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Hands-on: Wahoo Adds Radar Support for ELEMNT/BOLT/ROAM, confirms TrainerRoad Connectivity

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Today Wahoo has rolled out support for ANT+ radar units to their entire lineup of GPS bike computers, including the original Wahoo ELEMNT, the BOLT, and the new ROAM. For the 7 people still rockin’ the old school RFLKT, you’re unfortunately out of luck. On the bright side, at least you have a museum piece for your kids. Oh, and no MINI support either.

Support for Garmin’s Varia radar series continues to be one of the most popular requests I see come across the site, and back in May, when the ROAM released, many of you were disappointed at the lack of support. It didn’t take long though for Wahoo’s CEO to commit to it, in the comments section of the review no less, and they’ve now delivered on that promise (earlier than expected in fact).

This update allows you to see on your Wahoo bike computer cars coming up behind you, complete with notification for multiple vehicles and high-speed cars. And on the ELEMNT and ROAM which have side LED’s, you can also use those instead of the screen. More or less the feature works the same as on the Garmin units.

Speaking of which, while Garmin is currently the only maker of cycling radar units, it actually follows the ANT+ Radar Device Profile, so anyone can produce a radar unit – or radar support. And in fact, last month Stages committed to adding ANT+ radar support in their next Stages Dash firmware update due out this fall (also in the comments section of my preview post).  With that, let’s get into the details.

Setup & Options:

Wahoo-ROAM-BOLT-ELEMNT-Vaira-Radar

Sometimes when I write all the steps out people might presume it takes a long time to setup. But seriously, this takes like 7 seconds. Simply turn on the radar, and add it as a sensor (just like a heart rate sensor), and you’re done. For realz. I’ll do this mostly on the ROAM, but it’s identical here on all of them. But here’s the steps nonetheless.

Note that you can use either of the two Garmin Varia radar units here:

A) The older Garmin Varia RTL-500
B) The newer Garmin Varia RTL-510

Either of them work just fine:

Garmin-RTL510-Radar DSC_5631

On your ELEMENT/BOLT/ROAM, go into the sensor pairing menu by holding the left-hand button and selecting Add Sensors. Then let it do its sensor finding thing:

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It’ll come back with a list of nearby things. Wahoo stashes the radar sensor within the ‘other’ sensor category. Which, if I were to nitpick anything – it’d be this. Seriously, just create a category called ‘Radar’. Ironically, this is also where trainers and tire pressure sensors go too. Just seems silly to me.

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Once within the other sensor category, then select your radar device:

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When you do so it’ll give you two pages of warnings that tell you that if the radar fails it’s either your fault or Garmin’s fault, but that it’s definitely not Wahoo’s fault.

DSC_5578 DSC_5577

And you’re done. Now, you can also do this setup from the Wahoo app as well if you’d like instead. Speaking of the app, there’s a few radar specific changes you can make, depending on which unit you have.  If you crack open the app and go to the ‘Settings’ menu’, then look at your sensors list and tap the bike radar sensor. After that, hit ‘Alert Settings’.

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It’s here that you’ve got three options:

A) Turn on/off alerts, effectively disabling/enabling the radar
B) Change from on-screen alerts to using the LED’s [ELEMNT/ROAM only, not BOLT]
C) Turn on/off sounds.

You can see below that when you toggle from ‘on-screen’ to ‘left LED’s’, it turns off the secondary option to display a warning on the upper LED’s. So it’s one or the other there, which is fine.

2019-08-25 13.46.34 2019-08-25 19.33.19

Finally, if you want, you can toggle the alerts on/off on the unit itself by going back to the radar sensor menu and changing the ‘alert mode’ option.

DSC_5581

With that – let’s go and ride!

Out on the road:

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 6.41.34 AM

Now, first, a quick two-second primer on the Varia radar series. In general, there’s two trains of thought to people with the Varia radar:

A) People that have tried it and love it
B) Everyone else

Seriously, it’s the *only* product I’ve ever reviewed here that everyone who has bought one loves. No joke – go look at the comments section of either review.  It’s nuts. No…really…go!

The people who think the radar is stupid are the ones that haven’t ever used it. Still, there are some considerations on how it works.

A) It’s not ideal for city usage, it just beeps too much
B) It’s awesome for roads where traffic is infrequent or even rare, reminding you a car is back and snapping you back to reality
C) It’s primarily aiming to show you objects (cars/bikes/mopeds/trains/planes) that have an overtaking speed on you
D) It generally won’t trigger for cyclists matching your speed (such as in a group)
E) It’ll show one dot/car for each thing it sees on the road, though sometimes multiple cars can ‘hide’ behind each other.

Got all that? Good. If not, check out the full review for all the details.

The default mode on the Wahoo units is to display vehicles using the screen (versus the LED on the ROAM/ELEMENT), so I’ll show that first. When there’s no cars approaching, you’ll see the left-hand green strip, when means that it’s all clear:

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This strip will always be there – unless your radar disconnects (such as the battery dying). If that happens, the radar strip will disappear – which is an indicator to you that the radar either was stolen by a magpie or the battery died. It’ll also give you a ‘Radar Low Battery’ message in the event you’re @#$#@ fortunate enough to go and take photos for this post and have the radar die mid-way through. Just sayin’.

Also, the strip displays on every page on your unit – including the map pages, Strava pages, extra data pages, etc….

In any event, once a car comes you’ll see a single dot for each car that the Varia radar recognizes.  In addition, you’ll get orange lights on the top LED’s. Further, you’ll get an audible chirp.

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In the case of the ELEMNT and ELEMNT BOLT, you won’t get color on the screen, but just a left-hand strip with the dots. You will, however, get the color in the LED’s at the top:

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The side strip shows you the distance until the car catches up to you. This matches precisely to the Garmin units in terms of distances as well. Generally it’ll trigger for cars as far back as at least a few hundred meters.

