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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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User submitted reviews

Review by Anonymous

Game Changer - Almost perfect
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
Altanta
7 of 11 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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Review by Go dog go

It actually works
by Go dog go
hell road east

Up to 5 cars displayed each look like a lady bug crawling up the side of display . Typically picks a car up at 6 seconds back and triggers a beep on rural roads . Battery life is 2 ea 50 mile rides but should be longer . Weight and aero drag are minimal .

Reviewed 5/15/2022
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Review by ggswanson

This tail light it genius
by ggswanson
Cycling Enthusiast
Boston MA

Wish I bought one sooner, as it's a brilliant product. Picks up vehicles way sooner than my mirror or my ears, and graphically shows how many vehicles, and closing speed. And it paired instantly with my Garmin computer. A huge advancement in safety, and other than being a little heavy it's a must-have for any road biker or commuter.

Reviewed 8/18/2023
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Review by Gene Kriegsmann

Simply Essential!
by Gene Kriegsmann
Cycling Enthusiast
Bonney Lake, WA
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

The vast majority of the 150 Miles per Week that I ride are on roads. The Varia Radar in conjunction with my Edge 1030 Plus make those rides far safer. The unit starts to flash as soon as it "sees" an approaching vehicle. I was told by a UPS driver that he could see the flash as far back as 3/4 of a mile in bright sunlight. That anyone who claimed they didn't see it was either blind or lying. Simultaneous with the intensified flash a display on the computer screen tracks the approaching vehicle. I have found it is quite easy to estimate the relative speed of the vehicle. As many as 6 individual cars have shown simultaneously in the display. The display is tinted red until the last vehicle has passed, then it turns green indicating the road is clear. No car has ever passed me and not shown on the display well in advance. It is absolutely essential when I have to move across the lane to reach a left turn lane. This unit is my second one. The earlier one was still going strong after more than three years of use, and many thousands of miles of travel. I mistakenly thought that the battery was weakening, and chose to replace it. That is fine. I gave it to a friend who will continue to use it, likely for many years to come. Of all the safety gear I have purchased over the years, this is the best. For those who might wonder, it is also usable with Wahoo computers.

Reviewed 6/15/2023
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Review by Anonymous

Fantastic product!!
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
Lake Oswego Oregon

This product was an instant success, I smile as I see cars coming up from behind, and can prepare with enough notice. Addicted to the safety aspects after one mile, truly a game changing product. As important as riding with a helmet for added safety on the road. Expensive, but would pay twice the price for what it does and how it improves the quality of every ride. Easy to link to my Garmin display with plenty of battery power for a 100 mile + day ride.

Reviewed 6/19/2023
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Review by JayU

Not 100% accurate device, but close
by JayU
Cycling Enthusiast
SW FL
2 of 2 customers found this review helpful.

I recommend using the Varia in conjunction with a dropbar end mirror, or helmet mirror, for knowing what's behind you. The Varia syncs cleanly with my Wahoo Bolt head unit, and is mostly accurate.

The Varia's cons are: 1) If a car/truck is keeping pace with you, it won't show up. It needs to be gaining on you. So, sometimes the car shows up on the screen only as it's passing you. 2) Ghosts. The vehicle icon stays on the screen sometimes even after there's no longer a vehicle behind you. Seems to happen most after making a turn. 3) "RADAR ERROR". I get this message occasionally, maybe once per ride. The quick fix is to Dismiss the message. Then it starts working right again, usually.

Reviewed 5/16/2023
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Review by Ben in Tacoma

Excellent product for every road
by Ben in Tacoma
Cycling Enthusiast
Tacoma WA
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

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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Review by Anonymous

Great when it works properly, dangerous when it doesn't.
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
Boston
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

This RLT515 is a replacement for the RLT510 that I had been using for almost 4 years but sadly lost. It looks virtually identical but also now includes bluetooth and "peloton" mode. Unfortunately I've been having problems with my new unit throwing "0:FC" errors somewhat randomly during my rides. Some rides it performs great while other times it gets so bad that I have to disconnect it from my Edge 1040 solar. For instance I went for a 3 hour ride recently and it was fine for the first hour and a half then is started throwing the error several times a minute which is both frustrating and dangerous. The error came up probably 30 times in about as many minutes so I just disconnected it from my headunit and used it as a dumb light.

I never had these problems with my old unit and would go back to it in a heartbeat if I could find it. Searching the Garmin forums made it seem that it's a software issue and Garmin is aware of it. I love Garmin hardware but their software is utter garbage, hopefully they take care of this soon.

Reviewed 4/11/2023
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Review by Anonymous

So glad I bought it item
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
Albany NY

Today was my second ride using the Garmin Varia. I really like it because it warms you about cars that are behind you from a very long distance. All that information is shown on your Garmin head unit. The view on the screen contracts and there is a dot that shows the car as it approaches you. I feel much safer knowing what is going on behind me and this device works very well. I did get a sensor error message once for a short time. But it resumed working as it should shorty after. I'm glad I bought it.

