Long-ride test: Garmin Edge 1030 vs Wahoo Elemnt

130 miles with navigation on — which fares better?

Is the Wahoo Elemnt or the new Garmin Edge 1030 best for navigating long rides?

If you are going to do a long ride and need navigation, which computer is better: the Wahoo Elemnt or the new Garmin Edge 1030?

I took both on a coastal California ride from San Francisco to Monterey and made this little video.

We have full reviews of each computer already online, and this one-ride experiment wasn't meant to be a comprehensive shoot-out. Instead, I just wanted to answer two questions: 

1. Does either computer live up to its battery life claims? (Wahoo claims 'up to 17hrs' for the Elemnt; Garmin claims 'up to 20hrs' for its Edge 1030. Spoiler alert; neither does.) 

2. And which computer's navigation is easier to follow?

Wahoo has emerged as a welcome competitor to the dominant Garmin in the cycling space. When the Elemnt launched, its superior battery life when using navigation drastically outshined the Garmin Edge 1000, which was the GPS giant's marquee nav unit at the time.

Wahoo claims 17hrs of battery life on the Elemnt; Garmin claims 'up to' 20hrs on the Edge 1030
Wahoo claims 17hrs of battery life on the Elemnt; Garmin claims 'up to' 20hrs on the Edge 1030

Faced with this competition, Garmin ramped up battery life with its latest Edge 1030, which was designed to take an additional battery that doubles its claimed 20hr battery life. 

The problem with claimed 'up to' battery life is that it often represents best-case situations, where the unit is being used just to record your ride, not as a navigation unit to guide your route.

For most of the Edge computers below to the Edge 1030, using navigation means a maximum battery life of about 4.5hrs, in my experience.

When riding unknown roads, it's always best to follow a person who knows where they are going. But I used navigation on both units the whole way to test battery life
When riding unknown roads, it's always best to follow a person who knows where they are going. But I used navigation on both units the whole way to test battery life

With the Edge 1030, Garmin has taken a huge leap forward, but battery life when using navigation does not hit that claimed 20hr mark. In this one-ride test, the Wahoo's battery performed better.

In terms of ease of use, both work for navigation, but the Garmin was clearly superior in both the visual presentation of information and the real-time compensating for going off-route. 

Watch the sub-5-minute video above to see how the computers fared.

When off route, the Elemnt flashes red on its upper LEDs, but the Edge 1030 suggests a way to get back onto the route, more like a car GPS
When off route, the Elemnt flashes red on its upper LEDs, but the Edge 1030 suggests a way to get back onto the route, more like a car GPS

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team Issue, Specialized S-Works Tarmac, Priority Eight city bike... and a constant rotation of test bikes
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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