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Garmin Varia RCT715 Camera + Radar In-Depth Review

It’s been 7 years since Garmin introduced their Varia radar. Similarly, it’s been 8 years since Cycliq first introduced their Fly6 bike-focused rear safety camera. For years, people have been begging for a hybrid blend of those two products together. Today, that idea finally merges into one unit – the Garmin Varia RCT715.

The Varia RCT715 takes the existing Garmin cycling radar component, which shows and warns of vehicles and other traffic on your bike computer as it overtakes you, with a rear-facing camera that can automatically record continuously, or only as each car goes past. It also acts as a bike light as before. Further, it has incident detection modes, to automatically save clips if it detects a crash. And beyond that, it has an app that theoretically allows you to download said clips.

Unfortunately, the final product birthed from those two ideas doesn’t quite seem to be what we were hoping for. Or perhaps, our collective expectations and assumptions were too high. To spoil much of this review, at best, it’s a frustrating and confusing experience for a $400 product – filed with endless caveats. While the radar continues to be excellent, and the core camera recording bits also seem dependable – it’s everything after that point that becomes a mess. From a myriad of confusing and overlapping options, to gotchyas on which bike computers are compatible, to an app that’s impossibly slow to use.

As usual, this unit is a media loaner, and it’ll go back to Garmin shortly. This review is not sponsored (nor does any company get to preview anything I review), and I don’t take any advertiser money from any companies I review. And as regular readers know, if something is crap, I’m gonna tell it brutally like it is – no matter the brand (equally, when something is awesome – I’ll say that too). Once this unit goes back, I’ll go out and get my own for any future testing needs. If you found this review useful, you can use the links at the bottom, or consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome.

What’s In The Box:

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-Box

First up we’ve got the box, which you can see above. Inside said box is the camera, USB-C cable, and a bag of mount goodies. Did I mention the USB-C cable? Sorry, it’s just hard to get past the fact that Garmin finally has a fricken USB-C cable on their cycling gear. Hallelujah!

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-UnboxedParts

It should be noted that earlier this year, Garmin also added USB-C to their inReach Mini 2 device, so it does seem to be catching on.

Anyways, here’s all the mounts unbagged up-close. Essentially you’ve got mounts for three types of seatposts: traditional round, aero (v-shapped), and flat (d-shaped, often fancy bikes).

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-Mounts

There are zip-ties, but there’s no need to use them. Instead, you’ll likely use the industrial-strength rubber bands, as people have been doing with Varia radar for nearly a decade. Works great.

Oh, and here’s a close-up of the camera and manuals:

Garmn-Varia-RCT715-Manual

And finally, that glorious USB-C cable. Admittedly, USB-A to USB-C, but hey, we can’t have everything, can we?

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-USB-C-Cable

In terms of weight and size, this thing is a chunker. It’s almost identical in size to a Twinkie, except, I can’t get those in the Netherlands. Instead, here’s it compared to the base Varia Radar RTL-515 and Cycliq Fly6 Gen 3:

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-CycliqFly6Gen3-RTL515

And here’s the weights side by side (Varia RCT715 is 148g, Cycliq Fly6 Gen3 is 78g, and the Varia RTL515 is 72g).

Garmn-Varia-RCT715-Weight CycliqFly6Gen3-Weight Garmin-Varia-RTL515

Got all that? Good, let’s get into the hardware a bit more.

Hardware Basics:

Garmin-Varia-RTL715-Hardware

Next, let’s look at the hardware for a second. First up, on the bottom is the USB-C port behind a protected cover. The device itself is still waterproofed to IPX7. And in Garmin’s case, they list their specs assuming the port is open. So even if it’s open, IPX7 covers you to 1-meter deep for 30 minutes.

Garmin-Varia-RTL715-USB-C-Port

Above that, you’ll find the MicroSD card slot. Twist that to both break your fingernail, and open it. It’s a twofer.

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-OpenSDCardSlot

Once inside, you’ll find a MicroSD card tray, and an included 16GB MicroSD card.

Garmin-Varia-RTL715-MicroSDCardSlot

You can swap it out for a larger card. Garmin says that while the hardware itself can handle far larger SD cards (up to 512GB), that the Varia smartphone app can’t handle more than about 128GB. Given the Varia app can’t handle much of anything else either, I wouldn’t go beyond 128GB. Either way, this seems pretty cheap of Garmin, since Cycliq’s Gen 3 camera at roughly half the price includes a 32GB card.

In any case, on the side there are two buttons. One is the power button, and the other is a record button. Depending on what mode you’re using, it’ll be always recording anyways, or it might be in radar-activated mode.

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-Buttons-LEDs

If in continuous recording mode, then this red button saves/locks the clip in progress. Whereas if in radar-activated mode, pressing that button will instantly start a recording. Aside the buttons are some small LED lights. These show you the recording status, as well as overall unit status. The light closest to the record button is for recording, and the other one is for overall status.

Then we’ve got the camera portion, which has a 140°fov lens on it, capturing either 720p or 1080p. This immediately begs the question of why not a higher resolution camera (such as 1440p, 2.7K or 4K). Garmin says their focus was purely on battery life, and producing a quality 1080p image. While they succeeded at battery life, I’ll talk about image quality later in the review.

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-Lens

And right below the camera lens is the bike light portion, which Garmin says is visible one-mile away. These are the same lights as on the existing Varia RTL-515 unit, and in turn impact battery life depending on what mode you’re in:

Garmin-Varia-Radar-RCT-715Side

The light portion also extends to the side/edges of the radar design, so it’s visible from both sides and behind:

Garmin-Varia-Radar-Side

Meanwhile, the big black section is what covers up the radar portion (and of course, battery below that), just like it does on the smaller RTL515:

GarminVaria-Radar-RCT715-vs-RTL515

Finally, we’ve got the mounting bits. The Varia radar mount has been considerably beefed up to handle the extra weight. Thus, existing Varia saddle/etc accessories aren’t compatible. Physically they won’t fit, since the tabs on the RCT715 are far thicker. You can see these two side by side.

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-vs515-Back

Additionally, the new RCT715 mount has a locking arm/mechanism that comes down to snap everything in place:

Garmin-Varia-Radar-RCT715-Clamp

This plastic mount portion then mates with a rubber spacer/mount that is what snuggles up against your seatpost. As shown in the unboxing, these have different forms depending on which seatpost type you have:

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And then lastly, you’ll take that industrial-strength rubber band, and snap it around the seatpost. Quick and easy, and seems quite stable – even with some light gravel riding.

The Radar & Light Bits:

For this review, I’m going to group the radar and light portions into this first section, and then cover the camera portions in the next section. This section is 100% identical to how it worked previously with the existing Varia radar units. Thus, if you’re familiar with that, you can skip this section.

To get started, you’ll turn on the Varia RCT715, and from there the first time it should be in pairing mode, which is indicated by the purple light on the side. Meanwhile, on your Edge go ahead and search for sensors.

Garmin-Varia-Radar-Pairing

At this point, it’ll find the Varia radar, and then also subsequently from that should find the lighting side of things. It’s critical that both components are found, else you won’t get the full integration of features. Missing camera-focused features would be integrated incident detection, speed and GPS overlays, as well as automatic time sync. Whereas for the radar and lights pieces, if you’re missing one, then obviously, you won’t get those.

Garmin-Varia-Radar-RTL715-Paired

Notice how in my sensor list I have two items connected – one for radar (32953 above), and one for lights (plus an unrelated power meter squished in the middle). That confirms I’ve got both sides.

Now, first up is the bike light portion. We can swipe down from the top on touch-screen capable units, or go into the widgets on all other units. Other bike computers have roughly the same data page, once you get there. On this page the upper half is your override section. Basically, think of this as a quick-access page if you want to change your light settings on the fly.

Garmin-Varia-Lights-Widget

Meanwhile, if we tap the settings icon, we get to the light network page. I know the term ‘network’ sounds intimidating here, but it’s not too bad. Basically it allows you to pair multiple lights from any ANT+ vendor. So those could be Garmin, Bontrager, See.Sense, older Cycliq lights, etc… It’s a cool concept, and allows mixing and matching, both front and rear lights. For the purposes of today, we just see our ‘Radar Camera’ listed there, which is the lights for the Varia RCT715. If we had front lights, we’d see that listed as a new item.

Garmin-Varia-Lights-Settings

If we tap on the radar camera item, we can configure the light mode (e.g. flashing, day, night), as well as radar and camera settings. We’ll tackle both those settings later.

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-LightModes

Meanwhile, if we go back to the light network page, we’ve got ‘Network Options’. This is where we can set whether or not the light turns on automatically, and how. The idea being you can power on your bike computer, and it’ll automatically turn on the lights when you start the timer (but not in the garage before the timer). You can also test light settings in here too, and control whether they act as a group, or individually.

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-Light-Settings

Now, once you start the timer, the light on the Varia will illuminate, more or less like any other bike light. It’s rated at up to 65 lumens depending on the mode you’re in, which Garmin says is visible up to 1-mile away. Most people seem pretty happy with it over the years, and as far as a rear taillight goes, it’s perfectly good.

If you’re in a country that limits bike lights with certain regulations (like Germany), there’s a special edition there, StVZO. That version also requires the user explicitly turn on the camera the first time, whereas in the standard edition, it ships enabled out of the box.

Here’s the table of battery to light configurations. All of these assume the radar/camera is on at 1080p:

Garmin Varia RCT715 Battery Durations (Official Specs):
Up to 4 hr. in camera mode
Up to 6 hr. in solid mode (camera disabled)
Up to 5 hr. in peloton mode
Up to 4 hr. in night flash mode
Up to 6 hr. in day flash mode
Up to 10 hr. in day flash mode (camera disabled)
Up to 6 mo. in standby mode

So, with the light portion set, let’s talk radar. The point of the Garmin Varia radar is to let you know traffic from behind is overtaking you. It’s sending out a radar signal, and reporting back any moving objects that are closing in on you (from behind). It does not show anything in front of you.

Thus, it’ll pick up cars that are overtaking you, bikes that are overtaking you, and mopeds. Also, it’ll trigger for trains if they’re on a track next to you, as well as even an airplane if it’s close enough and within range. And generally speaking, false-positives are exceptionally rare. About the only time I’ve seen one, is when I’m sitting on a bike stuck in traffic, and the radar signal might briefly bounce off the car behind me and catch a car travelling the opposite direction. But it’s super rare.

To begin, by default Varia shows this screen which indicates no traffic is behind you. It looks like any normal data screen. The key difference is that little WiFi-looking icon at the top, which confirms Varia radar is connected. If Varia disconnects, it’ll both alert you, and turn that icon to red.

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Then, as a car gets within the range of Varia’s radar (~150m on spec, but in reality I often see further than that), it’ll show a color-coded sidebar, with a dot indicating where the car is in relation to you. That dot will move closer and closer as the car overtakes you. Additionally, you’ll get a unique multi-tone indicating it’s a radar contact (which is different than any other tone in the bike computer).

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Eventually, the dot will disappear, and it’ll turn green when all traffic is clear:

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Note that each car gets its own dot. Obviously, if you’ve got a tiny car behind a big bus, that tiny car can be hidden until the car gets close enough. But either way, it’ll be covered by the dot of the bus, or it’ll grow and get its own dot if it separates far enough from the bus. It won’t show clear until all dots go away.

Within the Varia radar settings, you can change which side the vehicle column is on, the tone types it alerts with, and whether you want a color overlay:

Garmin-Varia-RCT715-Radar-Settings

In addition, if a vehicle is overtaking at an exceptionally high rate of speed, it’ll give you a stronger and darker red alert signal that something is up and to be aware:

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Now all of this radar stuff is available on 3rd party units too like Wahoo/Hammerhead/Stages/etc.

Next, you can ride with the Varia app if you’d like instead. This is for scenarios where you don’t have a compatible bike computer, but want to see the Varia radar information on your phone, perhaps mounted to your handlebars.

In this case, the Varia radar app acts as your radar, showing the same fundamentals as the bike computer would, but just on your phone instead:

clip_image001[16] clip_image001[18]

Now I know for many people, all of this is kinda old-hat. It’s been around nearly a decade, and by and large, Varia radar is largely loved by virtually everyone that buys one. However, it’s also important to keep in mind where it works best, and where it just becomes noise.  It’s also important to note the obvious: The Varia radar won’t keep someone from hitting you. Instead, it’s to give you awareness about what’s behind you.

And Varia radar is very very good at that. I find the radar most useful on quieter roads, or mountain roads, where you might be out there for hours on end with little traffic – perhaps deep into an exhausting ride. Having the radar chirp to give you a heads up that someone is overtaking, is a super helpful snap back to reality to ensure you haven’t wandered too far out into a lane.

I don’t personally find it as useful in a city setting, because there’s just so much traffic. That said, some people do find that useful, as it acts as a second set of eyes. In the same way that the most ardent anti-Varia people are oddly enough those that want to wear a mirror. And that’s cool – you do you. But the reality is the overwhelmingly vast majority of cyclists don’t want to wear a mirror attached to their helmet or handlebars, and this gives them significant contextual awareness instead.

Of course, you should never trust Varia 100% before jutting out across traffic lanes. Always double-check what’s back there. A car can, very rarely, manage to exactly match your speed for an exceptionally long time, and then technically disappear from radar (since it’s no longer overtaking). However, I don’t find that super common, except at very low speeds (e.g. super slow traffic).

But again, to re-iterate what virtually every single forum/post/review/etc will tell you from the past near-decade: Virtually everyone that has the Varia radar says it’s the greatest thing they’ve bought.

So what’s the problem? Well, let’s move into the next section.

Bike Camera & Computer Integration:

This section is all about the new camera side of the Varia Radar RCT715. For that, I’m going to start with the bike computer integration, since that’s the most common use case.

So for this, we’ll need a supported bike computer or wearable. And it’s the “supported” aspect that instantly gets you into two different camps. Those with added camera functionality, and those with base radar+lights features. In a nutshell, without the newest Garmin Edge series units, you won’t get the better integration with the radar, which leads to false positives on incident detection and more.

Camera Features Supported Garmin Units: Edge 530, Edge 830, Edge 1030, Edge 1030 Plus, Fenix 6, Fenix 7, Epix, Venu 2
Radar + Lights Supported Units: Everything else, including older Edge units

I know this might start getting confusing (seriously, you have no idea yet), and I’ll try and clarify in more depth a bit later in this post the downstream ramifications. But first, let’s just talk about how it works on the higher-end units, and then go from there.

Now, before we get riding somewhere let’s validate everything is working, namely that it sees it properly in the settings. To do that, you can swipe-down to access the widgets (or access the widgets menu manually on a non-touchscreen unit). And then slide across the widgets till you get to either the light control or the new camera control widget. The first page is the lights control page. This has the normal lighting options seen on previous Garmin/ANT+ lights:

Garmin-Varia-Lights-Widget

However, if we swipe to the right, we’ll see a new camera control page.:

Garmin-Varia-RCT715CameraControl

If we tap that ‘Radar Camera’ option at the top, it’ll take us to some settings for the camera side of things:

Garmin-VariaRCT715-Camera-Settings

First, there’s resolution, you can choose between 1080p or 720p. Just choose 1080p, it’s bad enough, you don’t dare want to go to 720p.

