Wahoo Elemnt Review: GPS Simplified

Designed to tether with your smartphone and sync with your Ride With GPS or Strava account, the Wahoo ELEMNT aims to simplify the process of navigating with a dedicated GPS. After a year of regular use, here’s our full report on how it’s fared, what we really like about it, and what we think could be improved (because Wahoo is constantly rolling out firmware updates)…

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For the most part, Garmin has long ruled the roost when it comes to GPS devices, even if their user interface often leaves something to be desired. Designed to be set up and used in conjunction with a smart phone, the ELEMNT is one of three models from US-based Wahoo that aims to usher in a more intuitive, straightforward way to navigate, record your rides, and train.

  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
  • wahoo elemnt GPS review

wahoo elemnt GPS review

For the purposes of this review, I’ve zoned in on how the ELEMNT works as a tool for bikepacking, i.e. for multi-day rides following a route. Given its myriad functions aimed at more goal-orientated cycling and training, I’ll point you over to DC Rainmaker’s write up for an in-depth analysis of a perplexing wealth of workout data, as well as using it with the likes of SRAM eTap, ANT+, and all the rest.

With this mind, we should probably start with the battery life, generally the main downfall of any electronic device when it comes to bikepacking. Don’t expect the 40hr+ usage of a Garmin installed with lithium batteries: I was only able to run the ELEMNT for a full day to a day and a half between charges, stretching it out to two if I was careful. Although this might sound disappointing, the good news is that the device can actually be used whilst being charged, which I did in a variety of ways; a cache battery that I kept in my feed bag, charged directly from my solar panel when taking a lunch stop, or running it in conjunction with my dynamo hub and Sinewave Beacon. As a result, I rarely ending up running it flat, just so long as I kept on top of things. What’s more, the ELEMNT is quick to charge, replenishing around 25 percent of its capacity during a typical half hour lunchtime break.

  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
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In comparison to Garmins that can complicated to set up and sometimes bug-prone, the ELEMNT is intuitive and reliable. Once you’ve downloaded the Wahoo app, you’ll initially need to choose the information you want each page to show and the order you’d like it to be presented in; synced via Bluetooth with the device, watch it miraculously appear in real time so you can fine tune it as you go. The more you data fields you choose to have per page, the smaller the numbers become.

  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
  • wahoo elemnt GPS review

I like to keep my data harvesting relatively simple, so I’ve generally settled on the following: one page shows an overview of everything, a data-free map page displays the route, an elevation page (with meters climbed and descended) lets me know how climbs are going, and another page covers distance ridden/distance to go. When following a preloaded route (more on that below), the device also displays the profile of what’s coming up – a very handy feature. As for the app, it works very well for the most part, though occasionally mine was a little laggy unless I had airplane mode turned on, and Bluetooth enabled, on my iPhone 6.

  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
  • wahoo elemnt GPS review

wahoo elemnt GPS review

  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
  • wahoo elemnt GPS review

Once your device is set up, you’ll need to load in maps and a route. Unlike Garmins, where basemaps need to be installed via your laptop or a micro SD chip, a collection of worldwide maps can be quickly and easily downloaded individually via wifi, country by country, and state by state in the US (note that they can’t, oddly enough, be downloaded via your phone’s data connection, should you forget to do so before heading out).

wahoo elemnt GPS review

  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
  • wahoo elemnt GPS review

The maps themselves are OSM-based; this means that details are relatively good for more well-travelled areas, but sometimes a little scant overseas. The maps just show roads, with no topo lines, mountain bike trails, or points of interest. Connect to wifi and the app will let you know if any maps need to be updated.

