Wahoo ELEMNT Roam Review: Worth the Asking Price? – by James Raison

Wahoo’s ELEMNT Roam was released with plenty of excitement following the success of the ELEMNT Bolt. It came with a larger size, new features, colour(ish) screen, and an equal price to the Garmin Edge 830. So, does it warrant its premium positioning and pricepoint? I gave it a few weeks of testing to find out. 

About:

  • Display Size: 2.7″ (68.58mm)
  • Screen Resolution: 240×400
  • Weight: 3.3 oz
  • Battery: USB rechargeable
  • Battery Life: 17 hours
  • Waterproof Rating: IPX7 (waterproof up to 5 ft)
  • Integration for: Strava, Best Bike Split, Komoot, Ride With GPS, and Relive

In the Box:

  • ELEMNT ROAM Unit
  • Integrated Out-front Mount
  • Stem Mount
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Micro USB Cable

wahoo elemnt roam review

Hardware

The ELEMNT Roam is a downright ugly unit compared to its main competitor, the svelte Garmin Edge 830. Its screen is tiny in proportion to the unit’s face. There are chunky bezels on each side that house strips of LEDs on the top and left, and there’s the triple-button arrangement at the bottom. The power button sits on the left edge, and the up/down arrows are on the right.

wahoo elemnt roam review

Flip it over and you’ll see the patent skirting quarter-turn mount interface that’s 90 degrees offset from the Garmin, and the charge port is hidden on the lower edge. It sure won’t win any beauty contests but its talents lie beyond aesthetics.

wahoo elemnt roam review

Setup and Connectivity

Getting the unit setup is a fiddly process with the Wahoo ELEMNT app acting as a bridge to the device. It took about 20 minutes of turning-off-then-on-again for the app to recognise the ELEMNT Roam was connected, and several more minutes of trying to get the Roam connected to WiFi. Certainly one of the more frustrating unit setups I’ve had recently. Once in, the app is straightforward enough. You can change most device settings and configure your pages and data fields. You can fully set up the unit using only the head unit with Wahoo’s easily navigable menus.

Smartphone setup has become the norm over recent years and Wahoo’s ELEMNT app could do with a refresh and a new user interface. For example, you don’t get a visualisation of your data page when setting it up; just a vertical list of fields. Other apps from Lezyne and Bryton show you how your data page will look. Wahoo is still lacking bike or ride type profiles, so switching from road to gravel bike meant switching fields or entire screens. Garmin and Lezyne’s profile and ride type systems retain your screens, data field, and sensor settings and I’d like Wahoo to do the same. 

Pairing the Roam to my phone was a daily battle that forced me to restart my phone before the unit would connect via BLTE. I won’t blame the Roam necessarily for this because I have a constant rotation of review GPS units and restarting my phone to connect them is something I have to do frequently. Garmin units are the only ones that tend to connect automatically. 

Other sensors paired without issue. I have a random assortment of sensors from different brands and using both BLTE and ANT+. Everything paired quickly and stayed connected without issue including multiple power meters, speed/cadence sensors, and heart rate monitors.

Maps and Navigation

Wahoo’s maps and navigation suite is one of the unit’s strongest points. 

Wahoo ships their units with access to a pleasant suite of maps. They’ve stripped them back to be mostly monochrome with splashes of colour for highways and major roads. Each unit ships with maps for the region it was sold but you can add other regions at your leisure through the app. Garmin is still the reigning champ of quality maps but they’re a paid extra to get them outside of the region that the unit was purchased.

wahoo elemnt roam review

Navigation is solid with Wahoo with breadcrumb arrows showing your path on the map, and pleasant bleeping to warn you of upcoming turns. There’s full re-routing if you find yourself off course that generally works well. I’ve always had mixed experiences with re-routing. The short stint with the Roam showed me it’s capable of re-routing simple courses but doesn’t handle more complex situations. It tended to work on the road but got confused on the trails.

wahoo elemnt roam review

Third-party integrations have become one of my favourite features of current GPS units and Wahoo hasn’t disappointed. You can use all of your routes from Strava, Ride With GPS, Komoot, Best Bike Split, and Relive. I’m most interested in the route creators with Strava and RideWithGPS, my favourite platforms. Through the ELEMNT app you can load a course from your connected accounts and then follow it on the Roam. You’ll get full turn-by-turn navigation and can have the LED’s on the unit face give you course warnings too. It’s a great system, and extra valuable given Wahoo lacks its own native course creator.

On the Road

Oh, joy of joys the ELEMNT Roam is a fantastic unit to ride with.

