Review (ette): Garmin Varia RTL 500 Rearview Radar (with Garmin Edge 820)

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Garmin Edge 820 Varia RTL 500I’ve already had 3 relatively quick rides with the RTL 500 (and the Edge 820).

It’s a compatible accessory for top-end Garmin Edge devices that provides a rear light and radar-based alerts to your Edge.

It works surprisingly well with the latest firmware.

When a vehicle approaches from over 100m away your Edge beeps and a little dot appears on the right-hand side of the Edge’s screen. As the vehicle gets closer the dot moves higher. I think the rear lights also flash more quickly to the vehicle as it gets closer as a warning.

It does seem to detect most vehicles but not all. Multiple vehicles ARE detected although sometimes a second vehicle close to the first is missed.

I have used it in light traffic (perfect) and medium-to-heavy (good). But I don’t commute to London much so I’m not sure how it would cope with an increased and permanently high level of traffic.

I have had issues with the sensor losing a connection intermittently. No doubt further firmware updates will eventually rectify this.

I might give it a go in the Pru Ride London on Sunday. Apparently the RADAR will not detect bikes. With several tens likely to go past me (OK hundreds) then this will be a test to see whether the RTL 500 keeps annoying me with beeps for a whole 100 miles. Or I might not take it, just in case.

I got the impression from questions to a Garmin staffer that sales of these are not super high BUT sales are sufficiently robust that Garmin is continuing R&D on evolving the product line.

At £140 (UK Link) and US$200 (US Link), these are not cheap. On the other hand, how much is your life worth?

You might think of buying one to protect your kids but the reality is that your kid wouldn’t have an Edge 820 is almost every case. So, instead, you might have to buy one for your partner and their commute to work 🙂

This is a loan item from Garmin. I probably wouldn’t buy one myself as I tend to avoid cars where possible. It only takes one car though.

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2 thoughts on “Review (ette): Garmin Varia RTL 500 Rearview Radar (with Garmin Edge 820)

  1. it’s peace of mind for me to have it out on rides where you need to cross several lanes. I would say the battery life isn’t great. other than that i enjoy it.

  2. Except that the battery life could be better, it works really well for me and gives me more freedom while riding my bike.

    Especially on roads where traffic is not constantly there, it gives me the freedom to ride not very close to the edge of the street without having a bad feeling about being an obstacle for suddenly approaching cars. It detects bikes, but only when they approach fast enough. When there’s a lot of wind or in winter time, when you can’t hear approaching cars, the radar does it for you. On fast hilly decents you always have the advantage of knowing if (and how many) cars are behind you.

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