the top tube and the caliper seems a bit too long, it has an unnecessary upward bend before bending the other way to reach the caliper.
First, I am a believer in your reviews. They are the best. So darn accurate and well done. Second, I have a Varia RTL500 and use it in blinking mode pared to a Garmin 520. I also have a Garmin 1000 but it seems somehow out of sync on my bike. The 520 is cleaner. I ride mostly in the Santa Cruz Mountains and in Monterey CA through Pebble Beach, Carmel and Ft Ord. Completely different riding environments. I have become somewhat dependent on the Varia Radar as I grow to trust it. On high-speed downhills when I’m focused only on not taking a spill it has picked up cars when in situations when the last thing I would be doing is looking behind me. I Had this happen last week on a sweeping turn head down, over 30 MPH and the little dot came on the 520. I gave it a silent thanks. At other times the beep gets my attention. I wish it were louder. The beep is really the most important of the warning signals. On quiet mountain roads when I tend to zone out it’s been a real godsend. I find that I can relax a little more which makes riding more fun because in situations where I trust it will work I can just focus on the road ahead and not look back all the time. I will not cycle without a mirror so check before making decisions but this allows me to relax a little more.
A couple of things. One, I wish the beep were louder. Second, I don’t like the brightness of the back light. They need to seriously pump up the Lumens. When they do I will buy the upgrade. Third, and this isn’t mentioned anywhere, you can get yourself in a video game mode, meaning those little white dots don’t look dangerous or even real. When you look in your mirror and see the real world with moving steel approaching it brings you back into reality. So, I like it but still like to confirm by looking back, if there’s time. I like the concept, integration and safety features and consider it part of my bike necessities.
Thanks for the comments – and kinda neat to see folks saying the exact same things in terms of where the unit shines best.
I do agree on the little white dots becoming almost too video-game like. Perhaps we need something like the Uber icons, where it turns into random icons like skeletons or DeLoreans. 🙂
I have been following this thread (Thanks for the amazing review Ray!) and expect Father Xmas to bring one next month 🙂 What do you mean by Video Game like, are the dot not representative of the on coming vehicles behind? Cheers, Stu.
Meaning it’s like playing Pacman in reverse.
Do you know of any plans for the 920 to get compatibility?
Also, in the Unboxing section: “Varia Rear Display Unit” is probably supposed to be “Varia Radar Display Unit”
How do you get the darn radar face to be perpendicular to the road?
I have a Giant road bike and Garmin only supplies mounts with fixed angles. As a result, the face of the radar tilts down (a little).
Geez why not make an adjustable angle mount just like every other tail light out there???
“Its from the moth effect:
link to visualexpert.com
Basically a blinking light on its own will cause a driver to drive towards the light leading to a blinky being less safe then steady state light”
This is utter nonsense. it’s says nothing of the sort. In fact it says just the opposite. Try learning to read.
I’ve had the Varia for a few weeks now. I have to say it is one of those additions to my kit that I just couldn’t do without. I do get a few false readings every now and then but overall it’s spot on. I have noticed it seems as though cars tend to avoid me more now and give greater room. I wonder if it is due to the active change in blinking as they approach? Anyway, I adapted it to a cateye fizik mount which mounts it as high as possible and keeps things aero 🙂 Just drill two small holes, mount with two 3x12mm screws and the supplied garmin mount you’re good to go! (also keeps it more theft resistant as you can’t simply twist it off)
Thank you for posting this excellent idea, I also prefer the light higher up and out of the way of my legs pedaling.
I love your approach but what about the saddle bag? Every time I see someone’s setup, it’s never shown with the saddle bag mounted below saddle. Do you believe if bag were mounted below this Fizik saddle that Varia radar could be mounted low on seatpost and still have unobstructed view and function properly?
I rode with mine mounted 2/3 of the way down my seat post this morning and it worked fine. It looks like it had a clear view of the road.
As a side note I the FCC guidelines recommend not operating it within about 8 inches of you due to emitted RF radiation. Haven’t seen any data yet on what the antenna pattern is but my guess is that the 8″ comes from the main lobe and that the side and back lobes are significantly less. It’s probably safe to mount it high on the seatpost (closer than the recommended safe distance) but I have taken to mounting mine lower To be on the safe side. I also mount it lower because I have my saddle bag up higher too!
One more view from the rear. To remove simply detach the cateye mount from the Fizik saddle (Garmin 1/4 turn hits the seat not allowing someone to swipe it easily). Fizik mount: link to cateyeamerica.com
Mike – what does it look like with the varia off so i can basically copy it…. 🙂
Hope this helps Rob
One more of mount
Thanks for the great review–we’ve had three cyclists rear ended and killed by drunk drivers in the Washington DC/Baltimore area over the last year, so I’m seriously thinking about getting this. One question–can it be charged while being used to extend its operation beyond the 5-10 hours you mention in the review?
Per Garmin: The radar can charge while in use, the display unit cannot.
I’ve been using my Varia for about thirty rides, and am ready to declare it a must-have bike accessory. I posted some positive notes on the “first look” post, but have more experience now. So:
If you understand that it is not a replacement for vigilance on the rider’s part, the Varia radar enhances rider safety significantly. It is best used with an Edge unit (I have a 1000). In general the beep is the most useful user interface element… it means “hey, I see someone — you should *add* this to your list of things to worry about. (Note “add,” assume it doesn’t see every vehicle — just that it might see ones you don’t notice.)
I agree with DCR that it’s fantastic on mostly-deserted roads (where the beep will tell you that it’s time to pay attention). It’s also useful on busy roads, especially when traffic is sporadic due to traffic light spread, etc.
Bottom line: if you still look behind you for cars, and ride defensively, the Varia will help you stay out of trouble. If you rely on it as a substitute for looking, it won’t do the entire job — so buy extra life insurance.
OK, I jinxed it. A bug in the Edge 1000 had an unintended consequence. I was riding along, and about 12K into my ride (link to strava.com), I had a momentary drop-out from the power meter and cadence sensors. Yeesh! They came back in about 30 seconds, but… the Edge obviously lost contact with the Varia. And, unlike the other sensors, it didn’t come back. As a result, the rest of the ride was without alerts — even though the “radar icon” on the upper-right side of the Edge stayed put.
Just to add on to the bug pile, the Edge froze when I tried to save the ride. I had to do a hard-reset (hold down the power button for ten seconds). The good news — it then offered to save my ride. Symptoms shown here: link to dropbox.com
IMHO as a bike tourist:
1. Display unit should have been designed with a chirp/beep when a vehicle is first detected…how novel/simple an idea. The Edge 1000, 520 and 25 do so, they just cost $$$ more.
2. Both the radar and the display unit should have been designed to run while connected to a charging device (like a battery pack) so that one could ride more than the 5 hour battery life (which usually means 2.5 hours). As it stands, the radar can run off a battery pack, the display unit cannot, so that is silly, as I can’t tour all day with the unit working.
3. Garmin needs to create an App for the iPhone/Android so that either the display unit or a GPS device is not additionally required. A phone App could do wonders, even to the point of perhaps taking a snapshot of the scumbag that just buzzed you, if set up correctly.
Ray, does your Varia radar stay in sleep mode for more than a minute after it’s been turned off by virtual the paired Edge 520 being off? Just got the Varia radar today – updated to the latest firmware – and i noticed after turning off the Edge 520, the LED on the Varia would do a double-flash of blue for about a minute. If i turn on my Edge 520 while the LED is still flashing blue, it would automatically turn on the Varia. But when the LED is no longer flashing blue, turning on the 520 does nothing to the Varia. At that point, i have to manually turn on the Varia radar.
