Lots of news coming from Garmin the past couple of weeks. Yesterday, the company announced Varia–a rearview bike radar that warns you of cars approaching and alerts cars of cyclists ahead. A great idea in theory but I am curious if this will really create a safer cycling environment in practice.
The Garmin Varia system includes a radar tail light transmitter and a radar display unit. The radar tail light transmitter detects an approaching car from up to 140 meters behind you and increases in brightness and intensity to alert cars as they approach. The light operates in both solid and flashing modes. The radar display unit, as well as compatible Edge bike computers, will show up to eight vehicles as they approach, indicating increasing risk with a change in color on the LED interface or using an overlay of the current data screen on your Edge device.
In the video, Garmin claims that 40% of bike-car related fatalities involve the cyclist being struck from behind. Even if I know a car is approaching me from behind, is there really anything I can do about it? And will a simple flashing tail light keep the driver from slamming into me? Maybe they are texting and driving. Maybe they are driving into me on purpose. I am not entirely convinced but I would LOVE to be proven wrong.
The new Garmin Varia collection also includes a set of smart bike lights. When paired with your bike computer, the headlight beam of the front light automatically projects further ahead at faster speeds and closer as you start to slow down. It also focuses the light ahead instead of all around, shining 100 lux at 10 meters and features a high-beam cut-off to prevent blinding oncoming vehicles. Using two tail lights, you can create turn signals controlled through your bike computer or through the included remote control. You can also set the pattern or intensity, and switch the lights on and off. When paired specifically with an Edge 1000, Varia smart bike lights automatically adjust their brightness based on ambient light conditions.
The Varia radar tail light is available for $199.99 or $299.99 bundled with the radar display unit. The Varia smart bike lights are available as a bundle including the Varia remote for $299.99, or separately for $199.99 (headlight) and $69.99 (tail light). All Varia smart cycling devices will begin shipping in Q3.
And for those of you who use a Garmin bike computer together with Strava, you will be very excited to hear the two have teamed up to deliver real time segment feedback. Whether competing against your PR, a set goal, the leader, or next fastest person on a particular segment, your Garmin will alert you as to your performance, including a countdown to the start of the segment. To begin with, Strava Live segments will only be availble on the Garmin Edge 520, but expect firmware upgrades to the Edge 100, 810, and 510 this fall.