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Verdict: 
Packed full of features, great menu design, but not quite at Garmin's level
Weight: 
104g

The Wahoo ELEMNT offers a good alternative to Garmin's dominance but for some key elements. In terms of screen quality, navigation and size, it is still behind, but quickly catching up.

The Wahoo ELEMNT is the US company's long-awaited move into fully functional bike computers, usable as a standalone unit. We have previously looked at the Wahoo RFLKT, which essentially displays what's on your smartphone, but the ELEMNT offers the company's first fully integrated offering, even if it still lacks a vowel. 

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The GPS bike computer market is one that has been long dominated by Garmin and with the company releasing its Edge 820 (see my first thoughts on it here), the market is at its most competitive. So how does the ELEMNT compare? 

Data and how it is presented is always the core function of a bike computer, and the ELEMNT excels at this; it seems like this is something Wahoo has really concentrated on. Along the lefthand side of the unit there are a number of LED lights that help to keep you in specific zones – power, cadence, pace etc. It is also quick to see more or less data, simply through pressing up or down on the two buttons on the side.

Wahoo Element GPS Bike Computer - on bars.jpg

In terms of accuracy, I found that it was consistent in terms of speed, cadence, heart rate and metres climbed, although sometimes the gradient took some time to catch up compared with the two other computers I was using at the same time.

Another important feature of the unit is the GPS and routing capabilities. Here the unit is okay, although it is not at the same level as Garmin, with a simple navigation format consisting of a map with a highlighted route and a red LED showing on the unit if you are off this route. Unlike Garmin, the ELEMNT doesn't have turn-by-turn navigation, but you can do this through connection to apps on your phone which communicate with the unit. However, I found that this would drain the battery on my phone, so not an ideal solution.

Wahoo Element GPS Bike Computer - side.jpg

One thing that is a great feature is that after creating a route on Strava, it automatically loads the route to your unit, making it really easy to quickly create a new route to follow. At the tail end of the review period, Wahoo also included Strava live segments, where it is simple to choose which segments you are targeting on Strava, which then show up on the unit and instantly show your results.

The screen is fairly large, offering a decent amount of display space, but it is only black and white, with basic use of pixels. It is still simple to see the maps and data, though, and far better than many others I have used in the past. It isn't touchscreen, unlike offerings from Garmin. It comes with three mounts, one attached through zip ties, one for TT bars and another out-front mount; these all held it in place well and I never felt like it was unstable.

Wahoo Element GPS Bike Computer - mount.jpg

Customising the unit is done through your phone, with the partner app easy to use, and pairing the two is perhaps the easiest I have found, simply using a QR code on the computer. The transfer from computer to phone and apps is simple, and within a minute of finishing a ride everything is uploaded to Strava or whichever app you choose. Connections on the device include Bluetooth and ANT+, and both are really simple.

The unit itself could perhaps be smaller, measuring 57.5 x 90.5 x 21.2mm and weighing 105g, but the screen is only 68.6mm, leaving a sizeable buffer around the edge. This has some use in incorporating the LEDs on the left, although it looks bulky on your handlebar. It is controlled by six buttons, two up/down on the right, three across the bottom and the on/off button on the top left. They are easy to use both with and without gloves and Wahoo has clearly put a lot of thought into their design. These are used to control every element of the unit and the bottom three buttons change use based on what you are doing at that time, with the up/down buttons allowing for more/less information to be shown and the on/off button also accessing the settings menu.

> Read our buyer's guide to the best GPS computers

In terms of pricing, the unit comes in with an RRP of £249.99, which is steep for a computer with a black and white, non-touchscreen screen. The new Garmin 820 is £80 more, but offers turn-by-turn navigation, full colour and a high pixel touchscreen.

Wahoo Element GPS Bike Computer - box open.jpg

Overall, the ELEMNT brings together some really good features, such as the easy to use buttons, strong Strava integration and innovative use of LED lights. It is on the large side and is a big outlay for what it is, but if you want to get a bike computer that isn't a Garmin, you certainly won't be disappointed. It is also worth noting that the unit is improving all the time, and Wahoo is well known for frequent updates, so it is drawing closer, in terms of software, to Garmin's standard.

Verdict

Packed full of features, great menu design, but not quite at Garmin's level

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer

Size tested: 2.7in screen

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Wahoo says: "It is a high-end bike computer that allows for a strong suite of connections combined with a decent navigation option."

I would say it hits this mark and Wahoo has certainly invested a fair amount of effort into making it easy to use, which adds to the experience of using it.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

DUAL-BAND TECHNOLOGY

WIRELESS CONNECTION & UPLOADS

GPS FUNCTIONALITY

FULLY CUSTOMIZABLE SCREEN

THREE MOUNTING OPTIONS

2.7" DIAGONAL SCREEN

USB RECHARGEABLE BATTERY

COMPANION APP SET UP

QUICKLOOK LED INDICATORS

PERFECTVIEW ZOOM BUTTONS

SMART BUTTONS

LIVE TRACKING

TEXT, EMAIL, PHONE ALERTS

STRAVA & RIDE WITH GPS INTEGRATION

KICKR SMART TRAINER CONTROL

ELECTRONIC GEAR SHIFTER COMPATIBILITY

MUSCLE OXYGEN SENSOR COMPATIBILITY

TURN-BY-TURN NAVIGATION WITH RIDE WITH GPS ROUTES

INCLUDES GLOBAL MAPS

STRAVA LIVE SEGMENTS INTEGRATION

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Well made and with rubberised buffers, it is unlikely to break if it were to fall off the bike.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Performs well, offering excellent user experience, well thought out designs, and clear display of data.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

