Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM Review
Cons: No touchscreen, head unit relies on phone a bit too much, app setup and syncing can be a pain, routing can be clunky
Manufacturer: Wahoo Fitness
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The new ELEMNT ROAM is a dependable bike computer that will serve you as well on your road bike as it will on your mountain or gravel bike. That versatility is one of its greatest strengths, and it gets there by paring back its fanciness in favor of a tougher, more durable head unit with tactile buttons and no touchscreen. That means it can take a lot of abuse, and it will pass the wet screen test every time (some competitors use awesome touchscreens, but they still crap out if you're hovering over them, and your sweat starts dripping all over the screen). Wahoo also reduces the time you need to spend screwing around on your head unit by offloading a lot of the configuration to their phone app, so once you're out on the road, you shouldn't need to spend a lot of time trying to flip through screens on the small display.
One of the problems that inevitably pops up with apps and these sorts of devices is bugginess and limited support. This is another area where Wahoo tends to do better than some of the other competitors. They're pretty good about getting after problems and putting out fixes, but there are still reports of crashes, which we also experienced two or three times in our testing. It's not a deal-breaker, but if you're out on a group ride and it happens, you're missing some data while it reboots, and you restart. Plus, it's just a pain and always sort of looms over your head that it might happen. That said, it's a great bike computer that we're happy to use and continue to recommend to friends.
Ease of Use
The ELEMNT ROAM is pretty simple to operate. The head unit can seem just slightly clunky because you're trying to navigate dozens of features and options with side buttons, but the phone app makes it easier because you can configure it from your phone to minimize fiddling on the road. On that point, the list of features and capabilities is almost overwhelming, adding to the complexity of operation if you want to get the full benefits of using the device. There's no problem if all you want to do is select a few easy screens and learn how to use some of the basic features.
This model ranks among the best in our review. The only models to outperform it get their ratings from big, clean, clear touchscreens with streamlined displays. The ROAM's strength comes in its simple to navigate phone-based ELEMNT companion app that's used to configure its display. The user interface is pretty simple. It uses six tactile buttons with a power button on the left side, two buttons on the right for screen zooming and navigation, and three multi-function selection buttons along the bottom of the face. It's not as fun or sexy as the touchscreen models, but it's appreciated when conditions are wet, and your display is still 100% functional while your buddies can't do anything on their sweet touchscreen computers.
It's not so bad on startup time. You can expect all of the best bike computers with robust functionality to start up like harrier jets. It takes about 33 seconds for the ELEMNT ROAM to fire up. Add to that another 30 or 45 seconds to find satellites, internet, Bluetooth, and ANT+ signals. In the scheme of things, it's not a big deal, but as a comparative measure, it's a little long, and you'd be right to expect some pretty spectacular performance once the engines are warm. Don't worry, the ROAM delivers.
You'll get about 17 hours of life out of a single charge. It charges back up in a few hours using a standard USB cable, nothing fancy. Just pull back the port cover and plug'er in. If you want to eke out a little more life, there are a few things you can do, like killing the backlight and LEDs. Disabling sensors will always save battery too, if you want a little more range and don't mind sacrificing something like cadence. You can even turn off GPS if you need to (especially if you're indoors).
The ELEMNT Companion App has a lot of horsepower, so there aren't a lot of problems getting everything linked up using its ANT+ and Bluetooth capabilities. It's also Wi-Fi-enabled. Ride data syncs pretty much as soon as you finish a ride. It's also straightforward to pull data over from 3rd party apps like Strava, Komoot, SingleTracks, and many others. The only trouble we had was when trying to install updates. The connection tended to drop unless we were on the same internet network. Map updates always require Wi-Fi.
The head unit also integrates with a few spiffy pieces of hardware like electronic shifters, muscle oxygen sensors, and pedaling monitors. We did pair it with our Garmin equipment but didn't get the best data out of it. Understandably, Garmin isn't included in the list of compatible devices. (Their stuff also isn't mentioned as incompatible.)
Ease of Setup
The Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM is simple to get up and running out of the box. Its robust ELEMNT companion app quickly guides you through all the steps required to get rolling and recording. For those who aren't patient enough to go through the directions or watch videos, the design is straightforward enough that you can probably figure most of it out and troubleshoot a few times when you come to an advanced function.
