I started using the Varia in April while development was being finalized. Since my last post about it, I have changed my commute route. My commute is also my fitness/workout opportunity. So, I extended my 6 mile commute to a 12 mile commute. My route now takes me along a variety of roads, some of which are NOT particularly bicycle friendly. Two of the roads are narrow, with no shoulder, and steep, rough ditches with rocks. Oh, and above average traffic.
A couple of comments on the first post related to whether the Varia solved a real problem, or is just another gadget. It was suggested that a mirror and looking back over your shoulder were adequate. So, I have tried to think about whether the unit is actually helping me during my commute.
I have been using it with an Edge 1000, and some rides with the Varia display head unit. To review: the Varia has a 150 yard range, and will indicate up to 8 approaching vehicles. It will also indicate vehicles that are closing fast (i'm not sure what the threshold speed is).
During the segments of my ride that are on narrow, busy roads I really liked having the radar. It allowed me to concentrate on holding a consistent line, avoiding potholes, etc. and watching for traffic approaching from the side streets. Particularly when traffic is heavy this has helped. That means I don't have to try to look over my shoulder to see what's behind me when traffic and the road are at their worse.
But, a mirror will do that! Well, yes, it will tell you what is behind you without looking over your shoulder. What it won't tell you is how many vehicles are behind you. Depending on the road and size of the vehicles you may see 1 or 2 (maybe more depending on the size of your mirror). With the radar, I can see up to 8 targets. Using the Edge 1000 (or the 520, or Edge Explore 1000) you will get a beep when the radar detects a vehicle approaching. So, you don't have to look at the Edge all the time to see what's going on. The Varia head unit, does not have the beep, but it does have a bright LED that changes from green (no approaching vehicles) to amber (vehicles approaching) to read (vehicles approaching fast).
Ok, so nothing is perfect. Where is the Varia challenged? I've noticed that if a large vehicle is approaching (i.e. semi-truck), the Varia may not see additional vehicles behind it. This is particularly true on straight, flat roads. So, it that situation it's not much better than a mirror. The second situation is the stalker. You know the type: a driver that doesn't want to pass you, or can't because of on coming traffic. If the vehicle(s) behind you are going the same speed, or slower than you the Varia will drop them from the display. When they speed up to pass they will pop back on the display. Here, a look over the shoulder or at the mirror tells you something the radar won't.
The one thing the Varia does that the look over the shoulder or a mirror can't do is try to get the approaching drivers attention. With the increasing flash rate as they approach, it is designed to alert drivers to your presence and their speed. I haven't been able to tell whether that feature works better than my old flashing taillight.
And lastly, battery life. My commute takes 45 minutes each way. I'm finding that I can make it 4 or 5 days without recharging the radar. About the same as my headlight.
Took an hour long shakedown cruise out and back on one of the local bike/walk trails. It's quite rough in places and has lots of short steep climbs and descents. Good test of shifting and brakes. Plus, if anything isn't securely attached, it would have been bounced or rattled off along the way. Everything works fine. A couple of brake and shifting fine tuning adjustments, but nothing major. Here is the final build list:
Soma Double Cross Frameset
Mavic A319 rims
Shimano 105 hubs
Shimano 105 front and rear derailleurs (10 sp)
Shimano 105 cassette (12-27)
Shimano Dura-Ace bar end shifters
FSA Omega crankset (50/34)
FSA Mega Exo botton bracket
Ritchey Logic Comp headset
3T Forgie XL stem
Kore Elite handle bar
Tektro brake levers
Avid SD-5 brakes
Continental Contact II Reflex 32mm tires
San Marco saddle
Planet Bike Hardcore fenders (not installed yet)
- Garmin InternationalSenior Software Engineer, 2013 - present
- Iowa State University
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