The next setting though is more important, and has an impact on battery life, but not actually as substantial as you think – only about an hour. The two modes are ‘Continuous’ and ‘On Radar Activity’.

Continuous mode: In continuous mode, as soon as the unit powers on, it’s recording. Simple as that.
Radar-only mode: Whereas in radar-activated mode, it’ll record anytime the radar detects a car from behind.

The far larger impact to battery is the different light modes, as noted earlier. The key thing to understand with radar-activated mode is that if a car (or bear) hits you from the side, it won’t have captured that. At first you might think ‘well, it wouldn’t have seen the car anyways’. But even a camera facing the wrong direction can help prove (for example) that you had the right of way in a green light intersection.

Ok, backing waaaay back again, we’re back into the other widget, which is the new ‘Varia Camera Controls’ widget. That shows you the settings on the camera currently, such as audio-recording enabled, the resolution, and the battery.  It also shows whether or not the Varia radar is on/detected. It does not, confusingly, show you whether it’s actually recording.

Garmin-Varia-RCT715CameraControl

On the bottom half, you’ve got the option to take a photo, and to save a clip. But, these require some explanation:

Take a photo: This option only appears when the camera is actively recording. So if in radar-activated mode, you can’t just take a photo of your buddies in a group ride, unless a car/bike already triggered the camera on. If in continuous mode, then no problem – hit that button and boom, photo saved.

Save a Clip: This will save the current clip that’s seeing ‘something’. Meaning, by default the Varia radar creates 90-second chunks of events. This will save the current 90-second period. This also means that it’ll go into a funky greyed-out mode until it’s done saving that chunk.

Here’s what it looks like when it’s saving that chunk of video file, which will continue till the end of that segment of file.

clip_image001[14]

Again, the problem with both of these is that you can’t just tap to start a recording or take a photo whenever you want. This only works in continuous mode, or if the radar has already triggered. You could toggle to continuous mode in the settings, then take a photo/video, and then go back. But that’s a pain in the ass. If not actively in continuous mode or with an active car, it’ll look like this:

clip_image001[12]

Now, when paired with a supported Edge bike computer (or, concurrently the Varia smartphone app), it’ll contribute the following information in real-time:

– Incident detection
– GPS location coordinates
– Current speed
– Current time/date (it tracks this by itself, but this keeps it in sync)

These can be toggled as overlays on the unit itself, from the Varia app. You can see here an example with the speed shown overlaid atop the footage:

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Now, within the RCT715 there’s a feature called incident detection. Its goal is to figure out if there’s been a crash, and then lock the footage from being overwritten. Basically, it triggers the camera to save the footage in a special place (it actually goes into a new folder on the SD card).

However, that gets to an important point. The RCT715 has its own internal incident detection algorithm. Just like your Garmin Edge has one too. Generally speaking, I have pretty good luck with the Garmin Edge incident detection algorithm, rarely having it false-positive trigger. It uses a combination of sensor data including your speed, gyroscope, and accelerometers. Whereas the RCT715 by itself only has an accelerometer. Thus, if not using with one of the supported Garmin Edge devices above, it’ll only use the far-less-awesome incident detection on the RCT715.

I did one ride with it disconnected from an Edge, and it false-positive triggered three times, simply due to stopping quickly. Or merely going over this driveway bump:

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When it triggers, it automatically saves that footage and starts recording continuously. So if you were in radar-activated mode, now it’s in continuous mode. On the bright side, if you’re using it with an unsupported bike computer, you can disable the incident detection mode in the settings.

That’ll keep it in the correct mode, with the assumption that if a serious incident really happened, you probably wouldn’t ride for more hours than you have footage for anyways (a safe and entirely logical assumption).

So then, what about a non-Garmin bike computer? Well, that’s where it gets a bit more mixed. See, the Varia cycling radar units have been supported for a number of years by many companies – Wahoo, Stages, Hammerhead, Bryton, and I’m sure others. Some of them support radar-only, and some of them radar+lights. All of which utilize the standard ANT+ profile to connect on either the radar side, or the lights side (or both). To that end, the RCT715 supports those same radar & lights standards, and thus, the radar and lights portions will work just fine with it.

But beyond that, you won’t get any camera control, nor any information sent from those units to the camera. So no speed, GPS, or incident detection notifications from those bike computers – only from the aforementioned supported units.

Post-Ride App Usage:

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It’s at this juncture that everything craps the bed.

Seriously, I can’t begin to explain how bad the app situation is on the Varia RTL-715 when it comes to dealing with anything you’ve captured. There are ultimately two core issues at play here:

A) A complete lack of awareness of the reality that people might want to get footage off this thing
B) Massive slowness making even basic operation all but impossible (e.g. downloading a 30-second clip takes 3-4 minutes).

I’m going to divide those up into two issues. Mainly because Garmin doesn’t believe the slowness issue should be commonplace, though myself, DesFit, and Shane Miller (GPLAMA) are all experiencing it. And in some cases, far worse than what I see. Perhaps we’re outliers.

In any case, you’ll crack open the app and then it’ll first connect via Bluetooth where you can toggle all the previously covered settings (this time, just via the app).

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Note that I do a longer-form walk-through in the video (see the YouTube chapters along the bottom of the video), which may be more helpful.

The main benefit of the app is to be able to download footage. For that it’ll leverage WiFi. It’ll try connecting to the radar, and probably fail. You’ll try a few times, and maybe it’ll work. Or, you’ll probably have to restart the unit. Probably the app too.

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Once it connects to the unit, it’ll enumerate all the clips. The app is divided into three galleries: Locked clips, Downloaded Clips, and the Disaster Area. The Disaster Area is where all the untouched clips are. Officially it’s called ‘Unlocked’:

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And I say disaster, because your entire ride is broken into 30-second pieces. And you have to wait 5-10 seconds to see just the split-second thumbnail for each of those 30-seconds pieces, every…single…time you scroll. That means a 2-hour ride has 240 clips in it. Again, watch the video to see how painful this is. Then, you can tap to open a clip and try and figure out what’s in it:

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Of course, you’ll wait another minute for it to buffer the video before playing, at which point you might be able to press play. Want to download that 30s clip? Now you’ll need to go back and remember exactly which non-enumerating thumbnail it was. Then you can tap download. You can’t tap download from the above menu.

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Then you’ll wait. Probably 2-4 minutes if you’re lucky, upwards of 10 minutes if you aren’t. All for a single 30-second clip in 1080p.

Garmin believes there may be issues related to Bluetooth on all our phones causing the slowness, so if we disable Bluetooth after connecting to the Radar (but not before, because then it can’t connect), it’ll be faster. Then clips download in 45-60 seconds (usually, but not always). It’s a mess.

When it comes to quality, it’s not good. But, it’s also not unusable. I’ve got plenty of footage, from bright daylight to near-midnight pitch black. And in almost every scenario, I could make out license plates. Not every single one – as there were a handful at dusk, that were tough. And, I’d also caveat that Dutch drivers are generally pretty good – so nobody was buzzing me at 100KPH. My guess is that if you were buzzed at high speed in poor light, you’d have no chance. Check out the video for actual footage, and I’ll put together a longer form highlight reel later today (sorry, just a bit behind).

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Again, check out the earlier video, and I’ll post some longer form comparative stuff shortly.

Wrap-Up:

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It’s often noted that Garmin aims to have as many features as possible to try and cover as many consumers’ needs as possible. The more features, the more people you can appeal to. And in general, they do that very well. It’s why they dominate so many sports and fitness segments. The problem here isn’t the addition of features. It’s that none of the features are fully baked.

Stepping back, I don’t really understand how this went so wrong – primarily on the camera side. Let’s take the hardware first. Garmin has extensive experience designing cameras, both action and rearview for vehicles. While Garmin stopped making action cameras a few years back, they were largely competitive hardware-wise to GoPros at the time. Stabilization was acceptable for that timeframe, and that was 5-7 years ago. Whereas this, in 2022, has zero hardware or software stabilization. Nothing. And while that’s perhaps fine (Narrator: It’s not.) for a $100-$200 safety camera, it’s a hard sell for a camera that people might want to use to capture antics on a group ride, or any other moment in cycling.

But that’s really the least of the issues. The core of my problems with the RCT715 is the app. It’s impossible to find the clips you want. Garmin’s assumption here seems to be that the app is only going to ever be used in a crash/incident, where incident detection triggers, or you where you manually tag a flagrant driver on your bike computer as your ride. And I can see how they came to that assumption. After all, certainly they tried using the app and realized it’s impossible to find anything when it splits your ride into 30-second pieces. So a 3hr ride is 360 pieces to sift through. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the enumeration and display of those segments is so painfully slow that you’ll give up long before you get to the downloading portion. But assuming you do get that far with your patience, it’ll take 3-4 minutes to download a 30-second clip.

Now Garmin says that the app downloading times that myself, Shane Miller, and DesFit are having isn’t expected. That perhaps we have too many Bluetooth devices on/nearby. And perhaps that’s the case (I also went out to a dock in the middle of a park, with nothing else nearby, and it was still painfully slow). Further, I don’t have that issue downloading footage from my GoPro. Nor my DJI Action cameras. Nor my Insta360 action cams. Nor umpteen other devices I use. And I certainly didn’t have it back in the day with the Garmin VIRB action cameras – and I had just as many Bluetooth devices then as now.

Like anyone else, I wanted this to be awesome, but right now – it’s not. Yes, if I just power on the camera/radar, set it in continuous mode, and wait to get hit from behind – then yes, I’m reasonably confident the camera will have the footage of that incident. But the last time I got hit by a car was 12 years ago this week, and it was from the side (during a race). Thus, any rear-facing camera I buy for $400 needs to at least be capable of capturing non-sad moments on my ride. Because I think capturing those moments is just as important to remembering this sport (still) as fun and viable, as opposed to the assumption that riding on the road is so inherently dangerous that we need to spend $400 in hopes of capturing those sad moments.

Hopefully, Garmin can right this ship. While they likely can’t fix the stabilization aspects, they can undoubtedly fix the app aspects. And that’s where the core of my complaints land.

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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Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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.

If you're shopping for the Garmin Varia RCT715 Camera Radar or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

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. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

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301 Comments

  1. Puk

    “ As usual, this watch is a media loaner, and it’ll go back to Garmin shortly.”

    It’s also usable for running?

  2. Daniel

    You lost me at the weight of the dang thing. Almost double that of the cycliq…?!

  3. Like the first generation of the radar, it’s worth waiting for the second generation.

    • Retroracer

      As they say in aviation “Never fly the Mk1 version of anything”.

    • Joe

      That’d be so much easier of a wait though if they’d just put out a damn 525 or something…. Just the 515 with a USB-C port and no other changes needed.

    • John

      I’ve had the original radar since the day it was released and still using it now without any issues, been one of my best buys and didn’t see anything about the second version that was worth te lengthy wait.

      Won’t be buying this camera version though as it seems a bad implementation which is frustrating as it’s been something I’ve been very keen for

    • Tyler

      Do you mean the square RTL500 from 2015?
      Or the oval RTL510 from 2018? (and it’s near identical looking 515)

      I’ve never come across anyone who has the 500.
      While the 510 and 515 are quite popular in my area.

    • Yup me too, the original works just fine.

    • Paul N.

      I’m also still using the first gen Varia radar with no problems (the RTL500, the rectangular one). I’ve felt no need to replace it with a new one though if the second gen camera/radar combo is better I might consider it.

    • Curtis Repen

      Bang on, John. I won’t ride anywhere without my 500 and the 515 doesn’t seem to add anything useful.

      I have been scoping out options for cameras like Cycliq and Drift Ghost, and this combo really excites me, if they can fix the app.

      The video looks better than Cycliq and not far off the GoPro based on screen grabs above.

      This could literally become a culture changer. If enough cyclists have it, and drivers learn that they could be on camera, maybe the more malicious (coal-rollers and buzzers) might think twice.

      I think I’ll watch for other reviews, but I suspect I’ll have this before next summer, anyways.

    • Also John

      Ditto, word for word.

    • GLT

      My original plan was to sell my RTL500 after getting the RTL515, but it ended up being better to keep both. The old one gets the abuse on the winter rides and fits a bit better on the bikes without much seat post space. It would be great if they unleashed the accessory designers on masts & mounts.

      RCT715 has some appeal, but my expectation is that I would put the largest supported SD card in & ignore it until something unfortunate or extraordinary happened. Having it auto-uploaded the incident pic into the synthetic incident detection event on GC it would be very welcome.

    • Josh

      I use the square (actually rectangle) 500. Used it this morning and it is still working great.

  4. p.otato

    So basically, it’s a Garmin Dashcam (with its inherent intricacies) but built into a radar?

    To bypass the app can you plug it into your computer? If so, does it support USB3 speeds for transfer?

    • You can plug it in, but the transfer speeds are pretty slow. I’ll run some tests. I found it faster to pop the SD card out and just use with an SD card reader. Albeit, not the stock card, that’s slow too.

    • Oscar P

      Yup. Sounds like they just “recycled” the Garmin Dashcam Min hardware and software. The connection and app experience is pretty much identical. Same goes for the image resolution and quality.

    • I don’t have any Dashcam products (or even a car). But on a conference call some months ago about it, they noted that the origins were more from the Dashcam side than the VIRB side.

    • Leslie Harris

      I have had in the past a Garmin Virb and a Garmin Dashcam. In both cases Garmin created a terrible product. Both had significant issues, the Dashcam constantly rebooted after a few months, same fate on warranty exchanged units, eventually Garmin gave up on me, claiming that I shouldn’t be leaving the Dashcam in the windscreen in the sun, as that is what they thought was causing it. Replaced with a Nextbase, which is perfect.

      The Virb was better, and I loved the ability to overlay GPS and HR data. But eventually found a GoPro was just better and the accessories cheaper.

      I love my Garmin watch (Tactix Delta) and have had Fenix 3 and 5x before that. But now stay away from anything Garmin develop with a camera.

    • Mindas

      This is a pretty important aspect to processing and download speeds, the SD Card and its controller.

    • Not slow in my experience, plugged into my iMac or iPad (with USB-C dock attached). My biggest problem is that I need to manually pick the first 30 sec segment of the 1:30 clip for download and dispose of the rest. Why there is no 30 sec default recording option on a car detection baffles me, more so since that’s how the clips are stored anyway.

      At any rate, plugging it in is way faster than using the app.

  5. Bas

    Are Picture / video downloads via USB-C possible?

  6. youpmelone

    I jumped.. i knew this was coming but finally it is there.
    And then this..
    Heavy and big, ok… can get over that
    Expensive, can get over that
    No image stabilization, Why?
    Crap image quality, Why?
    Crap App, this is Garmin.. all software is crap the first 2 years..

    So this will be usable in 2 years, will be what is should have been in 2018 in 4 years from now.