Where the ELEMNT really comes into its own is how well it syncs with 3rd party, web-based route planning software, such as Ride With GPS, Strava, and Komoot. I use RWGPS for planning most of my tours, so it’s simply a case of creating a route (or copying one from this site, for instance), syncing your account with the device, and then choosing the route you want to load into the ELEMNT (routes can be organised by date created or by location). Assuming you’re in the right spot, a clear series of chevron markers shows the route ahead, though unfortunately, it doesn’t show any waypoints that you may have included with your route (I was told this functionality scheduled to be introduced, which would be great). When turned on, it also sometimes takes the unit a few minutes to recognise you’re on route and for the chevrons to appear, which can be a bit disorientating.

wahoo elemnt GPS review

Scale can be toggled in and out, depending on how quick the terrain is changing, so I’ve had no issues using it with multi-turn, singletrack routes, even if the trail itself wasn’t actually showing on the basemap (zoom out too much and the map looses all its detail, though). Usefully, the device bleeps if you go off course and there are countdown prompts as you approach a key turn. Complete with LEDs, it can even flash right or left; I turned it off to save battery, but I imagine it would be good for night riding.

wahoo elemnt GPS review

  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
  • wahoo elemnt GPS review

All in all, the ELEMNT is refreshingly easy and intuitive to set up and follow. My only gripe is that the actual Wahoo app requires you to log in to a local wifi network, even if you’ve already done so on your phone, to download maps, make firmware updates, and most importantly, backup your rides (which you can set it up to do automatically). When I asked the company why, I was told, “The wifi connection you are punching in to the app is actually not connecting our app to wifi, but is authenticating the ELEMNT itself to wifi.” Hmm…

The device has 2GB of internal memory and is non-expandable. I couldn’t get my head around what that means in terms of how many basemaps you can download and routes you can prepare, before it wipes over old recorded data. When I asked for some clarification, I was told, “The ELEMNT, when preloaded with maps, has at approximately 300MB of free space, which equates to 3,000 hours of riding.” I guess it’s a moot point, as the reality was that I never ran out of space.

wahoo elemnt GPS review

The ELEMNT records as you ride, of course, giving you all the stats listed above and countless more. When your day in the saddle is done, it displays an overview of everything you’ve achieved (once synced to your phone, you can nerd out on the full minutiae, in all its glory). One point worth mentioning is if you’re recording a series of rides with the intention of creating a longer route at the end, it won’t continue from your previous track once the device is turned off. Each segment is saved separately as a .fit file. You can send these over to your phone and rename them individually – to help keep track of what’s what – or sync them with your Dropbox/RWGPS/Strava accounts to back them up, though this can take some time via Bluetooth. The only way that I can see to continue a file – and avoid the laborious process of sewing them all together in RWGPS – is to turn the unit off while recording, which forces it to retrieve the file and continue where you left off. This works well enough, though it can take several minutes to implement. I’d also like a function to choose not to automatically save a ride, so it doesn’t store data that I don’t want to keep.

  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
  • wahoo elemnt GPS review
  • wahoo elemnt GPS review

wahoo elemnt GPS review

Although somewhat obvious, what came as a surprise to me is that there’s no touchscreen on the greyscale display. This segues in to the main issue I had with this device. Given that the ELEMNT has only a few glove-friendly buttons, it means there’s no way of locating yourself if you need to leave your route. As you can imagine, this can be very limiting; after all, it’s easy to stray off your planned path to resupply, for example. Not only that, but if you do so, the route you’re following is no longer shown on the display. As such, the ELEMNT only works for bikepacking in tandem with a separate navigation app (my favourites being Gaia, Maps.me, MapOut, or even RWGPS’s own app, backed up with the gpx/kml file). Granted, you already need the phone to make all your setup changes and backups, so it’s less of a big deal than it might otherwise be. But still, it really means it’s a device primarily designed to follow routes rather than create them. On a positive note, running the ELEMNT as your day to day navigation tool means you can save your phone’s battery life, which is depleted especially quickly when recording a track. And we shouldn’t forget one of the other main advantages of running a separate, handlebar-mounted GPS – it provides extremely clear navigation, even in the rain or bright sunshine.

$329 (£250) is no loose change, and I’d consider the ELEMNT relatively costly given the lack of colour display and touchscreen. Perhaps this simplicity makes it into a more robust unit; a year in and I’ve had no durability issues despite subjecting it to a hard life. If you intend to use it for training purposes or as a day-to-day bike computer – at which it excels – you’ll probably see it as a better deal. There are some other features that may or may not add value; for those joined at the hip to their cell phones, rest assured that the unit can display texts and alert you to incoming calls, too.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that Wahoo is a small company and updates come thick and fast; the people there are well known for being responsive to suggestions. As an example, a few other minor grievances I had when I first received the unit have since been addressed as part of their frequent firmware updates.

