Garmin’s new Varia gear warns cyclists about traffic they can’t see

Garmin time trial
Shutterstock / Radu Razvan
Not one to rest on its laurels, Garmin introduced a new line this week — the upcoming Varia “cycling awareness products.” The company’s first two offerings are the Varia rearview bike radar, and the Varia smart bike lights with Varia remote. These breakout products seem aimed at the hardcore crowd, as is a good deal of Garmin stock.

Bike radar only makes sense, considering how exposed cyclists are to the multiple-ton metal vehicles with which they share the road. According to the US Department of Transportation, 49,000 cyclists are injured in motor vehicle crashes, and 40 percent of those accidents involve the cyclist being hit from behind. The Varia rear-view bike radar is designed with those statistics in mind, the aim being to alert both the rider and the driver behind them.

Aesthetically, the light looks like your average 8 LED rear light, albeit a bulky one. It’ll give you 16 lumens max, with five hours of battery power and two hours to recharge. With ANT+ capability, it will link to bike computers with that tech, and that includes a good deal of the mid- to high-end Garmin line. It has a basic water rating so you don’t have to worry about it shorting out in the rain. Weight weenies might not like the heft, though – it’s 2.2 oz, or 63.5 grams, which is pretty damn beefy.

The heft makes sense when you add the head unit. That’s another 28.5 grams, and another $100 — but hey, how can you put a price on your safety? Well Garmin did, and it’s $300 (plus shipping) for the whole shebang. Connect the tail light wirelessly to an Edge cycling computer – Garmin just put out another one, the 520 – or use the $100 head unit to display the alerts picked up by the radar.

The radar scans the road up to 140 meters behind the rider. It works with the head unit to show up to eight vehicles and the speed of approach. The radar display will show the “threat level” with different colored LEDs, while an Edge computer overlays the data on the big, bright LCD screen.  The rear light will increase brightness or flash to warn drivers of the rider ahead.

Luckily the tail light can work independently, though it makes little sense to pay $200 for a rear light if you don’t have a compatible computer or the head unit, since the rear light would only warn approaching cars, not you.

So, if you just need or want lights, try the Varia smart lights. They too  have ANT+ and integrate with Garmin’s Edge line of bike computers. The 200 lumen headlight has three modes (high, low, and auto), will last two and a half hours at max brightness, and uses GPS data from the compatible Edge device to project further when the cyclist is riding faster, and with greater focus. Drivers will likely appreciate the high-beam cut-off when riders pass without blinding them.

The 22 lumen tail light gives riders the typical solid and flash modes, but also gets brighter when the rider breaks to warn riders and drivers behind. Use two, and they can be controlled like turn signals from an Edge or the Varia remote, including adjustments to the pattern and intensity. As for battery life, Garmin says it’ll last you four hours on the road.

That said none of these have been cleared by the FCC yet, so they aren’t technically up for sale. If you really want them bad you can order from Garmin’s website now, but the fine print says “processing” will take 3-5 weeks. Probably just enough time to get the devices cleared. Very sneaky, Garmin.

Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Movies & TV

'Stranger Things' season 3 teaser reveals the new episodes' titles

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season.
Outdoors

Lime’s dockless electric bikes land in London, but its scooters aren’t allowed

Lime has landed in London with its dockless bikesharing service. The pedal-assisted electric bikes are unlocked via Lime's app and can reach speeds of 15 mph. It plans to have 1,000 bikes on the streets before the end of the year.
Deals

Still have money in your Flexible Spending Account? Head to the FSA online store

Don’t panic if you still have money sitting in your FSA and no doctor's appointments on the horizon. The FSA store has plenty of cool, useful gizmos you’ll want to purchase for your home and your health.
Emerging Tech

Breakthrough male contraceptive gel is nearly ready for the bedroom

A new male contraceptive gel is absorbed through the skin, and promises to temporarily reduce sperm count in order to avoid pregnancy. Here's how you can get involved with a clinical trial.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Wearable device spots signs of an opioid overdose, automatically calls for help

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed a wearable device that’s capable of detecting an opioid overdose and sending out an alert to medical personnel. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

First baby born using a womb transplanted from a deceased donor

In a world first, doctors have confirmed the birth of a healthy baby girl in Brazil using a womb transplanted from a deceased donor. Here's why that's so potentially transformative.
Emerging Tech

This implant goes beyond pacemakers, helps aging hearts beat more vigorously

The FDA's advisory committee has voted to recommend an innovative pacemaker-style gadget be approved in the U.S. The Optimizer Smart Implantable Pulse Generator boosts performance, strength, and pumping ability of weakened heart chambers.
Outdoors

Forget pumps. This innovative filter purifies H2O in 8 seconds flat

The Grayl Geopress water purification system removes more than 99 percent of all bacteria, cysts, and viruses from water in just eight seconds, providing clean drinking water to travelers and outdoor adventurers.
Outdoors

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.
Outdoors

Crush your next workout with the best Fitbit for every activity

Fitbits are amazingly helpful tools for setting fitness goals and tracking progress. However, different activities require different metrics. We've gathered a list of the best Fitbits for running, swimming, biking, and other activities.
Deals

These fitness deals come just in time to work off those holiday calories

Finding the motivation to work out is one thing. Finding space at home to get in a few sets and reps can be an entire challenge in itself. Luckily for you, Walmart and Amazon both have space saving fitness machines and tools on sale right…