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In the event you get a high-speed car, it’ll be red instead of orange. I’ve been trying to get this around Amsterdam, but seriously – cars just don’t pass cyclists at high speeds or ‘dangerously’ according to the minimum threshold specs. Fear not, I flew to America, walked outside my hotel and got it triggered immediately:

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Once a car passes you’ll get the all-clear green side panel again, another chirp, and then green on the top LED’s.

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One of the things I appreciate here is that Wahoo didn’t re-invent the wheel on this. Their formatting and such near-perfectly matches Garmin. This isn’t to say Garmin made absolutely perfect design choices – but I think when it comes to safety features it’s good that companies more or less standardize on display. It makes it so that tutorials and such that people create all over the internet match, no matter the brand.

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Now, what if you go back to the app and toggle the option to utilize the left LED’s instead (ROAM/ELEMNT only)?

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Then it’ll go ahead and do exactly that. The left radar panel on the display goes away and it’ll display status using those left LED’s. It won’t show anything on the top LED’s anymore:

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And here’s what that looks like on the ELEMENT & BOLT:

DSC_5641

And here’s how that looks side by side with the Garmin, which doesn’t have such an LED option (because it doesn’t have LED’s). Though, Garmin can alter which side of the screen the radar notifications display on, and has those notification colors disappear after the cars go away:

DSC_5604

With that, you know everything you need to know about the radar in one tidy section. Go forth and use it!

Oh – and one minor tidbit – Wahoo’s Varia support does *not* extend to the ANT+ lighting networks. So there’s no support here for any ANT+ lights at this time. It’s unclear if that’s coming or not, though that’d be a logical next step for sure.

TrainerRoad Outside Integration Coming:

Now this next section will be very brief, because…it’s not ready yet.

Starting in September, Wahoo devices will support integration with TrainerRoad workouts. This will enable you to execute TrainerRoad’s newish outside workouts on your Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT/ROAM units, identical to that of how you currently ride planned/structured workouts from both Today’s Plan and TrainingPeaks.

I haven’t seen this feature yet in beta, so I can’t give you any detailed specifics of how it works, but Wahoo’s saying it should basically match the existing functionality, just simply expanded to TrainerRoad.  This is, of course, all spurred on by Garmin’s structured workout API they announced back in April, which TrainerRoad was one of the early launch partners for. At the time CEO Nate Pearson announced that they were going to roll it out for Wahoo devices soon.

I’m not entirely sure if he had consulted Wahoo prior to that moment, but, it worked…and we’ll shortly have it on Wahoo devices. Perhaps a little bit of the sometimes better to ask for forgiveness than permission and all that. Things you learn in the corporate world on getting stuff done. #Winning

With that – thanks for reading!

Update: Since so many of you have been now buying the Varia Radar, here’s a link that helps support the site. You’ve got two options – either via Clever Training which gets you 10% back in points you can spend right away (plus free fast shipping), or via Amazon. Oh, and if you’re in Europe you can use Clever Training UK/EU and get 10% off using DCR Coupon Code DCR10BTF (and free shipping). Either way, I appreciate the support. And again, here’s the full review of the Varia RTL-510. That’s the latest model, and I don’t expect a new model anytime soon.

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141 Comments

  1. GregM

    I wonder what the health impacts are of a radar-emitting device positioned roughly between your legs. Maybe nothing but seems worth thinking about.

    • Derek

      I suspect nothing worse than what riding a bike for 1000s of km a year perched on solid structure between your legs would do.

    • Paul S.

      Yes it “radiation” but it’s “non-ionizing radiation, so it’s harmless. (You’re basically surrounded by radiation, and emit it yourself.) As Derek says, if you afraid of that why are you riding a bike in the first place?

    • Heinrich Hurtz

      That’s how microwave ovens were invented. Radar researchers found that radar waves could heat their frankfurter.

    • ahhah! 🙂

      (This operates at 24Ghz not 2.4GHz)

    • Unicyclist

      And it uses way less energy.. guess it barely has energy to heat your testicles by a degree for a moment – and then the battery is zapped -.-
      Just in theory of course. In reality there is no way to cause harm to your offsprings..

    • Steve

      I use Plutonium based Chamois Cream in winter… nice and toasty!

    • Paul S.

      Really? I find the radium based cream to give a more even heat.

      (I wonder if someone still has my Dad’s old watch with the radium painted hands that glow in the dark.)

    • ChuckPDX

      Greg,
      That’s a valid question that’s been certainly raised for other k-band devices (e.g., police radar).
      link to glitch.news

      It’s non-ionizing radiation (like cellphones), but the concern is indirect cancer causing effects. I’m not going to worry about it – cellphones against my skull or in pants pockets scare me more. Radar antennas are highly directional, and Varia points backward away from your body. I would think that drafting behind somebody else’s radar would expose you more.

    • Ken

      You are safe. The power of the RF emission is so low. The Garmin Varia radar uses 24GHz radio frequency band. It’s pretty high freq and the characteristic is closer to light (than radio for FM radio) meaning it radiate straight. Since the device emits the RF to rear you are not directly exposed.

      According to the FCC certification the electric field strength is 69dBuV at 1 meter distance which is 2.8mV. Human body is about 5000 Ohm. So even if all energy is consumed by human body it’s only (2.8mV)^2 / 5000 = 1.7nW (nano watt = 10^-9).

      The emitted radio wave reflected by a moving object causes phase shifting called “doppler effect”. The pitch difference of the original wave and the reflected wave is computed as the distance to the object, and the deivertive can give you the speed of the object.

  2. Dan Kothlow

    I’m one of those 7 people that still use a RFLKT as a secondary display / backup.

  3. The indicator strip is always on the side of the display?

    On Garmin units, the indicator is only present when there the radar detects something. When it stops detecting anything, it glows green briefly and then goes away. The only persistent UI element is the upper right corner icon that tells you if the radar is connected.

  4. Mark J.

    Very cool indeed. Just started using an Elemnt. I hope the audible warning is louder on the Wahoo. Can’t wait to try it out.

    • Mark J.

      Sadly, no joy with the audible warning. Still too quiet for me to hear. But by pairing the radar with my Fenix 5 as well as the Elemnt, I at least get a buzzing on my wrist when a car is approaching, so that’s better than nothing.

