With our nights starting earlier each day as we edge into winter it is time to dig out last years cycle lights. Or is it? Cycle safety is big news and there are some many gadgets out there claiming to make you safer on the roads. If safer is more visible then time to invest in some hi-vis clothing and a bunch of strobing bike lights. OK… we need to balance safe with finance and style!
If you have ridden with one or more people, on a quiet country road on an early Sunday morning only two abreast to get a car or van to scream round you, hooting as they come by. “IT’S NOT ILLEGAL” your head shouts. Yes that’s right.. Rule 66 of the cyclists rule book provided by the government “never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends”. Saying that, after you get hooted at for the 10th time on a ride you may think it is easier just to cycle in single file.
Slightly off topic for a bike light review, but this is more than a bike light. This is a technically advanced light that tells you vehicles are approaching from the rear.
Our first ride with Varia
The first ride was quiet country roads. Early morning, but not dark. Commuter time, but a few cars, not typical highway traffic.
Misses - none
First ride with the Varia was excellent. Initially I could only think of an appropriate use for this device was riding two abreast but as soon as you have a new bit of kit you can work out many new benefits. Quiet country roads where the road condition at the side of the road is not very good. It is much nicer to ride a meter from the edge and to do this without cars cutting you up is a nice benefit. You get plenty of warning when something is approaching from the read. Well before you have any chance of hearing a car. And when you are riding fast you can not rely on hearing anything with the wind blowing in your ears. A 30k ride and the Varia did not miss any cars from the rear. It is great to know the kit works. Like a cruise control on a car, I am sure it will take a while to get used to, you should never take your eye off the ball even if it does work, but nice to know you are getting told about all the cars approaching.
It’s two cars… Not one
You may hear a car approach you from behind, let it pass then decide to pull out into the better quality road. Not something you would do if there were two cars behind you. And the little icons will show you 2+ cars approaching from behind. A great feature to know so you can plan your next move. When cycling past a junction and a car is about to pull out it is always nice to know you have been seen and get that eye contact. This will not let you know they have seen you for sure, but it will notify you how many cars are approaching so you can position yourself appropriately.
Roundabouts and junctions
Now when approaching a right turn without straining your neck you can move into the centre of the road in preparation for the right turn. Personally I wouldn’t rely on the device solely for this maneuver but I found myself not bothering looking back if I had a car fast approaching. Wait for it to pass then if it is clear on the Varia take a look back. It saves you looking backwards to get a face full of car (and the potential wobble as you look over your shoulder, not good if you have a vehicle approaching from the rear).
On the first ride, the Varia did not miss any cars approaching. One did disappear off the radar before driving round me for some reason. But it did give me plenty of false alarms. Scenarios that seemed to trigger the device were two cars in quick succession passing on the other side of the road. Sometimes overtaking parked cars will trigger off a false alarm. I did have a couple of phantom alerts that I could not work out what caused it. But I would say a false alarm is better than a missed alert!
FALSE ALARM PHOTO
Garmin Edge 1000
If you have an Edge 1000 there is no need to get the front mounted head unit. The Edge will display a logo in the top right to show it is connected to the Vaira. On all screens it will display the icon. Then when some action is approaching it will squeeze the display to show the dots on the right hand side. You also get an audible alert.
It is very difficult to try and film the Varia Radar in use with the edge, but this short clip shows the Edge 1000 notification. The dot creeps up on the right hand side of the screen, and as the car overtakes the borders turn green to show threat is over.
When this device is best used
Quiet country roads are perfect. Your weekend ride this is excellent. It can make motorists hat you slightly less if you give them a bit more space.
When you may not get the best out of the Radar
If you are riding in a busy city, the constant alerts may end up just being an annoyance. But you do get the awesome bike light so it is appropriate, just the radar may end up desensitising you to the constant beeping and flashing.
- World's first cycling radar that warns of vehicles approaching from behind up to 153 yards (140 meters)
- Works independently and wirelessly integrates with compatible Edge® cycling computers¹
- Edge computer or Varia head unit can detect multiple vehicles and indicates the relative speed of approach and threat level
- Tail light unit brightens and flashes to notify approaching traffic of a cyclist ahead
The Varia line of cycling awareness products also includes Varia smart headlights and tail lights. When paired with select Edge bike computers¹, these bike lights help to create safer riding conditions by adjusting the beam focus point according to a bike’s speed and matching brightness to changing light conditions. As speed increases, the headlight focuses further down the road to project light to where it’s needed most and brings it closer as you slow. As ambient light fades or gets brighter, both the headlight and tail light adjust automatically when paired with a light-sensing Edge 1000 bike computer.
Does it pick up bikes approaching from the rear? Unfortunately not. I was too busy playing devices to notice a rider approach from behind. No notification at all. It definitely would be great to know a cyclist is behind you so you can ‘up your game’. I guess something for 2.0