Dot the eye.
Over the past several years, Garmin has gradually developed an impressive arsenal of cycling sensor hardware. Examples range from the Edge cycling computers to the Varia radar system and even the lifestyle wearable, the Vivoactive HR. With the Varia Vision, Garmin has finally given the truly tech-savvy cyclist the ability to centralize all of the information produced by these devices in the most convenient location: right in your line of vision.
The Varia Vision mounts on either arm of your sunglasses and syncs wirelessly with the above-mentioned Garmin sensors, GPS computers, and fitness tracking wearables. When all of these systems are brought to bear, the Varia Vision's unobtrusive 428 x 240 pixel display maintains a steady stream of route and biometric data with up to four data fields at a given time.
These fields include the usual computer stuff (speed, distance traveled, heart rate, and the like) plus notifications about vehicles approaching from behind and segments or route waypoints approaching from ahead. It also displays navigational prompts, eliminating the frantic guesswork involved in looking down a bar-mounted GPS unit, looking up to try to identify the turn-off point, looking down again to verify, looking up to — well, you get the idea.
The unit weighs a paltry claimed 29.7g, so it's easy to acclimate to wearing it, and it has a waterproof rating of IPX7, so it's more than equal to sudden rainstorms during the unpredictable weather of shoulder season rides. It connects to Garmin's army of devices by Ant+, and is packaged with mounting hardware, a charging cable, and a manual to help you sync it with your Garmin devices. Please note that Garmin's list of compatible devices is limited to the following: Edge 1000, Edge 520, Varia Rearview Radar, and Vivoactive HR.
- Compatible only with: Garmin Edge 1000, Edge 520, Varia Rearview Radar, and Vivoactive HR
- Delivered with mounting hardware, charging cable, and manual
- IPX7 water-resistant rating
- Mounts to either arm of any sunglasses
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Reviews & Community
Watch the Road, not your Computer
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
I use this in combination with every single silly bit of tech I can get (minus a power meter, since I have a lot of bikes), so bear in mind I love this stuff.
I use a Garmin Edge 1000, a Shimano D-Fly (to get data off my Di2 shifters), and a Garmin Varia Rearview Radar. The Vision completes the package and I love it. If you use the Radar, you get an indication (haptic buzz + visual data) when a car comes up behind you. This alone is worth the purchase, although I find that I no longer look down at my cycling computer very often and so enjoy the scenery more, which seals the deal for me.
You can display four fields on the screen, and I display speed, cadence, heart rate, and rear cassette position, which is all I need. Gone are the (for me) frequent glances at my cassette or front chainrings, the sometimes-dangerous checking of speed when going downhill, and near-constant looking at my computer to check my heart rate.
Even if all you use this for is HR and speed, you still will spend less time looking down. They call this kind of thing a Heads-Up Display (HUD) for a reason.
Great Piece of kit!
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
I've had the Varia Vision for about a month and use it at four or five days a week. The thing works wonderfully and with the hills here in north GA, it works great to make sure I don't run my heart rate up too high keeping me from bonking before the end of the ride. I ride with maps/navigation running on the Garmin 820 and stats (heart rate, power distance and duration) on the headset - works great!
- Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
At this writing I have used this device for about an hour so I might change my mind. That said, first off, it was very easy to mount this to my Uvex 104 Sunglasses. It was also easy to adjust the screen so that it was easily visible without obstructing my view. The device readily paired with my Edge 520, programming the display was also straightforward (didn't need to RTFM).
While I do not intend to write a detailed review (as others have done so already, e.g. http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/01/garmin-varia-vision-hud.html), I will say that I found the device to be very helpful and easy to use while riding. So far what I have found most useful is to be able to easily track my cadence, speed, power and heart rate simultaneously.
This allows me to better pace myself (not work to little nor too much) to the extent that on the first hour out, on a day that I really did not feel like riding, I was able to improve my best 20 minute average power without *feeling* like I did.
Some will say that it is easy to look at the cycling computer when riding, but I find that there are plenty of cases when it is not so easy (like being in the drops in a decent or standing climbing at my limit and any especially at night). I find that being able to look at the display in such cases to be very helpful. Additionally, I find the display to completely readable in both bright day light (heading into the sun) or at night -- much easier to see than the Edge 520 display.
tl;dr -- I believe that for me, the Varia Vision will be a very helpful training aid and will improve my riding performance.
EDIT: The software update to 2.40 (that I was *NOT* allowed to decline) wiped out the Varia Vision setup. I don't think this is appropriate for a $400 device (plus the $300 for the Edge 520 that the Vision requires). If I spend $700 on a gadget that is not absolutely required to ride, I think that I should expect a bit better behavior. Some people don't spend $700 on their entire bikes...