Most of my readers are used to my food related Neeks Approved reviews. Today, we’re going to expand that into technology (and as a mechanical engineer, you know I don’t mess around!) A few weeks ago, I received a Garmin Varia Tail Light to test out for my daily commute (which is around 13 miles round trip!) Here’s a breakdown of the specs and my experience with it so far. As with all my Neeks Approved reviews, all my opinions are my own and based on my first-hand experiences.
- Dimensions: 3.9” x 0.8” x 1.6″ (98.6 x 19.7 x 39.6 mm)
- Weight: 2.5 oz (71.0 g)
- Modes: solid, night flash, day flash
- Lumens: 20 solid, 29 night flash, 65 day flash
- Battery life: 6 hours solid, 6 hours night flash, 15 hours day flash
- ANT+®: Yes
- Water rating: IPX7
- Viewing angle: 220°
- Provides visual and audible alerts to warn of vehicles approaching from behind up to 153 yards (140 meters) away
- Tail light offers daylight visibility up to a mile away and is visible within a 220-degree range, so drivers can see you well before the radar sees the vehicle
- Sleek vertical design easily mounts to most road-use bicycles, including racing, touring and commuter styles
- Requires a dedicated radar display unit or wirelessly integrates with compatible Garmin devices (sold separately)
- Battery life: up to 15 hours in flashing mode or 6 hours in solid or night flash mode
I was pretty excited when I read up on how smart of a Garmin device this Varia radar light was.
My previous bicycle taillight just had different light flash options and did not have the ability to warn you of anything that was approaching behind you.
After I charged the device, it was super easy to install. The Varia comes with a couple seat post adapters that literally just rubber band around the stem of your seat.
Next, I paired the radar light with my Garmin 6S pro by turning on the device using the single button on top and proceeding to search for the accessory from my watch’s menu.
Once I was on the saddle riding, I immediately noticed that in the upper right hand corner of my screen there was a small radar icon signifying that the device was enabled.
Let’s talk about the radar….
The cool part about the integration is that it takes your current data screen and overlays some visual color alerts neatly on the right side of your screen with white dots that signify live-time as a car is approaching.
Green = “All is good”
Amber= “Just a warning a car is coming”
Red= “Watch out someone’s coming in hot”
It’s a great safety feature but you should be aware of how frequently the radar goes off when in busy areas. The radar detects many threats even when you’re sitting at an intersection. That said, I did find the radar was more helpful in remote areas with less traffic because cars usually drive faster on those long abandoned roads and it’s extra important to be ready for a car that’s coming.
Let’s talk about the smart light…
In its normal state, the tail light emits a very bright red light that can be seen from up to a mile away.
But there are multiple lighting options you can play with. When you short press the top button it puts you into the 2nd mode which is simply a lower intensity constant light. Press that button again and it’ll put you in the 3rd mode which is a gentle pulsing light. Press that button one more time and it’ll put you in the 4th mode, which is a sharp flashing light.
Now you might be asking yourself, “Okay, lots of lights do that but why is this one is $200.00 when those other lights are about $25.00?!?”
The magic of this device comes when the radar & the lights work together to create the ultimate safety warning system behind you. When the radar detects a car approaching you, the light quickly changes to an alert mode. This small adjustment adds an extra layer of visibility that you normally wouldn’t have with a constant flashing or consistent light. I would explain “alert mode” as a sporadic disco flashing light the changes abruptly from whatever mode you were in when you started your ride. Another big difference is that this light doesn’t only project straight back, there are also two slits on the sides that ensure that the cars on your sides are also being flashed and warned!
Let’s talk about that battery…
As far as battery life goes, it lasted me exactly one week. Each ride for me usually is about 30 minutes so it comes out to an hour of use every day and I got about seven hours of total used before I had to charge it again!
Bottom Line: Like with all technology, this is by no means a replacement to your own eyes and ears before changing lanes or riding in a busy area. Riding while being fully alert and aware of your surroundings will always be necessary. But when it comes to choosing a Smart device, the Garmin Varia radar is an investment that may very well save your life. This is hands-down some thing I will always ride with for those extra levels of security and comfort as I continue to ride and commute every single day! You can learn more about its features by clicking here!
The Final Verdict:
After reviewing these features, I’m gonna say this product is Neeks approved! Well researched and designed products like these make me proud to be Garmin Ambassador.