    • Urs

      Interesting, went on a ride with a friend who owns a varia yesterday. I connected to it with my bolt (out of curiosity) and he told me to shut the audible warnings off cause they were too loud and annoying (riding in the city)

  5. Scott Falconberry

    Yep, works on my Bolt. Good move Wahoo. I just returned an Edge 530 because the audio volume was so low. I don’t want to stare at the screen all the time! I was resigned to having the Bolt and my used Edge 25(used only for Radar) on my handlebars for the foreseeable future. Turned out to be two days! When the price for the Roam drops I might consider it, but gheesh it is heavy and clunky.
    Anyway, excited about this.

    • Amdy

      The Roam is heavy and clunky??

      Jesus Christ the state of that post…

      I wonder how many times youve cycled with feaces in your bowels that weigh heavier than a Roam…but no..the Roam is heavy…ffs…have a word with yourself you tool.

    • Scott Falconberry

      Well, I had a 530 in one hand and the Roam in the other. Yep, heavy. Second, the buttons are hard to press and the bezels are really big, so clunky in my opinion. I used that 530 for almost two weeks before returning it due to low audio volume. The Roam just has a hard time looking good next to it. Love my Bolt though.
      Your use of infantile excrement references and name calling does little to advance your opinion. Perhaps inquiring as to why someone’s views differ from your would be a better approach.

  6. Tim

    Nice move by Wahoo. I’d like the option to have the bar on either side of the screen (it can’t be hard surely) – to me it seems more logical to have it on the side vehicles are passing. Does this herald the launch of their own radar unit next month at Eurobike? I will hold off buying a Varia until then.

    • Chader

      Ditto, I am wondering if we will see a unit from Wahoo during EB. As a non-G user, I will jump into a Varia if there is no option from Wahoo soon. Fingers crossed.

    • David E.

      If they were going to release their own unit, one would think they would have announced it at the same time. Otherwise, they lose out on people who might now go out and buy a Garmin Varia to use with their Wahoo computers.

    • ChuckPDX

      Tim,
      After seeing the announcement, rather than wait I’ve got an RTL-510 on order. Here are my thoughts:
      1) One newly released tech product (Roam in my case) at a time on my bike is enough chaos for me.
      2) I may be wrong, but I suspect Garmin is licensing their bike radar patents (via iKubu) cheap or free for other head unit makers to support, but NOT competitors to their Varia radar device. My bet is that Garmin’s profit margins on Varia are really good and that they’ll make more money that way.

  7. ChuckPDX

    Ray,
    For the Left LED display option on either Roam or original ELEMNT, what are the mutual exclusion rules between radar and heart rate display or power display on Left LEDs?

    Specifically, can I set if up so that if there is NO approaching traffic, the Left LEDs display my heart rate. If there IS approaching traffic, the radar display will temporarily interrupt the heartrate. This would be a little like how the Bolt shares the single row of top LEDs between heartrate and other alerts.

    • Dan Kothlow

      ChuckPDX,
      That’s how it works – if you have the left LEDs for HR, it will display that until a car approaches, switch to the RADAR displaying the proximity of the car as shown above, then when all clear, a full strip of green LEDs on the left, and then return to your HR display.

    • ChuckPDX

      Thanks Dan! That’s what I was hoping for 🙂

  8. Sandy

    My elemnt and bolt are both black and white only (or so I thought), how does a green/red strip get shown when cars are near? Thank you.

  9. Paul S.

    may be the exception. I’ve been using my Varia ever since I bought one after reading about it in the comments of your Roam review. I like it a lot, but it isn’t perfect. First, it’s not just cyclists that won’t show up, it’s anything that’s moving at your speed behind you, including a giant piece of farm machinery close enough so you can feel the heat from its radiator. Second, false positives occur. And the reason I haven’t removed the mirrors from my helmets is that you can’t tell what it is behind you: another cyclist, motorcycle, or a truck hauling oversized equipment sticking out on the right all show up as a single (on a Garmin) dot. I still use my mirrors frequently, although now I know when to use them, and the times when I really should be looking forwards I still know something about what’s coming from behind.

    Incidentally, I don’t know which Edge you’re using up there but on the 830 at least you can get rid of the discoloration on both sides and confine the radar strip to a single side without the discoloration. The only improvement I’d like Garmin to make is to allow us to choose icons rather than the dot. A stream of TIE fighters or dragons coming up behind me would be more fun than dots.

  10. Jules

    Ray, regarding the integration of TrainerRoad, any idea if/when Wahoo will offer a similar Training API like Garmin (or at least allows the manual creation of structured trainings from the mobile app)?

  11. Roberto Cuadro

    Great article as always!

    It is also nice to see that mine is not the only QuadLock case that had come a little unglued and bulges out on the sides a bit.

  12. Macy

    Ant+ Light support next, please, and it just might have me hold off putting a 530 on my santa list!

    • Brian

      I’d LOVE to see this as well. I hope someday

    • Weiwen Ng

      I’d like to see lighting support added also. Surely it would not have killed them to implement it? Or is it much more complex than I envision?

    • Brett

      I reached out to Wahoo support just yesterday about ANT+ light support and support replied today with:

      “The Bolt does not currently work with ANT+ lights, but we are expecting a firmware release with this added support to be released very soon.”

      Now the question is what ANT+ lights do I buy? I’ve been looking at the Bontrager Ion 200 RT /Flare RT set, looks pretty solid for my commuting.

    • Brian

      I use the Bontrager (Flare RTx2, Ion 200 and the Ion Pro). They worked great with my Garmin (which I’m selling cuz I went wahoo). Good lights – I recommend.

      Not sure what else on the market ‘actually’ works with ANT+. See.Sense ACE does not (and actually breaks all my existing lights)

    • The Bontrager lights are indeed great, and so are the Garmin’s. I haven’t spent a ton of time with the See.Sense ones, but I know there’s some weird compatibility quirks there from an ANT+ lighting spec standpoint.