“Ray, does your Varia radar stay in sleep mode for more than a minute after it’s been turned off by virtual the paired Edge 520 being off? Just got the Varia radar today – updated to the latest firmware – and i noticed after turning off the Edge 520, the LED on the Varia would do a double-flash of blue for about a minute. If i turn on my Edge 520 while the LED is still flashing blue, it would automatically turn on the Varia. But when the LED is no longer flashing blue, turning on the 520 does nothing to the Varia. At that point, i have to manually turn on the Varia radar.”
I was hoping this question would get answered but it got buried.. I recently got the radar and have it paired with an Edge 520 and mine behaves exactly the same as mentioned above. Edge 520 and radar both updated to their most recent firmware versions.
Any who knows the answer care to chime in?
This is all by design, so you don’t have to remember to turn the Varia off. With older firmware, turning off the computer didn’t turn off the Varia, and it could easily run flat.
If you wanted the behaviour for it to auto turn on as well, it would have to stay in that standby mode which would drain the battery.
I think as described above is perfect, you just need to remember to turn it on at the same time as the computer.
Andrew, the issue is not that the Varia would not turn itself off when turning the Edge 520 off. The issue is the Varia does not turn on automatically (after it had been turned off for more than 1 minute) when turning on the bike computer. This is different from what Ray described. I am not sure if this is by design. If this is by design, why would turning on the bike computer within a minute automatically turns on the Varia?
True, I forgot that Ray described it as automatically turning both on and off. Maybe he was describing how it behaves when you turn the computer back on soon afterwards, but didn’t clarify it.
To me it is not surprising that it sits in standby mode for only 1 min after you turn off the computer. I think this is to catch situations like accidentally turning off your computer while checking settings when riding – I’ve done it plenty of times (used to have an Edge 500 where the back button is top left, and on the 520 it’s not there any more but I still keep pressing top left and sometimes hold it down too long). I don’t think there are any settings that relate to the Varia on/off behaviour.
Thanks for the responses.. Yes I do not mind having to power the unit on after it’s sat for a while. I guess based on Ray’s description I assumed in went into a deep sleep mode where only the Edge would wake it. Not a deal breaker by any means just wanted to make sure this was not a bug.
Did my 1st ride with it today and am very pleased with it..
just to let you guys now the firmware update for the edge 810 is in development:
link to twitter.com
Disappointing still no Varia support for Edge 810 like promised in 3Q!
Does anyone know when they plan to update the Edge 810 to make it compatible with the Varia? Thanks!
I just asked Garmin and they replied “It looks like the update will be pushed out some time in the first quarter 2016”. I am looking forward to the protections this will offer.
Thanks for update Chris
Shapeways.com now sell saddle mounts for the Varia. One is for Fizik saddles and the other will work with Go-Pro saddle mounts. I include a picture of the Go-Pro saddle mount so you get the whole picture.
The one that works with a Go-Pro saddle mount, I just ordered it..
Sorry wrong pic. Now this one will work with the Go-Pro mount..
..and the Go-Pro mount.
Thank you for the review. You did not mention that this would be very useful for people who have a hearing problem and do not wear hearing aids when riding because of the distraction from Wind, etc.
Another point for usefulness is the advent of electric cars and *very* quiet engine cars – I have been caught out a few times by them, so much so that I’m starting to imagine/presume a car behind me when it is not (!!). This really helps in those situations.
Does the Varia Radar back light do Turn Signals like the standalone Varia light does?
No it does not.
That’s a shame, seems like it could be an easy thing for Garmin to add in software or firmware perhaps? Any thoughts on that Ray?
I’m sure it’s technically possible given it’s a fairly straight forward LED array. Interesting idea – I’ll poke around a bit.
Funny story – this evening I was cruising along near a private airfield, and a light aircraft flew over from behind me, about 50 feet above the road as it was coming in to land. No other vehicles around, and my Varia beeped – indicating that it picked it up!
I feel safer knowing that no planes will sneak up on me now. This definitely needs to go into the Garmin marketing material 🙂
Also let Garmin marketing know that the Varia does not beep if using the Varia display unit, only if you spend another $200-$600 to get yet another Garmin device. The Varia lacking a beep is a huge flaw, and should be implemented yesterday! It’s holding me back from purchasing for sure!
I’ve only had it for a couple of rides totaling about four hours, but its really great technology. The review is spot on as to what it does or does not do.
I would say that in mixed traffic roads (around greater Los Angeles) sooner or later you have to make a left turn that requires moving across a lane or two. The quick glance which enables you to see if a car is 300 feet back is fantastic, especially since a quick glance might not pick up a car that far back.
The only thing that would make it better would be a “heads up” display, and what I’m thinking is a small, really small unit that would clip on your sunglasses which would light up. Maybe near the outside edge of your glasses.
You can’t always hear the beep, and as a result you may not be looking down. It could be as small as bluetooth connectivity technology allows.
I meant “quick glance down” at the Garmin 520 I have it paired with, as opposed to a “quick glance over my left shoulder” to try to pick up an oncoming car.
I don’t know if this is the same for everyone, but the glance over the shoulder works fine if a car is within about, say 40 feet, but if its further back I have the toughest time picking it up quickly. Of course, a car can close 100 feet in very little time.
I received my bracket for seat mount, works perfectly.
I got a steal on the varia bundle on eBay ($150). I found that when I mounted the display unit on my aero bars, the display notification light is always in my peripheral vision.
I guess it was a steal…have not found the Varia bundle for less than $299 w/free ship anywhere, and have looked constantly at many sites. Send me a link if you find another. Have several Garmin products, but all they could offer is free ship, no sale price.
I just happened to see a new auction listing with a bin price of 149.99. I bought it right away but expected to hear back from the seller that they accidentally put the bin price too low. Never heard anything from the seller other than that the item shipped.
I want one at less than retail, and can wait until March to buy. Was hoping Garmin would improve, with a “beep” and to alow use of back-up batteries to run it longer, but I know they are not listening by their replies to me. I will use it when I ride X-USA in Apr-May this coming year. Thanks for the hope of that I may find a good price, I haven’t seen anything yet, not even close.
I think your best bet is going to be getting it from clever training for 10% off with the dcr coupon code.
Looks like it will be a public profile soon so ant+
link to thisisant.com
I guess this is not designed for a congested city where you always have a car behind you. Even in a countryside it is for cyclists who cycles in the middle of the road so they can move to side of the road when the radar blinks. But for me I usually take cycle lines when i can and use side of the road. Nice technology but not for a city cycler like me.
I cycle in congested city traffic. My daily rides are 30 to 40 miles and about 80% of that is in the city..
I think you are missing the point of the radar. It’s meant as a safety accessory and should never be trusted on it’s own. You should still look over shoulder or check a mirror regardless of what the radar says is or isn’t there..
In heavy traffic it sill has a purpose. Is see it as being valuable when you are approaching an intersection or a parking lot / drive entrance or exit. The radar will help you understand what’s behind you, how many are behind you and at what speed they are traveling at. Form there you can have more information available to avoid the dreaded right hook…
I use it in both country and city rides. The clever bit is that it beeps only when transitioning from “no cars” to “one or more cars.” So, in a congested city, it is usually in the “one more cars” state and doesn’t beep. But, often you are out of synch with traffic lights, and get a beep when a crowd of cars is coming up from the previous light (and needs to beat you to the next red light). In that scenario, the Varia is quite useful – by jolting you out of your zen state of not being in traffic for a few seconds.
Has Garmin announced the 810 integration date yet?
No. I shot them a note earlier in the week asking for an update on that, but given the holidays I don’t expect clarity till next week.
Ray, Hopefully you will have better luck than my experience couple weeks ago when I asked Garmin regarding the Varia support for Edge 810. Copy of Garmin’s response is attached.