    Garmin’s strength is being consistent, it weakness is being consistent in f-ing up the same way over and over again.

    • Peaches

      thought GREAT but no image stabilization and a state with no front license plates would be a waste over an RTL 515

  7. Eric

    nothing about battery life in different modes? that is a key aspect. how long can I go on a ride with continuous mode? versus radar mode? i know its not easy given depends on traffic, but rough idea of what rides are comfortably.

    • I have it spread about various sections, but added here:

      Up to 4 hr. in camera mode
      Up to 6 hr. in solid mode (camera disabled)
      Up to 5 hr. in peloton mode
      Up to 4 hr. in night flash mode
      Up to 6 hr. in day flash mode
      Up to 10 hr. in day flash mode (camera disabled)
      Up to 6 mo. in standby mode

    • Pollett Chris

      Any chance it allows concurrent use and charging? Current ones don’t and it’s a limiter for long epic rides.

    • Yes, it does (and, I just checked/tested it).

  8. CMartinez

    I like to be an early adopter, but this review has convinced me not this time. I’ll stick with my current Varia.

  9. Greg Franks

    Typo: Once inside, you’ll find a MicroSD card try, and an included 16GB MicroSD card.

    I suppose you could grab the clips from the SD card directly. But crappy image quality makes this a meh.

  10. Adam

    Is it possible to control this camera using Garmin 010-12094-00 Virb and Elite Remote Control for Action Camera?

  11. Felix

    Yet another crappy product incoming…first the somewhat sub-par fitness band, now this. I really had such high hopes. Maybe the price drops to 150, then it will be fine, until then hard pass. No need for low quality cameras these days anymore. I probably could use an old phone as camera and it would still be cheaper and better.

  12. Christopher Campbell

    Can you plug the card in your computer and download the files or do you have to use the app? I assume the computer would be faster.

    • You can put the card into a computer like any normal MicroSD card. I show this a bit in the video, but will add some screenshots above. The file structure is pretty logical, albeit, just with the nightmare of hundreds (or thousands) of 30-second files.

  13. Treskelion

    Well, that was disappointing after waiting soooo long for Garmin to put the 2 obvious parts together; then make a mess of it. Guess I’ll wait, keep my RTL515 and Cycliq Fly6 Gen 3; if the Garmin was betterthen I would have sold the rest. Shame, shame on you Garmin.

    • Treskelion

      Fuzzy, sorry … but where in my reply did I mention weight? As a 85% disabled veteran on a Azub trike, that is the least of my problems! If somebody hits due to texting etc I want to show to the police … assuming I live through the ordeal.

  14. A B

    Important question for all Wahoo users out there: Can you *finally* use the light-off or light-off-but-blink-when-car-approaches modes without going through ANT+ Light? The Wahoo doesn’t support the ANT+ Light Profile…

    • Rouleur

      The reason Wahoo don’t support the Bike Lighting Profile (LGT) is probably because it is still, years on, not an officially ratified ANT+ Profile. The latest version of the profile 2.0_M.001 – is dated Feb 2016 and hasn’t been updated since.

      By contrast the Radar Profile is officially ratified and much much simpler than the overly complex LGT mess.

  15. Patricia

    This is the product I have been longing for but it’s sad to hear that execution was sub par. Can one remove the SD card, put it in an adaptor and review the videos on the computer? Or did they go with some proprietary format that the app converts to something usable? Also, come on Garmin, make a proper mount for these devices.

    • Yes, you can remove the SD card and view it on a computer. I include some snippets of that in my video review, but will add it above here. Standard file formats.

  16. Austin Allegro

    It’s a real shame that a lot of this stuff seems to be released in what is still beta test mode, much like the 2nd gen Wahoo Bolt seems to have been

    It’s not unique to the sports tech industry, it happens across a myriad of other spaces but is fairly frustrating, especially for those who are early adopters to test, feedback and get nothing for their aggravation with the second gen stuff comes out based, so.etimes quite heavily, on their user feedback.

  17. Tom

    Let’s hope that Garmin have just served up it’s entree, knowing that the main course and desert are more palatable.
    Garmin Edge 540/840/1040 in the next few days?

    • Otto

      I hear rumblings of June 1st embargo date so I’m thinking that review will drop then.

      I’ve been holding out on a Garmin Edge purchase until a USB-C version. Micro-USB needs to die, yesterday.

    • Dave

      There are some other sites that cite the June 1st embargo as being for a watch or watches.

  18. Benedikt

    The industrial strength rubber bands failed me twice on my RTL510, that’s why I bought the screw on mount, like many other people I know. The rubber bands seem to be no solution, don’t know why it didn’t work. It jumped of the hooks and didn’t rip apart.

    • Tyler

      The rubber bands on my 510 get looser over time, especially as I’m riding a good bit of very rough gravel.
      I’ve found that the stronger type of hair bands work well/better than the original bands.

    • GLT

      This perplexes me greatly, but will admit I use all of the bolt-on mounts I have for the radar.

      Best guess is that if you roll the bands on they may roll back off. That seemed to happen with the regular handlebar mounts at least. The radar installs always had enough slack to stretch the band without any twisting.

  19. Andrew Hagen

    Wow…Ray, you look seriously annoyed with the interface. What a shame their first attempt was a fail. Makes me want to go back to Cycliq and help bring they next versions to market. Hope you are keeping well!

  20. Greg

    Is Garmin getting impacted by brain drain? Their products recently have been subpar and I wonder if all the previous good talent has left.

    Too many models and all half baked. No real lte features as that was a flop.

    Shame

  21. MVP Kryptonite

    I get the impression Garmin forgot the team that developed and launched their VIRB cameras many years ago along with the team developing the Virb Edit computer/mobile apps no longer are around (generally speaking)

    Why did they not launch a 4k camera with an option to record at 1080p, 2k, 4k that is stabilised is beyond me. The 30 second clips would do my head in (I wouldn’t mind if their Virb Edit apps stitched them together)

    Ok, so they took an idea from years back to record depending on the radar, but not talking with their consumers by the looks of it will likely mean this product wont be as successful as it should be. Where is all the ANT+ integration (imagine my Watch or Computer battery died, I would like the sensors to continue to record the data to the RCT device)

    The only + was an USB C port for hopefully faster charging (does it support PD?).

    For the RCT mk II, please a modern camera with stabilisation, full Virb edit apps & Ant+ support and FIND MY DEVICE support!

    Hope the UT headlight isnt hamstrung depending on where that goes

  22. Greg

    I didn’t see any mention of battery life? The current radar is good for 16 hours, which I need when doing double centuries or longer. Please tell me this is something similar since it’s so chunky.
    Thanks for the great review and it looks like I won’t be early adopter this time.

    • Up to 4 hr. in camera mode
      Up to 6 hr. in solid mode (camera disabled)
      Up to 5 hr. in peloton mode
      Up to 4 hr. in night flash mode
      Up to 6 hr. in day flash mode
      Up to 10 hr. in day flash mode (camera disabled)
      Up to 6 mo. in standby mode

      All modes above assume radar, and also camera unless otherwise stated.

    • Drew

      Do they mention what recording mode they are getting those camera enabled numbers in?

      I currently run a Gen2 Fly6CE, the original radar, and the original Varia tail light (I like that it has an accelerometer). My Fly6 is starting to lose battery life but it’s still more than the Gen3, so I’ve been holding off. It *looks* like this would be a suitable replacement for a Fly6 and an RTL as it would come out to about the same cost as those 2 devices and the video quality looks marginally better, with the exception of the lack of stabilization. The Cycliq app has always been pretty much crap in my opinion. I quit using them and just plug them into my computer for everything.

      The first big question for me is, is that “up to 6hr in day flash” in 720 or 1080. I’ve never gotten more than about 5h20m with my Fly6, and that’s with the light off. 6h with day flash in 1080 would be a win if the quality is the same or better.

      The other question is if you can change the recording length. It looked like there was an option for clip length, but I wasn’t sure if that was just for the in app/device button to save a clip, or if that was for the normal recording mode. The one thing I do really like about the Cycliq cameras is being able to make 5 or 10min clips. It does make them much easier to sort. Not having that option does seem very short sighted on Garmin’s part.

    • Greg

      Any idea what battery life would be in Night Flash mode with camera just in Radar mode?

    • acousticbiker

      Kinda surprising/disappointing that for newer bulkier more expensive item that the battery life is less than the RTL510/15 (when comparing like for like – for example, day flash with camera disabled).

      Ruled out on just this basis alone, even before getting to the un-stabilized camera and app/interface woes

  23. Martin Westall

    What is the battery life if using purely for camera and radar. Ie light off?

    • Sorry, see above. That said, that’s the only data points they have, they don’t have battery stats for a light entirely off mode.

    • Long. I had to charge the 515 after every second ride, but when I turned the light off completely, it lasted up to ~6 (average ride being two hours or so). Obviously, my 715 is too new to share experience on that, but I have the light to “off” anyway…

  24. Mike

    Watch first 20 seconds and switch off LOL, only joking watched it all as this really is what I wanted as Ray said, Garmin looked to be improving, nether mind, great review as always Ray

  25. David E.

    Waiting for the “Ray is a Garmin fan boy” or “Ray is getting paid off by Garmin” or “Ray never seems to say anything negative about Garmin” crowd to weigh in on this one.

  26. Marc Simkin

    Ray, thanks for this. I’m disappointed with Garmin on this. There is so much potential here, that they seem to be ignoring.

    My Cycliqs are on their last legs. I was trying to decide what I should do, especially since I’ve never been happy with the Cycliqs. Never gotten anywhere near the advertised battery life, even when the lights are off.

    I guess I will wait until next year for some software updates to the RCT-715 or maybe the next gen unit.

    Garmin, should of just purchased Cycliq and used that as the starting point.

    In the meantime, I will just continue to make do with the Cycliqs.

    -marc

    • secret_squirrel

      If you ignore the app being crappy then it does everything a Varia Radar and Fly 6 does in 1 unit already and is the same price as buying both separately. Yes its a pretty steep price but not unbearable.

      Hopefully it will give Cycliq the kick up the bum they so strongly need.

      Review feels a bit harsh tbh. (imo)

    • The thing to keep in mind about Cycliq, is that it’s really no better in the app department. It’s simply that in the Gen3 units, they got rid of all the footage transfer functionality entirely. So if you’re coming from an older Cycliq Fly6, just keep that in mind.

      I don’t know what’s worse, to have a horrible file transfer experience, or none at all.

    • Thomas Clark

      Are there any front and rear cameras you or anyone recommend? I’m keen to have some sort of recording on my bike but I’m struggling to see the wood through the trees.

    • Zach

      I was going to look into some things form Drift Innovations. The new Ghost XL Pro has great reviews from the Amazon “Vine” (Free item) reviews. But the reviews from paying customers trickling in are not good at all. I’ve seen videos from “real” users saying the settings change on their own and the 7 hour 1080p recording is really just over 3 hours. (Perhaps because it was automatically turning on stabilization and 60 frames per second). I’d be interested in any recommendations as well but I don’t know if I want to attach a front and rear dedicated camera for daily riding.

  27. secret_squirrel

    So my read of the review is if you ignore the app its pretty much as a good as a cycliq with added radar and battery life?

    At least Garmin didnt drop the lumens and battery life like Cycliq did with the gen 3 Fly6. Picture quality looks at least as good too.

    So as long as it works with a hammerhead for basic radar and continuous recording I think Garmin have a sale.

  28. Tim

    Sounds like an interesting product – I’ve been looking for a replacement for my Cycliq Fly6 after two failed inexplicably in short succession (Cycliq Customer Service blamed water damage without so much as inspecting the device, which speaks volumes both to their attitude towards customers and also the reliability of their products!)

    I have an Wahoo Elemnt Bolt v1 as my head unit – how well does the radar work on that? I get the impression it does work and uses the lights at the top, but I suppose I’m wondering if it’s less useful given the inherently more limited detail and lack of colour on the main display.

    I have no particular desire to configure the device through the Bolt – I doubt I’ll often want to change settings mid-ride. I would be perfectly happy setting up the device on my phone through a companion app. Is there I much I would be missing by doing that? In the review, you seem to access most settings via your head unit, but could these be configured equally well via the app? Is there anything (useful) that can only be achieved through a (compatible) head unit?

    The app does seem useless for reviewing/saving footage, but again is that necessary? Or could I just plug it into my laptop with the USB cable and access the files directly (normally called USB Media Mode or something)?

  29. Tim

    Is it too much to ask that we get easy snapshots that we can auto-share to Strava? I’m thinking much like the way Zwift works. Take photos on your ride, then offer to share to Strava at the end of the ride (I’ll take export to phone). Give me a button on the cycling computer that I can push to take a photo in the moment.

    • If in continuous mode, you can do the photo snapshot at any time. It’ll take a few seconds and save to the unit.

      Then, using the app, you can access it. That part works relatively well – likely because the file sizes are tiny.

  30. Cary Martin

    What a disappointment. I know Ray you warned us from the very beginning of the review how it was going to turn out but there were so many – wait, what? – moments in that back third that I just can’t justify this. Image stabilization seems like the most obvious but I think we would have been hoping for things like integration of the video back to Garmin Connect, so that when scrubbing through the timeline associated with the other sensor data the video would show up at that same time. To me the use case seems along the lines of remembering a close call at some specific point in the ride based on the route or course and wanting to select the appropriate video clip based on selecting a point or route section on the map view. A strong miss in the end.

  31. Simon Long

    So just to clarify, as I don’t think your review explicitly says it (and if it does and I missed it, many apologies!)…

    It seems you can’t have this thing just displaying the rear view all the time on the screen of your Edge computer?

    Because that’s about the only thing a rear-view camera would be useful for for me; as an adjunct to the (excellent) Garmin radar information – to show me what was behind me as an additional safety feature over and above the radar information. Rear recordings or still capture is not something I’d use – I want to see the image in real time.

    • I’m pretty sure if it did that Ray would have at least mentioned it…

    • secret_squirrel

      Makes zero sense. The technology isnt there to deliver it without murdering battery life and your GPS screen isnt good enough for video. Essentially you are asking for a completely different set of kit.

    • Correct, there’s no livestream video transmission.

    • inSyt

      They could connect the Varia to the head unit via a cable to allow live streaming without murdering battery life. The cable can also be used to transmit radar information to the head unit further saving battery life. They could even charge the Varia using the head unit via the cable.

      It is 2022, the technology is definitely there.

    • Rear livestream is a key bit for me. My Varia Radar is great but a rear viewing livestream would go a long way to reducing my anxiety on rides.

      Knowing if the dot coming at me is a moped vs semi truck, knowing if they’re holding to the center of their lane or hugging the shoulder or weaving. Knowing if they’re pulling a trailer. Seeing if they’re moving over a bit to pass.

      I’d be 100% OK with a supplemental battery pack or two to support this or a wired rather than wireless connection.

      And realistically it’d likely need at least image stabilization and probably higher res to get my money.

    • Paul S.

      Use a mirror. Cheap, effective, available today.

