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Posted by on Sep 19, 2018 in bikes, gear and gadgets | 2 comments

My review of the Garmin Varia RTL510 radar tail light (update)

My review of the Garmin Varia RTL510 radar tail light (update)

In my review of the Garmin Varia RTL510 radar tail light I wrote about the issues I had with the radar draining the battery of my Edge 810. Now that I have the Edge 1030, it’s time for a quick update.

The Edge 1030

The Edge 1030

Garmin Edge battery life when using the radar:
The biggest issue I had when using the radar was the short time it took to completely drain the battery of my Edge 810. This is what I wrote about it in my previous post:

As mentioned above, one of the cons is definitely the fact that using the radar drains the battery of my Garmin very fast! I’ve tested the battery life with and without connecting the two VIRB cameras, but it’s clear that it’s the RTL510 that causes the battery level to drop in an alarming rate. After 1.5 hours om the bike, the level will drop to about 67% and about three hours into a ride my Garmin has less than 40% left. When I did a longer ride, my Garmin had no juice left after 4.5 hours, so I was without bike computer for the last 30 minutes.

Because I tested the radar with just one 810, I can’t say for sure that everyone with an Edge 810 will run into this issue. What I can say is that buying the Edge 1030 has completely solved the problem for me. I’ve done several test rides with the same setup as before, so with two VIRB Ultra 30 cameras, a speed and cadence sensor, a power meter, a heart rate strap and the radar connected to the Edge. The average battery usage per hour was only 9-10%. This means that now I can do long rides without completely draining the battery of the Edge.

I’m quite happy with the 1030 so far, but if it weren’t for the fact that the power button of my 810 broke off, I probably wouldn’t have bought a new bike computer just yet. At around 500 Euros, the Edge 1030 has quite the price tag. If you don’t want to spend that kind of money to solve a possible battery issue with your Edge 810, you could buy the radar bundle instead, so you’d have a separate screen for your radar. Keep in mind that at the moment it’s not possible to buy the Radar display unit separately. You can either buy just the radar or the bundle, so you don’t have the option to test the radar with your Edge and then buy the display unit afterwards if you find out you have the same battery issues that I had with my 810.

A cheaper solution is connecting your Edge to a small power bank. I’ve tested this with a power bank I had lying around and that I mounted to my bike stem with some Velcro. That looked like this:

Using a power bank with the Edge 810

Using a power bank with the Edge 810

I just used some items I could find in my house, so I’m sure that the setup would look much better if I’d bought a shorter cable and maybe mounted the power bank below the bike stem. In any case, this setup did work like a charm. It does have the problem that it’s not water proof, so if you’re riding a lot in the rain, this might not be the option.

The colors on your screen:
When the radar has detected a vehicle, you’ll see two colored bars on your screen, either amber or red. Amber indicates a vehicle is approaching. Red indicates a vehicle is advancing at a high rate of speed. On my Edge 810 the difference between amber and red was not very noticeable, especially when riding in the sun. The difference between the two colors is very clear on the Edge 1030, even in strong sunlight. Knowing that a vehicle is approaching very fast can help you decide what to do. For instance, if there’s also oncoming traffic, I often move closer to the edge of the road or go a and ride in front or behind my cycling buddy, because Sicilian drivers tend to try and pass you even in situations where there’s clearly not enough room (and I guess this doesn’t only happen in Sicily…).

Beeping galore
As you know you can set many alerts on a Garmin Edge, for instance lap alerts, or range alerts for power, cadence or heart rate. Then there are the beeps you hear when your Edge 1030 notifies you that you are approaching a sharp bend, and of course, the alerts you get when using the radar. That’s quite some beeping when you’re on your bike! I haven’t used all of the alerts yet, but lap, sharp bend and radar alerts all sound differently, so I know what kind of alert I hear.

After having done many rides with the radar, I’m still very happy with my purchase. If you have questions about the radar, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

2 Comments

  1. Dear Donbici,
    your site is very professional and well done. I live in Sardinia were there are many places to ride both on mtb and road bike but I’m planning to visit Sicily and I will contact you for sure.
    I just bought a varia radar and I have an issue on how to mount it with a saddle bag. I saw that ther is not much space left on the seatpost and I have to attach it close to the seatpost clamp, more or less were Garmin says not to place it.
    May I have your suggestions/tips on how to solve this problem? I have the seatpost loop but there is no way to safetly attach it. I googled to find some ideas but none were really a solution.
    Thank you in advice for any answer you can give me.
    Luca

    • Ciao Luca,

      Thanks for the compliments! On my winter bike I have an ass saver just below the saddle, underneath that a Scicon saddle bag, underneath that a Garmin Virb and below that a Garmin radar (as shown in this instagram image). As you can see, my radar is also mounted just above the seat post clamp. It works perfectly fine in this set-up. Just make sure the radar is not blocked by a part of your wheel. If you have doubts whether your radar works properly at the height it is mounted, just park your bike on the side of the road, activate the radar and check whether it shows all traffic. If the radar is mounted just above your wheel, it should work fine. Let me know whether it does. In bocca al lupo!

      PS if it doesn’t work or fit, email me some photos of your bike and the set-up.

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