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Knowing what's happening behind the tandem

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Knowing what's happening behind the tandem

Old 07-30-18, 09:10 PM
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124Spider
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Knowing what's happening behind the tandem

Hi,

My stoker is very good at using her mirrors and reporting what's happening behind us. But I'm driving blind, since (i) my eyes don't like helmet-mounted mirrors, and (ii) the little mirrors that mount in the end of the drop handlebars don't see well past two bodies and two sets of churning legs.

I don't like riding on roads, since I have a low opinion of the technical skills of most drivers around here, and I don't want to die at the hands of an incompetent driver. And I'm not real comfortable being blind, even though I have full faith in my stoker--I just feel better knowing myself what's happening, and it's always good to have two sets of eyes on the matter if you can.

So we decided to give the Garmin Varia RTL510 (rear light/radar) a shot. It's a device that seems to divide people; some people scratch their heads as to why one would get this instead of a mirror, while those who are intrigued by it seem universally to like it when they get it.

And we both love it. It reports to both our head units; it has an audible alert, and it's nearly perfect (and it shows multiple cars when there are multiple cars, to about 120 yards behind). "Nearly" means that we have once, in about 100 miles of riding, received a false negative (a vehicle was there and it didn't tell us; there were extenuating circumstances).

It doesn't replace mirrors, at all, but it's a very nice device, doing what it's supposed to do very well (including being a very good rear light, which even flashes more energetically when it detects a car behind us).

I am hoping not to start a stupid debate about whether one "needs" such a device; I'm just reporting that it works very well, and solved a problem for us.

Mark
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Old 07-30-18, 10:12 PM
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My first reaction was that it was an expensive toy, quite useless. But two riders that have one really like it. Effective and useful.

I don't think it's light is all that bright, though.
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Old 07-30-18, 10:27 PM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf View Post
My first reaction was that it was an expensive toy, quite useless. But two riders that have one really like it. Effective and useful.

I don't think it's light is all that bright, though.
At its brightest, it's quite bright. But it won't last a full day's ride at that intensity. But it is supposed to last a full day's ride at the lowest setting, which is always augmented when it detects a car coming from behind.
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Old 07-31-18, 04:21 AM
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The first generation was not very bright and I think Garmin realized that as the new generation is wicked bright. Personally, I will not ride without an eyeglass mounted mirror so I don’t see a need for the expense, but friends that have them love them, plus if they are riding ahead of us we can see when it changes cadence to alert approaching vehicles, though tandems often are detected by this thing ��*♂️
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Old 07-31-18, 05:57 AM
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We Blackburn/Rhodes Gear oval mirrors. My stoker gets one for all the obvious reasons. I have much more experience riding on the road and don't like being blinded like you. I use one that straps to the hood (oval shaped, much bigger than a helment mirror) to check for drivers who might be risky. Both of us are happier that way.

She gets to manage things like lane changes and turns.

I use my mirror to assuage my spider senses.
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Old 07-31-18, 06:48 AM
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I've tried handlebar mounted mirrors and found that I can't reliably discern what is going on behind. I've never tried an electronic rear-sensing device.

I do use an eyeglass mounted mirror (Take-A-Look). I started using this only on group rides but now I feel naked without it. I can tell with a quick glance immediately what is going on behind and often take the whole traffic lane if the coast is clear.

If I forget and leave the mirror at home I feel very exposed on the ride. I don't have to remember to charge it and it has never failed.
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Old 07-31-18, 07:33 AM
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We ride on city streets a lot. If we are going to invest in equipment like that, it doesn't sound like it would be very helpful unless it was a camera that showed me (captain) what is behind us. Otherwise, we would get a red light a lot with the Garmin Varia RTL510, right?
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Old 07-31-18, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by jethro00 View Post
We ride on city streets a lot. If we are going to invest in equipment like that, it doesn't sound like it would be very helpful unless it was a camera that showed me (captain) what is behind us. Otherwise, we would get a red light a lot with the Garmin Varia RTL510, right?
I'm not sure what you're asking here. If you're wondering how useful the Varia is in the city, I would say "not very."
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Old 07-31-18, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
At its brightest, it's quite bright. But it won't last a full day's ride at that intensity. But it is supposed to last a full day's ride at the lowest setting, which is always augmented when it detects a car coming from behind.
During the day, I want drivers to notice me far up the road, so they can have time to decide how to deal with the cyclist ahead. When they get close, they can see me anyway. Even at night, it's both the flashing and all the reflective bits that the drivers notice.

