Garmin Varia - really all that?

I don’t turn the Varia off manually, but have set the option to turn the lights on and off when I turn on the Garmin. I think if you manually turn off the lights then you have to manually cycle settings.

I shut off the option to automatically adjust brightness (it wastes headlight battery for no good reason, imo - the default speed thresholds are far too low for road cycling). That might also be the culprit.

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In heavy traffic there’s always cars or trucks behind you. It’s best with sporadic traffic. Invaluable in that situation.

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Well, I’ve just bought one… will do a first ride with it tomorrow.


I assume that using the option to have the head unit turn the light on and off means the Varia bluetooth being permanently on. Does that not drain the battery?

The Bluetooth has to be constantly on anyway so the radar can send alert signals to the head unit.

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It will drain it slowly if you leave it on, but is smart enough to do some version of “sleep” to preserver power. That said, I just turn mine off when the ride is over. I think it’s more of a “head unit goes to sleep at a coffee shop” type feature than a “bike is in the garage for 2 days” type feature.

I did 90km today, first ride with the Varia. Admittedly, quite a lot of today’s ride was on relatively busy roads where cars were a given, so perhaps it wasn’t given a chance to do what it does best.

So, the positives:

I think that it took me a while to get used to making the most of the device on quieter roads, by moving into the middle of the road and using the best of the road surface, then moving back in when alerted. When I did that, it did make for a more fun ride, but it will need some work on changing habits. It was useful when travelling at reasonable speed and potholed sections appeared; I knew the road behind was clear so could just move out/around them. As to the automatic changes to the light, obviously I couldn’t see that, but with the exception of 1 (I suspect deliberate) close pass, it did seem like drivers gave me a bit more room. Finally, I liked how when making right turns (UK rider, so we ride on the left), I knew the road behind was clear so I could just concentrate on the maneouvre.

The negatives:

The Varia can ‘lose’ following cars around twisty lanes. That can be confusing, as I was sometimes unsure whether the car had turned off or not. I also noticed that on these type of roads, unless you’re descending quickly, you’ll hear a car before the Varia senses it. Next, as noted above, it does need a definite effort to change your riding habits. That’s not a negative, really, but it’s worth noting. Finally, the beeps do get a bit annoying at times, but they do get your attention, at least.


It’s certainly a nice to have, but a game changer? I think the jury is still out. I suspect it’s one of those bits of tech that actually needs a bit of work to make the best of.


It can also lose them on rollers…it is a “line of sight” system.

Still, IMO, a far superior option than relying on your senses alone.


Best part is that when a car is approaching you fast you get a red label in the head unit warning you about the car. If the car is slowing down or not approaching so fast you get a orange label instead. It’s so convenient on smallera roads that aren’t so heavily trafficked.

If I see that my head unit is showing red then the car obviously haven’t seen me or doesn’t slow down and this gives me a few important seconds to react. I would never ride without my Varia, ever!

Hi Henri @Henri_Desgrange . I realise that, I was referring to it being left on all the time, permanently, even when not riding the bike.

On twisty and rolling roads it’s just become second nature for me to assume the car is still there, where it was when I last saw the marker for it.

So just to help me understand, how is it that you react, when a fast car is approaching?

Gotcha….I don’t think it is any big battery drain. I charge mine every two or three days, depending on how long my rides are.

Not who you asked, but for me, it is a mental thing. I know there is a fast car approaching, so I am far less likely to be startled as they zoom past me. I also try and give them a little more room, if possible.

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For me it’s also about what you choose to not do in that circumstance - i.e. swerve out in front of them suddenly. I give them room and hold my line, or if the verges are clean then I’ll move over a little.
Though there’s nothing wrong with giving them a little Grant Petersen wobble to make them think that you might not hold your line perfectly…

I’ll mention it only because I’ve come across a lot of people that didn’t realize it but you can change the default 3-beep alert to a single beep which is much more tolerable.

After considering a Varia for a long time I finally picked up one last week. After one ride, I get “it.” As everyone’s said, it’s an absolute game changer for feeling more secure.

I’m looking forward to tethering it to my friends’ HUD’s to see how well that works.


With my Edge 830 (may be different for X20 or earlier), you can set different light modes: individual, trail, high visibility, or auto. You need to play around to get it so it starts up in the mode you want. I think we figured it out in the Slack channel, but that thread has probably rolled off by now.

I was lucky enough to receive a Varia for Christmas and have been enjoying it as much as most people in this thread. Apologies if it’s already been mentioned in this thread, but my appreciation of it has gone next level following the installation of the MyBikeRadarTraffic data field on my Edge. The real-time car count is entertaining (and sometimes depressing) but the post-ride visualisation of car interactions on your route on the mybiketraffic website is great. Here’s DC’s guide to using it: How To: See Map Overlays of Varia Radar Data, with Vehicle Counts | DC Rainmaker


To add a slight complaint - my Varia stopped charging after 8 months (I think this is a consequence of the designers putting the usb charging point in the mud spray zone…) and replacement through Garmin UK has been frustrating. Eventually they agreed to replace it with a refurbished model, which still hasn’t been sent out 6 weeks after I returned it to them.