My name is Robert, and I am one of the bike fitters here at All3Sports and Podium Multisport. I am also a triathlete which of course means I love to test all the newest products that have come to market in an attempt to buy as much speed as possible! I created this blog series titled First Ride which is aimed at being a series of new product reviews and my thoughts on them.
Today I am talking, or rather writing about the updated Garmin Varia RCT715. While this one may not make you any faster it does give you eyes in the back of your head when you're out on the road.
For the uninitiated, the Garmin Varia is a rear facing bike light with a radar rolled into one device that communicates with your bike computer to let you know if a car(s) is coming up behind you. Now on its 3rd or 4th generation they have added even more technology into this sleek looking bike light. With the addition of a built-in camera, you can now capture photos or videos of the cars that almost ran you off the road. Joking aside it is nice to know that you have video documentation of what is going on behind you should an incident occur during a ride.
Set up was quick and easy, it pairs just like any other Bluetooth device. I use a Wahoo Bolt and connected with no issues. I didn't lose function of any data fields, nor did I have to set up any new data pages, it integrates pretty flawlessly with a competitor's bike computer which is nice. I hope that doesn't change, getting these on every bike regardless of what bike computer you use would be great. There is also a phone app you download to receive the photos and videos from the Varia. The mount you affix to the seat post is robust and comes with many different sizes of rubber bands and zip ties to ensure it isn't going anywhere. Garmin put a lot of thought into the mounting system, and it shows. There are multiple seat post angle adapters to ensure you get the right plane of view for the radar.
During my first ride with this I happened to be in the mountains in and around Cahiers, NC and it proved to be good testing grounds for a product like this. With constantly changing elevation and lots of switchbacks and banked turns I was curious how the radar would fair. It really didn't skip a beat when it came to alerting if a car was behind me. I guess Garmin HAS been developing radar technology for their marine business for some time now, so it isn't too surprising that this product works well.
Battery life appears good enough to last for even the longest training rides, I will put it through that soon enough (Kona build has pretty much started).
With safety always being the number one priority when out on training rides I can say with certainty that I'll never leave home without this one. I probably wouldn't use it during a race (aero is everything) but after a few rides with it I can't think of any other time I wouldn't have this on my bike. It gives me piece of mind knowing a tesla can't sneak up behind me anymore. It is incredibly accurate and doesn't miss cars also, I routinely see it pick up motorcycles. It does add some weight to the bike but that stays consistent with my train heavy, race light methodology!
This is one unique device that pretty much everyone who rides on the road should have. With distractions in cars being at an all-time high being visible isn't always enough, so you might as well increase your awareness out on the road and the Varia does just that. I will post more thoughts on this product from time to time as I get more time with it.