Being more or less glued to a technological device at all times, I cherish the precious time I have on my bike when I am not staring at a screen. I say this as a person with a Garmin watch who has been known to stop in the middle of the trail to answer emails, take a phone call, or get into a text argument. Ideally, it’s the time I don’t want to worry about time, numbers or anything else. Except, I do. I stop to take my phone out of my pocket to read my texts and check trail maps. When I’m feeling exceptionally detached, I just check my texts on my watch. I’m no Luddite: It’s time I got a cycling computer.
Wahoo’s new Elemnt Roam GPS computer is simple, easy to read, and without a lot of unnecessary data to take away from my clear-headed riding experience. If you have a Wahoo Bolt, or read our review a few months back, some features will sound familiar: workout, turn-by-turn, text and phone notifications, powerful integrations, Kickr control, climb, live tracking, perfect-view zoom, programmable LEDs and an app-focused platform that allows you to dial it in from your phone rather than tinkering away at a clunky cycling computer.
But there are some new features as well. It’s easier to see, with a simplified design and a larger, gorilla glass screen that displays just a touch of color to help guide the smart navigation. The programmable LEDs were updated, with an ambient light sensor that intuitively adjusts screen and lights as conditions change, even indoors, and the flush-mounted LCD reduces shadows.
The smart navigation has three basic selectable modes: route to start (optimal route back to where you started), back on track (get re-routed back to active route), retrace ride (back to the beginning) and take me to (create a route to a saved or selected location). You can also save routes from favorite apps like MTB Project or Singletracks and use the “take me to” feature to get to the trailhead. It gives notice when a turn is coming up, but this works better on the road than on the trails, at least using the beta version of the software I have been using; apparently the glitches I experienced will not be present on the real version of the app, which launches today, so it’s possible this will better give turn-by-turn directions on the trails. It does show where you are on the map, and let you know if you missed your turn to stay on route. This is helpful to not get completely lost in the woods, and even if the heads-up didn’t work as well as I would have liked, it did show my place on the trail, flash when I had a turn coming up, and rerouted me when I missed that turn.
You can save a location mid-ride, like if you are in the woods and pass a cool trail feature you want to come back and session, or if you are riding on the road and see a cool burrito spot you want to remember to go back to. All the route-backs are on the Roam so you don’t need internet to use them. So far, it can’t tell the difference between public and private/illegal roads, but preferences can set to gravel, paved or trail which could help minimize trespassing if you are riding in a place where boundaries are a little murky.
The Roam has a 17-hour battery life. The Bolt, for reference, is 15 hours. It has an optional locking screw to keep the computer on your bike so you can leave your bike and keep the computer on it, which is helpful since it’s $379.