It’s no hot take to say cyclists are vulnerable road users. It’s entirely likely that the majority of people reading this have been close passed by a motor vehicle or worse while out on a ride. The new Garmin Varia RCT715 builds on the previous RTL515 with the addition of a continuously recording HD camera. While this won’t necessarily improve safety over the previous iteration, it will give cyclists the potential for redress following any unsavoury incidents while out on the road.
The Garmin Varia system is a rear-facing radar that, while paired with a compatible cycling computer, smartwatch or a smartphone with the Varia app installed, serves to warn you of approaching vehicles from behind - not just their presence, but their approach speed too - with visible and auditory notifications. The original Varia RTL515 won the Best Lights category in our 2021 Gear of the Year rundown, and the latest version shares the majority of its specs with the non-camera model.
Both feature the same radar system that has a range of 140m, along with the rear light that can be seen from a mile away. The light, on detecting the presence of a vehicle, will flash automatically if set to solid mode, or flash more quickly if it is already flashing.
Where the new Varia RCT715 differs from its predecessor is with the addition of a 1080p, 30fps built-in video camera that continuously records during your ride. The system also, presumably through the use of accelerometers, automatically saves the recorded footage from before, during, and after any incidents.
The drawback to adding a camera is a decrease in battery life. While the previous Varia could operate on day flash mode for 16 hours, the continuous nature of the recording of the RCT715 reduces the battery life to just six hours on day flash mode, or four hours on solid mode, perhaps making it a more suitable choice for the commuter than the recreational rider.
Pricing and availability
The new Garmin Varia RCT715 will set you back £349.99 / $399.99 and is available now.
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Will joined the Cyclingnews team as a reviews writer in 2022, having previously written for Cyclist, BikeRadar and Advntr. There are very few types of cycling he's not dabbled in, and he has a particular affection for older bikes and long lasting components. Road riding was his first love, before graduating to racing CX in Yorkshire. He's been touring on a vintage tandem all the way through to fixed gear gravel riding and MTB too. When he's not out riding one of his many bikes he can usually be found in the garage making his own frames and components as a part time framebuilder, restoring old mountain bikes, or walking his collie in the Lake District.
Rides: Custom Zetland Audax, Bowman Palace:R, Peugeot Grand Tourisme Tandem, 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Stooge Mk4, Falcon Explorer Tracklocross