The ELEMNT ROAM comes with a few mounts to fit your needs, but our favorite is the sleek out-front mount that fits perfectly flush with the computer for an attractive aero effect. It includes a few shims to mount to your handlebars and locks down quite nicely for a stable, reliable platform. There's also a simpler, practical stem mount to bring the computer in a little closer if that's your preference. The aero mount seemed a little more stable, but both options are well-design and reasonable.
The list of features for the ELEMNT ROAM is pretty darn exhaustive, which is a major reason it picked up our Top Pick for Data Hungry Cyclist Award. Most of these features come in the form of specific things that can be done using the GPS and navigational capabilities; hence, the computer's name, ROAM.
If we were to discuss each feature, it'd drain away significant portions of your life. Instead, we'll look at some of the most relevant features that we think most riders will end up using. To simplify things, we break this section up into connected features, navigation, and training.
The ROAM relies heavily on the ELEMNT app for a good deal of its functionality, so many of its features could be listed under this heading. We broke navigational and training out to make it a little easier to understand. The features requiring a connection that don't fall as clearly under those other two categories are listed below.
- ELEMNT Companion App: Your handheld command console where you can push changes to your head unit and control just about any aspect of your computer and its features.
- Activity Uploads: Once you finish your ride, activities are immediately uploaded to Wahoo and synced to any other platforms you have connected, including Strava, Ride with GPS, Best Bike Split, Komoot, MTB Project, and SingleTracks.
- Live Track: Wahoo has its own super useful live tracking feature that allows you to share your location with others using a customizable link. The links can be changed to share your location forever, for the day, and automatically. Pretty darn clever.
- Third-Party Downloads: You can also pull out routes, courses, workouts, and other data from your connected apps and use them for navigation or other functionality like Strava's Live Segment.
- Social Media: To get your workouts on Facebook and those other purely social media sites, you'll need to first upload them to Strava or another fitness site that has the sharing capabilities. Most of us probably post from Strava now anyway, so it's no major loss, but don't spend an hour searching through your Wahoo account trying to figure out how to share directly - you can't.
- Notifications: Text and phone call notifications are displayed on your device. They can also be turned off with the Do Not Disturb feature if you're in the zone.
- Other Integrations: You can sync up cool new toys like electronic gear shifters, muscle oxygen sensors, and, of course, power meters.
One of the awesome things that sets this device apart is its use of such a broad array of navigational satellites. It can use GPS, Glonass, BEIDOU Galileo, and QZSS, making it among the most reliable navigational devices out there. As for actual navigation, there's certainly no lack of options for this sweet little device. Take a look at the major features below.
- ON-DEVICE TURN BY TURN NAVIGATION: This extends to any route, including those from Strava, Ride With GPS, Komoot, and even GPX and TCX files.
- TAKE ME TO (ON-DEMAND ROUTE GENERATION): This is one of the best features, especially for roaming. You can simply pull up the map, point to a spot, and get directions there. It can be done from the head unit or the ELEMNT phone app. In the phone app, you can also search for a destination or address, and it syncs over to the bike computer. Easy, convenient stuff.
- RETRACE ROUTE (BREADCRUMB TRAILS): If you rode out somewhere and don't quite remember how to get back, you can retrace your route from the head unit or the ELEMNT app.
- SAVED LOCATIONS: One would think that you'd have a pretty good idea of how to get to your most frequently visited locations without GPS assistance. Still, there could be scenarios where this could come in handy if you find you're out exploring and want to get back to your mid-ride cafe or post-ride brewery.
- GET ME STARTED (ROUTE TO STARTING POINT): Ever find an awesome route that starts 10 miles away, and you have no idea how to get over there? Wahoo had the same problem, so they built this feature to solve that issue.
- BACK ON TRACK (ON-DEMAND REROUTING):
- ROUTE TO START (SHORTEST ROUTE): There are some days where you just hit the wall way too early and need to head back home or times where you flirted way too hard with the upper limits of the carb-intake-GI storm line and you have exactly 45 minutes to get back home. That's where this feature comes in handy. Hopefully, you'll always be able to choose the longer route, but it's here if you need it.
