The latest addition to the Garmin Varia rearview radar range, the Varia RCT715 (opens in new tab) includes a rearward facing camera in its comprehensive, sophisticated range of features.
Here are five reasons why it’s a great option to up your safety and enjoyment on your rides.
Watch your back
Bad driving and close passes are a persistent problem and one which deters would-be cyclists from taking to their bikes. That’s despite recent changes in the Highway Code that codify a hierarchy of road users based on their vulnerability and state that drivers should leave at least 1.5 metres when passing cyclists.
Police forces sometimes mount operations to crack down on close passes. These always seem to catch enough bad driving to justify the exercise, but the truth is that with little enforcement poor driving and unnecessarily close passes persist.
Many police forces will now let you report bad driving online though. If you do want to report a close pass to the police, having evidence is crucial and most police forces will let you upload video. Otherwise you need an independent witness or the police will not take action.
The new Garmin Varia RCT715 (opens in new tab) helps here. It records rearward video at up to 1080/30 fps as you ride, so you’ll have a high definition record of any incidents that occur and you’ll catch details like licence plate numbers. You can set it to record continuously and there’s a long-lasting battery that will give you between four and six hours of recording, while the camera’s wide 220 degree viewing angle ensures that everything’s captured. You can swap to 720/30 fps recording to extend recording time and it even comes with a 16GB SD card, so straight out of the box your camera’s ready to roll.
It’s smarter than that though, as the Varia RCT715 has a rearview radar built in, like that you’ll also find in Garmin’s other Varia devices, the Varia RTL515 and RVR315, and which detects approaching vehicles up to 140m behind. In the new Varia RCT715, that means that you can also set the camera to start recording once the radar detects a vehicle, so you don’t get hours of video to scroll through if you don’t want it and save recording space. It also has an accelerometer built in, so it can detect an incident and automatically save footage from before, during and after the incident.
Keep abreast of what’s happening behind you
Many cyclists find staying alert to what’s coming up behind them difficult, as it means turning around and keeping an ear open too, while still keeping aware of what’s in front of them and steering in a straight line or around turns and obstacles.
Like Garmin’s other rearview radar devices, the Varia RCT715 will alert you that it’s detected an approaching vehicle via your bike computer, smartphone or smartwatch. It links up via Bluetooth or ANT+, with the receiving device able to give you a visual and audible alert and display how many vehicles it’s detected and how far away they are. You’ll get an all-clear once all the detected vehicles have passed.
All Garmin’s latest bike computers and many of its smartwatches have radar support built in and you can download the Varia app for Android and Apple phones. Many bike computers from other brands also support rearview radar. With Garmin Edge computers you can also change the Varia RCT715’s settings from your head unit as you ride.
Let others know you’re there
The Varia RCT715 comes with a built-in taillight. Cyclists commonly find it sensible to use lights during the day as well as at night to up their visibility - after all, modern cars must have always-on lights when they’re moving.
With the Varia RCT715 you get four different modes, two flashing and two continuous. Garmin says it’s visible up to a mile away.
Like the Varia RTL515, the new Varia RCT715 also uses its in-built radar detection to change its lighting pattern when it detects a vehicle coming up behind, flashing more brightly or switching from continuous to flashing. It’s one small extra feature that might help ensure that drivers take note of your presence and give you a bit more room when passing.
Share your ride with your buddies
It’s not all about watching your back; a rearview camera is also a great way to record your rides. If you ride with friends, you’ll be able to give them a record of their ride, share some happy moments and maybe show them how pro they looked on a technical descent.
The Garmin Varia phone app lets you upload video from the Varia RCT715’s camera. You can also customise your camera settings and add data overlays and you can transfer images and video to third party platforms and social media. You can lower your rear light’s intensity by using peloton mode so that you can still use it without dazzling your fellow riders or you can just use the camera without the taillight.
As clips uploaded to YouTube show, you may just catch someone being taken out by a random sheep too.
With you in all weathers
The back of a seatpost is quite a tough environment. If it’s wet, it’s in the line of fire for road spray if you’ve not got mudguards. Fortunately, the Garmin Varia RCT715 (opens in new tab) is well protected, with IPX7 waterproofing which means that it’s been tested to withstand immersion in water up to one metre deep for 30 minutes and won’t let you down on your rides even if the weather does.
It comes with a sturdy mount that works on different profile seatposts and is easy to detach with a quarter turn and take with you when you leave your bike. At 172 grams it won’t weigh you down either.
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Paul started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2015, covering cycling tech, new bikes and product testing. Since then, he’s reviewed hundreds of bikes and thousands of other pieces of cycling equipment for the magazine and the Cycling Weekly website.
He’s been cycling for a lot longer than that though and his travels by bike have taken him all around Europe and to California. He’s been riding gravel since before gravel bikes existed too, riding a cyclocross bike through the Chilterns and along the South Downs.
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