    • Je

      Hi Ray or anybody else.
      Does anybody know of a ANT+ compatible light that conforms
      to the German StVZO? I know that garmin produces versions of the Varia Radar that are StVZO conform. But none of their frontlights are.
      Actually I don’t really care about the StVZO label but I want lights that do not outright blind everyone and part of the Stvzo is a sensible beam pattern. I tried the varia UT 800 and it has a horrible beam pattern it completely blindes oncoming traffic.

      Any ideas?

    • Damien Milazzo

      Any other thoughts on the See.Sense lights. I just purchased their rear Ace and Icon2 which i expect to arrive shortly. One of the reasons I purchased it was because of their ANT+ integration. What’s quirky about it? How are the lights (build, brightness, pattern, etc.)

      Thanks so much!

    • Out of the box, the See.Sense ACE and ICON2 currently support a single light (rear) only. We’re testing the new light network capability to enable multiple lights simultaneously. This will be a firmware update to the See.Sense lights via the mobile app.

      The light protocol is not final, perhaps why more manufacturers aren’t yet supporting it. Garmin’s implementation varies between head units, e.g. lower spec units forcing the light into solid mode on startup (and overriding the mode if the light objects), higher spec units remembering the mode. Hence it’s not always intuitive.

      Even though the Rearview is a light, it actually uses a radar protocol and no part of the lighting protocol. The radar protocol is final, therefore consistent and a lot easier to work with.

    • Brian

      So my experience with Ace using a Garmin Edge explore (not sure of that is ‘low end’ or not). I could get a light pool to form exactly one time. It would never properly form the light pool again after reboot. Furthermore: that light pool could only contain 1 ACE rear light. Anything else it would break the pool and no lights work. Likewise: if I had a happily coexisting light pool (of my aforementioned flare rt, ion 200 and ion pro) – which worked perfectly fine every single ride – as soon as I try to add ACE into the light pool everything breaks. The pool will never form – nothing. Unpair the ACE, everything immediately comes back online.

      ACE front won’t pair at all – though they do make that reasonably clear in their support site.

      I don’t know if anyone else has had luck, but from my experience I wouldn’t count on icon2 being any better. (I preordered one too – ANT+ connectivity aside, they really are great lights). I have a ticket open since last December waiting for any fixes.

      But I just sold my Garmin, so I kinda don’t care much now.

      Their light are great lights though. I had the original icon as well.

  13. Brian

    Ironic that I bought a varia and have never used it with a Garmin head unit.

  14. JD

    The Varia detection spec is 140 meters away (< 500 ft).
    I wish Garmin (and Wahoo) would add radar battery status at the end of each ride as a helpful reminder. Otherwise it's easy to forget and hang up your bike.
    Riding with radar is a game changer especially if you ride solo.
    Ride with a buddy or two and there's no need to yell "car back". The beeps let you know when to go single file.
    Once accustomed to riding with radar — it's a shock when the first car passes you unannounced even if you got the battery low warning. Suddenly you're riding blind again (the old way).

    • Edward Ng

      The actual Garmin RDU (Remote Display Unit) that can be purchased bundled with the RTL510 actually has a low battery warning for the radar unit and separately for the RDU, so the radar unit definitely supports low battery reporting–it’s up to Wahoo to build in a warning for it (similar to the warning it produces when, say, the battery is low on my Stages power meter).

      -Ed

    • Edward Ng

      Based on Shane Miller’s video, there is a low battery warning.

      -Ed

    • Wahoo Murray

      You will get a low battery alert during the workout and then again at the end of the workout, just incase you forgot.

  15. Mikl

    Hey Ray

    Do you think garmin is going to release a new Varia radar?

    Merci mon ami..!!

    😉

  16. Brian

    Devil’s advocate. I can see the use case for radar to monitor EVs such as Tesla, but not for the majority of petroleum vehicles. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I’ve been riding long enough that I can hear and judge when vehicles are approaching and how close. Now if we could invent something for sneaky country dogs, then that’d be worth it.

    • Chader

      Conditions to include wind, group variability and many other distractions can lead to not hearing normal autos and trucks as they approach from behind. The auto industry has spent significant time and money to make cars fuel efficient which leads to more quite vehicles with engine and wind noise greatly reduced compared to older models.

      As such, you can’t rely on engine noise in all circumstances. I see radar as a useful device, even if it is not “needed” in all cases. Much like a helmet, it may be most valuable when we least expect it. I am pretty attentive and use a mirror in my road riding. Even with that and my general attention, some cars and trucks still catch me off guard on some rides.

      No one is perfect and this device may well be the difference between lift and death in some instances. The “better safe than sorry” adage is appropriate in this context.

    • Brian

      Not seeing the usefulness as it boils down to letting a rider know something is approaching, not something is approaching with an intercept vector or 3 feet (1m) buffer. It’s little more than a ‘hey, something is behind you’ light. If a driver is going to hit you, they will hit you and no radar no matter how smart or with lights built into it is going to help. I agree that mirrors are better since you can actually judge. I would rather see something that works with the current lane assist systems and make the bike seem larger than what it is so that it alerts the driver in the car or automatically steers the car away from the bicycle rider. Lane assist and cameras are more ubiquitous in the industry and are becoming more standard.

    • As I started off with, there’s two types of people when it comes to radar:

      A) Those that have actually used it
      B) Everyone else.

      As Chader noted, there’s plenty of scenarios where you can’t hear cars coming from behind you. Or, when you as a human are fatigued from riding 5 hours are just aren’t aware of a car approaching as you’re off in your own world.

      In any case, all these arguments have been hashed out before for years.

    • JD

      As DCR says the only people who pooh-pooh Varia radar are those that have never used it.
      Once you ride with radar on a regular basis it you’re hooked. There are too many usage scenarios to ignore.
      More than one car behind? Check
      Something coming up fast? Check
      Any vehicle behind on a twisty ascent with blind curves? Check
      Can’t hear what’s behind due to windy conditions? Check
      No surprises at a stop sign? Check
      When to drift into the left turn lane? Check
      No hybrid sneaking up on you in the neighborhood? Check
      Safe to take a break, sit up, and ride no hands? Check
      When to glance back or check your helmet mirror? Check
      I especially like it on long fast descents where I can comfortably command the entire road because I know when nothing is behind me.
      I’ve been riding for 50+ years and the additional comfort level radar provides is too significant to ignore.

