Wahoo Elemnt GPS computer challenges Garmin's supremacy

Two-way wireless Strava integration; programmable LED indicators for training and directions

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

The Wahoo Elemnt won't dethrone Garmin from GPS computer supremacy, but it should put the tech giant on notice.

With easy configuration via a paired smartphone, LED indicators, and a sensible zoom feature for all pages, the Wahoo Elemnt began shipping this month from the company that put its name on the cycling map with the Kickr smart trainer.

The Wahoo Elemnt connects to peripherals via ANT+, to smartphones with Bluetooth, and to your home network on Wi-Fi. Wahoo is betting the farm on the phone integration, operating on the assumption that riders will prefer to use the phone for setup instead of submenus on the unit itself.

From the start, Wahoo as a company keyed off the iPhone, offering products like a Bluetooth/ANT+ Tickr heart-rate strap that works with the phone, and the Rflkt cycling computer that's essentially a monitor to display the processing power and GPS of a phone.

Unlike the Rflkt, which is useless without a paired smartphone, the Elemnt is a standalone GPS cycling computer — sort of. In order to set up the unit, you need an iPhone (4s or newer) or an Android (4.3 or newer) phone. For those who have such a smartphone, the initial configuration of each of the pages is a snap; you just navigate with your phone, dragging what you want where, and the Elemnt changes to match. For those without such a device... this isn't the computer for you. There isn't a way to set up the page configuration without a paired phone.

For Stravaheads, the Elemnt offers some cool integration, including automatic uploading of your Strava routes to the Elemnt.

As with Garmin's newer Edge computers, the Elemnt can also deliver on-screen alerts for texts, phone calls and emails, if you so choose for each of the three.

Unlike the Edge computers, the Elemnt has LEDs on the side and top of the unit, which can be configured to flash for above/below target pace, HR or power settings, or when a turn is approaching when you are following a route.

The screen is black and white, not color like a newer Garmin, but the units are supposed to come with Open Street Maps, which are better than Garmin's base maps.

In initial testing of four rides, I experienced a few hiccups. Using the 1.2.1 app, rides took several attempts and usually more than 10 minutes to upload. (Compare this to 5-10s for a new Edge.) Also, my test unit arrived without base maps, but the company walked me through adding in the maps local to me with a few button presses. I updated to version 1.2.2 of the app, and that seemed to address the upload issues.

The Elemnt has built-in GPS for speed, distance and related metrics, but you can connect it to speed or cadence sensors for higher accuracy. The Elemnt is sold alone, or as a bundle with the Tickr HR monitor, plus Wahoo cadence and speed sensors.

There are three main screens: workout, climb and map. Once you've set your hierarchy of important fields, you can zoom in or out to see more or less data. For example, the workout preference might be: time of day, 3sec power, heart rate, speed, cadence, ride time, etc. Then you could zoom in to see just the top two, or zoom out to see them all.The screen can accommodate between two and 10 fields of data. Then you can also created your own additional screens.

For live tracking, Wahoo has pushed the envelope, boasting the ability to show you where your friends with their own Elemnts are in real-time on the map screen.

The Elemnt ships with three mounts: out front, stem and TT. The out front mount is a little wiggly, for the size of the Elemnt and amount of force needed to press the buttons. Notably, K-Edge has an alloy mount for the Elemnt.

Battery life is a claimed 17 hours for the 3.5oz unit with a 2.7in screen. In my experience, a 7-hour ride took the battery from full down to 50%, so the claimed battery life could be close.

Being part of the Wahoo family, the Elemnt can be used a remote control for the Kickr and Kickr Snap power trainers.

Retail price is $329 / £279 / AU$499 for the Elemnt alone and $429 for the bundle.

We will post a complete review soon after more testing.

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