Pros

  • Extremely easy to set up
  • Clear display, whatever the weather
  • Syncs seamlessly with Ride With GPS/Strava/Komoot
  • Robust and well made
  • Can be used while charging whether from a cache battery or a dynamo hub
  • Great as a GPS for following more established routes (rather than striking out into new territory)
  • Regular updates mean the device is constantly being refined and improved
  • Includes worldwide and state by state OSM maps (though they’re basic and there’s no topographic detail)

Cons

  • Battery life isn’t that great for multi-day rides
  • If used primarily as a GPS, relatively expensive, given it’s greyscale and non touchscreen
  • Currently impossible to view areas of maps beyond the track you’re following and route chevrons aren’t always shown unless you’re close to it
  • OSM basemaps can only be downloaded via wifi, not cellular data
  • Rides can be renamed within the app via Bluetooth but the new names aren’t propegated to RWGPS when exported
  • POIs that are exported as waypoints with RWGPS don’t show up on the map
  • Price $329.99 (£250)
  • Weight 99g (3.5 oz)
  • Size 57.5mm x 90.5mm x 21.2mm (2.3″ x 3.5″ x 0.8″)
  • BatteryUSB rechargeable, 16 hours
  • Waterproof RatingIPX7 (waterproof up to 5 ft)
  • Supported SatellitesGPS, GLONASS, BEIDOU Galileo, and QZSS
  • Place of manufacture China
  • Manufacturer’s Details Wahoo

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Wrap Up

Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to the ELEMNT. Forget those years of complicated tricks to convince your GPS and laptop to talk, let alone figuring out the complexities of uploading tracks and basemaps to a unit. Assuming you have access to an online route planning program like Ride With GPS (whether your account features routes you’ve created yourself or curated from outside sources) and a wifi network, it really is a simple, streamlined process that the least tech-savy bikepacker should be able to master. It also means you don’t need to carry a computer for longer trips, as planning or updating a route in a library becomes an option.

But the ELEMNT isn’t perfect. It’s very much a system designed to be used to follow a route rather than create or modify one on the fly, primarily because there’s no way to navigate around the screen; i.e. to see what’s all around you. And, once you stray off route, there’s no way to locate yourself in relation to it again. There are plans to introduce an update that will solve this, though I don’t quite see how, given the lack of buttons and touchscreen. Battery life is okay, rather than stellar, though as mentioned, thankfully the unit charges quickly, and can do so while being used. There’s also a few quirks – needing to log in to the app’s wifi even if your phone is already connected is fiddly – showing basic waypoints would be very handy, and allowing maps to be downloaded and data backed up via your phone’s cell connection (rather than waiting for a wifi network) would be welcome.

All this said, having used the ELEMNT solidly for over a year, this is a tool that’s proved itself to be extremely robust and has really helped simplify the way I follow routes that I’ve made in RWGPS. Compared to solely carrying a phone, it’s been especially useful when riding routes with multiple junctions; I no longer waste time pausing to check and see where I am or worrying about the battery life of my phone. Although its own route planning functionality is limited compared to some of the more powerful Garmins, there’s no doubt it’s much more straightforward to use, and you can circumvent this issue by supporting the ELEMNT with a good smartphone navigation app when needed (besides, it’s always to have a backup gpx file anyway). As I’ve mentioned above, Wahoo is committed to making regular software updates, so if I spot anything significantly different or improved, I’ll update this review.

As it stands right now, the ELEMNT is undoubtedly an excellent device for training rides, day rides, overnighters, and short trips. However, with its inability to allow you to deviate off your chosen route, using it for extended travels takes more forethought and preparation, as does keeping it charged. I recommend it highly to anyone who uses RWGPS, Strava or Komoot and either likes to follow other people’s routes (such as the ones we publish here), or design their own from the comforts of a computer and keep to them in the field. But, it’s not the right tool for bikepackers who like to strike out and make things up as they go, or are following a track that will likely need significant modifications on the fly.

