Garmin Varia users - need feedback

Backstory: On Saturday morning this last weekend (7/20), I was out riding on one of my usual routes, a moderately busy road. It was 8:30am on a bright, sunny day, I was riding along the right hand side of the lane, long, straight, flat road with a blinking red taillight (Bontrager Flare R) - basically no reason why anything bad should happen. Instead, a driver who wasn’t paying attention came up behind me, saw me at the last second, slammed on his brakes, and rear-ended me. I heard the brakes squealing for what seemed like about half a second before he hit me, prior to that it didn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary.

As I sit here nursing my road-rash covered rear-end ( the car just punted the bike out from under me and I landed in a seated position - nothing else is even sore), I’m thinking about whether or not a Varia would help me at all in that situation, and I keep coming up with no - the car would have looked like any other car coming up behind me until it was too late…is there something I’m missing? Thanks for the feedback!

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Definitely looking to see responses here.

I use my Varia as a tool to know when to hug the right side of the road and not make sudden movements. I know looking back tends to make me drift in the same direction I turned my head so I just keep my head forward. Unfortunately, as shown in your case, the Varia isn’t going to make any inattentive driver suddenly pay attention.


If someone is coming up on you fast, the radar will paint the screen red instead of orange, which will give u more awareness. The radar also changes the blinking pattern as cars approach, which i feel makes me stand out more. So it does add more awareness, but we’re still at the mercy of the vehicle. They need to make it standard in all vehicles to look for a radar or ant signal and tell the driver over the speakers. The possibility of setting off people’s radar detectors is another good thing.


First, glad to hear you were not more seriously hurt. That’s a really scary encounter and could have been really bad.

I’ve been on the new Varia for a couple of seasons now and did do a blinking light prior. I ride fairly quiet country roads so when the Varia alerts I pay attention. When it alerts I pull towards the side/shoulder and tend to glance back to see what’s coming. Most of the time I see the cars are moving to give me some space.

Where I find it really helpful is when multiple cars are coming. Without it, I might relax and drift back left after the first car passes. Now I know to expect multiple.

Whether it would have helped you is hard to say. The Flare R is probably just as bright. I use the strobe mode on Varia which does flash faster as cars approach, so perhaps a small benefit in terms of grabbing a driver’s attention. I do know that I wouldn’t go back to riding road without a Varia.


I don’t ride with out my Varia. It’s hard to know whether it prevents crashes, but no cars approach ever surprises me and with it I typically get a chance to take a look at whether they see me too. I view it as a no downside item to reduce risk, marginal gains. Believe that Nate has talked about his love for the radar on the podcast too.


As @cwiggum said, it might, but more than likely it wont. I dont know if its the default setting or I somehow set it this way but my Varia is a steady red light till it detects a car and then goes into the blinky mode. The change from steady to blinky might catch a drivers attention because of the change, but again if they are so distracted as to not notice a bike in the road in the first place under perfect conditions, its probably not going to help.

Otherwise I use my Varia just as you use yours.


It is steady when you first turn it on. Press the on button again and it goes to a smooth up/down/up/down, press it again and it goes to flashing mode.

I’ve got one - I also ride alone on country roads and it’s a fantastic enhancement to my riding. I now know that i haven’t got a car behind me to i don’t feel the need to keep turning around. When it beeps i know to keep in to the edge and sharpen up.

I’m not sure it would help you if some numbnuts was playing fortnite at the wheel but it’s better to have the awareness of what’s coming than not. I’d say it was priceless and a brilliant invention that really works perfectly.

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This can all be controlled from the head unit too. I believe you can set it to flash differently as you slow too, which I’ve got enabled.

OP: on a long straight road, yep, you’d have had audio and visual signals that you had somebody coming up on you.


Yeah, it definitely works flawlessly. The only Garmin product that doesn’t have problems. Probably because they didn’t develop it, they just purchased the company that did. :rofl:


I had my varia for over 2 months now and love it. Actually it has made me ride outside more as I am more comfortable with it than without. Glad I took the plunge and glad you are ok.

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Other Varia users may differ, but I doubt the radar much improves my odds on moderately busy roads. I prefer to stay off such unless they have a bike lane or paved shoulder, because if I’m in the same lane as a car my safety depends on the driver picking me out from other more visible traffic and actively avoiding me. Sure, I can see cars coming up on me on my head unit, but have no idea which one is a threat.

Where the Varia makes a huge difference in riding experience is on light-use rural roads with no paved shoulder, or even ditches. I don’t have to hug the edge worried about a sudden vehicle, and can ride alert but relaxed well onto the pavement. When I hear the beep I have time to check distance, and move over. That, and the increased flashing, also provide an alert to the driver too – a way to pick a sentient being out from the scenery. If the driver is drunk or distracted, the Varia won’t save me. But otherwise it makes road-sharing in the country less harrowing for both rider and driver, I think.


I really love my Varia radar, it’s my favorite piece of bike tech. In fact, if my battery is dead for some reason I really hesitate to take an outdoor ride where I’ll be sharing tarmac with vehicles. I believe @Jonathan is a strong proponent as well.

Would it have avoided your situation? Maybe? The Varia light really is very bright and attention getting, the brightest rear light I’ve owned. The knowledge someone is approaching is useful. Typically when I see the dot getting close to me I hug as far right as possible. At $200 it’s not a prohibitively expensive investment, and I fell MUCH more comfortable riding around vehicles with it. I think you would really enjoy having it.


I have the original Varia radar and it has been one of the best investments that I’ve made. I ride on a lot of rural roads with no shoulders and I feel a lot safer when I can detect cars coming behind. It’s especially helpful going into a headwind and having my 520 detect more than one car coming from behind. I know that it won’t stop someone from driving into me, but it puts me in the safest position that I can be in. GPLama has a video:


Coincidentally I got to try mine (recently purchased) last night. The head unit doesn’t pair with the radar and the radar itself turns itself off after 5 minutes of operation, leaving me without a rear light at dusk :sob: At least Garmin are usually pretty good about warranty replacement :slight_smile:

@rjessop Check the firmware on the radar is up to date. Plug it into a PC via USB and load up garmin express. I believe you need to do this to get it working with certain head units.


Hi does anyone have any problems with the radar in situations where the traffic is very light. My girlfriends detector appears to go into sleep mode when there are no cars And for some reason won’t come back on.

Has anyone had this issue, and if so how have you resolved it?

Thanks in advance


I haven’t had this happen at all.

There are modes you can cycle through by pressing the power button on the unit. Might be good to have a quick look through the manual.

Brilliant! Thanks very much for this!

Although so long as the device is on, you can control everything through the head unit too. I thought it would come up with a “Radar disconnected” alert if that function were to be turned off. I didn’t think it could go to sleep?

I don’t believe it goes to sleep either. I would open a support ticket with garmin. There are 3 light modes and another mode that i believe turns off the light but radar remains on(maybe vice versa).

But… Is it the v1 radar or the newer v2. My v1 turns off when i turn off my edge. My v2 does not, i have to turn off manually. I do feel like there was a time when v1 wouldn’t connect to edge and would turn itself off.

When mine disconnects or runs out of battery, that “wifi” emblem in upper right turns red. Does your emblem change?