Last summer at Eurobike 2022 Bryton sorta-kinda-but-not-really announced their new Bryton Gardia R300 cycling radar. For those unfamiliar, a cycling radar detects overtaking vehicles (or cyclists/mopeds/etc…), and warns you on your bike computer/watch. At the time of announcement it represented an interesting option, as both Bryton and Magene were basically dual-announcing new radar units that were more budget-friendly than Garmin’s existing lineup of Varia radar units. Bryton’s R300 has a list price of $129, whereas Garmin’s current generation Varia RTL-515 is $199 (albeit often lower, around $149).
However, as every media outlet pointed out at the time it was announced – this isn’t a category where a product can have certain types of bugs. A cycling radar has to have a perfect record at detecting overtaking vehicles. There’s no room for exceptions or occasional misses – or so-called ‘false negatives’.
And as you’ll see here, the Gardia R300 shows promise, but ultimately suffers from a number of bugs that need to be resolved before it can be recommended.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that while you’re seeing an influx of media reviews released today due to a review embargo, the reality is that Bryton has been selling these units in Europe and Asia for months. Any consumer could have gone and bought these units in certain countries for many months. The point is, this unit isn’t actually being released today. It was released to regular consumers back in November/December in a number of countries.
Speaking of which, Bryton sent over a loaner radar unit to review. As usual, after I’m done, it’ll go back to them. That’s just how I roll. 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.
In the Box:
Here’s a quick look at what’s in the box of the Bryton unit:
Inside you’ll find the radar itself, some mount components, mount adapters, and then a USB charging cable. Oh, and a manual:
Here’s a closer look at the mount options. Essentially you’ve got the part that wraps around your seat post, and then you’ve got two rubber inserts which work with different seatpost types (such as round ones, aero seatpost, and d-style seat posts).
Note that technically there are two different SKUs, the R300 and R300L. The only difference is that the R300L also comes with a D-seat-post mount adapter, whereas the base R300 doesn’t. Frankly, that’s a very silly SKU separation.
And then of course that sprawling manual. Nobody can accuse Bryton of wasting paper here. They printed something on every last centimeter of this thing:
In weighing the unit on my kitchen scale, the Bryton came in at 70g (no mounts), the Magene 64g, and the Garmin RTL-515 72g. Here’s how it compares size-wise to the Garmin and Magene units.
And thickness-wise, you can see they’re all basically in the same ballpark:
With that, let’s dive into it.
I’m going to mostly go a bit light on this section, mainly because I think most cyclists at this point interested in a cycling radar kinda know what it’s about. As noted above, they’ve been around for nearly a decade now. The general gist of it is that the radar detects overtaking objects – be it a car, cyclist, bus, or even a train. It’ll then display them on a bike computer or phone app.
The cool part here is that this is no longer a ‘Garmin only’ game. Virtually every meaningful bike GPS computer brand out there now displays cycling radar data, same goes for watches from Garmin. Atop that, there are even 3rd party apps that can display cycling radar data, plus of course, apps from the radar companies themselves, including Bryton and Garmin.
Maybe I’ll expand this section down the road for those new to radar, but for today, let’s cover the basics of the Bryton and usage with various devices. First up, there’s the unit itself. It’s got a button atop it for turning it on, as well as changing the light pattern – such as steady/blinking.
Meanwhile, there’s a USB-C charging port at the bottom. That’s something lacking in Garmin’s Varia RTL-515, though it is in Garmin’s combined camera variant, the RCT-715.
Like most cycling things, the Bryton R300 is waterproof spec’d at IPX7, which means you can fall into a canal up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes. After that, you’ll need to re-assess your life situation.
Bryton has published the following specs in terms of battery life and also the available light modes:
– High solid-on (20 lumens): 8 hours
– Low solid-on (5 lumens): 12 hours
– Group ride (12 lumens): 11 hours
– Night flash (12 lumens): 17 hours
– Day flash (73 lumens): 17 hours
– Light off (zero lumens, radar only): 24 hours
It’s a bit tricky to figure out battery life in various conditions. But for reference, on today’s 1hr 45min ride, I went from 64% to 40% using the High Solid-On option. This puts it roughly in the ballpark for their battery claims.
When it comes to mounting, in the box as noted earlier you’ve got a few different mount styles, which are easy to snap onto your seat post, like so:
Notably, the light is visible from the side, as you can see above, meaning that it’s not purely backwards facing. In terms of visibility, Bryton claims a viewable light distance of 1.6km. That seems reasonable, as it’s bright AF.
