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Garmin Varia RCT715

4
£349.99

VERDICT:

4
10
Poor app and camera performance, with a high price, means it's not a great option unless you need an all-in-one
All-in-one convenience
ANT+ standard
Works with pretty much all Garmin devices
Sturdy mount
IPX7 waterproof
Awful app
Missed vehicles
Only 1080p, not good enough for many road conditions
Price
Flaky software
Weight: 
147g
Contact: 

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The Garmin Varia RCT715 is an all-in-one radar, camera and taillight. You're paying £350 for the convenience of having all three functions together – unfortunately even when they work correctly the confusing and flaky sum of the parts doesn't justify the eye-watering price.

If you're not so bothered about having all three in one, check out our guides to the best rear bike lights and the best cycling cameras.

Garmin does three versions of the Varia radar device – radar-only at £129.99, radar plus light for £169.99, or radar, light and camera for £349.99. Breaking these price increments down, you're paying £40 for a maximum 65-lumen light (6hrs life with 1080p recording going), and £180 for a 1080p/30fps camera.

Looking at these individual functions, £40 for a 65-lumen flashing or 20-lumen solid light is expensive – you can get the tiny-yet-75-lumen Lezyne KTV Pro Drive with 11hrs run-time for just £29 (up £4 since I reviewed it in 2019).

Similarly, a 1080p/30fps camera for £180 is steep – you can get that spec for just £105 with the Techalogic CR-1, with a 60-lumen light thrown in, as tested by Neil last year. These days 4k sensors abound, so 1080p looks literally last-decade.

So you appear to be paying £220 extra for around £120 or so's additional functionality over the base Varia radar unit. That may well be a premium you're happy with to only have to charge and mount/remove/manage a single device.

The RCT715 is compatible with no fewer than 97 Garmin devices, including what looks like all its watches and down to the most-basic bike units. Kudos to Garmin for ensuring the Varia isn't restricted to the higher-priced units.

Mounting & charging

In the box you get three rubber mounting blocks to suit aero, D-shaped (square at the back) or round posts. There are two triple-rung ladder straps that hold the Varia mount onto the rubber blocks and in place on your seatpost.

If you want to fix the mount permanently, Garmin provides three chunky zip-ties for the purpose.

The Varia has a unique keyed interface that inserts into the mount. The mount has a locking lever that then pivots 90 degrees, closing with a very audible and tactile snap. There's no way it's coming loose unheeded; it feels way more solid than the traditional Garmin quarter-turn interface.

2022 Garmin Varia RCT715 - bracket 2.jpg

The Varia charges via the provided USB-C cable into an IPX7-protected charging port, taking about five hours from a laptop port or three hours from a high-power wall charger. You know it's charging by the green flashing LED on the side, which goes solid once charged. You can see that it's charging via the app, but there's no percentage-charged indication.

2022 Garmin Varia RCT715 - USB port.jpg

Also on the back of the device is a twist-locked flush cap hiding the included 16GB memory card. You can go up to 128GB if you want to expand storage.

2022 Garmin Varia RCT715 - back.jpg

The vast majority of functionality is accessed by the Garmin Varia app – yes, yet another Garmin app to install. That's four and counting on my phone.

After you've installed the mount there's a live feed to the app to let you check the camera setup on the bike. This is handy to confirm it's not obstructed by the back wheel, mudguards and so on.

Button up...

You turn the Varia on by a press of the larger of the two buttons. The light comes on and it starts recording immediately in the chosen mode.

2022 Garmin Varia RCT715 - side and buttons.jpg

Pressing the big button cycles through the light modes – from Constant to Peloton to Night Flash to Day Flash. If you press a fourth time then the unit then powers off – which is both counterintuitive and leads to inadvertent powering off. In the lit modes, powering off is achieved with a two-second-long press.

The small round 'camera' button toggles between recording (brief press) and not (long four-second press). A one-second press during video saves/locks the clip being recorded. Bon chance remembering all that.

Pairing

The Varia uses the ANT+ Radar and Light Network protocol – so in theory any device from Wahoo, Hammerhead, Stages or Bryton et al following these standards should be able to pair with it.