Over the years in dealing with Garmin, I have found them very good to excellent when in contact with them on tech issues, but their responses on Varia have been “distant”. From, that is not planned at this time, to send us a line with your suggestions, to nothing is planned. Kind of brush off answers, …..so at least you got a reply that ” we’re work in’ on it”.
They are like the engineer in me….great at the tech stuff, but lacking in the correspondent/speeches arena. 🙂
I would suggest to Garmin to have a forum/discussion/blog, or beta test group for some some of their products like the Varia, prior to putting it on the market. They could easily fix a few of the items discussed here, ahead of time….like my request/suggestion that the Varia display unit simply beep when a vehicle is first detected….doesn’t have to do so for all 8 vehicles, but certainly for the first of the string of approaching vehicles….how tough would that have been to incorporate! Also, both units should have the capability to run off a back-up battery, to extend their use period, why only 1/2 of the unit does so, is beyond my comprehension….again how hard?
Ow well, guess I will just either have to live with it or move on. 🙂
Varia is a great device but I wish Garmin had taken it one step beyond and created a link to their Virb camera/GoPro. If the Varia would turn the camera on while a car was approaching my camera battery might actually last for a complete ride. It can’t stop a car from hitting me but it could help catch the responsible party if Garmin would add this feature! Thoughts anyone……
Agree, a camera actuation tied to the radar unit would be great. I do see that the new Garmin Vision ties to the Radar…cool, but yet another $400-$500.
Guys, someone out there that uses a Edge 520 with DI2 integration AND the Vario?
Does it work – display-wise? I read somewhere that both features on a Edge 520 are not that smooth together?
Can someone confirm this?
Thanks in advance fellas. Loved the review!!!
Yes, the Edge 520 works with both Di2 and the Varia Radar. No issues there together (I use both together).
Does the box with varia tail light have fixings to clip it to my Topeka Areo wedge that I keep my tools in as it will obscure the leds lower on seat post?
I sent Garmin Support a request regarding 920xt compatibility with the Varia system. Makes sense to support the 920 since it’s a similar form factor as the Edge 25, and also my Forerunner is already a perfectly capable bike computer.
Well, Jack from Garmin Support replied on Monday that there are no plans to support the 920. This is highly unfortunate!
I have edge 520 that didn’t auto switch my varia radar .So how can i do it ?
Have you updated the firmware on your Edge 520 and the Varia? I needed to update both using the Garmin Connect software.
Yes , I did.
The Edge 520 does not automatically turn on the Varia radar. The only exception to this is when you turn on the Edge 520 within a minute after the Varia radar has been switched off by the 520 (if the blue LED is still blinking).
Hi. Thanks for the review. I have two questions:
1. Might the Varia get confused in the rain? I can imagine it being particularly useful in bad conditions … provided it still works
2. Does a green light mean “car is now past” or “all clear”? For example, if there are two cars, does it turn green when each car passes or just when the second one passes?
1. I have been riding in the Seattle rain the past few weeks. No problem.
2. The green light means all clear.
Just bought one to go with my 520, and after one ride I’m delighted. The night time ride was more relaxing because there was never a surprise. It’s not perfect and I’m sure that I’ll spend a lot of time trying to work out why it gets some things wrong, but it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that it increases hugely my awareness of traffic in a helpful way but can’t be relied on 100% … and that’s all I need to know. It will be on my bike by default from now.
Since today the firmware v5.0 for Edge 510/810 is supporting Varia radar!
Has anyone tried the 810 yet? How well does it work?
I can’t get it to work with my 810. It keeps saying radar not found when trying to pair it.
Make sure you update Varia radar with Garmin Express. I also learned that need to use the USB cable that came with radar unit for Garmin Express to recognize it and update software. Once both 810 and Varia radar were both updated. The 810 immediately recognized Varia radar. 🙂
Thanks Terry! I would never have thought of that!
I ordered the Radar Unit right when i saw the new Firmware for the Edge810. After updating the varia via Garmin Express the units got connected and now i wait for tomorrows commute to see it working…
Thanks for this review. Just had my first experience “mooching” off my mate’s Varia by pairing my Edge 1000 to his seatpost unit. Riding in a peleton within ?30? feet of him, I had the benefit of his technology on my unit. However, the data being displayed was relative to his location, not mine. Still very useful, though. Think I’ll be in the market for one!
Clear and informative review. Well worth the time to consider the features and understand both the limitations and the expectations of the product.
Now if we only could get it on sale! 🙂
I was surprised when I got my Varia radar in 25% sale in November! Keep looking…
Yeah, Biketiresdirect.com had it for $169 around the beginning of Dec, but I didn’t jump because it didn’t work with my 810. But sites like BTD or Rakuten, when you buy other things, you build up points toward discounts.
My concerns have been that Instill use an older Garmin GPS, and don’t want to add several hundred more to the $300 Varia price, and still have it lack one major feature…not at least beeping when a vehicle is first detected. Why have it do so with extra GPS units, and not with its on display…just a serious flaw and simple fix, and a “no” from Garmin to even consider/reconsider.
A 25% discount should be standard until they correct! 🙂
For those looking for a combination of rear bottle cage and the Varia Radar (as the bottle cage can block the radar, specially the light) I can confirm you the Elite Skekane is perfectly up for the job.
Simply add a Garmin Edge quarter mount and the unit sits nicely between the two bottles, and can be removed and installed perfectly turning the unit.
This is how the mount sits in place
The space between the bottles is exactly the size of the radar
The only downside is the side view gets blocked, so no light seen from the side
Very nice! Thanks for sharing.
hi ray, does the radar detect mopeds and scooters who want to overtake you ? usually they have a speed of 40km/h and i will do 30km/h. the radar might be useful if i want to overtake a slower bike. we all share the bike lane here in the netherlands.
also, does it signal the new vivoactive hr by vibrating it?
For scooters, it’ll depend honestly. Many times it will, especially if the speed differential is there. But if it’s a smaller scooter and there’s a very low speed differential, I haven’t seen it always trigger.
Just a brief note. I’m using the Varia Radar with a Garmin Edge 25. It’s great, but I only get 5 hours odd of battery out of the 25, rather than the advertised 8. Annoying as have curtailed record of quite a few long rides now! So if you do long rides don’t rely on the 25, as it must use more battery power communicating with the radar.
Did you switch to the blinking mode? In solid light mode it is advertised for 5hrs, in blinking mode it is 8hrs. You switch by pressing a button.
I just got my Varia radar and garmin mount for fizik saddle from shapeaways.com (Thanks to Guy for fruitful info).
one more picture
Anyone else having problems with their Garmin varia front unit connecting and disconnecting after the most recent software Flash? My front unit is flashing red and green as the RF connection locks and unlocks…. It’s perfectly useless.
Never mind…the instructions for updating the firmware were very bad…the varia radar unit is updated, but also stores an update for the RDU (front). There is a second step as the RDU is updated wirelessly..
During the update of the RDU both LEDs are purple, and the number of red lights which are illuminated increases as the RDU is updated.
(Nothing in the instructions about any of that)
As much as I wanted to buy the Varia and put it to use on my X-USA trip in April, I will not for 2 major flaws. 1. The battery life of both units cannot be extended beyond their internal batteries by using a portable 5v power supply. And 2. The head unit does not beep when first detecting a vehicle, to alert the rider…thus if not staring down at the head unit, one would not see the oncoming vehicles. Big flaws, and no effort by Garmin to even consider addressing. Oh well!
Agreed – both are very silly limitations. If you change the rear lights to the blinking mode – you should get 8hrs. You could still charge during pauses but still ugly.
