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Rear facing camera (or: evidence against aggressive drivers)

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Rear facing camera (or: evidence against aggressive drivers)

Old 11-10-23, 03:25 AM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
Prior to getting my Varia, I had also wondered how useful it would be; I even asked everyone here:

Garmin Varia Useful in Suburbia? - Bike Forums

After getting mine, I find it quite useful. The best example to date: I was riding on the marked shoulder of a road without a sidewalk. The road has regular traffic and several cars had passed me. The shoulder is about 5 to 6 feet wide. I approached a woman walking a dog on the shoulder; the dog was to her left. I called out hello well in advance. Just as I was about to pass them on their left, the dog jumped to its left, almost directly in front of my front wheel. There was insufficient time to look over my left shoulder, but I had kept an eye on the Varia app and thus saw that there was enough space in the traffic for me to swerve into the traffic lane around the dog, which saved both the dog and me.

Also, even if you keep looking over your shoulder, the Varia is better at tracking multiple vehicles than you can.
This is not intended as criticism, but curiosity about the psychology of these things. I’m pretty sure I would have either slowed right down or got out into the road early in this situation because I would be very unsure that calling out is going to work (traffic noise, headphones, some people are deaf, they might not know what the call was about or if it was for them, they might just be pissed with being bossed about by bikes too many times etc)
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Old 11-10-23, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by LarrySellerz
This is on my commute, had 2 bad interactions at that same place, one was a clueless Tesla and another was a road raging truck. There is a grate on the far right that can be potentially hairy when wet, so you tend to want to take the lane but some cars get mad.

Don’t see why you would want a camera though. Atherton PD doesn’t care

edit: my bad interactions were slightly closer to sand hill. This is before the weird red light that you rarely need to follow because of the turning traffic, the light before sand hill? Or is it about near the 3rd light away from sand hill? Kind of surprised 3 cars beefed with you guys there, maybe you took the lane too early.

the bike lane ends around there and people can get confused about what to do. I wouldn’t take lane until after the optional red, it’s just bad form and disrupts the flow. Sucks that the cars are so mean about it though
I didn't get a chance to reply to the other thread before it was locked so just quickly dropping this in here because I thought it was a wild coincidence, and sorry to others for the off topic comment but...

When you posted your "anyone nearby who wants to race me" comment I was going to laugh that I live over 8000km away so not likely but bizarrely when you mentioned your road name (and the Atherton PD comment above), I realised I went within 5 miles of your road in a taxi from Palo Alto to SFO back in Feb. Next time, if I'm ever out there again...
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Old 11-10-23, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by LarrySellerz
This is on my commute, had 2 bad interactions at that same place, one was a clueless Tesla and another was a road raging truck. There is a grate on the far right that can be potentially hairy when wet, so you tend to want to take the lane but some cars get mad.

Don’t see why you would want a camera though. Atherton PD doesn’t care

edit: my bad interactions were slightly closer to sand hill. This is before the weird red light that you rarely need to follow because of the turning traffic, the light before sand hill? Or is it about near the 3rd light away from sand hill? Kind of surprised 3 cars beefed with you guys there, maybe you took the lane too early.

the bike lane ends around there and people can get confused about what to do. I wouldn’t take lane until after the optional red, it’s just bad form and disrupts the flow. Sucks that the cars are so mean about it though
If you're coming from Sand Hill, this is the intersection where Santa Cruz branches off to the right to go into downtown Menlo Park. If you stay straight, the road becomes Alameda de Puglas. We were coming from Alameda de Puglas, heading towards Sand Hill. Alameda de Puglas has a dedicated bike lane, once it becomes Santa Cruz, the dedicated bike lane disappears, but the right-most lane is clearly marked for cyclists. We had the right of way (green light) as we went through the intersection, and the cars buzzed us as soon as their light turned green (coming from the branch). We were all stopped at the Santa Cruz/Sand Hill Intersection a few hundred feet down the road.

I would've thought that area was Menlo Park, given its proximity to Menlo Park's downtown.
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Old 11-10-23, 09:34 AM
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So it looks like the Varia 715 has gone on sale ahead of the holidays (hooray, huzzah!), so I guess I could splurge for that one, given how many people say they have positive experiences with the radar aspect. One additional question - how well does it play with Wahoo head units? I don't currently have a bike computer, usually relying on my phone in a stem mount for Strava/directions etc. I imagine Varias play better with Garmin head units, but would I lose any functionality with Wahoo?

