Find out how the Wahoo Elemnt Roam handles navigation on the trails!
Words and photos: Mike Blewitt
The Wahoo ELEMNT Roam is an update to the popular ELEMNT and a bigger brother to the smaller ELEMNT Bolt, and it shares similar design features to the smaller unit. I have used the original ELEMNT for over two years and like that the unit is controlled by your phone, meaning you have a fuss-free interface and a large screen. The black and white screen was ok, but really I liked the customisable data pages, fast start up and satellite acquisition, auto upload to Training Peaks and Strava, and the text and phone call alerts. This is just a few of the features but I found them the most useful.
The ELEMNT Roam has a huge out front mount and a bar mount in the pack – I opted for the stem mount. With my steerer cut it wasn't a problem to fit. The out front mount might make the unit easier to see in use, but more on that later. Setup via your app takes barely a couple of minutes and you're ready to go.
On the trail
The Roam brings in a colour screen for mapping and improved route guidance. Now route guidance is tricky for a GPS on a mountain bike. What exactly do you expect, guidance on how to get to the trails – or guidance on the trails? Use the Wahoo app on your phone to clear out all the basic maps that you don't need, clear up some storage and update your maps for the country or countries you need.
I primarily used the navigation function while riding overseas, on trails and small roads I didn't know. So I really had to trust the Wahoo ELEMNT Roam to steer me right. I used the device to ride the UCI Marathon MTB World Championships course before it was marked and given the tapestry of trails that covered some of the areas it was really useful – but not without fault.
You can have the GPS take you to the start of the route with turn-by-turn navigation, or even to take you to a saved point. This works best on roads, and less well on trails. Some trail junctions required a stop and check for how things look on the ground, and how they look on the map. There's a function to get you back on track, and this was handy as it was easy to miss or take a wrong turn when riding a descent and following the trails that 'felt' right. Even if I had used the out front mount my attention on fast singletrack descents I haven't ridden before will be on the trail in front of me – not my GPS. Beeps are covered by chain slap and tyres gripping dirt, and even coloured LED lights really don't grab your attention that much. I really had to slow down and steal a glance at the screen to double check after trail junctions. This is not a problem with the ELEMNT Roam – it's just a problem with relying on a small device on your bike for navigation when you're having a blast railing fast trails.
Along with all the other standard navigation functions and bike computer settings, the Wahoo ELEMNT Roam ticks a lot of boxes, and anyone will appreciate the longer battery life, assisted by light metering for the screen so it's brighter in the dark and dimmer in the light. I like how it easily knows what sensors are nearby depending what bike I am on. The buttons are tactile and there options to customise the screens and data recording are near limitless – including options for live tracking for those who might worry about you, and for live Strava updates. It's a pretty full on bike computer.
This is a great bike computer for someone who needs to record and watch data, rides in new places and has a couple of bikes to use the computer on. If you're after a device strictly for navigation on mountain bike trails I'm not convinced that it truly exists, unless you can have a voice activated turn-by-turn option. But that's ok, this unit guided me safely around a 70 and 95km route with very few steps needing to be retraced – checking the screen was a lot faster than stopping to pull a phone out to refer to Trailforks or similar. If you own a Wahoo ELEMNT already I'm not sure there's a need to upgrade – but if you're looking for navigation improvements or a new GPS then I'd take a closer look.
RRP: $599.95 ($719.95 with the bundle)
- Updated navigation options
- Long battery life
- Lots of features
- Big price increase over the ELEMNT