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Trek Enters the Radar Game With CarBack Bike Radar

Trek Carback installed back
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Trek is on a tear this year, with many new products slightly outside their comfort zone (looking at you CHRGTime). The two products are slightly different than what we expect from the bike manufacturer but happily welcomed.

Trek CarBack Radar — What is It?

CarBack_OnSaddle
Image: Trek

By now, we all know how bike radars work; if not, let me crudely explain. The radar detects a vehicle while mounted on the seatpost or saddle. When detected, the radar sends a signal to your head unit or phone and alerts the rider of the approaching vehicle. The head unit or phone will audibly let the rider know through a series of “beeps” of the approaching vehicle. Some head units will show the vehicle’s progress approaching on the side of the screen.

Trek Carback installed Road bike
Photo: Villella

Now that we know what it is and how it works let’s discuss how the Trek CarBack unit addresses radar use and safety.

The new Trek CarBack unit boasts a slew of features, some best in class, including spotting rear-approaching vehicles up to 240m (not km – thanks everyone!). Like other radars on the market, the CarBack runs an any-time visual light that can be seen up to 2km away.

Trek Carback installed full bacl
Photo: Villella

Riders can choose between a daytime running light with focused optics and an interruptive flash pattern for light patterns—solid lights-on or no-light mode. Users can toggle through these via their head unit or smartphone.

Smartphone Integration

Trek CarBack_USB_V2
Image: Trek

CarBack works with GPS head units and Smartphones, so you don’t need a cycling computer to enjoy the safety on your ride into town. For smartphone use, Trek offers a new Accessory App, and riders can choose between audible and visual alerts and can see the exact location of approaching vehicles in real-time.

The unit itself is robust and compact, with ample water-proof features. It is also light enough (100g on our scale) to attach to a seat bag or seatpost without taking up too much real estate.

Trek Carback installed green lights
Photo: Villella

Battery life is a major deal for radars because if they run out, you’re out of luck for some extra protection. The Trek CarBack uses a neat, visible battery gauge. The gauge has a four-bar LED battery indicator. This visual aid is much better (IMO) for seeing the charge than checking your headunit. Plus, when the head unit (or phone) senses the CarBack, it lights up, letting you know the battery status.

Trek CarBack Radar Features:

  • Daytime Running Light visible from up to 2km
  • Radar for rear-approaching vehicle detection up to 240m
  • ANT+ is compatible with all significant GPS head units
  • Visible power gauge
  • USB-C rechargeable
  • The Trek Accessory app allows compatibility with phone
  • Compact design better fits on more bikes
  • Simple, versatile mount works with aero seat posts
  • Weight: 100g with attachment piece
  • MSRP: $200.00

Trek CarBack First Impressions

Trek Carback installed top
Photo: Villella

If it’s safety-related, I’m in, especially if it’s for road riding. The roads are so dangerous that sometimes it’s tough just getting out. The addition of a radar to my daily riding has helped ease some of that anxiety. I was an early adopter of the radar game. I purchased one as soon as it came out and have been an advocate ever since. New units pop up every now and then, but they rarely stand up to the Garmin Varia that I hold as the test bar.

Unboxing and Mounting

Trek Carback installed full bacl
Photo: Villella

The Trek CarBack is a compact rectangular unit, a departure from the long-range used by Bryton and Garmin. Its compact design and light weight make it easy to mount on many road and off-road bikes. I find that the heavy radar units move around on gravel and off-road rides, so a lighter unit is appreciated.

Trek Carback installed weight
Photo: Villella

The mount that comes with the unit is the “standard” Trek mount with a gummy strap. The strap is long enough to wrap around many different-shaped seat posts, are included. I like the gummy-style straps, but only when they work. The wire-style after-market ones from KOM Cycling are my favorite. I’ve used them with my Garmin Varia for years with no issues.

Pairing

Trek Carback installed mountain side
Photo: Villella

The CarBack is flawless (or has been thus far). Pairing it with my Garmin 1080 Solar was easy. The unit’s functionality is as described, and it’s loud. I like the battery life indicator on the side of the unit. It’s nice to see when you’re off the bike for a quick break.

Regarding detecting cars, I felt the CarBack was on par or quicker than the units I’ve used. The detection is accurate, and the same is true of the approaching speed of the cars. The battery life is solid, and I’ve yet to run the unit fully. Since the addition of the Trek Charger Station, I’ve vowed to charge my gear more often. The retail price of $200 is slightly less than the competitors.

Final Impressions

Trek Carback installed mtb
Photo: Villella

If you’re looking at radars, there are many good options. The best one is the one you use and keep charged. The Trek CarBack has many features that I like, especially its size and weight. It’s an excellent option for someone who likes radar safety and wants to take the unit from bike to bike quickly. The ability to use the Trek Accessory App is an excellent addition to the unit’s usability. If you’re thinking about a radar, they are worth it: peace, peace, and safety. The Trek CarBack comes highly recommended and performs at the top tire with units like the Garmin Varira.

Trekbikes.com

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29 Comments
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Champs
Champs
1 month ago

The app connectivity is also useful for more basic head that can at least pair with your phone for notifications.

I am as sure that the units are not kilometers as I am that there is a vehicle approaching me, in bed, from somewhere within 240km, but it is below the horizon. Meters, maybe?

GJM
GJM
1 month ago

you say it can detect cars 240km away. That’s almost 150 niles! Incredible!

Robin
Robin
1 month ago
Reply to  GJM

It makes you wonder what ill effects those intense radio emissions will have on riders drafting someone using this.

