In this Wahoo Elemnt Review I’ll pull together all my hands-on cycling time with the Elemnt over the last 4 months and try to be as succinct as possible in summarising what was a highly pleasant experience.
Edit: Updated September 2018…LOTS & LOTS of usage
Wahoo Fitness started selling the Wahoo Elemnt in Q1.2016 and the smaller Elemnt Bolt followed in Q1.2017. They are almost functionally identical. Apparently the Elemnt had some early teething issues but I’ve only been using it recently so all I have experienced is a seemingly bug-free product. Initially I used the Elemnt/Bolt in conjunction with other devices but after a couple of months I switched to using the Elemnt (or Bolt) as my main cycling computer.
Sometimes its disingenuous for someone to say ‘I have 4 months of using the Wahoo Elemnt‘ if that has been effectively just as a data gatherer distractedly alongside other devices. It’s different if something is my main device. I go out quite a lot with only one device and the Elemnt has generally been that device, sometimes it was the turn of the Elemnt Bolt. And I’ve probably used the Elemnt Bolt mostly on turbo trainers.
This will be a relatively short review as I come to the Elemnt rather late in the day!
Take Out & Opinion
It’s a definite BUY RECOMMENDATION.
There are only a few niggles I have with the Elemnt. However it’s only a BEST BUY recommendation for a certain kind of cyclist. For example there would be better navigation-focussed options – although the larger Elemnt is perfectly fine for navigation – indeed I like the clarity of its display when following a route. Maybe as a ‘tourer’ you might prefer the Edge 1030 or as a commuter maybe the Bolt is a little more precious than other, sturdier options.
For someone like me, the ELEMNT is great and the Bolt is fine for a TT.
The Elemnt is good enough for the odd navigational experience and great for my long mornings riding the Surrey Hills or a few laps hacking round nearby parks. All the performance metics are there. It’s supports connecting to pretty much every sensor it needs to. It becomes your cycling workhorse to do a job without the pretty niceties of other products. I suppose the looks are “alright” or “quirky-in-a-pleasant-way” but I don’t really care what it looks like for the thousands of miles it has to work perfectly for. And that’s what it does. It just works. Ask your cycling buddies who already have one…they will say the same thing.
If there ever could be a ‘Best Cycling Computer‘ then the Elemnt is most certainly a candidate. Here’s a link to a more general view of cycling computers for different kinds of cyclists…like you.
The Wahoo Elemnt ecosystem is fundamentally wireless. You only need a USB cable for charging. Even firmware updates are pushed from the smartphone app and the app is also used for configuring the Elemnt.
Firmware: WF46-1815 and earlier
Wahoo Elemnt Review – PROs
This could well be a long list, I’ll try to include some of the more unusual features.
- It works. It works with gloves. It works in the rain. It just works.
- It looks alright
- The physical interface between the cyclist and the device is GREAT. The buttons do all the things buttons need to do.
- The software interface has lots of standard/normal elements to it. But what is different is a quite clever way that most functionally can be EASILY and QUICKLY accessed ie there is NOT a deeply nested menu system.
- The screens can be configured to zoom up/down into less/more detail of what has been pre-configured and prioritsed for each specific screen (easier than it sounds!)
- The screen is highly readable across many light conditions. At a 240x400px resolution some of you might scoff but it’s perfectly fine to use.
- Sensor connectivity is immense.
- There’s BLE connectivity to your phone for notifications or WiFi syncing or sensor support with ANT+ (FE-C) and BLE.
- Muscle Oxygen sensors are cool, controlling all smart trainers is cool. All is good. There is a sensor pool for multiple devices of the same type and sensors can be given a name. It’s all there.
- The Bolt can be physically screwed to the mount so that it can’t easily be lost or stolen. Handier than you might think.
- The Bolt is supposedly more aerodynamic. (No further comment! 0.01w baby).
- The Elemnt comes with a 3 fairly cheap mounts but a nice, convenient touch to have more than one mount provided in the box (Bolt has 2).
- In this Wahoo Elemnt Review we found a highly decent battery life of 17 hours (Bolt is 15 hours). Edit: more than a year later I would still say I’m getting somewhere near 17 hours even when navigating and attached to several sensors. The same can NOT be said of some other products.
- There are audible alerts as well as configurable series of LEDs at the side of the screen which I preferred to set to match power zones.
- Live/Group tracking via the smartphone app (not tested)
- Elemnt can follow complex, custom workouts as part of tests or more comprehensive plans. For example I download workouts from Training Peaks to control my KICKR (review and more detail of that here). You can control ERG mode, level mode or replay a recent ride on a smart trainer to change resistance to simulate the ascents/descents. Cool!! But certainly not unique to Wahoo.
- Integration with Best Bike Split for detailed race day power-targeting by race section (advanced racing feature)
- Starred segments from a STRAVA Premium account and linked and sync’d to the Elemnt and a phone is not required when you ride those segments to get your provisional time – the exact time is confirmed later on STRAVA.
- You wanna suffer? A premium STRAVA account gives you STRAVA’s Suffer Score
- Routes can be ridden in reverse – a godsend which also avoids route duplication; back to start will do the route in reverse.
- Turn-by-turn route created and sync’d from the companion app.
- Wahoo are very active with customer support, problem resolution and bug fixing.
Wahoo Elemnt Review – CONs
- Pairing a device for the first time is not as quick and immediate as it should be. For me it’s Bluetooth sensors that seem to be more problematical. On the occasions I tried STAGES I had the most issues.
