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The Garmin Varia Radar Tail Light… Why I Won’t Leave Home Without Mine.

I’m a firm believer in “safety in numbers” when it comes to cycling. First, a double pace-line with 24 cyclists is a little hard to miss. Second, a motorist has to get into the opposite lane to pass – there’s no squeezing by a double pace-line.

Riding solo is a different ballgame altogether.

Rather than use this time to give you yet another review on an excellent product, I thought I would take a minute to pass along how I use mine – it’s a little unorthodox.

If you look at the display, only a corner of the Garmin’s display screen is used up on the radar.  In the upper-right hand corner you’ve got a little symbol to show the radar is connected and working:

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Now, the magic happens when you’re moving and a car gets within 150 yards.  You get a verbal cue that a vehicle has just been picked up and the sides of the screen go black and a dot appears on the right side that represents the car.  That dot on your screen moves closer to the radar symbol at the top of the screen, proportionally, to the car closing in on you…

With me so far?  I know, roughly, when the car will come by me…

So here’s how I use the blip;  I normally ride exactly where a vehicle’s passenger side tire would go, maybe even a little toward the center of the lane.  As that blip approaches I pick a line, before it’s on me I move right about two feet, toward the edge of the road.  The three feet a motorist is required to give me becomes five.  Any jerk who tries to buzz me will find their vehicle at or slightly greater than the three feet they’re required to give me anyway.

Now, is this foolproof?  No.  Sadly, fools have been finding ways to screw things up since the beginning of time, but it’s the best thing I’ve come across so far.  And I haven’t had anyone come close to buzzing me since I started the practice.

This is worth the price of my Varia… if I had paid for mine in the first place.  I was given it by a friend who upgraded to the newer, fancier model.

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The Road Bike and the Beauty of a Clean Cockpit; Upgrading from a Standard Computer to a Garmin

I’ve ridden with a simple stem-mount computer since I’ve ridden with a computer – until I bought a Garmin this year, and now that I’ve got it I’m glad to have gotten rid of the stem-mount cycling computers (on all but the tandem, my wife gets the Garmin on the tandem to avoid a wired computer).

While there once was a time, and not long ago, I thought a simple cycling computer was the best way to go, times change. It’s not that the simple computer is bad, but it is inarguable that a Garmin Edge 520 Plus with mapping capability is a game changer next to a simple computer.  The fact that its  a “flush out front” mount cleans up the cockpit immensely is just an excellent bonus.

 

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For the longest time I didn’t think I could justify the cost in upgrading to a Garmin.  This year, I just thought it was time to start getting some maps in order for some of the longer routes we ride up north.  They’ll be invaluable in the future when my wife and I want to take a camping trip.  All we’ll have to do is pick a campground, load a map and go – turn-by-turn directions the whole way.

I didn’t think, after everything was hooked up, that I’d like the new setup as much as I do.

Incidentally, I picked up two SRAM mounts, so I have a mount for both road bikes, the gravel bike, the tandem, and both of my mountain bikes (the Garmin comes with three mounts, too).  The SRAM flush out front mounts are only $20 and they’re a little lighter than the original Garmin FOF mount.

I Finally Bit the Bullet and Bought a Garmin

For the longest time I was content relying on others to handle navigation duties when we rode. My buddy, Chuck has had a Garmin 520 Plus for quite a while and that comes with turn-by-turn directions. Mike, my other best riding bud, picked up a 520 last year as well.

Well, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ordered an Edge 520 Plus last week. Not only does it have turn-by-turn, it’s got maps as well. Freaking spectacular. One of the shop mechanics had a chuckle at my expense because he could remember, not too long ago, when I eschewed electronics altogether for most of a full season because I was tired of turning everything on before I started to pedal.

Well, now all I have to worry about is my Garmin because it’s hooked to my phone and Strava. So much for unplugging.

You may have noticed in the photo above, I’ve got the SRAM flush out front mount on my Venge, rather than the Garmin mount that comes with the cycling computer. The SRAM mount is half the price of, and lighter than, the Garmin mount. It shouldn’t have to be said, weight wins on the Specialized.

A surprising benefit to the Garmin mount is the cleaned up cockpit… I never stopped to think how much better the front end of the bike would look without my computer mounted above my stem:20190226_180944763507980808725433.jpg

So now my bike is really, really, really complete. I don’t have anything else to do to it, it’s perfect.

Better still, now my wife will have a computer on the tandem because the Garmin comes with three mounts – two handlebar/stem mounts and one flush-out-front mount. And you can choose which bike you’ll be riding when you set the computer up (I have all four of my road bikes programmed in – The Venge, the Trek, the gravel bike and the tandem).