Given the reviews and the Garmin data hack a few years back, I feel more inclined to grab a Wahoo, but can be convinced either way. Would be considering an Elemnt Bolt V2.

And with a head unit, I guess maybe I'll splurge on Power Meter pedals next year, too...
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Old 11-10-23, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
If you're coming from Sand Hill, this is the intersection where Santa Cruz branches off to the right to go into downtown Menlo Park. If you stay straight, the road becomes Alameda de Puglas. We were coming from Alameda de Puglas, heading towards Sand Hill. Alameda de Puglas has a dedicated bike lane, once it becomes Santa Cruz, the dedicated bike lane disappears, but the right-most lane is clearly marked for cyclists. We had the right of way (green light) as we went through the intersection, and the cars buzzed us as soon as their light turned green (coming from the branch). We were all stopped at the Santa Cruz/Sand Hill Intersection a few hundred feet down the road.

I would've thought that area was Menlo Park, given its proximity to Menlo Park's downtown.
Ooh ok, yeah that place right there is bad, I was thinking you guys had trouble a little farther down the road. There was even a petition in my local cycling group (noon ride) to get the city to change it
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Old 11-10-23, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
So it looks like the Varia 715 has gone on sale ahead of the holidays (hooray, huzzah!), so I guess I could splurge for that one, given how many people say they have positive experiences with the radar aspect. One additional question - how well does it play with Wahoo head units? I don't currently have a bike computer, usually relying on my phone in a stem mount for Strava/directions etc. I imagine Varias play better with Garmin head units, but would I lose any functionality with Wahoo?

Given the reviews and the Garmin data hack a few years back, I feel more inclined to grab a Wahoo, but can be convinced either way. Would be considering an Elemnt Bolt V2.

And with a head unit, I guess maybe I'll splurge on Power Meter pedals next year, too...
Better than it does with Edge head units, Wahoo added a couple of nice features.
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Old 11-10-23, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by choddo
This is not intended as criticism, but curiosity about the psychology of these things. I’m pretty sure I would have either slowed right down or got out into the road early in this situation because I would be very unsure that calling out is going to work (traffic noise, headphones, some people are deaf, they might not know what the call was about or if it was for them, they might just be pissed with being bossed about by bikes too many times etc)
I generally try to minimize riding in the vehicle lane if there is a bike lane or shoulder, given how territorial so many drivers are, but yes, in hindsight, I should have moved into the traffic lane before I got close to the woman and her dog.
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Old 11-10-23, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by choddo
Better than it does with Edge head units, Wahoo added a couple of nice features.
What features does the Wahoo + Varia combo offer that the Edge + Varia combo does not?
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Old 11-12-23, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by choddo
This is not intended as criticism, but curiosity about the psychology of these things. I’m pretty sure I would have either slowed right down or got out into the road early in this situation because I would be very unsure that calling out is going to work (traffic noise, headphones, some people are deaf, they might not know what the call was about or if it was for them, they might just be pissed with being bossed about by bikes too many times etc)
Three points -

1. I’ve not had really good luck with hailing ahead to pedestrians. Their responses in terms of movement are unpredictable especially if wearing earbuds and startled. Dogs on retractable leashes are worse. Just better to pass with wide margins. The Varia Radar can be very helpful here and any time you need to change lanes.

2. The benefit of the radar is it helps interrupt your scan when a car approaches from -500’ behind. That gives you maximum warning time to understand their intent and to find an escape if you need one (just like driving a car) or to relax as you see them slow and/or go wide.

3. It’s important to understand what the radar is telling you. It will tell you if there is a vehicle that is gaining on you. It will not tell you about a vehicle that is pacing you and, as such, it’s not a substitute for a rearward look with either a mirror or looking back. In point of fact, just using only the radar to see a spot in traffic could easily be fatal if a car were pacing you close off your rear tire. A car that is pacing you will disappear from the Varia display.

All that said, it’s a fantastic tool. As Ray Maker says in his reviews of these products - there are two kinds of cyclists: those that have the Varia and love it and those that haven’t tried it. I’ve used them since they first came out years ago and I wouldn’t ride without one.
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Old 11-12-23, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by choddo
Better than it does with Edge head units, Wahoo added a couple of nice features.
I don’t believe that Wahoo supports the video of the Varia RTL715 but does support the standard radar warning and display. I’d love to hear how this works if it does support video.