      If you actually want.a rear camera, you can probably do that now, too. Buy a GoPro and a cheap phone that can run their app. Mount the phone to the handlebars and run the app on the phone. If I remember correctly (Hero 8 here), you can show whatever the camera is seeing in the app in real time.

    • A mirror is not nearly as good as a well done rearview camera.
      – The camera and viewer/computer can each be placed for optimal function rather than having to be placed for line of sight.
      – Haven’t seen any mirrors with image stabilization.
      – A camera provides a much better overall image.

      A GoPro solution like that works but results in more devices. I’d much prefer one single head unit, even if twice the size of my Edge 1030 and an all-in-one light/radar/cam rear unit.

    • MartiM

      Just get a mirror if you want to check behind you. The battery life and resolution will be significantly better.

      I don’t understand the use case for this device. It’s so you can give the video to a personal injury lawyer, I guess?

    • Stephen Thomas

      People like @MartiM seem to come out of the woodwork every time the Varia is a topic. I.e. people that feel compelled to comment on the radar even though they’ve never used one. Look, @MartiM, if you don’t want a Varia, that’s cool. You be you. But, believe me, there is a *world* of difference between the radar and a mirror. The radar is so much better that it’s not even in the same league. As Ray says in the review:

      > But again, to re-iterate what virtually every single forum/post/review/etc will tell you from the past near-decade: Virtually everyone that has the Varia radar says it’s the greatest thing they’ve bought.

      Count me among the “virtually everyone” and maybe allow for the possibility that perhaps that many people aren’t all drastically wrong. Otherwise, you’re just coming across as an annoying troll.

    • MartinM

      I think you misinterpreted my comment. I love the Varia. It’s brilliant. And integrating with a rear light, fine, one less mount. It’s the camera bit I dont understand. A video feed is an unnecessary distraction and the resolution will not be equal to a mirror or a shoulder check.

  32. Jared

    This review made me sad…but at least it saved me $400.

  33. Alec

    I’m certain it’s built on the same platform as Garmin’s dash cams, which IMO are equally crap. I am not confident I’d be able to download an incident video, and it false triggers multiple times per drive.

  34. Tyler

    As others have mentioned, I’m also interested in the nuances of battery life, with and without the camera running.
    Here’s what Garmin website says:
    “Stay powered for your longer rides with up to 4 hours of battery life with radar and tail light on solid high or night flash, 5 hours on solid low and 6 hours on day flash — all with camera recording at 1080p.”

    Those times are abysmal.
    The 515 does 16 hours on day flash.
    Why would the light-only time have gotten so dramatically worse? The battery capacity must have shrunk significantly.

    Ray, I’m also curious if you can drop any hints about a new headlight coming?

    My desired bike devices, in order from most to least important:

    * a viable rear radar and camera with at least 18 hours of battery life for not only daily riding, but doing all-day endurance events like Garmin Unbound, where radar and light are needed, depending on time of day and parts of the course (some vehicle traffic, particularly for us back of the packers)
    * a comparable battery headlight/daytime running light
    * a bike computer with a built in small headlight that could be used as daytime running light, and/or as a back-up light for 18-24 hour rides where your main headlight may not last
    * a side-view/front view/fish-eye view camera for capturing the full extent of negative incidents

    • secret_squirrel

      Would you also be happy with a brick?

      The fly12 runs for about 6-7hrs – so you are looking for something 2-3 times the size. Probably about 1/3 of a water bottle in size.
      Your needs probably arent a big market…..

    • Tyler

      If we’re just talking about the rear radar and tail light – my battery needs are not far off of the 510 unit that came out in 2018 – it had 15 hours of battery life.
      Battery tech has advanced immensely since then. A current battery of the same physical size as the 510’s should easily have 20% more capacity.
      If the camera is set to only come on for vehicle detections, that should be a relatively small hit to battery life, at least for the kind of riding I do, where vehicles are very infrequent (but a startling surprise, without radar).

      As for the market for an all day tail and head light – that market is massive.
      Garmin’s own signature bike event – the Garmin Unbound – is filled with thousands, in that market.
      Bike packers, commuters, endurance event cyclist, bike tourers, etc. want maximum battery life lights.
      My lights have run out during every race and long training ride that I’ve done (combo of radar usage, some daytime flashing in areas with intermittent vehicle traffic, and at least low power steady lights when riding in darkness), necessitating carrying multiple lights on my person.

      Cyclists are not a monolith – there are many use cases for long-lasting lights (with a light usage safety camera).
      Endurance gravel biking is extremely popular in Garmin’s home state, for example.

    • I added some more detailed battery numbers from Garmin in the comments up above, as well as in the post.

      Note, it cannot operate while being charged.

    • Tyler

      Thanks Ray!

  35. Thanks Ray, good review.

    Just a thought… can’t you take out the memory card and stick that directly into a computer or iPad to get all the video off quickly and painlessly?

    • Quickly and painlessly…that’s the tricky part. But yes, you can do it. You’ll just end up with hundreds or thousands of files to sift through manually. The default MicroSD card is painfully slow, but if you put a nice fast one in there, then you can offload reasonably quickly.

  36. Ray, is there any reason why non-Garmin units like the Karoo couldn’t be upgraded via firmware to add the same camera options as compatible Garmin units? Presumably it’s just a question of Garmin licensing the appropriate protocols assuming the hardware is otherwise compatible? Thanks.

    • No technical reason. And honestly, it didn’t sound like they were opposed to it either. It just wasn’t top of the pile for launch day.

      In theory, it’d be good for Garmin to publish the updated spec – in the same general vein as they did the first time around for the ANT+ protocol. Of course, as I’ve also said, to Garmin’s credit, they do tend to be a solid steward of standards, publishing things most others never end up using despite asking for (e.g. Running Dynamics profiles, Cycling Dynamics profiles, etc…).

      That said, I’m sure Hammerhead would jump at the opportunity to add that in. Maybe too much jump for Garmin’s liking.

  37. That app doesn’t sound fun.
    But still 1000 times better than the Cycliq app.

  38. Alex

    In my opinion, one of the most important things is that cars notice that there’s a camera.

    While having the person/car who hit & run you on camera is significantly better than not, what I really want is for a lower chance to get hit in the first place. I believe that as soon as people realize they are on camera, they’re going to be extra careful around you.

    • Treskelion

      This!

    • secret_Squirrel

      You need a pass pixi

      In fairness an observent motorist will see the Garmin flashes increase in proximity.

    • I ended up cutting a funny section out of the video cause it was already faaaaar too long, but it’s funny – it’s damn-near impossible to get a car to pass you with three cameras on the back, two of which are bright red flashing. In fact, I even did some riding on the Cannondale Synapse integrated bike, so I had three sets of bright red flashing things. Dutch drives were like: Dear god, he’s a bomb.

      I went out for one 75-minute ride, and couldn’t get a single car to pass me on the roadway, they all stayed behind (or ended up turning off). I ended up doing stupid out and backs at the very end of my ride to finally get a taker.

    • Tyler

      You’re fortunate to be living somewhere with such courteous (if over-courteous) drivers.

      In Garmin’s home state (somewhat dependent on how much consistent biking activity there is in the area), many drivers see a flashing bike light as a target.
      I’ve considered adding an indicator of a camera (like Pixi Pass) to my bike, but I fear it would further make me a target, for rolling coal, chucking bottles or spit at, etc.

      Wide disparities in bike access, treatment, attitudes toward, etc.

    • In fairness that observant motorist is not as likely to hit you. It’s the unobservant that I’m worried about.

  39. Rob

    Hi Ray, any hopes for an updated Varia Vision this year? I bought mine years ago after reading your review, and it still works great, but the tabbed mount has broken off, so I’m using a Garmin rubber band to hold it on my sunglasses.

  40. portemat

    Having a radar / camera combo to automatically record close passes would be awesome.

    Because it would then be easy to upload those to the police portals (yes, in the UK this can have a pretty good result. Does depend on your local police force, though. Some have a really good record of using cyclist footage to fine / warn drivers).

    Note, I don’t really want to wait to be hit!

    This doesn’t seem close to being able to do that though?

    • secret_squirrel

      Why not? 99% of Ray’s issues were with the App which is optional after set up.

      A lot of Ray’s issues seem to be because Garmin promised far more than they actually delivered. If you just think of it as a Varia Radar and Cycliq camera in 1 unit its a complete replacement for them both. The rest of the features are just jazz.

      It records video and speed, then you yoink it off the SD card directly for the few times you do a police submission. Which is what I do with my Cycliq anyway.

    • Yeah, there’s *SO MUCH POTENTIAL* for software additives here. Maybe I’ll write a post on that tomorrow – what I want Garmin to do.

      As usual, Garmin largely nails the hardware on this (stabilization aside). But also as usual, it’s the app that let it down. And it let down the basics. All the incredible things Garmin could do require an entirely different focus on making it happen. Things that could change the direction of finding safe cycling routes.

    • Aaron

      Please do write it up!

      I have hope that most of the issues you brought up can be fixed with a firmware/software update, setting aside hardware stabilization. Garmin at least has a habit of pushing out updates (I’m glaring at you Cycliq).

    • If you do write a software follow-up article, please be sure to mention my radar website (mybiketraffic.com) where you can upload data from these radars. It should work “out of the box” with this new version of the radar, but I don’t have one to test. If you still have my connectiq app installed, if you could upload a ride to mybiketraffic and let me know if you run into any issues, that would be fantastic so I could update compatibility. I’m hoping to make the whole process easier later this summer so that it can automatically sync across. The reason why I mention it here in this comment thread is because “finding safe cycling routes” [and safer times of day/night] is one of the goals of the project. But for that to become a reality, I need so much more data from so many more users. Basically, it would be great to push Garmin to integrate the radar data recording feature directly into the Garmin head units automatically so that you don’t have to install my connectiq app separately. People may disagree, but just like heartrate and speed data is automatically stored in the Garmin fit files, the radar data should also be stored automatically (with option to disable). This is a safety feature as you can tell how fast a car that hit you was going post-mortem.

    • Whoops, sorry about the picture. I meant to use that as the profile pic. Please edit/delete (I cannot!).

    • The radar itself does not measure lateral passing distances. I’m working on a separate lidar based project to measure lateral passing distances. I currently have a radar-only project that uses the radar data to analyze passing speeds at mybiketraffic.com. You can see data from 20,000 rides people have uploaded and do a bit of a comparison between passing speeds around the world … but it needs a lot more data from a lot more users. I think a lidar based approach pointing out both sides of the radar is the solution. Who knows, maybe that will be a new feature in a future Varia model?! Hopefully they will collaborate with the research work I am doing.

    • Brian, interesting project. One additional issue is that Garmin do not differentiate between a car in the same lane as the bicycle rider, on a road while the bicycle rider is on an adjacent protected bikeway or anything in between.

      Looking at the country stats I couldn’t help but think about training rides I’ve done in The Netherlands on protected bikeways vs those in the U.S. (and that I’m doing less and less of because of the danger).

      Your LIDAR project sounds interesting. I also wonder if you could grab geo data that might indicate the road config and thus where a rider might be riding.

    • And getting way off topic here… It’d be great if the country stats page could lock the headers across the top and if there was an option to filter out countries with fewer than x rides or x riders. And a download option! 🙂

    • Walker, thanks for the feedback. That’s correct about cars – if there isn’t anything obstructing the view, then it will count cars that are pretty far to the side away from a protected bike path or bike lane. About the country analysis page, I’ve got a few more stats I want to add to that page (time of day related) and I will look at locking the header in place when I update it and adding both a filter and download option.

    • lonpfrb

      Thanks for your brilliant app, despite the limitations of the IQ platform. The convenience of the Upload Ride (to Connect) is great, whereas upload to mybiketraffic.com requires a browser device. So some kind of federation with Connect to get the ride data would be a good evolution. I guess IQ doesn’t foresee that need, but clearly Garmin do have some federation in Connect…

    • Ionpfrb, thank you for the feedback. Garmin Connect does have an API that let’s me get the data by auto-syncing activities uploaded to Garmin Connect (through the phone or wifi) but the code is tricky to figure out and I haven’t had time to work on it until now. So hopefully in the next few weeks I will have that up and running so that people who don’t use a browser device will be able to use the system as well. Maybe later this summer I will create a standalone phone app that will make it easier to view the data as well, but I’m going to get the auto-sync functionality working first.

    • Reuben

      I fairly frequently ride on a frontage road adjacent to a highway – my Varia picks up cars on the highway all the time.

  41. Jon Thompson

    I really wish manufacturers would put the charging ports into their mounting connector, then put the power connector in the back of the mount, and then open source it so that third party manufacturers can still make

    Any sort of USB power basically means that either you don’t charge while riding, or eventually vibrations will break the internal connection of the port. By putting the actual connector in the mounting hardware, it could be done in a way that any cabling is locked in so that the weight of the cable is stable to the port, lowering the amount of force on the port itself.

    But then I long for the day that Shimano opens up their Di2 cable connectors design and the wiring is just built into the carbon layup of the bike, with power connectors where it makes sense (minimally- front and rear derailleur, tail light, cockpit) and dongles to go to USB during the transition.

  42. Ian Lintner

    Did I miss the battery life information somewhere in there?

    • Tyler

      Here’s what Garmin website says:

      “Stay powered for your longer rides with up to 4 hours of battery life with radar and tail light on solid high or night flash, 5 hours on solid low and 6 hours on day flash — all with camera recording at 1080p.”

    • I’ve added more detailed battery life above. Core camera functionality though is 4-6 hours depending on light settings.

  43. eajohnson

    Other reviews seem to indicate that it’s possible to use the USB connection to access acquired media, can you comment on how well this works as an alternative to using an app? In fact, I’m interested in whether you can use it _without_ installing any app as I do not like to install vendor apps on my phone for privacy and security reasons.

    • You can, but it’s slow. I’ll run some exact tests later tonight. However, that doesn’t work with the app – so it’s purely accessing the files like any camera SD card.

      It’s what I did for the video. Yank the card out, stick it in a reader, and view it (USB-C cable is the same, but slower).

  44. Aaron D

    Tragically, the RCT-715…. Appears to be a classic case of “they didn’t google their own product name before launch”

    Lets just say the Google results are… extremely NSFW

  45. Ismo

    I suppose the varia 716 for German markets is crippled like the earlier models?

    The varia 516 has only 5 lumen mode, whereas the varia 515 has several modes, ranging from 20 to 65 lumens.

  46. Matt

    I was excited! Then I read the review. Now I’m bummed…but $400 less poor.

  47. Jacob

    Great review. Does this mean that we are in the start of a couple of days/weeks of Garmin product releases?

  48. James

    Hey DC, can you confirm whether or not this thing runs while charging? The RTL515 definitely did but wanted to see if this one does.

  49. marcel

    Twinkie in the netherlands? Here
    link to shopamerica.nl

  50. William mcanirlin

    I might have missed it, but can you plug.it in directly to your computer to view files?
    When you have it recording just when a car is detected, does each detection have a separate file? Does it break those at 30 sec when there Ali’s a strong of traffic?