  • Adam Popovec

    It does display charging progress, you just need to push the power button. :)

  • Ben

    Love my elemnt. I pre-ordered mine when they were first announced. Still prefer this over other options. You can save a few bucks and go with an elemnt bolt if you are fine with a smaller screen size as well, it’s got all the same features except one less perimeter LED strip (which I don’t use much anyway). Most of the time it just works and gets out of the way. The screen is killer and the lack of touch screen is great for me since I’m always wearing gloves on the bike.

    I’ve found that some MTB Trails are actually on OSM, depending on how ambitious the locals are with adding them to OSM. I had some issues trying to figure out how to push routes from my Trailforks and MTB Project apps on my iPhone to my Elemnt when I’m out in the field without a computer, so I created a quick blogger site and published instructions with screenshots there https://mtbblitz.blogspot.com.

  • Tom

    You missed its #1 weakness. If you have to deviate significantly from your route (think construction, roads that don’t exist, etc) then it is impossible to re-find the route. It doesn’t draw the route at all once you’re off route. This is crazy dangerous as it can leave you lost in an unfamiliar place.

  • Cass Gilbert

    That’s awesome, thanks Ben, I’ll check it out. I’ve not come across any trails shown where I’ve ridden so far, but for the most part, I’ve used it for overseas travels. Good to know some of them are there.

    A lot’s changing so I’m sure other improvements will be made. There’s already a tonne since I first started using it. As I say, it’s not perfect, but there’s a lot to like!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Ah, good to know! I’ll update the review. Thanks.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Not at all – I mentioned this in detail in the copy and the Wrap Up! I agree, it’s a major issue. But used in conjunction with a separate phone app (given you’re likely to have your phone with you too) I didn’t end up finding it as much of an issue as it could have been, though it’s definitely an annoyance.

  • Greg Moore

    I agree with this criticism of the unit. When using it for multi-day nav, I combine my Bolt with an Etrex 30x and just eyeball any reroutes on the etrex map (that to say I don’t build a re-reroute, just use the etrex like a paper map). If you try to scroll the Bolt map out enough to do this the map. screen becomes so cluttered as to be useless.

  • Greg Moore

    Slightly off topic….talk to me about solar charging. What chargers do you like? Maybe there is an article on this I haven’t found?

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve only used this one, and it’s been great:

    http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/anker-powerport-solar-review/

  • Cass Gilbert

    Given that I’m carrying a phone anyway… I backup the gpx file into a separate navigation app (like Gaia, Maps.me, or Mapout) and use that as my ‘paper map’ if/when I veer off route, or if I’m just a bit discombobulated. Battery life on the phone isn’t an issue if I’m just using it occasionally for this kind of stuff.

  • Ian Zuckerman

    Great review, thanks! I’m riding the GDMBR this summer, and am on the fence about getting a dedicated gps unit like this one. So far I’ve navigated all my bikepacking trips just using my phone with Gaia GPS and a few other apps, and I’ve been pretty happy with that system. I’ll have backup paper maps, and a big part of me feels like an additional electronic device is just added clutter, plus another thing to worry about charging. I don’t have a dynamo, just a solar panel and a couple of external batteries, so fear of running out of power on long trips is always somewhere in the back of my mind. On the other hand, there’s no question these things seem quite a bit sturdier and bad-weather resistant than an iphone. For those who already navigate with a phone, what made you want to get an additional gps system, and was it worth the money/handlebar real estate/extra charging needs?

  • Cass Gilbert

    I think it very much depends on the route. For ones with multiple turns in quick succession and/or relatively complicated navigation, I find a handlebar mounted unit really useful. It’s nice for peace of mind too, instead of second guessing yourself and checking all the time, in case you’ve distractedly missed a junction. A device like the ELEMNT will need some upkeep, in terms of keeping it charge. But you could always use it for some but not all sections.

