Setting up the Wahoo Elemnt Roam is simple – as with the more basic Elemnt Bolt, it’s just a case of downloading the Elemnt app on your iPhone or Android phone and scanning the QR code on the unit. The unit then syncs with your phone, downloads any available updates and allows you to connect to sensors via BLE and ANT+.
On initial start-up, it took a little while for the Roam to download maps relevant to the area. The GPS pick-up itself took between 50 and 66 seconds – so add that to the loading time for the mapping and you could find yourself drumming your fingers.
With full Strava compatibility and the ability to upload pretty much any route file, the Roam is well covered in the navigation stakes. Meanwhile, the mapping is well presented, but it’s lighter on detail than Garmin, Sigma or Mio, for instance. However, it is clear to read, which is good for navigation.
What’s not so good is that the map doesn’t orientate to your direction of travel. Other units have you travelling up-screen, making it easy to see in an instant where you are heading. This is particularly important when riding in built-up areas or when riding on a network of trails.
On the Roam’s screen, you can end up riding in any direction because the arrow rotates rather than the map itself. This means it might take a moment to work out which way to go at junctions, and it’s especially confusing when the arrow is pointing towards you (in effect the reverse of the direction you are moving).
Wahoo Elemnt Roam functions
Like the cheaper Bolt, the Roam features a bank of LEDs, but this time they’re on the top and the flank of the unit. You can assign numerous functions to these LEDs, such as the lead into a turn, power zone you are working in or heart rate too.
The Roam is just as capable as the Bolt when it comes to recognising available sensors quickly and easily too, making setting up any bike a breeze.
The connection with your phone is snappy and quick, and you have to give Wahoo a lot of credit for getting so much of the set-up right with the ease of use up there with the Bolt.
The unit itself, however, is a bit bulkier and the three buttons across the base are inset, which is fine for summer fingers but in winter cycling gloves they can be a bit of a fiddle – although pressing the Up/Down buttons on the right is fine.
The right fascia button scrolls through the screens, and each screen can hold up to nine fields, with more than 170 options for the data depending on what sensors you are using.
The individual screen pages are set using the app and you can arrange the data fields in order of priority, and, as with the Bolt, use the Up/Down button on the right to ‘zoom’ into the screen to enlarge the data fields in your priority ranking. You can also use the zoom buttons on the map screen.
The routing on the Roam (via the app) has the same issues as the Bolt in that it doesn’t distinguish enough between roads and permitted tracks, trails and byways. This means you will need to check beforehand that you won’t be taking your aero-road bike down the same trails as your local 4×4 club.
There is also a slight issue with rerouting – on one of my pre-planned test rides, a local road was closed because of flooding and was impassable for the next 5 to 6km, but the Roam kept trying to loop me back to the same flooded road at every available opportunity, even doing so once I’d got back onto the route via a diversion.
Wahoo Elemnt Roam features
The mount has a similar flush fitting unit to the Bolt (but bigger) and has the same small retention bolt (which counts as complete bike weight in UCI-sanctioned events).
The out-front mount, however, does suffer much more than the Bolt when it comes to vibrations and alongside the rock-solid mounts from Garmin, Sigma and Lezyne, this mount is just too flexible, and the constant bouncing – especially on gravel, off-road or rough tarmac – can be somewhat irritating.
The eight-colour screen is decently legible, although it’s somewhat dimmer than the Garmin 830 for instance, and much less prominent than the excellent screens found on the Stages Dash and Sigma Rox, and that’s even with the backlight running.
Having a less intense screen in both resolution and brightness means that the Roam does have an impressive claimed run-time of 17 hours, with all sensors connected (gearing, power, HR, phone). However, I was getting more like 11 and a half, but that’s still pretty impressive stuff.
The information is displayed well with the gradient screen on the Roam being particularly clever, showing your route and a rolling gradient along with the grade percentage and climb info. It’s similar to Garmin’s updated and much-lauded ClimbPro and just as well presented.
Like the Bolt, the Wahoo Elemnt Roam is ANT+ FEC compliant, so you can control your smart trainer for indoor use with this unit and run it alongside Zwift to track virtual mileage as you train indoors too.
Wahoo Elemnt Roam bottom line
The Roam feels more like a hopped-up Bolt (which is no bad thing) than a new standalone unit. The colour screen doesn’t really add much, but the resolution gains over the Bolt do enhance things, especially when it comes to mapping.
If you’re a fan of Wahoo’s simplicity and decent run-times then the Roam offers enough true navigation to make it worthwhile. But if you predominantly want a GPS for sharp mapping and routing, then Garmin and Sigma both offer much better examples for similar money. Meanwhile, Stages Dash and Lezyne’s Mega C offer just as good for less.
How good is the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt for mountain biking?
The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt’s on-device mapping has plenty of detail including bridleways and footpaths, but the map data doesn’t distinguish between the two.
Although in-app route creation is easy, the app relies on Google Maps, which lacks the data essential for planning mountain bike rides on routes such as forest tracks and bridleways. Meanwhile, it’s not possible to switch the mapping programme over to another provider such as OpenStreetMap that has a better level of detail.
The discrepancy between the in-app map data and the on-device map data makes route creation impossible for mountain biking unless you’re importing a pre-made .gpx route.
The monochrome screen also makes it hard to decipher some of the more fine-grained details on the device – a problem when there are lots of junctions, trails or details. The on-device map can’t be scrolled around, either, so it’s impossible to use the GPS as a navigation aid without a pre-programmed route.
If you are lost in the woods and want to retrace your steps a separate function needs to be triggered on the device because the breadcrumb trail the GPS plots behind you is periodically deleted as the display scrolls with the GPS cursor.
This isn’t great if you deviate from the set route because there’s no off-route redirection – if your sense of direction is particularly poor, the likelihood of being eternally lost is significantly increased.
The supplied outfront mount is only compatible with a 31.8mm bar, so if you have a 35mm bar it won’t work. If you have a bigger bar, you can mount the Elemnt Bolt to your bike out of the box using the supplied standard bar-mount, which was stable even over rough ground.
Because you can’t scroll the on-device map and in-app route creation lacks the detail required for creating a proper MTB ride, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt isn’t especially suitable as a mountain bike-specific GPS device.
|Price||AUD $600.00EUR €350.00GBP £300.00USD $380.00|
|Features||Memory: Not specified
In the box: 1 x bar mount, 1 x out front mount, micro USB, zip ties
|Battery life||17 hours (claimed)|
|Connectivity||Ant+ and ble|
|Dimensions||85mm x 58mm x 20mm|
|Screen dimensions||35mm x 58mm|
|Screen type||Colour lcd|