Wahoo Summit Freeride/Live – Some Ride, Some Comparisons & An Opinion
Garmin started all of this when someone had a great idea, “Wouldn’t it be nice if when you were on a mountainous cycling holiday and following an unfamiliar route, your Edge highlighted each separate climb for you so you could pace your efforts.” Of course, this then led to the addition of every possible and probably unnecessary hill metric like a preview of all the climbs today, a summary of all the climbs completed and the various details of gradient, gradient-to-go, metres of ascent to go, and so on.
That was when it started to get out of hand. Naturally, Wahoo followed suit and made the feature much easier to use and then Hammerhead followed suit and made it way prettier to use.
Then someone had another idea that a sneaky little algorithm could predict the most likely route ahead. It was me, actually :-). Seriously. I gave that idea to Harold at Hammerhead and a year or so later it materialised on the Karoo. OK, someone internally may have also had the same idea first, but, there you go. I’m still claiming it as mine 🙂
Days later and Wahoo followed suit. As of about 23rd April, it’s been available to us in beta and you guys should all have it very soon.
Taking a step back, I just think this has all got a little bit out of hand. Here’s why.
Take A Step Back
Q: Assuming you are not following a route, what should be the point of the upcoming hill feature?
A: Obviously you want to understand a bit about the nature of the challenge facing you just before you start and at any point as you ascend.
I’m not, however, entirely convinced that the exact start and end points are important. If you want to have precise climb stats for multiple ascents of the same hill over the whole year then head on over to Strava, create a segment if one doesn’t exist and track it properly. I don’t know about you but I just need a vaguely indicative steer of how steep the bloomin’ thing is.
Maybe it’s a hill that’s totally new to you? Or, if it’s me, it’s the same hill in Surrey that I was on last week but that I got confused with another similar-feeling one I did the week before and I’m never quite sure which is which until I’m halfway up.
Then maybe after a few weeks of being bombarded by popups for hundreds of annoying hills that aren’t hills, I’ll want some ability to turn everything off apart from the proper hills.
Bear that in mind as I give you a feel about how Wahoo’s take on this feature works. There are some nice bits that Garmin will need to copy.
The Elements of Wahoo’s Summit Layer Freeride Thing
It seems that the “Summit Layer” is the additional hill information that has been created as a data-rich map layer by Wahoo’s algorithms. The FREERIDE component of that is what we are discussing here, which refers to ad-hoc usage when not following a specific route.
Once you activate the FREERIDE slider in the app, you are ready to use the feature.
In the beta, there are some bits of the eventual functionality missing. Essentially though you will be able to customise a specific CLIMB screen and add CLIMB metrics to any screen you like.
Here’s the basic gist of things with a forward elevation plot, colour-coded for a grade, an indication of which Summit it is, and 4 hill-related metrics.
The standard Wahoo screen behaviour applies and you can easily zoom in with the side buttons
Uniquely Wahoo also gives you the descent, which is nice. Very nice. Though perhaps displaying it this big is a little bit of an overkill?
That downhill looks steeper than it is/ However, this is Broomfield Hill and it contains a dangerous bend at its midpoint where there are frequent accidents but you can’t tell that from an elevation profile.
When the forward elevation is combined with the map, the chevrons that show the route ahead are also colour coded according to the grade. As much as I like the forward elevation plot, I guess you might not need it as the info on the map could be sufficient.
Once you have completed one or more climbs it’s over to the trophy cabinet for a quick recap.
What’s Also To Be Added
It looks like the live version will very soon contain two additional abilities that I’ve not yet had access to.
- The ability to use Summit Freeride/Live data fields individually on any other page
- The ability to filter the definition of a hill
With Garmin’s implementation of the same feature, I initially became concerned about the definition of the start- and end-points of the hill. In my tests, sometimes Garmin and Wahoo exactly agree on those two points, but at other times Garmin might end earlier or start considerably earlier. However, I don’t think that particularly matters in the grand scheme of things.
The next issue that does matter is how the algorithm predicts the hill ahead when the hill negotiates a junction. This is best illustrated by the following map when I went uphill before the descent towards Westhumble (Box Hill). The circled part of the road is the uphill junction where Garmin goes straight on and follows the ‘correct’ blue route that every cyclist takes. In contrast, Wahoo is routed to stay on the main road (white) which turns right and heads to Polesden Lacey, a notable tourist attraction where most cars would go.
Q: Why the difference?
A: Popularity routing. This is Garmin’s Ace-in-the-hole as no other company has the same depth of data that Garmin has. That said, even with my simple example on the map, Wahoo almost certainly has enough heatmap info to route correctly for a cyclist.
A further issue worth pointing out is the frequency of the hills, i.e., if you accept a hill as anything other than a flat bit of road, will you always have the hill screen popping up? And the answer to that, where I live, is pretty much YES. And it gets freakin’ annoying. Sure, you can repeatedly dismiss the screens, but it’s just not tenable for my sanity to have so much going on when I’m trying to repeatedly turn my legs around and round.
I’m currently refining my preference for the Edge 540 between the medium/large hills and large hills only modes. I’ll probably permanently opt for the latter and whatever equivalent Wahoo introduces.
Then we come onto grade. This can be obtained in various ways: from an onboard inclinometer; from the onboard DEM mode; from a hill average; and from 3D-GPS. If you go halfway up a hill and then stop and the grade goes to zero, you might strongly suspect the latter is used. I don’t know what the correct behaviour should be, but some sort of average of the last 10m and the upcoming 10m might be reasonable. Currently, both Garmin and Wahoo need to improve here.
The final issue is notifications. And this is where everything is getting silly. When you have notifications for drinking, turning, hills, eating, laps, cars from radar, and so on continually going off on your Wahoo, Garmin and Hammerhead, it literally drives you insane. Even a normal person with just one of those will likely get a headache. But 3 bike computers!….Jeez (actually I had 4). To make matters worse, some of Wahoo’s notifications don’t gracefully vanish and remain permanently on view, e.g., when a connection to a Varia radar is lost or when there is a drink alert. Garmin probably handles this all a bit better but then combines that gem of goodness with an unwieldy (but improving) interface.
Where is this all going? What will I do?
These features are taking a relatively simple cycling need and adding a generally intrusive and overblown feature set. That said, understanding an upcoming and unknown hill is a perfectly reasonable ask from a cyclist. This is a feature that needs to be added, and I suspect one that many of us will use to varying degrees for years to come.
At the moment I like Wahoo’s forward elevation profile that also includes the bit after the hill, ie maybe also a descent. It’s a small data field, intelligently colour-coded. I would probably combine that with the maps page and flip over to that whole page manually when I need to. But then I note the coloured chevrons that Wahoo now includes on the map to indicate grade… thinking about it, I could just use that map view and visualise the profile in my head. Maybe Garmin could add yet another colour to its maps to do the same thing (Garmin maps are full of distracting colours, designed by a team that’s not great at designing).
It will be interesting to see how all the pre-release testers/reviewers and you and I are using this feature in 6 months’ time. I suspect we will all make it less intrusive than our first attempt.
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