- Super sharp, highly readable screen
- Excellent battery life
- Most intuitive to use
- Quick-view LED notifications
- No on-the-fly navigation
- Phone app necessary for many key adjustments
- Front mount very shaky
The overall design and functionality of the Wahoo Elemnt is fresh and modern and it stands apart from the crowd in various key traits. At $170 less than the Best In Class winner, it’s an incredible value. The Elemnt is everything most riders could ever need in a cycling computer/GPS. It’s the most intuitive to learn and use and the screen and battery are outstanding. It also uses tactile buttons instead of touchscreen—a far better option under the rigors of actual riding.
The Wahoo Elemnt is everything most riders could ever need in a cycling computer/GPS, and we found it by far the most intuitive to learn and use. It also uses tactile buttons instead of touchscreen—buttons that are intuitively placed and easy to push—which unless you absolutely must have the latest tech, is simply a better option under the rigors of actual riding. We especially love the zooming option for different screens—all screens have multiple windows (up to 10) but a quick push of the zoom button cuts the bottom ones while enlarging the top, and vice versa. SMART! It also pairs with both ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors. Many of the fancy touches on the others—most of which do not improve performance and some which impede it—are absent here, leaving almost all the critical function present and user friendly. There are a wide range of data screens for the usual cycling categories like power, HR, cadence, altitude, etc., and these are highly customizable through the phone app. But the intuitive design allows a work around (see User Friendliness). The navigation system is excellent and also highly intuitive, and the use of tactile buttons is perfect. On the down side, along with the lack of on-the-fly navigation, we also wish there was more ability to adjust settings, personalization, etc., without having to rely on the phone app.
GPS and Navigation
For a brand that’s relatively new in the GPS and navigation games, we are quite impressed with the speed, accuracy and reliability of the Wahoo Elemnt. The ease of use and intuitiveness of the Elemnt outweighed the fancy colors and touchscreen of the more expensive units. We did not have one issue with the GPS losing signal and initial startup was very quick. On the navigation side there were a few characteristics that really stood out with the Wahoo: first was its ability to automatically sync all saved routes directly from Ride With GPS, or simply email the route, then click on it on your phone—the app will automatically open and sync the route (if connected to WiFi). This saves a few steps to upload, once a course has been designed. And if you find yourself out on a ride and you want to start a route, if it’s somewhere you’ve ridden before, chances are that route is already on your computer. We also love the fact that when tracking a course, this device shows the route ahead in arrows and what’s already been ridden as a black line (the others don’t differentiate here)—this helps quite a bit when you want to zoom out and see where you are going and where you have been, and/or to plan an impromptu shortcut or addition. Best of all a simple push of the up or down buttons zooms the map in or out.
We’ve already mentioned quite a bit about this, so we’ll keep it short here: The Wahoo Elemnt is probably the most user-friendly in the group, thanks to its clever design, easy-to-push and well-placed buttons, clear precise screen without too much distraction, and an excellent phone app for personalization and setup. Unlike others that may throw in the bells and whistles, which ultimately often just get in the way, this one has everything you need and (almost) nothing you don’t. Our only complaint is that the unit relies solely on the phone app for some basic settings, but using that app is simple and quick so it’s not a major issue. Plus because of its very clever zooming screens (see The Verdict) you can just program every data readout ahead of time and then zoom in if some are not necessary.
Display and Battery
As mentioned before the display on the Wahoo Elemnt is extremely sharp and plenty bright in all conditions. We also found the layout and adjustability among the best in the group, thanks to highly intuitive design and the lack of sometimes confusing colors or other interference. The unit is big enough to clearly display up to eight windows on each screen, while keeping the unit compact and light, unlike some of the others that are almost the size of a smartphone. We especially loved the two LED strips on the side and top of the unit that can tell various details at a quick glance—including speed or power relative to average, and if a turn is coming and which direction—even during the most aggressive workout when reading can be quite difficult. Battery life was among the best in the group, with our test yielding well over 17 hours of GPS/navigation recording time, and the unit still had power to start up and show us the results.
Online Training Support
While we generally find web-based training programs more functional and easier to use, the Wahoo Elemnt phone app was quite user-friendly and provided plenty of services. From personalizing your device, to syncing maps to analyzing workouts, there’s a ton of valuable stuff on the app. And though the unit syncs directly with the app and/or Strava and Ride With GPS, neither of these sites is a true training analysis website—they’re more about routes and comparison with other riders. To truly plan and analyze training users will have to upload their workouts to another 3rd party site like Garmin Connect or Polar Personal Trainer—not a huge issue, but Wahoo should consider developing their own.
How We Tested It
The devices in this test were used on multiple road and mountain bike rides, generally between one and four hours, on varied terrain including thick forests. Usually multiple computers were tested side-by-side on one bike. Units were paired with multiple sensors and re-paired often. And we compared mapping and training data online after rides.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
About the Author
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