I have a Cygolite Hotshot Pro 150. During the day, it's on a "two bright flashes per second" mode. (Or on once per second on flat, straighter roads.) This is bright enough for direct sunlight, and very effective on mixed sun and shadows when riding through wooded areas. It lasts for at least 10 hours. At night, that flash is perhaps too bright, so I switch to a progressive bright-dim loop that should be less annoying to drivers.
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Old 07-31-18, 02:51 PM
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I've used the Take-A-Look mirror for several years. They have a classic and mini version. Make sure you try both and try a couple different mounting positions (ie distance from your eyeball). I find one of the styles to work well and the other to be terrible. Anyway it'd be cheaper to try the other style before spending beaucoup bucks on the radar.
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Old 08-02-18, 05:39 PM
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Agree with the Take-A-Look mirror. Made in USA and have been using the same one for several years. They do not break like the plastic once. Can't ride without it!
Pedal on TWOgether!
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Old 08-03-18, 07:38 PM
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I am glad that the Garmin is working well for you. The point is to have the awareness, however you get it. I have tried all sorts of mirrors, and then found the RearViz which is an adjustable wrist mirror. It is an Australian product that we purchase on Amazon, and find it stable, intuitive and easy to use. And by far the best of the mirror class, in our experience. We each use one on the tandem, and I no longer ride without it. And it folds flat when not needed, ie coffee time. We have found that it always helps if the overtaking cars have their headlights on, in that you can pick them out much earlier. This probably applies to all mirrors.
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Old 08-03-18, 08:33 PM
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My stoker and I both use Take a Look mirrors.
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Old 08-11-18, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by EthanBixby View Post
We have found that it always helps if the overtaking cars have their headlights on, in that you can pick them out much earlier. This probably applies to all mirrors.
EB
Not just mirrors, in all ways. But ... why even mention it?! Sorry, it might seem like I am picking on you but I am trying to save lives. A couple in our tandem club ran a $10,000K Santana into a left turning car completely destroying the tandem and causing minor damage to the car, but thankfully, neither Captain or Stoker were seriously injured. Interestingly, the Captain made the same observation you did: "if the car had had its headlights on ..."!!! You can't control what another person does or does not do so you CANNOT use that logic as a defense when spit happens. As long as it remains legal to operate in daylight without head and/or running lights then cyclists and other road users MUST learn to operate safely without regard to what other road users do or don't do. Which IMO also means not even mentioning the obvious. Freeing the subconscious from the fallback of 'its the other guys fault' puts the onus for safety squarely on oneself and oneself alone. Take that extra second before you commit to a turn or other maneuver to make sure an unlighted motorist isn't in the traffic stream. FWIW.
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Old 08-11-18, 02:12 PM
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I got friendly with the staff and owner of our local LBS and one day one of the staff said to me that they love tandem owners because they are the only ones that buy the Shimano Flightdecks (they were new at the time) that they sell, and often x2. And that at tandem rallies they could sell all kinds of bike bling to tandem owners that otherwise sat in the store. They insisted that tandems are the most blinged out of all bikes on the road. They would know. But I know that a basic helmet mirror works for me on a tandem exactly like it does on my singles. If I want, I can see my stoker in the mirror, but usually I don't, so I don't. As long as my hearing remains at its present level of acuity it is a very reliable long and medium range sensor for monitoring what happens behind the tandem. Or single. I've said before on this or other forums: NASA spacecraft use mirrors (and windows) even in the presence of triply redundant electronic imaging systems. A window on a spacecraft is a huge risk to the occupants of the spacecraft but it is worth that risk and the collateral engineering costs because direct visual observation remains the Gold Standard of reliability even in the 21st Century. At Battle Mountain and other HPV events the vehicles that rely on electronic visual systems ALWAYS experience a breakdown of the equipment and if the craft cannot be used without it, it has to be removed from competition. Unless someone gives one to me as a gift (unlikely) I will never know how useful a Varia can be. I'm sure it is neat to have. But is it necessary? I should think not. Most of us continue to do well enough without one.
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Old 08-11-18, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
I am hoping not to start a stupid debate about whether one "needs" such a device; I'm just reporting that it works very well, and solved a problem for us.
One of the imponderables of the internet is the way people insist on "debating" the non-debatable. I was quite clear that I wasn't interested in "debating" the relative merits of a mirror vs. the radar; I fully understand that most people find a mirror to be perfectly adequate. All I was doing to reporting on a very interesting tool, that some find very useful.