Robin
Robin
1 month ago
Reply to  Robin

Note: the ill effects in question come from being right behind a radar unit that can detect cars out to 240 km, which of course this unit can’t. There are of course no ill effects from being behind realistic bike radar units. It’s only the ones with the imaginary 245 km detection range, i.e. the MiG-25 rabbit-killing radars that are of concern.

Robin
Robin
1 month ago
Reply to  Robin

The MiG-25’s radar had a detection range of 100 km and was documented to have killed rabbits (Victor Belenko, defecting MiG-25 pilot). That means that a bike radar with a 240km detection range would be more powerful, intense, and likely able to render your riding mate’s innards well done in short order.

thrawed
thrawed
1 month ago
Reply to  Robin

It can’t be that intense if it’s able to run for 7 hours off a 2000mAh cell.

Mike
Mike
1 month ago

How many simultaneous vehicles can it detect?

Darth
Darth
1 month ago

No specs at all or useage comments about battery life??????????????

Bryce
Bryce
1 month ago

seems much larger than the varia. If they add the ability to see vehicle speed from the app, that’s a big advantage over the varia. I’ve got a varia, but no dedicated gps unit, just use Google maps…but having the varia through he app it “cannot” give the vehicle speed to the smart phone (big air quotes there)

Laz
Laz
1 month ago

Always expect a vehicle is behind unless you checked in a mirror* or looked back and saw nothing in threatening position….how/who is to prove your device failed/was misaligned etc. when you’re dead? It’s russian roulette to gamble on the road- it can be bad enough as it is- play safe.

(* not to be endorsing any name-brand product/device; out in rural areas I wear a small mirror attached to my glasses which with a quick sweep back shows me if I’m clear or not; there are helmet mounted ones as well- in the city I dont bother with the mirror as it can block peripheral vision of an oncoming lane and there is always a vehicle behind)

Rainer
Rainer
1 month ago
Reply to  Laz

Well I thought bike radars where a gimmick, and I do have cycling glasses with an integrated mirror (Trieye, won’t ride without them) but the radar with audio and visual warning on the head unit has added another level of protection when one forgets to check their behind constantly. Especially true on (country) roads with infrequent traffic. The radar is definitely worth the investment.

B@se
B@se
1 month ago
Reply to  Laz

besides that, Trek/bnt is known for very secure electronic devises. Remember the recall on the flare or ion lights in the past. not to mention the fender lights on some models a few years ago. Would not like it to see that such a rear light would fail during ride and people would trust it over their own eyes.

Roadiedude
Roadiedude
1 month ago

I believe you mean Garmin 1040 solar rather than 1080.

ismo
ismo
1 month ago

Garmin 1080 Solar?

Mark Beaver
1 month ago
Reply to  ismo

Yep, I had to look that up too

Alex V
Alex V
1 month ago

Interesting product in that it uses a Texas Instruments automotive radar transceiver @ 76 GHz. Other bike radars on the market have used 24 GHz ISM chips. Probably a bit higher power consumption but enables more TX and RX channels due to smaller antenna elements, so you can do much more interesting signal processing in similar housing sizes.

OET List Exhibits Report (fcc.gov)

froze
froze
1 month ago

People need to stop buying this sort of technology because it doesn’t do anything better than a mirror would! These units don’t tell you if a car is on a collision course with you, they just tell you a car is coming, you would get better notification with a mirror. Even “IF” if did provide notification of an impending collision, how much time would it give, and where would you go? over a cliff? crashing into a curb? only to find out after you did that the car swerved away! Buy a mirror instead, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper. But I know, there technical geeks out there who have to have everything and anything with technology in it.

Henry
Henry
1 month ago
Reply to  froze

A mirror only works if you’re looking at it. Radar provides an audible alert, so you can keep your eyes safely on the road ahead.

satanas
satanas
1 month ago
Reply to  Henry

Radar will only tell you that there’s a motor vehicle behind – not what that vehicle is doing. A mirror will show the vehicle’s trajectory. In reality both are useful, and the mirror isn’t going to run out of batteries.

Robin
Robin
1 month ago
Reply to  satanas

And the radar doesn’t stop looking. A human can’t look continuously. Radar doesn’t forget to look. Humans do. Radar doesn’t get distracted. Humans do.
And for the Luddites, when that radar indicates a car coming from behind, guess what the human can do? They can look!.

David
David
1 month ago
Reply to  satanas

I use both .. I have trieye glasses -the mirror is mounted directly to the sunglasses .. it’s great and clear .. and an old 69.00 garmin radar .. the garmin tells about the car and then I look in mirror to see what this car is doing ..

Fzf
Fzf
1 month ago
Reply to  froze

What you say is simply incorrect. You cannot watch a rear view mirror at all times, but these units can watch at all times. Even as just a simple reminder of when to check your rearview when you might not they are very useful.

Gary P
Gary P
1 month ago
Reply to  froze

I use a mirror AND Varia Radar in combination. There are plenty of times when the Varia makes me aware of an approaching car before I see it in the mirror.

Bumscag
Bumscag
28 days ago
Reply to  froze

I bet you drive a Tesla on full autopilot, don’t you?

Pieman
Pieman
28 days ago

Can’t I just use my ears? Or does everyone else have headphones on whilst pedalling?

Elliot
Elliot
27 days ago

Is there any way to adjust the volume of the warning? I have a Garmin Edge 830. My friends have Varia’s and they seem really loud (and annoying in a group).

Graps
Graps
7 days ago

Just watched a YouTube review. 240m is wishful thinking. Will pick up a buss but not a car at 240m. Also has a very narrow beam so does not pick up vehicles on a curvey road.

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