For the second problem – I am now using extended out front mount – which makes visibility quite ok – i dont need to bend my neck anymore, just a shot glimpse down.
I assume even with beeps it might get rather annoying – especially in frequent traffic. Wouldnt be so easy to find the right balance.
If you get Varia Vision HUD.- that will solve the problem altogether.
I see the Varia is compatible with the 810, firmware is now available….
link to buy.garmin.com
Have you tried it out on the 810 ? I was going to get it because I cycle on country roads and listen to music.
PLEASE review the varia on the Garmin 810
I have used Varia radar with 810 for just over a month on country roads and would not bike without it when I ride solo. It frequently alerts me to vehicles I did not hear approaching. I agree with Ric that the battery life is to short especially since you can not plug in a power pack and charge it while it is operating. Ric also mentions that’s it does not beep when it first detects a vehicle. My 810 does beep when radar detects a vehicle to alert you. I do have beep enabled in the profile on my 810.
Thanks Terry for getting back to me ! I could charge Varia every day so its ok BUT do you see the notifications on your 810 easily ? ( even 2 vehicles).
Do you have a picture of an 810 giving its varia notification ?
Correct, the various Garmin devices do beep, but the Varia head unit does not! That is what I suggested Garmin fix, but they seem to not listen. It’s just too bad that they don’t speak with real bikers/users before they mfg a product. Both my requests could have been implemented with little expense/effort.
My apologies if this has already been asked;
1. Can I use the Varia RADAR, with only a Fenix 3 and Varia Vision?
2. If using Varia RADAR with an Edge 1000, does the battery level of the RADAR show on the Edge?
does the radar show other cyclists behind you?
Nope. Not unless they are massive, very bulky (with metal) and of high relative speed to you. 😉
So basically, a motorcycle.
As always, another amazily detailed and over-the-top, in-depth review of the Garmin Varia Radar Tail Light … THANK YOU!
A heads up on a detail you mentioned while using the light with the Edge 520 …
While the tail light does indeed turn off automatically when powering off the Edge 520, the tail light does not turn itself on automatically when powering up the Edge 520 or while using it.
I went so far as to call Garmin regarding this auto-on feature that you mentioned, and they confirmed that it does not have an auto-on feature.
I suggested that it would be great if this option was made available in a future firmware update. We’ll see I guess?
Thanks for the review of the Garmin Varia Bike Radar. I have not purchased it yet, but plan to do so. My riding, like that of many people, is done primarily out on country roads with little traffic. If there is too much wind noise, I can’t hear traffic coming up behind me. As people have noted, it won’t keep you from getting hit, but then what will? All I want is know when a car is coming up behind me so that I can turn my head to see if they are moving over to avoid me. In an age when drivers would rather check their phone every time it beeps rather than keep their eyes on the road, the Varia Bike Radar can be a valuable tool.
What was extremely helpful was the comparison of the different head units. I was going to get the standard Varia Radar Display Unit, but after reading your review, I will be going with the Edge 25. For only a little more cost, you get a lot more functionality and I won’t need my current bike computer.
i use the Varia Radar a few month now and brought a Edge-1000 last week.
They are paired and updated but i see no screen with a radar on the right. my question: do i have to ride before a screen pops-up? I test this in-house because of weather….
btw, the radar alone with the little display is great! but now i want to use also the Edge-1000.
I bought the Varia™ Rearview Bike Radar (Rear View Light only) a while back and have now decided I want to buy the radar display unit (RDU) as well.
To my surprise everywhere I ask, including Garmin support, the RDU is not sold separately, only as part of a bundle.
Surely this must be a mistake, I mean if someone accidentally damages his RDU, is not possible to replace it?
Has anyone had any experience with this?
I recently sold just the display on Ebay. In the end it went for 55 dollars after weeks of little interest from others. You might try Ebay periodically to see if you can buy the RDU from someone who purchased the bundle then later a compatible edge.
I am just curious why you want to get a RDU for your Varia radar. I assume you have a compatible bike computer when you initially bought the radar without the RDU. From what I know, the RDU does not beep, unlike the Edge 520/1000 (perhaps even then 810) when the radar detects an approaching vehicle.
I had an Edge unit but have moved to the Wahoo Elemnt.
So need something to display it.
Matthew, did you manage to find a display unit? I got the bundle a while back and don’t need the RDU (using radar with Edge 520). If you’re interested, let me know and we’ll figure something out.
You on whatsApp?
Not really a fan of whatsapp, how about you send a message to zkurkckn imgof.com (temp address) and I’ll reply.
Just sent you an email
FINALLY found a solution for attaching the Varia radar unit to my saddle bag (without a DIY amateur rigging solution). There’s a 3D designer who has designed a multitude of bits for cyclists and their equipment that companies like Garmin, GoPro, etc., never thought of manufacturing. I found this simple, well-designed piece to attach my Varia radar to my Topeak Aero saddle bag: link to shpws.me. I’ve already purchased two of them. Very sturday and a perfect fit!
I am interested in purchasing Varia Radar, but I am a bit skeptical about the power of back lights. In several videos they do not look strong. Even on night tests they seem a bit weak. But then someone told me that this is due the angle of viewing, and if I would to look from strait behind, they are strong enough.
Any positive of negative opinions? For night and day time.
Also, can the light be set so, that in night light always flashes (but only some dots to save energy), and when a car approaches it goes naturally stronger? And on day time that the light does not flash at all, and only when car approaches the light starts to flash?
The lights (LEDs) are very bright. There are modes for the lights that will flash or burn steady. In Steady mode, you will consume more power. A great feature of the device is that when a car is approaching from behind, more LEDs will flash as the car gets closer to you. The device does not have differing day or night modes, but the LEDs are definitely noticeable in the daytime, especially in the flashing mode.
As a taillight, the Varia radar is a mediocre one during daytime. I’m using it solely as a radar (I disable the LEDs. There is a bug in either the Edge 520 or the Varia radar that requires me to disable the LEDs after every second ride because somehow it forgets the “off” setting and set the LEDs to run in “overdrive” mode). I use a much more visible Lupine Rotlicht as my taillight. Disabling the LEDs on the Varia radar should extend its battery life by a little bit.
For me, it would be come in mind, when in daytime there is no constant light on behind if there is no car behind. After the car approaches, the light goes on, but otherwise it is not on (not even 2 LEDs). Normally the light is not needed in daytime if there is no car behind. It would probably save a lot of battery life.
And normally in the night, the light is on constantly (just 2 LEDs) and when the car approaches all go on (as it already is).
Is such thing possible to configurate, or perhaps it will be in the future (with future firmware)?
I suspect they want to leave a few lights on to cover the case where a following car is going the same speed. In this case there’s no radar “alert,” but you’d still like to remind the car behind you that you’re there.
How do you disable LEDs?
That would be useful for me during daytime, as I would then use only radar. I do not need back light during the day. Beep on the 1000 would be enough for me to move to the side. I would save a lot of battery with no LEDs.
But naturally on the night time the LEDs would be required, as it would be my only back light.
So how does one turn the LEDs off, and then back on. Is there a button? Most times are day/night time rides, so it would be important for me to know, if the LEDs are being easy to turn off/on.
Do you still have the problem with disabling the LEDs because of the 520?
This is how to disable the LED using an Edge 520. First you change the Varia radar taillight setting to Individual. Then you change the taillight setting to Off (there are three options: overdrive, flash and off). Currently, the Varia radar only remembers the setting once. For example, if I set it to off, when o turn off the Edge 520, it would automatically turn off the radar. If I turn on the Edge 520 after more than a minute, follow by turning on the radar, it will still remember the off setting and the LED will still be off. If I repeat the same off and on cycle again, the radar is now set to overdrive mode (solid LED lights). Garmin has acknowledged that this is a bug.