I paired the Varia with my Garmin Edge 530. The 530 detected the Varia nearby and prompted me to put it into pairing mode. The Varia shows as a 'light network'. When connected there's a small three-curve wave icon in the top right of the head unit. In radar mode there are colour bars that appear on the sides of the display, changing colour, green or red, depending on the approaching vehicle's speed/perceived threat level.

Light

As a light the Varia RCT715 is good enough – with four modes from a low-power 8-lumen 'Peloton' when riding with others, to a 20-lumen solid, 29-lumen Night Flash and the 65-lumen Day flash. Why you'd want only 29 lumens at night escapes me.

2022 Garmin Varia RCT715 - from rear.jpg

There's a small red LED on either side for side-on visibility, but these are so weak as to be effectively useless.

Recording

There are three video recording modes – off, on or when a vehicle is detected plus one minute after. You can choose 720p or 1080p, with or without audio.

The default video clip length is 90 seconds, but can be extended to 5 minutes. I highly recommend doing this, as the act of browsing a hundred clips after a few hours' riding is tiresome.

The crash-detected Incident recording is separate to other Garmin incident detection, say on your head unit or watch, and doesn't alert anyone – which seems a significant omission in a 'safety' device.

> 10 tips for submitting good quality camera evidence to police

The camera overlays the footage with time/date, speed (both yours and any tracked vehicles) or GPS data. You can select to turn the overlays off, and adjust the speed unit and date/time formats. The GPS location comes from your Garmin head unit, or if you're not using a Garmin, it will capture from your phone via the app.

In the app you can view images/videos, download to your phone, erase and format the card. The Varia creates its own WiFi network for viewing and video and image transfer to your phone – but it's flaky and often needs restarting. Transfer speeds are very slow – a one-minute clip can take over one minute to transfer. Playing video using the app is interminably slow – videos sit buffering for sometimes a minute before playing, then stop frequently. I can't overstate just how poor the in-app experience is.

In terms of image quality, even at low speeds in bright sunlight number plates were unreadable at anything further than about 20 metres.

2023 Garmin Varia in action 5.png

Below: passing parked cars in bright light at 20kph – the only one I could find on the whole ride that was legible.

2023 Garmin Varia in action 1.png

And when overtaking closer than 20m but where speed differential is involved, it was hit-and-miss as to whether it captured a readable image because there's no image stabilisation at all. (Below: 52kph difference in bright sunlight.)

2023 Garmin Varia in action 2.png

Fundamentally, this camera is only of use as corroborative evidence if someone hits you and sticks around or is identified by a third party – which makes paying the additional £180 for next-to-useless functionality pretty hard to swallow.

Radar

So the light is average, and the camera's decidedly overpriced and not really fit for purpose. Which leaves us with the radar functionality, the core reason for the Varia RCT715's existence.

Fundamentally, the Varia promises to give you alerts of approaching vehicles at ranges up to 140 metres. Alerts arrive either on the Varia itself with a chime that is hard to hear over road noise, or more likely through either your phone or Garmin head unit. If you're riding without a head unit, your phone can still give alerts even when locked in a pocket – haptic traffic warnings are a thing. On your head unit you get a small 'waves' icon top right to show it's connected and working, for peace of mind.

The radar has a 40-degree field of view, so as to detect vehicles that might be appearing around bends off-axis to your bike. While yes, I found the Varia was good at detecting approaching vehicles, a critical point here is that the Varia will not detect or show vehicles that are moving at or close to the same speed as you are. I noticed many times that it will advise a vehicle is approaching, then give the 'all clear' chirps/display – even though the vehicle may now be right behind you. There's basically no difference between a vehicle turning off and disappearing from the radar, and staying where it is behind you. Several times I had a rude shock, the Varia alerting me just as a vehicle was overtaking – it having snuck up on me without warning.

The Varia will also detect other things like cyclists or trains, if they are within the 40-degree field of view. Cycling alongside a trainline was an interesting experience, receiving the red-grade You're-About-To-Die alert when I'd just checked the road was clear.

