Garmin Varia UT800 and RTL515 – Smart lighting for the bicycle


We already know smart lighting for, in and around the house and now GPS and smartwatch superpower Garmin also offers smart lighting for the bicycle. A smart headlight that automatically adjusts to speed and environment, and a rear light that warns of traffic behind you. So a high gadget content, but does it really work or is innovation especially interesting? Check out our Garmin Varia UT800 & RTL515 review here.

Garmin UT800

MSRP 169.99
Guarantee 24 months
Website www.garmin.nl 6 Score 60 Score: 60

  • Pros
  • Design
  • Innovative
  • ANT + / Bluetooth Low Energy
  • IPX7 water resistant
  • Negatives
  • Battery life
  • Light intensity
  • price
  • Gets very warm

Garmin Varia UT800

The UT-800 is a sleek micro-USB rechargeable headlight that can be easily mounted on a bicycle handlebar or helmet with the included mounting materials. If you already have a Garmin Edge bike computer, you can mount the lamp underneath with the adapter that is also included. Loosening and especially attaching the lamp is also possible because the lamp now hangs upside down, but not very convenient. The light output with 800 lumens is sufficient for use even in areas without illuminated cycle paths, but is certainly not among the top. The lamp has five light modes to choose from: 800, 400 or 200 lumens and flashing more or less brightly.

The Garmin Varia UT800 is a smart bicycle headlight from Garmin.

If the lamp is connected to a Garmin Edge cycling computer, the intensity of the light automatically adjusts to the light conditions outside, the time of day and the speed ridden. If you cycle faster, the lamp shines brighter, if you cycle slower, the lamp gives less light. This sounds logical, but it is not always. For example, if you cycle slowly because the road is bad, then you want maximum light and not be condemned to a ride in the dark by your smart headlight. Fortunately, it can be corrected quickly with a short tap on the lamp. Unfortunately, this does not apply to the limited battery life. Fully charged, the lamp lasts less than two hours at maximum light power. This is really not enough for a lamp in this price range and of this brand. In addition, it is also quickly too little for a Sunday workout or a ride to and from work. It is not possible to connect to a dynamo.

Garmin

Garmin Varia RTL515

Garmin Varia RTL515

MSRP 199.99
Guarantee 24 months
Website www.garmin.nl 7 Score 70 Score: 70

  • Pros
  • Radar function
  • Innovative
  • Safety
  • IPX7 water resistant
  • ANT + / Bluetooth Low Energy
  • Negatives
  • False Reports
  • price
  • Smartphone, smartwatch, bike computer required

The Varia RTL515 is a smart rear light that comes with mounting material and is preferably mounted on the seat post. The lamp has several light intensities, including a peloton mode to avoid dazzling the riders behind you when cycling in groups. The battery life is better than that of the UT-800, it lasts up to six hours in continuous mode and more than twice as long when the lamp flashes alone. The unique thing about the RTL515 is not the lighting, but the integrated radar. It detects traffic from behind and gives visual and audio signals.

Garmin
The Varia RTL515 is a smart rear light from Garmin with built-in radar function.
Garmin

Linking is possible with a smartphone in combination with the Varia app, but also a Garmin smartwatch or Garmin Edge bike computer. The smartphone and cycle computer are preferred because they are mounted on the handlebars to warn clearly with light and sound of approaching traffic.

The combination with the smartwatch is less practical because the notifications worn on the wrist are not seen. In addition, the heart rate and other sensors of the smartwatch do not work when it is mounted on the bicycle.

In the app and on an Edge bike computer, the edges of the screen turn red when traffic approaches from behind, and the cyclist then sees the cars and scooters approaching and passing as a dot in the margin of the screen. This works well and although it is still recommended to look back, it really makes cycling safer.

Garmin
The Garmin Varia RTL515 works together with a Garmin smartwatch or bike computer or, as here, with the Varia app for iOS or Android.

Moreover, the RTL515 not only warns the cyclist but also the driver following behind. This is done – by illuminating brighter and flashing faster as soon as traffic is detected. Yet the RTLl515 is not perfect either. First of all, fast e-bikes and speed pedelecs go unnoticed, while they are often driving on the same track or bicycle lane, possibly posing the greatest risk of direct collisions.

Another limitation is the large number of ‘false positives’, traffic that is ‘behind’ the cyclist but never poses a danger.

Best of all, the Varia RTL515 radar function works together with the large screen of a Garmin Edge bike computer.

Think of vehicles on an adjacent highway with a verge, crash barriers and thirty meters of grass and a ditch in between. The RTL515 detects them and the app reports them. This is particularly disturbing in urban areas where the added value of the radar function is rapidly diminishing due to the large number of unnecessary reports. Wouldn’t Garmin be able to solve this using the cyclist’s location data and the knowledge of roads that it has so ample at hand? No need for an extra rear light, but interested in the radar function, Garmin offers the Varia RVR315 for 50 euros less. This device only comes with a radar with the same functionalities.

Conclusion

Of the two products tested, the RTL515 rear light convinces the most thanks to the radar. This is especially true for use on rural roads with its ever larger and faster tractors and fast-moving cut-through traffic. There, the radar really increases the safety of the cyclist. Although the UT800 is a beautiful lamp, it is not recommended because of the not top light intensity and the limited battery life. The fact that both are not sold as a set will have to do with the price, the total price is too high for what is currently being offered. We especially hope that the next version of both products will solve some limitations and make them significantly cheaper together.

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