Radar Love: Garmin Varia

Back in my era, the 70’s, the band Golden Earring released the hit song, “Radar Love.” This iconic classic sums up how I feel about my new Garmin Varia.

In a nutshell, the Varia is a rear light (with several blinking settings) with radar to alert one’s Garmin of approaching cars. More on this in a moment.

The Varia has been around for awhile so why did this old dog decide to purchase one? The answer is because this old dog can’t hear approaching cars like I did when I was younger. In fact, on several rides this past summer, I was caught off guard by passing vehicles. Nothing bad or even remotely dangerous happened but I knew I needed help.

“So just get a mirror!” Yeah, I know: cheaper solution by far. But to date, I’m not a mirror guy (don’t judge!) and my vision isn’t the greatest either, especially my left eye, so I don’t see (punny, aren’t I?) that as a fix. Besides, I like high-tech gadgets when they work and the Varia works!

Another reason I opted for the Varia was the gift card my JDRF team gave me as a “thank-you” for coaching. Very generous, indeed! The last deciding factor was that the new Varia has a much better rear light. Friends of mine have the earlier version and I was never impressed with the light feature. It utilized a row of flashing LED’s that was not very bright or large which, in my opinion, made it difficult for approaching cars to see. The new model has a bright, bold light that equals any rear non-radar light out on the market. With my mind made up and gift card in hand, I headed off to my LBS to order the Varia!

Setting up my new Varia was easy and if you need help, there are tons of YouTube videos to watch on the subject. On my first test run, which was a solo ride on country roads with minimal traffic, the Varia worked like a champ, beeping to alert me of an approaching car then displaying it with a dot on my Garmin Edge. As the car neared my location, the dot moved upward on the Edge to indicate it was nearing my location. When there was more than one car, a second dot appeared as well. The Varia also uses colors to let you know the relative speed of the approaching vehicles.

The addition of the Varia doesn’t mean I ignore listening or double-checking my rear when turning left. But to date, I feel much safer on the road (in the sense of moving to the right when a car is coming) than I did without it. I did have one instance where I totally missed the Varia’s warning: I was out of the saddle climbing a steep hill. With eyes on the road and battling deafening winds, I missed hearing the beep and seeing the tell-tale dot. Thankfully the driver gave me a wide berth but I learned a lesson. Now when I climb, I glance occasionally at my Garmin to make sure no one is coming.

To sum up, the Varia is a great tool that’s easy to use and feels like I have a riding partner who is vigilant in guarding my “six.” For urban use, like others have commented in their reviews, I think it would be annoying and even distracting since you need to have “eyes forward” and not be gawking at your Garmin every time it beeps, which would be incessantly.

Yes, this old dog has found some “Radar Love” with his Varia! It makes training solo in the country that much safer and fun, in a high-tech way. How cool is that?

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