I see. So you can turn off (just lights, not radar) through the device. I have 1000, but is probably the same. And therefore probably you can set them back on (before night) also through device while you ride, and is no need to stop riding. That is great.
How about that:
You disable them throught 520, but to turn them back on by power button on radar? Or do you shut down the device with that, and then have to push again power button to power it up back again? What result will that do? Will you only have radar then or lights as well?
About the bug, if they acknowledged it, then probably, they will will fix it soon. Does this problem exists for a long time?
You had put a nice practical review of Varia. One thing you failed to highlight the color change. I find ‘Red’ to be really nice to show the speed of the car.
Also the comfort is about the distance from which it will start showing the car, that even I can’t see fully by turning my face.
Thirdly, the benefit to use with edge is that most of the time, my view is on the device and an integrated view makes life simpler and clutter free.
Hope You agree.
I am extremely interested in Varia Radar Rear light. I have Edge Touring Plus and have uploaded latest firmware. Have contacted Garmin as to when software update will be issued to allow these two units to pair. Garmin states there are no plans to issue said software. Contacted Garmin again with reference to your site and various other sites that state Varia will work with various edge devices including Touring + but have had no reply.
Would welcome your comments.
Bought the Varia Radar to use with my Edge 510. Rode with it 5 times on routes I routinely ride – all 5 rides had incorrect distances. After adding the Radar my distance was off by 0.4 – 0.9 (decrease) miles per 25-30 miles of riding. I use an ANT+ Speed/Cadence – checked the auto tire size determined and it looks ok, 2094 for 700x23c. All of these rides have only varied in the past by about 0.03 miles.
I’ve gone back and checked over the months before the Varia and confirmed consistent distances, all rides after adding the Radar have poor distance. Both the 510 and Varia had the latest firmware.
Maybe the 510 doesn’t have the power to support all the data transfer? Don’t understand. I posted a ticket to Garmin, but they take forever to respond.
I have noticed since the last firmware update that the speed on my 810 jumps around a lot too. Eg. From 17 to 13 mph and back to 17. Is your speed jumping around too? I also have noticed on a couple rides that the total distance is slightly lower than it was on previous rides. I never had any issues when I first started using Just with recent updates.
Are you seeing any “Light Network Formed” messages during your ride? That message is usually preceded by another message informing you that your Edge computer has lost connectivity with the Varia radar. My Edge 520 occasionally disconnects with all ANT+ devices, including the speed sensor. When that happens, the computer is relying on GPS to calculate distance and speed. So if you see your current speed jumping around, it’s very likely the Edge computer is not talking with the speed sensor.
Garmin finally got back to me, suggesting there’s an issue with the number of ANT+ devices. From Garmin:
Based off of the data that we are able to view, the distance is off within the expected accurate rate of a recreational GPS.
However, with that being said, I did more research into why the Varia Radar would cause any difference in your GPS accuracy between prior to having it and now. The Varia Radar runs off of ANT plus technology, which is the same technology that the Speed and Cadence and power meters run off of as well. Sometimes when there are multiple ANT plus sensors attached, it will cause reception issues similar to what you are experiencing.
One thing that we wanted to check was to see what Speed and Cadence sensor you have. If it is a GSC 10 (our old model) we would want to try sending you the new speed and cadence sensor to see if that minimizes the discrepancy any more. The power meter may be able to pull cadence off of it, and the GPS can pull speed off of it outdoors, which would minimize the number of ANT plus sensors that are paired. If we can minimize that number, then we may be able to improve accuracy.
The only other option at this point if this is not do-able is to understand that the GPS accuracy for a recreational GPS may be off within reason.
Smells like a battery life, or software issue. It seems that the processor cannot keep up with all the messaging and do all the work necessary to produce an accurate GPS position.
Hello, I have had the Varia Radar since it first came out and was so excited and about the product. I use it on all rides whether they are city or country. I have recently removed it from my bike as the lights on the unit are not near bright enough to be safe. Remember, the car needs to see you as well and those lights just don’t do it. I also sync the varia with my Garmin 1000 and have found that the garmin 1000 changes the lights when stopping at a rest stop (when it goes into auto sleep). I’ve recently shut this off because when you startup again the varia lights are in overdrive. On a recent century ride the varia’s battery gave out at mile 35. So no lights no radar. It does pick up cars way before I can see them in my mirror which is really great but we are going on a 100 miler this weekend and I’d only get benefit for half the ride and the rest of the time I would have no radar and no light. The other issue I have is that I find myself looking down to verify if it indeed picked up a car and it almost always was accurate; but I’m looking down instead of looking ahead. I nearly ran into a guy on the road with a stop sign in his hand directing around an obstruction which I almost hit. The beep needs to be much louder so we don’t have to look down. Normally I can hear the beep but many times not. What good is a warning signal if you only hear it periodically.
So in summary:
-the battery life needs to be much longer
-the lights must be brighter
-the warning beep must be louder
The other thing and last comment I have is that I found myself spending too much time looking at the garmin 1000 instead of being aware what is around me. That’s really bad. I got interested in the new heads up display thinking that perhaps I wouldn’t look down so much but then there is that battery issue and safety with those lights on the radar which are really dangerous.
I’ll buy it again after these issues are addressed and think I’ll be safer without it.
We’ve been having trouble with trying to pair two Edge 520s to a single Varia unit, to try sharing it on rides. I know you mentioned doing this for review testing, but new fw has come out for both the Varia and the Edge 520. I was wondering if this still works? If it still does, or is supposed to, the questions is, if turning the head unit off turns off the Varia, which head unit is in control, if it allows multiple head unit pairing?
@Doug Curtis: I was able to pair it with two Edge computers, an Edge 520 and an Edge 810.
link to youtu.be
Hey Ray. Just got mine for my birthday for use with my 810. What are the chances of an update to allow using this with indicating? I think the other lights allow it right? but couldn’t this flash leading right or left as an indicator too? I think that would be another big sell point. Unless Garmin are aiming for everyone having this plus 2 other rear lights?
Check out this: link to www8.garmin.com
The Edge 810 received an update back in April that enabled smart light integration. I don’t know if there are any nuances to what works/doesn’t though on the 810 compared to the 1000.
i got one just recently It works very well and I find it very useful in situations where you need to change lanes to make a turn (right lane in my case). It will tell me if there is traffic and then I always double check to make sure (as is my habit)..I never entirely trust technology especially if you life is at sake..
In some situations where it does “not work” is in windy and hilly roads where the car may momentarily disappear..
I wish Garmin would have an option to turn off the lights entirely.
otherwise a surprisingly good and useful product.
@Jan: The lights can be turned off. Currently there is a bug in either the Varia radar firmware or the Garmin Edge computer firmware that forgets the “off” setting for the lights, requiring you to set it to “off” again one on/off cycle later.
yea I just figured it out. It has the latest firmware and to switch off the LEDs you have to also add/pair sensor –> lights. and then go back to the RADAR sensor and turn off that way. I bit more involved I guess.
sorry about some of the grammatical errors…can’t hunt and peck for the life of me. thanks for the great reviews.
I just received Varia back radar light, and looks great. But when I turn on, only fix light mode is available. There is no flash mode.
When I look at the instructions, I see that flash mode is only available on type RTL 500, and mine is RTL 501. I assume that 501 is newer model than 500. Why would they remove the flash mode as it it far better option than fix light mode. It would also have longer battery duration time.
The biggest question is: Can I somehow get flash mode on my RTL 501, or not? Because if it is not possible, then sadly the product will probably go back. I normally use flash mode and in my country (Slovenia) it is permited to use flash mode. But I bought it from Germany.
