South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in which to ride a bicycle. Unfortunately, it can be also one of the most dangerous. Whether you’re a road cyclist or a mountain biker, there’s a perennial threat of danger on the tar or the trail. There’s smart technology designed to help reduce this risk and potentially save your life. Find out more here.
In 2015 Garmin acquired iKubu Ltd, a South African company that developed a motor vehicle radar warning system for cyclists, now known as the Garmin Varia, which is incorporated into a Smart rear cycling light that warns of vehicles approaching from behind (from up to 140 metres away) and which is unique to Garmin.
Available with the rear light or without, the Garmin Varia radar now also connects to Smartphones via an app and to other non-Garmin devices with the ‘radar’ function.
Last month, a third generation of the Varia was released to the market with Bluetooth, enabling it to connect to the Garmin Varia third party app on Smartphones as well as to GPS devices from brands like Wahoo, Hammerhead and Stages, which have a built-in Radar feature. So now you don’t have to specifically own a Garmin device to be able to use the Varia, making this potentially life-saving technology far more accessible.
Cyclists riding on a public roads are most vulnerable from behind. The Varia reduces the risk of being hit by a car in two ways. The first is the rear light, which is incredibly bright and which is visible to approaching traffic up to 1.6km away (it has solid beam as well as various flashing modes). It also has 220-degree visibility, so is visible not only from directly behind, but also from various approaching angles out of the rider’s line of sight. The objective is to make it difficult for drivers of motor vehicles not to notice the rider.
The second sees the radar in the rear light communicate with your radar-linked device on your handlebar to alert you to approaching vehicles. It detects the difference in speed between rider and approaching vehicle. The greater the difference in speed, the more urgent the rider alerts are – both visual and audio. On the device the visual warning uses dots that denote each detected vehicle as well as colours – green is no approaching vehicles, orange is steadily approaching vehicle and red is fast approaching vehicle.
The Garmin Varia radar detects motor vehicles approaching from behind the rider.
While the Varia is more appropriate for road cyclists and triathletes, it’s also worth considering for mountain bikers that use public roads regularly too.
What is most certainly appropriate for mountain bikers – and roadies and triathletes for that matter – who ride alone regularly, is the Incident Detection function on the Garmin Edge 530 and Garmin Edge 830 devices.
Using a built-in accelerometer, when you come to a sudden stop and remain stationary, it activates an alert SMS to go to your pre-loaded emergency contacts (your compatible Edge device will need to be connected to a compatible smartphone for the feature to be enabled). It gives a 30-second countdown and if you don’t cancel it within that time, the alert SMS goes out with your GPS location. This allows your family or friends to be able to locate you or send your location to emergency services so that they can reach you as fast as possible.
We all ride bicycles for different reasons. But we all want the security and relative freedom to be able to ride with some peace of mind. Suffering trauma, injury or even death is not something we want to consider as bicycle riders. But unfortunately, in South Africa, it’s a reality and reducing the risk could well be one of the best investments you can make.
Paid partnership with Garmin South Africa.