The display can show up to eight vehicles, each appearing as an icon on the phone or dots on the head unit, but these are not reliable indications. Many times it reported one vehicle as two, and two vehicles as one. This can be a serious issue when you were only expecting one to pass, and a second follows closely afterwards.

Linking vehicle detection with recording mode was similarly fraught with errors – many times the 'only record passes' video mode either failed to trigger, or recorded lots of clips of empty road. If you wanted the Varia to act as evidence in a collision, this mode should be avoided in my experience. Another issue was where the settings would default back to original without warning.

In a similarly-flaky software vein, on a few occasions I had to unpair, delete the light from the app and re-pair to get it working again. I'm not alone in finding the app and software pretty awful – many respected reviewers have found the same.

Value

The Varia RCT715 is a unique beast, incorporating light, radar AND camera. If you eschew the camera (and frankly, at this performance/app bugginess, you should) then options for radar+light exist.

As well as Garmin's own RTL515 for £169.99, which Iwein gave four stars, there's also the Magene L508 (aka Magicshine SeeMee 508) for around £125 that Dave rather liked, finding the radar performance on a par with the more-expensive Garmin.

Bryton also offers an ANT+-standard light+radar combo, the Gardia R300L, which costs £119.99. George currently has one on on test, so look out for the review soon.

I'm handing out two stars here when Iwein gave the radar+light variant four stars. This is down to the over-double inflated price for a camera that's next to useless at actually identifying vehicles – surely the main point of a bike camera.

You can buy just the Garmin RVR315 radar unit for £129.99 and get the traffic information that way, leaving you £220 to choose a better light, camera or light+camera package.

Conclusion

I really wanted to like the Varia RCT715. Unfortunately, unless you're absolutely set on the most-minimalist light+camera+radar setup using one item, and are happy to suffer with the terribly slow app and user experience, I'd recommend giving it a swerve. Likely it wouldn't see you if you did.

Verdict

Poor app and camera performance, with a high price, means it's not a great option unless you need an all-in-one

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Garmin Varia RCT715

Size tested: (LxWxD): 4.2 x 1.7 x 1.3in (106.5 x 42 x 31.9mm)

Tell us what the light is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

It's for people wanting alerts of following traffic, as well as a camera and light, all in one bundle.

Garmin says:

IT LOOKS BACK WHILE YOU RIDE AHEAD

This rearview radar with camera and tail light continuously records your ride1. Plus, it detects vehicles approaching from behind and displays on your compatible Garmin device.

The built-in camera continuously records and automatically saves footage if it detects an incident.

Reliable rearview radar lets you ride like you know what's coming.

Control the camera right from your Garmin device, and access footage via the Varia™ smartphone app.

This compact device is easy to mount and fits most bikes.

Flex camera and tail light settings to maximise battery life.

Get up to 6 hours of battery life with radar, tail light in day flash and camera recording.

Keep an eye on what's behind you.

BUILT-IN CAMERA

The integrated camera records what's behind you at up to 1080p/30 fps. So you can ride with peace of mind, knowing you'll capture clear footage if anything out of the ordinary is detected.

AUTOMATIC INCIDENT CAPTURE

Rest assured, this tiny camera has your back. It can detect if an incident occurs and automatically saves footage before, during and after the event.

WORKS WITH THE VARIA APP

Use this smartphone app to easily access your footage, transfer videos or customise camera settings such as data overlays.

video

MAXIMUM AWARENESS

Varia™ RCT715 has rearview radar that provides visual and audible alerts for vehicles approaching from behind up to 140 metres away.

MULTIPLE PAIRING OPTIONS

Pair and control the built-in camera with your Edge® bike computer or compatible smartphone as well as select Garmin wearables.

THIRD-PARTY APP COMPATIBLE

When used with a compatible smartphone, Varia™ RCT715 integrates with your favourite apps, such as Ride with GPS and more, to overlay your maps with rearview radar alerts.

SUPERIOR VISIBILITY

Alert motorists to your presence as soon as possible with daylight visibility up to 1 mile.

COMPACT DESIGN

Easily mount this sleek, compact device on the seatpost of almost any bicycle. The vertical design allows for leg clearance and a perfectly comfortable ride.

