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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
WIRELESS CONNECTION & UPLOADS
FULLY CUSTOMIZABLE SCREEN
THREE MOUNTING OPTIONS
2.7" DIAGONAL SCREEN
USB RECHARGEABLE BATTERY
COMPANION APP SET UP
QUICKLOOK LED INDICATORS
PERFECTVIEW ZOOM BUTTONS
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
Well made and with rubberised buffers, it is unlikely to break if it were to fall off the bike.
Performs well, offering excellent user experience, well thought out designs, and clear display of data.
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.
Others are lighter, but at 104g it's not going to hugely slow you down.
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.
About the tester
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 helping companies deal with their cycling commuting challenges with his company Cycling for Work. He has been writing for Road.cc since 2014.
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.