tests

Garmin Varia RCT715: the camera that watches your back while cycling

When we get on our bike, whether for a Sunday ride, commuting or sports training, safety is a major concern. Despite all our vigilance, the risk of accidents involving vehicles remains very real, particularly when they overtake us from behind. It is to meet this crucial need for security that Garmin designed the Varia RCT715an accessory that combines several essential functions in a single device.

Garmin Varia (7)
© Journal du Geek

Equipped with detection radar, a powerful rear light and an HD camera, the Varia RCT715 presents itself as a real safety assistant for cyclists. Its long-range radar warns you of vehicles approaching from behind, allowing you to anticipate and adopt more defensive behavior. At the same time, its bright rear light ensures excellent visibility, reducing the risk of accidents. Finally, its built-in HD camera continuously records your journey, capturing any delicate situations or incidents for later use when needed. But, in use, is this complete solution effective and easy to use? We tested it for a few weeks to find out for sure.

Four safety features in one compact device

The advantage of the Garmin Varia RCT715 is its compactness for all of its capabilities. It actually integrates four main functions:

  • Detection radar: the device detects vehicles approaching from behind (up to 140 meters away) and sends – via a smartphone – visual and audible alerts to the cyclist.
  • Rear light: the bright rear light has different lighting modes to always be clearly visible on the road whatever the weather conditions.
  • HD Camera: It records HD (1080p) videos with a 135-degree field of view to capture incidents.
  • Incident detection: The Garmin RCT715 has an accelerometer and gyroscope to detect shocks and sudden decelerations, then automatically records the video.

Mounting, charging and pairing the Garmin Varia RCT715

Installing the Garmin Varia RCT715 is child's play. The device simply attaches to the seat post or rear mudguard of the bike using the adjustable bracket provided. No tools are required, just hand tightening for a strong and secure fitment. To hang the support, two options are offered depending on the diameter of the tube. Then, once powered on, you can pair the device with your smartphone, an Edge cycling computer or a Garmin GPS watch and receive the alerts directly to your device. Whether visual or audible, these notifications will warn you of approaching vehicles, giving you time to react accordingly.

Plus, with ANT+ and Bluetooth wireless technology, you won't have to worry about messy cables. A simple connection is enough to sync the Varia RCT715 with your other Garmin devices. Finally, regarding charging, a USB cable is provided to recharge the rechargeable lithium-ion battery. A computer, wall charger or even a portable external battery will allow you to recharge your batteries. A full charge takes approximately 2.5 hours and provides up to 6 hours of battery life in combined radar/light mode in our experience.

A very useful accessory on a daily basis as well as on long outings

If the Garmin Varia RCT715 deploys its skills to the maximum on country or peri-urban roads, it nevertheless proves useful in everyday life, including in town, in traffic jams. When filming the cars behind you, the quality is sufficient to read the license plates, even if the stabilization is not at the level of a GoPro type action camera. Nothing exceptional, but the Varia camera does the job. And we are not asking it to film landscapes in cinematographic quality, it is there for practical use, particularly in the event of an accident. Radar is also a great help, especially at night. It allows you to better know where you are in relation to surrounding vehicles and roads.

Garmin Varia
© Journal du Geek

A disappointing companion app

To take advantage of all the functions and benefits of the Varia RCT715, it is necessary to install the companion application. And that's the disappointment: very bare, it severely lacks user-friendliness for viewing and managing recorded videos. Its ergonomics are far from intuitive. Of course, it gives access to the gallery of videos and photos recorded by the Varia. It also allows you to download video/photo files to the smartphone for viewing, sharing or saving them. Files that can then be kept in the device's memory or deleted.

During our test, we regretted the interface which was not very user-friendly and the absence of basic editing available directly in the application (to keep only one important passage on a long outing for example). You will therefore have to use third-party software for this. Finally, transferring files between the device and the smartphone can be long and tedious, especially for long recordings, such as an outing lasting several hours on the weekend. This is where Garmin really needs to improve: improving the post-ride experience on the smartphone.

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