      The pro/con argument will continue here on this thread because Wahoo users haven’t had the option to add radar. Now they don’t have an excuse. 🙂

    • Brian

      I took your advice and followed the link to read the 333 comments to support your thoughts on it’s been hashed out. What I did find was something that proved my point. There were comments in the section that stated people are riding more towards the middle of the road because they feel safer with the radar. The point being is that the radar doesn’t take place of good safety practices, also mentioned in the comments (once). There were also more comments about false positives. Your post above shows reduction in false positives. What I didn’t find was any argument about why it’s not a good idea to depend on radar. I’m in the group of not used one and won’t buy one as it gives the user an excuse to bypass good practices. Now can we argue about wearing helmets? 🙂

    • Dennis

      Brian, I’ve been using the Vario radar since early spring and honestly it’s one of the best bike gadgets I ever bought. I think I kinda get what you are saying but not everyone is as confident on the road as you seem to be. For me, “really” knowing if something is behind me or not makes such a huge difference. Only relying on sound had me misjudge situations a lot over the years. Sometimes you hear a car but it’s actually on another road, sometimes you don’t hear anything but suddenly something passes you. I’m still listening and I am still trying to take note of everything that’s happening around me but now I can ride in the middle of the road to evade potholes or just relax a little more in general because there is a device that warns me of traffic from behind. As soon as I know there’s a car coming, I can go into “be prepared for anything mode” where I make sure I can brake if needed, drive as straight as possible, make no sudden moves, give as much space as possible, and so on. My rides got so much more enjoyable for me, I love having that.

    • Derek

      Please try before commenting. You’re just trolling now. Who cares about false positives…what’s the worst thing that happens…you look behind you. I have had the radar before Ray even tested it…and second to my helmet (which you want to argue the merits of) I never leave home without.

    • Edward Ng

      90% of the time, the radar detects and reports an approaching vehicle before it is audible to me in my experience riding with the radar unit. This is particularly the case when I am riding in noisier parts of my riding region, but even applies out in the countryside.

      -Ed

    • Edward Ng

      It seems nonsensical to blame the usage pattern of people who buy the device on the device. If, hypothetically, you bought one, would you suddenly start riding in the middle of the lane until there’s a warning, Brian? I have owned one for months now and I have not and will not be taking on such a bad habit just because of the unit. Are you going to blame the Benedryl if a person uses it to put their kid to sleep? As a matter of fact, I’d be more likely to take on the stupid habit of riding in the middle of the lane until I saw a car in my mirror (the type that attaches to my sunglasses) before I did this relying on the radar. Smart people use things appropriately, and that has no bearing on the technology itself.

      -Ed

    • Brian

      Ed, no issues with using the unit as an augment to an already proven effective practice: shoulder check, armpit check, mirror check. Like Ray has already said: “And finally, you’ve got some paper stuff that says despite this being a safety device, you shouldn’t depend on it 100%.”

    • Steven

      Riding further into the traffic lane is safer for numerous reasons.
      Less debris, mare space to react to potholes and road conditions, more noticeable to cars, safer passing as drivers have to move around you and not try to squeeze by. In most states, bicycles may take the full lane.
      My friend pairs his head unit to my radar and gets the alerts too, however he has not bought his own yet.

    • Jon Thompson

      This is the right answer. Always. Take. YOUR. Lane.

    • Ben Shepley

      I did my first ride with it today. I’ve fed back into Wahoo about the specifics as it wasn’t entirely smooth, but I think I’ve found the best way to describe what it does and why it’s worth the money. It turns pull information on cars into push information. It does’t take away the need or ability to look when you think a car will be a hazard (changing lanes, turning etc) which remains pull information; but it tells you about the one when your mind wanders as push information. Just because you can hear a car doesn’t mean it is a danger and it could be stopping you hear the one which is really endangering you. So if you have a loud overtaking lorry, you may not hear the car steaming rapidly up behind you. I think it’s better to know.

  17. Bill

    since we know Wahoo monitors these comments, MAJOR KUDOS TO YOU WAHOO for responding to your customer’s needs. I’m going out right now to remove that second head unit mount whose sole purpose was the Garmin radar display

  18. Hkgmatt

    Finally. This is great Wahoo!

  19. Dom

    Does the Wahoo also form a “network” of radars? I.e. on the Garmin if 2 riders have the radars, they form a network (assuming everyone turns the head unit on at the same time and close to each other) and thus even in a group when the view from my radar is obstructed by other riders, the head units pick up a car coming on the base of another radar having seen it unobstructed.

  20. Fredrik

    I just tested and it works perfectly with the Bolt. But it only works when the light on the Varia is shining which is a shame. This consumes a lot more battery. In the middle of the day in the middle of summer I would love to have longer battery life for really long rides.

    On Garmin units the radar works even when the light is switched off. Maybe it is a case of missing Ant+ Light support?

    • Jay

      Surely that shouldn’t be the case. Maybe Ray can test this and Wahoo can fix it?

    • Edward Ng

      Are you saying it only works on solid light mode, and not on blinky light mode? Or are you saying it works in solid light mode and also in blinky light mode, but not in zero light mode?

      -Ed

    • Brian

      It works just fine in blinky light mode. But zero light mode makes it disconnect.

      I’ve gotten to where I always run lights. But I can see the value in having the option to not have the light on.

    • Jay

      Are you sure it works on Edge computers if the light is off?

      According to the manual (page 4), the radar only works, when the light is on (flashing or solid)!
      link to static.garmin.com

    • Jay

      Are you sure it works on Edge computers if the light is off?

