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A Closer Look: Wahoo Bike Computers

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Author: Cat Gaskell

Fairly new to the bike computer market, Wahoo shipped their first do-it-all unit - the Wahoo ELEMNT - early last year. When discussing bike computers in recent years, it's always been 'my Garmin', but Wahoo have set out to change this and dethrone Garmin as the single choice for a comprehensive bike computer, giving riders an alternative option.

Wahoo Bike Computers

Wahoo have recently launched their second and today, their third unit; the ELEMNT Bolt and the ELEMNT MINI respectively (You can read a review of the ELEMNT Mini here). This is great news for the avid cyclist looking for a broader choice, with a unit now available for every price point.

 

ELEMNT Companion App

To handle the setup of their family of bike computers, Wahoo leverage the power of your smartphone to make setting up the computers as painless as possible. First, when you power up an ELEMNT it will display a QR code, which you scan using the camera of your smartphone to pair the ELEMNT over Bluetooth. Next up, the app will guide you through setting up your ELEMNT to work with all your favourite 3rd party apps (Strava, Training Peaks, Ride with GPS as well as many more), before moving on to setting up Wifi and syncing all your data wirelessly.

Companion App

Once you are up and running, the app serves as the main control panel for the computers, allowing you to configure data fields, decide which metrics are shown by the LED lights, set up your sensors and even plot routes to be synced immediately over Bluetooth using the ‘take me anywhere’ feature. Wahoo use the Google mapping engine to let you drop a pin on a map, search for an address or even ‘coffee’ and a full turn-by-turn route will be at your fingertips in seconds.

 

Wahoo ELEMNT

Since it’s release just over a year ago, a huge number of updates have occurred to the software of this unit, so much so that it’s almost unrecognisable in it’s features.

Wahoo ELEMNT

Image: Leon Van Bon

 

This is not a comprehensive review of the unit, but some of the highlights of the ELEMNT include:

  • The Wahoo ELEMNT companion phone app is impressively easy to setup and configure. Once complete, the ELEMNT works as a standalone head unit
  • Dual band ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity allows connection to all the sensors you may require; heart rate monitor, cadence, power, and so on
  • WiFi connectivity means you can wirelessly sync routes and computer data with most third party apps such as Strava and TrainingPeaks
  • The black and white non-touch screen results in increased battery life and enhanced screen visibility in all light conditions
  • The two strips of quick-look LED indicator buttons ensure you have access to speed, power and heart rate data as well as direction cues and notifications
  • World maps are included and map packs can be downloaded for free via WiFi
  • Strava live segments allows you to see your best times so you can chase some personal records
  • Strava Live suffer score can be displayed - dig deeper, for longer, and your score will increase
  • When using turn-by-turn directions, LED lights pulse to show upcoming turns
  • Live Track allows others to keep track of your location if you share the Live Track link. An update was launched in July so it’s possible to see progress through your route. What started as just a single dot on a map has developed into the ability to see heart rate and power data as well as geographic location. It’s even possible to share your planned route
  • Email/call/text notifications can be set to pop up on your screen
  • A 17 hour battery life covers pretty much any ride

In the box: ELEMNT Bike Computer / Stem, out-front and aerobar mounts / Micro-USB charging cable.

ELEMNT

 

Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt

The software in the Bolt is identical to that of the ELEMNT, so you get all the same features, but in a smaller, sleeker and more aerodynamic design. The two strips of LED’s on the ELEMNT have been replaced by just one on the Bolt.

ELEMNT Bolt

The ELEMNT Bolt has been designed to record and improve your performances. Aerodynamics are a huge consideration when you take your training and racing seriously, and Wahoo set out with the aim of engineering the most aerodynamic computer available. To do this, Wahoo enlisted Dimitris Katsanis of Metron Advanced Equipment, best known for his aerodynamic engineering expertise being lent to Bradley Wiggins’ hour record-breaking bike and the track bikes used by British Cycling in their dominant Olympics performances.

Extensive computational Fluid Testing (in layman's terms, the study of how air passes an object, and the impact it has on said object) was carried out, and has resulted in a design with 50% less drag than the leading competitor. When the included Integrated Out Front Mount is used, the ‘system’ amounts to a 1.1 watt saving over the leading bike computer. This may not sound like much, but every watt counts in the world of bike racing, and could make you 12.6 seconds faster over 40kph travelling at 21 mph. Another benefit is that no matter the angle you set your computer up, the air resistance does not change, so everyone gets the same advantages.

ELEMNT Bolt

In the box: ELEMNT Bolt Bike Computer / Stem and Integrated out-front mounts / Micro-USB charging cable.

 

Wahoo ELEMNT MINI

Simplicity is what this unit is all about. The MINI is more affordable than the other two but still provides all the information many riders need and is easy to setup and use. As a standalone unit it will display accurate speed, distance and time (with the included speed sensor), plus cadence and heart rate data (if you have the sensors). It’s important to note, however, that the unit only works with Wahoo sensors.

ELEMNT Mini

Pairing the unit with your phone via Bluetooth allows you to access some more advanced features including phone notifications and GPS Ride and Live Tracking. The computer can be setup to automatically sync your rides to Strava, and other authorised apps.

A notable difference between this and the other two units is that it requires a coin battery, with no USB charging port. However, this has a long life of around 300 hours and there’s no risk you’ll forget to charge your unit after a long ride.

In the box: MINI Bike Computer / Wahoo Speed Sensor / Stem Mount (including zip ties).

Wahoo Bike Computers

 

Wahoo Bike Computer Comparison Table
  Wahoo ELEMNT Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt Wahoo ELEMNT MINI
Unit dimensions 57.5mm x 90.5mm x 21.2mm 74.6mm x 47.3mm x 22.1mm 41mm x 58.4mm x 17mm
Screen dimensions 68.6mm (diagonal) 55.9mm (diagonal) 45.7mm (diagonal)
Weight 99.2g 60g 31.2g
Connectivity ANT+ / Bluetooth Smart ANT+ / Bluetooth Smart ANT+ / Bluetooth Smart
Battery life 17 hrs (rechargable) 15 hrs (rechargable) 300 hrs (disposable coin battery)
Waterproof rating IPX7 (up to 5ft) IPX7 (up to 5ft) IPX7 (up to 5ft)

 

ELEMNT Hill Climb

 

If you are looking to purchase your first bike computer, or would like an upgrade, Wahoo are a great option, with the three above offering different functions to cater for riders of all abilities.

 

About the Author

  • Cat Gaskell
  • Height: 165cm
  • Weight: 53kg
  • About Cat Gaskell: After being a runner, 3 years ago Cat discovered cycling and has never looked back. Predominantly a track cyclist, she can normally be found training and racing at Herne Hill Velodrome. A member of Sigma Sport Women's Race Team, Cat has a packed calendar of road and criterium races.

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