Garmin Varia - really all that?

That would get you killed in the US. So, this is the answer to your question of how does it add value.

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With the Varia I know when a vehicle is coming up behind, including how quickly it’s moving, and am able to make an educated guess about what it’s likely to do and how that could affect me. I’ll take that knowledge and the advance warning over wearing orange any day of the week.


Nobody is entitled to hog the road because they are uncomfortable sharing the road with other users.

My typical evening training loop is a major road which is the only way for about fifty thousand people to get to work and back and so on. It’s decently wide and the traffic isn’t very fast (typically around 50-60 km/hr) , but taking the whole lane because you are uncomfortable being passed would be ridiculous, against the rules and impede traffic flow.

Well that is the point I and others are making re: the Varia…it is a tool to help you do that.

When I get an alert, I will typically move to the center of the lane so that I am more visible and not vague shape on the side of the rode. As the vehicle approaches (which the Varia tells me), I will slide to the right to let them pass.

Again, I was a huge skeptic of it before I got one…now I won’t ride without it.

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For me the two biggest benefits (I usually ride on country roads):

  1. very windy days where I can’t hear cars coming up behind me but I can still hear the beep of the Varia. Doesn’t necessarly change how I’m riding I just want to know they’re coming and how many and how fast.

  2. two lane country roads with no shoulders and a car coming towards me and one coming up from behind. I can see if the car behind is going to try and squeeze by or ease up for a few seconds and wait to pass when they have enough space to safely do so. If they’re not slowing I’ll move closer to the centre of the lane to protect my space until the oncoming car has passed. The Varia gives you enough warning that you can do this with plenty of time so the car behind can figure it out.

Btw, I’ll never 100% trust my life with it but it adds a great extra layer of protection and stops you from having to constantly look back to see what’s going on.


Well every juridiction is different I guess. I didn’t advocate going in the middle of the lane, one meter is still pretty much on the right side while forcing the vehicules to go on the next lane, and insure there is no traffic on it.

Here by law motorists needs to give away 1.5m of distance to the cyclists they overtake and if it is not the case in your location I urge you to write to your representative and help local cycling advocacy. While there is technically room if the cyclist is riding in the gutter this is literally illegal for amotorist to overtake a cyclist while staying on the same lane. Moving a little bit closer to the center is not illegal and only forces the motorists to obey the law as they don’t have any reason to be too close to you once they have been forced to go on the next lane anyway. It also slows done the traffic as each car needs to slow down and check before overtaking. It avoids situations such as a driver following a car being surprised to see you at the last second.

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I’m very tempted by one of these, but I’m still not sure. I do about 70% of my riding solo, and much of it is on fairly quiet lanes (though by no means all). I’m not a ‘ride in the centre of the lane’ cyclist (unless I deem that’s safer) but once or twice I have been surprised by a beep from a car behind (that’s a whole separate subject).

Will it genuinely enhance my riding experience? There seems a largely positive consensus but some scepticism. Has anyone had one and thought ‘meh’?

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Worth noting that all of the scepticism is from people who don’t have one… :wink:

In all seriousness though - I think your scenario is where the Varia really does it’s best work.


Mintaerobars, I think I ride very similarly to you, with the exception that I do 100% of my riding solo. I avoid traffic and cars if all possible, but they cannot be totally eliminated on even the most rural of roads. I was “on the fence” about getting a Varia, but I finally got one and I love having it. I would not say it enhances the riding experience, in fact it can be slightly annoying when there are a lot of cars. That said, I truly believe that this device will increase my safety on the road. Let me state that I have been a cyclist for +30yrs and I have never been hit by a car. I ride on roads with little traffic and I think I am very aware of my surroundings. However, I am not perfect and sometimes my attention can lapse, especially as I get more tired on a longer ride. The Varia gives an additional layer of awareness of my surroundings, of the approaching cars (number, proximity, etc.) that can literally save my life. It may be as simple as me not being startled to giving me a warning that I need to really pay extra attention and/or pull over (this is all subjective to my judgement of course). I’m not trying to be dramatic, but it’s a very small price to pay for a product that could be priceless to your health.
Btw, I don’t really like other Garmin products (I prefer Wahoo) but they got it right with this thing. Now they just need to add a camera.


