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Garmin Varia RTL515 and RVR315 Cycling Radar In-Depth Review


Like clock-work, two years after releasing the last version of the Garmin Varia radar, the company has released its now third generation version. While this new version looks identical from the outside, it’s not internally – sporting new features and compatibility. Oh, and actually: There’s two new radars. The second smaller new unit ditches the taillight in favor of a smaller form factor.

Both the new lights now include Bluetooth Smart connectivity, making it possible to not only see radar information on a new smartphone app, but it also enables 3rd party smartphone support too. At launch that includes RideWithGPS’s app, but will likely be expanded over time as other apps pick up support for it.

In addition to the Bluetooth Smart connectivity, battery life on the larger of the two units is slightly increased, while also adding a new ‘peloton mode’ that reduces the brightness of the steady-on light while you’re in a group, reducing the annoyance of those around you. Though, you’re not riding in tight groups right now anyway – right?

I’ve been using both units for a month or so now and have a pretty good grasp on all the nuances to them. Though, the TLDR version here is simply that if you’ve already got a Varia radar, there probably isn’t a major reason to upgrade. Whereas if you’re looking at one, then you’ll want to weigh whether these new features are worth it versus just getting one of the now-older ones on sale. Beyond the battery/Bluetooth/brightness tweaks, the radar works identically to the past.

Now – if you’re looking for all the new goodness in one tidy video, simply hit play below:

Oh – and I was sent these media loaner units to test these out. They’ll go back to Garmin here shortly and I’ll go out and buy my own through normal retail channels. If you found this review useful, hit up the links at the bottom of the post to support the site.

What’s in the box:


First up we’ve got the RTL515. If you’re a connoisseur of unboxings, you’ll be disappointed to know it’s virtually identical inside to that of the RTL510. And for that matter, aside from a few tiny text tweaks, the boxes are the same too!


Anyway, inside here’s all the parts in plastic bags…and then not in plastic bags:

DSC_4753 DSC_4754

You’ve got the radar to the left, which uses the standard Garmin quarter-turn mount. Then in the middle there’s the mounting bits for your seat post – notably, the Varia RTL515/RVR315 now include a third mounting option, for d-shaped seatposts (as well as an aero v-shaped one and a standard round one).

And at right is the micro-USB charging cable. I keep wondering: Maybe USB-C hasn’t made it to Kansas yet? Perhaps they’re just aficionado’s of the micro-USB cable? Do their MacBook’s have micro-USB ports on them instead? Just asking for a friend.


Aside from the RTL515 logo on the rear, there’s no visual difference between the RTL510 and RTL, save also the tiny Bluetooth icon etched inside the quarter-turn mount:


See, the side profiles:

DSC_4761 DSC_4762

In fact, the two units even weigh the same:

DSC_4768 DSC_4769

As for the RVR315, I’ve only got a white-box variant of it. But here’s the parts. It’s the same slate as up above:


The pod is obviously smaller than the RTL515, since it lacks a light. It’s about the same thickness/width however.

DSC_4776 DSC_4777

As for the weight, it saves there too – down to 49g:


And thus, your boxing experience has now concluded.

Getting Setup:


If you’re familiar with the existing RTL510, then everything you know is still true. Instead, all of the changes for the RTL515 are additive in nature. So you’d get the new smartphone app based compatibility via Bluetooth, the new peloton mode, and the slight increase in battery life. Now, I know that Garmin’s radar naming convention can be a bit higgledy piggledy, so, here’s a quick primer on all radar versions:

RTL = Rear Tail Light
RVR = Rear Varia Radar
RDU = Radar Display Unit

RVR315: Smaller Varia radar pod with ANT+ & Bluetooth, no taillight
New 3rd gen Varia radar taillight with ANT+ & Bluetooth
RTL516: New 3rd gen Varia radar taillight with ANT+ & Bluetooth [STVZO compliant for German market]
RTL510: 2nd gen Varia radar taillight with ANT+
RTL511: 2nd gen Varia radar taillight with ANT+ [STVZO compliant for German market]
RTL500: 1st gen Varia radar with ANT+ (looks rectangular)
RTL501: 1st gen Varia radar with ANT+ (looks rectangular) [STVZO compliant for German market]
RSP: Rhubarb Strawberry Pie
RDU: Varia display unit, the small dedicated display for when folks didn’t have a compatible display device

Here, simplified in one picture:


Anyway, back to the basics first, which is pairing it up to a non-phone display. To do that, you’ll crack open your Garmin Edge or almost any Garmin watch (or Wahoo ELEMNT series, or Hammerhead Karoo, or Stages L50/M50 units). Within that, you’ll search for a new sensor. However, before you do that, be sure you turn it on. We’ll start with the RTL515 first:


There’s also a pairing mode too – which allows you to pair the light side of things, though realistically the first time you power it on, it’ll be in that mode anyway. Pairing mode is indicated by a blinking purple light on the side. If for some reason you get yourself out of that mode, when turning it on, just hold the button a few more seconds to get in pairing mode.

Meanwhile, back on your Garmin/whatever, search for sensors. Some devices allow searching for a specific sensor type, in which case you can select ‘Radar’:


It’ll give you a quick warning page that you agree that it’s still not Garmin’s fault if a car hits you – even if the radar fails. Obviously, that’d likely be deleterious to your bike’s paint scheme.

At this point, for the RTL515 it’ll also form a light network. This is because the RTL515 is also an ANT+ enabled light, which follows the ANT+ standard on lights. Not all bike computer companies support ANT+ lights, so keep that in mind. In this case, it won’t adversely impact the radar side of the product if your Wahoo/Stages/Hammerhead doesn’t yet support ANT+ lights. You can still use the button on the side of the RTL515 to change the light modes.

Once everything is done, you’ll see the RTL515 listed in the devices twice. Once as a bike light (shown as ‘Lights’ below), and once as a radar (shown as ‘239111’. If you have other bike lights, you can add them into the network (or you may have added the RTL515 into your existing network):


Next, if we crack open the paired radar device we can see on the first page the ANT+ ID as the name. We can change this to whatever we want (such as naming it RTL515). Meanwhile, if you hit sensor details you can go into alert settings:

DSC_4808 DSC_4809

This allows us to customize which side the vehicle column is displayed on. Some people might prefer it on the left versus right, and it’ll allow you to change to a single tone versus the multi-tone (or off). I personally prefer the multi-tone, since it’s a unique alert indicating a car (versus just a navigational alert). And you can turn the color overlays on or off:

DSC_4810 DSC_4814

That’s it for setup!

Meanwhile, back on the RVR315, the steps are nearly identical – except you don’t have the bike light piece. So again, go into the sensor pairing menu and search for a radar sensor. Oh, wait, don’t forget to turn it on! You can tell that by the barely visible light on the side where that black dot is:


Ok, now search for the sensor:


Just like before, if we crack open the paired radar device we can see on the first page the ANT+ ID as the name (126486). We can change this to whatever we want (such as naming it RVR315). Meanwhile, if you hit sensor details you can go into alert settings:

DSC_4827 DSC_4828

This allows us to customize which side the vehicle column is displayed on. Some people might prefer it on the left versus right, and it’ll allow you to change to a single tone versus the multi-tone (or off). I personally prefer the multi-tone, since it’s a unique alert indicating a car (versus just a navigational alert). And you can turn the color overlays on or off:

DSC_4830 DSC_4831

As for mounting it, the box comes with a seat post mount and three different adjustment shims, depending on the type of seat post you have. For example, one of them works with aero seat posts that are more v-like. Whereas the others can be used for different seat post types. I just used the normal one:


The industrial strength band holds the whole thing on the seat post without issue. You can however get other 3rd party mounts if you lack a good seat post spot (for example if bags or a child seat is blocking it). There’s even metal ones for your saddle you can buy too. And plenty of people have devised nifty 3D printed options up on Shapeways also. Or, you can just get creative with some spare parts and make your own mount out of zip ties. Here’s how I attached it to the back of the cargo bike, well, technically, to the back of the rear kid’s seat:

DSC_4910 DSC_4914

And here’s using the v-shaped one on my Cervelo P3C:

Ok, now we’re ready to head outside. I mean, I guess you could use this inside too. In fact, it works just fine in tunnels. Been there, done that.

Out on the Road:


The singular point of the Varia radar is to tell you cars are approaching from behind. It only points backwards, and will only tell you of cars overtaking you. Except, that’s actually not super accurate. It’s going to tell you about – anything – overtaking you. That’s notable if you’re pedaling next to a high-speed rail line and you get the ‘high speed danger’ Varia alert about 1 second before the cavernous sound of the train flies past. You may or may not crap yourself.

The point being – Varia doesn’t have some magic that only accounts for cars, or trucks. Instead, it’s trying to warn you of anything that’s about to pass you. Here in the Netherlands, it’s actually far more common for a moped (or e-cyclist) to overtake you than a car, because the bike path infrastructure is so good. But both are still valid things to want to know about.

So, the way it works is that once powered on, the radar will start tracking objects approaching you. Each car/bike/train/plane/charging cow (I’m just gonna call them cars for the sake of explanation), will show up as an individual object on your screen:


As you can see above, the edges of my screen turn a yellow-orange color – indicating a normal overtake speed. Note, this is not the true speed of the car, but rather the difference in speed between you and the car. Each dot indicates a separate car. Though, if traffic is heavy enough, cars can ‘hide’ other cars’. But I think at that point the warning is still valid: A car is behind you.


Now, if a vehicle is approaching fast enough (relative to your speed), it’ll trigger a red warning as well as a slightly different tone. This is your ‘Danger, Will Robinson’ warning.  Or, it could be a train on the tracks next to you.


Speaking of which, the official stated range of the radar is 140 meters. Meaning, it’ll pick up moving objects that far behind you. In most cases, I found that to easily be the case on clear roads. If you’ve got structures (due to winding roads), then obviously, that’s going to impact radar. Which is why my train came at the last second – a concrete wall and grove of trees was obstructing things until the last moment.

Now, once a car completes its pass, the screen will turn green – indicating no further traffic is behind you:


If a car turns off the road, it’ll do the same as well.

In any case, in the other notable item is that in the upper right corner you’ll see the white little wifi-looking icon illuminated. This means that radar is on/activated. If this goes away (or the radar disconnects, such as due to running out of battery), then the Garmin will warn you that the radar is no longer connected. It’ll say radar disconnected and you can see the icon is red in the upper right corner.


Brief Sidebar: This is a good time to point out that Garmin does make a standalone handlebar display unit. I’m honestly not sure who actually buys that thing in the RTL515/RVR315 world, since you could almost buy an entire cheap Edge 25 bike computer from Garmin for less than it costs.  But, just in case you wanted to see it…here it is:

Note that the latest (2nd) generation handlebar unit now has audible alerts. The first generation didn’t have an audio alert, it was only visual. The second version has audio alerts, that part number is 010-12384-10. Garmin isn’t doing any bundles with the RDU at this point.

So – in general, where do I find the radar capability useful? Well – mostly out of the city. As I’ve said for half a decade now, it’s mostly useless inside a city where cars are passing every three seconds. You just become numb to it. However, outside the city where car passes are more rare, it’s far more useful. I use it on country roads, and also (when travel allows) on mountain roads. I find the mountain roads super useful because during fast descents I can’t hear the cars behind me – but the radar can see them. And since I don’t tend to want to turn my head around for long periods of time during a twisty descent, it’s perfect to help me judge whether I should let a car pass or not.


In my case, I’m lucky that car traffic simply isn’t an issue for the vast majority of places I ride. As I peregrinate from windmill to windmill on quiet canal-lined bike paths, cars frankly aren’t a major concern here for cyclists. Even this map that shows all my recent radar interactions, is slightly misleading because almost all the vehicle radar location points are actually grade-separated bike paths.  This entire 54KM route only saw 27 cars in total, and yet of those, less than 10 were actually on the same road as me (the rest were next to me which the radar will pick up).


Still, I do find it useful. It’s helpful when you’re riding for long periods of time without a car to ‘snap’ you out of that tranquility and ensure that you’re where you need to be on the road.

As for false-positives? I’m just not having any. It’s as simple as that. The closest I get to a false-positive is a moped or fast moving e-biker overtaking me. But again, those aren’t really false-positives. You want to know those things are there. I had one normal road cyclist trigger an alert – but again, that’s also logical.  It will not trigger if others in your group are riding with you at the same speed (or roughly the same speed). I haven’t been able to re-test that much lately though given restrictions.