    I’ve ridden the Divide and from what I remember, there’s not a lot of turns, in the greater scheme of things… At the time, I just used an old fashioned cycle computer for turn by turn distances, as marked on the Divide maps. For a popular route like the Divide, I think any of these methods would work well – a map, an old fashioned computer, a GPS, and/or a phone.

    In any case, as mentioned in the review, I’d also run a separate backup app to follow the gpx file in case anything goes amiss/gets lost/damaged. The Divide maps are great for an overview and a laden with bonus info. But they’re also bulky/heavy, and you probably don’t really need them anymore, if you have both a phone and a GPS – given how well travelled the route has become. I’m sure otherwise will disagree…

  • Ian Zuckerman

    Thanks for these thoughts, Cass. What you say makes a lot of sense. I’ve been using the Quad Lock handlebar mount for my phone. It’s kind of pricey (though a lot cheaper than a dedicated GPS!), but very sturdy and takes care of the annoying need to constantly stop and fish out your phone for directions. When I’m navigating complicated turns I’ll usually switch over to the ride with gps app which gives you cues and distances, and beeps at you if you miss a turn (which can easily get annoying if you just want to explore but is good for inflexible route following). Probably unnecessary but I think I’ll pay the weight/bulk penalty for the paper maps, because I’m nervous about being totally dependent on electronic devices. Plus I’m headed NoBo, with (hopefully) a bit more solitude. I’m probably leaning toward just sticking with the iphone as a primary navigation device, but if I do decided on a gps, though, this Wahoo looks like the way to go. Thanks for the input!

  • Garret Schmidt

    I have the same question, except in relation to the Colorado Trail which I’m bikepacking this summer. Was originally planning to use Gaia + databook with paper maps for backup, but this review (and the new mapping-compatible Garmin 520 Plus) is making me rethink strategy. I have no desire to strap a phone to my bars, and having peace of mind plus being able to correlate mileage with the databook would be really helpful. Now considering a GPS + Databook, with phone as backup…

  • Ian Zuckerman

    FWIW I haven’t found my phone mounted with the quad lock to be any more cumbersome or less secure than my old Garmin 720, just easier to read. I think if money were no object I’d buy and use this element as my primary navigation device with phone and maps as double backup. But it’s feeling to me like an awful lot of $$ for 90-95% redundancy…

  • Garret Schmidt

    My primary concern with having a phone on the bars is rain. Even with a ‘waterproof’ case, there’s a good chance I’ll see some monsoons, and don’t want to have to replace it.

  • Technically, with an IPX7 rating, you could fully immerse it at 5 feet for up to 30 minutes and it’d be fine – and since all of the most worrisome seal points are on the underside of the unit, I think it’d hold up just fine in rain. Granted, I haven’t taken mine into an Indonesian rainy season, but I’d still be confident getting it wet.

  • Simon Lagneaux

    I used a GPS unit on the GDMBR 2 years ago, but was really glad I also brought the paper maps with me. I loved looking at the maps at night in the tent and planning the next day.

  • Cass Gilbert

    It would definitely be nice if it was more affordable. As I say, those who use it for training and all the rest will see some extra value in its plethora of features. But for anyone using solely as a GPS, it does end up feeling pricey, as good as it is. Ultimately, I do think it’s a lot more reliable than a phone though, in the long run. My iPhone port is always suffering, charging is sometimes sporadic, and even with a protective screen, it’s no fun to use in the rain. The ELEMNT is definitely clearer to see too; you don’t even have to adjust any brightness levels.

  • Cass Gilbert

    The maps are definitely nice to have and as you say, great for visualizing and planning. Although I no longer think they’re necessary in the way they used to be, they’re a good way of supporting the efforts of the ACA, too. If I was riding the route, I’d probably bring a small tablet to pour over route info (I even carried the Divide book, when I rode it!) and watch movies in my tent (-;

