Wahoo Elemnt: Short on vowels, big on functionality

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Bike computers are my kryptonite. Yes, even Garmins. I know I’m in a tiny minority on that one, but they’ve always bugged the hell out of me. I can never stop the beeping. Ever. And the problem has gotten the worse the better the computers have become.

No matter how hard I try to work the wireless syncing, I always end up dragging ride files from the unit with a USB cable and dropping them into Strava. I have no patience left. I don’t want to learn how to sync anything. I want to be petulant. I’m proud to be a luddite.

All of this is undoubtedly a user issue. A bicycle version of PEBKAC, as in, problem exists between keyboard and chair. This problem exists between bar-mount and saddle. I know this. But I don’t care. I have no interest in the Quantified Self. I know I suck. I don’t need a computer for confirmation.

Part of the issue is device overload. Life these days can seem like little more than hopping from one screen to the next. Laptops, phones, tablets, smart watches, wi-fi kettles, intelligent fridges … I’m genuinely convinced that someone I know is going to become a real life Theodore Twombly – Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the film Her, who falls in love with his OS – in the next few years. I have some suspicions that it’s happened already.

I’m not going to start talking to the Wahoo Elemnt, but I am smitten. The simple screen is crystal clear and always visible, no matter what conditions you find yourself in, and the uncomplicated interface belies serious functionality. There’s all kinds of connectivity with Bluetooth 4, ANT+, and Wi-Fi, including automatic uploads to social media or everyone’s favorite ride-tracking site, and alerts for incoming calls and messages.

Route directions come with eye-catching color-coded alerts on the LEDs on the side of the unit; if you see those red lights, you’ve made a wrong turn. The LEDs are also customizable to indicate performance and exertion levels. Wahoo claim that it’s waterproof up to five feet, which means that unless you’re the sort who washes their bike in the deep end of a swimming pool, you should be ok. And the battery lasts for ages, even when it’s giving turn-by-turn directions. When used for more basic purposes like data and ride-tracking, it should last for several outings without a charge.

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

The monochrome display, which is not touchscreen, will be a deal-breaker for some, and a boon for others. Were it not for its myriad features and excellent connectivity, you might call that low-fi. As an overall package, I prefer to think of it as paired back. No computer on the market is easier to set-up or personalize, thanks to its accompanying app, which also checks for updates and warns you if the battery is low. You just pair it quickly with a QR code and unless you want to individualize the info displayed on screen, the process is practically done. And though it’s obviously subjective, I also found it easier to use on the bike. Is it a match for the mighty Garmin? It’s another option. A fool-proof one. Which is great news, for fools like me.

This Lezyne GPS Is Like Crack for GPS Data Junkies

Lezyne GPS. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
Lezyne GPS. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

Remember the days when the purple route line was just a highlighter stripe on a paper Michelin map? My old Polar CS200 had everything I needed before the days of GPS cycling. Then a particular company got us hooked on the GPS crack. And we all dropped a carbon wheelset’s worth of cash to see a grainy picture on our stems of the next 2.0 miles of our rides. Then topo maps. Gradients. Road databases. So much data—Rand-McNally right there under our sweat-dripping noses. You want data? You gotta pay for it. Until now.

Enter the Lezyne GPS. If you can still call a device that tracks your location on the surface of the earth from over 13,000 miles away “minimalist,” this is the embodiment. So is the price tag. Ranging from Mini to Power to Super GPS, Lezyne leaves off the map, but maximizes function and value. Want numbers? They have all the numbers you need.

Speed, time, elevation, time of day, lap splits, plus you can Bluetooth or ANT in your heart rate, speed, cadence, and power meters to bike-nerd it all out. On the Super GPS you can even Bluetooth in your phone and get text, email, and call alerts. Is your jersey pocket vibrating because Junior’s school office is calling or because work is saying “Lunch is over”? No need to guess. They have their own GPS Ally app for iOS and Android, plus they can auto-sync to the ubiquitous Strava for the ultimate social bike-geek data experience. But wait, it gets better. I have used the Super GPS for a whole month before recharging the battery. Watts for days.

So, what is wrong with the unit? Small stuff. You can only sync one activity at a time. No problem if you are always connected. If you go off the data grid for an epic week, well, you will have to take a few extra minutes uploading each gnar ride individually. The other downside? The bluetooth phone connection is somewhat finicky when switching between devices. I ran the Lezyne for a week on my phone connection with no problems. Then I let my wife try it out for a while. Getting it to switch between hers and my phone for alerts was a little trying and cumbersome, so, stick with what works first for you out of the box.

Bottom line, if you want to experience your ride and see the map later, look no further. Even if you have to adhere to a Zone-3 Over/Under 1 minute ON 1 minute OFF regiment, ” target=”_blank”>Lezyne still has you dialed. Look at the rocks now and the map later. Enjoy your ride. Outside is Free.

Editor’s Note: Lezyne responded to our article with a couple of tips on pairing.

Try these in this order:
Make sure the device has the latest firmware: http://www.lezyne.com/gpsroot/gps_downloads.php
With the Super GPS plugged in, delete the “settings.fit” file from the device. This will reset any screen customization, but reset all connections too. We’ve found this to help when pairing to a new phone.
Make sure the phone has the latest Ally app update, and unpair any existing Lezyne GPS devices in the phone’s bluetooth setting. Then toggle the Bluetooth off and on.
Then, try pairing to the Super GPS through the phone’s Bluetooth settings, rather than through the Lezyne App

I know this sounds like a lot of effort, but it’s really the nature of Bluetooth. It will become more reliable and robust over time, however.