- At 1080p/30 fps, the video resolution quality is amazing
- The new mount design is more secure and easier to use
- Attaches to aero, round, or d-shape seat tubes (3 rubber shims included)
- Same great radar and light technology/features as previous Varia model (see review)
- After detecting an incident, video footage from before, during, and after the incident is automatically saved
- Easy and quick pairing to Varia app or Garmin device
- For weight weenies, the radar with a built-in camera comes in at 147g, compared to 71g without the camera
- Lacking camera stabilization, if you want to capture GoPro quality footage
- Varia app needs some work. It’s not well designed and hard to “sift” through or delete video clips
- Riders with short seat posts and/or saddlebags may not have enough room
- Pricy at $399.99
Battery Type: Rechargeable with micro USB cable
Battery Life: Up to 4 hours with radar and tail light on solid high or night flash; Up to 6 hours with radar and tail light on day flash – all with the camera continuously recording at 1080p.
Seat Post Mounts: Aero and round seat tube mounts attach with a band
Visibility: Daylight visibility up to 1 mile
Alerts: Visual and audible alerts for vehicles approaching up to 153 yds away.
Connectivity: Bluetooth (radar, camera control) and ANT+ (radar, bike lights)
WiFi: Yes (local network only)
Dimensions: 4.2” x 1.7” x 1.3”
Weight: 5.2 oz (147g)
Camera Resolution: Captures footage at up to 1080p/30 fps
Video download: View on Varia app or plug into computer and view/download
Water Rating: IPX7 (suitable for splashes, rain, or snow showers)
Light Modes: Solid, peloton, night flash, day flash
Lumens: 20 solid, 8 peloton, 29 night flash, 65 day flash
Camera Modes: Continuous, Off, Radar-Activated
Camera Settings: 1080p/720p, with 30 FPS
Viewing Angle: 220 degrees
Compatible Garmin Units: Garmin Edge cycling computer, Garmin smartwatch, or Varia smart device app
Compatible 3rd Party Apps: Ride With GPS
How obtained: Company sample
Availability: Online or Retail
RBR advertiser: No
Be Safe. Be Seen. Be Aware.
I’ve been riding with the Garmin Varia RTL515 rear radar for almost two years, and I feel safer on the road when using it. Now Garmin has introduced the Varia RCT715 rear radar with a built-in camera. YES, a camera!!!
How often have you wished you could capture an aggressive driver on video? Or, on a more positive note, film a peloton as everyone races to the top of a hill. With Garmin’s new Varia RCT715, you can do both.
The company sent their new model a couple of weeks ago to test before launch. Right out of the box, I noticed a few new features. The first is the physical size and shape. The unit’s dimension is deeper, and due to the built-in camera, it’s heavier. Second, the redesigned mounting bracket is more secure. I really like the new mount; it is built sturdier with a wider band and locking mechanism. You no longer have the twist mount where room between the seat post and the seat stays could be a problem, but now there’s a latch to secure the Varia.
The Varia RCT715 comes with three different rubber shims to accommodate a variety of seat posts, including round, aero, and d-shaped. When mounting the unit, you want to use the correct shims, so the radar is perpendicular to the ground. The mount can be attached using one of the two sizes of bands or zip ties, both of which are provided.
Another design improvement is the on/off button is located on the side and not at the top. Since I use a large saddlebag, it was cumbersome to hit the button as it butted up against the bottom of the bag. It was a slight nuisance, but now it’s no longer an issue.
Pairing the Varia to the phone app and my Garmin Edge 1030 Plus was quick and easy. With the Edge, it connects just like any other sensor. You can select different settings to customize the light, radar, and camera functions.
Safety Features – Radar, Video, Incident Detection
The radar feature on the RCT715 works the same as the earlier Varia models by detecting a vehicle or bike overtaking you from behind up to 153 yds (140 meters) away. There’s an audible as well as a visual alert. You can customize the visual alert bar to appear on the left or right of your screen, with circles indicating the vehicle(s) or bike(s) approaching from behind. If there are multiple vehicles, there will be circles representing each one, and they progress up the bar, indicating how close they are to passing you.
The taillight is another safety feature that is the same as the previous Varia and can be set to solid (20 lumens), peloton (8 lumens), night flash (29 lumens), or day flash (65 lumens). The light is bright enough it can be seen from 1 mile away. Battery life is dependent on the taillight setting. With up to 4 hours when the radar and taillight are on solid high or night flash; Up to 6 hours with radar and tail light on day flash – all with the camera continuously recording at 1080p.
Read about the radar and light features of the unit in my previous review HERE, as these haven’t changed.
New with this model is the built-in video camera that captures up to 1080p/30 fps and 220 degrees of viewing angle. There are three video settings, off, continuous, and radar-activated. I left my camera set on continuous because there might be a time that I want to capture something that wouldn’t activate the radar, including a vehicle hitting me from the side or front. You can set the length of the video snippets; I chose 60 seconds.
The Varia comes standard with a 16 GB SD card. Once exceeding the memory, the unit overwrites the oldest video captures first. If the onboard accelerometer detects an incident, the video footage is automatically saved from before, during, and after the event. (Note: Incident detection only works on certain Garmin models). Saving the footage will aid the authorities in their investigation should a vehicle be responsible for your crash. It’s a small memory card for video, so you can replace it with up to 128 GB with a Class 10 or higher speed rating.
The video clarity was very good with a wide viewing angle, but unfortunately, there is no camera stabilization. Therefore, the video records all the bumps in the road or trail. In addition, at times, it is hard to make out license plates, especially when the sun is at my back, but it’s easy to see the make and model of the vehicle and any writing on the sides. So, for example, as I reviewed the video from a group ride where a work van passed us, the company name, phone number, and logo were readable. Thank goodness this van gave the group a wide berth, and there was no need to use the information.
The Varia has a small microphone built-in to capture audio along with the video. On rides where I was chatting with my friends, riding two abreast, or stopping at a light, you couldn’t hear what we were saying or even tell we were talking. Most of the recorded audio was just from the rear bike wheel spinning and road noise.
Deleting photos or videos from the Varia using the app is cumbersome and time-consuming. Each thumbnail must be individually selected and deleted. With the video set on continuous, it just takes ridiculously long to delete.
Compatible Devices and Apps
As with the earlier Varia version, you can still share the radar with friends in the peloton. Just have them add your Varia as a sensor to their Garmin or other compatible devices, and they can experience all the cool features of the radar. Of course, the video footage is still only taken from your bike since it’s where the camera is located.
I’ve been a big fan of the Garmin Varia for several years, using it on every one of my road rides, and I was excited to test their latest version with a built-in camera. While the Varia RCT715 carries a hefty price tag of $399.99, the added benefit of having video documenting aggressive drivers gives me an added sense of safety. I also liked recording my beginner group rides, as people enjoy seeing themselves captured on video.
This version’s radar and rear light are the same technology used on the previous model, which is top-notch. However, Garmin does have room to improve the usability of the Varia app. Also, I’d suggest adding stabilization to the camera in the next iteration for those who want to capture GoPro quality footage.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women’s cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri’s full bio or visit her web site sunflowersandpedals.com.