How Garmin’s Varia Bike Radar Avoids And Records Cycling Accidents
Garmin has released a new model in its Varia Radar line-up, the Garmin Varia RCT715, and it is a bike light that warns cyclists of incoming vehicles.
The Garmin bike radar Varia system has been around for more than half a decade, but the latest in the series takes the system a huge step forward by adding a camera.
Garmin’s Varia RCT715 camera is active constantly as you cycle, but saves clips when it detects a potential incident. The constantly rolling approach means the Varia can capture what happens before such an incident, making this a little like a car dash cam, but for a bike.
It uses Garmin’s longstanding “radar” system to detect incoming vehicles, and has an accelerometer to help it “lock” footage should you end up needing to swerve to avoid an accident. This appears to be similar to the way an action camera operates, using motion sensors to help stabilize footage in motion.
Garmin says the Varia RCT715 can detect vehicles up to 140m away. Rather like some camera focusing aids, the bike radar transmits a signal that bounces off objects back to the RCT715.
The time this reflection takes to reach the units lets the RCT715 calculate a vehicle’s speed relative to the speed of the bike itself. An unusually fast-moving car can therefore be flagged as a potential issue.
Garmin’s Varia RCT715 also has a built-in light, but as this is a rear-mounted unit its job is to alert others of your presence rather than lighting up the road ahead.
It has four modes. The brightest is a daytime flash, which puts out 65 lumens. Night flash puts out 29 lumens, and when lit constantly rather than blinking it operates at 20 lumens. There’s also a “peloton” mode of 8-lumen brightness, designed not to distract other riders too much.
The Garmin Varia RCT715 battery lasts between three and six hours depending on the light mode used, but this is with constant video recording. There are also modes that leave video off, or only record when the radar detects incoming vehicles, but Garmin has not published battery life figures for these modes.
Footage is recorded to a microSD card at 1080p resolution, 30 frames per second, and to see alerts from the Garmin RCT715 you can either pair it with a phone using the Varia app, one of the company’s higher-end wearables or a recent-generation Edge bike computer.
The Garmin Varia RCT715 is comfortably the most advanced model in this series to date, but it does land at a much higher price. It costs $399.99, double that of the Varia RTL515 – which is somewhat similar but lacks the camera.