Garmin Varia Rearview Bike Radar – review

Garmin’s recent foray into bike safety technology really impresses with the Radar system

Garmin are stepping forward in a big way for rider safety with their Varia range of products (including a set of ‘smart’ lights, which we’ve also reviewed). The Radar is perhaps the most intriguing of the lot – because it can look where you can’t.

Let’s make this plain and simple from the outset: the Varia Radar technology is effective, because it’s eminently usable.

It’s made up of two devices: a rear sensor which doubles as light, and a front display unit which displays the signal from the rear sensor. The two devices can function together, or you can use the rear sensor in tandem with a Garmin Edge GPS head unit instead.

The Garmin Varia Rearview Radar can signal cars approaching from behind from up to 140m and displays either on your Edge device or on the dedicated mountable display

Don’t worry on that point though. Unlike the Varia lights we also recently reviewed, compatibility and usability isn’t limited to just a few select Edge models.

It’ll work with any smart unit, 510 onwards, which means you can get warnings to pretty much any relatively up-to-date Garmin head unit on the market today.

In practice, the sensor reads the road behind, displaying the data on either the front display unit’s LED strip, or on the side of your Edge head unit’s screen.

The closer the vehicle, the closer the dot appears to the top (permanently placed) dot on the respective displays. As well as warning the rider of an approaching vehicle, the rear unit itself also brightens and flashes as a vehicle gets closer. You ‘see’ them, and they see you.

The head unit also make use of colour shading, prompting red, yellow or green to indicate the kind of speed the upcoming vehicle is doing, and therefore the risk to you it presents.

Frankly, it’s a joy to fit and use – adding additional safety to your club rides (great if you’re the designated ride leader), while also becoming absolutely essential for your commute. Fitting comes via Garmin’s simple quarter-turn mount – so it’s easy enough to setup quickly.

However, there are a couple of caveats. Using the front unit mounted on the bars can be a little cumbersome – much like the light setup, it’s rather bulky.

If you use a bike computer that isn’t in Garmin’s compatibility list, suddenly ‘bar real estate can become an issue. Throw in a dedicated front light and you’re really pressed for space.

The head unit supplied with the Radar is also a fairly simple affair, with a Garmin Edge computer offering a clearer view, especially on the higher-definition screens seen of late on the likes of the 1000, 520, and the new 820.

The system is easy to use, but does take up a fair bit of real estate if combined with a front light and non-Garmin computer


The Varia Radar system is a really useful safety addition to your bike, whether for commuting, riding along, or indeed on club rides. It adds significant ‘furniture’ to your bike if you don’t have a compatible head unit – and certainly isn’t cheap at £239.99 – but otherwise gets a big thumbs up from us.


  • Rear radar works very well
  • Simple way to boost safety on rides
  • Integrated system with Garmin Edge head units


  • Front display unit clutters cockpit
  • Not cheap at £239.99


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