Phone App Compatibility:


There are few apps in the world that are as simplistic as the Garmin Varia Radar app. Seriously, this section won’t take long. This app is meant to be used instead of a dedicated bike computer. For example, many people might commute or ride without a dedicated bike computer (such as myself). In that case, I do have a simple phone mount on my commuting/city/cargo bikes that I can snap my phone in, which would allow me to use this app instead.

Once the app is installed, it’ll give you two pages of informational stuffs:

IMG_0555 IMG_0556

After you’ve confirmed it, it’ll pair it up:

IMG_0557 IMG_0560

You can tap the ‘…’in the upper right corner to see which device is paired (you can save multiple devices), as well as enable/disable both sounds or vibrations.

And…you’re done. To use it, back on the main screen you’ll see a long…umm…rectangle…with a slightly tapered tip, that indicates the traffic behind you. At the top it’ll show green when clear, yellow when a car is there, and red when a fast-moving car is there – just like it would on a Garmin device:

IMG_0559 IMG_0572 vlcsnap-2020-05-13-00h14m32s846

With the red danger warning cars, you also get a squiggly line, which Garmin says is done to help make it super-clear that’s a danger car, which also assists those with color blindness.

And that’s all there is to know about it. It’s just a super simplistic version of the dedicated bike computer app.

Except wait – there’s more! There’s non-Garmin apps too now! With the new Bluetooth connectivity in the Varia RTL515 and RVR315, apps can connect to the radar. It’s not an open standard at this point, but apps can request access from Garmin to get the SDK information to talk to the radar. Hopefully they find a way to either make it a standard, or just publish the specs on a website somewhere and let apps do their magic (which is exactly how it’d work in a standard profile).

The first app to do so is RideWithGPS. To pair up your Varia Radar to it, go into Settings > Bluetooth & Sensors > Set up Varia Radar > Pair:

IMG_0562 IMG_0563

Note that you can’t have it concurrently connected to another app at the same time. Paired yes, but actively open/used…no. So if you have the Garmin Varia radar app open, you’ll just need to close that first. You can however have both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart connected concurrently (meaning, you can use one phone app and unlimited ANT+ connections). Once paired, it has both audio alerts and the ability to change which side of the app the vehicle track is on:

IMG_0564 IMG_0566

Now when you go out and ride you’ll see the common Varia radar track along the left side. You’ll also notice the little icon indicating an active radar connection, and of course, car details too – even with small markers showing how far back the car is distance-wise (in my case, my app is in US Statute, so it’s showing feet). Below at left you see what it shows when no cars are present (grey along the left). Whereas at right it shows the red for high-speed cars:

vlcsnap-2020-05-13-00h18m32s238 vlcsnap-2020-05-13-00h18m55s203

And then below at left we see green, which means there are cars.

Wait, what?

Yes, for real. They used green not to indicate ‘all clear’ (like every other device on the market), but instead to indicate ‘warning, cars abound!’. Umm. Ok.

Meanwhile, at right, they use amber to indicate disconnection of the radar.

vlcsnap-2020-05-13-00h18m27s476 vlcsnap-2020-05-13-00h18m36s652

Honestly, I don’t really get it. Everyone should follow the same conventions here. Garmin, Wahoo, Stages, Hammerhead – they all use the same color scheme for good reason: It’s logical. Green is ‘all good now’, red is really bad, and amber is be aware, and grey/empty is no cars nearby. Everyone understands it. Hopefully it’s something RideWithGPS can tweak. I think the metrics on the side is kinda neat – so that’s unique. But again, it’s early days here – so no hard feelings if they change it by tomorrow morning.

Now, extending this, how cool would this concept be in other apps? You know, like perhaps Strava. Oh, that’s right – they killed off sensor support. Never mind, my bad. They’re now nothing but a gongoozler in the app-sensor world.

Bike Computer Compatibility:

Now the Varia Radar is actually built atop an open-standard, technically the ANT+ Cycling Radar device profile. That means that other 3rd party companies can implement it in their bike computers or watches (or whatever) without ever talking to Garmin. And indeed, a few have to date. I’m not going to rehash all of those implementations in this post, since I’ve already written about them. Instead, you can go check them out in the following links.

Note that virtually all of these companies implement it almost identical – which I think is a good thing. The way the information is displayed is simplistic, easy to understand, and doesn’t need to be overengineered. Having consistency in safety UI design is good.

First up, was Wahoo implementing the Varia radar profile last spring. The only difference there is that with some creativity you can change cars to any icon you’d like. Such as trains…or chickens.

Then there was Hammerhead with the Karoo last fall:

And finally, there was Stages with their newer Stages L50 and M50 GPS computers this past December:

Sigma has talked about adding support as well. Note that none of these however support the ANT+ light networks yet. That means that it won’t automatically turn on/off your RTL510/515 when you turn on/off your bike computer. Nor can you control light intensity from your bike computer. But hey, no biggie at this point in my mind.

RTL515 Taillight Functions:


The RTL515, like the RTL510 before it, functions as an ANT+ connected bike light as well. This means that the light functions (including intensity and blinking) can be automatically controlled from your Garmin. If you didn’t add it as a light device earlier on, then go ahead and do that back in the setup section.

Once that’s done you’ll see the light as part of the light network in your sensor listing:


The default light mode for the RTL515 is a solid light, but you can change it to either a night flash or day flash mode. By doing so you save yourself considerable battery. Remember that chart on the side of the box.


The battery is up to 16 hours in day flash mode, whereas only 6 hours in solid mode or night-flash mode. Peloton mode gets you to 8 hours. The claimed distance that the 60 lumen lights are visible is up to a mile away.

You can iterate through the modes by pressing the top button. To summarize, they are as follows:

1) Solid always-on mode – 20 lumens
2) Solid lower-brightness peloton mode – 8 lumens
3) Pulsing higher brightness day flash mode – 65 lumens
4) Night flash mode – 29 lumens

I show all of these modes in the main video, if you want to get a feel for what they look like visually. Once you open the lights sensor in your sensor listings, you’ll see additional options:


The idea here is that you can control multiple lights, which is what the ‘network’ refers to. So you can pick up an ANT+ front light (from non-Garmin companies too, including Cycliq, Bontrager, and See.Sense), add those in – automatically turning them on all together, or having their settings changed in concert.

For example, under ‘Network Options’, you can tweak which light modes would be used.


My favorite though is the ‘Light Beam Activated’ option, which basically quietly connects to your light in the background, but lets you not actually turn it on till you start your ride timer:


You can also test lights in there too. Meanwhile, back on the main light network page you can open individual lights and view settings about them. Mostly though, you can adjust the exact intensity/light pattern.

However, most of the times you won’t live in the settings panel. Instead, mid-ride you can adjust these from the status option. It’s not quite as intuitive as Bontrager’s light control panel Connect IQ app, but it works. It’s easier with touchscreen interfaces like those on the Edge 1030 or Edge 830.


Again, the main thing here is overall control. And for me, the real benefit is simply that it turns my radar on and off automatically when I start my Garmin. Simplicity is key.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here ya go, based on half a decade of Varia radar questions, I’ve cultivated the most common things folks tend to ask. Plus a few new ones here for the RTL515 and RVR315.

What’s the difference between the newer RTL515 and the older RTL510 again, they look identical?

While externally identical, the RTL515 has Bluetooth connectivity for apps, and a new lessened steady ‘Peloton’ mode for group riding. Also, it has 1hr extra battery compared to the RTL510.

What’s the difference between the RTL515 and the RVR315?

The RVR315 doesn’t include a light. They removed that and basically just gave you the radar bit. This is useful if you already have a light. For example, my cargo bike already has a light built into it. As does my wife’s e-bike. And my around town city bike. Just give me the radar and call it done. Though, you only get 7 hours of battery with the RVR315.

Wait, how much do they cost again?

The RTL515 is $199, the RVR315 is $149. The RTL510 (the older one) has been on sale most of the last few months for $129USD.

How do I turn peloton mode on?

You’ll simply press the upper button on the top of the RTL515, and it’ll go into the lower-brightness steady option.

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 is 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).

Why don’t you just use a $15 bike mirror?

Sure, you can. Though, a mirror does require you to be constantly looking at the mirror. Not a big deal with peripheral vision – but still, it does require that versus the audible tones here.  To each their own. The mirror vs Varia radar debate honestly ended five years ago. Just like politics, neither side will agree and no further points can be assigned to either side.

Can Varia be used as a standalone taillight?

Sure.  Both the Varia RTL510 and RTL515 can be used that way, but not the RVR315 (since it doesn’t have a taillight at all).  For the RTL510/515, you can actually pair it as a ANT+ light in addition to an ANT+ radar unit. That has the advantage of then accessing it within the ANT+ lighting control center, which in turn means you can have the unit turn on/off automatically when you power on/off your Garmin.

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.  If in the default mode of solid-on/red, then pressing it once will go to a very slow/faint pulsing.  Pressing it again will go to a double-blink of sorts. Pressing it one more time will power off the light, but leave on the radar.  And pressing it one last time will bring it back to solid red.

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).  I did that for most of my rides with the new RTL515 – it was paired concurrently to an Edge 530, 830, Fenix 6, and even an older Edge 520 Plus at one point too.  This could also be interesting for tandem bikes where each rider has their own head unit. I’ve also tried it with both a Wahoo ROAM and a Hammerhead Karoo.

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.  Also, with the red light aspect (albeit not on the RVR315), you’d be confusing cars that believe they’re overtaking you – especially at night when it’s harder to know the direction of travel of a cyclist in the dark. Plus, since your travelling forward it dramatically increases the ‘overtake’ speed, so every car would likely be categorized as a high-speed car (with the higher danger/alert warning). In other words, no, just don’t do it.



The RTL515 is a modest upgrade over the RTL510. If you’re in the market for a Garmin Varia radar, then it’s certainly worth weighing the slight uptick in new features, primarily if you think you might utilize the app-based connectivity (sans-bike computer basically). The added battery is basically a wash, being only one hour more. Whether or not you ride with friends that are annoyed by the rear taillight enough to want the new peloton light mode probably depends on where you live. If your locale is primarily dark/dreary/rainy, then it’ll mean more to you. Whereas if you live in a bright and sunny place, you probably never noticed.

As for the RVR315, from a radar standpoint it’s perfectly functional. It does exactly what the box says and exactly what the RTL515 does…minus the light. I’d have really liked to have seen Garmin price the RVR315 at $99 – which I think would have significantly expanded radar adoption – in the same way the recent RTL510 price drop to $129 did. They sold like hotcakes at that price. Heck, maybe the RVR315 should be $129.

Pricing aside – if you or your bike already has a taillight that you like, then it’s worth considering the RVR315. Though, keep in mind at less than half the battery-life of the RTL515, you’re sacrificing more than just the light.

Ultimately – whether or not this product fits your needs hasn’t changed much from the previous two versions. It’s largely going to depend on where you ride, and whether vehicle traffic is a real concern on those roads or not. As other non-Garmin players have added support for the Varia radar units in the past year, we’ve seen adoption really start to increase. Hopefully that trend can continue, and maybe we’ll even see some interesting ways people can leverage that data for route planning purposes or beyond. More on that soon.

With that – thanks for reading!

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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 Taillight RTL515
Garmin Varia Radar-only RVR315

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Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.

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  1. Laurent

    Bonjour Rai, à quand un varia avec caméra (comme la cycliq fly 6)?

    • Chris

      I wonder if the Bluetooth connectivity would allow you to pair this with a camera like the fly 6, in time? Also, I’m wondering if the radar captures distance/position as the car overtakes? I’d love to see a solution to automatically capture close passes and speeding cars and generate footage through a cycliq or similar, sending it to an app with location and time of day. Something that I can just easily cut and paste into a form (many police forces in the UK have forms to submit footage like this, but you need to get the footage out promptly).

    • I’ve always been surprised Garmin hasn’t introduced a Cycliq-like product. They’ve had countless years and way more tools than Cycliq has had (meaning, they had/have an action camera line).

      I wonder though if perhaps we’ll see some creative individuals do stuff with overlays and being able to grab the radar data (which can include car speeds too), and then merging an action camera. One can hope!

      Still clunky though.

    • Sam

      Sounds like a fun week-end project cobbled with the SDK, hoping to order this ASAP to look if that’s possible..

      I am thinking an android app on a cheap small android phone with enough sd storage mounted with the varia and automatically start to record a 5s video when it receives an event.