BATTERY LIFE

Stay powered for your longer rides with up to 4 hours of battery life with radar and tail light on solid high or night flash, 5 hours on solid low and and 6 hours on day flash – all with camera recording at 1080p.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?

Physical Specifications

Dimensions (LxWxD): 4.2 x 1.7 x 1.3in (106.5 x 42.0 x 31.9 mm)

Weight: 5.2 oz (147.0 g)

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

Battery life: 4 hours solid, 5 hours peloton, 3 hours night flash, 6 hours day flash (all with 1080p recording)

ANT+®: Yes (radar, bike lights)

BLE: Yes (radar, camera control)

Wi-Fi®: Yes (local network only)

Water rating: IPX7

Viewing angle: 220°

16 GB SD card included

Onboard accelerometer to automatically lock footage on incident detection

Camera control of Garmin Edge® and select wearables

Varia™ App provides convenient radar display, camera control and video transfer

Rate the light for quality of construction:
 
8/10

It feels premium, which it should given the price.

Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?
 
3/10

The menu system is confusing as hell, as is the app.

Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s
 
8/10

The clamp is very solid and easy to use with gloves on.

Rate the light for waterproofing. How did it stand up to the elements?
 
10/10

Can't complain – it's IPX7.

Rate the light for battery life. How long did it last? How long did it take to recharge?
 
7/10

Battery life was as described.

Rate the light for performance:
 
6/10

As a radar, it should be better, but it's as good as this stuff gets right now. As a camera, it's well below even basic expectations from a premium device.

Rate the light for durability:
 
8/10

It's durable and sturdily made, and IPX7 waterproof.

Rate the light for weight:
 
8/10

It's pretty heavy at 147g, but perhaps light considering what the alternative multi-item package would weigh.

Rate the light for value:
 
3/10

Separate components are a better way to go.

Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose

When riding, apart from the missed alerts, it's an OK experience.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the light

The radar, when it worked, but you can't trust it.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light

The app user experience when viewing images. It's awful. And the poor image quality.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It's expensive compared with separate components that work the same or better.

Did you enjoy using the light? Nope

Would you consider buying the light? Nope

Would you recommend the light to a friend? Nope

Use this box to explain your overall score

The Varia RCT715 is below average – in terms of light output, the app quality, and the camera quality and functionality. Radar performance is a let-down for the price.

Overall rating: 4/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 183cm  Weight: 77kg

I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe  My best bike is: Nah bro that's it

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L

Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.

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32 comments

Avatar
mark1a | 10 months ago
2 likes

Just revisiting this and something that @secret_squirrel, @Davidb67 and other owners may be interested in...

Got this from Amazon the other day, a rubberised case and tether for the RCT715. The case seems robust enough to survive an unplanned detachment and the tether is short enough to keep it out of the back wheel for less than a tenner and fits like a glove  

https://amzn.eu/d/jeNNP1X

Photo shows it on a bike. 

 

Avatar
KiwiMike | 10 months ago
10 likes

<Insert That Escalated Quickly GIF here>

I could make a snide remark that if you've sunk £350 of your own money into a product there's always going to be an element of cognative dissonance / confirmation bias in any reaction to someone else basically inferring you've made a bad choice. But that would be to disrespect reader's lived experience, so I won't smiley

I was given this unit to review, so I have no such investment - financial or emotional - in the outcome. I wrote the review from the perspective of how I would feel, had I parted with my own money. 

One of my assorted backgrounds is in mobile phone design. I was a founding part of the team that developed the 3G INQ1, a 2G-iPhone-competitor handset that won Mobile Phone Of The Year 2009. I'm named in a few patents for mobile UX design. I was responsible for the company's IPR management. So I like to think I'm a wee bit smarter than the average bear when it comes to objectively assessing device UX, camera performance, etc - and particularly in a cycling context. I've also spent more than my fair share of time submitting rear-camera evidence of close passes to various police forces. And I'm now at 300 Road.cc reviews and counting.