      According to manual page 4 it doesn’t, only if the solid or flashing light is on!

      link to static.garmin.com

    • Fredrik

      Yep, I run it almost exclusively with the light off on my Edge in the summertime. Works fine, wakes up automatically when I turn on the Edge. I just turn off the light with the Ant+ light control widget on the head unit.

      When using the Bolt I have to turn it on with the button on the Varia. If I hit the button again, the light turn of and the radar disconnects (but with a blue blinking light indicating that the device is sleeping, not off).

    • JD

      Not clear why anyone would use a RTL510 without the light on. RTL = Rear Tail Light. 🙂
      What type of “really long rides” are you talking about?
      The RTL510 lasts up to 15 hours in daylight flash mode and 10 hours in steady on mode.
      Plus up to 5 months in standby mode (BT ready to pair) which is an odd feature to me..
      .

    • Wahoo Murray

      I believe this requires the ANT+ Light network, we don’t have support for this at the moment.

    • Jon Thompson

      Any word on if/when you’re going to have support for ANT+ Light network?

    • Wahoo Murray

      Not sure at this stage.

    • Fredrik

      @JD: I get your point of RTL = rear tail light, but I’ve got the RTL511. It complies with the German regulations banning flashing lights. Hence I only got the steady mode with leaving me with 10 hours battery life.

      And sure, most of my rides are shorter than this, but to having to charge the light between every ride is a pain in the rear. If it’s possible with en Edge it would be great to have the same possibilities on the Wahoo.

    • William

      I’m also interested in Radar On/Light Off implementation. In daytime group rides, lights can be a bit of a bother for the other riders.

  21. David E.

    Ray,

    Somewhat off topic, but not totally so: has your bottom line on the Roam shifted at all since your initial review? They’ve updated some of the mapping, right? Now, they’ve rolled out radar support. Is it becoming a more viable option? Or still overpriced and underwhelming?

    • By and large, no, no shift.

      It’s simply just overpriced at $379. If it were $299, I think we could all have a legit conversation about it. But there’s nothing that’s shown it to be anymore stable than the Edge 530/830 for the vast majority of people (which is sorta the benchmark that people are holding it up over Garmin). Obviously, it’s far short on features.

      I’d strongly recommend they reduce price to $299 (or lower) and watch sales skyrocket.

    • Jay

      “I’d strongly recommend they reduce price to $299 (or lower) and watch sales skyrocket.”

      I strongly support this! 🙂

      Would you agree that the Roam has (compared with 530)
      -a better display (easier to read)
      -better buttons
      -is louder
      -easier to set up
      -shows more data fields and can easily zoom in / out of data fields

      I think the 530 feature set is quite good, though some are (in my opinion) unnecessary, could be better (eg theft alarm is WAY too silent), but I’m a bit annoyed by its complexity (–> ease of use), don’t like the display that much and find it difficult to press the buttons while I’m riding.

      Garmin Connect has grown over the years to a massive monster that is an annoyance on any smartphone. Some features are well hidden. It needs a complete overhaul.

      And yet I completely agree with you, I’ve chosen a 530 because the Roam can’t justify it’s additional price.

    • Bruce Burkhalter

      Yeah, I’m a big Wahoo fan and want the Roam. But my ELEMNT works fine and $379 is a lot. I would be really tempted at $299. I probably would not get a 530. It is obviously nice but I really like the Wahoo UI and set up.

    • scottg

      The side leds with radar is nice on the Roam, but I still see no
      reason to change from the Bolt. Sold my Garmin.
      $125 for colour and a somewhat usable led strip isn’t a value proposition.

  22. Greg

    If you can’t hear the beep, get a Garmin watch and have it vibrate with the beep. Also transmit hr data, It’s a great addition when windy or loud

  23. Vince Cammarata

    Been hoping for Wahoo’s implementation for years. Thank you Wahoo Fitness. BTW- Just ordered the RT-510 from CleverTraining, after Ray’s article. Can’t wait.

  24. bremnet

    Any thoughts on Wahoo releasing it’s own radar light device?

  25. Glenn

    I want mine to turn off because the light isn’t strong enough – I have a Lupine Rottlicht to be seen. I want to save the battery on my (1st gen) radar, which is feebly using its charge to put out insufficient light in a different flash pattern to my main rear light. It’s an annoyance, but not enough to go back to a Garmin head unit.

  26. Andrew

    Is the pic below “And here’s what that looks like on the ELEMENT & BOLT:” correct?

    I don’t own one but i definitely want to buy one, just holding out till Xmas in case Wahoo release their own unit?
    In cold weather I sometimes ride with a beanie under helmet and hearing is impaired, so the ability to see how many cars are behind is invaluable. Still requires a head check before merging across lanes.

    Thanks for the detailed review Ray.

  27. Wahoo Murray

    Just a note to anyone speculating on if we are going to release our own ANT+ Radar… We have no plans. Sorry.

    • Pascal

      Since you now support Garmin Radar. Any news on the Tickr X going to finally support the running dynamics standard? I am one of those users really looking forward to this even though I have also a running pod from Garmin. Many thanks for your answer

    • Graeme

      Thanks for that Murray. Was holding out for an announcement, but if it’s not coming i’ll have to buy my first bit of Garmin kit! I’m a solo rider on mainly country roads that drivers consider to be their own private racetracks and have been waiting for this for some time.

      Should you decide to release one in the future, add a camera too that takes a photo of vehicles number plates as they get close, stamping an approximate speed on the image too. In a perfect world it’d never be needed, along with live tracking via your gps, or fall detection on a watch!

  28. Jon Thompson

    Any chance we can get ant+ light control and/or gopro control next?

  29. Cypher

    Wahoo SW DCR

    Shane’s video about radar support showed up and even Cycling tips send it via their newsletter.
    I personally don’t care about it and it is hard for me to understand why this is the most important/requested feature. Is there a vote where all customers can vote?
    I am curious how many radars Garmin sells in relation to bike computers. And how many Garmin users will switch to Wahoo for this. For me it is just hard to believe that this is what the majority of the user base wants.

