199€ (RRP) is a lot of wood for a tail light! Is it worth the money? We will see!
Why does one buy such a thing?
Cycling is my great passion; not professionally … but whenever I have time besides family and job, it has to roll! Especially on weekends, I’m out and about on my MTB, road bike or velomobile. But also during the week I regularly commute to and from work by bike early in the morning and late in the evening, which is not always a pleasure, especially in the dark season and in traffic.
It is precisely for such “situations” that Garmin advertises its radar rear light with the slogan “A sensor you can rely on!”.
Provides visual and audible warning of vehicles approaching from behind at a distance of up to 140 metres.
The rear light can be seen from a very long distance in daylight and shines at a 220 degree angle to the rear so you can be seen by riders even before radar detects the vehicle
Aerodynamic design for easy mounting on most bikes for road use, including road bikes, touring bikes and city bikes
I bought it!
Because I think that if you invest thousands of euros in your bikes, you shouldn’t shy away from spending a little more money on your own safety. After all, as a cyclist you always have to be prepared to be overlooked by other road users. I searched a bit on the net and quickly found a dealer who offered the Garmin Varia for under 150€. That’s when I bought it!
To use this rear light, you need a compatible Garmin device. Since I already own a Garmin Edge 520 plus, this is not a problem for me. If you don’t have a compatible Garmin device, you have to buy the bundle including an extra display unit, which is another 100€.
Unboxing and assembly
The Garmin RTL511 is already the 2nd generation. The biggest difference is in the housing; while the 1st generation was much wider, the new model is now taller and slimmer, so that it now fits perfectly on the seat post.
In addition to the rear light itself, the scope of delivery includes the bracket with 2 different inserts for mounting on the seat post or in places with narrower diameters. There is also a USB cable and, of course, the manual. That’s all you need.
Here are the key data of the rear light:
Size: 98.6 x 19.7 x 39.6 mm
Weight: 71 g
Mode: Standard light mode
Lumen: 7 in standard light mode
Battery life: up to 10 hours in standard light mode
Waterproof rating: IPX7Viewing angle: 220
The installation itself is quickly done: choose the right insert for the bracket, depending on where the light is to be mounted, and attach it with the two rubber rings provided. Then put on the rear light, turn 90 degrees and you’re done. Holds perfectly!
Then pair the new rear light with the Garmin bike computer. To do this in the Edge under
Settings > Sensors > Add sensor > Search all
select the rear light and you’re done!
And in practice?
If a vehicle approaches from behind, whether a car, motorbike or cyclist, the cycling computer beeps, the display edges turn orange and on the right edge of the display you can even see the number of approaching vehicles, which are symbolised by white dots. When the “danger” is over and there are no more vehicles behind me, the edge of the display briefly turns green. By the way, this also works if you ride on the cycle path or pavement next to the road.
The only negative thing I noticed is that the cycling computer beeps very often in the city or in heavy traffic. This is annoying … but … it’s not a bug it’s a feature!
For the sake of completeness, I would like to mention that there is also an international version of the rear light called RTL510. This differs from the German version RTL511 in that the rear light starts flashing frantically when approaching. From my point of view, this is a clear safety advantage, but it does not conform to our road traffic regulations … unfortunately!
My conclusion after a few weeks
The RTL511 radar tail light from Garmin has completely convinced me. It warns me of vehicles approaching from behind without me having to look around all the time. You can’t rely on your hearing alone, because the wind and oncoming traffic are very loud. For me, this solution is also much better than a rear-view mirror, because the latter often dazzles and you can hardly judge the distance to other vehicles. In the meantime, I have become so used to it that I also use the rear light during the day.
But you should never feel too safe even with the Garmin radar! You still have to look over your shoulder before turning! And loud music with headphones is and remains dangerous.
The only downer is and remains the high price; but in the end, everyone has to decide for themselves how much their safety is worth.