I have both an Edge 1040 and the Hammerhead Karoo 2. The Karoo has a much better Varia UI, threat display and implementation than Garmin. It also can control the light so it starts and shuts off automatically just like the 1040.
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Old 11-12-23, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80
I don’t believe that Wahoo supports the video of the Varia RTL715 but does support the standard radar warning and display. I’d love to hear how this works if it does support video.

I have both an Edge 1040 and the Hammerhead Karoo 2. The Karoo has a much better Varia UI, threat display and implementation than Garmin. It also can control the light so it starts and shuts off automatically just like the 1040.
I use the 1040

this seems to have a little more flexibility with sounds and lights / display
https://support.wahoofitness.com/hc/...T-BOLT-or-ROAM

not sure if it supports Peloton mode on the light though.
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Old 11-17-23, 03:01 PM
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Whelp, ordered the Varia 715 and a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. Should be able to pick it up from the store in a few days (just in time for cold and wet season!). Thanks all for the thoughts!

Now to find a bright yellow melon shaped helmet for low contrast fall/winter days... just because I might be able to record license plates that get too close doesn't mean I actually want them to get too close...
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Old 11-23-23, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80
Three points -

1. I’ve not had really good luck with hailing ahead to pedestrians. Their responses in terms of movement are unpredictable especially if wearing earbuds and startled. Dogs on retractable leashes are worse. Just better to pass with wide margins. The Varia Radar can be very helpful here and any time you need to change lanes.

2. The benefit of the radar is it helps interrupt your scan when a car approaches from -500’ behind. That gives you maximum warning time to understand their intent and to find an escape if you need one (just like driving a car) or to relax as you see them slow and/or go wide.

3. It’s important to understand what the radar is telling you. It will tell you if there is a vehicle that is gaining on you. It will not tell you about a vehicle that is pacing you and, as such, it’s not a substitute for a rearward look with either a mirror or looking back. In point of fact, just using only the radar to see a spot in traffic could easily be fatal if a car were pacing you close off your rear tire. A car that is pacing you will disappear from the Varia display.

All that said, it’s a fantastic tool. As Ray Maker says in his reviews of these products - there are two kinds of cyclists: those that have the Varia and love it and those that haven’t tried it. I’ve used them since they first came out years ago and I wouldn’t ride without one.
a varia in combination with an “actual” rear-view - either a mirror or an actual look behind- is the ideal combination IMO. I check my rear-view regularly in any case, but the varia is a great back up and a warning when something appears between “scans”. I wouldn’t trust the varia alone - always verify. I’ve had a few - albeit rare - occasions where the varia
just didn’t see cars that were slowly catching up and overtaking. They’re like T. rex - their sight depends on relative movement
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Old 11-23-23, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by 13ollocks
a varia in combination with an “actual” rear-view - either a mirror or an actual look behind- is the ideal combination IMO. I check my rear-view regularly in any case, but the varia is a great back up and a warning when something appears between “scans”. I wouldn’t trust the varia alone - always verify. I’ve had a few - albeit rare - occasions where the varia
just didn’t see cars that were slowly catching up and overtaking. They’re like T. rex - their sight depends on relative movement
To be clear : Varia Radar absolutely can’t see a car behind that’s slowing or at your same speed (ie “pacing”). Failure to look behind could easily become fatal.
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Old 11-24-23, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80
To be clear : Varia Radar absolutely can’t see a car behind that’s slowing or at your same speed (ie “pacing”). Failure to look behind could easily become fatal.
"Easily become fatal". Because slowly overtaking cars are such a grave threat. :eye roll:

Just hold your line, ride predictably, signal your intentions, and turn/take the lane/change lanes when it's safe.
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Old 11-24-23, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
"Easily become fatal". Because slowly overtaking cars are such a grave threat. :eye roll:

