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Garmin Varia RTL515 Radar With Tail Light

GarminVaria RTL515 Radar With Tail Light(Return to Product Page)

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(87 customer reviews)
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Game Changer - Almost perfect
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
Altanta
6 of 6 customers found this review helpful.

Safety on the road has always been a concern. As a result I often am twisting my neck to see if there are cars behind. This is especially true when I ride 2 abreast with a friend (I choose to change to single file if I know a car is behind). Yes I have tried every mirror option available (helmet, bike handlebars, etc...) none of them consistently gave me the confidence that I knew what was behind me.

But the Vario does what it says. An audible as well as visual warning, well before I can hear a car coming. It was 100% accurate-I was quite impressed. What happens when 1 car passes you? Well, the noise of the 1st car makes it impossible to be certain if there is another car or now, so you have to turn your neck, which invariably means you sway a bit (even if just a little) in your lane. The Vario addresses this too. The red warning lights stay on if there is a 2nd or 3rd car until all cars have passed-genius.

I am a Wahoo user and it paired just fine with my Elemnt Bolt, full functionality.

Why almost perfect? One of my concerns is the poor driver who may drift out of their lane and hit me (much more of a problem with Cell Phones). My preference would be to have a camera that would show me that a car was getting dangerously close so I could head to the ditch and have some control of the outcome. Radar can't do that. So it is not all I could want but it is a massive improvement.

Had I realized how well it works I would have bought it sooner. Game changer!

Reviewed 5/26/2020
TriSports.com Comments
Thank you for such a well crafted review.
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Gives you peace of mind and changes your perceptions of what roads you think are busy
by michael
Competitive Racer
Portland, OR
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

The first thing I noticed was the underlying nagging anxiety you have about approaching cars on challenging roads goes away pretty quickly. You may find yourself using the better pavement parts of the road instead of the gravel strewn shoulder. You still should always check behind you.

Next I noticed that some of the roads I used to ride white knuckled really only had very few cars per mile and it's changed my ideas of what roads I'm more willing to ride.

Double edged sword of constantly reminding you there are cars behind you on busy roads.

The mount is kinda slick but I don't like that it's held on by a glorified rubber band, you can double them up or buy the fixed mount, but the fixed mount rubbed my legs.

Reviewed 11/19/2021
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Dont drop device on a hard surface.
by M. Andrada
San Francisco bay Area
0 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

Dont drop on a hard surface. It may nor power back on.

Reviewed 11/25/2021
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Nice rear light
by Jim
Pennsylvania

The Varia RTL515 is a nice rear light, extremely bright with different blinking modes. Works well with my Garmin EDGE device. Easy to set up with the EDGE device. I would have given 5 stars but the alert sound is at a frequency and volume I cannot hear with no way to increase volume. It doesn't give any feedback on whether it is on or off either when to turn it on or off. You have to guess whether you held the button down 1 and 1/2 seconds to turn it on, or 2 and 1/2 seconds to turn it off.

Reviewed 9/13/2021
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Use with Ride with GPS for audible beeps through BT earbud
by bikenswim
Cycling Enthusiast
Overland Park, KS

This is an amazing device that no one should ride without. I was using an older model of the Varia but with either a Garmin or Wahoo cycling computer I could only see the display of the radar but not hear the audible beep. I read a review that stated the newest Varia works with Ride with GPS and you can get a louder audible beep. It works fantastic. I am using a cheap Blue Tooth earbud with the hook so it doesn't fall out. Probably will move into a MIPS blue tooth helmet over the winter. I get a warning beep when cars are approaching which alerts me to look at the screen. I also get an all clear beep after traffic passes. If you have really good hearing and no wind noise this might not be necessary but was the deal breaker for me. I wish I could say the same for a Wahoo Elemnt which is under reporting my average speed and giving no ride data with the Wahoo livetrack. I hoped to get away from Garmin bugs but no such luck. Just traded two issues for two others. This combination above works with both Garmin and Wahoo. For safety's sake get one of these.

Reviewed 9/7/2021
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Fantastic product. Great Safety Upgrade!!!!
by BGSmitty
Cycling Enthusiast
Sonoma County, CA

I was unaware of the product until very recently. On group rides on narrow roads a rider in front of me would call "CAR BACK" without mirrors and without looking back. I thought he had super-human hearing, as I didn't hear the car until much later. He told me about the Varia. It has never had a false-negative (ie NOTdetecting an approaching car) It will show another bike rider if he/she is closing on you ( I think this is a feature!) If other riders behind are at about the same speed, it won't alert. The only false-positives for approaching cars have been when on a frontage road to a highway, when approaching cars on the highway appear to be coming up behind you. This is the FIRST cycling upgrade my wife insisted I buy, as it adds to safety. I'm 61, so neither my hearing nor my flexibility to look back are improving. THIS IS A MUST HAVE for anyone that rides on narrow roads. GET IT, you can't afford not to.

Reviewed 9/10/2021
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Excellent product
by Gerrit
Palm Harbor, FL
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

Very glad that I bought the Garmin Radar tail light. It's great knowing when a car comes up behind me.