Next, you’ll pair it up to your bike computer. I’ve paired it to Garmin, Hammerhead, and Wahoo units. Depending on the bike computer you have, you can either search for all nearby ANT+ sensors, or just cycling radar sensors. The Bryton unit advertises itself properly as an ANT+ cycling radar, which is an open standard for cycling radars. It allows them to all communicate using ANT+ with a defined protocol.
As such, the following manufacturers support the ANT+ Cycling Radar profile at this time:
– Bryton cycling GPS units
– Garmin Edge cycling GPS units and various Garmin watches
– Hammerhead Karoo cycling GPS units
– Stages Dash cycling GPS units
– Wahoo ELEMNT cycling GPS units
In addition, the Bryton unit also supports the bike light profile as well, which means that it can be controlled using the bike lighting controls on some bike computers. Note that not all bike computers support the ANT+ Lighting profile. For example, Garmin and Hammerhead do, but Wahoo doesn’t.
As for the ANT+ Radar side, here you can see it pairing to a Wahoo ROAM V2:
Once paired up, depending on the bike computer brand, it’ll show you a small icon in the corner indicating the radar is active/connected. This is useful so you know if the unit has disconnected for some reason or otherwise run out of battery/etc. Not all brands show this.
Getting to its core functionality, it’ll show you overtaking vehicles using a small stripe along the side of the bike computer. This strip will typically appear and the unit will chirp that a car is within range. Then it’ll show you a small car icon for overtaking vehicles. That vehicle icon will move upwards to the top, which means it’s getting closer to you. Once it passes you, most bike computers will show a brief moment of green strip and chirp an “all clear” beep.
I’ve got the Karoo 2 off to the side here, so you can see the overtaking vehicles on the strip. Also, you’ll notice the light on the Bryton radar changes and starts flashing when a car is within range – as a way to attract attention to the driver of your existence.
In cases where a vehicle is at a significantly higher speed than you, it’ll also change the coloring to red, and typically give a different tone. Further, the unit can detect multiple vehicles concurrently. You’ll see multiple icons on the screen, like below:
Again, how all this displays varies slightly between companies. Heck, in Wahoo’s case you can even customize the icons to have them be chickens or Star Wars Death Stars if you want. But the general goal is that all companies display this the same way, in the name of safety. Some companies allow slight customization of the chimes/tones, but all companies have a specific/unique radar tone that’s not used somewhere else in the system. Again, the idea being that your brain instantly recognizes that’s a radar tone and not a course/workout/etc tone. In terms of the Bryton radar compatibility – all of this works exactly as expected at a protocol/compatibility level to 3rd party bike computers.
It should be noted somewhere that Bryton says they detect vehicles up to 190m on their site, yet the back of the box also says “190 avg 150m”. That seems like a weird way of putting it. In my testing, yes, there are perhaps times where it hits 190m out (just like Garmin Varia can too). Yet there are also plenty of times where it’s only 20-30m out (not an issue on Varia). I get the theory of putting the higher number there, but this seems like it’s Bryton trying to put something on paper that’s not actually real, in the name of spec upmanship.
One unique feature on the Bryton radar not on the Garmin ones, is automatic brake detection illumination. In other words, it’ll illuminate as you slow-down/brake. This uses an accelerometer inside the unit to detect you slowing down, and then illuminates the back light for a few seconds.
Beyond bike computer connectivity, Bryton has their own app, which allows for configuring of a handful of alert/lighting settings, as well as acting as a display in the event you want to use your phone instead of a bike GPS. First, here’s the configuration options. This also includes updating firmware, all of which occurs via Bluetooth Smart:
Then, there’s the usage as a display. In this case, you’ll see the car approaching, as well as options at the bottom to toggle the lights and alerts on/off. You can see the coloring, and then it goes to green for ‘All clear’:
This is all basically identical to what Garmin did for their app, which again makes sense when it comes to conforming to standards around safety. The goal here being to use this in cases where you don’t have a bike computer, but use your phone on your handlebars – such as perhaps with commuter bikes, e-bikes, cargo bikes, etc…
Accuracy & Issues:
As I said in my intro, in the cycling radar world, the most critical element is the unit actually detecting cars. If a unit fails to do so, its usefulness as a radar is a liability. You no longer trust it, or worse, you mistakenly think the coast is clear – only to find a car squishing you. Of course, ideally, you’d always double-check over your shoulder, but again you need absolute trust that it always detects overtaking vehicles.
In the case of Garmin’s Varia radar devices, missed overtaking vehicles simply don’t exist. We’ve got nearly a decade of data showing that missing vehicles doesn’t happen – a so-called false negative. If you look at the Garmin Forums, there’s literally no instances of this reported that I could find in the last two years of posts. Nor have I heard of a single one offhand or in comments elsewhere.