  51. Sean K.

    Great analysis Ray. I can always look forward to a thorough examination of the product. This is why I’m a subscriber!

    It’s interesting to see the evolution of the Varia line of products. The Varia has been an amazing game changer in road safety. Here, I think there is a need to double down on usage when implementing the camera features and interface. Part of new product development is taking a stake in the ground, so to speak, and making adjustments. Garmin has gone all in here with the camera in an attempt to do too much at once perhaps. But it would have been better to focus on a few key things to start.

  52. Joe

    Actually one thing I didn’t see mentioned here is charging.

    Does it work with a USB-C to USB-C cable? That one should be commonplace across the board by now but there are still too many manufacturers who don’t wire up their devices properly.

    Also, I would assume regardless it’s only 5V / 3A and not USB-PD… what kind of charge times are we looking at? That 4-6 hour battery life could be excused a bit more if it charges up quickly.

  53. Damien O'Rourke

    I think Garmin release a product like this every now and again just to prove that Ray isn’t on Garmin’s payroll 😁
    Thanks for the review

  54. Gregory Smith

    Enjoyed your review Ray, even it if was disappointing. My wife has been after me for a LONG time to record my rides, but nothing seemed right. Would have loved to go with Cyclic Fly6 / 12, but even my close friends can not recommend them. So I have held out hope Garmin would come thru – eventually. Since my wife and I have both had good experience with the Varia 515, upon seeing the new Varia RCT715, I thought….finally, the wait is over! But most of the items that graded out the poorest are features that I want…so the wait continues. Sigh…

  55. Miha

    But on the end all this are software issues (minus HW stabilisation) and could be improved with firmware or app updates?

  56. Pavel Vishnyakov

    Surprised to see that the battery life difference between “camera on” and “camera off” is so small. I was expecting the camera to consume significantly more power

  57. Curtis Repen

    Agree with @secret_squirrel. I think the review is a bit harsh, given the real world use cases of most of us.

    Most of us will never bother downloading files unless we are in an accident, so futzing about downloading pictures is not a deal-breaker. The radar sounds as good as past Varias (Variae?) which are excellent. The light seems to be on par with the 515, which I read is much better than my 500, and the camera seems to be better than the Cycliq which is the benchmark for long battery life cycling cameras. GoPros have better picture quality but shorter battery life and no integration with the head unit

    Instead of a lightweight aero bike looking like a Christmas tree with separate light, radar and camera (where will you put those mounts?), there is one clean, reasonably well integrated device.

    The older Varia, plus a half decent light, plus a camera, is probably USD$600?

    I think this will sell. and I may have talked myself into oe.

    • I don’t disagree that if you look purely as a safety only device, it’s fine-ish.

      But I don’t think that’s an excuse to have a dismal app experience or even having 2012-era stabilization. Proper stabilization leads ot better license plates in lower light conditions. Garmin is probably even luckier that I don’t live in the US/UK/etc with cars flying on roads next to me. All of the cars nearby me where bikes and cars dance are at low-speed. There’s not even high-speed roads if I wanted them. And finding rough roads with cars actually on them? Also, surprisingly hard (I spent hours trying to get cars to pass me on roads, even farm roads).

      In those scenarios, better stabilization leads to more viable captured plates or situations. Nobody is asking for Hero 10 Boost stabilization (hence why I even purposefully compared it to a 3hr action cam). I’m asking for VIRB 2016-era stabilization, and only at 1080p. That’s a reasonable request.

      And that’s before we get to silly stuff like including a 16GB low-performance SD card that can’t even hold 5 hours of riding at 1080p.

    • Zach

      If used purely for safety or evidence, does stabilization matter? I had assumed all this does it make a smoother video by slightly cropping each frame and keeping them in place more consistently. Meaning, the individual frames would the license plate would be the same? Or is there a type of hardware stabilization that would work in a small form factor? Thanks for any details – I’m just trying to weigh out if this device would make sense for me since it’s really more for aggressive drivers in my area. Otherwise I may keep the Varia 515 and look for another cam. Gopro battery life wouldn’t make sense for a century, but this potentially could 🙂

    • Curtis Repen

      The criticism of the cr-app 🙂 and cheaping out on the SD seems fair.

      And hopefully there is room for improvement, maybe even in the image quality.

      But if you are trying to pack camera, light and radar into a small form factor, plus keep weight low and battery life high, at a reasonable price, something’s gotta give.

      Is there a better comparison than Varia 515LTL + Cycliq 6? A quick check shows those at $229ea, so USD$399 for an integrated device equal to or better than those seems like a great deal.

      If someone already has one or the other devices, upgrade sales might be a tough sell, but if someone wants radar plus camera, what else would you suggest?

    • Tyler

      Where I live, and how I ride, vehicles are passing me at very high speeds, and with no front license plates.
      So, the camera is worthless unless it can provide very clear video of the vehicle AND the driver.
      This camera doesn’t seem to have the optics or stabilization to do that.

    • Rouleur

      Hi Zach,

      Modern image stabilisation is done via mitigation of global motion in the image. The methodology you describe is essentially what electronic image stabilisation is, but crucially this might be done at encode time in HW (and HW meaning in the video encoder) vs post processing (SW) of previously encoded pictures.

      All modern video encoders (I previously worked 10+ years in video encoder IP design) have motion estimation on the front end to measure and estimate motion from frame to frame in the image. These motion vectors are used to compress the image efficiently. By the same token these motion vectors, when they all act in the same direction, i.e. global motion, can indicate vibration and be mitigated against. This allows the vibration motion to be removed at encode time which not only produces a better output but crucially also leads to a more efficiently coded video sequence as the encoder does not need to encode spurious motion vectors. This is generally what is referred to as HW electronic stabilisation and is available in most modern HW video encoder IP cores.

      Image stabilisation can be applied when decoding a previously encoded sequence (we’ll call this SW stabilisation) however this will not produce a decoded output with as high quality an output.

      One thing to note however is that if the chipset Garmin is using for the video coding does not support HW electronic image stabilisation then it is not as easy for them to add it.

      Based on the stats quoted here 1080p/720p video 30fps, and encoded buffer size of 8.5GB/hr this is a cheap and nasty video encoder chipset from 5-10 years ago! Ray, if you can post a section of the video file fromt he camera I can do some analysis and tell you more!

    • Stabilization can be a problem for evidentiary purposes. Defense lawyers in the US will argue (as they have previously for digital images that have been “enhanced”) that the “manipulation” of the original digital day is unreliable and therefore such images should be excluded as evidence. Also, see the recent cross-examination of Amber Heard in the defamation suit.

    • Zach

      @Rouleur – Thanks a ton for the response! I was on the fence but think I’ll hold off for now.

    • P.otato

      I am not a lawyer but here are some thoughts on this:

      A) the vast majority of the US does not have a front plate on their vehicle making a rear camera more useful for showing vehicle road position, traffic control devices, and other generalities
      B) software stabilization of the video may not be admissible in court as it is modified footage

      Again I’m not a lawyer (just some random internet potato) but I feel as though the Product Managers over at Garmin were a bit constrained on what they could do.

    • Hi Rouleur (and others)-

      I’ve placed some original foot files here: link to dropbox.com

      Cheers, and thanks for being a DCR Supporter!

    • Rouleur

      Hi Ray,

      Thanks for those.

      I took a look at the files. So this is a pretty early video encoder chipset from Ambarella (who used to supply chips to GoPro before they did their own).

      The encode is in AVC/H264 format which is better than Mpeg2 or even MJPEG which some of the cheaper cameras use. However AVC/H264 supports many encode ‘tools’ and this is quite a limited encoder in the way it predicts from previous frames. This is classed as an IP-only (I and P pictures only) encoder which is less sophisticated than an encoder which uses B pictures. The result of this is that the quality for a given bitrate will be lower as compression efficiency is less. This is why the file size is relatively big with a high bitrate of 19.2Mb/s for the given quality.

      This encoder will definitely lack any HW acceleration support for electronic image stabilisation.

    • Stabilization helps immensely with being able to read license plates, especially at higher closing speeds. Unless you have a high res, high frame rate, high dynamic range camera (this is not any of those) then you can’t do it very well in software.

      Some U.S. jurisdictions are also now requiring ID of the driver not just the plate.

    • True, but defense lawyers are also challenging the evidentiary value of images that have been “manipulated” or “enhanced”, and would certainly do the same for video that has been stabilized.

    • Mechanically Stabilized is not enhanced and presents no evidentiary problems and I’ve never heard of any problems with in-camera digital stabilization. Even post-production stabilization has only been successfully challenged once that I’m aware of and that one is be appealed.

  58. Adam

    Thank you for your review. Do you know how the camera control features would work with a Garmin Edge 530? It does not have a touch screen. Would the take a pic/record a clip features be available? Thanks.

  59. Luke Selby

    I saw this review pop up and almost went out and bought the damn thing before reading the review. Glad I didn’t.

    • Luke Selby

      I will say, if varia camera 2.0 is paired with a front facing light and camera (with a working interface and app and stabilization and whatnot) I”d buy that 100%. The views etc would (hopefully) be much better for sharing with friends/family, and in the event I need video because of something bad, having both front facing and backwards facing cameras is probably worth it. Especially if the app can stitch the two camera views together into one stream.

      GARMIN. TAKE MY IDEA. AND MAKE IT WORK. AND I’LL GIVE YOU A LOT OF MONEY FOR IT. BUT ONLY IF YOU MAKE IT WORK

  60. Larry

    This half baked implementation brings up the perennial question about why a Connect IQ app hasn’t happened between Varia radar & GoPro. Doesn’t GoPro have an open SDK (I kinda doubt the SDK has been ported to Connect IQ)?

    The mount of the RCT715 looks like a remix of the one Garmin had for the Virb. That one was very secure but also a bit overly stiff to operate. Is the microSD card easy to remove and insert? The pictures make it look like it’s sitting down in a well under the cover with hardly any access space for a finger or even the card itself.

  61. Joseph Brescia

    Will this still connect with the RideWithGPS app?

  62. Eric Peters

    So this is the reason why the Varia 515 has become unusable due to continuous connection loss and reconnect on my Edge 1030+.
    Many others complain and no comment or fix from Garmin, It used to work perfectly up to a couple of months ago.

    • KevinC

      Garmin regularly breaks features with their firmware updates which is why I migrated to Wahoo (who sadly are now doing the same). With luck they might fix it in a year or two.

    • I have the same combination and it’s working fine.

    • Tyler

      My wife and i have the 515 and 510 for 2 and 4.5 years, respectively, and I’ve noticed no recent connection or feature degrade to either. Currently paired to Edge 530’s, previously to 820 and 520.

      They both have had a couple of quirks throughout their life, that I’ve been unable to resolve.
      Occasionally, they lose the light network settings, such as auto-starting with a ride, in a certain light mode.
      They also occasionally have connection issues between mile 0.5 and 1.5 of a ride, and after a few ‘cancel/back’ button pushes on the Edge unit, correct themselves.

  63. Robert Les Rice

    Thank you for the very honest review of the Garmin Varia RCT715. I does sound like the hardware is good, I use the RTL-515 and love it. If they can get the software fixed it would be worth an upgrade. Unfortunately, like you, my only car/bike accident was 2 years ago when I was blind sided from the side so this wouldn’t really help.

  64. Benedikt

    Ok, I was really excited about that product.
    I will pay the next several hundred euros to Lupine for a new front light, not to Garmin.
    Let’s see if anything fundamentals changes in the next few months, but hey, it’s Garmin. That won’t happen.

    • Andreas

      Not the best idea to put a front light on the back of your bike and I think even though the Lupine is expensive, image quality and radar functionality are not very good 😉

  65. Gordon

    Can you just take out the memory card and download the video files directly to your computer?

  66. BikePower

    Typo in 3rd paragraph: “To spoil much of this review, at best, it’s a frustrating and confusing experience for a $400 product – filed with endless caveats.” Should be “filled” instead of “filed”?

    I really wanted to buy this, but more as a way to record video from a rear camera than for incidents (which hopefully happen extremely infrequently or ideally never). It seems like Garmin should have focused on making this an action cam rather than an incident detection cam as once you have a solid action cam the incident detection feature is easier to add on (rather than the other way around). Hopefully there will be a Gen 2 that solves the problems and improves the capabilities. Until then I’ll stick with my existing Varia.

  67. KevinC

    Regarding the footage… granting that we each only have fingernails :^D wouldn’t it also be possible to remove the SD card and view the clips on a laptop? Clumsy, no question, but sounds like easier. TBH that’s what I do with my Fly6CE as I’ve never really liked the Cyliq app either (why did working with the 6 not have the same features as the 12 for e.g.). Bottom line is FINALLY someone is offering a reasonable competitor to Cycliq which will hopefully force them to get their house in order.

  68. Greg

    Any idea what battery life would be in Night Flash mode with camera just in Radar mode?

    • Tyler

      Ray added a table to the article:

      Garmin Varia RCT715 Battery Durations (Official Specs):
      Up to 4 hr. in camera mode
      Up to 6 hr. in solid mode (camera disabled)
      Up to 5 hr. in peloton mode
      Up to 4 hr. in night flash mode
      Up to 6 hr. in day flash mode
      Up to 10 hr. in day flash mode (camera disabled)
      Up to 6 mo. in standby mode

      Note that for all Varias, day flash mode counterintuitively outlasts night flash mode, in duration.
      I tend to run day flash mode both day and night, on my Varia 510.

    • Volker

      For the (due to German traffic laws) castrated German rct716:

      Up to 5 hr. in camera mode
      Up to 8 hr. in solid mode (camera disabled)
      Up to 6 mo. in standby mode

  69. Zach

    Can you mount this as a PC drive via USB without removing the SD card? I would assume so, as all my other garmin devices do it.

    Regarding stabilization, do other small form cameras do hardware, or just software stabilization? If it’s just software I wouldn’t think that matters when pulling an individual frame for picture reference.

    The connectivity issues make me very nervous. My Rally pedals are next to impossible to connect to any phone.

  70. Wes

    Any word on future support for the video features on FR945?

  71. Bill T

    I was a regular bike commuter pre-pandemic and been hit with enough near misses in traffic to really want the cameras for safety reasons. Like multiple people have expressed above, if this is at least as good as Cycliq’s units plus now has the radar, I’m interested. I had a Cycliq but unit reliability and their customer non-support means never again, and would only access the video in case of an incident and it sound like a USB connection to computer or getting the files directly off the SD Card is not an issue

    • BillT

      Also – a definite advantage over the Cycliq is the GPS data overlaid on the image. The real time clock on my Fly6 didn’t keep time accurately and of course I often forgot to update it for daylight savings time.

  72. David E.

    Reads a bit like:

    -Somebody found a warehouse full of unused video parts from Garmin’s failed action camera attempt.
    -Somebody went running to their supervisor and said, “Wait. Stop that order. I just found stuff we can use.”
    -Somebody got a promotion.