    At the moment I feel totally lost as a customer regarding my needs.
    If Ray addresses features I like/need everything is fine like getting turn-by-turn navigation with Strava routes. Which I personally don’t need at all because I use Komoot on my Bolt and the way it is it’s 100% sufficient for me.
    If the DCR community puts pressure on stuff like radar support and I would need it, I would be happy like all the radar guys right now.

    If I might exaggerate: does that mean I don’t get a certain feature if no influencer or a social media angry mob wants it?

    One feature I liked on my Garmin was the timer alert. I set me a 10 to 15 minute timer (based on weather conditions) to remind me to drink something.
    When I switched to Wahoo I was surprised it is not there. Put in a support ticket 2 years ago asking about it. Let me summarize the answer: it’s asked a lot we will see. Nothing.
    Garmin now goes the next step and tells you how much of your water bottles you should trink now based on the activity. Very cool.
    Premium solution. Would be cool to have it on my Bolt but if just get a timer alert I would already be happy.

    Or maybe a newer example I came across the Strava Relive incident.
    I just started thinking if I want Strava as my backup for my rides and the answer is no. Ray mentioned he uses the Dropbox service. So I thought I try this out since I have a dusted Dropbox account. I understand now that Dropbox tries hard to sell me a subscription.
    So I thought ok let’s take Google Drive (which might be strange for a long time iOS user). But it is not there. Than I remembered that I pay for 50GB iCloud Drive. Won’t work either.
    So I wonder why the Companion App does not support the Apple file app on iOS? For me looks like one API and whatever data storage I have integrated (Google, Dropbox, Synology, …) i can use.

    I got the Bolt when it was released and I am still absolutely glad I bought it and don’t have a Garmin anymore.
    And even with the new features on the new Garmin 530/830 I will not go back.

    Because at the end Wahoo promises they do the turn by turn and radar support and they do it.
    I would just love to see some more care for the “small things”.

    Note: English is not my native language and I just want to maybe exaggerate some things but never wanted to insult anybody (calling Ray and Shane influence seems wrong to me but I hope you understand what I wanted to say).

  30. This is great news that they are now supporting Garmin radar.
    What I would really like to see is that they are also supporting Garmin remote or some other remote system which would allow people to change screens without having to take their hands off the handlebars.

    Once they did that – and other brands, that would immediately create a fantastic flexibility and mobility of device – for me, at any rate.

  31. Fred2

    Does charging the Wahoo head units cause the Radar to turn on, like when I’m charging my Edge 820? It’s annoying to have the Radar draining its battery in the garage while I’m charging my 820 in the house, though most of the time I charge both at the same time. I’m thinking I need put both units into separate lead boxes while I’m charging the head unit. (I also need something to muffle the beeping of the 820 while it is charging.)

  32. David Horn

    Fantastic news, thank you Wahoo! (and thanks Ray for the write-up).

    Just ordered a ROAM on the back of this announcement.

    • ChuckPDX

      …and I just ordered an RTL-510 for my Roam on the back of this announcement;-)
      …and I didn’t order my Roam until Wahoo promised they would add support for ANT+ radar.
      This is a win-win for both Wahoo and Garmin.

  33. “I’m not entirely sure if he had consulted Wahoo prior to that moment, but, it worked…and we’ll shortly have it on Wahoo devices. Perhaps a little bit of the sometimes better to ask for forgiveness and permission and all that. Things you learn in the corporate world on getting stuff done. #Winning”

    I only wish I was that powerful! 😀

    The Wahoo CEO and I did discuss getting workouts on Wahoo head units before I announced it.

  34. Mattv

    Somewhat unrelated question/comment:
    Why hasn’t someone released a viable real-time rear mounted camera that you can view on your head unit? I would pay a lot money for one that was actually useful. Is is battery life, display tech, or what? I know several niche players have tried this, but none were practical

    • Dan Kothlow

      GoPro, and an old iPhone in a QuadLock case or stem mount of some kind.
      Connect to the GoPro WiFi network.
      Would that work?
      I’m just spit-balling…

    • Andrew

      I tried using mobile connected to a Sony camera with built in WiFi. In bright sunlight it was impossible to easily distinguish what was moving on the mobile screen. It was pointless to rely on as it was guaranteed to fail at the exact time I needed a head check.

      I had another app related issue whereby the screen would not stay in landscape mode.
      Every time I hit a minor bump it would rotate even though the phone was set to landscape only.

      Obviously the app issue could be solved but the screen problem would probably require a
      tablet which is not a viable solution.

    • Brian

      They have starting back in 2007 with the Cervellum Hindsight 35 and 45. That company folded. Ray actually did a write up back in 2011: link to dcrainmaker.com

  35. Yagil

    It should be noted that if you have an Android phone, a great App called IPBike knows how to connect with the radar (and other sensors) and gives you more information than any other device I’ve tried:
    Distance, Time to contact, relative speed if I remember correctly, and other bike related statistics like speed and HR and cadence and elevation and incline and the list goes on forever. It takes some time to learn but it’s worth it (and the developer was nice and helped me with any technical issues I had).
    This app saved me a lot of headache when Iost my garmin 520.

  36. Wesley

    I was holding out for this feature and now I’ll buy the Wahoo Roam. It’s great that Garmin and Wahoo can work together. Win win.

  37. Jojoj

    Nice, ordered my Varia Vision on Monday, cant wait to test it. I am from Austria, but ordered the 510 in GB because the german (and austrian) STVO version sucks with no blinking, the power of the lights etc.

    I am riding often in the evening, and wear headphones. On my TT bike I am up to 48 km/h (flats no wind) and cant hear a car. And when riding on the 100mm front wheel its even more unsafe…
    Also on the road bike, they are passing me unexpected. And there are still a lot of car drivers out there, who doesn´t know whats written in law, how much difference they should have, while passing me. I already got 5 times hit by motorized vehicles, and it was allways their fault.

    Good thing to see, that Garmin and Co are working together for our road safety. and what are 180€ vs a chance of helping to survive. I hope and what I can also read here, its one of the best investments I did this year (next to my TT-Bike 😛 )

  38. dallas Kerley

    I have an original Element, can you actually hear the beep when riding?