But, no, some people have to "debate." Have at it, I guess, but it's pretty silly.

Mark
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Old 08-11-18, 03:24 PM
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Our division of labor is Captain looks forward, Stoker looks back. Stoker navigates, alerts for traffic back and to the right and relays Garmin information if requested. Captain looks forward and to traffic left. I have a Garmin data screen up if there's some info I need immediately, but I don't change screens, don't mess with it. Stuff happens way too fast. and the tandem responds too slowly at best. Captain has a mirror, but almost never uses it. I don't think it's silly at all, quite the contrary. If Stoker had a separate and large enough video screen to the rear, combined with a camera, that would be useful.
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Old 08-11-18, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Our division of labor is Captain looks forward, Stoker looks back. Stoker navigates, alerts for traffic back and to the right and relays Garmin information if requested. Captain looks forward and to traffic left. I have a Garmin data screen up if there's some info I need immediately, but I don't change screens, don't mess with it. Stuff happens way too fast. and the tandem responds too slowly at best. Captain has a mirror, but almost never uses it. I don't think it's silly at all, quite the contrary. If Stoker had a separate and large enough video screen to the rear, combined with a camera, that would be useful.
Agreed; our stoker does all that sort of stuff, also. She relies mostly on her mirrors; but the radar overlay on each of our Garmin head units, on the right margin on all screens (so not blocking anything else) is an excellent way for both of us to have an easy view of what's happening. It's easy to make a mistake and miss that there's a car there; with both of us seeing live data on the screen, and stoker seeing in her mirrors, the probability of a mistake is reduced.
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Old 08-11-18, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
Agreed; our stoker does all that sort of stuff, also. She relies mostly on her mirrors; but the radar overlay on each of our Garmin head units, on the right margin on all screens (so not blocking anything else) is an excellent way for both of us to have an easy view of what's happening. It's easy to make a mistake and miss that there's a car there; with both of us seeing live data on the screen, and stoker seeing in her mirrors, the probability of a mistake is reduced.
We just had a friend get struck from behind, on purpose, hit and run. It was very early morning, almost dark, no other traffic on the road, bike or car. Our friend was well-lit. He heard a vehicle behind him, checked his mirror and the car was giving him the proper space. Next thing he knew, the car's mirror struck him from behind, hard enough to tear the mirror off the car. Toyota, he thought. The car did not stop, but later returned and retrieved the mirror after my friend had unwisely left the scene on his bike. He was not concussed. I think the mirror hit hit his bar end. He later realized his bar was broken on that side.

So good idea to be able to watch back! And obviously front cameras are useless. What Garmins are you folks using? Sorry if you've already said.
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Old 08-11-18, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
We just had a friend get struck from behind, on purpose, hit and run. It was very early morning, almost dark, no other traffic on the road, bike or car. Our friend was well-lit. He heard a vehicle behind him, checked his mirror and the car was giving him the proper space. Next thing he knew, the car's mirror struck him from behind, hard enough to tear the mirror off the car. Toyota, he thought. The car did not stop, but later returned and retrieved the mirror after my friend had unwisely left the scene on his bike. He was not concussed. I think the mirror hit hit his bar end. He later realized his bar was broken on that side.