With high-end bike computers like the ROAM, you expect a lot of useful training tools, and it delivers. Take a look at some of what this device offers.
- STRAVA: You can get all of your favorite Strava training data beamed in during your ride, like Relative Effort and Live Segments for PRs and KOM-hunting.
- BEST BIKE SPLIT: This will help you hit power and speed targets during hard rides and races over specific courses. It can also be used with a trainer indoors.
- KICKR SMART TRAINER CONTROL: One of the coolest features of this device is that it can be used to control your KICKR, KICKR CORE, or KICKR SNAP. When playing with this toy, you can use level mode, ERG mode, and ride history, which recreates the elevation profile from that ride! Pretty darn cool.
- ANT+ FE-C CONTROL: Don't run a Wahoo trainer? If it's a smart trainer that uses ANT+FE-C, you can still use your ROAM to control it!
- STRUCTURED WORKOUTS: In addition to the five Team Ineos structured workouts it already has on board, you can pair with TrainerRoad, TrainingPeaks, or Today's Plan to download even more structured workouts for indoor or outdoor training.
The ELEMNT ROAM is among the most versatile computers out there. It relies on Wi-Fi, ANT+ FE-C, and Bluetooth for communication, so it easily integrates with just about anything. What it lacks in a sleek user interface (instead, using tactile buttons), it gains in durability and water resistance. Yes, the other major GPS computers are also rated for the same IPX7 water resistance, but their touchscreens can go a little haywire when they're wet, just like your cell phone. That makes it a little better for mountain biking and offroad, not to mention any wet conditions.
Like most of the other top GPS bike computers, it has app integration and functionality for everything bike-related you'd ever need: road biking, cross, mountain, gravel, trails. And it has the navigational capacity for anything from cross-town to cross-country. Hell, it can even function as a controller for a smart trainer if you have one of the KICKRs. That makes it one of the most versatile GPS bike computers out there and a primary reason we love it so much.
It can function as a walking, hiking, running GPS tracker, but it's not quite as spec'd out for it as a watch, or running-specific device would be. Given all it offers to the cyclist, it's hard not to love this device, especially for the rougher riders and folks living in the Wahoo environment.
This model is rated as IPX7, which should be waterproof to about 5ft. Basically, you'll never have to worry about it in the rain or if you drop it in your beer or a puddle, but it's not a dive computer, so don't take it out to the reef. The other notable strength of this device is its low-tech interface. A lot of major GPS bike computers are now touchscreen, which is super sexy, but as soon as the screen is wet, it loses some functionality. There's no such issue with the ELEMNT ROAM.
The ELEMNT ROAM isn't exactly the most affordable cycling computer out there. It comes in a bit above the median, but for a GPS computer with a robust, user-friendly app that tears it up across road, mountain, trail, and even hiking, it's really quite a good deal. We've mentioned elsewhere that the head unit isn't as elegant as some of the other competitors, particularly the larger touchscreen models, it makes up for that by being a little more durable and not having the touchscreen go all screwy if you're in the rain or dripping sweat from your face. It's a practical, high-function bike computer that is well worth its price, especially if you're a display fiddler.
Wahoo's Fitness ELEMNT ROAM is one of the best cycling computers on the market right now. It's not the snazziest, but it more than makes up for that with its user-friendly app that allows you to easily get the head unit set up and rolling, a dense array of navigational features, versatility, and its practical toughness. And because of the deep customization possible with the bike computer's data fields and the insanely easy setup, this new device won our Top Pick for Data Hungry Cyclist Award. It's a straightforward device, so it's not difficult to use. The only mark against it here is from a comparative perspective - that is, its tactile buttons aren't as luxurious and elegant as the touchscreen competitors. That's generally a strike against it until it's raining… There are tons and tons of features, especially on the navigation front. Add to that the number of strong third-party integrations, and you have one of the top devices out there for analytics and performance tracking. The ELEMENT ROAM also has strong support for mountain bike and off-road pursuits in addition to its robust road features. Sensors are easily swapped around between bikes, and it even works pretty well as a standalone GPS unit if you're driving or hiking, just make sure you have the maps loaded if you're going into remote areas or spots where your phone isn't going to get service.
— Ryan Baham