Wahoo is now a very well-known brand within cycling, founded back in 2009 by Chip Hawkins. Chip was into cycling and triathlons, and of course the gear that goes with it, but was frustrated with data collection at the time. Well, since then, the company portfolio has expanded from tracking data to heart rate monitors, cycle computers and probably the most famous product from the brand: the Wahoo KICKR smart trainer. Their cycle computers, and frankly most of their products, have a solid reputation of being a no-fuss seamless device. I’ve been using their cycle computers for several years and have the original versions of both Elemnt Bolt and Elemnt Roam, both still in good working order.
Well, as technology continues to progress, it’s about time we saw a new Elemnt Roam from Wahoo. The improvements are subtle, smart, and they haven’t gone with a full-scale redesign. Wahoo keeps the same screen size and familiar Wahoo setup and functionality. The button layout is the same, but the buttons are new and improved. The screen now has way more colors, and there is more internal memory for maps as well as Dual-Band GPS for more accurate speed and location data. What’s more, Wahoo keeps the price of the new version relatively on par with their previous one; truly going against the current trend of rising prices!
I’ve had the new unit for around six weeks now. Firstly, it’s dead simple to set up and use. The initial setup and configuration are all handled inside the Wahoo phone app, which was always easy but should now prove even faster with Wahoo’s new Backup and Restore feature. This feature allows current Wahoo head unit owners to save their setup from an existing device and transfer it to a new one. I should note that the new Roam is the identical shape to the previous one. Super handy if you have mounts for the previous version, as they’re compatible with the new one. One of the big differences, physically, is the new convex buttons which carry over from the latest Bolt, which Wahoo released last year. Along with that is the USB-C charging port, which is pretty much the standard these days.
The Roam now also has the same ambient light sensor as the Bolt, which lets it adjust screen brightness automatically – this is a great, nifty little feature.
The new Roam packs a ton of new hardware and, as noted earlier, the most noticeable is Dual-Band GPS. Dual-Band means the Roam now gets signals in two different frequencies from different satellites. Doing this should help deliver much more accurate GPS data, particularly when under dense tree cover or in urban areas. The screen size remains the same but packs a punch with an updated 64 colors, whilst maintaining high contrast and readability. Internally, it boasts an updated 32GB of memory. This means better storage and management of maps used and unused. It also means you can have a heap more detail in the maps too – such as labels for places, like parks and hospitals. The battery life remains the same at 17 hours – I’ve tested this across multiple day rides and an all-day ride and have always found there to be sufficiently enough battery life. Even when running mapping navigation, which can drain power for these devices. A feature that will be sure to be utilized in the future, is the inclusion of the accelerometer and gyroscope. These aren’t currently in use, but my bet is on it being an incident or crash detection feature.
The new Roam also marks the launch of a few software upgrades and features, many of which will also roll out to existing Wahoo Elemnt users. Among these are Summit Segments and integration with Wahoo’s Systm training platform. Being able to load a workout onto a head unit is nothing new. What Wahoo offers with Systm integration is a more seamless experience, transitioning from training indoors to outdoors. The Summit Segments feature essentially offers a more detailed and colour-coded view of climbs on the route you have loaded onto the Roam. Perhaps one of the best new features is the Public Route Sharing. Simply, it allows riders to use their phone app to share a route they have created with other Wahoo users nearby. Receiving riders can select the route on their app and upload directly to their Wahoo head unit. Lastly, on the hardware updates – there’s a new Backup and Restore feature through the companion app. This feature lets you save the layout and set-up of a current Elemnt head unit and paste it onto a new device.
Onto the riding: the new Roam isn’t much different to the previous one. For me, this was a good thing, as it was all consistent with what I already know and like about these head units – there wasn’t any faffing around! I liked the large screen and easy pairing with other devices. The ease of use that Wahoo are renowned for carries through with this new Roam. It’s functional, sleek, and dead simple app interface helps you understand the data without being overwhelmed with it. I think the handiness of the integration with Wahoo System X and the new outdoor sync makes the new Roam super appealing. Personally, I do like a whole eco-system that works seamlessly well together.
The new unit also supports third party apps. I paired with the Tickr heart rate unit in an instant. It easily connected to the Roam and Wahoo’s companion app. I’m no data geek but have been enjoying crunching the numbers – especially heart rate alongside power. And, whilst I’m in training for Edition Zero Gravel, it’s been nice to see improvement through the numbers. Of course, only time will tell in terms of how I stack up for the event. But, back to the heart rate for a short moment: the Tickr has performed well both indoors and on outside rides via its Bluetooth and ANT + connectivity. The fit was super-comfy and although I haven’t worn a heart rate strap for a while, it didn’t restrict me. The Tickr comes with two LED lights on top of the pod, which are not visible below but both clearly visible as soon as you put it on. This gives instant feedback of its status. Again, Wahoo delivers simplicity so well.
Back to the Roam: riders who want to enjoy a large screen on a head unit, that just works and requires very little fuss to set up and get riding with, will find the new Roam does that exceptionally well. Not just that; it adds more accuracy, colour, and integration. The accuracy is on-point and I know you’ve heard me rattling on about this, but the simple functionality is expectational. Above all, it’s an all-round better head unit than its predecessor – but not overly so.
Review by Liam Friary
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