So good idea to be able to watch back! And obviously front cameras are useless. What Garmins are you folks using? Sorry if you've already said.
We each have a Garmin Edge 520. Garmin says the radar will overlay on all their head units, even the little ones.

Here's a good review, with video, of the unit we bought:
https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2018/04/...th-review.html
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Old 08-12-18, 12:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
We just had a friend get struck from behind, on purpose, hit and run. It was very early morning, almost dark, no other traffic on the road, bike or car. Our friend was well-lit. He heard a vehicle behind him, checked his mirror and the car was giving him the proper space. Next thing he knew, the car's mirror struck him from behind, hard enough to tear the mirror off the car. Toyota, he thought. The car did not stop, but later returned and retrieved the mirror after my friend had unwisely left the scene on his bike. He was not concussed. I think the mirror hit hit his bar end. He later realized his bar was broken on that side.

So good idea to be able to watch back! And obviously front cameras are useless. What Garmins are you folks using? Sorry if you've already said.
I get that it was a hit and run, but ... on purpose? Do you know what Toyota wing mirrors cost?? I'm guessing not. I DOUBT that driver deliberately set up to break off a very expensive wing mirror (even on a Corrolla) on a total strangers bike when they could have ... ... Occam's Razor. I don't know exactly what happened there, but ... I'm having a hard time understanding your point. Your friend had a mirror. Used it. Got hit anyway. The radar is different?
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Old 08-12-18, 12:33 AM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
One of the imponderables of the internet is the way people insist on "debating" the non-debatable. I was quite clear that I wasn't interested in "debating" the relative merits of a mirror vs. the radar; I fully understand that most people find a mirror to be perfectly adequate. All I was doing to reporting on a very interesting tool, that some find very useful.

But, no, some people have to "debate." Have at it, I guess, but it's pretty silly.
One of the imponderables of the Internet is how people insist on making a potentially debatable point of information and then front loading any possible discussion with the proviso that they do not want counter-argument to their POV. It is impossible to ask a baby not to cry and it is impossible to discuss the merits of backward looking radar (for bicycles) without reference to standard mirrors. To expect otherwise is ... well, this thread is exactly that.
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Old 08-12-18, 01:08 AM
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I am just wondering what the point of this device is?
You can usually hear approaching cars anyway and if you are concerned about bad/distracted drivers it won't tell you if they are online to rear end you.
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Old 08-12-18, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
I get that it was a hit and run, but ... on purpose? Do you know what Toyota wing mirrors cost?? I'm guessing not. I DOUBT that driver deliberately set up to break off a very expensive wing mirror (even on a Corrolla) on a total strangers bike when they could have ... ... Occam's Razor. I don't know exactly what happened there, but ... I'm having a hard time understanding your point. Your friend had a mirror. Used it. Got hit anyway. The radar is different?
I'm sorry if my post was perhaps too subtle for BF.

For the rest of it, I doubt it occurred to the hit-and-run driver that they might lose a mirror in the process of taking out a hated "Get off the road!" cyclist. What an opportunity with no one in sight. Or perhaps they were just texting as they drove along in the dark, which seems to me less likely.
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Old 08-12-18, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
One of the imponderables of the Internet is how people insist on making a potentially debatable point of information and then front loading any possible discussion with the proviso that they do not want counter-argument to their POV. It is impossible to ask a baby not to cry and it is impossible to discuss the merits of backward looking radar (for bicycles) without reference to standard mirrors. To expect otherwise is ... well, this thread is exactly that.
Ah, reading comprehension; a lost skill.

I don't have a "point of view." I don't care (as I made clear) if you (or anyone else) finds the radar to be useful. As I also made clear (see, it's that reading comprehension thing again; you should try it), I understand that most people will find a mirror to be perfectly adequate.

As I also made clear (reading comprehension is a good thing), my entire purpose was to report, for those who find the idea intriguing, that it works as advertised. Not to debate its usefulness to those who cannot imagine why one would want it.

Don't want one? Then don't get one! What a concept!

See, that's not really so hard. Give it a try!

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