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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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(66 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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WATCH OUT!
by jen4choice
Cycling Enthusiast
Albany, NY

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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Amazing product
by David
Moreland Hills
1 of 1 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 peace of mind while road riding
by FCoons
Cycling Enthusiast
Columbus, OH
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

I used to rely on handlebar mirrors and/or quick glances over my shoulder to check for cars behind me, but the Garmin Varia has been a savior and at least replaced the mirrors. The read out display on my Garmin head unit gives and audible warning and also provides ample alert to cars approaching from the rear. If there is any concern it is that while in group rides with teammates behind me the radar can sometimes confuse cars and bikes and filter out the warning, but perhaps I don't have the unit set correctly to accommodate for both bikes and cars behind me. I will not ride again without the Varia on my bike and should have purchased it when it first came out.

Reviewed 7/5/2021
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Safety is Important
by Jim Shannon
Cycling Enthusiast
Knoxville, TN
1 of 1 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
1 of 1 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
1 of 1 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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Great little safety device
by Brent
Casual Cyclist
Gallatin, TN

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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Excellent technology to improve on bike awareness and overall safety
by Blackbird
Cycling Enthusiast
North Carolina

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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Better than I expected for alerting me.
by DVP_Mich
Daily Commuter
Kalamazoo MI
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

I never expected the multiple cars to be shown so accurately. I have it paired with EDGE 1000. The Coloring Alert displays well no matter what the underlying screen is, even the temporary direction guidance or lap notifications. Always pairs automatically !! The ONLY Draw back is the rubber band mounts, I did buy the permanent screw on mount. I have also paired it with my VioActive 3 [non-music] I do not find that to be helpful, on the screen on the handlebars is where this device shines. I commute regularly so am often in low light conditions that cars should have lights on but don't. This supplemented with a good mirror to verify cars are moving over is the way to go. BTW I love the EVT Safe Zone Mirror Large surface and out from eyeball can see quite a bit.

Reviewed 6/25/2021
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Fantastic
by IMFletch
Cycling Enthusiast
gresham, Oregon

This is one of my favorite pieces of cycling gear and its one that all cyclists should own. Easy to set up and operate, I don't ride on the road without it.

Reviewed 7/25/2021
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It's a lifer saver when riding alone
by kchester
Cycling Enthusiast
Boston

Initial testing

Tested my new Varia today in today's morning ride - In a straight line it's great - Could not detect the cars sneaking out of alleys - it did- when it's too near. My conclusion -it's good to have both the radar and a mirror

Summary after 2 months

The Varia is a literal lifesaver when riding alone on quiet roads.I�d say the Varia is best suited for quiet country roads and very small groups where you get limited traffic and need a warning that a car is approaching, especially helpful when your mind is wandering from taking in the sights.

There are supposed to be some tricks to reduce false hits when riding in a larger group

When riding in a group, look behind for teammates to stay at a group pace or keep the group together.

When turning right, after an initial check for traffic, I can continue looking while turning, but the Varia radar is still pointing to the angle of the old road.

Wishlist:

Size of car or truck behind. Helps me decide how much I need to swerve out of the way.

Reviewed 7/19/2021
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Much needed safety device
by kaltech NJ
Cycling Enthusiast
New Jersey
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

At first I thought this was a gimmick and didn't need it, but after using it now after 5 rides this is one of the best upgrades to you cycling safety. It just works in telling you cars are approaching, great for making left turns across traffic, could never look that far around. You must watch when going over hills the cars are hidden until you are in line of site. works the best out in the country. I even got my wife one because at events she bikes solo!

Reviewed 6/14/2021
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It works perfectly.
by MIG
Cycling Enthusiast
CT
1 of 1 customers found this review helpful.

I use it as my first look when I change lanes in traffic. It works so consistently well I can solely rely on it almost 100% of the time .

Reviewed 7/5/2021
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Safety
by Swags
pennsylvania

The added safety on the road is worth the money. I'm in the front of the pack calling out "car back!"

I now have the rear visibility to improve the safety of our club.

Reviewed 7/22/2021
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Worth It for Safety
by CB
Cycling Enthusiast

While this unit is not cheap, it lets your Garmin computer sync and provide information about cars approaching from the rear. Far enough range and give a bit more peace of mind when on the road. Picks up cars long before I hear them approaching.

Reviewed 7/7/2021
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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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This REALLY works!!!!
by Low Country Biker
Cycling Enthusiast
Charleston SC/ Chicago Il

I have bee using a Garmin 510 for at least six years. After a recent software update I noticed this radar unit listed in the menu. Upon a little research I found that with the update this unit was compatible with older Garmin units. I purchased this rear light/ radar unit and have been using it for the past month. I've been impressed with its performance and ease of use. I ride mostly on paved county/ farm type roads and average about 700 miles month. The unit warns me when traffic appears about 400 ft behind and graphically shows the progression toward me. I have found it very helpful when I have to merge into a traffic lane. I always look before moving but this shows the gaps in traffic and lets me know when to look back. Good product

Reviewed 5/13/2021
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Must Have Safety Component!
by Bill B
Cycling Enthusiast
Massachusetts

This product has made my rides a lot less stressful. I love getting a warning that a car is approaching before I can hear it. When I'm flying down a hill it's comforting to glance down at my Wahoo Element Roam, and see a nice green line, letting me know that the road is all mine. I would have bought one sooner had I soon it was compatible with my Wahoo device. I was proud to say goodbye to the little mirror on my sunglasses. This is much better, and I like a little cooler!!

Reviewed 5/5/2021
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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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