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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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(107 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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Excellent product for every road
by Ben in Tacoma
Cycling Enthusiast
Tacoma WA

The Garmin Varia RTL515 has improved my overall feeling of safety on the road ever since I turned it on. It has a very bright light that is easily seen by motorists. The radar is great at picking up traffic coming up from behind and it will notify you on your had unit and start blinking to make motorists aware of your position. I would 100% buy this product again based on how helpful it is in ensuring safety.

Reviewed 5/9/2022
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Wouldn't ride without it!
by HerbP
montclair, NJ

Another on-line review said there are two kinds of people: those who don't have a Varia and don't see the need for one and those who have one and wouldn't ride without it. I moved from the first group to the second.

Easy interface with Wahoo computer. I turned off the audible alerts: TMI and annoying. But glancing down from time to time I see what's coming well before I hear it. I've tried to catch it making errors but so far have not been able to. Even tells you how many cars are coming. The LED alerts are usually washed out in daylight so are not that helpful.

Reviewed 4/28/2022
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Amazing piece of safety gear
by Dave O
Cycling Enthusiast
Anacortes, WA

I have my Varia RTL515 mounted on the back of my seat bag so the radar unit is positioned high for maximum distance and no interference from the rear tire. Although I like using it on small group rides it seems to be most beneficial on solo rides, keeping me aware of all rear approaching vehicles in plenty of time. The unit works as advertised and is living up to my expectations although I would have liked longer battery life. Isn't that always the case.

Reviewed 4/11/2022
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An extra measure for safety while riding.
by GR
Cycling Enthusiast
Crescent City, CA

This device makes a wonderful addition to my cycling experience. I get notified as traffic approaches and how many vehicles there are within 253 feet behind me. I can see the speed of their approach and I am notified when all is clear. Also, the light flashes more intensely and quickly while traffic is approaching and so it provides better information to the drivers behind me about my presence. The only downside experience I had was a with the Garmin 830 controlling the light, type of flash and turning it off. Now, I could intervene on the head unit and reselect the flash type I wanted, but turning the Varia off that became a problem, surprisingly. It turns off the light when the Varia is switched off but leaves the Varia's Bluetooth on which runs down the battery. I did find the command in the settings to turn this feature off which works better for me.

Reviewed 4/4/2022
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All the other reviews are true!
by Tom
Cycling Enthusiast
Santa Cruz, CA
2 of 2 customers found this review helpful.

All the reviews raving about how good this product is are true. I feel naked riding along a public road without this gadget. Now with that said, in true Garmin fashion it is grossly overpriced for what it is, but I think as a safety device it still delivers enough value to be a good buy. Just don't pay full price for one.

Battery life has been fine for me as long as I remember to charge it every couple of rides. (I ride almost every day)

The mount is crap. Buy a proper seat mount and you will be much happier and your device will be much more secure. I strongly recommend the BUP Labs mounts. They are excellent.

Reviewed 3/10/2022
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A third eye
by Mike
Happy Valley Oregon

My commute takes me on busy roads with a bunch of left hand turns so it's nice to know how I'm going to take that turn based on the cars from behind. This device makes it easier to determine if I take the lane or do a u turn on a perpendicular road. Very few ghost cars if any. Great safety device.

Reviewed 4/18/2022
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Don't leave home without it.
by Moe
Cycling Enthusiast
Arizona

This is one of the best safety upgrades one can put on a bike. I'm 65yrs young and have a bit of trouble looking back to see any upcoming vehicles this light let's me know when upcoming traffic is coming but it is a good habit to still look just to be sure.

Reviewed 4/15/2022
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A third eye
by Mike
Happy Valley Oregon

My commute takes me on busy roads with a bunch of left hand turns so it's nice to know how I'm going to take that turn based on the cars from behind. This device makes it easier to determine if I take the lane or do a u turn on a perpendicular road. Very few ghost cars if any. Great safety device.

Reviewed 4/14/2022
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Most Valuable Investment
by aerodienamic
Competitive Racer
Portland, OR

It might be an illusion of safety, or just something to make you more aware of what is happening behind you. I for one have been hit by a car, and this little device has made me feel more confident with being out on the road alone. I would recommend this to anyone who ride a lot outdoors. I would say that riding in an area with higher density of population (ie City with a lot of cars) its starts to lose it value, I found that its better out on an open road in a suburban or rural area.

Reviewed 2/14/2022
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Great Item fffor on coming traffic cofirmation
by Gary
Cycling Enthusiast
Palm Desert
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

I just came back from a 3.5 hour ride. The radar worked great and helps on the left turns.

I have a back neck therefore my neck twisting is limited. This is an added safety feature for me along with a good rear view mirror.

The drawback is that I only had a 3% charge left in my edge 520 when I got home.

A longer ride and it may stop functioning due to the edge battery being drained.

My back up is the "Ride with GPS" app on my phone

Reviewed 2/6/2022
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Really Really Useful. Better than I had hoped
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
Santa Cruz, CA

Adequate as a tail light goes, but there are brighter out there for that. However the radar integration with the Edge is really first rate. My one gripe, and it is only one, is that i wish there were a quick easy way to temporarily mute alerts for a short period time. Think "Mute for 5min" or "mute for 1/2mile" kind of thing. Riding along frontages that parallel a highway is maddening with the alerts, but on the country roads this is really a terrific gadget. I don't think it will still a car from hitting me, but it will sure help me avoid pulling out in front of one accidentally.

Reviewed 1/31/2022
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Worth it to have better situational awareness on the road. And the light is nice and bright as well
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
Austin, TX

I ride about 150 miles per week on mixed city and country roads. The varia really helps prevent surprises when you can't hear cars behind you. A friend of mine is looking to replace his old RTL 500 with the new 515, just because the light is so much better.

The only negatives have to do with battery life. By default it is set up in daylight-always-on mode which only gets you 5-6 hours of runtime. The configuration setting are more complex than they should be, but you can eventually get it to a flashing mode where it is only active when the ride timer is running. That should get 10-12 hours.

Reviewed 1/14/2022
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Improves awareness!
by Pai2ul
San Jose, CA
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

Using it with a Garmin 530 and paired to my iPhone running the Varia app. I ride with one bluetooth earbud to hear directions and alerts, the variations app relays all the visualization with tones so I don't need to look at the screen.

Used it in a group ride scenario on quiet and busy roads and it works really well, only alerts to other cyclists when the speed differential is large.

It definitely builds my awareness of the surrounding road users.

I docked it one star for the seat post attachment, the rubber band has worked for me in the past for things like cadence and shell sensors, but using it for something that is removed all the time to charge is not very viable in the long term. Fortunately there are plenty of places offering 3d prints of replacement mounts now and will give on a try.

Reviewed 12/15/2021
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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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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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Best safety device available
by velodvm
Competitive Racer
Tucson and Iowa

I love being able to see when cars are approaching. On bad roads I can ride in the better pavement but move over to the edge when cars are passing. When riding with a friend we will ride 2 abreast on county roads but one of us goes up and one goes back when cars are approaching. Sometimes there is no better place to be but even then it is good to know when there are no cars approaching.

Reviewed 3/7/2022
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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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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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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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