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Testing: Garmin Varia RTL 515 Fietsradar

Testing: Garmin Varia RTL 515 Bicycle Radar

, by Dennis Florussen, 4 min reading time

One radar. Multiple screen options. Easy to connect with your Garmin device. But how does it work? The Garmin Varia bicycle radar?

One radar. Multiple screen options. Easy to connect with your Garmin device. But how does it work? The Garmin Varia bicycle radar? Colleague Dennis went out with it and talks about his experience with the Garmin Varia RTL 515.

I was somewhat challenged by the Garmin representative (Jeroen) to test theGarmin Varia RTL 515 . Because “you there in Zeeland , often in the polder and on B-roads , you should give it a try”. I was a bit cynical myself, because “with us they drive decently in the polder” (somewhat against my better judgement ). But okay, I'm not afraid to be challenged and I happily accepted the Garmin Varia RTL 515 . 

Saturday morning I went out with my TT (time trial bike). First prepare the bike, it was still on the Wahoo Kickr C ore for my Zwift training. Put on high rims, put pressure on the tire, take spare tires with you , fill up your water bottles , put some 226ers gels in your pocket, put a cloth over the frame because a “clean bike is a fast bike” and the Garmin Varia RTL 515 . to the seat post. This is easy to install using a rubber O-ring . I put an extra tie-wrap on it, because you have to be economical with borrowed stuff . Just let the Varia connect to my Edge 1030 (beep beep and it's done) and I'm ready. 

On the road with the Varia RTL515
The program includes a loop in west Zeeuws-Vlaanderen together with Fiona and a subsequent loop in east Zeeuws-Vlaanderen alone. And I must honestly say, it's amazing how well the Garmin Varia RTL515 works. I drive ahead of Fiona and a little later she follows behind at a pace and my Garmin Edge 1030 immediately sounds the alarm. Both sides turn red and a ball appears on the right of the screen and moves from bottom to top. When Fiona has the same speed, the sides of the screen turn green for a moment and then return to the normal display. Great!! 

We drive into the polder one after the other and yes, beep beep ”, my Edge 1030 gives another message and I signal to Fiona (who is sitting in my wheel) that a car is coming from behind. And sure enough, a few seconds later a car zooms by. “Soooo, that's handy,” Fiona shouts, which saves a lot of looking back. Especially when you are in a TT position, looking back is not always convenient. 

The ride progresses and every now and then my Edge 1030 gives a signal. We then keep to the right and wave friendly to the passing cars. Even when several vehicles come from behind, it will display several e dots on your screen , great . 

What exactly is the Varia RTL515 and what can you do with it?
The bottom line is that it is a rear-view radar , (your eyes in your back, so to speak). My version was with a rear light and there is also a version without. Personally, I think it is extra safe to drive with a tail light . The radar detects following vehicles up to 140m away and displays this on your Garmin device or smartphone app. What is also great is that the light intensity adjusts as the vehicle approaches to make cyclists more visible .

The Varia RTL515 has several options, including platoon mode. This mode provides a low light intensity flashing light and is easy on the eyes of other cyclists when riding in a group . When you ride in the peloton, it will not signal your fellow cyclists. Only when a vehicle drives faster than your speed does it sound the alarm (so when someone seriously makes an attack you can catch him, also useful ;-)).

If I had to point out one point where it is less effective, it would be on cycle paths right next to a motorway. He picks up every car here. Is this bad? No, not, given all the other advantages that the Varia offers. 

So Jeroen, I have to agree with you completely , this gadget is really an addition to your safety on the bike, especially on secondary and polder roads. I personally think it is a must-have for your bicycle, just like a bicycle bell . 

And you get used to it very quickly !





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Testing: Garmin Varia RTL 515 Bicycle Radar