Just hold your line, ride predictably, signal your intentions, and turn/take the lane/change lanes when it's safe.
I guess he means if you pull out assuming it's clear without looking.
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Old 11-24-23, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80
To be clear : Varia Radar absolutely can’t see a car behind that’s slowing or at your same speed (ie “pacing”). Failure to look behind could easily become fatal.
Well it can definitely see cars that are slowing. As for cars following at the same speed, mine did used to “forget” them after a few seconds. But I think firmware updates have improved this. I can’t remember the last time it missed a car following behind me and that situation happens a lot on our narrow country roads. My Varia is the 515 model, which I think is the 3rd gen Varia.
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Old 11-24-23, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Well it can definitely see cars that are slowing. As for cars following at the same speed, mine did used to “forget” them after a few seconds. But I think firmware updates have improved this. I can’t remember the last time it missed a car following behind me and that situation happens a lot on our narrow country roads. My Varia is the 515 model, which I think is the 3rd gen Varia.
My 515 definitely lost a couple of cars on a ride last weekend after they slowed to our pace. It does it less than you’d expect if it was purely based on doppler though. It must have some smarts in the software.
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Old 11-25-23, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Well it can definitely see cars that are slowing. As for cars following at the same speed, mine did used to “forget” them after a few seconds. But I think firmware updates have improved this. I can’t remember the last time it missed a car following behind me and that situation happens a lot on our narrow country roads. My Varia is the 515 model, which I think is the 3rd gen Varia.
I havne't paid attention, it was that way (IIRC) in a prior firmware. I think it just has longer latency when it's dropping back before they drop off the display instead of moving forward where it is much more sensitive. A clearer statement would be that it can only see cars when there is a speed differential even though it's safer to assume it only sees cars approaching. That said, a rearward look with either mirror or direct look is the only safe move. Any car shown on the display is there.
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Old 11-26-23, 01:07 PM
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In my experience the Varia will indicate an approaching car and then drop the indicator when the car is pacing. When I see a car mysteriously disappear (turning off or pacing) I always do a shoulder check. I find Varia indispensable and will never ride without it, especially on narrow winding country roads. Yesterday I was riding around Mercer Island near Seattle, which I have done dozens of times pre and post Varia. The island has a long section (1/4 mile?) of hairpins which are a blast to ride at speed. Prior to Varia, I would always hug the shoulder in that section, while trying to avoid grates, glass, etc. Post-Varia, I now can take the lane with full confidence (I have done this at least a dozen times) that Varia will pick up a car, motorcycle and even, heaven forbid, a faster cyclist. It has never been fooled.

Last summer in a different area, there were two cyclists ahead of me starting to slow for an intersection as I was quickly gaining on them. I could tell by the distinctive brightness and flash pattern, one had a Varia as they moved to the far right of the lane. As I passed them, the guy yells out, “I thought you were a car”. That’s how good they are at detecting.
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Old 11-27-23, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
"Easily become fatal". Because slowly overtaking cars are such a grave threat. :eye roll:

Just hold your line, ride predictably, signal your intentions, and turn/take the lane/change lanes when it's safe.
Thanks for that, Captain Obvious.

Originally Posted by choddo
I guess he means if you pull out assuming it's clear without looking.
exactly.
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Old 11-28-23, 09:48 AM
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So I picked up the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt v2 and Varia 715 on Friday, and took the day off to do a metric century yesterday (Monday) after setting them up.

Elemnt Bolt:
- So far, my pre-purchase impressions have been confirmed. I've been riding with a stem mounted cell phone mount, and it's been quite convenient on routes that I'm familiar with. I can tap the screen every so often to check the time, my speed, and accumulated mileage, and I can check my routes anytime I'm stopped. The Wahoo shows all of this on an always-on screen, which is marginally more convenient on already-known routes, but the 2nd half of my route yesterday was fairly fresh - so it was nice to know when the next turn was without having to pull over and pull up the map. Obviously, this relies on me syncing up my Strava routes.
- The Wahoo comes into its own with the radar. The Varia can connect to my iPhone via bluetooth, but given I started the ride at 95% battery and ended at 32% (with Strava tracking the ride, as well as Google Maps sending my location to the wife), having the iPhone's screen on for the whole ride wouldn't have worked. The Wahoo shows the Varia's feed on the left side of the screen, and flashes red as soon as it detects something. The Varia ended the ride at 59%, and allowed me to keep the phone for backup/emergency use - such as sending two texts and buying Powerade.
- A little disappointed in the mounting options included in-box. The stem mount looks like a bodge job, and the out-front mount kinda gets in the way of the brake hose and shifter cable. Additionally, it would've been nice if Wahoo included a $0.03 shim for narrower bars - as is, without an additional trip to the rainforest, I have no way of mounting the Wahoo on the Bianchi with a 26.0mm handlebar clamp.