  • Daniel

    I gotta disagree with a few comments here. I have been using the ELEMNT for 2 years now on a variety of routes from the US to Scotland and New Zealand. I’ve never had a problem routing back to the route when I get off the dotted line as it DOES draw your track on the map wherever you go–simply turn around and follow it back (or you can ask the unit to “retrace to start” and simply reactivate the main route when you get back to it). The comments about needing WiFi to backup routes is also not true. I backup my routes to my phone without WiFi or cellular all the time. As long as you are connected via bluetooth it will work. I am not 100% sure about being able to update the maps via the phone but pretty sure I did not use WiFi when I did that. The battery life is super reliable – I just rode from 6am-9pm on the AML 400 before I plugged it in at 15% battery life and it’s like that every time. I can charge it while navigating on a dynamo or a cache battery (and a 2000mah battery is enough for at least 2 charges and weighs less than two extra AA batteries). I do agree that I wish I could pan the map easier but since with an eTrex, ELEMNT or any other device I’m still gonna have my paper/digital maps as a backup, it is a non-issue (and phone screens are much easier to use). I personally hate touch screens on GPS units so I like the simple buttons. And you can use the app to type in ANYWHERE you want to go (though it does have to have cellular or wifi to work). I can also email or save the GPX files of routes on my phone and then you can select to open it with the ELEMNT app which will then upload to the device–all without internet (did this in New Zealand). It’s a great way to make sure you have backups or multiple route options, especially when you don’t have them in RWGPS.

    I do agree that the best feature is the RWGPS integration. If you go to the trouble to add cues to the route you will have soooooo much great information available to you. I will add random notes to myself as cues (like when I am approaching a town I’ll put a cue that says “next resupply 40 miles; 8am-8pm” so I know if I need to stop or if I have time to keep going). I also like the beeps and LEDs for keeping me on route. At night I actually almost never turn the backlight on (so saves battery) because when I approach a cue/turn it will illuminate the screen and the LEDs until I get through it.

    Now, if you want TONS of map detail, then yes this it not the best device for that. I like the gray scale personally and have never minded just following a line (and it forces me to study the actual map more before I go). But I still think this is the best all around adventure riding/bikepacking GPS out there.

  • Hey Daniel,

    Thanks for your feedback. Glad you’re happy with ELEMNT.
    Just to clarify… Unfortunately, The ELEMNT definitely can’t download maps via a cellular network, just wifi. And, although you can transfer ride info to a phone with bluetooth, you can only sync with dropbox/RWGPS (the two I use) for a ‘proper’ backup when you have wifi, rather than a cell phone connection. The Gaia app, for instance, backs up all the files you’ve created as soon as you’re online, automatically. I find this super handy.
    Yes, you can retrace your route, but the point I was making is that you can’t reroute around it. I’ve also found that if I leave a route because the GPX file I’ve created on RWGPS isn’t quite the same as what exists on the ground – eg, I’m riding parallel to it, but not along it – the chevroned markers often disappear, so I don’t know where the route is in relation to where I am at that moment. As I mentioned, it’s not a big issue if you have a separate navigation app and you’ve made sure you’ve downloaded the relevant maps, but it’s something to be aware of.
    There’s definitely a lot to like, as you say. Being able to charge it while it’s being used is super useful, it’s robust, clear to read, and I think it’s a great unit for simplifying the process of following a route, or even multiple routes that you’ve prepped beforehand. But it’s not able to create/modifying planned routes on the fly in the way that some Garmins are, away from a cell connection.
    Lastly, although you can create cues, I do think that it’s a shame waypoints don’t pop up as you hit them along your chosen route, given how well the device syncs with RWGPS in other ways. A lot of people will follow a route on this site, for instance, so it’s a shame the POIs are lost.

  • Gian Liesch

    Garmin Edge 820 and others come with preinstalled maps. Usable, preinstalled maps.

  • Idle Prentice

    I’m all for cutting out the Garmin-interface middleman, but I’m having a hard time seeing what this does for me that a durable smart phone with RWGPS and GAIA can’t do. In depth analytics of rides for training purposes, I suppose? I suppose ditching the Garmin and its attendant software issues is reason enough?

