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Garmin Varia front light review

Garmin Varia front
11 Jan 2016

The Garmin Varia light is probably smarter than most of us.

Cyclist Rating: 
Smart features and adjustability
Battery not the best

On a mission to make us safer, Garmin recently released a range of smart accessories including the Varia front light. The £160 price tag infers excellence and first impressions do not disappoint – the construction quality seems reassuringly robust and promises a longevity to justify its cost. At 220g, the headlight is quite bulky considering its middling 600 lumen output, but is not surprising when you take into account what the light is able to do with those lumens. The Varia uses ANT+ to pair with a Garmin Edge 1000 or 520, utilising the Edge’s GPS to adjust its beam angle depending on your speed.

In practice the feature is intuitive and noticeably useful, as a ‘dip-beam’ function operates automatically when cars approach to prevent the powerful beam dazzling oncoming drivers. Further, the Varia uses an Edge’s light-sensor, to strengthen the beam as ambient light decreases. This automatic adaptability represents a true step forward in illumination technology, but the trade-off is a mediocre battery life.

Garmin Varia mounted

The headlight’s 2.5 hours at high power (5 hours flashing) is manageable if you keep on top of charging but the small, side status light does not make it clear when the battery is low, so there is a risk of being caught short if you don’t keep organized.

There is the option to purchase a mountable remote to control the lights should you want to override the smart settings on the fly. There is also a matching rear light available with the front in a set. The lights are water resistant (but not waterproof) so they should stand up to all but the worst of British weather. If you don’t mind charging your lights frequently, and want a robust light with an impressive level of automation, the Garmin Varia could be the system for you.

At a glance

Garmin Varia infographic

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