- With both a Bolt and Elemnt paired to my Android smartphone app, sync’ing is not as smooth as it should be through the phone. Today’s training plans are not always auto-sync’d first time from TrainingPeaks and firmware updates can require a few re-tries and re-pairs to get working. It could be my rubbish smartphone. It all sync’s eventually. But getting the Android smartphone paired so that I can make changes to setting usually requires a few tries (works fine on iOS).
- However, WiFi syncing of rides/routes is seamless and works 100% fine for me.
- In this Wahoo Elemnt Review we found that the mounts are Garmin-compatible but annoyingly at 90 degrees compared to Garmin.
- Screen resolution is NOT spectacular but it is crisp/readable. Resolution is functional although perhaps when drawing maps there could be welcomed small improvements to the resolution just to be a bit prettier.
- When following a route the map does not always properly orientate itself to the route ahead and make it as visible as it could be.
- There are no apps. But Wahoo’s strategy here is to provide a super-open platform and then link in key functionalities from other providers rather than providing that complexity themselves in their app.
- After a pause in a ride the power meter turns off. When it starts again the Wahoo does not pick it up. You have to press the power button (to the SENSORS screen as shown above on the BOLT). It then reconnects and all is good. #Annoying. This was meant to be fixed (Sep 2018) but isn’t.
- Having used a SmO2 sensor for 10s of hours there are some data fields that would really benefit from colour coding or shading in some way. Garmin can do this with CIQ. This is different from saying that you would like to have your Zone 5 power efforts coloured red…you do NOT really need that but SmO2 (for example) requires context to say what 58% means (eg rising, stable, or falling)
- So Wahoo would benefit from an ‘apps’ infrastructure of some sort. I would imagine that is a massive undertaking but I believe they received significant venture capital funding in 2018. Who knows where it is being spent.
Wahoo Elemnt Review – Resources
- Google Group support here
- Software updates and info here
- Wahoo Elemnt Manual here
- Forced Reboot: Hold down the power button for 10 seconds to perform a forced reboot. e.g. Generally used if the screen becomes non-responsive.
- Factory Reset: Accessible from the Settings menu, restores settings to factory default. Warning: Will delete all workouts stored on the device.
- Route & Workout data sharing with all these: Health app (iOS only), RideWithGPS, Strava, TrainingPeaks, MapMyFitness, Today’s Plan (Android), Komoot, Best Bike Split, SportTracks and Dropbox
- Mounts included: Out front and Stem. Elemnt also has TT mount (ie 3 mounts Elemnt, 2 mounts Bolt)
- Physical Dimensions: 2.9″” x 1.8″” x 0.87″” (74.6mm x 47.3mm x 22.1mm)
- Display Size: 69mm (Elemnt) 56mm (Elemnt/Bolt)
- Weight: 3.5oz/2.2 oz (Bolt) 99g/60g (Elemnt/Bolt)
- Battery: USB rechargeable
- Battery Life: 17/15 hours (Elemnt/Bolt)
- Waterproof Rating: IPX7 (waterproof up to 5 ft)
- Supported Satellites by the chip: GPS, GLONASS, BEIDOU, Galileo (future), and QZSS
- Operating Temperature: -4°F to 122°F / -20°C to 50°C
My Bike Computer
Since I originally wrote this Wahoo Elemnt Review, the ELEMNT has become my main cycling computer. I use it all the time (training and racing). I recommend it to friends. Sometimes I forgive them if they ignore my advice and, instead, buy the ELEMNT BOLT.
Now you know.
We are seeing Garmin moving away from sports-looking watches to 24×7 style watches. This leaves a gap for people like me who JUST want a sports watch…for whatever that sport it. There are rumours of a Wahoo Tri-Watch at some point in the future (from the CEO!). Which would be awesome.
If the past can indicate the future, then Wahoo will release a new major product in Q1.2018 (edit…October 2018, ahem!). Other than a prettier screen and better battery I can’t really see any point in refreshing what is an excellent product in the Elemnt.
The Elemnt MINI filled a gap at the lower end of Wahoo’s range. Maybe that offering could be better tailored with a refresh? Even though it is their latest head unit.
Maybe there are other gaps in the Wahoo range that might include a better ‘touring’ type computer in a larger format competing with the Edge 1030. That’s possible. There seems to be a lack of a cycling device that can really, really, really do mapping and routing properly and comprehensively from route creation through to execution. The problem with thinking that Wahoo might do that is that they would most likely prefer to integrate to a third-party provider who has done all that work.
Pricing, Discounts & Availability
These Wahoo products are now well-established in retail outlets but Wahoo is selective about who it allows to sell their product – I don’t see the Bolt on Amazon.com for example. Generally Wahoo’s own site is more expensive BUT there are occasionally great deals at the usual annual sales times. The best prices I’ve EVER seen were US$228/GBP£177, both on Amazon for the regular ELEMNT. But those were special Black Friday sales so if you can get anywhere close to that you are doing well. The Bolt and Elemnt are equally recommended but the ELEMNT MINI is a very different product.
It would be great if you could help support this site with one of the links below – my normal partners aren’t allowed to sell Wahoo products. I’m not a journalist and I don’t produce reviews after one day of reading the specs. I don’t get paid for this so any donations are appreciated if you find it cheaper elsewhere. Or to support this site buy anything from Amazon after clicking on the localised Amazon link immediately below. Thank you!
Buy ELEMNT/BOLT by clicking the image below or clicking here: link to wahoofitness.com