For a long time, I rode with a basic speed/cadence cycle computer and things worked fine. Most recently, I had a pretty decent Sigma dual wireless unit. I used it as a tool for instant read while on the bike and at the same time I always carried my smartphone with me. I would run a GPS app on the phone and at the end of a ride I’d make sure everything matched between the two computers, then upload the data from the phone. The data from the unit on the bike was never saved or further analyzed. This is a system I think a lot of people are very familiar with and it works, to a point.
For me, it started to fall apart when I got more serious. I started riding indoors on rollers and at the same time decided I wanted to have more data. The GPS apps don’t have any way to communicate with the bike and the GPS doesn’t give any data when you aren’t moving. Then when I picked up a heart rate monitor, I grabbed a bluetooth option, that left me with a sensor that connected to the phone but didn’t communicate with the bike and had no instant read solution. The end of ride reconciliation became a chore anytime I rode indoors and on the road, I couldn’t actually see my heart rate despite the fact that I was wearing a monitor. It was time to go looking for a solution.
Of course there are the more traditional cycle computer companies, the big name being Garmin, but from my point of view the options out there lacked in a few ways. A big thing for me was wanting all the data online in places like Runkeeper and Strava. While Garmin has been making strides in that direction, I feel like it’s a bit of an afterthought. And it still left me buying an expensive computer for my bars while leaving another expensive computer in my jersey pocket doing nothing. I could have just mounted my phone on my bars, but that has a whole host of issues as I’m sure one can imagine.
It seems, of course, that I’m not the only person who was having this dilemma. In fact a company called Wahoo fitness came out with a product called the RFLKT that addressed all of the issues I was facing.
I’ve been using it for about 3 months now and it’s everything I’d hoped. The RFLKT is a waterproof e-ink display that’s about the size of a Garmin, but not quite as sleek looking. The big difference with the RFLKT is it’s not actually a cycle computer. All it does is provide a platform for a smartphone to display data on and that’s the brilliance of it. Using bluetooth low energy – I can detect no additional battery drain compared to the phone sitting unused in my pocket – it allows any app a platform to connect with and allows the app to give an instant read display while keeping your phone tucked away in your jersey.
You can customize the screens that get displayed, which I LOVE and it can also control the phone in limited ways such as changing a music track or starting/pausing the route recording. On the negative side, it is a bit slow to start up, it requires you to pay attention to your phone battery before a ride and there is a very slight delay between the phone and the RFLKT display. A good analogy to the delay is watching a movie that’s ever so slightly out of sync with the audio. You might not notice it most of the time, but every now and then you see the actors lips moving just a tad earlier than you hear the lines spoken. Generally it’s a non-issue, but it can make hitting specific cadence targets on the rollers a bit more challenging.
I did also have an issue on New Years day where the Wahoo app that I was using to run the RFLKT absolutely would not start up. Impressively, Wahoo had a patch out by the evening, but it still meant no display for my New Years day ride. That played right into what I imagine people’s fears are when it comes to something like this.
Unlike a traditional computer, you can’t just rely on a self contained piece of hardware. It needs software running on the phone to power the unit. I use Android, a Nexus 5, and the list of options there is decidedly shorter than on iOS. To their credit however, Wahoo has a pretty good app. It will connect to both Runkeeper and Strava, my two apps of choice and as mentioned previously, you can customize the screens that are available on the RFLKT.
The only thing I find lacking is that there is no autopause and even if you manually pause the recording when you output to Strava/Runkeeper the exported data still includes the pause time. Strava generally handles that fine on outdoor rides with GPS data, automatically figuring out moving/non-moving times, but on the rollers it means any rest is a hit to your average. You could argue that’s how it should be, but I find it annoying.
The other thing I find the app does really well and they definitely do not publicize this much, is connect to non-Wahoo sensors. I run a Sigma bluetooth heart rate monitor and a Topeak speed/cadence sensor and while I did have some issues with the heart rate monitor connected to Runkeeper directly, the Wahoo app had no problem connecting and recording from the third party sensors.
All in all, the RFLKT is an awesome solution that leverages the amazing technology already in your pocket. I definitely recommend it and want to reassure those looking to use it with Android and/or cheaper non-Wahoo sensors, and your favorite apps, that it will work in a variety of non-standard situations.
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