Varia:
- The Varia 715 is heavy and bulky. I guess this is where battery tech is today - but the seatpost mount is a lot chunkier than I expected. Once on, it's stable on the seatpost, so it's not all bad - but I'd rather Garmin have used some of that shim-space for battery capacity on the unit itself.
- The radar definitely senses cars much further back than I can hear them. On the Wahoo, the radar is displayed as a strip on the left side, with cars on the bottom being far away, and cars at the top just behind you. I can't even see cars at the bottom with a head turn - they're outside of my far-left peripheral vision. I'm able to see (or hear, if they're loud enough) cars when they've reached halfway up the screen. Quite impressed with this. Now, I don't yet know if the radar itself is more useful than a head turn - if they're too far to see by looking behind me, then it's been safe to change lanes. It *is* nice, however, to not have to crane my neck if I already see cars on the head unit, especially if I have to turn my head multiple times to check for multiple cars.
- Haven't yet played with the camera functionality (luckily, I guess), but it's nice to see that it came with a 16GB MicroSD card.
- Battery life could be better. In total, was out for just under 5hrs yesterday, which covered the metric, 3k ft of climbing, and a Clif Bar/Powerade stop. As soon as I stop the ride, the Wahoo tells me that the Varia has low-battery. Now, not a critical issue for me, as most of my rides are around 2hrs, and very few break the 3hr mark. But others do ride metrics (or imperial) centuries on a fairly regular basis, so it would be nice if the next generation could stretch battery life by another hr or two to give slowpokes like me more buffer time to get home.

I've ridden thousands of miles without these things, and I have half a mind to argue the always on screen and the radar chirps actually detract from the pure enjoyment of cycling. But I also have to remember the reason I dropped (not insignificant!) coin on this setup is that I don't live in that idealized world where it's always a sunny 75F with good visibility, a clean and clear bike lane, and drivers that always pass with >10ft of clearance. So maybe not the tools for a perfect world, but good for the one we actually live in.
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Old 11-28-23, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
... The Wahoo shows all of this on an always-on screen, which is marginally more convenient on already-known routes, but the 2nd half of my route yesterday was fairly fresh - so it was nice to know when the next turn was without having to pull over and pull up the map. Obviously, this relies on me syncing up my Strava routes.
- The Wahoo comes into its own with the radar. The Varia can connect to my iPhone via bluetooth, but given I started the ride at 95% battery and ended at 32% (with Strava tracking the ride, as well as Google Maps sending my location to the wife), having the iPhone's screen on for the whole ride wouldn't have worked. ...
I have a Varia 515 but no bike computer, so I have tried two apps on my iPhone 14 Pro Max:
(1) Garmin's own Varia app in foreground, screen always on, Strava running in background: iPhone battery decreases by < 10% per hour.
(2) Ride With GPS app, screen always on, no other apps running: iPhone battery goes from > 90% to < 50% after an approximate two hour ride.
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Old 11-28-23, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
I have a Varia 515 but no bike computer, so I have tried two apps on my iPhone 14 Pro Max:
(1) Garmin's own Varia app in foreground, screen always on, Strava running in background: iPhone battery decreases by < 10% per hour.
(2) Ride With GPS app, screen always on, no other apps running: iPhone battery goes from > 90% to < 50% after an approximate two hour ride.
Tracking on Strava, with the screen off for all but about 5 minutes of the ride, got me from 95% to 32% on my iPhone 13 mini. This was from (about) 11am to just before 4pm. I think that might be the big difference between a mini and a Pro Max - I think the Pro Max has about 2x the battery (2406 mAh vs 4323 mAh), not to mention my iPhone 13 (purchased upon availability) is at least a year older than your phone.

It's also possible that Strava just isn't battery efficient - my old iPhone 6s almost completely drained on a few longer rides a few years back. After 2018 (where I think my battery went from 100% >> teens), I threw a USB battery pack in the saddle bag in 2019 and was able to top up the battery when my buddy was icing his knee at the ~45mi rest stop.

At least now, with the Wahoo, I can track from the head unit and not worry about range anxiety while Strava tracking on my phone.
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Old 11-29-23, 09:48 AM
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One cyclist in my area has a camera conspicuously mounted on top of his helmet. He rides on busy roads in afternoon rush hour (no good choices here) and even when there are no shoulders, he gets plenty of room from motorists.

I think that's better than a rear-facing radar/camera/light that looks only like a light.

People nowadays won't do the right thing unless they think they will get caught. No personal integrity at all.
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