Cycling can be a relaxing pastime until riders find themselves sharing the road with other vehicles. It then starts to feel like an exercise in mere survival, and should the unthinkable happen and a cyclist gets hit by a car, Garmin’s new Varia RCT715 will get the whole thing on film providing evidence as to who was really at fault in an accident.
Garmin’s Varia line of devices first debuted seven years ago as a better alternative to cyclists relying on rear-view mirrors to know when vehicles are approaching them from behind. The rear-facing device attached to a bike’s seat stem and used radar to detect the presence of a vehicle approaching from behind, up to almost 500 feet away, and then alerted the cyclist through a dash-mounted bike computer, and eventually smartphones and smartwatches too.
The system originally used a simple color-coded flashing alert system to notify cyclists of what was behind them: green meant it was all clear, amber indicated a vehicle was in range, and red warned that a vehicle was approaching at higher speeds, but later versions used animated dots on a device’s screen showing the location of vehicles, even multiple cars at once, and how quickly they were gaining on the bike.
The newest addition to the Varia line, the RCT715, adds another important safety feature that cars themselves have been using for years now: a camera that’s constantly recording the activity behind the bike. Rear-facing dashcams for bikes aren’t a new idea, but the Varia RCT715 works as a single all-in-one solution alongside the radar for detecting approaching hazards, as well as a bright LED taillight, visible from a mile away even in the middle of the day, that will start flashing faster when a vehicle is detected to help ensure it gets a driver’s attention.
As with most dashcams, the Varia RCT715 is constantly buffering 1080P/30fps footage the entire time it’s on, but when a built-in accelerometer detects a crash, footage from before, after, and during the incident is actually saved onto an included 16GB SD card, and is then accessible through Garmin’s app.
The RCT715 doesn’t serve as a digital rearview mirror—live video can’t be streamed from it to another device—and for some that may make its $400 price tag hard to swallow. That’s twice the price of the device’s predecessor, the RTL515 radar tail light that doesn’t feature a camera. But should you ever find yourself the victim in a run-in with a car while the driver points the finger at you as the cause, having footage proving otherwise will undoubtedly make you happy you splurged on the upgrade.