"The threat is real"…is that really necessary? I'm surprised they didn't use the theme from 'Jaws' in the soundtrack. They're clearly going the full 'fear sells' route on this rearview radar gadget.
Quite frankly, this is the sort of product and campaign that you'd expect a car company to come up with, to foist more responsibility for road safety onto the vulnerable road user, while creating plenty of uncritical 'buzz' and 'goodwill' about how much they care. (Volvo Lifepaint, anyone?)
Last year DC Rainmaker tested the crowd-funded prototype, and gave it a generally positive review, so we know that the kit actually works. And I agree that it's a pretty nifty piece of technology (and typically well packaged, as you'd expect from Garmin).
I just don't understand the need for it.
Cyclists don't need a radar gadget to be hyper-vigilant, hyper-alert and make sure they stay safe. In decades of riding on the roads, I have never had any trouble being aware of vehicles approaching from behind (or any other direction).
But I'm probably not in the target market for this product. Given the scare campaign, I'm guessing that the market segment that Garmin is after is 'nervous, cashed-up, middle-aged, and inexperienced'. (Picture the kind of rider who takes The Rules seriously.)
And this actually makes me a little nervous myself.
While having a rearview radar might provide some useful information, it is absolutely no substitute for having full situational awareness. It can hardly be a good outcome if an inexperienced rider fails to develop their on-road awareness because they have a gadget to take care of that.
So it's a security blanket, with all the same level of protection that would provide on the road.
How much more info do you need?
I use a rearview mirror, and I've never had any trouble gauging the closing speed of vehicles approaching from behind. Oh yeah, and I also get a good idea of the closing trajectory and likely passing distance of approaching vehicles, which the Varia doesn't seem to help you with.
Even if it is nice to know that the next car is coming in a lot faster than expected, what do you do with that info unless you…umm…take a look? If that incoming missile is two lanes away, I'm not so worried. But as far as I can tell the Varia doesn't provide that detail.
And for what it's worth, the range of my rearview mirror is as far as the human eye can see, which is generally much further than Varia's 140m limit. (But when it comes down to it, it's that last 30–50m that really counts anyway.)
Looking after yourself?
Possibly the worst thing about this device is that if it actually gets traction, one day we'll have post-fatality news reports telling us (with that barely concealed victim-blaming overtone) that "the cyclist was not using a rearview radar".
Sure, the risk is real. The scare is bullshit. I hope Garmin gets caned over this ad. I'm pretty sure they won't. Unfortunately, I suspect there's a ready market for this kind of technowankery.