Review: Wahoo ELEMNT GPS

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Wahoo have always been pushing the envelope when it comes to cycling equipment. Their very first product, the Wahoo REFLEKT, was a bike computer that synced up with your iPhone, displaying all the data from which ever app you decided to use on your smartphone, be it Strava, Endumondo etc. Now this may not sound all that impressive, but when it was launched, there was nothing like it on the market.

They then gave us the KICKR Power trainer. The trainer that replaced your rear wheel. It was crazy when it was launched. No one had seen anything like it. And now it is the norm.

Their latest offering, the ELEMNT GPS computer, is just as out there and ahead of it’s time as all of their previous products. The ELEMNT is also their first attempt at a stand- alone GPS unit and it is packed with so many great features.

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So let’s start at the top. Something that is often overlooked is the experience of the product. Bare with me, I’ll explain what I’m on about. Yes, features and functionality and usability of a product are all very important, but think of your first iPhone or iPod. It was an experience from the moment it was purchased. You walked into an iStore that was beautifully decorated. There was a vibe in the store. You then receive your brand new iPod. The packaging is sleek and sexy. It makes you even more excited to see what’s inside.

This is my point when I talk about the experience the Wahoo ELEMNT gives the user. The packaging is very well thought out and beautifully presented. The box folds open, inside is a diagram explaining how to set up your new GPS computer. Everything is neatly and beautifully displayed. It all makes you even more excited to try out your new ELEMNT.

The ELEMNT comes standard with three mount. One for on the stem, one out front and one for TT bars.

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Setting up the Wahoo is an extremely simple task. Each ELEMNT has a unique barcode, which is scanned with a smart phone to pair the unit to the phone. Once paired, all the set up is done from the phone. Data is imported from Strava or which ever app you use, and the ELEMNT sets up your profile, calculates target heart rate zones and power zones. It also has default display pages.

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These pages are what displays data on the unit. These can all be easily edited or deleted or even new ones created, all from your smart phone. There are literally almost a hundred data fields to choose from when setting up the display pages. Some are a bit over the top, but having so much choice and having it be easy to access and use these choices is something no other GPS unit can offer.

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Pairing the speed and cadence sensor is as easy as pressing twice on your smart phone. This device and the software is so clever, it does most of the work by its self. The kicker is, all the sensors (heart rate, cadence and speed) not only work with ANT+, but Bluetooth as well. This means you can pair them with a smart phone and use the Wahoo Fitness app for training.

The ELEMNT is designed to work seamlessly with WIFI. Whenever your phone is connected to WIFI, the ELEMNT will automatically update software if needed, upload rides to Strava and sync profile data with Strava. It also automatically syncs starred segments for the live segment feature and syncs routes for GPS use.

Routes can be created with Strava or Ride With GPS. Should you own a Wahoo KICKR trainer, the ELEMNT is able to simulate these routes on the trainer as well. It is also able to simulate rides that have been ridden and saved to the unit. Whilst this is perhaps not an “on the road” feature, it is still a very cool feature.

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LED lights on the side and the top of the unit show when and where to turn when using GPS mode, indicated heart rate or power zones when the relevant pages are being displayed and also compare current to average speed.

The coolest function the LED’s serve, though, is when using Live Strava segments. The unit has an automatic Segment page which is displayed when you are riding a starred segment. Sub pages within the Segment page allow you to compare times with your personal record, a set goal or with the KOM of the segment. It also shows how far ahead or behind the time you are. All this information does become a little hard to digest when your seeing red and about to pass out, so to make it simple, the LED’s light up orange, showing whether you are ahead or behind the target segment time.

The ELEMNT also has a Live Tracking function, allowing family and friends to see exactly where you are on a ride via a link to their smart phone. While some might never use this feature for fear of being ridiculed for all the coffee stops, this is a great safety feature and brings piece of mind to those waiting at home.

The ELEMNT does not feature a colour screen like it’s closest competition, the Garmin Edge 820, but Wahoo claim the reason is that the colour screens do not offer high enough contrast and tend to glare in the sun. So instead, the ELEMNT uses the same high- contrast technology that is used in the Kindle and other ebook devices. It works perfectly and not once was I bothered by it being black and white. I actually preferred it.

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In a nutshell, the ELEMNT stays true to the Wahoo philosophy. It is loaded with features, but it is still extremely easy to use. Especially when comparing it to devices like the Sigma Rox 10, which has much less features, but is quite daunting to figure out at first. Even compared to the Garmin, the Wahoo is so simple to use.

I have yet to find a flaw with the Wahoo ELEMNT. It is, by a long shot, my favourite GPS unit to date.

And best of all, it’s cheaper than the Garmin! While a Garmin Edge 820 will set you back around R11 000 for the complete bundle, the ELEMNT bundle comes in at a reasonable R8999. It’s still a lot of money, but when compared to the Garmin, the technology is so much more advanced. It would be a no brainer.

I do, however, suspect it will take some time for old Garmin users to be converted. But that is their problem. They are missing out on the best GPS bike GPS money can offer.

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