Through firmware it should be possible, or not?
Can someone please help me ASAP. Thanks.
Robert – flashing lights in Germany are illegal hence why they sell the Rt501 in Germany. I suspect you can’t change firmware since firmware is tied to the model. I would send it back. I live in Australia and I got my Rt500 from wiggle. But make sure you get the UK wiggle store so they send you the correct model.. Or get it directly from Garmin
Will probably return and buy from Wiggle, but momentarely almost all shops are out of stock. In this store where I bought, they will not have the item again at all. Only the bundle version is still available.
Does anyone know, if there is a new version of Varia Radar rear lights to be available (maybe with better lights), or is this just a coincident?
I just received Varia Radar light from Wiggle and it is RTL500 with also flash mode.
But now there is a different problem, I updated firmware on Varia and paired it with my Edge 1000. Pairing had worked and I can see connection symbol on the right corner above. But when I go to the upper menu (where brightness, sensors, … are). I can not see the varia radar line (nor its connection in the sensors line), where I can go to varia settings and see the batery status of a radar/light. Therefore I can not go into settings of the Varia.
And when I go to settings in the sensors menu, there is no option for the network, no option to change lights to individual, and by that to turn off the lights.
When I received RTL501 from Germany that possibility was there. There was also the mentioned status bar line in the upper menu. I doubt that that option would be only for RTL501.
Further, I now have syncing problems with my Edge 1000 to Garmin Express. I have tried to sync when I am charging the device at least 10 times, but no success.
Any idea what is wrong and how to fix it?
I also think that the light that I have received was already sent to someone and was probably sent back because I did not fiind the small hex wrench to attach the carrier. In the RTL501 there was one in the packet.
Finally was able to sync 1000.
I have also just tried Jans version (comment 252) and it works. But interesting that in RTL501 just radar sensor was added and it worked. Thanks for sharing Jan.
The Garmin Varia Radar is a truly remarkable product. When I bought it after reading this review (thank you DC Rainmaker for the great review) I must say that I was still slightly sceptical.
However, it works PERFECTLY and is extremely accurate in the positioning of vehicles approaching from behind you.
I truly believe that the BIGGEST benefit by far if the Garmin Varia Radar is that it helps you to identify what I term the ‘danger zone’ . . . a car approaching from behind on a road which is a single lane each way when there is a car approaching in front of you as well. Or, in the case of a blind rise, when the car approaching from behind cannot move over into ‘oncoming traffic’.
Let’s face it, most observant drivers will try and give you a few meters of space when overtaking you, as long as the road ahead is clear (no oncoming traffic and no blind rise). The only times they will ‘squeak it’ by inches is when there is an oncoming car or if it is a blind rise.
The Garmin Varia Radar allows me to quickly assess the imminent danger and to make the call on whether to move even further to the side, or in the worst case scenario, drive OFF the road!
I use my Garmin Varia Radar with my Garmin Edge 520 and I LOVE the product. I feel it gives me an extra layer of protection.
Finally, setup with my Garmin Edge 520 was dead easy (software update was needed) and the product, obviously technologically very advanced, seems robust and is simple to operate.
Got my Varia radar unit from Clever Training and put in a 25-mile ride with it today. I have to say, it performed flawlessly in terms of picking up vehicles. I think this device is a keeper for me. My one complaint has to do more with my Edge 520. The tone/alert volume on my edge 520 is not audible at riding speeds with the wind rushing by. So, I had to be actually looking at my Edge to know whether it was picking up any vehicle activity. Does anybody know how to increase the volume of the tone alert?
Awesome rear light. Works falwlessly with my 820 and Vario vision
Have been using these for a few days now. Works flawlessly and have to say one of the best investments i have made recently. This one really works and helps too. I use them on my early morning rides too
Have been using these for a few days now. Works flawlessly and have to say one of the best investments i have made recently. This one really works and helps too. I use them on my early morning rides too
I have these connected to my 820 and through to the Varia Vision. Awesome combination. The vision vibrates every time the radar gets a vehicle behind. You just cant miss a vehicle anymore.
great review and very useful information about radar taillight system.
I have one question , if use only tailight without any headunit or edge unit , will it blink the light more frequnt when any car come closer?
I would like to know if it is possible to get alerts via bluetooth headset.
I like to ride bicycle and listen to music.
Rune, no. If you want to ride with headphones on, don’t bother on other safety devices like a bike radar. You might never hear a honking horn or another reed calling out a warning.
If you like music, invest in an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker for your handlebars. Don’t ride with anything in your ears.
Thanks for your reply, but that was not the question.
I think we both agree that radar notifications is better than nothing.
On my regular 60 km ride I usually get passed by about 10 cars.
Very low traffic. No music if I head into heavy traffic.
Just wondering if this product would have any use in on the water rowing?
Rowers are always going backwards so occasionally bump into things.
Could this product pick up and so alert you to other rowing boats heading straight towards your boat?
There would be a difference in speed because of the difference in direction but the size of a rower and boat is not that big of an area with little metal so not like a metallic car.
Rowing is always looking for collision avoidance system and this may help if it can detect a boat coming in the other direction.
Interesting question…Try it..but wrap it in a zip lock back just in case it gets wet. From what I can tell the object has to approach the radar at least 6 km/h..let us know if it works. For instance if a car keeps a constant distance behind you it won’t alert you..(the Varia system is based on the doppler effect). If it goes away from you it won’t alert you..
If I had one I would try, I don’t really cycle so wouldn’t get one just to try it. I do row so was just wondering how well it might work. Hoping to find a cyclist that may Row on the Water as well.
Promising that it is 6km/h as rowers travel about 10km/h + so two approaching each other on collision course would be over 20 km/h + combined difference in direction of speed.
It actually appears to be a product that may suit rowing even more so than cycling.
The light would also increase visibility of the rower. The radar can let you know if you have missed a boat on your regular look over your shoulder.
Hi Ray, 2 questions:
1) I’m assuming this is fully waterproof? I haven’t seen any mention of it in the article?
2) Given that this info is being broadcast as ANT+, could the new Garmin Connect IQ record this info? My thinking is that if enough users used this device, Garmin could build a pretty decent picture as to which roads are high in traffic, and those that aren’t. Also, roads that cars travel quickly on, and where it’s a steady pace.
1) IPX7, so unless you’re underwater for more than 30 minutes, you’re good.
2) Hmm, in theory it might be able to. That’d be really interesting to poke into. Let me ask someone.
Please treat IPX ratings skeptically. The rating is established with a few brand new units made from brand new tooling with a brand new rubber gasket free from wear and tear, UV, Ozone, pollution etc
1) It’s pretty rare for IPX7 compliant devices to fail from a waterproofing standpoint in any meaningful way these days. Most mainstream companies over-engineer them.
2) Regarding this second piece, I did some poking and indeed, I’m told that at present a developer could actually be creative enough and record this information. It wouldn’t be super-easy to do today, but it is actually possible. Down the road it should get easier.
works exactly as advertised and a real plus for safety. Only issue I have is battery life; for me, lasts about 75 miles so not long enough for 100 mile rides. Odd that it would be engineered that way.
when the Varia taillight is paired with an Edge 520 is there an audible beep when cars are detected ?
Yes, there is a beep, however, it isn’t very loud. I rarely hear the beep from my 520. If there is a way to adjust the volume on the beep, I’d love to know.
Thanks – seems like an audible alert would be essential. Can an earphone be connected via Bluetooth ?
Hi. Riding conditions vary of course but I don’t find hearing the 520 beep to be a problem. It takes a little while to tune in to the beeping, and to recognise its meaning without thinking, but after that it wasn’t an issue. Don’t forget that you will be using it primarily if there isn’t much traffic (and hence noise) around. If there is then it ceases to be of value because it’s just telling you that there are always cars behind you.