      It probably doable via ANT and some phones like oneplus, samsung but i don’t know any cheap brand that has ant chipset…

      anyhoo i am now excited for my weekend project 😀

    • Matthew

      I don’t think you’re going to get the results you want. From the way that the Varia presents its data, I hypothesize that it’s working on some sort of Doppler radar. That is, it measures speed towards or away from you, but not the bearing/angle to the car.

      Think of it this way, which is more dangerous to you? A car going twenty mph over the speed limit, or a car going the speed limit, but with two wheels over the fog line and into the shoulder?

      The cars you care about most as a Fly6 user are the ones with no angular rate, indicating an impending collision, and that the video should start recording. But the Varia radar won’t be able to detect that.

    • John Metz

      There is an IQ app that captures the Varia data in the activity file and you can then view the data at link to mybiketraffic.com. Speeds do not seem accurate but I do find car counts interesting.

    • Doug Goglia

      I would instantly purchase a Varia with a safety camera built in. I figure that Cycliq has to have patent protection, or Garmin or other bigger players would have entered that market segment pretty quickly given the initial reception the Cycliq products received, and the apparent reliability issues with Cycliq products and the reports of poor customer service that followed (see comments following link to dcrainmaker.com). A Cycliq Investor Presentation references a number of Australian, Japanese, and U.K. Patents (link to asx.com.au at p. 19). I did a few quick word searches of the USPTO database and didn’t see a US Patent or Patent application. But it was a very rudimentary search.

    • Chris

      I wonder if you could pair it with a 3D ToF sensor, or even use one on its own, to get enough information. Will be interesting to see the next iPhone’s camera array. I don’t know enough about the various sensor technologies but it seems like this should be a solvable problem, with the help of some computer vision at least.

    • Thomas

      hi John, what is the name of that app?
      i found a widget controlling light, a data field showing batteries. not more.

    • Anders Majland

      I ride with a Corky rear view mirror. With a regular glance i now when traffic is approaching on small roads where the wind noise prohibit me from hearing them until they are to close for comfort

      A few month ago when Cycliq had a sale going on i was temped but ended up with a few emails back’n’forth about features. The idea of the Fly series is _strictly_ to document near misses or accidents. They don’t think that it is a good idea with a screen up front to distract you. Quote:”. Mainly because we think that this can pose a danger when you take a peek at your phone while riding. We would want you to keep your eye on the road and have your Fly6 watch your back and Fly12 in front.”

      But i would rather use the camera instead og my rear view mirror – Preferrably with traffic warnings.
      With a camera you don’t really need the radar since you can detect dangers and warn about them. But at a reasonable price i would really like the combination of the fly6/fly12 and garmin radar.

    • Andrew

      I’ve tried using an action camera streamed to mobile and it has 2 major flaws.
      1) No audio or vibration alert.
      2) Screen is not visible in bright sunlight.
      I agree with Cycliq that you need to be looking at the road and not the screen.
      The Garmin Varia is a situational awareness device, it simply tells you that traffic is approaching.

  2. Jan

    Great review as always, thank you. Do you know if there is any chance for the older 510 to also get the Peloton light mode?

    • Not sure. I agree though that I’d think a simple brightness setting would be relatively easily delivered via firmware update. I’ll ask.

    • Jan

      That is my hope as well. Thank you for passing the question along!

    • Eli

      I’d love that feature to come with a firmware update.

      On a group ride I usually do after work they don’t allow blinking lights cause it’s way too distracting when it starts getting dark and the person behind you has to deal with a bright blinking light ruining their ability to see. (Everyone is closely drafting each other)

    • Roland

      there is a lower intensity pulsing mode on my 510, I think on the edge its called night strobe or something like that.

    • Andrew M

      Waiting for your follow-up on this.

      I’ve shared the ANT+ connection on my 510 to buddies on some night-time pacelines. The screen warning was appreciated. The brightness of the lights was not.

    • Neil Jones

      I was thinking “peloton” in terms of the litigation-happy exercise bike and was wondering why the heck that needed a light, never mind a radar and a dedicated mode. Maybe have it pulse to the music or your HR? Go Peloton!

      I get it now though 🙂

    • John Reinke

      I headed to the comments section to ask if this could be a future firmware update for the 510 as well.

    • Jason

      Ha, only went to the comments to post exactly the same question. Please keep us updated. It has often been asked for, its easy to implement with a firmware update, so if Garmin can’t deliver it (please custom brightness, ideally custom light Settings depending on brightness of the environment!), its simply because they don’t want to provide more customer satisfaction

  3. Alan

    “Will the Varia prevent a car from hitting me?

    Simply put: No.”

    Is that a real question?

  4. Neil Jones

    One of my most-valued bike gadgets. The one thing I do miss from the original RTL 500 with the 510 I now have (and presumably the 515) is the proximity warning to following drivers – basically as the following vehicle got closer to you, the brighter/faster your rear light would become. Sort of “(here I am). Here I am. HERE I AM!!!”

    • It blinks as the car approaches. But the original was a bit more purposeful about it.

    • Kris

      It doesn’t start flashing however (as far as I can tell) if the light is off so only the Radar is in use.

    • Gary P

      Now that there’s a stand-alone radar unit, I wonder if there’s the possibility of programming the “approach warning flash” feature for specific 3rd party lights through a IQ connect app. A Varia Radar/ Bontrager Flare RT combo would be magic, assuming the Flare could react to approaching traffic like the RLT 500/510/515.

    • Patrick

      I was going to make this same comment.

      What’s the point of the light network otherwise? My Flare RT has been in a drawer since last fall. I would geek out with two tail lights if there was some sort of reactionary party-time-disco-lights-slow-the-F-down option in conjunction with either radar unit.

    • Stefan Gründel

      Do you know if this is also true for the German version? Probably not, as German StVZO does not allow blinking bike lights 🙁

  5. davie

    Ray, I think you are being a bit harsh on Garmin. after all, USB-C has only been around for 4 whole years and adopted by every single phone and PC manufacturer. Maybe Garmin too focused on releasing broken firmware updates and infuriating loyal Tacx customers to adopt this crazy new standard.

    • Sam

      Isnt there an high cost on USBC compared to micro usb ? although for the price we pay for those devices they could indulge us those….

    • Gary P

      Ray, you poke a little fun at Garmin every time the release another new device with micro USB. Have you ever asked them for an explanation why they continue to use the older connector? Maybe there’s a logical reason besides a few pennies per unit saved, or “one time, years ago, we meant to order 10,000 of micro USB connectors, but accidentally ordered 10,000 cases.”

    • Last time I asked they said it was because more people had micro-USB cables than USB-C cables, and that there wasn’t significant speed gains to be made on data transfers since file sizes were so small.

      Personally, I don’t care about speed. I care about strength of the port. I’m tired of breaking Garmin micro-USB ports.

    • randy

      Every new device uses USB-C, so there is no reason for MicroUSB. I have MicroUSB cables only for stupid Garmin devices. Anyway, Garmin released a device equipped with USB-C recently link to buy.garmin.com and I thought it is their new standard…I was so wrong…

    • John Reinke

      While I like and prefer the USB-C connector, I think it was a good call on the part of Garmin.

      I only have a phone and a Chromebook with USB-C. All my other devices (including recently purchased items) still use micro-USB for connecting and recharging: power banks/phone chargers, Bluetooth headsets, Bluetooth speakers.. Heck, even my wireless guitar system recharges with a micro-USB cable.

      In my experience, USB-C isn’t ubiquitous quite yet, but hopefully it will be in the next year or two.

    • randy

      Today I went to Lidl (german discount supermarket chain widely spread out across Europe) and found their cheap battery powered grass trimmer with USB-C link to youtube.com (version A2 uses USB-C, A1 released in year 2019 MicroUSB). It is really shame for Garmin. To be honest, I would upgrade mine radar just due USB-C that I have on all other devices. But what do you want to expect from a company that still uses Mini USB on some devices and Windows XP in presentation videos link to youtube.com

    • That’s officially the most amazing USB-C device I’ve seen yet.

    • PeterF

      Plus the convenience of a symmetrical plug. No longer that you get the plug in on the 3rd try.

      And +5 if they would actually implement USB-C PD (power delivery) with say 18W charging. That would actually make this radar useful to me (riding 200-600km brevets is my cycling hobby)

    • JayDee

      There is exactly zero devices with USB-C in my household, while there are 10+ with MicroUSB. Not everyone buys new electronics every year (actually I hope that most people don’t do that).

  6. Robin White

    Does it connect to any of the gramin watches by ANT or BLE?

    • Robin White

      answered my own question there…
      Yes it does.

    • Indeed, a non-comprehensive list would roughly be:

      – Fenix 5/5Plus/6 Series (and Fenix-like watches such as D2 Delta/Chronos/MARQ/Tactix Charlie/etc…)
      – Forerunner 735XT/935/945
      – Vivoactive 3/Vivoactive 3 Music/Vivoactive 4/Venu
      – Vivoactive HR

      And I’m sure I’m forgetting other watches.

    • Grégoire

      Do you have an example of how usefull this is on for example a Forerunner 945 ?
      I don’t have a bike computer and use my watch also for cycling.

      Thank you very much.

  7. ArT

    Model RVR315 failure. I was waiting for the version without the light for long rides. I thought it would last 24h. 7h is laughter.

    • Yeah, I was hoping for a bit more battery life too.

    • Neil Jones

      On the battery issue – the low battery warning on these comes far too late, in my experience the light dies on me about 10 mins after the warning. In terms of being able to do anything when you get the warning (apart from know you’re soon going to be riding without a rear light/radar), that’s pretty unhelpful.

    • GLT

      Agree that longer battery life out-of-the-box would have been attractive. Would be great if future products supported run-while-charging on the logic board & USB port location.

    • Dan Kothlow

      Run while charging would be great, I agree.

    • Henrik Roslund

      I deeply miss the Run on Charging function on my Varia. They have it on the Edge-units.
      Can the new Varias be on during charging?

  8. Vladimir Gorbunov

    Thank you for this review. I started thinking about this radar not long ago, after a ride with my child, towed behind with FollowMe. It was on a straight road between small towns, with scarce, but high speed traffic. In strong headwind, it’s impossible to hear the approaching cars until it’s too late to react. In the meantime, my helmet mirror didn’t help too much, because the cars approached way too quickly, so I had to look into mirror ALL THE TIME. A radar could have helped me.

    The question is: can I just connect the radar to smartphone, put it into jacket pocket and listen to audible signals only?

  9. Ian

    Nice article, I love my RTL510. I don’t ride without it. It would be nice if they added the low brightness Peleton mode to the older firmware.

    By the way, it is definitely SRP not RSP, back here in the states at least. Still delicious w/ some VIC on top.

  10. David Horn

    The Varia radar is the epitome of the “thing you didn’t know you needed until you get one”. All my rides are on quiet roads that have a 60mph limit (and with the lockdown that’s seen speeds go up to 70-80mph in the UK).

    Getting a heads up that a car is approaching at speed when you have the wind in your ears is a lifesaver, and you can make the decision to take the lane or get ready to dive to the side if it’s a close pass. Also, if you’re riding side-by-side with a friend you can see a car approaching and drop into single file easily*.

    Even without the head unit it’s valuable on my shopping bike because it reacts autonomously to approaching traffic with a faster/brighter/angrier blink.

    * I know we shouldn’t have to do this but British drivers are some of the worst in the world.

    • ATate

      * I know we shouldn’t have to do this but British drivers are some of the worst in the world.


      Have you ever been to the States? I moved to the UK a year a half ago…and I don’t know what to tell you. British drivers are amazing (unless you’re a pedestrian, you guys suck when it comes to pedestrians…frightening!) and head and shoulder above US drivers….and it’s not even close.

      I agree with you on the radar, I’m up in a rural area in Cambridgeshire and I don’t ride with out my Varia. It was the same back home but absolutely an amazing piece of gear. I tell everyone I know about the this thing.

      My wife just got me the RTL510 for Christmas and I’m happy with it and was happy with the first version too, I’ll hold off on this one until my current one shits the bed.

  11. Eli

    Does peleton mode blink when no cars are behind or is it solid? A low intensity blink is still blinking and still annoying when in a group and also not allowed in some groups. (Think after work rides when it starts getting dark so the blinking light is very noticeable)

  12. Charlie

    I would be really interested in seeing this technology used in non drafting triathlons.
    Could be a game changer

  13. ArT

    DC Rainmaker

    5) Turn off the light (but the radar is still on) – no lumens for you

    not in test

    How much does 515 radar work when the light is off?

