Wahoo ELEMNT GPS bike computer review

Easy to set up head unit has endless customization options

Gear
Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer Review

With the Wahoo ELEMNT, you can choose to see a lot of data.

What is it?

Luddites and technophobes rejoice. Wahoo’s ELEMNT GPS bike computer offers most of the high-end functionality of comparable competitor models, and does so in an extremely user-friendly way. Equipped with Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ dual-band technology, the ELEMNT easily pairs with various cycling sensors (power meters, smart trainers, etc.), and you don’t need an IT degree from MIT to navigate confusing menus (or sub-menus).

Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer Review

Or if you prefer, keep things simple.

Instead, as long as you have a smartphone (in fact, you need a smartphone), simply pair the unit with the free companion app, then get to work setting up data fields and custom profiles. Once done, mount the ELEMNT on your bike of choice and use it for anything from tracking power output, speed, and distance, to following pre-determined routes, or even tracking nearby (Wahoo using) friends. Once your ride is done, it’s easy to wirelessly upload your workout to Strava or other similar third party activity trackers.

Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer Review

The unit comes with three attachment mounts (aero, out front, stem), and there are also lots of choices from the various aftermarket mount makers such as K-Edge.

Pros
  • Intuitive set-up using companion app
  • Easy-to-read display
  • Reasonably large screen
  • Glove-friendly buttons
  • Displays wide range of metrics
  • Easy on-the-fly screen switching/zooming
  • Integration with Shimano Di2, SRAM eTAP, FSA WE, Campagnolo EPS
  • Strava Live Segment integration
  • Easy post-ride data sharing
  • Can display text, email and phone alerts
  • Easy to operate companion app
  • Multiple display options
  • Robust body
  • Back to start function (in case you get lost)
  • Highly customizable screens
  • RideWithGPS and Strava turn-by-turn functionality
  • Map rotation capability
  • Impressive battery life (even in cold weather)
  • LED lights allow for real time target zone tracking
  • Auto firmware updates when connected to Wi-Fi
  • Secure handlebar attachment
  • Easy to access ride history
  • Bad weather proof
  • Integration with Wahoo KICKR and KICKR Snap trainers
Cons
  • Must have smartphone for set-up
  • On the chunky side
  • Basic black/white display
  • Map view is fairly simplistic
  • $330 isn’t chump change
  • Not touchscreen
  • So so navigation capability
  • Non-reusable zip ties used for smallest mount option
Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer Review

Yes, the ELEMNT is a little hockey puck’ish. That’s an iPhone 7 in case for comparison.

RoadBikeReview’s Take

The reason I’m a big fan of Wahoo’s ELEMNT GPS cycling computer? In a word, simplicity. Instead of navigating myriad menus and sub-menus, simply pair the device with your smartphone, and then follow the companion apps intuitive set-up steps. It’s perfect for a technophobe such as myself, who spent much of his youth watching the clock on the VCR flash “12:00, 12:00, 12:00.”

Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer Review

Just a small sampling of the set-up options, which are all but limitless.

At the outset, the ELEMNT has three standard screens —map, climb and workout, each with the requite metrics you’d expect. But with just a few clicks you can adjust and/or add screens, each with up to 10 data fields. Choose from standbys such as speed, time, and distance. Or nerd out with any number of power, heart rate, or even muscle oxygen metrics (provided you have the associated partner device).

Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer Review

The mapping functionality is just okay.

By my count there are currently 162 optional data fields split between the main categories of speed, distance, map, time, climbing, temperature, cadence, heart rate, calories, power, Kickr control, targets gear selection, muscle oxygen, battery, and workout. That means with 10 data fields the number of combinations is 2.6 quadrillion according to an on-line calculator I found on the Internet. (That’s one past trillion.)

I like to keep things pretty simple, though, so my personal set-up included one screen dedicated to all things power meter data (3-second average, kilojoules, max power, 20-minute average), and another screen that included more standard metrics such as distance traveled, elevation gained, time of day, temperature, and duration of ride. One, as you’ve guessed, was slanted to road bike rides, the other to fat tire adventures.

Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer Review

Even with gloves on, it’s easy to navigate your way through the ELEMNT’s various screens. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

I also set it up so that text messages and phone alerts would come through on the ELEMNT, meaning I didn’t have to dig out my phone to know that the wife wanted me to grab some milk on the way home.

Once all your data fields are set, you can choose how much or how little you see thanks to the easy-to-actuate zoom in and zoom out buttons on the unit’s right side. Sometimes I only wanted ride time and power, other times I opted for the full 10-field full meal deal. It’s a simple but elegant interface that made the ELEMNT my got-to GPS unit for the majority of the 2016 cycling season. More recently that included the occasional indoor training session, which was made more bearable due to the ELEMNT’s ability to control the Wahoo KICKR Snap trainer I’ve also been testing. Paired together, the two devices can mimic a previous outside ride, so you can at least pretend you’re stomping up your favorite road climb.

Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer Review

Charging is done via a micro-USB port in the back of the unit.

But I try to avoid indoor exercise as much as possible, meaning the ELEMNT joined me for numerous fat bike rides, and a handful of Nordic and backcountry skiing sessions. The lesson here was that the unit’s claimed battery life of 17 hours wasn’t far off base — and that it could hold up to cold temperatures, something I can’t say for my iPhone (especially when Strava is running).

On the downside, the ELEMNT is a bit clunky, has no touchscreen capability, and lacks the color screen of the newer Garmin devices, which are also superior when it comes to providing turn-by-turn directions. All that said, if you’re planning to navigate your way deep in to foreign territory, there are probably better choices out there. But if like most GPS-unit using cyclists, your excursions are primarily on familiar territory, where ease of use and customization are of primary importance the Wahoo ELEMNT will do the job and do it well.

Rating: 4 out of 5 4 stars
Price: $330
More Info: www.wahoofitness.com and press play to see the promo video below.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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  • George says:

    Been rolling for couple months with Elemnt indoors with Wahoo Kickr, Tickr and RPM and outdoors with Tickr and Stages PM – no problems at all. My older eyes like the big screen too.

  • JimH says:

    Sorry folks but “no touchscreen”, and “black and white display” are NOT cons – touchscreens are useless with gloved or sweaty hands, or when its wet outside – and the screen is far easier to read in all lighting conditions than any of the competition.

  • RDL says:

    I have the Elemnt. Cons to me. chunky, heavy and the buttons sucks. You have to press them hard and they are small – not as easy to find as I would like, no real feedback on a button push. Uploading using wifi only sucks, I want to upload with my phone when I am done with my ride. Pros I like the display and the navigation works alot better than any Garmin I have every had (had them all except the 820). The LEDS for navigation are awesome. The prompts and map screens are almost perfect as far as I am concerned. Refine the physical characteristics of this unit and you will have a winner. The unit is slow to start up compared to a Garmin, but saved and syncs routes super fast when on wifi. It’s a deal at $330.00

  • skipbike says:

    I had to replace my WAHOO RFLKT, a previous smartphone-based bike display, finally giving up on its glitchy-ness. When it worked it was great – the various screen layouts were wonderful and also very customizable – but when it didn’t work (which included cutting out mid-ride) it was just extra weight on the bike. Their customer service was as helpful as could be, and even replaced a unit at no charge, but in the end I couldn’t count on it and had to bail. I’d have bought the Elemnt but for the lack of confidence from he RFLKT. I hope they moved past that with the Elemnt, as their interface is top shelf.

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