  73. Richard Moody

    Having read the review and most of the comments up to now. I am quite tempted to get this as it would seem to offer a decent run time and when used with the radar triggered recording would do all that I would want it to do for recording close passes etc. I would, however pair it with a front facing camera or a helmet mounted one just to give that extra perspective.
    My main issue at the moment is having enough seatpost real estate to run a light, radar and a rear facing camera (plus allow space for the saddle bag) This unit would quite neatly help with that. Plus in all likelihood leave space for a secondary rear light. (Always carry a spare in winter or at night)

  74. Matt Haber

    The Cycliq app never worked for me anyway, with 3 different Fly 6 and a Fly 12, and 3 different phones. So I just always pop the card out and into a reader.

    If you can do without a fancy app (and no radar), I’d strongly suggest the TOOO DVR 80. Only one flash mode, but claimed 9 hour battery life, and vastly superior video compared to Fly6. See my comparison:

    link to vimeo.com

  75. Dan

    I guess I am confused. Per the review, the radar and light work great, at least as good as the existing product which is pretty much universally praised.

    The camera seems to function well, as the screen shots show. Could it be better. I am sure it could. Image stabilization (or lack thereof) is a big deal. But we spend most of it complaining about the app and watching video. Who uses the app to watch video? Why would you ever do that?

    Bring it home, download it to your computer and use any of the many video editing apps available, many free, to bind the files together and then edit what you want. The Garmin app is pretty good at stitching the multiple fines together, adding Strava data etc. There are other that can do far more.

    I have the 515, and love it. I have the Fly 6 Gen3 and it is fine. The app for that is the worst. I would never for 1 second consider using it to watch videos. Ditto this app.

  76. Joseph

    Ray,

    I have been waiting for Garmin to integrate video with the varia line. Too bad the first release seems to be lacking in usablity. Besides the image stablization, the main issue is the app. From a software view do you think it is the app can be salvaged and/or can the internal o/s be improved?

    • The app can technically be salvaged, but I’m not super confident Garmin will. Many people have commented that much of the app design seems to mirror the driving rearview cameras they have. And that matches with a comment they made that much of this camera tech came from that side of the house.

      Given that’s been around a long time (and, based on what a lot of people say, the app sucks there too), I’m not confident it’s going to magically improve overnight here either.

      As for the internals, there’s no chance of stabilization improving here. Another commenter here (search for Rouleur), analyzed the files as part of what he does, and discussed the encore/details. They could so some software stabilization in post in the same way I might do it in Final Cut Pro or such, but that’s not going to increase the details, it’s just going rescale the video to remove shakiness.

      Thanks for being a DCR Supporter!

    • Alberto

      Maybe the amount of replies and views here and in most sites that have reviewed the product make Garmin change its mind and improve the app. Or just that I’m more confident in Garmin’s improvements than the ones they have done ( my Index scale 2 still shows unreal %BF results and my case is still open for more than a year 🙄)

  77. Dan

    In a state like mine, with no front license plates, I’m not exactly sure what I would even be filming. We can confirm it was a car or truck but with windshield glare and tinting we cannot even see the occupants so…..good luck

  78. Andrew

    $639 Australian dollars on release. Will be interested to see how quickly the price drops given that it doesn’t appear to meet consumer demand.

    • Dave

      Yeah. I shudder at the NZ tax for something that isn’t even a finished product. This should be 4K, have wifi clip transfer (and clip length options), and the ability to display range and offset info on target vehicles.

  79. Brien Christopherson

    What is really needed is for the camera to take a single low-res pic and send it to the 530 I’m riding with. I know there’s a car behind me, but would really like to know its position in the lane via pic or low-res video. Video is awesome after the fact, but I wanna know real time if the guy coming up is in my lane.

    • Paul S.

      That’s what mirrors are for. I ride with both a Varia 510 and a helmet mounted mirror. The Varia can tell me something is there, but it can’t tell me what it is. I doubt my 830, considering its screen, could show a useful picture anyway.

    • Brien Christopherson

      Very true Paul. I was hoping to replace a mirror to be honest. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the capture on head unit in a few years

  80. BobS

    I have a 510 radar, and when riding with 6-10 people I find it falsely detecting a vehicle if 2 people are riding a rest behind me. Or any e-bike which will either shield an actual car or show up as a car falsely. And then last week it fell off going down a steep and loose gravel section (right why bring it for that, but there were a few segments on narrow roads with cars). With so frequent false readings, it’s useless for radar, so I decided I can save a couple hundred dollars and get a good flashing light (or 2) instead

    • Adam

      These are false positives- it thinking there are threats when there are not – which is relatively harmless compared to a false negative, which would occur if it failed to detect an actual approaching car. In the several years that I’ve been riding with the radar, I’ve never had a false negative. But occasionally get those harmless false positives.

    • Garmin’s stance on it – and I agree – is that false positives are very rarely false positives. Meaning, the fact that it’s telling you there’s riders behind you is very much true. It’s doing it’s job. It’s telling you ‘Yo, there’s something approaching you from behind, be aware’.

      Garmin technically doesn’t differentiate between cyclist/moped/car/truck/airplane/train – all show up as a white dot.

      About the only false positives I see are super rare reflection-type ones, and exclusively when I’m still. For example, if the bike is pointing at a reflective metal building, and a car goes towards the building, it might trigger. But these are incredibly rare, and for me, virtually always when I’m entirely stopped with a wall behind me.

    • Paul S.

      That’s interesting, because I usually get one or two false positives a ride, typically in the same places during a ride. This morning, for example, two false positives in the usual places. I’ve haven’t spent much effort trying to figure out what’s causing them. (Get the detection, check the mirror, nothing there, carry on.)

    • Tyler

      I agree with you on false positives.
      I’ve been using my Varia 510 for 4.5 years, and get very few false positives, and they usually only last a second before disappearing – my assumption has always been a reflection off of an oscillating road sign – very windy and sunny where I live.
      It’s an incredibly accurate device.

  81. Dave

    Good grief. I was so stoked to see this released…and I’ll be even more stoked when it’s actually usable and worth buying.

  82. fl33tStA

    In principle, the idea is certainly good, but how Garmin software then technically implements it is probably a disaster.

    I don’t understand Garmin, the FR945 has taken I dunno (2 or 3 years) since launch to fix this public bug:

    Added the Resting Heartrate True-Up feature. RHR data now gets trued-up so that all devices tied to the same account will have the same RHR value.

    That’s why the estimated recovery time never worked in combination with my Edge, I was so pissed off that I sold all my Garmin devices through it

    So, in 3 Years the bugs of this Varia RCT715 fixed then?

  83. Volker

    For me, the camera is an emergancy device, Ray sees it as a /compares it to action cams. Completely wrong starting point in my opinion. And on this basis he builds his review.

    But for me, the part does what it’s supposed to: warn reliably about cars etc. (radar) and then also (usefully) record it. I didn’t expect a Hero 8 level camera with image stabilization etc. – Ray did… (btw: image stabilization would have been nice…).

    Of course the weight is twice as much as the rtl515/516- but it has a camera and I thing a bigger battery inside.If you pay attention to every gram, you might have a problem (and stay with rtl 515/516).

    The state of the app reminds me of the state of the Garmin Virb computer editing program (when I first bought the virb (non elite)) shortly after release. There is certainly still a lot of potential for improvement here.

    And if an incident happens (may everyone be spared, the camera automatically records it and saves the data (that’s how I understand it) and you don’t have to search for that recording for long. No, if nothing happened, I don´t (damn me) want to look at the rear recordings – wth? This is only an emergency camera for me…
    There is always room for improvement. Perhaps I have the wrong starting point….

    • fl33tStA

      sure, it helps when a Hit and run happens, so it must be easy for police or someone else to get the photos if you are bigger damaged lying in the hospital

    • Alberto

      Maybe (and this is only my opinion) the question here is, what this product is (a radar with a safety camera included) instead what we would like(or expected)to be, a radar with an action camera included.
      As I said before, in my opinion the biggest issue can be solved with a new app and some firmware fixes.

    • Rich Mercer

      This is exactly my take, too. I’ve already ordered one because it saves me having both my Fly6 and Radar. Some of the issues they will fix in future updates, but it does everything the Cycliq does, and looking the screenshots above, the image quality is better on the new Varia. My Cycliq also barely lasts 3 hours now, so this is a big upgrade IMHO.

    • I think there’s some misconception about me comparing it to an action camera, or expecting it to be one. I certainly don’t.

      Instead, I expect when you pay $400, that the features of the device (such as the app), actually work. After all – that’s what you paid for. If this was a $299 device, maybe….maybe.

      A lot of folks have harped on my stabilization comment, seeming to tie it to action cameras. But it’s not – it’s about stability of the video, which in turn is readability of license plates – especially at higher speeds on rougher roads.

      As I said above, I think this review would have been far worse for Garmin had I lived in Texas on crappy chipseal roads with far higher speed cars. In my case, they got beautifully smooth dutch roads with cars that passed at reasonable speeds, thus easier to read.

      None of things I’m asking for take away from the safety aspect. Having a usable app isn’t exclusive to safety. It’s just part of having a good product.

    • Volker

      I don’t agree. No matter, if you paid 100 or more: it should work anyway. They really should have waited with the release until the app is in a usable state

    • Curtis Repen

      So Ray, for someone like me who wants radar and rear facing camera primarily for safety, deterrence or evidence, what better options exist? Desirable attributes including battery life, cost, ease of mounting and integration. Image and storage just needs to be “sufficient”. App/image handling needs bare minimum.

      Varia+Cycliq is the obvious comparison, and I’m reading here that the Cycliq image quality and app are worse, their lack of reliability and support is legendary, costs more, similar or worse battery life, and less integration.

      What’s the better option? GoPro? Drift?

      As outdated as the camera is, and as bad as the app might be, it still seems like a clear winner vs the other options on every measure. What am I missing?

    • Paul S.

      If you want “deterrence and evidence” (no camera or radar for that matter can give you safety) why don’t you helmet mount a 360 camera like the GoPro Max and record every ride? Much better video quality than this Varia and GoPro stabilization as well. You get everything (well, almost, except the road below you that you’re blocking with your body). No one will miss the fact that they’re being recorded, either, because the Max is one of the visibly clunkiest cameras available.

  84. Tom Kaufman

    Thanks, Ray!

    I’m going to be seriously bummed if we get a similar “what were they thinking” review of the 540 and 955.

  85. PhilW

    I have a cyclic 12CE front camera – I almost never use the app (too painful) except to sync the time and to set the light modes on initial set-up. I always just plug it directly into the computer to view footage. I guess I would do the same with this. I have a cheaper rear camera light (due to cycliq 6 issues) with no stablisation, but it does the job.
    I was really excited about this product, but not enough to tempt me yet – if they sort the camera quality out perhaps it would (I can avoid the app).

  86. Tom

    I’d like an out of the box mode for “no lights, just use radar” for best battery life without using CIQ apps for that or manually fiddeling with light network options.

    So easy to implement for Garmin. No idea why they don’t do it…

  87. Rob Montanez

    Is this unit and importantly the camera functionality compatible with the Edge Explore?

  88. David E.

    Ray–A “how the sausage gets made” question? Do you and Shane and Des (and whoever else) exchange notes all along the way of your reviews, or do you each do initial work on your own and only compare when you’ve reached conclusions? In a case like this, did you and Shane independently conclude that this was disappointing (Des seems less unhappy) or did one of you text the other immediately and say, “Hey, this thing sucks.” Not suggesting anything inappropriate. Just wondering if you guys might inadvertently influence each other’s reviews.

    • We generally use each other for sounding boards more for “Hey, am I doing this wrong?”, or “Hey, do you know how this piece works?”. In this case, that also included the ultra-rare (first time ever) conference call with Garmin and all of us at once, trying to sort through our issues together – but also helping us to understand the nuances of the product.

      Heck, I don’t even think Shane/Des/myself have ever even had a three-party conference call between ourselves.

      There’s plenty of times over the years, when one person can validate something in a different scenario. For example, Des has big mountains that I don’t (useful for some high-altitude stuff or skiing). Sometimes I swim and Des doesn’t typically. Shane for more gravel bits.

      But mostly, it’s double-checking ourselves that when something goes wrong, it isn’t ourselves screwing up.

      None of us exchange our reviews beforehand or anything of the sort. Mostly because all of us procrastinate till the last second, and then are busy swearing at our computer processing and upload speeds as the embargo time approaches (as was the case yesterday). I uploaded mine from a taxi from the airport to another event, after spending 3 hours finishing it sitting in the airport baggage claim area.

    • David E.

      Interesting. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’d love a “How the Sausage Gets Made” video at some point (maybe a Quarantine Corner with Shane and Des as guests). Like, do all three of you get embargoed products to review from the same companies, or is it conceivable that one of you has a device that the others don’t and how would you know? Maybe the Girl moderating a discussion among the three of you. . . 🙂

  89. Alex

    That’s very interesting, I assume you’re located in a different part of Kansas than the KC metro area?

    I frequently ride around in the area of Garmin’s HQ in Olathe and always feel like drivers are way more observant and friendly towards cyclists than anywhere else in the KC metro.

  90. Baz Morris

    Interesting observations on incident detection. My Edge 1030 false alarms incident detection on almost all rides and more than once. Anything other than the most gentle of stops seems to result in the alarm going off. Have considered turning it off but ‘sod’s law’ will dictate that I have a genuine incident as soon as I do so!!

  91. Butcher

    I admire your reviews but this one is the worst that you have posted.

    The camera was never meant to be a social media camera. It’s main focus seems to be for safety. I suspect the camera will be worth way over $400 once the Police and Lawyers get access to the video. If it was used for YouTubers, I get it, it’s not all that great.

    Since Garmin is not marketing it that way, why would you review it that way? I look at it as security camera. I would never use it unless I needed to. If I purchased a security camera and complained that it makes crappy movies, I would think it would reflect negatively on the reviewer than the product.

    It’s not the next best GoPro. It’s a security camera. If you want to take pictures/video of a ride, I suspect you should purchase that type of camera.

    • “I suspect the camera will be worth way over $400 once the Police and Lawyers get access to the video.”

      Not so much if they can’t read the license plate.

    • “Since Garmin is not marketing it that way”

      Well, actually, since you opened that door – that’s precisely how Garmin marketed it. So, it doesn’t look like you actually consumed any of their marketing.

      Don’t believe me? No problem, I’ve got ya covered. Here’s Garmin’s Varia RTL715 launch video/commercial/ad: link to youtube.com

      What does it show? The *singular* clip Garmin shows from the camera, is of a cyclist playfully waving to her friends through it. They don’t show a single car-related camera clip. I’m not kidding. Again, go watch it. The moment is 0:44 seconds (it’s only a minute-long video).

      Nonetheless, that’s not the basis I’m judging it on. I’m judging it on whether a $400 device should have it’s app be functional. And whether or not a $400 camera (of any sort) should have basic stabilization in 2022. Stabilization is increased visibility of plates, especially on rougher roads or lower lighting conditions.

      I’m kinda bummed that anyone is trying to justify that those two things shouldn’t be there.