  14. Roland


    you are writing, that the Edge would turn off the light/radar if it is set up that way.
    does that really power down the device? e.g. can I just put my bike in the garage,
    save the ride and put the edge to sleep and walk away? Or would that still drain
    my radar unit?

    I’d of course turn off the radar when I’m not riding regularly, but lately I went out
    to ride every single day, so not having to turn on/off the radar would be nice.

  15. Toby

    As always a comprehensive review – thanks Ray. It might be time to upgrade my RTL500 to the 515 as it is constantly disconnecting from my 830. I can only assume the connection is much improved with this newer unit.

    • Eric Tiffany

      What firmware are you running on your 830? There was some traffic on the Edge 830 forum indicating that some 830 firmware had frequent radar disconnects. Of course, I was running my 830 with the “latest” 5.10 release firmware and never had any radar disconnects, but that was with a RTL510. So upgrading your radar might be the answer.

      I got a RTL510 on sale for my other bike; radar is such a game changer that I was scared shitless riding my other bike without radar.

  16. Martin

    Can’t find Garmin Varia Radar app for Android, it’s only for iOS?

  17. Matc

    Hey Ray. Great review as always. I just bought the RTL510 and the new one doesn’t sound like it’s worth ugprading. Heck, considering it’s frequently around 50% off it might even be the better alternative for most people.

    One note: you messed up the device names a little bit in the price part of the summary. I guess you were talking about the RTL510’s price drop to $129 and that the RTL515 should maybe priced at $129.

  18. usr

    /me off to trawl the preprint servers for papers on bovine radar cross section

    I find it very disappointing that the so-called peloton mode is still pulsating instead of “flat”, I find any form of electronic rear light variation super-annoying in a group. And pulsating is amongst the worst (much worse actually than e.g. hectic high-speed blinking), it completely ruins my confidence in reliably detecting actual speed and distance variations.

    • Good news: It’s actually not pulsing (Peloton mode). I had it written correctly in a number of places, but a typo in a few others. You can see the non-pulsing nature in the video too.

  19. Martin

    I use the radar with my Fenix 6 and a varia display(now discontinued). Works fantastic. Dots show up in peripheral vision just like on a head unit so you don’t have to look down.

  20. Rob

    I must be doing something wrong because my 510 radar doesn’t have a mode where the light is off but the radar is still on. The owners manual only lists solid, pulse and flash. Is this a setting one can only access if the unit is paired to a head unit with both the ant+ light and the radar?

    • Ahh, weird. On my 515 I can go to an off-mode, and the radar status light on the side continues to blink, but it doesn’t feed radar data to the ANT+ head unit. I hadn’t noticed that till now. Fixed up above. I’ll ask why that just can’t stay as an option – effectively becoming an RVR315.

    • Dan Kothlow

      I’ve tried and tried this on my 510, and never got it to work, even though many sites say it can be done. I’d love to have the 510 as a radar only since I prefer my Bontrager Flare rear light.

    • Andrew M


      To access this, you have to pair the Varia 510 as a light, and not as the default radar.

    • Rob

      Ahh. Ok, that makes sense. Wahoo head units can’t do that yet. Thanks.

    • Mathijs

      Yes! One of my frustrations also! Would be perfect if this could be done with a Wahoo, or just as a selection with the button on the radar itself. I really like the radar functionality, but don’t need the light all the time. For grouprides, I leave it at home for now*, because don’t want to bother anyone with a light.

      *that was ofcourse pre corona!

    • ben

      You can switch the light on and of while keeping the radar always on with the Data Field “Tail Light Field” on a Edge computers with touch display. link to apps.garmin.com

    • max


      The solution!

    • Jason

      So Touch Displays have an advantage after all 🙂

    • Ki Tat Chung

      An alternative to the Bontrager app and Tail Light Field data field is RadarLight widget. Useful for those of us not running touch screen Garmin head units or using a watch. Widget can be used to change light mode or turn the light off, while keeping the radar connected. Only caveat is that an activity needs to be running before it works. Works well with my OG RTL500 and Edge 530.

      link to apps.garmin.com

  21. Rick

    I just bought the RTL510 a week ago, so thankfully I saw this review and am able to return it in time =) The feeling of owning the old version would annoy me to no end if I kept it.

  22. Todd R

    Hi Ray! Would be great to see how this works on the garmin 945. I am curious how it displays the cars and colors. I often use my tri watch as a bike computer.

  23. Nathan B

    I love my 510. Swear by it.

    I’ve explained to people, it’s like going from a car with a rear view mirror to just side mirrors when driving.

    I would buy one of these for my old man who does 300 miles a week comuting, but he uses a Lezyne head unit unfortunately.

  24. jww

    Varia represents the best of Garmin IMO. Even putting aside the influencer review consistent theme of “everyone loves Varia, nobody ever complains,” it’s the open integration that goes above/beyond.

    Garmin could have easily closed off the standard to Wahoo etc to make more $$$, and has instead chosen the greater good option. Meanwhile, its competitors like the CLIMB accessory have backtracked on plans to integrate with competitor trainers despite no corresponding safety benefits. That continues to chap my arse a year later.

    Now this Varia Smartphone app & RidewithGPS opens up a whole nother can of worms, as for some commuter types, phones are going to be “good enough” bike computers. That decision will hurt the Edge business for edge cases.

    Love Garmin putting the cyclist – and by extension safety – over profits.

  25. Mikael Forslund

    Thanks for the nice review! In Sweden they sell the 511 and soon the 516 not the 510 or 515 but you can get all on the web. I am looking at which one to buy and do not have one to test. Can you please tell me:
    – Can you use all four of these 510, 511, 515 & 516 with lights off and radar on?
    – Can you set the light mode of a 510(15) to behave like a 511(516) steady light and no “driver alert” light mode?

    • Tom

      1) Yes. (Use Garmin device to pair as light and set light off.)
      2) This would be the peloton mode of the 515.

  26. Dave

    Do you see Garmin allowing any customization on the Edge units to the radar alerts, ala Wahoo etc? I’d love to have a Tie fighter or space alien instead of the boring old dot blinking at me as I ponder if I’m about to be squashed by something.

  27. James

    I bought the 510 (when it was on sale) and can’t believe I have been riding so long with out it. The 510 is easily the best price of electronic equipment I have on my bike. I have convinced a number of people to purchase the unit as well.

    As an experiment, in my last ride, the two other riders connected to my radar and it worked fantastic. We just had to remember that the dots were relative to my bike position.

    Question: do you ever see Garmin (or others) capturing the data from the Varia? I could see some useful applications as they could then overlay traffic counts and relative speed into routing information.

  28. Blake

    Seems like all the sales on the older model have tapered out. I don’t see them anywhere for $129? Thanks

  29. Michael

    Thanks for all the great information Ray.

    Just put this in the “swinging for the wall” category…

    Does the radar work when obstructed? Would be really cool to have a 315 form factor that would fit inside my seat post.

  30. Stuart

    Where’s the picture of the RSP? I’m a connoisseur 😉

  31. Saul

    I was hoping that Garmin will add video/dash cam function. Hopefully will add in the future

  32. Ric

    What about upgrading the front light (Varia UT800)?
    Do you expect a new one coming in the near future?

  33. Steve

    I know you mentioned it and then fixed the error, but it really makes me wish Garmin would put a radar only mode on the RTL510 and 515 now that the RVR315 is a product. I ride on a lot of paved trails, but there are enough ATV’s for trail maintenance and faster riders that it would be nice to have the feedback without blinding people.

  34. Claus Lücking

    Thanks for the review. Maybe you can answer this question: I am using Oticon Opn hearing aids connected to my iPhone using BT. Then I can hear music etc. in the hearing aids. Using the new radar and BT connection to an app – will the sound signals when the radar detects something from behind also be forwarded to the hearing aids (or other BT headphones)?

    • Hi Claus. Full disclosure, I work here at Ride with GPS, and wanted to hop in to answer your question. You can definitely pair your Bluetooth compatible hearing aid with our mobile app, along with the new Varia radar units, and get the radar audio alerts spoken through the hearing aid (along with our voice navigation if your are navigating with our app). We have many users currently pairing headphones/hearing aids in conjunction with our voice navigation.

      Any additional questions drop us a line at info@ridewithghps.com Happy to help.


    • Claus Lücking

      Thanks Kevin. Much appreciated.

  35. Samuel F Paque

    I have read 2 of your reviews, that I looked for, and found them helpful. Now I am interested in seeing the range and type of products that you review.

  36. Juhan

    Hi Ray,

    How is the light beam different between 515 and 516? Is there a comparison available?
    I can get both versions, but which one would be better (more visible)?


  37. dodger

    I noticed that you have a Data Field called “VehicleCount”, I have an Edge1000 but can’t find it. Is that a Connect IQ app or you only get this on the new Edge 530/830/1030 devices?

    • I mentioned the same thing on Ray’s YouTube video. He replied to say it was indeed a Connect IQ app and to search for Varia. I did that, but I didn’t see anything really jumping out. He says there’s more to it than just the vehicle count and he plans to post a video soon about it.

    • dodger

      It’s called My Bike Radar Traffic

    • Yup, I included a link to it in the review where you see the map of all my car interactions, via the Varia Radar. Super cool stuff.

      The app is called My Bike Radar Traffic, and is here: link to apps.garmin.com

      It doesn’t seem to support the Fenix 6 series. I asked about a month ago, but never heard back (well, I don’t think anyway). But, the good news is that he publishes the .PRG file, so in theory you can just download that straight to your device. It’s simply a data field.

      I’ll have a full video/post on it next week. Didn’t really want too much back to back Garmin stuff this week. Gotta keep it mixed up.

  38. Naegling23

    In the unboxing photo, I see three shims, the old varia only had two. What’s the third? Is this finally one for a d shaped post? Asking because I need one and my sugru attempts keep failing

  39. Blake

    Can you please confirm, the RDU has never been for sale individually, only as a bundle? Always wanted one but didnt buy the bundle – are you saying they can be purchased separately now?

  40. Logan

    RSP? C’mon, man. Nobody calls it rhubarb-strawberry pie. It’s strawberry-rhubarb pie. Unless you use a heck of a lot of rhubarb, but who does that?

    • “Unless you use a heck of a lot of rhubarb, but who does that?”

      It’s what happens when the grocery store, due to COVID-19, only has one small pack of strawberries left.

  41. Antonio Ricci

    Any info on the Edge 1030 plus?

    • randy

      I am waiting for it as well and based on all leaked information it will be released within one month. Unfortunately, Ray can’t tell us more and he needs to wait for release date.

  42. Aaron N

    Any battery life comparisons of the head unit connected to the radar and not? My Edge 820 seems to lose about half of its battery life if I have my (previous gen) Varia connected.

  43. John B


    Do you see Garmin’s competitors entering the radar market?

    • Nah, zero chance.

      It’s just too hard. Garmin got lucky and picked up a start-up at just the right time. More importantly though, they have the distribution globally to make it work, and can afford to have spent more on R&D than others could dream of, knowing it drives other product sales.

      And while I don’t think they’ve used it in any other product categories yet, they’re usually pretty good to finding ways to do so.

    • GLT

      I’m not aware of whether the same components are used, but the higher end Garmin Golf units have radar.

  44. Nedim

    StVZO is Straßenverkehrszulassungsordnung.

    I feel that had to be said in full glory 🙂

  45. FJ

    This is one of those Marmite things… you either love it or hate it

    I’ve tried one, and quite frankly I didn’t see the point. I can hear the cars behind me very clearly (even the Teslas), motorcycles are almost always even louder. And a quick turn of the head also lets the driver know that you have seen them (which anyone that is aware of bike safety guidelines will know is the thing to do)

    But hey, if it works for you and gets you out riding more… then all the better.

    Glad to see there is a light-less version now, because I’ve seen the light on this thing and it’s rather pathetic.

  46. Ben

    Looks good, but probably not worth the upgrade from the RTL510 for me.

    Adding to the wishlist of things users want to see, I’d say being able to use it in Run mode on Garmin watches. Given it works just fine on my Fenix 5 in cycling mode, it would be good to have in running mode too for those runs down country lanes where there is no pavement/sidewalk. The incentive for Garmin might be to sell a mount or accessory to fit it to a bag, strap or some such.