Excellent

Reviewed 11/18/2021
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Amazing!
by Anonymous

Love this light and radar combo. Great for detection of nearby cars and bright enough to stand out making cycling safer.

Reviewed 11/14/2021
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Garmin Varia RT515 Radar tail light
by Joe biker
Cycling Enthusiast
Hayward, WI

the radar tail light is awesome. I makes you feel more comfortable what is behind you when you are riding. It is easy to use and works.

Reviewed 10/25/2021
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A game-changer, but a few limitations
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
SE CT
3 of 4 customers found this review helpful.

Have been using an RTL510 for 6-8 months, now won't ride without it. Useful in ways I hadn't imagined: (a) on fast descents when it's too dangerous to look back, it tells you if traffic is coming up behind you, (b) tells you if it's safe to move left to avoid bad pavement, (c) if you need to turn left, it helps you tell if a clot of traffic is approaching from behind, (d) while it doesn't display the lateral position of a vehicle passing you, you should expect a close pass if it shows that a pass is happening close to a blind corner or crest, or oncoming traffic. Also, I was unaware that its flash rate increases when traffic is approaching from behind until one day in my car I came up behind a RTL-equipped cyclist - quite a light show!

Limitations: (a) in high-traffic areas it will alert continuously (I avoid areas like that anyway), (b) if you are cycling along a secondary road paralleling an expressway, it may pick up traffic on the highway, (c) on curvy or rolling roads, terrain may block the radar beam long enough for a contact to be temporarily lost, reappearing as it gets closer. You should double-check with a head turn when it's important, because the RTL gives a low rate of false positives (not critical) and a lower rate of false negatives (critical!) in certain specific situations. The false positives seem to be triggered by motion-detecting lights or cameras (I routinely get false alerts when passing certain facilities). Occasionally it may temporarily show multiple dots when there is only a single vehicle, or "miss" a vehicle following closely behind another. False negatives happen when an upcoming vehicle slows to wait for a safe opportunity to pass me, so that it is going at my speed, no longer approaching me. If that situation persists long enough, that vehicle may vanish from my screen, making an abrupt left turn risky. Have gotten these false negs a number of times.

All in all, the RTL is a huge plus, greatly reducing the amount of shoulder-checking I have to do, so I wobble less and scan the road ahead more closely.

Reviewed 8/13/2020
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Hate to ride without it!
by CHT
Cycling Enthusiast
Chappaqua, NY

I read all the positive reviews saying this is a device you never thought you needed but can't ride without. It's true!! I upgraded to a Garmin Edge 1030 plus from an old Edge 800, and soon bought the Varia headlight and then the Varia VTL515 tailight. The Edge integration is great, the light if very bright, and the radar feature is truly something that provides some comfort in tricky intersections and small shoulder roads. I also like having it on gravel and backcountry fire roads because I can take my favored line without worrying about looking back on sketchy surfaces for an a ATV, dirt bike or 4WD vehicle coming. It won't prevent you from getting hit, but does let you know how much shoulder you can occupy safely as whether it's clear to make a left turn from the right shoulder. It's by far one of the best cycling devices I've bought (love my Edge 1030 as well as my headlight mount under the Edge). If you are on the fence, I recommend you go for it.

Reviewed 8/12/2021
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Excellent safety device
by sjc
Cycling Enthusiast

I've used the 515 for a couple months and I think this is a nearly essential piece of safety equipment. Connection to my Edge 830 is seamless and the the amount of information regarding the number of cars, distance, speed, etc is extremely helpful. I haven't attempted to calibrate the detection distance, but the unit alerts me to vehicles long before I usually hear them. I've had a few false positives, but almost no false negatives, which is key. My only complaint is that I rarely get more than 7-8 hours of use before it needs to be recharged and there doesn't appear to be a way to get a quantitative measure of remaining battery life.

Reviewed 8/13/2021
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WATCH OUT!
by jen4choice
Cycling Enthusiast
Albany, NY
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

A lot pricier than your average tail light...but then again, your average tail light doesn't sync up to your Garmin head unit to alert you when cars are coming. I really like how it displays the cars as dots on the screen, and then goes green / clear after they pass.

Also picks up cyclists too, which can be a tad confusing at times. But overall, glad I made the investment in extra safety on the road.

Reviewed 7/29/2021
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I simply wouldn't ride without it
by Eugene Kriegsmann
Cycling Enthusiast
Bonney Lake, WA
7 of 7 customers found this review helpful.

