Garmin Varia Radar RLT510 review, cycling safety

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Varia Radar pairing mode

Garmin Varia Radar light review

The original Garmin Varia Radar first hit the market in 2015 and its one piece of cycling kit I have don’t leave the house without when I am going out on the bike, now the company has launched a new design, features and improved light. So continue reading this Garmin Varia RLT510 review to find out if its worth the upgrade.

Before I begin the RLT510 review, I want to point out I own and use religiously the previous Varia Radar, so I am particularly well versed with how it works.

Garmin Varia Radar RLT510 Review in Pictures

Hot Deal
Garmin Varia RTL510, Bike/Cycling Radar Tail Light, Alerts for...
  • See and be seen, day or night
  • Provides visual and audible alerts to warn of vehicles approaching from behind up to 153 yards (140 meters) away

Garmin Varia Radar RLT510 Specification

  • Dimensions: 98.6 x 19.7 x 39.6 mm
  • Weight: 71.0 g
  • Modes: solid, night flash, day flash
  • Lumens: 20 solid, 29-lumen night flash, 65-lumen day flash
  • Battery life: 6 hours solid, 6 hours night flash, 15 hours day flash
  • Communication protocol: ANT+
  • Waterproof rating: IPX7
  • Mount type: Garmin quarter-turn mount
  • Charging: Via USB recharging cable

Garmin Varia Radar RLT510 Design

  • New aero design
  • Wifi status display on the top of the plug
  • Available in white only

Getting the unboxing out of the way, you get a couple of paper manuals, a micro USB cable, a seat mount which uses Garmin’s Quarter Turn mount, two rubber inserts and a couple of rubber bands, got all that, let us get onto the review now.

The design has changed from the previous version of the Varia Radar. The new Varia Radar is 98.6 x 19.7 x 39.6 mm and is an aero long thin design made of plastic and weighs just 71.0g.

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On the top of the unit, we have the power button, which is held in a rubber surround which wraps around the whole edge.

On the back of the Varia Radar light, you will find the quarter turn mount along with the mini USB charging port which is hidden under a silicon cover.

Increased Lumens

As other reviewers have pointed out, in particular, DCRainmaker in his own review, Garmin has called this out as a Radar Tail Light and this is evident due to the circle-shaped 60 lumen LED on the top of the new Garmin Varia Radar RLT510, which is a brighter than the previous version which was only 15 Lumen, but I do still use the “old” version has a rear light without any issues at all.Varia Radar button

In addition to the main LED light, the Varia radar features a transparent red plastic section with a small LED to give visibility of the light in multiple directions. Speaking of the light can which can be set to solid, night flash and day flash modes.

Installing the Garmin Varia Radar RLT510

Pairing the Varia Radar is fairly simple and you can use it with a number of Edge cycling computers or a number of Fitness watches like the Fenix 5 Plus range, Forerunner 935 and others, sadly at the time of this review you cannot connect it to non-Garmin devices.

The Varia radar communicates over ANT+ to your Garmin device, so to start you need to pair the unit with your device. For the benefit of this review and during my testing of the Varia Radar I used an Edge 1000 and a Fenix 5x.

To pair you press and hold the power key for two secs and the status LED flashes blue, indicating pairing mode. You then go to your Garmin device under the “sensors” menu and the Garmin Varia Radar RLT510 now shows up on your Edge device as Radar, you can also rename if you wish.Garmin Varia Radar bike mount

I found installing the mount onto my bike was easy and it was as simple as placing the mount onto the seat post then using the 2 rubber bands to secure it. Once you have the mount fastened to the bike, then you use to install the Varia Radar light onto the mount using the Garmin quarter turn connector.

That’s it, once completed you are all paired and ready to go out for your first ride.

A small note, you can pair it with more than one compatible Garmin device and I did when I was testing it out for this review.

Garmin Varia Radar review: using the device

From there it is straightforward. Going out for a ride? Switch on the Garmin Varia Radar RLT510, and then your Garmin unit. Then a wifi style icon in the top right of the unit screen means you are connected and ready to go, if this is flashing then you may need to connect it via the sensors menu.

Just before I move on to the rest of the review. When you out riding it’s wise to keep checking that the “Wifi” symbol is not flashing it at any point. This will indicate the Varia Radar has disconnected.

Before you set off on the ride you have various light options to choose from. When you first turn on the RTL510 it will start in its default mode of solid-on/red, then pressing the power button once it, once it will switch to slow pulsing, then pressing it again, will go into like a strobe quick flashing mode. You can also press the power button again which will power off the light but leave on the radar, this was slightly confusing as I thought it had switched off.