Wahoo’s screen clarity is exceptional with high contrast and bold fonts making sure everything is easy to read – unless you overstuff your screen with information. It reflects minimal sun, which makes it delightfully easy to read (and photograph). The small splashes of colour aren’t much of an addition over older Wahoo units but neither do they wash the screen out. Readability is one of my favourite parts of the ELEMNT Roam.

wahoo elemnt roam review

The buttons along the chin of the unit are easily reached and clicked with a thumb or forefinger when riding on the tops. It’s a welcome change from a swipey Edge 830 touch screen I’ve been using for the preceding months. My preference has always been for buttons over touch screen and the ELEMNT Roam hardware is the best I’ve used when on the road. The top LED strip indicates what page you’re on to give you a queue for where you are in the structure. I have a small gripe that there’s only a page down option so to go up a page you have to run through all of them. Once you have multiple data screens, map screen, and Strava Live Segment screens it can take a while to find the page you want by going down.

wahoo elemnt roam review

I enjoy the audio and visual feedback from the ELEMNT Roam. The unit peeps and chirps to warn you of turn warnings, Strava Segment starts, and other operations. It’s unobtrusive and pleasant after years of the Garmin shriek. The RGB flashy LEDs along the side and top unit which you can program to show speed, power zones, or heart rate zones. They also show your active page, as mentioned above.

Post-ride the unit will upload your data and share it across your connected platforms.

Strava

Live segment integration has become a popular feature and Wahoo’s system is good with some annoyance.

You’ll get notifications of upcoming segments and a page that lists segments you’re close to. Roll through a segment start and you’ll get buttons devoted to swapping your target time and giving the option to change segment if there’s any that overlap. It’ll give you a screen tracking against your target which is nicely done.

wahoo elemnt roam review

My problem is that you can’t deactivate segments through the ELEMNT Roam. You have to un-star them in your Strava account. As a predominantly Garmin-user/Strava whore, I have a system of turning them all off on my Edge units by default then switching the ones I want to target back on as needed. 

Segment management aside, the Wahoo ELEMENT Roam gives Strava athletes plenty to work with.

Structured Training

Wahoo has stuffed a broad range of structured training into the ELEMNT Roam with climb and sprint programs to run through, some of which were developed with Team Ineos.

I don’t have much interest in these programs, choosing to run my own power training sets. I did load a couple to see how the system runs through them on the road. You get nice graphical displays and numbers to chase – it uses your FTP numbers – and generally runs smoothly. Those into structured stationary training, and don’t subscribe to any virtual riding platforms, will get plenty of value from them.

wahoo elemnt roam review

Wrapping Up

The Wahoo ELEMNT Roam is an excellent unit and worthy of sitting at the premium end of the bike GPS market. It’s a pleasure to ride with; excellent screen, large and well-placed buttons, solid maps and navigation, broad integrations, and good Strava/training features.

The drawbacks are minor overall. Its biggest loss to the Garmin platform is the broader ecosystem. Wahoo’s ELEMNT app is good for device management but Garmin Connect has become a feature-packed health and activity platform. 

wahoo elemnt roam review

If you preference ride experience first and foremost then the Wahoo ELEMNT Roam is among the best GPS units on the market. It carries a hefty price tag but it brings the performance and feature set that justifies it.

Wahoo Fitness


Article by James Raison: James is a “pointy-bonebag hill-climbing monster”, resident of Adelaide, South Australia, gravelly-minded cyclist of the next level, intrepid explorer way off the beaten track and Editor at La Velocita. You can follow Jame’s whereabouts on RideAdelaide YouTube and Ride Adelaide Instagram.

12 comments on “Wahoo ELEMNT Roam Review: Worth the Asking Price? – by James Raison

  1. I love the buttons on my older model Elemnt. I’m a bit of a cell phone Ludite though. Touch screens drive me crazy. I agree with all of your comments about the clarity and ease of reading of the screens. My only complaint about Wahoo devices is the lack of detailed documentation in the form of a PDF detailed user manual– this goes for both my Elemnt and Kickr, By contrast, all of the Garmin devices I’ve owned have excellent detailed documentation.

  2. Is the Roam’s 17 hours battery life real or imagined?

    The Garmin 830 claims 17 hours but the screen has to be turned off for it to achieve anything near that. With the screen on so you can see your heart rate or power numbers while your ride and climb it lasts no more than eight hours.

    What about the Roam? Is 17 hours with the screen on or does it rely on not actually using the device while one rides to increase battery life?

    1. Tim, I will follow up… I have the Roam review sample, so I will run it until it dies and report back!

      1. You would be doing more than several of my friends are willing to do LoL. Thanks JOM!

        Yeah, go ride DK200, leave the screen on and let me know!

  3. Nice write up James, Thanks. With your experience, what would be the best unit/ model for Mountain bike and gravel riding/ racing. I thought the Roam would be the best, but your comments about re-routing makes me wonder if there are Garmins that would do this better. Thanks a bunch.

