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Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Post Tour Review: Garmin Varia RTL510

When I first bought my Garmin Varia Radar, it was meant to be a safety feature. Being able to get notified on a lonely mountain descent when the wind is generating too much noise for me to hear an over-taking car could save me a ton of stress, I figured.

The Mallorca and Girona bike tour with Mike showed me that the Varia RTL510 was also a touring tool par excellence. We would frequently ride on lonely roads where when traffic showed up, it would be fast since those same roads would enable fast drivers to drive even faster. Those same gorgeous country roads would tempt me into shooting pictures of Mike with the accompanying scenery. (While you can stop and pose and reshoot pictures, that so disrupts the flow of touring by bike that I never do it!)

Well, when is it safe to do so? I relied on my Garmin radar to warn me. If it was clear, I could ride out in the middle of the lane and shoot.
 I normally don't bother with selfies, because the positioning of the camera and concentration needed while riding was even worse than shooting a picture of somebody else. With the RTL-510 warning me of any approaching traffic I shot more selfies.

One interesting thing I've noticed about the RTL-510 is that it doesn't actually know that the object coming up behind you is a car. All it cares about is speed differential. Which is what you want: another cyclist or motorcycle coming up at you at speed is just as dangerous as a car. But it does mean that when you're climbing sometimes that beep is your companion catching up to you, not a car or something dangerous. None of the false positives have been an issue.

If you tour and shoot while riding, the RTL-510 is an essential touring tool. Those of you using other ecosystems should switch just for RTL-510 compatibility. For me at least, Garmin has won it all. Between the new Garmin Connect app's ability to create routes on the smartphone and the excellent head units (watches) and radar, I see no reason to consider any other ecosystem. They've shown how a big company can acquire and maintain an insurmountable lead over less well-funded startups and up-starts (even those with lots of experience in this field like Sunnto, Polar, etc).

Highly recommended. Don't talk to me about your spanking new head unit if it doesn't support the Garmin radar!

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