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I’ve written before about my Garmin Varia radar/taillight and how much I love it for solo rides – and more important, how I use it to keep from getting buzzed.
My wife is happier when I use it on weekend club rides, too, but I’ve run into problems when I want to use the radar with a saddle bag on my Trek 5200. Now, this is about to get highly technical, so try to stick with me, and I’ll do my best to clearly describe the issues with using the mount that comes with the Varia on a standard road bike frame versus a compact road frame.
First, on a properly sized compact frame, which has a sloped top tube and extended seat post, I can use the regular “rubber band” mount because I can get the Varia low enough it won’t interfere with the back of my legs when I pedal (I do have to use the aero post adapter and I had to cut out quite a bit of material with a razor knife to make it fit, but it works).
With the 5200’s standard frame, with a top tube parallel to the ground, I’ve had to mount the Varia high, so my legs don’t hit it with every pedal stroke which can move the light, changing the radar’s angle and effectiveness at picking up traffic. Under normal circumstances, this isn’t a big deal because I don’t use saddle bags on my road bikes – I prefer a pouch I can put in my back pocket (and that’s just a personal bike snobby preference – my bikes look “cooler” without the saddle bag). Yes, I know. No, I don’t care if it’s a bit snobby. Yes, I’ll be able to live with myself just fine, thank you.
From time to time, though, especially getting into the cooler months, a saddle bag is a necessity so I have a spare pocket to store clothes that come off as [or “if” as often is the case] it warms up throughout a ride. Last weekend was a perfect example. My wife and I loaded up the camper and headed up north to join a friend on his birthday ride. The forecast called for some seriously cold weather, with eventual warming throughout the day. I needed the pocket room so the saddle bag went on and my Varia stayed at home, which meant my wife was a little bummed.
Thus enters the expensive but useful round seat post mount.
I had to turn my seat post collar around to make room for the mount (see the second photo below), but with the Varia secured, I no longer have to worry about it moving if I brush it with my leg as I’m pedaling. Truthfully, I’d hit it now and again even with it mounted right under the saddle as it is in the photo above. The secured mount is a vast improvement. Again, though, this isn’t a problem with a compact frame, because it can be mounted low enough that the legs can’t hit it.
Now I’ve got it mounted in a place where it’s almost low enough my legs don’t brush it, but it’s secure enough it won’t move even if I do – so now I can use a saddle bag when I’m heading off on the next adventure:
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:
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.