Which gets me to my Bryton R300 radar issues. These are classified in various piles, over a number of rides, in varying conditions. These are long rides in a variety of conditions, from glorious but cold sun, to fugly Dutch sideways rain, to just overcast. Ironically, it performed worst in the clear conditions. I will note that for the vast majority of my rides, the Bryton basically performed identically to the Garmin Varia Radar – usually within +/- 1 second.
Note: Please see the terminology section at the end for some understanding of the nuances of cycling radar systems.
Here’s what I’ve had on the most recent firmware:
1) Entirely Missed Vehicles: Last week on a 3hr+ long ride on sunny farm roads, about 1-3 times per hour, the unit would simply fail to detect overtaking vehicles. These were not slowly approaching vehicles that matched my speeds, but rather, vehicles going about 30MPH/50KPH and on very clear road conditions. Nor were these tiny cars, but rather just run-of-the-mill small SUVs, sedans, etc… In these instances, the Varia radar operating at the same time detected the vehicles without issue. Finally, this was on open farm roads – in fact, this very road shown below on this very nice sunny day:
In this case, I don’t have any video footage on that ride, because frankly, I didn’t expect it to miss vehicles. I then started creating concurrent footage on future rides (which is mostly a ginormous pain in the butt to screen record across multiple bike computers from multiple radar units, plus a GoPro to last that long, then sync all the footage together with overlays, find the exact moments amidst dozens of passes per hour, etc…).
2) Latent Vehicle Detection: Equally, on some rides I’ll see extremely latent detection of vehicles. In these cases, Varia Radar will detect the car about 100+ meters out, but Bryton won’t. It won’t be till the last second, about 2-4 car lengths back, that Bryton realizes the car is there. A similiar problem is where the detected vehicle simply falls off tracking if the speeds get too close. While that’s not unheard of with Varia, you can see in the video how bad it is on Bryton. There’s an example of that at 8:42 in the video (direct link to timestamp in video).
3) False detection alerts: By far the most common issue I and others are seeing is false positives where the unit briefly reports a vehicle at the far end of the range, in cases where no vehicle exists. These are the least worrying because they are like brief radar blips in Top Gun, and disappear without actual safety risk to me. And while false positives occasionally happen on Garmin devices, they are almost always explainable by a glassy/reflective building mirroring oncoming traffic – often in dense city areas – where usually radar is kinda useless anyways due to density. I’m not worried about when Bryton does the same. Instead, it’s the phantom alerts out on empty country farm roads that chirp and then instantly disappear. Literally, even while sitting here writing this in an empty/quiet room with the unit on/paired off to my side, every once in a while it briefly false detects randomly. There’s an example of that in the video at 10:05 (direct timestamp video link).
In addition to the above core major annoyances, I’ve got two more less serious but more notable items:
1) Bryton does not appear to match Garmin’s high-speed dangerous overtaking vehicle alerting scheme. Basically, when a vehicle reaches a specific threshold, Garmin Varia units will signal to the bike computer to flag the vehicle as red, due to high overtaking speed. However, in the case of Bryton, I’m getting a mismatch here where I’ll get red alerts on the Garmin Varia side, but it’ll only be flagged as a generic-level vehicle on the Bryton side. My guess here is they’ve got either a slightly different detection threshold, or calculation aspect. You can see this at 6:18 in the video (direct timestamp video link).
2) There are distance mismatches between the Bryton app and existing bike computers. This might be because Bryton assumes their radar can see upwards of 190 meters, whereas Garmin states up to 150 meters. So if you have a bike computer and the Bryton app side by side, they’ll visibly show you different distances.
3) It doesn’t quite seem to detect as many cars as Varia does properly. While hidden cars, that is cars obscured from visible view behind other cars, are still a problem with Varia or just about any technology, Bryton’s unit doesn’t quite seem as good as separating out multiple cars that Garmin’s Varia does separate out. Meaning it might only show two cars, when Garmin can manage to show three cars. Here’s an example of that on the street, where the Garmin unit shows two cars, but Bryton just one car. Or, at 5:27 in the video in multiple locations (direct timestamp video link).
Again, I’m less concerned about these last three items than I am about the first three core items.
Instead, the complete missing of overtaking vehicles at good speed is my primary concern. Bryton says they’re investigating it, but don’t have an answer as to why detection failed. So far that’s only happened on one ride for me, albeit, my only sunny ride. The rest of the rides were more dreary.