    I’d also agree that it would be good to capture the data on Cycliq camera, but can picture the complexity and frankly I think Cycliq have a lot to do on their software before this is really a priority.

    • TK

      Have to agree for the few (many?) of us that would like to run with either the RTL510 or these new models. I use my RTL510 for cycling, and there are unique circumstances like Ben refers to, where it’d be helpful for running (daytime on single-shoulder roads where running with the flow of traffic may be safer, yet loud enough you may not hear approaching vehicles; also on nighttime/early morning runs, since I already run with a traditional bike light).
      On my Fenix, I tried copying bike activity profile, but it doesn’t let me add running pace metrics to it. Tried custom activity profiles from scratch, and it will sense the radar, but not enable the radar detection. So close, it would seem…

  47. JimV

    The RTL510 has a Nordic Semiconductor N52832 SoC in it that has hardware support for BLE. Peloton mode and BLE could have been delivered via a firmware update for the RTL510, with no need for new hardware. But that doesn’t drive as many sales. 👎

  48. Nikolaj Friis Hansen

    Really great in depth review.

    One question:

    Can it be fitted/mounted on the seat stay instead of the seat post and still work properly?

    Sincerely Nikolaj

  49. randy

    Hi Ray, but all these “new” features can be implemented to the old radar. Based on internal pictures of RTL500/RTL510 from FCC approval link to fccid.io it uses nRF52832 link to nordicsemi.com and it supports BLE as well. So we can call it software upgrade, HW is the same even the charging connector is still Micro USB.

    • To be fair, just because it has the same chipset doesn’t mean all the other things are aligned. For example, take a look at the Wahoo TICKR X last week, the older one could have supported ANT+ Running Dynamics, but they didn’t have the memory in it for all the code needed to support that.

      That could be the case here. The older radar is 2 years old now, but that means it’s probably closer to 2.5-3yo from a chipset/internals standpoint (in terms of where things were). While that specific chipset supports BLE/ANT, that doesn’t mean the rest of their internal pipeline does.

      Not saying they shouldn’t deliver things like the peloton mode, or that the lack of other hardware restrictions is the case here, bur rather that we just don’t have enough details to assume one way or the other.

    • Rouleur

      Ray is correct, in the case of the Nordic nRF52 the behaviour of the hardware is defined by the soft device running on the SoC. This is effectively the BLE or ANT+ comms stack and defines not only which protocols are available but also how many concurrent ANT+ BLE connections are supported. Upgrading in the Soft Device in the field is only possible when the rest of the application firmware is of sufficient size to allow this and I don’t know of any commercial product that does. So the issue is more complicated than simply having the same SoC across multiple devices.

    • randy

      SoftDevice is just a binary driver (I wanted to explained it in my post previously, but it ended with an error due missing name/email without option to preserve comment…) and I thought it could be a problem with licensing as ANT+ needs a licence from Dynastream, but Dynastream is Garmin :)) The other option is OTA and you can do it without any problems (I have borrowed all my nRf51/52 boards, so I can’t play with it). Sure, there many options how to do upgrades reliable and in case they used nRF52 with 256kB of flash it can be really just not enough to do OTA – you cant just overwrite your flash with a new code. You need copy it to a temporary space first and then change boot address, otherwise it can fail badly (nice explained by Mike link to youtube.com). + they can use USB for DFU and this bootloader can be really smal and used as a fallback if something went wrong.
      The there is another problem and I don’t know how it internally works – they have actually two ARM MCUs in these radars – mentioned nRF52 and STM32L4 (probably from the original iKobo design) that is connected to the radar itself. Maybe they can’t use OTA/DFU for both MCU’s and if they need do any changes only option is to release a new product.

    • Rouleur

      – The soft device is much more than a driver. The nRF52 is a hybrid design, some of the protocol stack is in HW, the rest in SW in the Softdevice. To get access to an nRF52 soft device you need to be an ANT+ adopter or member, but there is no cost associated with using the ANT+ soft device other than the premium of a Nordic SoC that can run ANT+ and BLE over one that can run just BLE.
      – Upgrading of Softdevice over the air is only possible with minor revisions – not major revisions. The API for each Nordic softdevice changes with every SDK release. For example, even if memory was available, it is not possible to do an OTA upgrade of a Nordic soft device that only supports BLE in SDK 12 to one that supports BLE and ANT+ in SDK 15.
      – The only reason you an do an upgrade of the full Bootloader + App + Softdevice via USB on a Nordic DK board is because the board has an onboard Segger debugger. Most products don’t have this.
      – If the Radar uses a partitioned design then the most likely can’t update the ST device. It would be possible in theory with external memory but that would be much more hassle than porting the ST firmware to run on the nRF52.

      * I am an embedded engineer working “in the industry” and have worked on several Nordic based sports technology products that have been brought to market.

  50. Mattia

    Is it possible to use like this?

    Turn radar on and light off
    Expect that radar turn the light on (blink mode preferred) when a car approach

  51. Dave Lusty

    Users: I LOVE this Varia, but it would be cool if the battery was bigger and it lasted longer as well as USB C

    Garmin: How about Bluetooth?

    Nobody at all: YAY THANKS!

    Come on Garmin, it’s not that hard, just change the connector and when you remove the light, replace it with more battery, not a big space.

    Also @Ray – 16 hours in day flash? Is that a typo? If not, that’s way more than a slight bump in real world run time. I don’t believe it will translate to that in real life so I’d expect the warnings at about 4-5 hours like the existing unit, but it’s nice to dream (I always set it to day flash mode…sometimes it changes modes by itself but usually not).


    • Jason

      Not a typo, the old one lasts 15 hours in day flash mode, longer in night flash mode

    • randy

      To be fair, it is not only about connector. Sure, you can just replace MicroUSB by USB-C connector, the “circuitry” (that means two resistors hooked to D+ and D-) is the same. To get the full benefit of USB-C you need a IO that will negotiate higher current or voltage… normally this is integrated in charging IO, so not a big deal.

    • Jason

      sorry, should have said shorter in night flash mode though I don’t understand why as the brightness is less in night flash mode. Maybe it flashes more often?

    • Dave Lusty

      I’ve had the old one for a while and can assure you it never lasts more than 6 hours if you’re really lucky on a warm day in day flash mode! Mine is always fully charged at the start of rides and I often get battery warnings and sometimes get switch offs.

    • Dave Lusty

      Randy in this case it is all about the connector. Micro usb connectors are fiddly to use, flaky while charging and often break, usbc connectors are easy to use and I’ve never heard of one breaking. This device doesn’t need data transfer it just needs a better connector.

    • Jason

      Then yours has an issue, mine lasts much longer (light network set to automatic, so often even uses night flash!)

    • MickHopkins

      No, some of us have been waiting a long time for Bluetooth.

    • jim

      Do you ride in areas with lots of traffic?

      I’m sure these units battery life will be directly related to the numbers of cars that pass you on a ride since when the radar detects an approaching object it goes into what I call hyper-flash mode. It flashes much more rapidly and at a much higher brightness than normal daytime flash.

      I ride almost exclusively on very low traffic roads where I might see a car or two every 1-3 miles so it doesn’t go into go into hyper-flash mode much. I’ve never timed it but I get way more than 6 hours out of a charge. If there are a lot of cars passing you (like in a city) the unit will be in hyper-flash mode almost full time which has to have drastic impact on the battery life.

  52. Ed Bessman


    Can the Varia be mounted upside down, or sideways, and still function properly?

    Have you used it with ipBike?

    Many thanks!


    • Sam

      I’ve mounted the 510 upside down and it worked.

    • Andrew

      IpBike provides 5 data fields plus audio and vibration alerts.
      t.c threat count or number of vehicles detected.
      t.d distance vehicle is behind.
      t.c.t time till overtake in seconds.
      t.s speed of approaching vehicle.
      t.r.s relative speed of approaching vehicle.

      Knowing how many seconds till overtake allows me to make accurate navigation decisions regarding parked cars , potholes etc.

  53. Mack

    Do you know if there are any mapping sites using Radar data to help with ride planning? It would be nice to know when I’m planning a route whether there’s an alternate road that tends to have less traffic or a lower speed differential. Maybe there’s not enough data available (or no data, I’m not even sure if that info is saved anywhere) for it to be super useful at the moment but just wondering.

    • Nothing using it to my knowledge. I’d love to see Strava add it as a feature.It’d be relatively trivial for Garmin/Wahoo/Hammerhead/Stages to start adding that data to .FIT files and passing it along.

  54. Jim Flesch

    Any chance that the Varia Vision will be updated or replaced? It works very nicely with the Varia Radar.

  55. Jim Flesch

    Any chance that the Varia Vision will be updated or replaced? It works nicely with the Varia Radar.

  56. Andy

    Hey, another great review!

    I use my edge in battery power mode, so how would this work? Does it wake up every time a cars coming or not function in that mode?


  57. Mike S.

    Well I’m glad I picked one up on sale and that the new model doesn’t make me regret it.

    I seem to recall there was a Varia headlight as well. I looked it up on the Garmin website and it lists it as the Varia UT800. No updates to it?

  58. David DAngelo

    I just want it to alert in my AirPods!

    I guess the new one will.

  59. Michael

    As usual Ray, great review and information. I have an older Edge, 810. Will the Varia pair to basically all Garmin units (like my 810) or is it only with newer units?

  60. Guillermo Guerini

    It makes sense now why the RTL510 was on sale for $129. I had $90 dividends from REI so I pulled the trigger on the “old” model two weeks ago. Ended up paying $40 and change for it. Couldn’t be any happier. It definitely made me feel more secure while riding outside. And while the Bluetooth is a nice addition, I definitely don’t have buyers remorse since I use it with my head unit (Wahoo Bolt).

  61. Aar

    These products are the types of things I usually fall for. The size and pathetic light output make the older versions non-starters though. The RVR315 is more intriguing but the size still appears too large. Why bother with a red rear light that has less than 200 lumens output? Surface area of lights make a huge difference in being seen. Extending the lens/refractor over the entire surface area of the RTL515 would interfere with the radar, maybe?

    $129 is a bit heavy for a rearview mirror that beeps. I usually hear cars before I see them in my mirror but electric cars and some hybrids use tires that make them really sneaky. This is an excellent response.

    I’d love to see a compact unit with 1080P video, radar and a 300 lumen constantly-on red light with rechargeable, field replaceable batteries that have 90 minutes of run time. I’d want 1200 amber lumens in the front facing unit.

  62. Pierre


    I have the original radar RTL500 paired with an Edge 1030. It works very well. I don’t mind the fact it is wide vs narrow. I do like the lights and configurability. In your opinion, is there any reason to upgrade from an RTL500 to the RTL515 ?


    Montreal, Qc, Canada

  63. Daniel Daza

    Where did you find the extra long rubber mounts. The ones supplied do not go over the P3/P2 seatpost

  64. Barry Atlas

    Is there any way to get the d-shaped seatpost mount for the RL 510? Thanks

    • Sam

      From the image there seems to be 3 types of seat post adaptors :
      link to buy.garmin.com

    • Barry Atlas

      Thanks Sam. I can’t tell for sure from the photos, but might try it. I asked because this DCR review referred to the inclusion of a new mount for a d-shaped post, which I have.

    • Sam

      I’m kinda speculating as well. I’ve the prev version and it came with only two, the round and vshape adaptors.

    • naegling23

      I’m in the D shaped problem too. In the video it shows the new one comes with the D shaped adapter. On garmins website for the adapters it shows three in the picture, but two are listed in the description, so im unsure if I order which one I would get. I sent an email to them asking for clarification and I’ll post back as soon as I hear back from garmin.

    • I’ve just added a more clear photo of the mounts to the unboxing section, inclusive of the d-shaped mount. Cheers!

    • Oh, and I’ll add a question to my list I’m sending over today of all your questions, regarding buying the extra one.

    • Barry Atlas

      Thank you very much

    • Barry Atlas

      Looks like the middle one would be perfect for d-shaped seatpost

    • Barry Atlas

      Fyi. Just ordered

      Varia™ Universal Seat-Post Quarter Turn Mount


      Qty: 1

      $19.99 USD

    • Barry Atlas

      Just ordered. Just what we need, per Garmin.
      Varia™ Universal Seat-Post Quarter Turn Mount


      Qty: 1

      $19.99 USD

    • naegling23

      you state “per garmin”

      so did they confirm that the part includes the D shaped wedge based on the picture, or is the description of two shims the accurate one….I’m still waiting to hear back from them, just curious if anyone else did.

      or are you just guessing that it comes with it?

