A style and functional GPS that fits in between a pure adventurers tool and a racers assistant, just beware of faulty mounts
Cheaper than its rival
Stylish and easy to use
Route-planning is intuitive
Beware of snapping mounts
Can be tricky to re-route on longer detours
Battery life shorter than rivals
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Wahoo has been determined to shake things up with its range of stylish and easy to use devices, just like its new Wahoo Elemnt Roam, which is an outstanding addition to the catalogue, slotting into the space between pure-race kit and an adventurers tool.
However, there was a fairly significant design flaw not in the unit itself but in the plastic mount. On my first ride with the Roam, the mount snapped clean in half and sent the device hurtling across the road and into a nearby bush – the positive being the Roam wasn’t damaged, so they’re also pretty hardy.
According to Wahoo, there was a design issue with an early batch of the mounts which included my test unit, say they have rectified the problem with a "minor change" which included switching sub-suppliers. Wahoo added that mounts were replaced as quickly as possible and all subsequent units have had the new mounts included.
Wahoo sent me a new model mount that rectified the issue and I haven’t had another problem in the three months I’ve been using the Roam.
As with the more compact Elemnt Bolt, the Wahoo Elemnt Roam works with your smartphone to set up the device and also customise your data displays, as well as adding and planning your routes.
While this may be a hindrance to technophobic cyclists, using the app will not be a problem for a majority of riders. The only downfall to this system is the inability to edit your screens on the device itself, which can be a hindrance if you want to make any last minute changes if your phone is out of reach, in the moments before a race for example – a situation I found myself in ahead of a 10-mile TT when I needed to add an additional data field I wouldn’t normally use day-to-day.
The most exciting feature of the Roam is the navigation, as it is a powerful GPS device wrapped into and fun to use and easy to follow package, despite the relatively small size.
Particularly welcome is the Roam’s ability to get you back on track if you veer off the planned course. This is a handy feature that can make life a lot easier if you have to make a small detour or miss your cue, however the Roam isn’t quite intuitive enough if you need to make a significant detour, instead it tries to take you backward to rejoin your route close to where you left it, hampering your progress if you’d been forced to take the long way round.
That being said, the ‘take me to’ mode makes navigating the roads a treat if you don’t have time to plan a detailed route, intuitively opting for roads not jammed with traffic while not taking you down unpaved paths or gravel roads like some of the mapping options out there. Again the routes are designed to be set up via the Wahoo Elemnt app, which can be a hassle if your plans change mid-ride. The Roam does have GPS options built in to the device, but the simplicity of the three-button system make it slightly fiddly to make changes to your route on the hoof.
While using the Roam on a century from Hampshire to the coast, I found the route mapping software I had used had opted to take me on 20 miles of gravel path (on a road bike), forcing me to improvise the ride somewhat. The Roam tried to return me to the route near where I had left it. I tried to make adjustments to my route on the device but was unable to find an easy fix, so I was forced to find my own way around the detour before re-joining the planned route, where the Roam kicked back in seamlessly.
The Roam’s Gorilla Glass lens makes the display easy to see in pretty much all weather conditions, while the ambient light sensor automatically adjusts brightness making it a seamless ride both indoors and out, with A 2.7-inch display
In terms of battery, the Wahoo doesn’t quite pack the punch of the Garmin equivalent, the Edge 830.
Wahoo’s model lasts around 17 hours, compared with the 20 of the 830 Edge and I did notice the dropping battery percentage on long rides, which can make you pretty nervous if you’ve got a lot day in the saddle and you don’t want to lose those kilometres or resort to Strava on your phone.
In terms of price, the Wahoo is cheaper than it's Garmin rival, retailing at £299 compared with £349.99 for the Edge 830, which also makes it an attractive option.
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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