    • And it’s not like image stabilization is new esoteric technology. It’s been around for a long time and has been massively improved on from a function, size and cost standpoint. And Garmin have a number of options from optical to sensor shift to image stack.

      As someone said above, this does seem like they’re using some quite old cameras that they had collecting dust on a shelf for the past number of years.

    • Stephan

      Officially they don’t advertise/show the plate recognition, they will already know why it is better not to do it…

    • Volker

      Perhaps Garmin intention on this is: if a car hits you from behind, it is near enough for a good plate recognition (if you are in a country/state where front plates are used)…😇

    • Tyler

      I’m with you, Ray.
      Without stabilization, better video quality, and other things like battery life, this is not a great safety device.

      For my part of the world (Garmin’s home base), the likelihood of the police assisting in any way after an incident, would require irrefutable video evidence, including being able to see the drivers face (no front plates here), before they’d even deem an investigation necessary.
      They won’t currently investigate near misses, run ins with aggressive dogs, etc.
      Very few prosecutions of drivers hitting cyclists and pedestrians here, even when video and multiple witnesses involved.

      High quality video AND it leading to high profile prosecutions might lead to better driver behavior.

  92. Matthew Fields

    On seeing the first photos: “Looks big”

    On seeing it next to the 515: “CHONK”

    This device really hit the gym between versions.

    (Sadly, I don’t see why I would pick this up over my 515 in its current state. Perhaps the next version will be more enticing.)

  93. As someone who really wouldn’t care about going back to watch the video but likes the idea of a rear camera for safety purposes, this does some like a good value. I love my Varia 515 and would never think about riding without radar again. I do disagree a bit on its utility in city riding though. The city I ride in has pretty low speed traffic (mostly <35mph) and while traffic can be heavy and setting it off frequently, there are generally enough gaps in traffic that its useful to know that there's a group of cars coming. Like I may go several minutes with nothing there and then a few moments of cars going by.

    I also don't see many false positives but the ones I tend to get are actually always when I'm going down a bridge. I don't know why and its only a couple specific ones. I don't think I'm picking up my bike reflection since that would show the bike moving further away. The only think I can think of is that as I go over a section of the bridge that is increasing in grade, it may give the illusion that the road is actually chasing me.

    I do wish they'd done a better job in implementing this because while I don't care about watching the video, I probably would enjoy being able to if the experience wasn't as awful as you describe. But for a purely safety-oriented solution, it sounds like it works.

  94. Alex

    I live in mid-Atlantic US, and I fully expect to get hit by speeding pick-up truck, or sedan smelling of weed every time I go out (either commuting to work, or longer rides on rural roads, near the mountains). The speeding, road rage, and general hostile attitude towards cyclists, is at an all-time high, especially post-Covid when the police aren’t proactively enforcing traffic laws, unless called. I also fully expect most cars with erratic drivers either don’t have auto insurance, or a license.

    For that reason, I always have a Garmin Varia and Cycliq Fly 6 on my bike (just like dash cams in my cars). Safety, and piece of mind. Battery life isn’t great on the Cycliq. Hopefully the Garmin Varia will be improved in a year or two.

  95. Mike

    Thank you for this post. I always ride with Garmin’s original Varia and CycliQ Fly 6 gen 2’s. The batteries in both of my Fly 6 cameras are dying. CycliQ does not offer battery replacements nor is it possible to replace them with after market batteries. The Fly 6 Gen 3 takes a major step backward by dropping 1080p support and eliminating image stabilization. Hence the reason I am interested in this Garmin combo unit. I have a couple questions.

    – How is the dynamic range of the video?
    – Can you access the video clips directly off the micro SD card on a windows PC?
    – If you use a 128GB micro SD card will it store until full before it overwrites the oldest files, or does it wipe out the all non locked files each time you start recording a new ride?

    Thank you,
    Mike

    • Alex

      I have a Fly6 gen 3, and a Fly12 CE. Personally, I think the newer Fly6 gen 3 works better with video quality, sound etc than the Fly6, based purely looking at my videos on the computer (I’m no tech expert). The rear video quality is only of the upmost importance, if a car comes up from you from behind and contacts you. Therefore if a car gets that close, shouldn’t have any problems seeing the plates/driver.

      Granted, I’m not racing, or posting videos for entertainment/publishing. Thus the quality only has to be so good as to identify what hit me from behind. But it looks plenty good to me, even looking back at group rides, close passes by cars, or passing wild animals.

      Having said that, I did have a Fly6 Gen 3 recently stop working for no good reason. It was under 1yr from purchase, so Cycliq replaced it free of charge, with very little hassle. The Fly12 is heavy, the battery barely lasts 3-4hrs, and the video doesn’t sound as nice as the Fly6 Gen 3.

      I access the Cycliq videos with a USB cable from the device, to the computer, and it just acts like any remote drive. There are other ways of access the videos on your phone, but the Cycliq app is clunky, and doesn’t have much if any editing features. The video storage continuously overwrites files 1 at a time (I set mine to 15min long).

  96. Bob Goodman

    I still have my fully functional VIRB Elite. 1080 p and stabilization. Integrates with sensors and has gps built in. Also uses ant+ to allow most Garmin wrist and edge devices to control it. What if someone made a Connect IQ app to take the output of a varia radar unit to trigger the video? Wouldn’t that be nice!

    • Paul S.

      I have an Elite too. Haven’t used it in years, although I still use my VIRB 360. If I remember right, the stabilization is after the fact by VIRB Edit. And compared to a GoPro Hero 8, which I also have, the VIRB stabilization is laughable. I’d much rather have a ConnectIQ thing that controlled the GoPro.

  97. Wow THAT was disappointing. Why didn’t Garmin use you as a beta tester? I believe you have a background in software development.

  98. James Astro

    Well that’s disappointing. I was hoping for something better from Garmin. That being said, I think I’ll try this product anyway. Here’s why:

    I used Cycliq cameras for years, and I basically had all of the same problems that you mentioned in your review of the Garmin: Poor video quality, and an app that rarely worked. I finally stopped using the Cycliq app, and just plugged the memory card into my computer whenever I wanted to see the footage. It sounds like I should do something similar with the new Garmin. Also, I went through 3 Cycliq cameras in about 3 years. They never lasted long.

    Right now I’m using a Ghost XL camera . It’s reliable, and I like it a lot. The battery life is phenomenal at 9 hours. However, it’s also big and heavy, and it’s another device that I need to keep charged, remember to bring it along, remember to turn it on, and remember to turn it off during long breaks, etc. I’m really hoping to reduce the number of devices on my bike.

    So I think I’ll try the new Garmin. The video quality will be moderately ok, and I’ll avoid using the app. I’ll access the videos on my computer instead. Hopefully I won’t regret this decision. <>>

  99. James Astro

    Do you know if video recording automatically stops when you manually pause your ride on the Garmin Edge? That would be handy.

  100. John Hawkins

    Good to see a reputable company like Garmin has brought out a product to compete with Cycliq.

    While Cycliq was a game-changer compared to faffing about with GoPros, and has enabled me to have a successful run with getting a number of dangerous drivers prosecuted, the company has been resistant to customer feedback and has a number of quality issues with what seems anecdotally like a high rate of warranty returns for water ingress and other faults.

    Now that there are competitors at different price points both above and below them, having Garmin enter the market with a competing product might focus Cycliq’s attention on doing better.

  101. Israel Arroyo

    OK OK but Gramin needs to bring a new Edge unit!!! 1040?

  102. Ross Sexter

    Well, I was ready to pull the trigger on this great concept. But I think I’ll wait for the another option based on your great and thorough review.
    Garmin dash series have a lot of these same connection and review issues too. Not sure why they can’t figure this out. They could have given us the standard twist mount too. USB-C is at least something good. I’ll stick with my 515 for now.

  103. secret_Squirrel

    Ok. My order for this turned up yesterday and first ride this morning.

    I’m pretty sure its just made my Fly 6 gen 2 redundant for my purposes which is traffic safety.

    Paired to my Venu 2 easily, light worked, camera worked, radar worked, app sucked and only transferred pictures not and crapped out transferring videos but can live with that.

    For me its a keeper and my Fly 6 is going on ebay, as the Gen 3 was a huge mistake IMO.

    Screenshot is the Fly 6 gen 2 vs Varia. Looking at individual frames in overcast broad daylight the quality is the same.

    • JD

      Seems to me the Garmin shot is of better quality based on what you posted.

    • Neil Jones

      Thanks for posting, that’s a very useful comparison. I’ve also ordered one based on the fact that, for me, it’s only going to be used in the case of an accident/near miss, so the poor app isn’t really relevant. My only ‘must have’ is the ability to capture UK number plates, which I did have concerns about given the 1080p resolution and lack of image stabilisation, but your pictures seem to suggest it’ll be fit-for-purpose there. I think this product can only improve with firmware and software updates (within limits, of course), so hopefully it’ll only get better.

      I did think of holding off for a price drop, but I’d always be paranoid that something would happen on a ride while I was still waiting.

  104. Dan Shannon

    I’d wait for a while to see if this product has the same battery problems that the RTL 51`0 and RTL 515 have. We purchased two Garmin Varia RTL 515 radar units from Bike Tires Direct on July 28,2020. My partner’s unit, which has been used fewer than 10 times, will not hold a charge. Garmin tech support claims that the unit is past the 1 year warranty, but offered no reasonable option other than for us to purchase a second unit that has been “reconditioned” for half the price of the unit she would have to return to them. What’s a huge problem for us is that the second that carries a “90 DAY WARRANTY”. Given her experience with this hunk of junk, we couldn’t see giving Garmin any more business in exchange for more frustration due to their worthless product warranty. Unbelievable!
    I got up on Garmin Forums and was repeatedly flagged (no doubt by a Garmin flunky) for “Spam” then “abusive” postings when I tried to relate my experience. Incredible!

  105. Zach

    I’ve gone ahead and ordered mine.
    Does anyone know of a good option for a lense protector against rocks? I plan to do a lot of gravel and mixed road / trails. I’d prefer to just leave the device mounted for the day and not remove it in the gravel.
    I assume helicopter tape would help with scratches (wiping off mud) – but would it protect against stone impacts, and not degrade the picture?
    All in all this looks like a better option than cycliq for now as it can handle an all day ride (will take a battery if needed). Granted I’d like to have a super clear picture but my state doesn’t have front facing license plates so it would be more for evidence on the entire event.
    That being said, any recommendations on a light-weight front facing camera that could handle 6 hours?

  106. ni

    Hi all,

    Do you think there will be an upgraded 515 with USB C this year? Or do you think the 715 will be the only varia with USB C?

    I was holding off getting the 515 due to microusb….but should I just pull the trigger?

    thanks.

    • mvp_kryptonite

      In my opinion USB C won’t add much to the 3/515 Varia radar. It’s battery consumption is slow and charges relatively quick in my experience. It’s the higher capacity devices like the Edge and Headlight (since both charge slowly given their battery is larger) can do with USB C for easier and faster charging

    • ni

      I understand that it is not going to add much at all but I’m trying to get all of my electonics on USB C.
      Only my Kindle and Garmin dash cam still has micro usb, but if I were to replace my Kindle the new version has USB C.

      Right now, I have a Hammerhead Karoo 2 and will be purchasing a Outbound Lighting Detour and they both have USB C on them. It would be nice to have a universal cable.

  107. Lee

    Great review as always

    I have purchased one just for my commutes. A couple of things bug me,
    1, the light has to be on for me to access the footage.
    2, why doesn’t it start recording when I press start on my Edge and stop when I end the ride?

    I should be able to access the footage on the light when it is off and the unit just has the flashing blue light and it can’t be that hard to get the Edge to start continuous recording when I press start.

    • Robert Pettifer

      What happens when the card is full? Does it stop recording, auto-delete the older files or can you choose?

    • Lee

      It says it auto deletes the oldest files. I put in a better card and has made a difference to download/viewing speeds.

  108. Chris

    Here is what I’d like to see: a Dashcam/Varia that I can move between car and bike – bad for sales I know but I’d rather have one camera/device to fool with.

    • Bob Goodman

      Speaking of which……the latest Garmin dashcam (57) has 140 deg fov, 1440, 60 fps resolution. The least they could have done was to put those electronics in the varia. Instead they went to the old parts shelf.

  109. Hi, thanks for the review. I don’t disagree with anything you said (who could 🙂 ), but I would like to add my comment. As you noted, for those who primarily want something that combines the Cycliq Fly6 camera and Varia radar/lights into one package, then this is not a bad device. I found from years of using my Fly6 that I very rarely viewed or downloaded any files. When I did, I just plugged the unit into my PC to view. The Varia RCT715 works fine that way too, so for me this works well. I’d like for Garmin to improve the app and update the firmware to deal with longer clip duration, etc., but in the meantime it is serving its purpose for me. Hopefully your review comments will cause Garmin to improve it.
    Best, Mark

  110. Mark Nardone

    so some comments:
    you instantly save 47g by replacing the cycliq and the Varia RTL. Which I was doing, so consolidation good
    They have already updated the app and firmware allowing:
    video clips of up to 5 mins.
    Customization of the video timestamp (which I am going to test to see if it will synch with Strava data with the Cycliq app) which would add a lot of what I’d like to see.
    I think that there is a lot of potential here for further customization (addition of stabilization). Ability to add other data from related FIT files, especially if you are already in the Garmin ecosystem.

  111. Irwin Danto

    Purchased a VCT715 on May 18th and of course not based on this somewhat negative review. The phone app is crap – so what. This isn’t a rear facing camera to make adventure videos. Specifically it’s an evidence tool should a disaster need to be solved. We all fear the the incident with no witnesses. That’s the tertiary (3rd) purpose of the VCT715.

    The secondary (2nd) purpose is to have a good sense of 2-ton vehicle activity come up from behind. For that you need Garmin’s Varia Vision which they unfortunately discontinued. I fortunately have one and dread the day it stops working. It’s nice knowing what’s on your backside.

    The primary (#1) purpose is to have a decent visual tool to help drivers notice that you are sharing the road with them. It’s okay. I don’t see where the DC Rainmaker has ever reviewed tail lights. Probably one of the most important safety tools for any road cyclist. The Garmin tail lights are okay. I augment it with a Dinotte “Day Bright” tail light.

    The big thing about the VCT715 is the addition of a camera to record an incident. I hooked up the VCT715 to my PC. Yes the video is not smooth like from a GoPro. But still image grabs from the video were great and could easily be used by law enforcement. Nobody would be using the phone app to manage things in such a situation.

    Overall VCT715 seems to do what it’s suppose to do. And hopefully no one will ever need to look at the video segments. Their not easy to work but they are there. They are sharp. They are annotated. They might be the only witness should something bad happen.

  112. Aaron

    Ray, did you actually get a 128gb card to work in the unit? Were you able to test it?

    Documentation for the RCT715 says that the unit supports up to 128gb micro sd cards. “You can replace the memory card to increase the storage capacity or to replace a card that has reached the end of its useful life. The device requires an 8 to 128 GB microSD® memory card with a speed rating of Class 10 or higher.”

