Garmin Southern Africa Newsroom

Annah Watkinson - Reviews the Garmin Varia Rearview Bike Radar

Garmin Ambassador: Annah Watkinson
Photo Credit: Chris Hitchcock

I have always always always (thought repeating “always” a fourth time may have been one step too far) used Garmin products. Resultantly, I spoke to Garmin South Africa and was thrilled to be taken on board as a brand ambassador for their products. I will only be associated with products that I would happily pay for out of my hard earned cash and Garmin is one of those products.

Garmin is definitely one of the top triathlon sports equipment providers and I would like to dig deeper into one of their product offerings that I absolutely love.

Photo Credit: Chris Hitchcock

I train 99% of the time by myself; my training partners live in Johannesburg following my recent move to Cape Town; my coach Raynard Tissink gives me very specific training which is difficult to combine with a training partner; and my race calendar includes the Northern Hemisphere race season.

When bike radar initially came out, I was intrigued particularly as it was a fellow South African that initiated the technology and Garmin clearly saw the value in it. I was looking at the Garmin Varia front light and Garmin also gave me Garmin Varia Rearview Bike Radar kit. This product, being the first radar system for bikes that warns of vehicles approaching from behind up to 150m is a real life saver!

This review of the Garmin Varia Rearview Bike Radar is not a technically analysis but a user view from a dedicated athlete who uses it for major mileage on a tri-bike:

- It is extremely simple and easy to use – as all Garmin products tend to be
- Looks good, it’s neat and hardly noticeable on the tail of the bike
- Works wirelessly and can operate stand alone or is compatible with Garmin Edge computers
- The bike radar head unit can detect multiple vehicles and indicates the relative speed of approach and importantly,
  the associated risk level
- I use the Garmin Edge and it does this through a green, amber and red colour system
     - giving you a “beep” a dot is shown as the car or moving object from behind
     - It tracks the car as it passes you and once cleared, a green colour is shown to notify you all is safe again
- As it notifies you on your head unit of an approaching car from your rear, the rear light brightens and flashes
  simultaneously notifying the approaching car of the cyclist ahead
     - This also aids your fellow cyclists as well when I am upfront because of the light flash variations
- There are a number of light flashing modes available for the Varia - “steady-on” or “blinking”
     - This is helpful as I travel to a number of races and am cycling on mostly unknown roads to me so it’s important to
        be able to adhere to European countries requirements for a steady-on mode or American states which, much like
        South Africa, tend to make use of blinking mode (there is no actual regulation that I am aware of for either)
- Mounting the unit is simple and is the standard Garmin set up with the quarter turn mount. I have mounted it on my seat
  post to make sure that it is visible and not covered by spares etc
- The battery uses a USB charge and lasts between 5-10 hours depending on use i.e. cars approaching and
  warnings given

The Varia is an added level of security and reduces risk when riding on roads. It provides comfort to me as I know when there are cars approaching me and I can focus on the road ahead and ensure I am ready for the car to pass and the associated wind movement For a triathlete doing material mileage, it is indispensable, as it constantly monitors the traffic and alerting me should I be zoned out on a particular training set or in those rare lighter moments, when I’m on a coffee ride with friends and the peloton needs to straighten quickly.

Anything that keeps athletes safe on the road is a necessity and this product from Garmin hits the sweet spot for me. I’ve noticed that since I started using it many riding friends have quickly adopted it as an essential part of their kit – testament enough.

Worth noting that with all technology driven products there are in scope activities it reacts to and certain activates that do not trigger the radar: if you are in a peloton at the same speed... warning if the peloton increases speed it will warn you! The max distance of the radar is 150m so very fast moving cars will trigger it when the car is almost up to you, and it won’t show concurrently more than 8 vehicles coming from behind. It is important to note that the Varia is a signaling device and it you still have to remain vigilant. It doesn’t remove that responsibility from you as a cyclist.

Overall it provides that extra level of awareness that will keep us cyclists safe on the roads at a competitive price with Garmin reliability and ease of use:

  - Price tag: *Approximately R2500 – R4150
  - Packages/Bundles: Varia with display unit or Varia without the front display unit, it is
    not necessary to have the front display unit if you have a Garmin Edge compatible
  - Connectivity: Via ANT and ANT + communication

Happy Training and Safe Riding

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