    • Barry Atlas

      Update May 21
      Received the mount. Unfortunately they sent me the old set, same part #, with only 2 shims, missing the needed d-shim
      Called them and sent me out the “515” pack with the 3 shims included. Apparently they haven’t weeded out all the old 2 shim packs

    • Barry Atlas

      The item photo shows the 3rd shim (for d-shaped post)
      The part # remains the same as the previous version containing only 2 shims, missing the d-shaped shim
      Be careful when order

    • Jim

      Same thing happened to me even though their photo on the web page clearly shows 3 shims are included but the box I received only has the original 2 shims which I already have. Waiting for a call back from customer support. Glad to hear they will make it right. Luckily, the round post shim works good enough I can still use the 510. If you are going to order the Universal mount maybe call them to make sure they send the right one.

    • Jim

      They sent me the 2 shim package also but I had to send it back for a refund. He said the new 3 shim package wasn’t available yet and would have a different part # when they do release it.

    • Barry Atlas

      Guy told me the same, but said he resent the pack for the 515. Hasn’t arrived yet though

  65. Tom

    One simple question and no answer anywhere:
    What is the battery life using in just radar mode with lights turned off?

    (One would assume it would last much longer but if so it wouldn’t make sense that the battery life of the 315 is so short. So maybe it doesn’t make a difference at all…)

  66. GeorgeB

    My wife and I both run RTL500s paired to 530s. We feel so exposed without them.
    Have had problems of ‘Radar Disconnected’ & reconnection only possible after switch off of Varia & Edge. Occurs on the rear bike typically with the front bike running a Fly6Ce. Recently discovered removing the Fly6 completely solved the problem 😊 Will have to invest in a RTL515 as my 500s MicroUsb is near impossible to charge plus the beeps and vibes on the phone app will be so much better than the barely audible beep on the Edge520.
    PS Re prev question asked: The Varia micro USB cable must be used for data when updating software.
    Great review and thanks.

  67. Kirk

    Ray you forgot to display the RSP in your illustration of the various generations 🙂 Or maybe someone ate it before the camera came out?

  68. Volker

    RVR 315: really only 7 hours of battery? Wth the have added such a small battery, that lasts only 7 hrs?

    • ArT

      I also thought the option without light would be good for ultra bike. I was wrong. This product is pointless.

    • For a commuter that perhaps rides 30 minutes each way each day, this easily covers their week.

      Also, most cyclists I know don’t ride 7 hrs a week outdoors. It’s not for everyone, but no product is.

  69. Jay Lowell

    Isn’t it Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, abbreviated by a dyslexic?

  70. Michael

    Thanks a bunch, Randy!

  71. Larry

    Do you know where the actual radar sensors are located on the RTL-515? One bike I use has some geometric constraints where I could have the light be visible and the bulk of the body of the RTL-515 have a clear view to the rear, but the very bottom where the downward pointing arrows molded into the plastic might be partially obscured by a brake.

    • GLT

      Would be awesome if DC could get one of the Garmin radar area-experts to do Q&A session.

      Internet image search for “Garmin Varia Radar Take Apart” will give you a peek at one side of the PCB. The author of that posting was doing a battery replacement so the other side of the PCB isn’t shown. The search engine may also bring up images of alternate mounting locations that were presumably successful.

      Garmin has a “How Does the Varia Radar Work?” Support Center article. It lacks detail but does include a mini-form to provide input on “Was this page helpful?”

      Have the RTL500 which works fine on the seat post of most of my bikes, but would consider the RVR315 as well if it could be mounted somewhere near the rear quick release of my fat bike. Space on the seat post is lacking. Exactly how the radar beam would interact with the spokes would be interesting to know. A radar blind spot on the non-traffic side of the bike isn’t a deal breaker for that bike.

  72. Ferrando Heyward

    Opinion needed (US resident) I ride in both the city environment & some backroads. Trying to decide which is the better investment with limited funds the varia or a recording device e.g. Cycliq (in the unfortunate incident that I get taken out by a vehicle from behind) Note: I’m not saying that I will stop using a mirror, visually checking & keeping my ears tuned. This is just to add another level of awareness/safety.

    • Martin Mattingly

      I use both the radar and also cycliq cameras. I would suggest getting the radar, cycliq just lets your heirs know who hit you, the varia may actually help you to not get run over! I feel naked riding without it. I have never had a single incident when it showed no cars behind me when there actually was one (false negative). Very impressive piece of equipment.

    • The Real Bob

      I second Martin, radar first. My friend has both and uses both. But he even admits the cyclic is post incident, not pre. If he had to get rid of one, its the cyclic. Although, he plans on getting the 315 to pair with the cyclic.

  73. Ken

    Why does day flash (16 hrs) mode last so much longer than night flash (6 hrs) when day flash is brighter lumens? Is it flashing a lot less often?

    Also, would it work if you rigged a clip to the back of your running shorts to know when you’re about to be overtaken by a bike on a rail trail while running?

    • ArT

      the radar must be upright, if you can keep it going it will work. It seems impossible for to hold radar steady.

    • Kevin

      I just bought one of these – the day flash is that, a flash. The night ‘flash’ is actually a pulse where the light never goes off. Just misleading names from Garmin.

  74. André

    I may just get one. A head first landing while mountain biking last July left me with a fractured skull and three fractured cervical vertebrae. After spending 3 months in a cervical collar, I still find shoulder checks challenging. Yes I was wearing a helmet.

  75. Jeff

    I was going to pre-order the RVR315 from Clever Training, but had questions about some VIP points. I have emailed them 3 times over several days with no response. I tried to call but the message says to email. Anyone else having issues with Clever Training?

    • John Reinke

      YES! I put in an order in March and received one item, but the other items never shipped. The site said there might be delays for items such as trainers which they don’t have in stock, but the items I ordered were clearance, so they definitely had them in stock at the time I ordered.

      I sent a few emails over the past month and also tried calling, but I never heard back or was able to contact anyone. I actually received an email this morning (from a human) saying the items I ordered were not in stock. (Bummer! It was a great deal on some running shoes which I’d been looking forward to using!)

      Hang in there – they might be digging through a mound of emails from me and others…

    • They are indeed digging through both e-mails (though, mostly caught up), but also backorders. The backorders are trickier due to vendors in turn also delayed.

      That said – clearance is usually in stock, unless they were specific clearance deals where a manufacturer was basically offloading inventory and CT was selling it as clearance (for example, they did that with some Drivo trainers a few weeks back). In that case, there can still be delays with distribution.

      I appreciate the support there! I know they’re trying to keep up as best as possible while also balancing keeping workers safe.

  76. Martin Mattingly

    I use both the radar and also cycliq cameras. I would suggest getting the radar, cycliq just lets your heirs know who hit you, the varia may actually help you to not get run over! I feel naked riding without it. I have never had a single incident when it showed no cars behind me when there actually was one (false negative). Very impressive piece of equipment.

  77. Simon

    Question for RTL510 owners. Now that Garmin has come out with the Varia app, would something like the Viiiiva or CABLE bluetooth bridge allow you to use the Varia app with the older RTL510 device?

    • GLT

      Updated my CABLE to the latest firmware, but it does not find my RTL500 when scanning for Ant+ devices. Perhaps the RTL510 advertises itself differently.

  78. Bernard

    I wonder if the RSP comes with Micro-USB too? Could be interesting!

  79. albert mills

    I listen to music on my smartphone (through Bluetooth or wired earbuds) when I go biking. With these new models of the varia, can I pair the varia with my smartphone so that it gives me an audio alert/disrupts the music when there’s a car coming behind me and then the music will resume when the car has passed? Not having this feature is what prevented me from getting a varia in the past. Also, do these new varia models require a garmin head unit if all you’re interested in is an audio alert through smart phone (I have a mirror on my bike)?

  80. Vasil

    Hi there,
    thanks for comprehensive review!

    One thing I would like to ask you, do you see any difference between original RTL500 and new models in terms of:
    -number of cards detected
    -overall stability

    I’m simply asking that, because I’m not convinced yet to upgrade to new one 🙂

  81. Stephen Jackson

    I purchased a 500 a while ago, and as my partner and I ride together all the time, we pair the single 500 which is on my bike to both our garmin head units, and voila, it works perfectly for both of us. Great piece of kit. Guess the argument now is who’s bike gets the new unit!

  82. Timm Fair

    One shortfall with the mounting system is that it assumes no one uses an under seat bag (tools & innertubes). The mounting space available for the radar is unavailable if you use an under seat bag.

    Many manufacturers provide a bag mounting clip so you can attach the device to your under seat bag. I searched the internet for a garmin bag clip mount, they are hard to find. I only found one, a special order manufacturer who made a 3D print bag clip mount. The price was reasonable but expensive compared to most bag clips.

    It works well and allows me to use my Varia RTL 515 attached to my bag. I have owned the Varia RTL 525 for about 3 months and will not ride without it anymore.

    • Larry

      The original Varia radar may be short on battery life, but it did have a built-in light and mounted on a seat post with minimal space. Mine works fine with a small under seat bag. It’s industrial design wasn’t great from an aesthetic standpoint and was pretty much derivative of the original Backtracker device. Going a bit wide in it’s form factor rather than tall helped a lot. I guess the 315 is the model now for the most compact install.

    • Aryq

      Hey, would you be willing to link to the bag mount/clip mfg? I’ve stayed away from the Varia up to this point because I have no room to mount it. I’m short, and ride a smaller bike… and with my saddle bag I just have no room. Do you find it works ok mounted on the bag? My shop was concerned even if I found a mount it wouldn’t work great due to bag sway. Thx!

  83. Heiko

    question to some of the 510/511 owners:
    – do you switch the radar off when riding within the city? i have always at least 45minutes before i am on quieter roads. if you switch it on/off, is this sufficiently easy during ride (i.e. few button presses?)
    – is there anybody from germany who bought explicitly the “illegal” 510 instead of the 511? good idea because more flexibility (you COULD use flash but you don’t have to) or is it not worth the hassle to order from another country?

    • Michael Adrian

      Heiko, you can simply switch on the radar by pushing the physical button that’s on top of the unit. Absolutely no problem doing so while riding – even without taking your eyes from the road. However, your GPS unit may stop searching for the radar after a couple of minutes into the activity so you might need to manually trigger the connection. That’s the case for me using a Garmin Edge 1030 when I switch the radar on late but again, it’s a matter of a few „clicks“ in the Garmin interface.

      Even when living in Germany I’m using the 510 on two bikes. Based on my experience the flashing greatly improves visibility and therefore security. Like you said you can switch the light to being on permanently anytime. This being said, a friend of mine once got fined for using a flashing light.

  84. SteveP

    Are these units for people who are hard of hearing? I’m over 60, but in many thousands of miles of riding I have been surprised by a car’s presence about twice – and in those cases it is always because some other noise (construction near the road, etc.) masked the car. Otherwise, I can hear a car coming quite far back, and of course in the city there are just cars all the time. So I do wonder what these units are for?

    I’m also a motorcyclist and know to do head checks frequently, so I fail to see how one of these radar units would be safer – in fact, they probably create a false sense of security?

    • Alan

      I’m a gadget guy, I usually have to plug 4 or 5 things in the recharge at the end of every ride, but I just don’t get the benefit of the radar. What action do you take when this unit alerts you to a high speed pass? If it doesn’t cause an action then it isn’t doing anything useful. Do you really have time to turn your head, determine whether the overtaking vehicle is a threat or not, and react before it would hit you? I ride busy roads all the time. I wear visible clothing and use a rear light/camera (Fly6CE). I try to ride about 1/3 of the way into the lane if there is no shoulder, and use a head-mounted mirror so I can see what’s approaching without having to turn my head. With the mirror I can see when I’m about to get passed by a motorcycle or Mini Cooper and when I’m about to get passed by a Ford F450 towing a landscaping trailer. With the information the mirror provides I can decide when to move right a bit to let a vehicle pass and when to hold my position to force them to wait. I can see how, if it has sufficient range, a device that gives an audible alert when a vehicle is approaching could be a good thing. If I were to develop a reflex to check the mirror each time it beeps it would probably eliminate that .01% of the time when a car still manages to surprise me. But having all that information on the screen seems counter-productive. Can anyone give an example of a case where looking at the display would make you take an action that would prevent a collision?