Reviewed 4/9/2023
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Review by WP

Never leave home without it!
by WP
Upstate NY

The varia radar is may be the best (and most important) piece of kit I have bought! While I continue to use a mirror to see WHAT is coming up behind me, getting the warning on my head unit prior has been indispensable. It allows me more time to focus on the road ahead, only having to glance in the mirror AFTER I get the warning from the radar. Riding on the road has been a night and day difference since I installed this on my bike!

Reviewed 6/19/2023
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Review by golfwheels

Great product!
by golfwheels
Daily Commuter
Chicago, IL
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

A lot of bike tech these days seems like overkill but that's not the case with this. It has made my commute safer and I wouldn't feel as comfortable riding without it. I use the Garmin 530 and the ap on my phone. I keep one earbud in while riding to get the sound alerts. I love the color sequence that it goes through: orange means a slower vehicle, red means a faster vehicle and green means all clear. After using since last May to commute, I can honestly say I have yet to see a false positive or negative. The only issue I had was my old pannier system blocked the sensor. so I had to swap that out. Otherwise, this thing works flawlessly and makes my daily commute safer. I hated the small mirror I used to use on my bar end which was way to distracting.

Reviewed 1/11/2023
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Review by Fourflys

Great product, really nice to know if a car, and how many cars, are behind you at any time. Wouldn't want to ride without it!
by Fourflys
Cycling Enthusiast
Sonoma County, CA

Never thought I needed an additional piece of tech on my bike until I bought an older, used Varia.. after using that for a while, decided I never wanted to ride without one and decided to upgrade to the current model with a better battery and light. Pairs instantly with my Wahoo Bolt v2.

Reviewed 6/5/2023
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Review by Anonymous

A game-changer, but a few limitations
by Anonymous
Cycling Enthusiast
SE CT
6 of 7 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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Review by Eugene Kriegsmann

I simply wouldn't ride without it
by Eugene Kriegsmann
Cycling Enthusiast
Bonney Lake, WA
10 of 10 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.
Thank you for your feedback.

Review by Matt Edler

Safety that's worth the price tag!
by Matt Edler
Portland
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

The Garmin Varia is a great device for informing you of any traffic (car or otherwise) overtaking you from behind. This device alarms (if you want) and has a visual proximity indicator, giving you ample time to shelter as close as possible to the side of the road.

I found the device to be most helpful not on busy roads while commuting, but on longer rides at those moments when riding two-abreast, it's a great reminder to fall into single file, as it alarms or notifies you with plenty of time to make this adjustment.

Hard to ride without it at this point!

Reviewed 10/27/2022
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Review by redrandy

Bought this for my brother for a b-day gift - he needs eyes in the rear!
by redrandy
Cycling Enthusiast
Salem, OR

I already had one, so I know how great this thing is. I also use a mirror, but have to say this is one of the best tech things I've ever bought starting with my first odometer that mounted down by the dropout and only recorded mileage....(yeah, I'm that old and have been riding that long).

I do turn off the alert sound though as anytime I'm near town and heavy traffic it's way annoying....otherwise zero complaints.

Reviewed 5/1/2023
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Review by Anonymous

Great product , must have in urban and city rides
by Anonymous

If you�re looking for more safety and want to know what�s coming behind you this is the product you should have attached to your bike. It definitely sees everything that�s coming towards you and gives a warning you do need a garmin computer for it to work properly.

Reviewed 9/12/2022
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Review by MR. JEFE

Hard to ride without it
by MR. JEFE
Competitive Racer
Imlay City MI

4 Stars because of it being kinda pricey.

This is my 2nd one. 1st one broke off on a rough trail (crappy 3d printed mount I made) Not fault of device at all!!

I ride alot of dirt roads and this gives me a heads up when wind/dirt noise makes cars behind hard to hear.

Reviewed 4/11/2023
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Review by MSPBiker

Worthwhile safety feature
by MSPBiker
Daily Commuter
Saint Paul, MN

You'll need a bike computer or Garmin watch, but assuming you have one (or both), this is a very worthwhile piece of safety equipment. It's quite reliable and easily understood. It pairs with your computer like any other sensor. I used to rely on listening for cars and looking over my shoulder before moving out into a lane. I still do both, but there are many times when I hear nothing and the Vario beeps to let me know someone is there.

Reviewed 8/5/2022
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Review by Alex

Works great, wish the mounting system was better
by Alex
Boston, MA

I've had one of these for over a year and put it through some cold temps. Battery life has been great so far, as advertised even down into the upper 30's. The system itself can track multiple cars and has a nice beep warning when they are coming up on you. In an urban area, this can be pretty often, but it keeps you from veering into a car you wouldn't have seen otherwise.

It only comes with a mount to attach to a seat post, so cannot mount to a bag without some modifications. I poked a couple holes into my bag to get the screws in an it works great. Only other downside is no strap like the GPS's have to catch the unit if it falls off, so far it has not fallen off.

Reviewed 8/5/2022
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