So this isn't my first rodeo

None of the above detracts from Varia 715 owners thinking their devices are great, that it suits their needs, that for their use cases, level of experience and familiarity with the device, that it's fine. Maybe they're so invested, they literally feel naked without it looking backwards for them.

So of course when I come along and point out multiple failings that I've noticed and are not prepared to let slide, they rebut with their thoughts and even photographic proof that look - the camera is fine. Super - that's what we're here for. It would be a boring world if my opinion was taken as relevant to 100% of people out there - we need alternative takes. 

What I would hope comes through is that I have taken a lot of time to assess this product, and that my points are factually correct - eg mediocre resolution camera, mediocre light output, slow/buggy app UX, high price, etc. If you look at each of these individually and then at the £350 pricetag, I think most people would be challenged to applaud Garmin for what they have built here. As in the review, the only way this is a product anyone other than its mother could love is if your particular niche case called for an all-in-one that was not masterful at any individual aspect of performance.

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised here - I'm assuming no-one spends £350 on an accessory without reading at least half a dozen reviews first. And looking at the usual suspects - especially DCR and GP Llama - you can't say you weren't warned.

But you purchased anyway - so you knew what you were getting into

My review findings are pretty close to that of DCR & GPL - I never read other reviews until I've written my own, and it was pleasing to see we were much in agreement. So it's not like I'm wildly out of step with the broad consensus here. 

DCR: "Stepping back, I don’t really understand how this went so wrong – primarily on the camera side"

GPL: "This really is underdone... this to me defines a Minimum Viable Product"

Again - if the 715 at £350 floats your boat - that's great. More power to you. If OTOH your expectations are higher, and you need your £350 to deliver an excellent experience across the board - I'd recommend holding out for a different version or product.

Cheers all - ride safe

Mike

 

(also for those claiming the images shown aren't representative of quality due to Road.cc processing-  here's the file I sent to the team. Viewing them on a 26" monitor, there was only one plate out of the five I recorded on my last ride, that was discernable. And this was on the brightest-possible day, with relatively slow speed differentials.

I do not doubt that in some circumstances the 715 can capture plates clearly, and I have a few clearly-visible examples myself. But it is very subjective to conditions, relative speed etc. If you are relying on the 715 to be your source of legal proof of a driver's guilt, in my experience  - NOT opinion, but experience based on hard proof - you will likely be disappointed)

 

Avatar
mark1a replied to KiwiMike | 10 months ago
2 likes

Thanks for this, and I don't doubt your credentials or experience at all. It's just that your experience in both image quality and file handling has been very different from the other three owners/users in the replies here. For me personally, there is no cognative dissonance or confirmation bias about wanting something to be great after buying it, as a cyclist and sometime amateur photographer I've wasted far more money on far less stuff I can assure you, and it wouldn't bother me if it was the case here. 

Now that you've updated this with the example image you sent to road.cc (incidentally when I referred to compress from hosting I was referring to my own, the originals are better, the hosting compresses them), I can see how poor your image is, and makes me think - were you running it at 720p? The data overlay text at the bottom looks a little fuzzier and lower resolution than my examples, which would indicate the source image is of lower resolution. Mine were at 1080p and then grabbed from the screen. They are markedly different and the overlay text in mine is definitely sharper.

It's easy to configure in the companion app:

 

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to mark1a | 10 months ago
3 likes

The disparity in the image quality between Mark and Mike's images is stark.

This could be down to different resolution settings or perhaps something else... is it possible Garmin use a mix of suppliers for the camera sensor? I know this is common practice amongst manufacturers for supply chain diversity and could explain the varying results here.

Avatar
KiwiMike replied to mark1a | 10 months ago
1 like

Yup, 1080p. Latest firmware too. Whilst I can see some difference there, that's likely down to screengrab software. Certainly it's not like my footer is unreadable while yours is, which if that were the case I'd think something was very wrong. 

Avatar
PhilipTaylor replied to KiwiMike | 10 months ago
2 likes

I read your reply first, and so looked forward to reading the fireworks that had prompted such a response. Imagine my disappointment when all I found were a few comments disagreeing with you. I think your response was longer than all of the comments combined! Not sure why you felt the need to be so defensive tbh. 

