This Computer Refuses To Tell You Where To Go

Photo: Jim Merithew /

You can find bike computers that are cheaper, more intuitive, and just plain easier to use than the SRM PC8, but you won’t find one that’s sexier. Just look at it. Yowza.

The horizontal layout looks far more elegant than the vertical or square designs everyone uses these days. The gorgeous anodized aluminum body weighs just 93 grams, yet feels substantial and robust. Best of all, the backlit display is clear, concise and infinitely adjustable.

So why don’t you see a PC8 on every whip? Well, it’s expensive. It doesn’t offer navigation. The interface is a nightmare. And it’s expensive.

The PC8 costs $750 and if, heaven forbid, you lose that nicely designed magnetic download cable, a new one sets you back 30 clams. I understand the desire to design a sexy cable, but it seems so Apple. And as long as I’m ranting, can we all please agree on a cable standard?

Sorry. Back to the SRM. Given that you an pick up the excellent Wahoo Elemnt for less than half the cost of a PC8, paying $750 for a computer seems silly. Especially one that doesn’t offer navigation. That explains why I yank the SRM mount off my bike and rely on my trusty, if quirky, Garmin 820 whenever I’m in Europe.

Granted, the PC8 features GPS for data recording (500 megabytes of memory) and provides all your ride info when you upload data to Training Peaks and Strava, but you can’t use it to get home. If you regularly download routes from Strava so you can explore new roads, move along to better options like, say, the Garmin 1000 that we love so much.

That said, data junkies will adore the PC8. Add a cadence sensor, heart rate monitor, and power meter and this thing provides hours and hours of data to crunch. Want to know your average heart rate, power or speed? No problem. Want to know your 30-second power or your max heart rate? No problem. Want to know your altitude, ride time, distance, or the temperature? No problem. And you can configure the 240x400p screen to show seemingly endless combinations of this data in real time.

But that interface can drive you nuts. Setting it up through a laptop is a snap—you can play around with several configurations, choose one, and upload it to the PC8. But once you’re on the bike, all those menus and submenus look like an M.C. Escher painting. Accessing them requires holding down various combinations of the three buttons. Ugh.

Finish exploring the myriad screen options and master the digital dexterity needed to access them all, though, and the PC8 is a joy. I found the execution of intervals simple, the data presented elegantly, and uploading/downloading data quick n’ easy. The battery lasts as long as 45 hours, too.

There’s a lot to like about the PC8, especially if you love data as much as you love riding. Even if you can look past the lack of navigation, you’re still left with that crazy price. But, like the iPhone X, just looking at the PC8 makes you want one, and using it only makes you want it more.

Wahoo Elemnt: Short on vowels, big on functionality

Photo: Stephen Lam/

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/

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.