Wahoo ELEMNT Review
The last cycle computer you will ever need.
Navigation on the bike for us is key. When we are doing Journeys we don't want there to be any doubt or confusion which turning to take.
We also like to know the stats as well, other than knowing how long we have left whilst we are on the ride, these stats allow us to be a little geeky afterwards!
When doing some research on which bike computer to buy you are ultimately going to pick one of two brands; Wahoo or Garmin.
Garmin are probably the most well known GPS navigation company on the market. Growing up they dominated car sat-nav choice, and were known as the go-to for anything with a satellite.
The products they had available had good reviews with similar features as the Wahoo. But there was ultimately two main factors which the Wahoo seemed to do better than the Garmin; battery life and usability.
I'll go into detail on the battery life in more detail when we get into the review properly, and will instead explain what was the clincher for me not picking the Garmin. On a number of reviews it mentioned that the touch screen capability and practicality in the wet did not function well, and would make it hard for the unit to detect your finger and the commands you requested.
Now a few years before this I bought a second hand Garmin GPS running watch. Part of the features was a touch screen scroll wheel on the outside of the main 'clock-face' so to speak. In the dry it worked well to navigate around the settings or between screens.
However, as soon as l introduced any sweat, or ran in the rain, it was absolutely useless. I would be running and if there was any sweat or rain and I didn't lock the sensor, the watch would just be scrolling through all the options continuously. This ultimately meant that during any run I couldn't do anything other than stop it at the end of the run. No toggling through the different screens, no trying to do lap times or simple stop and have a break. When I would get frustrated by this I was always amazed this watch managed to pass the product testing stages it would have had to go through during it's development. Now I only paid about £20-30 for this off e-Bay, but there was no way I was risking this same problem with a £300 cycle computer I needed to use and rely on daily during our tours.
So I picked the Wahoo ELEMNT, and this is my experience of it after using it probably every week for the last 3.5 years!
Uploading routes and info:
I use Komoot to plan routes and then upload them to the computer. You need the Wahoo app on your phone so you can pair via bluetooth to the computer and then upload the route. Komoot shares the routes you make with Wahoo so that once you have created it on Komoot it is there ready to be shared across.
Via the app you can also input your personal details including height, weight and heart rate zones. It's all fairly painless and the system is easy and works well. I have no issues with the ease of this process and having used Komoot for other sports I find it practical.
On this topic it will also sync with Strava at the end of the ride automatically - ready for the Kudos!
Attaching onto the bike:
Inside the box there are two attachment options. The first is a mount that extends off the front of your handlebars and the other is one that attaches to the stem. I used the handlebar mount for the vast majority of the time as I heard the stem mount was unstable from a forum or review I read online. I was then forced to trial it as my bikepacking set up didn't allow me to use the handlebar mount in the way I normally do. What I learnt was the stem attachment is fine. The 'instability' this reviewer was commenting on was the expected 'play' you would expect to get from using zip ties. This play actually means it's less likely snap and in no way effects the use of the computer.
You can also pick up Wahoo branded mounts if you have multiple bikes that the computer will be used between, or an amazon search finds some alternatives from other suppliers priced a little more reasonably. We have used these and they are still going strong!
I picked the larger screen Wahoo so we could navigate a little easier than the directions being on a smaller screen. It doesn't look big on the bike and doesn't get in the way. The images produced are clear and basic. I use the word basic here as a compliment. There isn't any unnecessary detail or distractions, it tells you very simply where you are and where you need to go. The chevrons and arrows are really easy to follow. There has been a handful of occasions where coming up to a busy junction, with multiple options or streets, we have taken the wrong turning, but no more frequent than we would do if we were using a GPS in the car. It is very rare this occurs, and as most things related to computers, down to user error!
They have some lights on the top and side to instigate when you will be turning and which direction. I find them largely useless unless l am already looking at the computer. However saying that there has been a few occasions where I have been in my own little world and in the corner of my eye I see some lights flashing and realise I need to turn or have just missed it. So I guess they have their function.
There is also a red light which flashes if you have gone past your turning, which again is helpful should I be distracted by chatting with someone or by own thoughts!
Silicone cover on Elemnt and no backlight
Silicone cover remove and backlight on
One thing this model does not do is it does not recalculate your route should you go off course. Now the Garmin does do this, but I watched many videos of reviewers showcasing this and it took an absolute age. There were occasions where the computer would not be able to reroute or would give an impractical option, which resulted in them inputting the address to start over. The faff of them inputting the address on an impractical touch screen and then waiting for the computer to come up with a new route, took significantly longer than the option for the Wahoo of working through the app on your phone.
If I have missed the turning and a simple U-turn is out the question , I simply use the buttons on the side to zoom out and see if there is a road turning further up that I can take which will put me back on track. If not, I pull over and check the Wahoo again for any obvious route using the map I can see on the screen but zooming out, if this doesn't work I get my phone out and check where I need to go. Majority of the time zooming out on the computer gives me the answer I need. The argument as a con against the Wahoo on other reviews that it meant you needed to take your phone just in case you got lost and needed to re-plan is a bit pointless in todays world where we take our phone everywhere.
When you are navigating, similar to Google Maps, it gives you a little instruction for each turn. There is the option to view this as a navigations sheet if you wish to follow in this manner so you can know the street names way ahead of turns.
You can customise the screens that are available and the information that is on each one. I for example have the map and one screen of data. You could have more than one screen of data if you wish. You can also have as much or as little info on these data screens. Obviously the more you have on, the smaller the numbers are to view. But you can also zoom in and out on this data screen to enlarge your preferred piece of data. For example when I was training for an event heart rate was important, so that was my main focus on the ride, when I zoomed in all the way all I could see was my heart rate and not the speed , distance etc. I could then toggle from this screen to the map with ease.
On this note the simplicity of the device again lends to it being very easy and practical to move between the screen. The large raised buttons on the device allow them to be used with ease even through thick gloves at winter.
View with only 2 values
Maximum values on screen
Clear no nonsense navigation
I mentioned earlier this was a big factor in us picking the Wahoo. It has a claimed battery life of 16 hours, which to be fair, it's not far off the max limit that I have used it in one go. On our long days where the Wahoo could be on for 10 hours it still has plenty of juice left. We have forgotten to charge it over night, and it's done two days back to back no issues. I used the Wahoo for my 600km Germany cycle where I sporadically charged it in cafes and it never got close to running out.
Being able to take off the back light on the screen and due to it's simple design on navigation means it doesn't waste energy, which is very important.
Quality and Robustness:
I bought a silicone cover and screen protector for my Wahoo under the same rationale I have them on my phone - in case I drop it it will be safe. However unlike a phone it generally never gets dropped and the wear and tear of use is generally less. So perhaps this cover and protector was a bit over the top.
I have had my Wahoo for almost 4 years and it works as well as it did when I got it. It looks as good as it did when I got it also. It has been rained on, mud splattered on it, rammed into bags, and fallen off coffee tables during stops - no issues.
The warranty is 2 years should anything go wrong.
If and when this cycle computer no longer works, or I break or lose it. I will get the same again.
I would recommend the Wahoo to anyone who is looking for help with navigation when cycling. If navigation wasn't important they could probably get away with a cheaper model which just did ride stats.
I love using the Wahoo and have had zero issues with it during my time.
Check out the full video below of my review on the Wahoo ELEMNT and my YouTube channel for all my other video reviews.
For the latest Wahoo Element Roam follow this link:
This was the screen protector and protective case I found helpful: Wahoo Screen protector and TUFF Silicone case
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