  • Idle Prentice

    Agreed, Tom – this to me seems toxic. Also, sometimes routes on the map simply differ from routes on the ground enough to flummox a GPS and make this all seem like an expensive mistake.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Now that powerful smartphones and apps like Gaia exist, making use of a great OS with hardware you already own, the argument to ditch the dedicated GPS is a strong one. But… having used both, regularly, a device like the ELEMNT is definitely easier to follow than a smartphone, it’s a lot tougher, and it works better in mixed weather (even if the smartphone has a protective case). It’s also a lot more pleasant to use than any Garmin I’ve tried.

    Yes, there is a lot of overlap. And I’d even say that ultimately, if running the ELEMNT, I wouldn’t leave home without a smartphone loaded with a good navigation app, whereas a smartphone works just fine when used independently. But the ELEMNT still improves the whole route following experience, IMO!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hey Daniel,

    Thanks for your feedback. Glad you’re happy with ELEMNT!

    Just to clarify… Unfortunately, The ELEMNT is definitely unable to download maps via a cellular network, just wifi. And, although you can transfer ride info to a phone with bluetooth, you can only sync with dropbox/RWGPS (the two I use) for a ‘proper’ backup when you have wifi, rather than a cell phone connection. The Gaia app, for instance, backs up all the files you’ve created as soon as you’re online, automatically and without the need to manually log into wifi, which I find useful.

    Yes, you can retrace your route, but the point I was making is that you can’t reroute around it. I’ve also found that if I leave a route because the GPX file I’ve created on RWGPS isn’t quite the same as what exists on the ground – eg, I’m riding parallel to it, but not along it – the chevroned markers often disappear, so it’s hard to see where the route is in relation to where I am at that moment. As I mentioned, it’s not a big issue if you have a separate navigation app and you’ve made sure you’ve downloaded the relevant maps, but it’s something to be aware of.

    There’s definitely a lot to like, as you say. Being able to charge it while it’s being used is super useful, it’s robust, clear to read, and I think it’s a great unit for simplifying the process of following a route, or even multiple routes that you’ve prepped beforehand. But it’s not able to create/modify planned routes on the fly in the way that some Garmins are, away from cell connection.

    Lastly, although you can create cues, I do think that it’s a shame waypoints don’t pop up as you hit them along your chosen route, given how well the device syncs with RWGPS in other ways. A lot of people will follow a route on this site, so it’s disappointing the POIs are lost without manually re-entering them as cues.

  • Ben

    You can definitely upload files from Elemnt to dropbox/strava/rwgps via LTE. I often do this immediately after a ride at the trailhead. However, It doesn’t do it automatically, you have to view results in the iphone app and then click the sharing button and then tap the site you want to push to.

  • Ian Zuckerman

    hmm, yes you’re right about that, durability is definitely the strongest consideration. I’m still on the fence, thanks for the food for thought, all.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Ben, that’s great to know. I haven’t had any success so far, I’ll try again. I’ve set mine up to do sync with RWGPS and Dropbox automatically when I’m connected via wifi, was hoping to do this via cell reception too.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Ben, wondered if you’d had this issue as well. If I export a ride to RWGPS but rename it in the app first, that new name doesn’t carry through.

    Example: say I’ve done a number of rides, and renamed them as I go (via Bluetooth/the Wahoo app), and I’m uploading them a week later when I have cell/wifi, I’m back to rides organised by dates, rather than the names I assigned. Those names can still be retrieved in the app itself, but not via RWGPS. Any thoughts? Thanks.

  • Ben

    Interesting question about renaming rides. I normally tend to do that after they sync to services (and really only keep up with it in strava, I tend to keep my rides on strava and my routes in RWGPS). I just tried it out and it seems like it’s not sending the name to RWGPS at all.

    I don’t think it even tries for any of the possible services you can export to. I even tried exporting to email, RWGPS, and dropbox and it looks like it just uses the date and doesn’t pass along the name in any meaningful way. That would be a nice feature for them to implement, propagating the names to the exported services. However, I think we’ll have to wait for wahoo to prioritize implementing that feature.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for that. I think I asked them a while back and it was on the ‘things to do’ list. Makes a lot of sense for anyone who’s unable to keep on top of uploading their rides as they go; otherwise things get complicated quick. Alternatively, it would be nice to have a Wahoo site for the rides to sync to (with their updated names), as with Gaia and Lezyne. Then you can rename/export them at a later date.

