I’ve been riding with a Garmin Varia now for the better part of a season and I can say without question, it’s been a fantastic addition to my cycling gadget collection. I love my radar.
So, how this works is, the Varia picks up traffic that’s moving toward you, but only traffic faster than you. This includes cyclists. If, however, that traffic is moving at the same rate of speed you are, say you’re in a group on a club ride, that isn’t detected. This gives the appearance that it’ll pick up a car but not another cyclist – it’s not that complex – it just picks up whatever is moving faster than and toward you.
I’ve also written posts about how I use the Varia’s onscreen display to keep vehicles from buzzing me. Since starting this tactic, I haven’t been buzzed once.
How I use my rear-facing radar to avoid being buzzed isn’t the best feature, though.
The best feature is that the light changes its flashing pattern as a car approaches. With the changing pattern, it automatically draws a motorists eyes as they seek to put together what’s going on – because no other light on the road changes patterns. This means you’re noticed, and for cyclists, being seen is everything.
I use my Varia on all of my bikes, almost every time I ride, except Tuesday nights. I figure if a motorist can’t see 20 cyclists cruising down the road in a double pace-line, well, we never had a chance anyway and a blinky wasn’t going to help.
I’ve used standard blinky lights in the past, as well – my favorite used to be a Serfas Thunderbolt (my wife still uses one) – but nothing compares to having a radar on your bike that shows you where traffic is, and changes its pattern as traffic approaches.
Current models are running about $200 in addition to your Garmin Edge 520 Plus or better, which is the minimum it can pair with (it’s gotta have bluetooth capability). They’re worth every penny.