Being out on my bike after dusk, I knew I needed to invest in a quality head light for my road bike. Enter, the Garmin Varia!
Included in the box is the headlight, universal out front mount (more on this later), charging cable, allen key and a set of instructions.
The headlight itself is a lot heavier than it looks. It weighs 221.9 grams on my scale, which is pretty much spot-on with the weight claimed by Garmin of 220 grams. Dimensions of the unit are also ultra portable, measuring 9.2 x 4.8 x 4.0 cm. This allows for easy transportation in your saddle bag or back pack, although it may be a little too bulky for most pockets, and will also probably be a little uncomfortable in your jersey pocket due to the weight.
I was pleasantly surprised with the overall finish of the light. From the pictures it seems to be made from plastic, but the silver on the top is actually metallic, which may help explain the weight. I naively turned on the light in my excitement, and was almost blinded! This thing is very bright, and you truly do risk looking directly at it at your own peril! There is a built-in battery and the light is charged via the included USB to mini-USB cable.
Here is a quick summary table (from the Garmin website) highlighting some of the main features of the Varia headlight.
The light comes with a universal out front mount that allows you to attach both the head light below, and a compatible Garmin Edge unit above. This makes for a very elegant and functional system on your cockpit (handle bar). Installing the mount took only a couple of minutes with the included allen key. There are two rubber inserts provided to form fit to handle bars of varying sizes.
The headlight has three main settings; high beam, low beam and auto, along with a slow-strobe setting. The light is immensely bright, at 600 lumens. This provides positive reassurance that I will definitely be seen on the road by motorists and pedestrians. The great thing about the Varia, and one of the main reasons for my purchase, was the harmonious compatibility with Garmin Edge devices.
I managed to connect the Varia to my Edge in a matter of seconds. You simply press and hold the head light’s button to go into pairing mode, then go to the settings on your Edge, select devices and then Varia. The light can be fully controlled from the Edge’s touchscreen. Switching on the Edge will also activate and turn on the light, and switching the unit off will turn the light off. Furthermore, the light will automatically turn on as dusk approaches during your rides, in sync with the ambient light sensor on the Edge.
Selecting the automatic setting will adjust the light field ahead based on your cycling speed, so when you are riding at slower speeds the light field will be closer (to see potholes and hazards in the road) and cycling at higher speeds will better illuminate the road ahead, as you will be covering ground a lot quicker.
It is still early days and I have to give the Varia a more thorough testing out on the road, but initial thoughts based on the easy connection with my Edge and immense brightness are positive so far. The Varia is definitely not cheap, costing £160, although can be picked up from online retailers (Wiggle) for slightly less. I would probably recommend this to those who already have have a compatible Edge unit to take full advantage of the Varia. I will update this brief review as my experience with the Varia goes on, so stay tuned!