  4. My wife and I have used the Wahoo Elemnt for about 2 years and love it. Super reliable, and the screen is easy to see in our bright sunshine here in southern Arizona. I much prefer the Elemnt’s buttons over the touch screen we had on our Polar V650. We never use the unit for navigation or turn-by-turn, as we ride known routes all the time. We do like the ability to track all our data and upload to Ride with GPS. We’ve found the Elemnt to be rock solid in connecting to our phone or sensors. We use iPhone 8 Plus and both Garmin and Wahoo speed and cadence sensors, and our HRMs are Polar H7. The only issues we’ve had is the elevation reported by the Elemnt is not super accurate (our Polar V650 was more accurate on elevation); and the alerts for texts messages and emails from our phone sometimes do not come through to the Elemnt. We occasionally have to turn off bluetooth on our phone and then turn it back on, to get text/email alerts to come through.

    As far as future improvements, we’d like to see integration with major e-bike systems like Bosch or Shimano. Wahoo does connect and display your gear for Shimano Di2, but not other data, like the speed or cadence sensed by the ebike. There’s currently no integration with our Bosch CX or Rohloff E14.

  5. Was a Garmin user for years. My last Garmin was an 810. Replaced it with a Bolt and haven’t looked back. Use the Bolt on both my fat bike in the winter and gravel bike in the summer. Used to have issues with the Garmin touchscreen in cold temperatures. Not so with the Bolt. Have been thinking about getting a Roam for the larger screen. Thanks for the great review.

  6. The Wahoo Roam’s chevrons route is superior to Garmin’s magenta colored route. 99% of the time when you’re cycling you’ll be using sunglasses. And guess what sunglasses do to the magenta line – it makes it look like brown, red and black – the colors of the surrounding roads…so in reality you’ll be struggling to tell where your route is among the other roads.

    Oh yeah – forget about route recalculation on the Garmins – unless you want to cycle all day. Besides 95% of the time it just shows off course and when it does finally kick in to re-route it produces the most terrible route – not even bring you back to the loaded route that’s active in the unit.

    1. Some valid points for sure. I’m happy to use my brain and visual cues to do a serious re-route, for those times when my route ends up on private property. The Wahoo is useless for that. Because of the no touch screen, you cannot zoom out, look around, zoom in and so on. Garmin wins there, love the touch screen for my purposes, but each to their own! With that said, I do like the Wahoo anti-glare screen and LOVE the LED’s. I’m fortunate in that I use the Wahoo Roam and Garmin 830/1030 alongside each other, best of both worlds!

  7. While your conclusion is favorable some of your statements perhaps don’t make sense. You criticize the Wahoo’s lack of ride profiles compared to the Garmin because you need to setup more pages. Well, let’s see what that means. On the Garmin you need to create a profile and then customize the default page. Two steps. On the Wahoo: create a page and customize it. Two steps. While riding: On the Garmin: change profile; maybe change page (if more than one for that profile). On the Wahoo: switch pages.

    Let’s declare no difference in steps.

    A Garmin ride profile can also have different sensors paired than another profile. This is sort of meaningless. On both brands connect whatever sensor you want with the sensor present. Both brands remember your sensors. The next time you ride with any of the sensors both brands will connect to them. No difference.

    Garmin’s ride profile introduces a 2 level hierarchy. Wahoo has one level of pages (you can use the same approach with a Garmin). The ride profile approach has essentially no advantage and introduces the possibility of confusion. It’s an unnecessary concept.

    Garmin has much nicer maps and map scrolling. These are big advantages. The Wahoo is easier to use while riding as you praise—also a big advantage.

    You also note that the Garmin re-routing is close to useless. My experience also, whereas the the Wahoo plots a frequently useful cookie crumb path back to the route that is clear to follow visually.

    All in all a balanced review with some strange efforts possibly made to appease Garmin as an advertiser.

    1. As the site founder and owner of Gravel Cyclist, let me make it abundantly clear that reviews around here are unpaid and not linked to advertising income. I have reviewed many bikes over the years and one or two manufacturers linked to those reviews have asked to advertise, but long after the review, meaning, zero chance of collusion to persuade a positive review. If you desire to see shill reviews, please take a look at entities such as those with a three-letter acronym on YouTube or long-standing magazines, etc. In defense of the three-letter acronym crowd, they do at least state their review is a paid promotion. Other entities, not so much.

      James is entitled to his opinion in the review as you are entitled to yours. If you feel you can do a better job reviewing product, I would like to see an example where you can demonstrate as such that James, or even myself, got it wrong.

      Thank you for the feedback!

Comments are closed.