    • Martin Mattingly

      First let me say, just do what you are most comfortable with. I too am that crazy gadget guy and if I had to only keep one then it would be the radar paired with the vision display. It just works reliably and without losing focus. I was skeptical when I bought it, but now if just feels natural. you know where the approaching car is and lets me know when to swerve around a pothole safely. etc. I used to ride with a mirror and for a while I had both, but now am comfortable trusting the radar to ditch the mirror. Maybe its my age, but turning my head around doesn’t work as well as it used to. 🙂

      You may want to give it a try and return it if it doesn’t feel right. I think the vision display makes this product. If I had to look down at my handlebars constantly then I don’t think it would be as valuable. With the vision, it vibrates, you glance and then see the dot. Sadly, Garmin has d/c’d the vision and not sure if they will do another one. Good luck with whatever you decide.

    • GLT

      It is a ride-awareness device that blankets many different use scenarios. Riders that have a favorable opinion of the radar can give examples of why they like it, but if you don’t routinely encounter their situations then you aren’t likely to be persuaded. Sometimes these sub-threads are the ones that rabbit hole into the “will this stop a car from hitting me” end point if they run long enough w/ point-counter point.

      Especially with the RTL500, it MAY have value to some riders simply by automatically adjusting the flashing pattern as cars overtake.

      Riders that are hard of hearing, bike in noisy situations, or are not focused on subtle audio cues like traffic noise are examples of riders that could benefit from the additional visual & explicit audio signals.

      Riders that have good mirror & head turn technique may want to consider night time scenarios where the headlights of overtaking cars may blind them. Also, the radar will give you a car count at a glance that doesn’t require deviation from your sight line down the road.

      THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE for at least one final head turn before crossing traffic, but on one of my routes the radar reduces the total number of head turns in order to cross traffic on a highway. If I have persistent radar contacts a half-mile before my cross-traffic turn I know it is reasonable to start slowing down without the need for any visual checks. If the radar contacts continue closer to the turn then the slowing down continues as well. Either I find a gap confirmed with a double-eye head turn or I end up stopped at the side of the highway.

      It is less a matter of the radar prompting the rider to make an emergency adjustment, and more a matter of informing the rider of activity behind while they consider how to handle an issue in front of them. Good mirror & head turn technique can accomplish this as well.

    • Andrew

      You can’t hear electric vehicles until they are about to pass.
      If you ride fast enough the wind noise will also make hearing traffic impossible. Think riding down a steep hill. You may be going 60kph but the cars are still going faster.

  85. Slowmo

    That crushed my hopes to see USB-C on Edge 1030 Plus. It will probably be the same unit with slightly upgraded electronics. Will have to wait for 1040 then.

  86. Blair

    Has anyone been able to source bands long enough that the aero-post insert will actually work? Or does one need to use zip-ties or some other home remedy? Thanks.

  87. PZ

    Conceivably, could this be attached onto a backpack for use while walking? Living in a golf cart community, it’s not uncommon for golf carts to sneak up and go flying by without much heads-up. It’d be cool if this could work.

  88. John

    I posted this over in the comments for the Radar Traffic (car counting) Connect IQ app, but GARMIN:

    Please add a radar configuration to turn on a rear-facing camera when radar detects a car, then turns off or pauses or sleeps the camera recording after the car has passed!

    You already have the radar and head units and VIRB camera, you just need to put the pieces together!

    • Tom

      It wouldn’t even need Garmin to do it. Any bike camera manufacturer could integrate that feature by implementing a connection to Varia and recording depending on the traffic data from the Varia.

      Could be nice Kickstarter project.

      Or (don’t know if possible) if there are bike cameras with some sort of (Bluetooth) API you could build some sort of in the middle app receiving the Varia data and controlling the camera.

    • Andrew

      I suspect the major issue is battery life as the camera would have to be in standby mode to activate the recording before the incident was over. It would have to effectively buffer the recording. I think the Shimano CM-2000 did something similar using speed/HR as the trigger to activate the camera?

  89. Volker

    Is it compatible with the Fenix 6 series? F6 series is not listed on the Garmin Homepage as a compatible device.

  90. Red

    I’m probably way behind the curve on this type of device and apologize for asking something that has probably been discussed at length, but I can’t find it. I’m in my mid-sixties and my first European trip back in 1975. A lot of time on the bike. My riding strategy is based on what is coming at me, not on what is or may be coming up behind. If I”m on a two lane road and a vehicle is approaching me, I move to the right as far as safely possible, I always assume something is coming up behind me. So, what do people do if this device signals them that a vehicle is coming up fast behind them ? Do they move over then ? or into the ditch ? I’m being sincere here and not trying to judge or find fault with anyone or this device.

    • GLT

      Cyclists that are expecting high speed traffic and have no issues in their current line may choose to check their mirror following the radar prompt. Those that are good with their mirrors don’t lose much scanning to make sure motorists are where they ought to be. Peace of mind.

      Cyclists that anticipate on-coming traffic at the same future point where their line is obstructed may take the ditch if their RDU signals a short-notice high-speed contact after their over-the-shoulder glance, but before manuring into the traffic lane prior to the obstruction. Hopefully a rare set of circumstances, but I decided the ditch was the happy-path on sharply curved downhill where two opposing trucks were going to meet at the point where the road shoulder not passable for me. Attempting to brake to a complete stop would have been another option, though exactly how the overtaking driver would have reacted to that is anyone’s guess.

  91. Billy

    Can you run the 515 with the light off but radar running? The battery life of the 315 is laughable, so this option for not much more money would be preferable for me.

    • Jim

      Yes, if you have a Garmin head unit that supports light networks. At least with the 510 so I assume the 515 would have the same functionality. I have a Varia 510, Edge 830 and Bontrager Flare RT light that are setup this way. I believe at this time Garmin is the only manufacturer that supports light networks.

    • Billy

      Excellent – thanks Jim. Got an Edge 830, so that should work fine.

  92. Michael

    I would like to know if the app audio alarm does work over the earphones too, while listening to music over your phone.
    I am riding many times with music and earbuds on.
    As you are not looking always onto the Edge and see what’s displayed, i am struggeling with the audio alarm on the edge 830 is not really that loud as on the edge 1030, i sometimes don’t here the alarm sound when a car is approaching from behind.

    So, for my case:
    I am listening to spotify music over my iPhone. The phone is connected via radar app to the RTL515. The phone is in my backpocket…do i get the audio alarm played into the music…??
    Music purists would hate that, but for me it would be reason enough to upgrade from the current Radar.

    Would be nice if you could answer this. Many thanks in advanced!!

  93. KenP

    Big frustration of mine on the RTL510 is the physical button on the device. I keeps getting stuck because of dirt or sand after riding in bad weather! Too bad the design of the RTL515 didn’t get modified to address that flaw. Very annoying.

  94. ArT

    How does it detect driving in the peloton? The peloton is how much for a bike radar?

  95. Great review.
    Just wondering if there is a feature where the rear light turns on and starts flashing only when it detects a car approaching?

    • ArT

      No way. Because the radar is not 100% sure. If the light of the night does not work, it is certain death for you. It is a pity that there is no option to turn off the light for users outside of garmin. In the garmin you can turn off the light permanently.

  96. Ginger Lange

    Wondering if anyone else is unable to hear the audible alert from the 510. It’s set to multi-tone and when I set it up I could hear a soft tone from my Garmin 530, but can’t hear it at all while riding. I’m not aware of any hearing loss, although in my late 60s, it’s possible — but I’m riding around 5,000 road miles/year, and want them to be as safe as possible. Is there any way I could get a louder audible alert on my phone, or a vibration on a Garmin wrist device?

  97. Martin Mattingly

    Use update. I did my first ride this morning and happy to report it worked flawlessly. I have owned the 2 prior versions and the thing missing from the prior unit was an audible warning. The head unit had it, but it was never loud enough to actually hear. Now I have that with the new bluetooth connection to the varia app on my iphone. I have the following setup: fenix 6, varia display, iphone, aftershokz bone conduction headphones and the new radar.
    I like the display vs looking down on the handlebars as I find it less distracting. Now, i get a clear dinging sound when the car is first picked up, I then glance at the display to see about how far back the car is. with just the radar and the display, I would occasionally get surprised by a car. The ding fixes that and I can hear it without losing my hearing to standard earbuds. I prefer the varia display to using the varia app on my iphone so connecting to the varia app is just to get the sound via bluetooth to my headphones. I highly recommend it.

    • Ginger Lange

      Thanks for your comment, Martin. I’d never before heard of bone conduction headphones—will read up on them and consider your setup! I won’t do any road sport with regular headphones/earbuds on.

    • Martin Mattingly

      I agree, any headphones that cover your ears remove a key sense. I have tried a variety of them and find the aftershokz aeropex to be the best. loud enough to listen to podcasts, but you can still hear sounds around you.

    • John Reinke

      I’ve also found the Plantronics BackBeat FIT to feel pretty safe. They go into the ear loosely, and allow lots of external noise through, so I can hear people approaching behind me on the trail while running. They are comfortable, too.

      link to amazon.com

      I’ve been meaning to try out the Aftershokz too.

    • Ginger Lange

      Martin—can you hear podcasts above wind noise when riding at higher speeds?

    • Ginger Lange

      John—Thanks for the suggestion. I do use Plantronics headphones during indoor workouts, but would be afraid to use them on the road. People have been driving really crazy here lately, and a friend was hit last week (hit & run, bike totaled, rider not badly hurt), so I’m feeling more nervous on the road than usual. Not that hearing the car coming would have helped in the above situation…

  98. SteveP

    I originally left a comment questioning whether this device was primarily for those hard of hearing, since I can 99.9% of the time (probably more reliably than these devices) hear cars approaching in plenty of time. Yes, even a Tesla (not in town, obviously, but then these things are no use there either. Being Aware is Staying Alive).

    But now I see threads where people are discussing what headphones work best to listen to podcasts, etc. while riding…. Oh Kay….

    • Stephen Thomas

      I’ve had the previous version of the Varia for some time and wouldn’t voluntarily ride without it. My hearing’s fine (despite my wife’s protestations) and the radar almost always triggers *well before* I can hear the approaching vehicle. (Curvy or hilly roads being the main exception.)

      As for reliability, in a year of commuting 20 miles each way, plus longer rides on the weekends, I’ve only had the Varia not detect a vehicle twice. The false positive rate is higher, but that’s appropriate.

      (And I would definitely never ride with headphones.)

    • John Reinke

      Most of my riding and running is on trails where there are no vehicles, so I often wear headphones. That was the context for my headphone comment.
      Personally, if I’m riding on a street where I’d be concerned about cars and using radar, I wouldn’t be wearing headphones either.

    • Ginger Lange

      John—the Aftershokz that Martin mentioned are bone conduction, so they’re not over or in the ear. I’ve never tried them, but am going to look into them for podcasts and watching movies while on the elliptical or rowing indoors. From what I’ve read, they’re great for spoken audio, but not so much for full sound music, which I don’t listen to on the road bike anyway. At this point, I’m mainly trying to hear the Varia warning!

    • Martin Mattingly

      Thats about right. I have tried a number of bone conduction options. The new ones are loud enough except for an occasional downhill segment. I can hear podcasts or audio books just fine. Not so great for music, but to get good sound you have to use in ear or over the ear headphones which is too dangerous of an option for me as you can’t hear anything. Using afterxhokz at normal levels is ok and I still hear cars behind me without issue. I find it to be the right balance, but at the end of the day everyone has to choose their balance of risk/reward.

    • Ginger Lange

      Martin M, thanks again for your input — it’s been helpful. Not sure if I’ll wear anything on my head while biking, but am very interested in trying aftershokz for other situations, and maybe certain cycling routes.
      Be safe out there — and wash your hands 🙂

  99. Jay Cahow

    I purchased a new Garmin RVR315 Radar unit and have been out on a few rides with it paired to my Garmin 830 head unit. I saw no need to get the lighted unit as I already have nice rear lights permanently mounted on all my bikes.

    My first impressions are that the Radar unit seems to work fine but for me personally the unit is a gigantic failure and is of almost no use to me.

    I am visually and hearing impaired on the right side. I thought the Radar unit would help me with traffic coming from the rear. Because of my sight issues I have to pay close attention to the road and cannot constantly watch my Garmin 830.

    I find that I cannot hear any of the tones issued by the Radar to let me know of detected traffic. I tried both the single and multi tones and cannot hear either. Even when the Radar is in test mode and generating tones off the bike the tones are almost inaudible.