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So, onto how it works, when a vehicle is approaching you from the rear and gets to within 150meters ish, the Garmin device you are using will give a beep, then a dot appears, and the edges of the screen turn red or if you using a Fenix 5, for example, it will just be on the right-hand side, but its the same experience.Varia Radar using Fenix 5x and Edge

As the vehicle gets closer, so does the white dot, this is useful to give you a better understanding of proximity of the rear approaching vehicle. Once the vehicle has passed, then the red graphic will turn green and the connected Garmin device will beep again.Garmin Varia Radar all clear

In addition to the rider notifications, the approaching vehicle from the rear will see a change in the light pattern. Once the Varia Radar has detected a vehicle approaching the light will start to flash and this will increase in intensity as the vehicle gets closer, this is useful in low light or foggy conditions.

Varia Radar more than one vehicle?

Does the Varia Radar light handle more than one approaching vehicle, yes it does?

If there is more than one vehicle, you get more than one dot and once ALL vehicles have passed you, the screen will turn green and the Garmin device will go back to default view.

This is particularly useful on country lanes and multiple vehicles are behind you or when you have your head down pushing hard.

How useful is the Varia Radar?

As you can imagine, the Varia Radar is a total pain the backside in busy built-up areas or the city and this is not because of the potholes here in the UK, but by the fact its constantly beeping due to the heavy traffic, so its pretty pointless other than seeing how many vehicles are behind you (up to 6 max)Varia Radar RTL510 multiple vehicles

However when out on the country lanes, particular when travelling into a headwind or at speed the Varia Radar is very useful and it is only after you have used it, that you questioned how you coped without it and it really aides cycling safety.

I have also found it particularly useful when a large vehicle such as a lorry is behind me and other traffic is behind that lorry. In this instance, due to the amount of noise, I would not hear the other vehicles when the lorry passes and could start to move back out,  but with the Garmin Varia Radar, it would pick up the vehicles behind the lorry and this would allow me to more careful in this instance.

Garmin Varia Radar Battery life performance

Garmin advertise the Varia Radar light as having 6 hours solid, 6 hours night flash, 15 hours day flash and if I am honest I did find the device getting close to those times, but the 15 hours day flash was a little bit of a stretch.

The other area to touch on regarding battery life on the Garmin Varia Radar RTL510 is the warnings when you are running low on the battery which appear on your Edge or Fenix device. I found that I would get a warning, but it was not a percentage and found it would warn about 20 minutes before the battery died.

Garmin Varia Radar RLT510 review: Conclusion

Overall I am really impressed with the latest version of the Garmin Varia Radar and the new brighter light, however, in terms of features, nothing has really changed over the previous version other than some extra light options and at a push some improved battery life, so you could could still pick up the previous version up for a cheaper price

That being said this is a g great cycling safety aid and once you have ridden with it, you will not want to ride without it again. But I do want to point out, this type of device does not take away from common sense and normal saefty checks on the road.

Hot Deal
Garmin Varia RTL510, Bike/Cycling Radar Tail Light, Alerts for...
  • See and be seen, day or night
  • Provides visual and audible alerts to warn of vehicles approaching from behind up to 153 yards (140 meters) away
Varia Radar pairing mode
Garmin Varia Radar RLT510 review, cycling safety
Garmin Varia Radar RLT510 review: Conclusion
Overall I am really impressed with the latest version of the Garmin Varia Radar and the new brighter light, however, in terms of features, nothing has really changed over the previous version other than some extra light options and at a push some improved battery life, so you could could still pick up the previous version up for a cheaper priceThat being said this is a g great cycling safety aid and once you have ridden with it, you will not want to ride without it again. But I do want to point out, this type of device does not take away from common sense and normal saefty checks on the road.
Design91
Features88
Usability93
Performance92
Value89
Reader Rating0 Votes0
Pro's
Bright light in the day
Good battery performance
Easy to setup
Con's
No real features over the older version
Confusing light modes
Expensive
91
Recommend

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I am Jon R and the editor of Active JR that covers wearables, fitness tech and smart home. I have a huge passion for technology having worked in the sector for over 18 years in a variety of roles and I like combining this with fitness.My reviews and information will talk about how the product works in reality and not just what the marketing departments want you to think.You can contact Jon on Twitter @ActiveJR1

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