I would tend to agree with this. While I would prefer a nice loud beep, I’ve gotten used to checking it when I’m out in the middle of a lane or want to turn. I hate to say this, but I rely almost too much on this thing because it works so well!
I have two of these (Varia Radar) one for my bike and one for my partner’s bike. We are doing long distance cycling and going cross-country (USA) next year. I am really concerned about the brightness of the LED’s and now have added another light and turned off the lights on the Garmin. Does anyone know how long the Varia will last when the lights are turned off.
Second question, I would like the radar to turn on by itself when it contacts the 820. There is a small blue light on the radar which when on will allow the radar to communicate with the 820 and turn on automatically but after a few minutes the blue light goes off and I have to turn on the radar by pressing the button(how sad). Is there a setting which will keep the blue light on in the same way that the Garmin Taillight does. The Garmin taillight will communicate and turn on automatically even if the 820 hasn’t been turned on for a week. Thanks and I love this forum and the units. And these reviews.
I can answer you about the duration of Radar without the light.
I have tested it on my radar rear light. On full mode it lasts 4-4,5h, on flash mode it lasts 8-8,5h and without lights it lasts 10h. which is werry odd. Primarely I wanted to turn the lights off in day time, but for additional 1,5-2h it makes no sence, so I am constantly using flash mode. Safety first 🙂
Another use? Electric or hybrid cars that make no noise! Thanks for your very complete review. I have used my new toy twice now. I think it is great, and the change in lights as a car is approaching is a great safety plus.
I found the Varia tailight radar essential as I am blind in my left eye and can no longer uses a mirror on my glasses to detect traffic. I cycle on open desert roads with little traffic but when cars come they come at 65mph and it’s nice to know when to get back on the shoulder.
Hi DCR, is there any word from Garmin on any updates to this product?
I like the Varia Radar but would love to see this functionality in a much smaller form factor…somewhere in the middle in size between the Varia Radar and the the Varia Rear Light…
Thanks for any tip on this or any insight on Garmin’s Varia lights roadmap!
I’ve also been wondering the same…. I love the idea, but I think the form factor of the rear light leaves much to be desired….I’m hoping they could incorporate it into something smaller/sleeker, maybe making up for width with brightness!
Just wondering if the radar is compatible with vivoactive hr. It would be great if that is compatible. I would like to use this with vivoactive watch and varia vision. Thanks
Ray is there any information on whether rear sensitivity depends on mounting height? I’m considering one for rack mounting on my 20″ wheeled recumbent trike, where rear visibility is more of a concern, and mounting would be at half the height of a conventional bike,
Great review and I found it very helpful. I ride with a eyeglass mounted rearview mirror which I love. However, sometimes my mind wonders during a ride and I am not paying attention to what is behind me so a device like this would really be helpful until the techies come up with proximity devices that link to cars.
Two major issues with the sysytem. Firstly it often misses a second car if it is following closely behind the first. You note the car coming, take precautions then relax when the light turns green only to find endothermic car directly on top of you. Secondly, the rear light is just not bright enough. OK at night but well below competitors brightness levels for daytime use.
I have left it on my bike but have added a second rear light that has some real grunt
I agree, the light on the radar is just not bright enough to use for rearward protection – I added a bright taillight to supplement the radar unit – in doing so I configured the Varia Radar to work with it’s light out, meaning no blinking or fixed light – this will extend the battery life considerably – the problem is there is a known bug which prevents the setting from saving properly on the Radar Unit, so that the unit will randomly turn it’s blinking or steady light on during your ride – I reported this to Garmin – they know about the issue and maintained at some point the bug will be fixed
I also reported that bug, almost a year ago. There’s a way to get around the Varia unit forgetting the setting:
link to forums.garmin.com
It is likely even with the above method to get around the forgetful Varia radar, the radar will still lose the light setting when the Edge bike computer loses connectivity with the radar and then re-establishes connectivity.
As always, most helpful insights and analysis. Bought varia radar with edge 25 and once out of town excellent support for warning of vehicles coming from behind…allows me to concentrate more on my cycling.
As usual, a very good review.
The ant+ profile allows a radar to say of the object coming behind you is directly behind or to the left and right but sounds like Garmin isn’t doing this or making use of this data. Know if there are plans to change this?
Wonder if an update will be coming to replace this. Maybe measure distance a car passes on the side? There are unused data pages in the ant+ spec
At the moment, it is still missing cars regularly let alone measuring how close they are. I have given up on the radar headset, and just pair it with my Edge 820 now. Works much better and seems to have a more accurate representation of multiple cars behind
I like the idea of this product but it still remains far too flawed, pathetic rear light intensity, regularly missing cars behind (especially if multiple cars) and loses cars that are behind you and travelling at the same speed. I hope the next version addresses these issues
I have been using my varia rear view radar for 6 months and it’s never missed a car unless I shutdown the head unit and start it back up without restarting the varia unit.
will the light work (get brighter ) with oncoming cars if my garmin isn’t compatible? I have an 800
Yes, it will (by illuminating more of the eight leds).
Your review is fantastic I went out I bought it best safety device I have yet. Question can the battery balance that is left on the radar unit show up on the head unit of the Edge 1000, like Di2 battery balance?
Yes – it has a small battery symbol. I have it on mine
Hi Ray, love the reviews! If I were to get this and pair with a Fenix 5 or 935 what does it look like when a car is approaching? Also if I wanted to ride with the watch on my wrist and therefore could not see the screen does it (the watch) have another way of alerting me I.e Beeping or vibrating?
Thanks in advance,
I see that Garmin is offering a $50 discount on the Varia through 29-April — does this mean they are going to come out with a new and improved Varia? or just a Spring sales event.
Ray — Do you have any insight on this?
I don’t expect anything new here. It’s just part of their ‘put something on sale every week’ mantra for this year.
With this hardware approaching 2 years, can you comment on any news of a new device?
I don’t expect anything near-term here.
Thanks for your review, it gave me all the info I needed to buy this AND I LOVE IT!!!! I’m still new to riding and not very confident out on the country roads with trucks and fast cars and not a lot of space for them to get around me, especially if im drifting too far toward the middle. This radar thing has changed everything!!! Except for the 5 hour battery life – I had the best 5hour ride of my life today, immediately followed by a sloppy and scary 80min ride back home! Oh well, for most long rides it will totally do the job. Complete game changer 🙂
We set the Varia Radar so that it doesn’t use it’s internal lights which will give you about 8 hours. It’s done by using the varia rear tail light which will allow you to set the units up for (Rear Light Blinking), (Varia Radar) no light. Having the varia rear tail light allows the garmin to form what they call a “Light Network” . But you have to have the rear light to form the light network. Then set the light network to individual. This allows you to customize the units. I use a separate tail light as the varia radar light isn’t bright enough for my comfort zone.
I’m using the Varia with a Garmin 520. The 520 battery drains in about 3-4 hours when I use the Varia but lasts longer if I don’t. This is not really useful for long rides as the computer stops working. Has anyone else had this experience with the 520, either with the Varia or without?
Can you remove the rear lights and just use the car alert part? Seems like it would be pretty annoying to anyone riding behind me to have those lights flashing at them
Barb – I suppose you could always cover the lights with Tape….that said, since I picked up a Varia I’ve found the response has been quite the opposite!…My fellow riders love that they also get a bit of a warning of oncoming cars too by looking at my Varia’s light!
You can dissable the lights on your Garmin head unit, and have only radar. You go to sensors, and choose light and there somewhere you will fill under settings, that you can set to individual and there off lights.