Avatar
KiwiMike replied to PhilipTaylor | 10 months ago
5 likes

Because I take this stuff seriously? People took the time to read the review, and felt strongly enough to write what were long and detailed replies. I felt I owed them a clarification.  Thanks for your comment. 

Avatar
Secret_squirrel replied to PhilipTaylor | 10 months ago
3 likes
PhilipTaylor wrote:

Not sure why you felt the need to be so defensive tbh. 

Since I generated Mikes first comment I feel I need to say that I dont see Mike as being defensive.  Engaging with your readership is a positive - regardless of whether we agree with each other.

FWIW I think GPL, DCR and Road.Cc review all have the same flaw - they are evaluating it on a use case or set of use cases that arent quite aligned with the expectations of *most* users who are happy with it.   DCR's in particular made a ridiclous meal of the lack of OIS/EIS for what is a safety camera not a GoPro alternative.

Avatar
maxdabrit | 10 months ago
3 likes

Wow , what an unexpected review. Garmin Radar plus any or no add on , is a ride-life  changing feature. I can understand critcism on cost etc but not on the way the Radar functions and reports traffic. It is an absolute marvel that is always reliable. 
I truly don't know an owner who would ever want to ride without it.

 

Avatar
Secret_squirrel | 10 months ago
4 likes

I’ve had one of these since launch and don’t recognise this review of it. Yes the app is crappy (but so is the Cycliq one) and you only need use it once for set up. If you want do something with a video you plug it in with a cable and it will copy at USB3 speeds . WI-FI video transfer is for mugs.
I’ve reviewed a dozen videos for police submissions and everyone had at least 1 clear number plate image. I’ve scored 1 NIP using the video from it. (only actual submission from it)
The lack of OIS is a bit disappointing but doesn’t seem necessary unless you are filming your buddies on a chain gang.
Cars do vanish if they match speeds but frankly that’s a rarity and no different to the other radars afaik.
I can count the number of times on one hand that 1 car has been 2 and that’s just because if you get a tailgater the radar can’t defy the laws of physics.
The spotting of trains is a double edged sword I find it useful because it means the radar penetrates bushes on windy roads.
I trust it enough not to do shoulder checks when out of town.
The battery life is also better than my now retired Fly6.
In short I think you should take Mikes review with a large chunk of salt - he seemed primed to prejudge it.

Avatar
KiwiMike replied to Secret_squirrel | 10 months ago
6 likes

Dude, literally in the last para: "I really wanted to like the Varia RCT715"

I report as I find. You share your truth, I'll share mine. Somewhere along that spectrum others will judge and invest their cash (or not). I appreciate if it works for you/others, faults, shortcomings and all, GREAT. If it gets you riding more and feeling safer doing it, GREAT.

Just don't expect it to be what it *should* be for the price. If you're happy with the compromises, it's the right thing for you.

Cheers!

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to KiwiMike | 10 months ago
1 like

It is expensive, but I think the camera comparison should have been done with the Cycliq Fly 6, rather than the Techalogic, as that is a more comparable product. The Techalogic has no Wifi connection or smartphone app and from the footage I've seen, the image quality is far better on the Cycliq/Garmin.

With the Fly 6 being £210, the price for the Garmin's combined features seem less outrageous.

If you want image stabilisation and higher resolution, GoPro's are £350+ just for the camera, so it's unreasonable to expect that sort of performance at the Garmin price point.

Avatar
mark1a | 10 months ago
3 likes

I don't comment that often on reviews as I believe they're the opinion of the reviewer and of course we all have our own, but I thought I would on this one as my experience of the RCT715 is very different, so here is my $0.02...

I've been running one for over a year now (checks order date, 18/05/22, day of UK launch), so have a fair amount of use of riding in varied conditions, since the very early firmware and app versions.

The app was crap at launch, since then it has improved, so is now just mostly crap. Unfortunately the limitations are always going be dragging HD video files (300Mb per clip) over a localised device wifi connection, this is always going to be a bit slow. That's why for browsing video I plug the device into a computer via USB, or pull the microSD card out and pop it in a reader. For downloading an individual incident, I still do this over wifi, it takes the time it takes to make a cup of tea, no big deal. Therefore the major challenge for the app when browsing the clip galleries is the speed of dragging HD video over wifi.

