Wahoo Elemnt Roam Review
I take my time and do the best review possible. I don’t try to be the first one out with a review. One of the benefits of that approach is seeing what other people have to say. In the case of the Wahoo Elemnt Roam, I’m glad I’ve taken that approach. Wahoo has a history of over hyping products that are already good. The marketing can sometimes be misleading despite the products being great. Other reviews I’ve seen more or less run with that marketing. I’m going to try and tell you about a great product, but I’m also going to cut through some of the misleading claims.
Other reviews of the Elemnt Roam miss the essence of what it really is.
Let’s start with what the Elemnt Roam is and what it is not. The Roam is really a second generation of the original Elemnt. It’s got the same size screen, and despite what you may have heard about the battery, it’s actually the same 17 hour battery life as the original Elemnt. Ignore all the marketing copy speaking to how it’s a revolutionary device designed for adventure cycling. It works in almost the exact same way as the original Elemnt and the Elemnt Bolt but with a few upgrades.
The biggest upgrade on the Elemnt Roam is the screen. Once again, though, there is a lot of unnecessary hype about the screen. The big headline here is all about color. Let’s be very clear, though, the screen is not color. At least not the kind of color you might be thinking if you’ve ever owned literally any other smart device with an actual color screen.
The Wahoo Elemnt Roam technically has color but don’t expect it to look like a smartphone.
The Elemnt Roam technically has color, but it’s muted and pretty limited. That’s not actually an issue, though. One of the things that’s amazing about the Wahoo devices, going all the way back to the Rflkt, is how good the screens are without needing color. I never looked at the older Wahoo bike computers and wished they had color. With the Roam, there are subtle hits of color that help differentiate parts of the interface. The Roam has a good screen, but it’s not because it’s color.
Move past the hype about the color screen, and what’s left is a surprising improvement. Wahoo already had exceptional display technology, and this is better. Look at the Roam next to one of the older units, and it’s immediately noticeable how much nicer it is. You never knew you needed the upgrade, but once you’ve seen it you’ll never want to go back.
Wahoo already had exceptional display technology. The Roam is even better.
Instead of a plastic cover, the Roam features Gorilla Glass. Coupled with the better cover, the screen is closer to the cover. On the older units, there is a sizeable gap between the cover and the display. The Roam feels as if it’s mounted directly to the back of the glass. These two updates seem to make the difference as the resolution between the older Elemnt and the Roam are actually the same. Both units feature a 2.7” screen with a resolution of 400 x 240.
Aside from the screen, the big point differentiation on the Roam is its ability to do intelligent routing. The older Wahoo computers will tell you when to turn and which direction. They can’t make any recommendations if you get off of the predetermined route. The Roam can do more than that. Make a wrong turn when following a route, and the Roam will direct you back to the route. If you are starting a ride from somewhere other than where you are “Get me Started” will route to the start of the ride. If you are mid-ride, “Route to Start” will route back to the start of the ride taking the shortest route possible. These aren’t huge upgrades, but they are nice.
The Roam has very few features not available on other Wahoo units.
Wahoo does list other features on the Roam product page. There’s “Take Me To,” “Retrace Your Route,” and “Saved Locations.” The differentiation of those features is much murkier than it seems, though. Even when you talk about the intelligent routing features, it’s tricky to call things out as new. The only direct pickup from older units is “Retrace Ride.” That feature is there on every Wahoo unit, and there’s no change for the Roam. Most of the other features are more about making things accessible from the head unit than actual new features.
Wahoo has always been a company that leverages the power of the smartphone it expects we are all also carrying with us. Most of the features that Wahoo highlights on the Roam product page actually exist across the whole product line. The difference is they require opening the companion app.
Features that were once only accessible in the companion app are available directly on the Roam.
“Back on Track” is brand new and only available on the Roam. “Route To Start” is kind of new, but it was easy to do this before. On previous units, opening the companion app and clicking “Take me To” from the routes screen would allow exactly the same functionality. “Get Me Started” is the same story. Again, the functionality is easier on the Roam, but it’s good to realize that it’s not new. “Take Me To” on the Roam is different in that you can choose the location from the head unit without getting your smartphone out. The final feature on the Roam product page is “Saved Locations”, and again, the old implementation of “Take Me To” covered this in the companion app.
Upgrades might be incremental but don’t think the Roam isn’t a fantastic piece of gear.
Once you cut through the confusion and marketing, the Roam is still a fantastic unit. It’s just a slightly different story than what Wahoo seems to be telling. Wahoo currently sells three GPS enabled bike computers. The Elemnt Bolt is $249 and has a smaller screen and a smaller battery. If you can deal with less battery or a smaller screen, then save some money and pick up the Bolt. I reviewed it when it was new, and it’s still a great bike computer. If you need a bigger battery or you want a bigger screen, then get yourself the Elemnt Roam. At $379, the Elemnt Roam is $80 more than the original Elemnt, but you get a long list of upgrades.
The Elemnt line of bike computers from Wahoo are rock solid products. I haven’t lost a single ride in years of using them, and I can’t think of anything that I dislike about them. I reviewed the Stages L50 bike computer recently, and there are specific use cases where it has an advantage. The reasons I would recommend one over the other are about preferences not because of frustration with Wahoo.
For road cycling the Wahoo computers are still my favorite option.
If you are happy to follow a dot on a screen and don’t need a lot of context, then the Wahoo Roam is a bike computer that is superbly designed. It works every single time you ask it to, and its promised battery life is always what you can expect. The screen is crisp, clear, and easy to see no matter the weather or available light. If the features seem like they fit the way you ride, you will not regret your choice for a moment.