A quick note on what things are or aren’t considered incorrect when it comes to cycling radar. For those that have been around cycling radar for a while, these will be old hat:
1) Detecting bikes/people/motos overtaking: This is actually correct, the radar will usually detect/show any object that’s overtaking you. Be that a runner, cyclist, or moped. Heck, I can even get it to detect airplanes landing on a runway next to a particular bike path in Amsterdam. Same goes for a high-speed train line that’s next to another bike path in Amsterdam. It’ll scare the crap out of you to have a high-speed train trigger the dangerous alert and then two seconds later it rushes past, but it’s doing its job: It’s showing you things that are overtaking you. Plus, it’s kinda nice to know a cyclist is coming up on you – especially cause they’re usually silent. Here’s an example of that working properly at 8:06.
2) Cars disappearing when maintaining exact same speed: If you’ve got a car that’s behind you and maintaining the exactly same speed as you for an extended period of time, it’ll likely disappear off radar. Again, this OK/makes sense, as it’s no longer ‘overtaking’. In theory, the moment it starts accelerating again and closes the gap to you, it’ll reappear. Bryton isn’t quite as good at this as the Varia though, and seems to disappear steady-state cars more quickly than Garmin does – often giving the all clear when in reality the coast is very much not clear. Here’s an example of that working poorly on Bryton, but better on Garmin, at 4:15.
3) Detecting traffic on parallel roads/highways/paths/runways: Again, this is also correct, albeit undesirable. If a highway runs next to your bike path/road, and it’s got traffic close enough, cycling radar will detect it as overtaking vehicles. At 100m out, the radar simply doesn’t know that a road exists or not, it just knows that 100m out there’s a vehicle that’s closing the gap to you. This is probably the singular area where cycling radars can be a bit frustrating. Here’s an example of that working as expected/designed at 8:31.
4) The unit only shows 1 car, when in reality there are many behind it: This is normal, because the radar can’t see through other cars. Instead, it’s going to show you one icon/car for each vehicle at different speeds that it can see. Thus, if you have a lineup of traffic behind you, you might only see the closest car, but as that car gets closer it’ll typically split into two once it detects the next car. Here’s an example of how the Garmin and Bryton units differ at 5:52.
Again, some of these are radar quirks that might take a ride or two to get used to. But once you understand how it works, most people are pretty happy with cycling radar units.
When it comes to deciding to make a product, there are certain product categories where you can get away with bugs or quirks in exchange for some other feature or function. Yet for other product types, there’s zero tolerance for bugs or issues. For example, when a company makes bike computers, you can be 98% good on your features, as long as your bugs/quirks are mostly limited to non-critical things. Heck, you can still have annoying AF bugs, and probably still get away with a product people are going to buy.
But when it comes to a safety product, that tolerability for issues quickly becomes zero. And that’s the challenge I have with the Bryton R300L in its current implementation. Now 4 months after release in Europe/Asia, the unit still has false positives many reviewers are seeing, as well as more rare false negatives. And this is some 9 months after they announced it. Meaning, they’ve likely been trying to squash these issues for quite some time, and seem unable to.
And again, in some product categories, you can get away with bugs or significant annoyances. Take, for example, Garmin’s own Varia RCT-715 combo camera/radar unit I reviewed last May. In that case, during my review, I found the entire app portion immensely buggy and basically unusable. Except, despite all the flaws I pointed out in my review (and other people as well), the two things it did properly without fail were radar and safety camera recording. Meaning, that if you set aside the horrific app, then the core safety features were flawless. While I didn’t recommend the product, someone could choose to make that tradeoff if they wanted to (and many people have). However, with the Bryton R300L, that price-to-safety tradeoff is much more challenging.
One could say you get what you pay for. And that’s true. But typically that saying is assigned to service levels or features – not baseline safety aspects. It’d be like paying for a cheaper transatlantic plane ticket, only to find out that the airline might not actually make it all the way from Paris to New York City – instead ending up off the coast of Long Island, ditching in the water. Sure, it got 99% of the way there, but that last 1% is kinda important. Just like identifying 100% of the overtaking vehicles is important, not 99%.
Look, I really want more budget-friendly radar out there. It keeps cyclists more aware, and ideally saves more lives or keeps people from getting injured. I don’t much care who delivers that more affordable radar unit. If it’s Bryton or Magene, great! If it’s Garmin, that’s fine too. And if it’s some other company – that’s awesome too. But whoever it is, needs to be reliable enough to trust with absolute certainty. I hope Bryton can sort their issues out, but until then, it’s a pass for me.
With that – thanks for reading!
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