Large buffers may not look especially good, but they are likely to protect it from falls. Wahoo is also especially good at updating its products, so even when it's a year old, it will still likely be up to date.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
7/10

Others are lighter, but at 104g it's not going to hugely slow you down.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

It is expensive, but given that it's one of the best non-Garmin computers on the market, it can be forgiven.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

It performed very well. I didn't have any major issues using it, battery life was good and data showed up well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Ease of use and the ability to quickly navigate through different elements was great.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

It is bulky for a bike computer.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

This is a really strong showing from Wahoo, which has included several innovative features – some of which, such as the menus and pairing, are superior to Garmin. However, despite it being a strong contender it is not quite up at that level yet overall, although with a few more updates Wahoo could be a genuine threat soon.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 27  Height: 6 ft  Weight:

I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Evo 6  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 5-10 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking

George spends his days flitting between writing about data, running business magazines and writing about sports technology. The latter gave him the impetus (excuse) to get even further into the cycling world before taking the dive and starting his own cycling sites and writing for Road.cc. 

When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.  

38 comments

Avatar
markysparks [13 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
tgrx1901 wrote:

I'm perhaps a bit late to the discussion but has anyone tried using plotaroute as an alternative to ridewithgps for the Elemnt? It provides cue cards and you can select the distance you would like turn warnings to appear before the actual turn point. Its free to use.

 

The plotaroute site looks very good. I just tried creating a route, emailed to myself then opened up the gpx file in the companion app on my iphone. The route is synced to the Element and shows up on the map display as a breadcrumb trail with no problem. However the routes cue's aren't appearing even though I can see that they are embedded in the gpx file. Note that you have to save the gpx as a track for the companion app to import it. 

Maybe there's some other way to do this. I would contact Wahoo and ask them if they can support plotaroute in a future update - they're very responsive to requests.

 

Avatar
tgrx1901 [10 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
markysparks wrote:
tgrx1901 wrote:

I'm perhaps a bit late to the discussion but has anyone tried using plotaroute as an alternative to ridewithgps for the Elemnt? It provides cue cards and you can select the distance you would like turn warnings to appear before the actual turn point. Its free to use.

 

The plotaroute site looks very good. I just tried creating a route, emailed to myself then opened up the gpx file in the companion app on my iphone. The route is synced to the Element and shows up on the map display as a breadcrumb trail with no problem. However the routes cue's aren't appearing even though I can see that they are embedded in the gpx file. Note that you have to save the gpx as a track for the companion app to import it. 

Maybe there's some other way to do this. I would contact Wahoo and ask them if they can support plotaroute in a future update - they're very responsive to requests.

 

 

Thanks marky. As a disgruntled Garmin 520 user, Im all but sold on the Element, especially if their support is responsive.  The silence from Garmin on software issues is deafening. 

Avatar
noodle man [20 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

So much wrong information in this review and the comments. It certainly does tbt directions and it doesn't need a subscription. Rwgps will do the tbt and all the talk of emailing routes and uploading gpx files is bizarre.
As someone else said, you simply plan a route on strava or rwgps and press sycn on the elemnt. WiFi drops the route into the elemnt. Can't get more simple than that. This device is fantastic and even in these early stages is way more reliable than any garmin (bar the edge 500). The led lights are a genius idea and as others have said, the screen is way more readable in most conditions than colour garmin displays and the rate of added features is fantastic. Don't be put off by it's seemingly low tech display. Garmin should be taking serious note and upping it's game as well as its poor customer service.

Avatar
tritecommentbot [2266 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Okay so, I was testing RidewithGPS again to see if the GPX file would give Turn By Turn directions on a Garmin. I tried the Edge 520 and it only gives a 'Head North, East, South etc'. Not actually giving a 'Turn left on Alcove Avenue'.

Going to try it again on an Edge 1000.

Avatar
Mr. Sheep [60 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
unconstituted wrote:

Okay so, I was testing RidewithGPS again to see if the GPX file would give Turn By Turn directions on a Garmin. I tried the Edge 520 and it only gives a 'Head North, East, South etc'. Not actually giving a 'Turn left on Alcove Avenue'. Going to try it again on an Edge 1000.

You certainly get the road names etc (provided they are present in the cue sheet on RWGPS) when using the elemnt, which suggests it should be possible.

Avatar
Anorak [5 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I have an Elemnt and agree that it is way better than my old Mio 505 and I prefer it to my girlfriends 520.

You can get turn by turn maping on the 520 using routes created on RWGPS but you need to export them as TCX files not GPX. I have also put better maps on my girlfriends 520 using the method from DCRainmaker

http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/05/download-garmin-705800810.html

Avatar
tritecommentbot [2266 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Righty, going to try TCX on the 520. Actually tried TCX on the Edge 1000 months ago without luck. Will report back.

Avatar
tritecommentbot [2266 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Trying to tick the Turn by Turn box on the TCX export gives you a pop-up asking you to subscribe.  Try it and see. //i.imgur.com/wBDXVzp.png)

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