One cool little feature of the Varia and the Garmin headlight which I like by itself, is that when i switch the bike computer on, it switches the lights on to last used setting (and consequently, when I turn it off, the lights shut off), and I have a screen on the Garmin which shows me light battery charge. I kind of like the whole integration of all the electronics on the bike.


@Mintaerobars I’ll chime in. In my first experience with it I was a bit meh. I didn’t like the beeping, but a quick adjustment and I had a good set-up: pair with Wahoo Elemnt, mute the beeps, LEDs flash to indicate vehicle behind. For me, perfect set-up, the Elemnt’s built in LEDs flash for different reasons (orange for car, red for car at high speed, green for “road is clear”. Sure, I can still miss the visual cue but I prefer that to beeping. In lots of situations it’s very good, like descending when you’re at speed and you want to know if it’s safe to sit in the middle of the lane without turning your head, quick glance at the Wahoo, if the coast is clear then I can take the corner from the middle.

Expensive bit of kit but I like riding with it.

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@Mintaerobars I find it more valuable when riding in the country. In the city, I always assume there is a car behind me. In the country, sometimes I go half an hour without seeing a car, especially on gravel, where the sound of the gravel drowns out the sound of vehicles. That’s when it’s the most valuable. On those rides, I leave the beep on.

Also of note, it’s valuable to the cars too. When it detects the car, it starts to flash. As the car gets closer, it flashes faster. So, not only does it tell me there’s a car behind, it also tells drivers there is a cyclist ahead.

I was a sceptic for a very long time. I was very much of the “I can hear cars coming, and is it really that hard to look over your shoulder” way of thinking. Then I bought a Varia and was truly surprised how much sooner I knew there was a vehicle coming. It allows me to relax more when riding because I will ALWAYS know when a car is coming long before it’s near me. I bought one for my wife and quickly realized how awesome the flashing light is for those behind you.


The light is very good and it will be a all in one solution for charging and keeping track of. I am really impressed with both the radar and the light.


From your user name and the rules you describe, I gather you are French.

I don’t know where you ride, but in Paris area many drivers don’t respect the mandatory 1 m (in town) or 1,5 m (out of town). So riding in the middle of the lane will get you close passes all the time (jerks like tradies, delivery vans, solo MOFOs in expensive SUVs especially). I tend to ride on the right side of the lane, not in the middle but with around 50 cms of available tarmac to my right (so that I have some room to swerve further right if needed).

I only ride in the middle of the lane in specific places where I know drivers will overtake though there could be oncoming traffic, and there isn’t enough room for 2 cars and my bike. Unfortunately it doesn’t deter all of them …

Typical place, that bloody bridge, steep and narrow, with a slight turn on top, lots of traffic at commuting hours as it crosses railways and there aren’t many other crossings. It’s barely wide enough for 2 big SUVs (say BMW X5) :

All correct, Raphael… except for the fact that for an American, a BMW X5 is a compact size SUV!


@branko.dodig I’ve stopped using my headlight, but every time I turn the Varia on I have to cycle through to “daylight flash” . In fact, if I turn the light on to daylight flash before the Edge head unit has formed the light network, it even resets to solid light mode after the network is formed, meaning I have to cycle through again. Wonder what I’m doing wrong?

True :wink:

For that stupid bridge (and the narrow stupid two-way streets in the neighbourhood), and for Europe in general, X5s and the like are urban tanks (Range Rovers and Discoveries being the worst). A (current) Mini 4WD is a European-small-lanes SUV :wink:

On top of said stupid bridge, I’ve had to slam the brakes (of my car) more than once to allow a car / tank / van coming from the other side to finish overtaking a cyclist without killing them … (From my bike, I helped a Porsche-Cayenne-driving a**hole get their tank a sideview mirror lighter after they touched my arm with it :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: :cowboy_hat_face:).

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At speed there’s the noise of air. But still you are right, it’s less noisy than a thermic car. And that doesn’t change the use case / advantages of a Varia.
And as someone already wrote, in a stiff headwind, you don’t hear anything coming from behind anyway, even speeding motorbikes.

Yes I know, I’m Italian… I was just laughing about how unnecessary big are cars now, and how even bigger are in USA than in Europe!

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Yeah I remembered you’re Italian, gently kidding you on your forum alias :wink: