The 3 Best Cycling Radars to Enhance Your Safety on the Roads

Best Cycling Radars: Magene L508, Garmin Varia RTL515, and Garmin Varia RCT715 mountain on my bike.

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This article includes the best cycling radars you can buy to enhance your safety on the roads.

They become one of the most popular cycling accessories because they increase riders’ awareness by alerting them about moving objects through their bike computer.

I have a hands-on experience with all radars in this article. You will learn their pros, cons, etc., so you can make an educated decision.

Continue reading to learn how to choose a bicycle radar, how they work, and much more.

What Are the Best Cycling Radars?

The best cycling radars have to be reliable. This means they won’t give false negatives (won’t alert you about an incoming car).

They should have a taillight and battery life for about 4-6 long bike rides and be water and dust-proof.

Learn more about the features of bike radars.

Magene L508 in my hand.
Magene L508

Also available at aliexpress.com

Read More

Garmin Varia RTL515 in my hand.
Garmin Varia RTL515

Also available at rei.com, performancebike.com

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Me holding the Garmin Varia RCT715.
Garmin Varia RCT715

Also available at rei.com, wiggle.co.uk

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Skip to the comparison table…

Garmin Varia RTL515 (Best Cycling Radar Overall)

Garmin Varia RTL515 in my hand.
Garmin Varia RTL515

Main Features

  • Reliable and proven
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent light visibility
  • Smartphone compatibility

Technical Specs

  • Battery life
    • 6 hours solid
    • 8 hours peloton
    • 6 hours night flash
    • 16 hours day flash
  • Taillight: Yes
  • Camera: No
  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Charging port: MicroUSB
  • IPX7

Garmin Varia RTL515 is the most popular bike radar on the market. The Varia family is the reason why cycling radars became so popular.

It’s the successor of the RTL510, which didn’t have Bluetooth and, therefore, smartphone compatibility.

RTL515 is reliable and has light with excellent visibility in daylight (Garmin claims up to 1 mile), so car drivers won’t overlook you.

Of course, it has multiple light modes, including the ‘peloton mode,’ which dims the light during a group ride.

It can detect multiple cars at once up to 140 meters away. Based on my experience, having false positives (what’s this?) is rare.

Buying RTL515 was one of the best investments into my safety on a bike, right after a helmet.

Read my Garmin Varia RTL515 review for more in-depth info.

Also available at rei.com, performancebike.com, and trekbikes.com

Magene L508 (Best Budget Cycling Radar)

Magene L508 in my hand.
Magene L508

Main Features

  • Affordable
  • Sleek design
  • Customizable light modes
  • Smart brake sensing

Technical Specs

  • Battery life:
    • 6h in solid mode
    • 10h in flashing mode
    • 8h in peloton mode
    • 12h in pulse mode
  • Taillight: Yes
  • Camera: No
  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Charging port: USB-C
  • IPX7

Magene L508 is the first non-Garmin bicycle radar. It’s like Varia RTL515, but it is more affordable and offers more features.

These features include the customizability of the light interval in the Magene app and smart brake sensing, which changes the light when you brake.

I used L508 for a few months, noticing that it gives me more false positives (what’s this?) than Varia. However, it never missed a car.

Its light also doesn’t seem as bright as Varia’s, but it’s still well-visible. So, if you want to save money, you can choose L508 instead of RTL515.

Read my Magene L508 review for more in-depth info.

Also available at aliexpress.com

Garmin Varia RCT715 (Best Cycling Radar with Camera)

Me holding the Garmin Varia RCT715.
Garmin Varia RCT715

Main Features

  • The only radar with taillight and camera
  • 1080p footage (but poor quality)
  • Pricey

Technical Specs

  • Battery life (1080p recording on):
    • 4 hours solid or night flash
    • 5 hours peloton
    • 6 hours day flash
  • Taillight: Yes
  • Camera: Yes
  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Charging port: USB-C
  • IPX7

Varia RCT715 is the first (and still the only) device that combines radar, camera, and taillight functionality. That’s why it’s automatically the best cycling radar with the camera.

The idea behind it is excellent. But, unfortunately, the execution by Garmin is not the best. Let me explain why.

RCT715 can record 1080p footage so that you will have proof in case of an accident. However, the footage quality is bad in low-light conditions. So, you may struggle to read the license plates of cars.

Furthermore, its price is high, so it’s not as affordable as RTL515 or L508. Finally, the Varia App was slow and buggy when I tested it.

These issues make RCT715 suitable only for people who desperately want the 3-in-1 functionality.