One issue that the reviewer has is "browsing a hundred clips" - this is rarely necessary, as in reality the camera is going to be used to record a close pass or other problem, not footage of your pals descending Alpe d'Huez in full broadcast quality glory. It's easy to browse any incidents that occur on a ride, something not mentioned is that most Edge devices (certainly those with a touch screen) have a camera widget, so after a close pass, swipe down on the head unit, swipe to camera widget, touch "save a clip" and your pre and post footage is saved into a locked folder. Post ride, you only need to navigate to the locked folder and pick up the 2 or 3 (OK 5 or 6) incidents to download. From there you also have the timestamps in the app gallery so you can still go straight in via USB if you're in a hurry now you have the timestamps. Similarly, the incident detection on board only starts the recording automatically, the notification is not required because if you're using an Edge head unit with incident detection, that overrides the onboard function, handles the notifications and also starts the auto record. Incidentally I have submitted an improvement request via the Garmin forums to suggest that on the Garmin Edge Di2 configuration, the function for press & hold of the D-Fly hood buttons could be set as save a clip and save a photo, fingers crossed for that.

On the subject of quality, I have never considered lack of 4K or stabilisation a problem. I would rather have more efficient storage and longer battery. To date I have submitted over a dozen closes passes to Op Snap, I have never had an unreadable number plate, and have had a couple of NIP results (NIP rate is more down to Dorset Police interpretation of close pass than the camera evidence). See attached images for example of good light and bad light, they may end up being compressed by road.cc hosting, on a computer screen grabbed from the video they're easily readable.

Finally, the flaky connections - this really isn't my experience, I've paired it once in the year I've had it with my phone (nothing special, a 2+ year old iPhone 12 mini, up to date iOS & apps), and apart from the occasional dropout on wifi when browsing the gallery (expected, I'm surprised that even works, but I can't think of another way of getting it to communicate with a phone), it's been reliable. Most of the other comments regarding the flaky software from "respected reviewers" were from May 22, and things have been updated on both the light and the app since then.

 

 

 

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HoarseMann replied to mark1a | 10 months ago
2 likes

That's a great write up. If I hadn't bagged a Varia 515 for £100 and my 2015 Cycliq Fly 6 wasn't still going strong, I'd definately have bought the 715.

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Off the back | 10 months ago
3 likes

It's a shame to see this version get a disappointing review. I have the radar version and it's been faultless. It's one of those bits of kit you didn't realise you need but once you have you can't live without. 
 

knowing I have a car behind me dictates my road position. If I deem it unsafe for them to pass I will move more central in tbe lane. Otherwise I will sit closer to secondary. Knowing what traffic flow is like behind can really help you make decisions. I had hoped to upgrade to this but if it's not a great a product I may just stick with a go pro and live with the seat post clutter. 

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mark1a replied to Off the back | 10 months ago
2 likes
Off the back wrote:

It's a shame to see this version get a disappointing review. I have the radar version and it's been faultless. It's one of those bits of kit you didn't realise you need but once you have you can't live without. 

The radar performance is identical to its predecessors. I've had the RTL500, RTL510 and RTL515, and now this one. It's still great at detecting vehicles behind you and increasing the light flash & brightness intensity as they approach.

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Off the back replied to mark1a | 10 months ago
1 like

£350 for the same product but with a mediocre camera on it really doesn't cut it. I'm with the reviewer on its not worth the outlay. If you own the radar version already it isn't a viable upgrade when you can get a top quality go pro for much less than the extra cost. If you are looking at one from scratch then it's really hard to justify buying half a promise. If the only reliable bit can be bought separately for less why would you buy this? Especially if you already own and use a camera like a go pro. 

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mark1a replied to Off the back | 10 months ago
2 likes

The most runtime I ever had from a GoPro was around 1h 40m (gave up on GoPro years ago as a safety cam, swapping batteries & cards mid ride was a faff), I've had 6h plus from the Varia with battery capacity to spare at the end. In terms of already having radar, I'm not stockpiling Varia radar models, I resell the previous ones. 

