So when purchasing a new bike one is confronted with a big question – do I need to upgrade all my other existing cycling equipment? Who wouldn’t want to deck out their new ride with all new shiny and fancy gear? In general the answer is most often than not ‘no, just transfer over from the previous bike, your pedals, lights, bottle cages, bottles, and bike computer. If everything is still functioning then why relegate it to the scrap pile or keep it on the old bike, you know in case you ‘decide to take it out again at some point. After returning home with my new ride I started asking myself all this and more. You see, I do plan on eventually replacing the groupset on the old bike so that it can still have its place. That plan is a long term plan so I won’t be doing any of that any time soon, and since I have a new very capable bike there isn’t a hurry – see how easy it is to think it and still let it slide off the radar? But with those thoughts it does make sense to just transfer everything over from old to new. Makes sense but that isn’t what I decided on doing.
I had my previous bike in use for 10 years. In that time I didn’t upgrade or add any components until after the initial purchase of the white beast. So my pedals, saddle, computer have all been used and abused for a decade. And while some of these components are not quick-wear parts, they have been showing their age in a big way.
One component I actually stopped using for a few years was my bike computer. I had an old Specialized computer that showed the basic information: time, speed, laps, distance (for the ride and overall). Not wireless, no USB port, no GPS, no frills but it did what I needed it to, mostly. The mounting element on the computer had broken so it wouldn’t lock into place and one bump and bye-bye computer – which happened a few times – so I stopped using it.
To track my rides I found some great apps and since I, like just about everyone else, don’t go riding without my phone, might as well just use that. Using my phone as the bike computer is all well and good for commuting but for anything longer I have to worry about battery life. With a new bike I decided it was time to employ a proper bike computer and let the phone handle everything else. I planned on getting a similar item much like what I previously. After making a list of what information I wanted on my ride and realized the basic just wouldn’t cover all my needs.
Ok, time to be honest with the world. I have on more than one occasion gotten lost on long rides or large organized rides – the long distance charity rides. I always start these rides with a crowd but as the miles tick away I find my crowd does as well. Maybe it is the fact I don’t stop often at the hospitality tents, or maybe the people I leave with are just out for a relaxed 60 miles and I want a decent time, for me. Regardless, I find myself out on unfamiliar roads and getting lost – those little arrows stuck in the ground have a habit of getting blown around and making things confusing. So yeah, I have gotten lost and I want to try and cut down on that happening. Having a bike computer with GPS and turn-by-turn capability was something I felt I needed.
I started to look around at what was available and of course came across the incredibly commonplace Garmin line. In addition to Garmin I found another computer by Wahoo Fitness – the ELEMNT. After watching several YouTube videos,reading reviews on various sites, and digging through google groups with people discussing each brand I decided to take the plunge and pick up a Garmin Edge 1000 and the Wahoo Elemnt to do a head-to-head comparison.
Each device was purchased as a bundle (heart rate monitor, speed sensor, cadence sensor). Thanks to a Black Friday sale, prices were pretty comparable as well with only $50 separating the two devices. The Edge 1000 has been out for a couple years and so there have been price drops on it and it is easy to find on sale all over the place. The ELEMNT has been out for a year and, as of now, Wahoo isn’t coming out with a replacement any time soon so discounts aren’t are easily found.
Both devices provide about 98% of the same information and capabilities. At this level of bike computers the differences are minimal and those differences are the deciding factors on which device to go with.
First thing you will visually notice is that the ELEMNT has physical buttons and a monochrome screen compared to the Edge 1000’s color touchscreen. Physically they are about the same size, which is fairly large. Personally I prefer the larger size of device since I will be using it for navigation control. I want to be able to glance down to get a quick grasp of what is coming up and what turns are approaching.
Speaking of turns, this is something else where the devices differ. The Edge 1000 provides the TBT that we have all grown accustomed to with GPS usage. An arrow appears on the screen stating the street name and showing the direction to turn. The ELEMNT not only provides the same information (granted on routes built in RideWithGPS) but it also has LEDs along the top of the device outside of the screen. When a turn is approaching the LEDs light up in an animated way pointing out the direction needed. Talk about the ability to grab just a sneak peek down to get the needed information in an instant.
While we are on the subject of LEDs on the device, let’s talk about the left side of the unit face – again outside of the screen. On the left is another set of LEDs running top to bottom that is selectable. You can, through the companion app, get indications of current speed relative to average speed, heart rate, or power exerted. The numbers on the screen are always beneficial but getting some of these other real time visual cues as to your efforts being done is a nice touch that Wahoo has incorporated in.
So yeah, Bluetooth, ANT+, navigation, Strava integration, live tracking, maps, both units are slammed packed with it all.
Before people think I’m just hating on Garmin a little let me mention a few things that this device does a little better than Wahoo’s device.
Not only is creating routes a little easier on the Garmin, and is not dependent on RWGPS, but deleting routes on the Garmin is currently a lot more convenient. And while both units have maps, it is nice to have a color screen, it seems more up to date and modern feeling. Water on the map looks blue and route colors are more appealing to look at. On short climbs the grade % information is more reliable and appears on-screen much faster than the ELEMNT.
What I have found is the customer service with Wahoo is incredible. Every time I have had a question or didn’t understand something with the device I was able to either put in a help ticket or pop on to their chat system and get a prompt response. I also really appreciate how they are constantly updating and upgrading the components of the ELEMNT. Wahoo didn’t release the device, support it for a little by and then move on to the next device. They are working to make this the best computer they can make it.
Let’s face it, in the world of GPS bike computers, Wahoo is the underdog. Garmin is the reigning champion and has the larger share of the marketplace. So for Wahoo to have the nerve to step in and release a monochrome device amongst a pile of color screen is a bold move. But when you have a feature list such as the ELEMNT does you can stand up to the Goliath and hold your ground. Yeah, I tend to side with the underdog and the decision on which bike computer is no different. Side by side these two devices are so evenly matched that it comes down to just the slightest of differences. For me, there were just a couple more checkmarks in the ELEMNT column than the Edge 1000.
So let’s go over a few of the things that pushed the ELEMNT ahead of the Edge 100:
- The unique design of the ELEMNT compared to the soft rounded pill of the Edge 1000
- Ability to zoom in/out on the stats screen to see more or less of what you want easily
- Companion App is better integrated
- LEDs to indicate turns coming up and which direction
- LEDs to indicate HR or how you are doing against average speed of the ride
- frequent updates to improve and add functionality to the device
- Ease of adding routes to the device
- And of course the underdog component – a little ridiculous I know but what are you going to do.
Returning the Edge 1000 wasn’t an easy decision for me. As I’m driving to the store I was second guessing myself. When I plopped it down on the counter with the receipt I wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision. I mean come on, Garmin has the attention for good reason right? But, I stuck to my guns and returned the device. The next day I set out in a ride with the ELEMNT leading the way and I knew I had made the right decision for me.
PS: Is it just me or does the overall look of the ELEMNT make it look like it belong in the Batmobile? The edges are reminiscent of the Christopher Nolan version of the Batmobile. Maybe that is the real reason I decided this device 🙂