    I’ve now tried several different 128gb cards (all class 10 or better), and reformatted them multiple times (following the instructions provided by the documentation), and still the unit shows a flashing yellow LED for the camera status light, indicating an issue with the SD card.

    The Edge cycling computer also reports that the card has a formatting issue. I’m running software 4.40 on the RCT715, and Garmin Express is indicating the unit is up-to-date.

    I don’t think the units support more than a 64gb card.

    • I have a 512gb card that is working fine. I had to format it using the app and it seemed glitchy but it did start working eventually. I have a second 512gb card I just reformatted and it also working now. Here was the steps: 1) make sure varia rct715 is powered off. 2) open case and replace existing sd card with new card and be sure to do it correctly and slides below the tiny metal tabs on the holder. 3) power on the varia 4) wait for Varia app to pair – nothing special if you’ve already paired it, but it took about 30 seconds on my iphone. 5) A message will immediately pop up saying Video card is corrupt and give you option to click Erase and Format. Click through that and all the warnings and then it will start formatting. There is no progress and the whole time it will say there is a problem with the video card. But after about another 30 seconds to 1 minute that error goes away and everything starts working. That was my experience literally just now with 512GB card. Your mileage may vary.

    • Aaron

      Thank you!

      It looks to me like the only way to get larger cards to work is to format it with the app.

      Smaller cards seem to format fine on a Windows machine, but larger cards do not. You must use the app.

      I can only hazard a guess that the formatting method they use for >128gb card is non-standard or there is some file that needs to be in root for the cards to work.

      I wish that their manual would have said that the only way to format a card is via the app, but it does not. It links to how to format on Mac/Windows.

      Thanks for the pointer Brian!

    • Yup! It’s what I’m using it in now. Here’s the exact card I have in it: link to amzn.to

    • Mark Nardone

      I have 128GB working fine, recorded continuous 80mile Gran Fondo, still had loads of room left on the card and no overwriting

  113. Rob

    Just got the RCT715 as I whilst I have an RTL515 and cycliq rear cam, I just want 1 device on my bike where possible.

    My issue is that on those occasions where I would need to use the RTL515 (forgetting to charge the new one for example) it seems I’d have to remove/unpair the RCT715 from the Varia app before I can use the RTL515. I don’t appear to be able to have both paired to the app.

    Am I doing something wrong? I mean you can have multiple watches or bike computers in the connect app, so not sure what’s happening.

    I emailed garmin, no response yet. Have you tried this, Ray?

  114. Steven

    Has anyone tried mounting 315 or 515 horizontal?
    I’d like to mount it sideways. I have read Garmin says to mount it vertical, but the radar on the synapse is mounted horizontal, and looks exactly like a 315 . Just has an added light bar. I’d be very surprised if the innards are different 🌱?

  115. Igor

    Hi Ray, readers,

    I have a question about this type of devices in general. Does any of them store logs in any shape of form? My intended use case for such a device would be to log data of when an overtaking took place via a timestamp, and the distance of the object for as long as it is detected by the radar to then use it as hard evidence against unruly drivers.

    Something like
    ts | distance_in_meters | perhaps_angle_in_deg
    2022-05-31 15:00:00 | 100 | 1
    2022-05-31 15:00:00 | 42 | 5
    2022-05-31 15:00:00 | 0.3 | 90

    Does any of the products on the market offer such a feature?

    • mvp_kryptonite

      I think this might help with your use case, a Connect IQ app called “my bike radar traffic”

      link to dcrainmaker.com

      I believe Ray and GPLama have YouTube videos on it and the developer himself commented on this thread regarding this new radar camera light

    • Yes, my website http://mybiketraffic.com would be perfect for what you are trying to do. You do have to install a ConnectIQ app first on your compatible Garmin device, and I’m also hoping to have a watch/phone app that can run in the background and record the data as well. Unfortunately, I’m leaving for month long bike trip (Tour Divide) so I will be gone for the next month, but hope to make a lot of progress on it this summer. In the meantime, if you have a compatible Garmin device, everything you need is already in the ConnectIQ app. Also, the Varia radar itself doesn’t record “angle” or anything like that or at least it doesn’t broadcast that info. You only get the range in meters of how far behind you each car is plus the measured speed for each vehicle. Hope this helps.

    • Igor

      Thank you both. It’s good to know something along the lines of what I am looking for already exists.

      It’s a pity the Varia doesn’t keep track of/broadcast the angle. Given it is a literal radar, I would wager it has this capability if Garmin wanted to implement it, and it would be super useful for litigation purposes.

    • It’d be great of the Varia had a side radar/lidar to provide close pass distance info. Maybe in the future. I think you can determine the vehicle’s speed from the Varia data though (Brian, do you show that on your maps?).

      You can do measurements from an image based on where the vehicle’s tyre is relative to bicycle tyre (measure both to side white line is best) and then find the same vehicle to find out where the side mirror is relative the tyre and your outermost bit vs your wheel and get a pass distance.

    • Agreed. I think with Cannondale entering the market with their synapse radar, Garmin is going to be pushed to make some improvements. I’m working on a project using a lidar mounted sideways (towards the passing side) to give exact distances of how much room a car gives you when they pass. It is probably going to take a while, but should be ready by next summer. Might even kickstarter it if it looks commercially viable.

    • Just a note that the Synapse is simply a wired Garmin Varia radar. Cannondale says to expect the system to be component-upgradable, so perhaps we’ll see a variant with the RCT715 at some point too.

    • “It’s a pity the Varia doesn’t keep track of/broadcast the angle.”

      Simple RADAR is only distance.

      My guess is that they are simply throwing a signal out in a fairly narrow pattern and then looking for any return of x strength. All they know is that SOMETHING of at least X MASS is in their field of view and X METERS away at TIME X. So all they know is Time + Distance.

      To know angle a radar rotates and does this for 0° and then 1° and then 2°, etc.

      They certainly could put in a 2nd xceiver looking to the side. Or for that matter they could rotate the one that they have but that would involve mechanical stuff that could easily break and might be unreliable bouncing up and down on a bike.

  116. Goncalo

    Hey Ray, the Varia app (iOS) had some updates in the last few days – any improvements on this front?

  117. Richard Corbett

    Like many people I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of this type of unit. I have one of the first generation Varia radar lights and it still functions really well but the battery is getting a bit tired so ‘upgrade time’ I thought.

    It looks like I will have to wait for Garmin to have a re think.

  118. Dear all,

    Do you know if possible to mount the Varia at the rear triangle (left side)? I don’t have any unit to test… I want to use on bikepacking trips and ultra cycling races, and, usually the seatpost is “busy” with the bag and I don’t know if it is a good idea to place the Radar on it, sometimes the bag swing a little bit.

    • Paul S.

      I mounted my 510 on the left seat stay of my gravel bike for a year or so. I only recently moved it to my (much smaller than the one you have) seat bag, just so it’s a little higher and more visible. Radar worked fine mounted on the stay. Radar probably isn’t affected by bag swing (doesn’t seem to matter on mine, but then, again, my bag is much smaller than yours), but with the 715 you also have to worry about what the camera can see. You might have to shim the mount to get the camera level on the stay.

  119. John Lean

    Thanks for another great review! I have had 2 Cycliqe rear cameras – both have died in the rain. The Cyclique app is similarly very unfriendly but it is easy to view the videos or extract photos with Windows viewer and a video-to-photo app. I would not like to rely on the Garmin Varia app so can you tell me if the Varia appears as an external drive if plugged into a PC via the USB cable so the videos can be accessed in Windows?
    Thanks, JL

  120. Zach

    I decided to give it a try. I can’t figure out some of the basic functionality….

    If I use the buttons to disable the rear light, bluetooth disconnects from phone.
    Can I not use the radar and camera with the light in standby mode?! I do this all the time with my RTL510 to save battery when I carry my cygolite.

    I cannot figure out how to use phyical buttons to change the recording mode. It only alternates between recording off / always on (and takes pictures). I have to go into the app to use radar recording mode, but as soon as I toggle the mode on the device I can no longer use radar recording only unless I go BACK THROUGH the app again.

    If either of these are by design, it’s going back into the box before I ride with it and get it dirty.

    • Zach

      All this being said, perhaps the firmware update helped, but I’ve had no issues or noticeable latency using the app to view video with my Google Pixel 6.

  121. Zach

    Has anyone found the 715 radar to be less sensitive than the 510 or 515? Maybe it’s the firmware, but the mobile app worked great for me – no issues connecting or viewing.
    However side by side with my old 510 the radar on the 715 didn’t seem as sensitive.
    From down my hall I could walk toward the devices and the 510 would pick me up right away.
    The 715 however I’d have to run toward it and it wouldn’t pick me up until I was right in front of the device. Even then it only picked me up 1 out of every 5 or so times.
    Granted I’m not a car, but I’m on the verge of sending it back and sticking with the 510.
    There really aren’t many user reviews but I saw one other guy on Amazon say he ran into the same issue where it generally works great, but did have an instance of it not picking up a car until it was right behind him (after watching it approach from his mirror).

    • Zach

      Just wanted to clarify regarding the sensitivity I tested. It only seems to be different for me, as a person, walking up to the radar. I think my 510 was overly sensitive. I tested the 510 and 715 side by side on a busy street and during my testing they both notified at the same time, and both showed the same cars at the same areas of the graph. I got a good deal on one and will plan to continue using it.
      -Also, after setting both the mobile app *and* the Edge to radar only, the setting seems to stay put (so far)

  122. Damon Cahill

    Thanks Ray for the detailed review. I finally decided to bite the bullet and purchase this when I purchased the Edge 1040 Solar. Admittedly, I’m sucked into the Garmin ecosystem just like I’m sucked into the Apple Ecosystem (on the watch front, Garmin has won out). My wife has encouraged a camera for some time. I’ve had the combo of Edge (830 before this), Garmin Headlight, and Radar (515 before this) for years, and when it works, I just love how they all integrate together. Here is my take on the RCT715 after one ride with the Edge 1040 yesterday:

    1. The setup was pretty painless. 10 minutes and I had the Edge 1040 and RCT715 all setup and all other sensors paired on the 1040 (power, HR, front light, etc).

    2. I was running in continuous mode, and basically just used the widget on the 1040 to save some video images and snap a couple of pictures. It worked.

    3. Like you Ray, the most disappointing piece was saving those videos – even when there were only a few, from the Varia App. Horrible experience. Once done, the the videos were ok for me at 1080p. I don’t have anything else to compare to, so that’s likely the difference.

    4. I haven’t seen this mentioned in the comments, but the biggest issue for me is this: In the state of NC there is no front license plate, only rear. So, that means if something happens, and I capture the video, even at 4k with current image stabilization, I would be out of luck. So, what I need it a front camera to pair with my Garmin ecosystem so it can be triggered as well to capture the license plate. Maybe if they do this with the next UT800, and they fix the image stabilization, this setup would work well for me for the safety piece.

    5. Am I being naive that they will fix the app to make it more useful for fun captures of video and pics? Maybe,. but with an added front camera that was integrated, and a fix to the app, I’ll just be hopeful that this will be an acceptable solution in the future.

    6. Am I a sucker to pay $400 for this? Probably. But, I’ve spent more on desserts the last two months that have made my bike rides significantly more difficult. 🙂

    My summary, come out with a front facing camera and and light that integrates (that can capture license plates), fix the app, and I would find this useful for me in North Carolina (where there are no front license plates).

  123. Treskelion

    Well, thank you DCR for your comprehensive reviews, even if your conclusions sometimes do not gel with my requirements (hardly surprising!)

    I have already decided to refresh my Azub Ti-Fly cabin, that monitors my leg strength … so 1040 Solar and XC200 here early next week, done after reading your excellent reviews; then I thought, why not replace the Cycliq 6 Gen 3 camera plus Garmin 510/515 units for a more complete rearward safety/monitoring setup (I cannot move my neck much). So I have now ordered the Garmin RCT715 (1-2 month delay) to complement the 2 x TL300s I use as indicators. Hopefully I will recover some of my outlay selling my surplus units.

    For myself, being severely disabled (85% spinal cord damage); less equipment is more. I had tried to move away from just one brand fits all; but in this instance Garmin now fulfils all my requirements (that also, unlike Cycliq, has EU support).

  124. David

    I was going to buy a GoPro until I learned about the Varia RCT 715. It looked like a better idea because, besides the recording, I get the light and radar feature. However, after reading this review, I am back to the drawing board. I assumed that recording videos and retrieving them would be seamless but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Now back to deciding again.

    • Yep. I’ve been using a GoPro along with the 515 radar and will continue to do so. I would love a better integrated solution (and with live view of the rear camera on my computer) but this certainly isn’t it.

  125. Zach

    @DCR I was curious if your opinion is the same after firmware 4.4 and the latest app?
    I have yet to run into any connectivity issues and have been pretty happy with the device. I was going to recommend it to a few people but wanted to get an idea if the app problems are still common for others.
    So far I’m okay with lack of stabilization after seeing how much it can wear down my gopro battery.
    I do wish there was a bit nicer lense and encoder but it seems fine for my purposes (make/model/events) as there are no front facing license plates here.

    • Zach

      Just to add to my experience, I finally ran into the issues today where the wifi would not stay connected. I fought it for about 15 minutes, then tried manually disconnecting from my home wifi. After this, it stayed connected to the Varia wifi.

    • It’s on my to-do list today actually, with it sitting on my desk here. That said, Garmin has provided a long list of planned fixes that are coming to the RCT715 over the next 1-4 months to address many of the issues myself and others had (including app issues, device usability issues, and Edge related issues).

      I’ll keep tabs on these over this time period and periodically update things here accordingly. There are no plans to add stabilization or such, but as noted in my review, while that’s a disappointment, it’s hardly my main beef with the unit (which was almost entirely centered around usability).

  126. Zach

    To help anyone who can’t format a large SD card:
    I tried SanDisk Extreme microSDXC 128GB
    Varia saw it as corrupt (as did my old card readers that apparently can’t handle this type).
    I could not connect to my phone while the varia was in SD error mode, so the fix is:
    Boot the varia with original SD card, connect to varia app, pull the SD card out, insert the new larger card.
    Varia app will then tell you the card is corrupt and ask to format. Hit yes, and you should be good to go.

  127. Mark N

    Battery Life update.
    Did the B2VT this weekend and had the Varia on record with radar alerts.
    Camera function was the first to go when the battery level dropped, both the light and radar continued to function. I got 6.5 hours of use with camera and the Radar/Light function lasted right to the end of the 6:55 ride. So I am suitably impressed. I think a quick charge up at one of the rest stops would have had the camera make it to the end, but I didn’t pack the USB-C cable in my top tube bag.
    Overall I have been pleased with the performance. I’ve used the Cycliq desktop app to stitch together the videos, which is good, unfortunately there is some GPS disconnect (I think) where the app doesn’t pick up the correct Strava data, definitely something Garmin could consider as a nice user feature (although I get their “this is a safety product” stance)