Wahoo ELEMNT Review
efore I start this review I’m going to outline my very biased position in the GPS market. I am an avid Garmin fan – I have an Edge 1000 (And started off using the Edge 800) and I also own two Garmin watches. What I’m trying to say is I am well engrained into Garmin’s ecosystem and therefore the idea of trying a different bike computer hadn’t even crossed my mind… Until I tried the Wahoo ELEMNT.
When you first pick up the ELEMNT you’ll notice it doesn’t quite have the sleek design of a Garmin (although I think its little brother the Wahoo Bolt is superior in looks to any Garmin), but what the ELEMNT lacks in looks it certainly makes up for in performance!
In the box you get three mounts (On stem, Out front and TT) meaning you won’t have to spend extra money on mounts which can cost up to £40 for an equivalent quality mount. You also get the usual gubbins (charging cable, user manuals…)
So, lets start with the set up of the ELEMNT. It’s simple! Actually it’s about as simple as its ever going to get with a bike computer, purely because the majority of it is done via your smartphone. To begin you only need to download the ELEMNT App from your smartphones App store, start the ELEMNT up, scan the QR code on the ELEMNT with the App on your phone and ‘Hey presto’ you’re in. Now you just enter some basic info (Height, Weight… ect) on the App and you’re ready to roll. Controlling the ELEMNT solely from your smartphone means there is no fiddling around with the endless customisation pages on a lacklustre touchscreen, or worse still with buttons, to get the set up the pages you want (my least favourite feature of Garmin). Instead you simply set the data fields you want up, as well as features such as auto pause and auto lap, all from your phone and then it’s immediately synced to your smartphone. This makes customisation easy and intuitive initially, although if you ever want to change pages while you’re on the bike then you do have to get out your smartphone (something I sometimes do when following a route – I often put up Distance to destination).
The connectivity of your smartphone also means you get one of the most controversial features of modern cycling included – Start notifications. This means that if you want to receive Calls, Texts and Emails on your bike you can do it. Alternatively if you use your bike as an escape from a stressful world then you’ll be happy to know you can turn them off.
In my opinion one of the main downsides of the ELEMNT is the lack of touchscreen, a feature that is engrained into my use of cycle computes from always having one (many a time I lost my patience tapping a screen that was never going to react to my fingers – something I know I could get use to though). But on the plus side the lack of touchscreen means the computer doesn’t self-customize in the rain, which Garmins have been known to do while they mistake gathering puddles on the screen for fingers. My major criticism of the Wahoo before I demoed it was the lack of colour screen, such a basic feature that you can get on cheaper bike computers. But this is a blessing in disguise. The more matted black and white screen makes it much easier to see when sunlight hits the screen, and although when navigating you don’t have the clear pink line to follow as you do on the Garmin, it’s still pretty clear on the ELEMNT map to follow.
Instead of a touchscreen there are buttons on the device for adding a lap, pausing and changing pages along the bottom and power on/off and Zoom in/out on the sides. The simplicity of the buttons makes it easy to get used to, although I still prefer a touchscreen. I was using the computer out in Mallorca so I didn’t get the chance to use it with thick gloves, but I can imagine the buttons becoming a bit of an issue in deep winter as they are placed next to each other so it could be easy to accidently press one while trying to press another. The Wahoo isn’t alone in this though as it is a problem found on touchscreen devices such as the Edge 1000 too.
Now for navigation – When you use Garmins in a new location they often take an age to locate satellites, by which time you’re Non-Garmin mates are already enjoying a Café con Leche in the local town. As expected with a high end bike computer the GPS tracked accurately and never dropped out.
Where the Wahoo’s smartphone connectivity really comes into action is when you want to download routes to the ELEMNT (or Bolt). You simply create your route on Strava or Ride with GPS and as long as you’ve linked the Wahoo app to one of said sites (very easy to do) your new route gets pushed automatically to your device, no more faffing around with cables! As I said previously it’s fairly easy to follow a route on the computer. You also have turn by turn navigation through flashing lights on the top of the device (Not quite the Sat nav quality you get with a Garmin but still good enough). If you do stray off course you get some clear red flashing lights at the top of the device, but you don’t get recalculation to get back on course like you do get on Garmin – No problem, just don’t go wrong!
A nice quirky feature of the ELEMNT is the climbing page which will inform you of upcoming gradients of your route giving you the edge over your Garmin mates.
You get some of the cool tracking features of a Garmin with the Wahoo such as live track (where your friends and family can track your location from the comfort of their living room) as well as your Wahoo riding friends being able to track your location while they’re riding too (a feature that is slightly pointless until the market is more saturated with Wahoo users). You also get Strava live segments which shows you when a segment starts and how far behind/ahead you are on a segment (I’m sure it’d be the latter).
Of course the Wahoo is ANT+ and Bluetooth meaning you can connect you’re power meters, Heart rate monitors and cadence sensors, all of which were extremely easy to pair. You can also connect to your Di2/eTap groupsets allowing you to view what gear you’re in and how much battery you have remaining (a luxury I don’t own so couldn’t try out).
Now for the deal breakers – The Wahoo has a battery life far far superior to Garmins With a claimed 16 hours compared to the Edge 1000’s claimed 15 hours, the difference is the Wahoo’s is realistically only a couple of hours less then claimed whereas the Edge 1000 has a max battery of under 9 hours without navigation (I tested it yesterday.. 8h22m).
Secondly is the price – The ELEMNT starts from £249 (and the Bolt, it’s baby brother with all the features and a smaller shell at £199) vs the Edge 1000’s £499. Half the price??
I can understand that those who’re already using a Garmin may be reluctant to change through habit of always ‘buying a Garmin’ (maybe I’m in this category), as such Wahoo will have their work cut out to convert this crowd. However, those willing to make the switch or looking to make a new purchase with no preconceptions, will find that the Wahoo ELEMNT has a lot to offer, put bluntly the Wahoo, whether it be the ELEMNT or the Bolt, is far superior as a package.