I have been using the earlier version of Varia Radar 2 for a bit over two years. I have been told by drivers, among them two FedEX drivers, that it is the most effective tail light they have ever seen. It was visible at a distance of more than a mile. It begins flashing as soon as a car comes within the radar range. I ride just about every day and I have never been surprised by a vehicle coming up behind me. My computer beeps and the display of the vehicle or vehicles approaching shows along the right side of my Edge 1030. I can judge the speed and distance of the approaching vehicle from the display. It really is a remarkable piece of equipment, and it sounds like they have made it even better. My unit will start giving me a low battery warning after about 4 hours on a ride. I have never run out of battery, but my rides don't usually last longer than 4 hours. The longer life battery is certainly not a waste. To give some idea of the sensitivity of the radar, I was once standing by the side of the road taking a break when a runner I had passed earlier approached. The computer beeped, and the display showed the runner approaching. That is pretty amazing. Yet, at the same time, when I have ridden with another rider, his presence is not noticed by the radar, only cars approaching us. The stimulus for the radar is something approaching, not something keeping pace with you. Recharge time is about an hour or less. It is, in my opinion, a necessity if you ride on the road. It will pair with most Edge computers and, also, with Wahoo computers.

Reviewed 5/19/2020
TriSports.com Comments
Very informative review.
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Amazing product
by David
Moreland Hills
2 of 2 customers found this review helpful.

A must have. The updates 515 has Bluetooth so you can connect to a phone app that gives super loud alerts. Battery life is better too. It has never been wrong and will ALWAYS let you know that a car is there. You occasionally get false positives but that is okay. Just makes you more careful.

Reviewed 7/12/2021
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Great little safety device
by Brent
Casual Cyclist
Gallatin, TN
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

Great little device for warning you about approaching traffic from behind. I have mine paired to my 520 Plus computer up front but I cannot hear the beeps due to high frequency hearing loss. I also have it paired to my iPhone and connected to the Varia app. This allows me to start up the app, run the phone volume all the way up and then put my phone in one of my rear jersey pockets - now I have enough volume to hear the audible tones and be alert to approaching traffic. The ability to connect it to multiple Bluetooth devices is a great feature. I love it!

Reviewed 7/16/2021
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Safety is Important
by Jim Shannon
Cycling Enthusiast
Knoxville, TN
2 of 2 customers found this review helpful.

The RTL515 works great and connects easily to my Garmin 520 Plus. I like that when the battery is low a message appears on the computer. To get the most out of the battery I always use the flashing mode. Regardless of the mode the light is plenty bright. You can use this with the phone app, but it is sometimes flaky, but I think it is the app. Sometimes the pairing drops for no apparent reason, but generally reconnects. Never a connection issue with the computer, however. I found connecting works best when you first turn on the unit. After it pairs, then change to a different mode. If you use any other Bluetooth/Ant+ devices, turn on after the Varia is all set. I use earbuds as the warning sound from the app is much louder than coming off the computer without them, but it still is sufficient. I've never had a false negative meaning it not picking up a vehicle when it was actually there. Occasionally, there will be a false positive, i.e. other riders if farther back in a group. Up & down hills it will lose a vehicle if detected at one time, but will pick it up again when the road flattens. It would be nice if Garmin would tweak the unit for more vertical detection for consistency.

Reviewed 7/5/2021
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Better than expected.
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
Rural / suburban Texas
2 of 2 customers found this review helpful.

Since I use a mirror, I wasn't sure this would add a lot of safety to my riding, however, I've been pleasantly surprised that I'm often alerted to the presence of an approaching car well before I notice it in my mirror. I don't use the function that allows you to watch an approaching vehicle on your smartphone. This seemed like more of a distraction than a benefit, so I never entertained using it. I do ride on backroads where cars can appear from a driveway or crossroad with little warning, so I have been very pleased with the Varia keeping me aware of vehicles. The audible tone is transmitted (Bluetooth) to my hearing aids without bothering nearby riders. Besides, several of them have their own Varia, which I hadn't noticed until I got mine. By the way, I think it picks up vehicles at a greater distance than 140 meters, but I haven't actually measured it. This does everything as advertised, which is kind of a new experience!

Reviewed 7/5/2021
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Changed my perception!
by Desert Dave
Cycling Enthusiast
Southwest USA
2 of 2 customers found this review helpful.

It was on sale. I thought it was a gimmick. I gave it a try. Changed my awareness on the bike. Added safety. Like many other reviews here, I didn't think this idea had much merit before using it. But, it gives me a 360 degree sense while on the bike that I never had before. It sees anything that is approaching from behind -- cars, trucks, other bicycles -- as long as their speed exceeds my own. Fabulous. I am really glad I got this device and would recommend it highly. Integrates perfectly with my 530. Like all Garmin stuff it's just a bit too expensive, but works as advertised.

Reviewed 7/9/2021
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Excellent technology to improve on bike awareness and overall safety
by Blackbird
Cycling Enthusiast
North Carolina
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

Truly amazing technology when package with Garmin's computer's. How do you place a value on safety. This truly adds to overall cycling safety and awareness of your surroundings. Sync's easily and great battery life. Whether you ride on roads, trails or other...the sensitivity is impressive. The only potential negative for road riders in significant traffic, I suspect you'll grow weary of the constant signals. However for infrequent traffic, country roads or simply worrying about the occasional rider coming-up behind you, truly impressive safety tool! Will never ride without it...

Reviewed 7/9/2021
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