  • Daniel

    Agree on the need for a Wahoo cloud site but I suspect they are trying to really push the fact that the device supports all the other apps so well. When I select “auto-upload” it sends my files to all my linked accounts automatically without wifi. And I agree that POIs should upload to the device from RWGPS files. Even if it didn’t do proximity alerts it would just be nice to see it on there (so I could drop a cue on the actual route that says “spring to right 500 ft” and there would be an actual spring marker on the map). So yes, definitely a few things I’d like improved but I had too many garmins crap out on me in less time than I’ve owned this so I’m a bit limited in my choices these days :-) I did want to reiterate one really nice thing not many people realize. On the iPhone at least, if you save GPX files to your Files folder, you can select to open them in the Wahoo app. That’s been a nice backup when I needed to reload a file without any cellular service.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Auto-upload in the wifi section of the app? That’s interesting. Doesn’t seem to want to do it for me. I’ll have to dig deeper and figure that out.
    Yes, definitely nice to be able to load in routes offline and open them in Wahoo app, I’ll add that as a note. Weirdly, my app can sometimes be very laggy if I have cell connection turned on. But if it’s in airplane mode and Bluetooth enabled, then it’s quick and snappy. I’m still a little bemused as to why you need to independently log into the app’s wifi – ie, re-enter a passcode.
    I do like it though and it’s made loading in routes so much easier than with my Garmin, just wish a few things were ironed out.

  • Mark

    I just want to know how you got that first picture with the fly above the unit???

  • Stephen Poole

    Probably a dumb question as I haven’t owned a device like this, but what do you mean by “Designed to tether with your smartphone…” and
    “Designed to be set up and used in conjunction with a smart phone…” Does this mean the Elemnt relies on the phone being on and connected to it all the time???

    FWIW, I’m looking at getting something in part to follow downloaded RWGPS routes, and have zero experience with other than “dumb” GPS devices; I’m used to paper maps.

  • Victor Barra

    Please do a review of maps.me + quadlock. Any cellphone with ipx7 and 3000 mAh of battery life is better than a dedicated gps.

  • Big Jänet Romance

    garmin can lick my leather for the most part. my device throwing ratio is a staggering 9 outa 10 times with a garmin and only 3 outa 10 times with the wahoo.

  • Big Jänet Romance

    i do wish they would give up in the “training” features, however. who is that boring anymore??? give us a device that is purpose built for navigation

  • Cass Gilbert

    The device doesn’t have to be connected to a smartphone all the time, unless you’re using it to receive text/call notifications. But you’ll need a phone to set it up, email/transfer your rides, sync it with different navigation apps, update the software, and potentially situate yourself if you steer off your route.

    On the whole, I’ve found it great for following downloaded RWGPS routes.

  • Stephen Poole

    Thanks Cass, much appreciated; I’m not interested in using it to receive emails! ;-)

  • Ben

    Yeah. I tend to just open up the phone and peek at the app to see where I am and how to get back on track if I lost my place. Though, I’m guessing basemaps in the app need a cell connection to work well.

    I figure I could download maps on RWGPS when I’m going out of cell range since that’s the source for most of my routes and they are synced from there so I’ll have the same track available there with some cached map data for when I’m out of service.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Check out MapOut. It has a nice feature that allows you to quickly measure the distance between points and view the profile of the section in question (the way RWGPS has mile markers). You can also download quadrants for your route really quickly and easily. It’s not as detailed as the likes of Gaia, but it’s a nice quick and easy app that’s free too; I tend to use it more these days than RWGPS as my backup (along with Gaia) when I get discombobulated!

  • Ben

    Thanks, I’ll check it out. Always good to have other options.

  • adventureroadbiker

    I reluctantly took a pre production ELEMNT to test after I had given up entirely on GPS due to frustrations with Garmins. It is still going strong, still getting better with every update and couldn’t be without it. What would be great is if someone would work with Garmin to create a bikepacking/touring specific GPS. From what I have seen with the ELEMNT they would nail it!

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