    So basically I occasionally see something on the Radar when I check my 830. Other times I see the Radar when a car gets close and I actually hear the car and might see other cars noted behind it.

    I see numerous other threads where people have been complaining about tones for years on these products.

    To depend on audible tones to signal traffic seems to be a major design flaw, if you cannot hear the tones then it removed most of the functionality of the product.

    It should have been designed with a tone volume option, multiple tones to choose from with various frequency ranges (not everyone can hear the same frequencies), down loadable tone option. I would go even further and say that it should have a vibrate option instead of a tone (so I can feel it and not bother others).

    Out in the wind any tone option is suspect at best. If Garmin cannot generate louder tones from their Edge units (another design flaw) then they should make some small unit that goes under your Edge with a better better louder speaker or that vibrates.

    As it works today only people with good hearing could possible ever hear the traffic warning tones and probably not in bad weather which severely limits the products usefulness.

    With these noted design faults I would not recommend the RVR315 to anyone.

    I wold sugges

    • Andrew

      Pardon the pun but it sounds like you need to buy one of the Garmin watches that vibrate instead of audible alert? A bicycle head unit vibrating is not much use to anyone. Your other option is to pair the Varia to the mobile Varia Radar app and use bluetooth headphones or the mobile phone volume may be loud enough?

    • DaveQB

      Hi Jay,

      I see your issues. It looks like your use case was not thought about in the development of the Varia Radar. Have you sent your feedback to Garmin?

      “With these noted design faults I would not recommend the RVR315 to anyone.”

      I think you have to agree, that’s over the top. I understand your frustrations. Most people have no issues hearing it. I know I can hear it up to 85km/h. So suggesting that no one should buy it because it doesn’t work for your, somewhat unique use case, is just you taking out your frustrations, no?

    • Jay Cahow

      I purchased a new Garmin RVR315 Radar unit and have been out on a few rides with it paired to my Garmin 830 head unit. I saw no need to get the lighted unit as I already have nice rear lights permanently mounted on all my bikes.

      My first impressions are that the Radar unit seems to work fine but for me personally the unit is a gigantic failure and is of almost no use to me.

      I am visually and hearing impaired on the right side. I thought the Radar unit would help me with traffic coming from the rear. Because of my sight issues I have to pay close attention to the road and cannot constantly watch my Garmin 830.

      I find that I cannot hear any of the tones issued by the Radar to let me know of detected traffic. I tried both the single and multi tones and cannot hear either. Even when the Radar is in test mode and generating tones off the bike the tones are almost inaudible.

      So basically I occasionally see something on the Radar when I check my 830. Other times I see the Radar when a car gets close and I actually hear the car and might see other cars noted behind it.

      I see numerous other threads where people have been complaining about tones for years on these products.

      To depend on audible tones to signal traffic seems to be a major design flaw, if you cannot hear the tones then it removed most of the functionality of the product.

      It should have been designed with a tone volume option, multiple tones to choose from with various frequency ranges (not everyone can hear the same frequencies), down loadable tone option. I would go even further and say that it should have a vibrate option instead of a tone (so I can feel it and not bother others).

      Out in the wind any tone option is suspect at best. If Garmin cannot generate louder tones from their Edge units (another design flaw) then they should make some small unit that goes under your Edge with a better better louder speaker or that vibrates.

      As it works today only people with good hearing could possible ever hear the traffic warning tones and probably not in bad weather which severely limits the products usefulness.

      With these noted design faults I would not recommend the RVR315 to anyone.

      I do not think either of us knows for sure how many people can hear the tones or in what age brackets. Hearing impaired or older riders with age related hearing loss who need this function the most are the ones most let down. There are numerous other threads going back for years with people complaining about the same tone issues. They out to be able to design a product that works out of the box for these riders as well. I should be able to load my own tones that are in frequencies better suited for those riders and have a louder volume. The radar is not much use no matter how well it works if there is no way to alert the user of traffic and to look at it.

      I also see no problem with a head unit vibrating either. You should be watching the road and not constantly starring at your head unit. A short vibration is not going to harm anyone and if you do not like that option then do not turn it on. I have no interest in purchasing a Garmin watch as I already have numerous watches and see no need to invest more money to Garmin when I have already spent considerable money for the radar.

    • Michael

      Hi Jay, the vibration of the Fenix is so weak that i wouldn’t recomend it in this case.
      I tried it many times and put the watch really tight to the wrist, but so often the tiny tiny vibration is not to feel.

    • Ginger Lange

      Michael—good to know that the Fenix vibration is inadequate — I’ve been considering a Fenix 6S Pro, in large part to help with this issue — you saved me $700.

      I’m with Jay in thinking that Garmin ignored a big segment of cyclists when they didn’t program different frequencies into the Varia/Edge. I’m super healthy, but grew up listening to loud music and am quite sure I’ve lost the high frequency hearing… Not at all bad enough to require hearing aids, but can’t hear Varia alerts at all, and many online posters report the same issue. Maybe Garmin could make a vibrating wrist band, dedicated to notifications that many can’t hear. I’d pay for it as an add-on accessory.

    • ArT

      Replace Garmin with Wahoo Roam there the radar is very loud.

    • ArT

      I don’t need radar with light. However, the RVR315 radar works too shortly. I will choose 515 with 16 hours of light.

    • Michael

      Hi Ginger,
      i was thinking so many times about an “vibration wrist band” already, something which you could put on the upper arm maybe. This in combination with the Garmin radar would be perfect.
      But it seems we’re dreaming. Garmin is not pushing their products to the limit.
      But the new Radar Blue tooth signal got open for third party as it seems, maybe we see something from others.

    • Ginger Lange

      Michael, what country are you in? I detect a bit of “foreign” in your speech. I’m in the US, so foreign is anywhere else 🙂

      Hope you’re right about possible 3rd party help with the Varia sound issue!

    • Michael

      Hi Ginger, i am from germany 🙂

    • Ginger Lange

      Michael—I’ve only been through your country by train, traveling from France to Austria; the countryside was beautiful! Your English is quite good…

    • Martin

      I use a fenix 6 watch and the vibration is too weak to notice. the bluetooth “ding” via the varia app to my aftershokz bone conduction headphones is easily heard. I have been very pleased so far with the setup.

    • Martin

      I also have some hearing loss, but find the new radar paired to my iphone which is in turn paired to aftershokz bone conduction headphones works great. No problem hearing the “ding” that a car is approaching, but unlike standard headphones, you can still hear the traffic. It is hard to explain until you try it, but I feel very comfortable that it is a decent balance of awareness for safety. I tried the coros helmet with built in bone conduction, but just not enough volume. I went through 2 older versions from afterzhokz and they were good, but not nearly as good as the newest ones (aeroplex). They work great, are loud enough and very small and light. Good luck.

  100. Martin

    Thanks for the great review.
    I am using the earlier version for more than a year in Tokyo. After being quite skeptical initially, it has proven to be a great tool in city cycling. Here, you mostly flow with the traffic, so you won’t get numb when looking at the dots of overtaking cars. Not having to turn my head as often as before is quite a good safety feature. I wouldn’t want to miss it…
    Best wishes

  101. Bert

    Nice review, but battery life improvement seems not significant. I checked the battery life of RTL510 and RTL515 at Garmin.com but they are the same for solid mode and night flash mode and only a few percent better in day flash mode. The new one is actually worse in standby mode:

    (first number RTL510, second number RTL515)
    solid mode 6 h, 6 h (20 Lumen)
    night flash mode 6 h, 6 h (29 Lumen)
    day flash mode 15 h, 16 h (65 Lumen)
    standby mode 5 months, 3 months for RTL515
    The new peleton mode has 8 h battery life but that is due to the lower brightness.

    What is the idea of a standby mode? Just switching it off after a ride would be normal practice I think?

    • Jim

      If you use it with a Garmin head unit it can form a light network and control the light(s) in the network. I have an Ion 200 front blinky light, a Flare RT taillight tucked up below the saddle and the Varia 510 on the seatpost set to use only the radar, no light. I never touch any of the lights except to take them off to charge them. When I push the start button before the ride all the lights automatically activate and when I finish the ride they automatically turn off and go to sleep. Pretty handy.

    • Ginger Lange

      Well dang, that does sound handy! How can I be more like Jim???

      Seriously, Jim, is there a place to program that in the Garmin settings? I’ve got an Edge 530, Varia RTL 510, and a Bontrager Ion Pro RT headlight. Still learning about them and constantly impressed by things I didn’t know…

    • Jim

      From the Home screen go to the Settings -> Lights -> Network Options -> Light Mode. Set Light Mode to “Individual”. Back out one step and go to “Light Beam Activated” and set it to “Timer Start”. Back all the way out, pretend you are starting a ride and press the Start Button. Then go back to the lights. Settings -> Lights. Pick the light you want to adjust then “Light Mode”. Set the Ion and Flare to “Day Flash”. Set the Varia to “Off”. It will remember these settings and should automatically turn on the Ion and Flare in flash mode while leaving the Varia light off while still keeping the radar active.

      There is also a widget you can override the light settings, say if you wanted to turn the headlight on solid instead of flashing or turn the lights off etc. I don’t ever use this since I only ride in the daylight and use the flash modes. On the 830 you swipe down to get to the widgets. Not sure how you access them on the 530.

      This has worked great for me but interestingly when I was running just the Ion and Flare I had problems with the lights disconnecting from the network. They would always start up and work fine until I took a little break during the ride and then one or the other would disconnect sometimes either during the break or right after I started riding again. Since adding the Varia into the mix though things have been rock solid with no disconnections.

    • Ginger Lange

      Thanks, Jim!

  102. I have a see sense ace that I like a lot due to the visibility and the very good braking light. I understand that this one doesn’t do that? No accelerometer that makes that light change when you start braking? 🙁

  103. Mark Templeman

    During my ride this morning on a country lane and travelling at speed down hill, I had the scare of my life (Not quite being cleared up by a flatbed was the scare of my life). A BMW i3 came hurtling past. Now generally riding in the city, you can still hear an electric vehicle from the road noise, but with the added wind rush over my lugholes, this appeared out of no where.
    Very good write up in sensible plain terms and for me now, I think that I may well invest in a radar unit.

  104. Michael

    There is a Varia 515 and 516 in Germany announced. Who can tell me the difference?!

  105. CS

    Anyone know what battery drain is on an Edge530 when using either the 515 or 315? I am assuming these need more power than a speed/power meter ANT+ connection? For reference, I have Assioma Duo’s, Giant ANT+ speed unit and ANT+ Garmin HRM connected.

    • Stephen Thomas

      In my experience, using the radar in mild to moderate traffic had a significant impact on battery life for an Edge 130 that was not paired with any other sensor. Not sure how much of that was due to increased ANT+ activity, extra energy needed for the beeps, or extra energy needed to turn on the backlight at each beep.

    • Wayne

      I don’t have a Varia yet, but connecting an ANT+ light took my Edge 130 battery life down from 5 hours to 1 hour 40 minutes from full charge.

      Edge 130 ~ 5 hours
      GPS, Assioma pedal power meter, Wahoo Tickr, Route guidance, Phone Connection

      Edge 130 ~ 1 hour 40 minutes
      GPS, Assioma pedal power meter, Wahoo Tickr, Route guidance, Phone Connection, *Bontrager Ion Pro RT*

      In order to use the Varia radar with a powermeter I will definitely need to upgrade to either an Edge530 or a Wahoo Roam. Would be very interested to hear from Roam and 530 owners to know what your genuine real life battery life is.

  106. Brian

    Ray – Any chance you could check the connection with one of your 945s? My new Varia 515 will connect via radar just fine but absolutely does not “see” the Light pairing via my 945 at all. It connects just fine on my wife’s Vivoactive 4 so I’m thinking there is some issue specific to the 945.

    • Brian

      Addendum to above post:

      If you remove the “radar” as a sensor, it will then “see” the Light sensor and you can add it. But then it doesn’t “see” the Radar sensor, which is the main point of the device.

      Can you check to see if this is how it works on your 945 as well?

  107. Brian

    Notice to non-Edge users – I have been told by Antonio at Garmin Support that the Light features of this Varia device are “mainly for Edge units” even though I haven’t seen that stated elsewhere.

    Further, the Vivoactive 4, a much less expensive device than the 945 (the top of the line Garmin multisport watch) apparently is able to connect to Lights and configure them there in addition to Radar. So beware if you’re reading this review and, like me, were planning on using the device with a 945 as your head unit.