Read my Garmin Varia RCT715 review for more in-depth info or this comparison of Varia RCT715 vs. RTL515.

Also available at rei.com, wiggle.co.uk, and wiggle.com


Cycling RadarBattery LifeTaillightCameraPrice RangeBuy
Garmin Varia RTL5156 hours solid
8 hours peloton
6 hours night flash
16 hours day flash
YesNo$$Check Price
Check Price (rei.com)
Magene L5086h in solid mode
10h in flashing mode
8h in peloton mode
12h in pulse mode
YesNo$Check Price
Check Price (aliexpress.com)
Garmin Varia RCT7154 hours solid or night flash
5 hours peloton
6 hours day flash
(1080p recording on)
YesYes$Check Price
Check Price (rei.com)
List of the best cycling radars with info about their battery life, taillight and camera capability, and price range.

My Verdict

Buying a cycling radar was one of the best investments into my safety on a bike right after the bicycle helmet.

It increases my awareness about the cars behind me and helps me to adjust my riding style accordingly.

Based on my experience, I consider Garmin Varia RTL515 (also available at rei.com) the best overall. It’s proven and reliable. It also has bright light and good battery life.

The best budget cycling radar with a taillight is the Magene L508 (also available at aliexpress.com). It’s more affordable than RTL515 but gives more false positives and has less bright light.

The best cycling radar with a camera is the Garmin Varia RCT715 (also available at rei.com). However, this is only because this is the only device that combines radar-camera-taillight functionality. Its footage quality is bad, and battery life is short.

Why Use a Cycling Radar?

Cycling radars can detect moving objects behind a cyclist. They visually and audibly alert him (using a bike computer or a smartphone) about them, improving his or her awareness of what’s happening behind them.

The increased awareness contributes to better safety on the roads – especially in areas with heavy traffic.

Sometimes, it’s hard to hear cars (or motorbikes) in crosswinds, so this is another scenario where bike radars are helpful.

You can prepare for the air blast while being overtaken or adjust your riding style (move to the side of the road).

Most cycling radars also have a taillight, increasing visibility in dark conditions.

How to Choose the Best Cycling Radar?

The following part explains the most important cycling radar features.

Reliability

The most important feature you should consider when buying a cycling radar is its reliability.

Cycling radars can give you one of the following four outputs:

  1. True positive = there is a car, and radar alerts you.
  2. True negative = there is no car, so the radar won’t alert you.
  3. False positive = there is no car, but radar alerts you.
  4. False negative = there is a car, but the radar won’t alert you.

You shouldn’t buy a cycling radar that gives you false negatives because it can result in catastrophic consequences.

Don’t rely 100% on radar. Use your other senses when cycling.

Type of Radar

Currently, there are three basic types of bike radars on the market:

  1. Without a tail light and camera
  2. With a tail light but without a camera
  3. With a tail light and camera

The first type of bicycle radar only has radar functionality. Garmin RVR315 is one example.

My favorite type (and, by far, the most popular) is the radar with a taillight but without a camera. They have the longest battery life and are relatively affordable. These include Garmin Varia RTL515 and Magene L508.

Radars with a camera are a great idea but difficult to execute right. The only radar with the camera is currently Garmin Varia RCT715.

RTL515 vs. RCT715 (rear view)
RTL515 (without camera) vs. RCT715 (with camera)

Battery Life and Charging Port

Battery life varies mainly depending on the light mode. For example, solid modes drain more battery than flash modes.

The same applies to the video recording functionality, which drains more battery.

You shouldn’t put too much weight on the battery life if you don’t mind recharging the radar often.

However, the charging port could be a deciding factor for some people.

Newer radars usually come with a USB-C charging port, while older units still have MicroUSB ports.

View on the Garmin Varia RCT715 USB-C charging port vs. Garmin Varia RTL515 MicroUSB charging port.
USB-C vs. MicroUSB charging port (Garmin Varia RCT715 on the left, Garmin Varia RTL515 on the right)

Additional Features

Here are other features you can consider. They shouldn’t be a deciding factor, though.

  • Water and dust-proofing – cycling radars should have at least IPX7 protection. This means they can withstand rain, dust, and mud.
  • Light adjustability – only Magene L508 currently offers adjustability of its light modes via a smartphone app.
  • Mount compatibility – most bicycle radars are from Garmin, so they are Garmin mount compatible. Magene L508 is compatible with Magene mounts. If you mount it into a Garmin mount, it will be rotated by 90°.

Cycling Radars FAQ

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