Wahoo Element Cycling Computer Review

wahoo element

Wahoo Element Review: User Friendly Cycling Computer

I have been using the Wahoo Element for a couple of months now, as a replacement for my Garmin 510.  Garmin has been the leader in the GPS cycling computer market for years now but now Wahoo has brought their Element to the market to offer a little competition.  The Wahoo Element was designed with the customer in mind with an user friendly interface and a clear willingness to listen to their customers.

Wahoo has proven their commitment to the customer by releasing over 20 firmware updates since the release of the Element in Spring 2016 which included rolling out numerous new features that were requested by users.  Wahoo’s commitment to their costumers is further amplified by the super user friendly interface developed for the Element, but more on that later.

Now let’s get to the review.  I’m not going to talk about all of the Element’s many awesome features, you can read about those here, instead this review is going to focus on the user experience.

You can get full details about what comes in the lovely Wahoo Element box from my unboxing video but basically you get three quarter-turn mounts and the regular paperwork.  The mounts are a little disappointing but the inclusion of a TT mount and pretty much makes up for it.  The out-front mount is a little flexy when trying to push the Element’s buttons and the stem mount uses zip-ties where you would expect elastic O-rings at this price point.

The “Quick Start Guide” that comes in the box is truly a quick start guide, basically 4 steps and you are good to go.  This is where the Wahoo Element really starts to shine.  All you have to do is download the Wahoo Element app to your phone, turn on the Element, and scan the QR code on the Element to pair it to your phone.  Once paired with the app, all the setup is taken care of via the app.

Thanks to the app, the Wahoo Element gets a massive gold star for user friendliness, another sign that Wahoo really care for their customers.  There is no fidgeting with poor touch screens or awkward menus controlled by limited buttons.  Everything is taken care of on your smart phone via the Wahoo Element app.  This allowed Wahoo to create a very user friendly computer where you can adjust all the settings and set up your screens with the drag of a finger.

The app also lets you quickly sync routes from Strava and Ride with GPS.  And further it lets you quickly and wirelessly upload your ride to some of your favorite apps like Strava and Training Peaks.  Your ride is basically there the moment you hit finish.  Like magic.

wahoo element

Having all of the settings in the app is fantastic but it does have one short coming that I noticed: on the fly adjustability.  One ride, earlier this year, somehow my Wahoo Element switched from metric to imperial.  I didn’t notice until I was a couple miles into the ride.  It was cold, so I had big gloves on and my phone was in a sandwich bag in my pocket, meaning I would have to stop on the side of the road and spend some time to fix it.  I mean you could make adjustments while riding but using your phone while riding is not safe, so don’t do it.

Using the app, you can setup up to 10 fields on your screens which include your base screen, a lap screen, a climbing screen (which shows the profile of the road you are on), and map.  You ca switch between screens using the three buttons along the bottom of the Wahoo Element’s screen.  And you can quickly change between the number of fields you see by using the buttons on the right hand side of the Wahoo Element by zooming in and out.

wahoo element

Let’s talk about the buttons for a moment.  The three buttons on the bottom can be a little hard to operate, taking a bit of effort, and hard to know if you have pushed them if you are wearing thick gloves.  But the buttons on the side protrude a good distance from the unit making them easy to find and have a good feeling when pushed.

Now that we’ve talked about buttons, let’s talk about the screen which is another fantastic user friendly feature of the Wahoo Element.  The screen is perfect for those hard training intervals where things are getting dark and your eyes are bulging out of your head.  The contrast of the Wahoo Element’s screen is great and makes the numbers easy to see in any light and the ability to zoom in on a couple of numbers really lets you focus on your targets even during the hardest efforts.  Plus, the colored LEDs are a great motivator and quick reference.

Speaking of LEDs, the Wahoo Element has a series of colored LED lights up the left hand side and across the top of the screen.  The ones on the left can be setup to show your training zones based on power, heart rate or speed and are a great thing to motivate you to hit your numbers or as a quick reference.  The ones on the top of the Element work with the turn-by-turn navigation or notifications from your phone.

wahoo element

Turn-by-turn navigation is one of the many features on the Wahoo Element that I haven’t spent much, or any time, playing with but the “Take Me Anywhere Navigation” is pretty cool and lets you search for where you want to go and the Element will route you there.  Some of the other features I haven’t played with include the ability to control your Wahoo KICKR or KICKR SNAP with Level mode, Erg mode, or reliving courses, and integrated Best Bike Split Race Targets.

A couple things I would like to see on the Wahoo Element are different profiles for bikes and different screen for different activities, like training and racing, similar to what you can set up on Garmins.  Basically I want to be able to see different fields depending on what I’m doing and what bike I am riding.

The large form factor might not be for everyone but I am personally a fan of it.  People who complained about the large size have already have their wishes heard, as well as some improvement to the button feel, with the recent release of the Wahoo Element Bolt, once again showing that Wahoo care about and listen to their customers.

In conclusion, the Wahoo Element is the most user friendly computer I have ever used.  The app has eliminated the need for awkward menus and poor touch screens, instead everything is taken care of on your smart phone with an interface everyone with a phone is familiar with.  A fantastic screen, unique and eye catching LEDs, and more features than you could shake a stick at further the Wahoo Element’s appeal.  Finally, Wahoo’s willingness to listen to its customers makes the Element a home run in my book.  If you are in the market for a new GPS cycling computer, than I definitely recommend checking out the Wahoo Element.

Wahoo Element Good

  • clear screen with good contrast and ability to zoom in
  • unique user friendly interface eliminates awkward menus and poor touch screens
  • willingness to listen to customers

Wahoo Element Bad

  • disappointing mounts
  • large form factor not for everyone
  • difficult to change settings on the go