Ref mediocre camera, read what three others have said (two with over a year experience, one with just over a month), it's not about the technical specs, it's whether a plate can be read, none of us have ever had an incident where the plate cannot be read. 

At the end of the day, yer pays yer money and takes yer choice, for me as a single box, ~150g unit containing light, radar and camera with 6h plus runtime, I'd choose it all day long. 

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Oldfatgit | 10 months ago
1 like

Thanks for this.

I was swithering on getting one as I'm not impressed with the battery life on my Fly6 Gen 3 - which was pretty my only gripe.

This review has made me think that while not ticking every box, the Cycliq cameras are easily the best *dedicated* cameras out they for everyday use.

I am disappointed that the Garmin device has scored so little when it has the ability to deliver so much.

Still, saved me a few hundred quid ... and just means I have to keep charging the Fly6v3 at coffee stops.

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Sriracha replied to Oldfatgit | 10 months ago
1 like

DC Rainmaker concurs, just in (a lot) more detail!
https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2022/05/garmin-rct715-varia-rearview-bikelig...

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mark1a replied to Sriracha | 10 months ago
1 like
Sriracha wrote:

DC Rainmaker concurs, just in (a lot) more detail! https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2022/05/garmin-rct715-varia-rearview-bikelig...

That was a year ago, and some things have been updated. For example, not being able to lock an ad-hoc clip unless it's already recording was changed two firmware updates ago, you can now save a clip any time from the head unit.

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KiwiMike replied to mark1a | 10 months ago
5 likes

If that's an example of what has changed, no wonder I found it hugely disappointing. The fundamentals of price, camera quality (for the money), weak light (for the money), sketchy app/software and less-than-perfect radar notifications  etc have not changed since DCR found much as I have. 
I LOVE the concept, and I didn't come at it wanting to slag it off. I just think that many who fork out such huge money will be disappointed. Wait for the next version.  

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Hirsute | 10 months ago
1 like

Be interested to see if mark1a posts as he has this model.
He did report you can now get an overlay of your speed and the car speed on the recording.

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mark1a replied to Hirsute | 10 months ago
1 like

👋

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Hirsute | 10 months ago
2 likes

You really need the my bike radar traffic data field from iq connect then you will know how far someone is behind you. If they get to 5m or less, then they are behind you or turned off.
The radar won't register a vehicle at the same speed otherwise in a group it will be constantly going off.

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mark1a replied to Hirsute | 10 months ago
0 likes
Hirsute wrote:

You really need the my bike radar traffic data field from iq connect then you will know how far someone is behind you. If they get to 5m or less, then they are behind you or turned off. The radar won't register a vehicle at the same speed otherwise in a group it will be constantly going off.

Agreed, here it is:

https://apps.garmin.com/en-US/apps/c5d949c3-9acb-4e00-bb2d-c3b871e9e733

 

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Hirsute replied to mark1a | 10 months ago
1 like

The developer is going to look at a larger point size for the readouts and swapping the fields around. No guarantees of course since he does it in his spare time for free.

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Secret_squirrel replied to Hirsute | 10 months ago
1 like

Wow this has changed massively. I need to update the version. 

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clayfit | 10 months ago
7 likes

I have the radar-with-light Varia and it's the best accessory on my bike. 
When there is no car behind, you can power-down the hypervigilance, go to the lowest defcon level, relax, and enjoy the ride. 
And then when it pings to show that there is a car behind, you get twice as much warning as you get with your ears, and can decide better how to react, such as whether to ride primary to control the situation.  
It's best on country roads, rather than in town.  Yes, it gets confused by trains, but it's otherwise reliable and informative.
Apart from the battery life being terrible (maybe 3 hours), it's a fantastic piece of kit that I would recommend to every rider.  Don't leave home without it.

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AidanR replied to clayfit | 10 months ago
3 likes

I'm surprised to hear that you only get 3 hours of battery life. I reckon I get at least 10 from mine, although I always use the flashing light rather than solid.

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