Five years ago Garmin first introduced its Varia Radar system, which warns cyclists of cars approaching from behind. The company has now announced an updated version, that offers a couple of key improvements over the original.
Just to recap, the first version of Varia Radar consisted of two parts: a rear-facing seatpost-mounted module that sent out radar pulses and received their echoes, along with a wirelessly-connected handlebar unit. Whenever the radar module detected a vehicle closing in from behind (up to a distance of 140 m/495 ft), the rider would be notified via a beeping sound and a column of LEDs on the handlebar unit’s display.
The radar module also featured a built-in tail light that flashed more rapidly as motorists got closer, in order to better get their attention. Additionally, if users already had a Garmin Edge cycling computer, they could use it in place of the handlebar unit.
Now, Garmin has split Varia Radar into two products: the RVR315 and the RTL515.
The latter is a lot like the original radar module, although it’s now compatible with the Varia iOS/Android smartphone app. This means that riders can use their bar-mounted phone in place of the handlebar unit, which very much becomes an optional extra.
Instead of LEDs, the app’s display utilizes color-coded alerts, with green meaning that everything’s OK, amber indicating that a vehicle is approaching, and red warning that a vehicle is closing in at high speed. The phone also vibrates and beeps.
The RVR315 offers the same functionality, but forgoes the tail light in order to lessen the bulk and lower the price. It reportedly runs for up to 7 hours per charge of its battery, and is priced at US$149.99. The RTL515 goes for around 6 hours in Night Flash or Solid tail light mode, or up to 16 hours in Day Flash mode – it’ll cost you $199.99.
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