    HDK

  39. Chris Ayres

    Where’s the bondage light control like on Garmin.

  40. Chris

    I’ve been using the separate Garmin Radar Head Unit and a Wahoo Bolt – happy that Wahoo finally supports the Varia so I can have one less device hanging on the front of my bike, haha.

    I think I may end up getting a Roam (for other reasons, too) – to me, it’s hard to see the radar strip and car position on the black and white Bolt screen. I feel like the color strip will be easier to glance at and see while riding.

  41. Brian C

    I purchased a Varia radar today after announcement of Wahoo support. There is a bug in their implementation. The varia supports 4 modes while on (1) solid beam, (2) pulsing beam (3) flashing light (4) light off but radar on. It appears that in the wahoo implementation, the bolt confuses mode 4, with off, even though the bolt is still connected to the Varia. They need to fix asap as the varia is too bright to use in group rides.

    • Brian

      Interesting, the web Manual mentioms solid (default), night flash, day flash and ‘standby’ mode. It also very specifically says standby mode does not detect vehicles.
      link to www8.garmin.com

      Also lists standby battery life as around 5 months. Honestly not sure what the point of standby mode is of it doesn’t detect cars…

      I don’t have a Garmin to compare with, but it seems like there is inconsistency with Garmin documentation and what functionality people actually experience.

      Here is exact wording:
      “Taillight Modes and Intensity
      The Varia™ RTL510 default light mode is solid. You can switch the device to night flash and day flash modes by pressing the device key. You can switch the device to standby mode by pressing the device key. The device does not detect vehicles in standby mode.

      Of course this is all contrary to Rays review and described functionality – which is a dangerous path to be on. But suffice it say I’m not really sure who is at fault on this one.

    • JD

      The RTL510 is either a light all on its own with modes as described controlled by button press, or the light is controlled by your GPS when radar is active and the light is paired.
      You can start the light manually in the default steady on mode and as soon as your GPS pairs flashing mode starts with frequency controlled by radar (proximity).
      You may be able to change this behavior with GPS settings but that is the default IME.

      5 month standby mode means the device is ready to pair if you allow the unit to remain “on” all the time. While the RTL510 turns radar and light off after a ride it remains “on” in standby mode unless you hold down the button to manually turn it off. I’d prefer off completely after X hours, but that is not an option.
      Periodically a blue light blinks when in standby mode. The advantage to standby mode is you can jump on your bike day to day, start your GPS, and the unit pairs automatically with flash control as soon as you press record on your GPS.

    • JF

      I don’t have a unit in front of me, but I don’t believe #4 exists. One problem I found with the unit is that many of the functions are hardware controlled. So for example, you can’t shut off the “switch to flash” when cars approach mode. I think there’s a light on, but radar off mode – not the other way around.

  42. Clive Wood

    Really informative review.
    One question on the mounting of the radar unit. Is performance affected by the angle of the mount? I ride with a relatively large toppeak saddle bag which covers the whole seat tube as a consequence my rear light fixes below on the frame. So wonder if the radar unit could be mounted on the rear stays?

  43. Tim

    Does Clever Training ever have a sale or discount-code scenario where the RTL-510 is not excluded?

  44. Jeff Johnston

    I cannot get the varia to pair to the elemnt bolt. Did Anyone have a problem like this. Do I need to update the varia?

  45. Robert Lerner

    all, I have been using both of the Radar units for the last two years, never loved the mount. Found this over the weekend and ordered it via Amazon. Will let you know how it works.

    corki Varia Mount for Garmin,Varia Rtl510 Radar Mount,Varia Rear Seatpost and Saddle Mount.

    Search for it on Amazon

    • Johan

      I have this exact adapter, and yes it works great. Two things to look out for:

      1) The white plastic part is tight at first, so when you connect it to the other part of a GoPro adapter, some white plastic shavings will come out. Then it fits well.

      2) It can loosen over time, so to really crank it down, you need one of those GoPro tightening wrenches, with the 4 little points like the GoPro tightening screw thingy.

  46. Dlow

    Hi everyone. I’ve been loving my ROAM (switched from Garmin 830 after they couldn’t get simple tracking right). That said, anyone else having problems downloading local maps? For the smaller ones like Vermont there are no issues. But downloading the 500mb Canadian map it never fully downloads? Oh and one more question: when all maps are removed how much available space/memory does the ROAM have? Mine is showing 1.1GB

  47. Scott Falconberry

    Now using the radar with my Bolt. Really nice! Audio alarm way louder than the 530, Reslly like the top LEDs changing color.
    A couple of uses that are not obvious:
    I often can hear a vehicle but can’t tell if it’s in front or behind me on hilly roads, which is most of my riding. The Varia/Bolt helps with this
    Also, if a car wants to pass me on a climb I judge slowing down or speeding up for the car to pass or not. Many cars just ignore the double yellow lines. Safer for everyone.
    BTW, I returned the 530 because the audio prompts were inaudible on the road.

  48. Tim Schmitt

    I’m in the camp who is a strong believer in the usefulness of the varia radar. Very handy but you wouldn’t necessarily expect that it would be so useful. Glad Wahoo added this feature – it was the one thing holding me back from switching to a Wahoo head unit.

  49. Hey folks – for those of you already using the radar, Wahoo has just added in the ability to customize icons for the radar imagery. I had a bit of fun. Dig into the details in my just posted piece on it: link to dcrainmaker.com

  50. Timothy

    Is there a way to toggle the radar on and off on the Element Bolt head-unit instead of the phone app? Thinking of the scenario where you start out in the city environment and it’s always alerting and then end up on rural roads and want it back on.

    • Brian

      Sure is… you can tap the power button to get to the menu, scroll down to radar, and under ‘more’ you can opt to mute it. Then undo later on.

      This will still show the sidebar and/or leds with cars, but no audio alerts.

  51. Claire_Anlage

    Is there any possibility to integrate the battery level of the varia as a data field? Thanks in advance 🙂