Thanks for your exellent review. I have a question: Is it possible to use the (back) radar system and connect it to a powerbank at the same time in order to extend the usage time? I have been doing this with the edge 1000.
Thank you for your answer.
No, the Varia Rearview Radar goes into charge mode and shuts off when connected to an external power source.
Yes, radar unit can be charged while in use. I rode a double century in May 2017 and confirmed this works during the last hour of the ride (after sunset). Battery pack in top tube bag, long USB cable along top tube to Varia on seat post. Radar battery was dead after 4 hours riding in the morning, and after connecting to battery pack I let it charge a couple minutes before turning it back on and then it last 1+ hours after sunset.
thanks very much that you answered my question. Your answer sounded so convincing that I immediately purchased the Garmin Radar Unit. In fact, I have it here in front of me. And, what do you know: I pressed the button, it started flashing, but, as soon as I plug the charging cable in, the unit s t o p s working (flashing). What do you say to that? have I done something wrong. I hope you can help me out here, because I trusted you fully.
Hi Bsquared again, I forgot to tell you that I updated the Radar Unit, before I made the test
Peter, last week I updated to latest radar firmware (3.60).
Right now I tested and it works:
– turn on 520
– connect battery to Varia radar
– turn on Varia radar
It works, even with the latest firmware.
Hello Bsquared, I think, I found the trick: Once you connect the back light unit with the external battery, you must press the start button on the unit within 1 second. When you´re late and the small green lamp comes up first, the unity starts its recharging mode and the red flashing light won´t show.
Thanks for your patience, Bsquared. In contrast to one or two remarks here, it is, after all, possible to use the back light unit and recharge it at the same time.
I’m just curios if anyone tested what strength of radiation this device sends. Installed right under your boyz might have really bad effect on it. Interesting article: link to naturalnews.com 20 years back many traffic cops in US started developing bone cancer in their right leg from carrying speed guns while on motorcycles. Does anyone with this device has something like this: link to amazon.com
to check the intensity?
Agree on checking the intensity – a friend of my fathers worked for the state patrol. He used to keep his radar gun in his lap when not in use. He died from testicular cancer. Has anyone researched this?
link to who.int
I’ve just noticed on the Garmin forum in the Varia section link to forums.garmin.com that apparently if you use this app link to play.google.com that if you use the Varia radar unit, you can gather a full set of statistics on the number of cars which have passed you, this speed, number of cars at any time, time and distance to approach you – et cetera et cetera.
If you are interested in very fine analysis of your ride, then surely this has to take you to another dimension.
I haven’t tried it myself
It seems that varia radar works quite well with Fenix, too.
link to youtube.com
I think it is perfect when on long country road ride while listening music from your device, which I love to do.
Hi DC, still no news on a newer design / smaller form factor? Looking forward to it…
Price is falling down since a few days, can you comment on any news of a new device?
When riding with a group of riders that all have Garmin head units, all riders can pair with the same radar unit, thus allowing them all to see the radar results. I found that even when someone went ahead of me with the unit, I still had radar on my garmin for about 150 yards. Not sure how many bikes can use the same unit, it appears to be unlimited. Very nice feature as we never had to say “Car Back” as we all had a view to the radar. Love this product. Also would like to add one other safety feature. When making a left hand turn, you feel much safer as you do not need to look behind you to see if there is a car coming before you pull out to the center lane to make your turn.
Had to respond…you definitely DO need to look before drifting left (in drive-on-the-right countries)!!! The unit definitely has limitations and will NOT always paint every car that may be lurking behind you. For instance, if a car is waiting for you to pass it from a cross street (or a driveway) and then turns onto your road behind you, it will NOT display. Also, rolling hills and/or curves in a road can make a target disappear from the display. I find it a good tool to remain generally aware of what’s going on behind me, and it’s especially helpful when there are multiple cars passing me at once, but DO NOT bet your life, health, or property on this thing! Always look behind you before drifting left or turning left!!
I agree with Ray. I’m blind in my left eye. I have used the unit for over 2 years and it’s never failed me. Unless I become an owl I can’t look back. When u turn left on a bike it’s a quick thing. By the time a car waiting in a side street pulls out my left turn is over. And I’m aware of rolliing hills and curves and take that into consideration. Since I live in the desert those are rare situations.
Matt and Geoff, thank you both for your comments. I should have been more careful with what I said. You will not need to turn back before making a left hand turn if you see a car in the Radar, you just need to stay to the right until all cars clear on the radar, then look back to confirm. I had three cars not show on my radar during my last ride. Two had just turned onto the road and one was going slow. I find that I am not looking back as often as we have a lot of traffic in my area and the radar unit is very active with cars on the screen. You just know to be careful as the cars are approaching and certainly can not make the left hand turn.
Sorry Ray, another comment: I have used the Varia for about 2 years as well and find it invaluable. One situation which the radar can fool you is on a big downhill. We went over Carson Pass at 8900″ and descended for nearly 9000″. On the downhill, when traveling at speeds of say 35-40 mph a car can creep up on you slowly. It will not show up on radar. I got surprised several times with a horn blaring when I didn’t expect it. I wear a mirror and will not ride without it but when going downhill at a high speed there is not a great time to look in the mirror. However, the garmin radar is right in your face but a slow approaching car will hide itself on your tail. Am amazed how accurate it is, and it has saved my bacon many times, even with a mirror.
The battery on my display unit is no longer holding the charge, what can I do about it? It is 2.5 years old. When I plug it in to the power supply after a few minutes the light comes on to indicate “fully charged”.
I have that problem as well (sometimes). It is 1,5 years old. I then just unplug and plug the charger again (if needed I do it again) and the green light is blinking again (charging). But the battery on the road is still holding correctly. The only problem is while charging.
Not in my case l have the same symptoms as you but my charge only lasts about 30 mins on the road.
Robert Hozjan, Thanks for your comment, you are right. The battery charge indicator is the problem. When I ignore the indicator and leave the unit plugged in to the power for a long period (overnight) the battery on the road is fine.
I scanned through the comments but could not find the answer so here goes: are there any non Garmin head units that can link and show approaching traffic from the Varia Radar or is it only a Garmin thing?
None at present. They can implement it, it’s an open standard.
Both Stages and Sigma have said they plan to.
I would love somebody create an app that captures all the data about passing cars. This could help building heat maps showing safest days times areas etc…I’m surprised no one created app like that yet, it could be overlaid in golden cheetah for example.
Just a thought, as it’s a radar based device, does it mean that car drivers who have installed an I car radar detector (for detecting speed traps) will get a radar notification that a speed trap is ahead?
Been looking at purchasing one of these for a while now – how is everyone enjoying theirs??
With the price drop this week, are we potentially looking at a new device coming out??
We won’t ride without it. It’s a technology which is well suited to biking safety. Have been using it since its’ inception and as you learn to trust it, you also learn when and where to use it. I rode yesterday and I used it yesterday. It will change the way you ride you bike.
Best thing ever, if you ever got scared of the car behind you, you will not anymore.
Hello from Germany,
regarding the mounting option for round seat post, is it possible to turn the inner part by 90 degrees?
It would be the perfect solution to mount any garmin Edge device on my recumbent bicycle.
Hello, how to upgarde firmware for RTL500? I plugged device in my windows laptop, open Garmin Express and nothing happens.
Clever Training sent me an email that this is now half price at $99. No, I have not checked what normal sale pricing is now that it has been superseded. Maybe not half price.
Still seems like a deal to me. I paid a lot more and feel it is really worth it.
The buzz and light alerts (watch and/or Edge depending on the day) remind me to check my mirror.
I like being reminded to stay safe when sharing the road with 2 or 3 ton hunks of steel.
Ride safe my friends