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Today Wahoo finally presents their GPS watch. The Wahoo ELMNT Rival has been developing for many years (in fact the FCC registration dates back to 2018), so many that I had already assumed that Wahoo cancelled the project focusing on the markets where it presents the most dominance.
The ELMNT Rival is a watch designed for triathletes, almost exclusively. That does not mean that if you are a runner or cyclist you can not use it, but its main function (at least for the moment) is focused solely on triathlon.
Priced at 379€ and with quality materials it may seem like a very interesting option. However, this is the new triathlon watch that you are NOT going to buy. At least for the moment. And is because Wahoo, more than launching a watch to the market, they have made the determination to have an area of the company dedicated to GPS watches. The Wahoo ELEMNT Rival is, today, a future project (which you can buy from today) rather than a new member in the market.
And I don't think it's that bad to have landed with a future project. After so many years with the Rival on their hands, at some point Wahoo had to make a determination to make it public. It's like when you decide to go on a diet, but then you decide you will start it tomorrow because you're going out for dinner... until you don't get serious and make it public, you won't start the diet. Something like that happened to Wahoo.
Why am I saying all this? I'll explain it to you below as I develop all the details. Because as you already know on this site you won't find generic information or copy-pasted press releases, but I try to go a little further and show more things besides the brand's PR.
Wahoo ELEMNT Rival specs
Before going into the specific details of the Wahoo ELEMNT Rival I think it is best to know what its features and specifications are. At least so we know what we're talking about, right? Well, let's go with it:
- 46.5mm diameter, 15.3mm thick
- 53 grams of weight
- 1.2″ color transflective screen, 240×240 pixels resolution
- Gorilla Glass lens, control via 5 buttons (the screen is not touch-enabled)
- Ceramic bezel, plastic watch case
- Barometric altimeter
- GPS-based digital compass (without magnetic compass)
- Ambient light sensor
- Battery life: 24 hours with GPS use, 2 weeks in watch mode and daily activity tracking
- Compatible with Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors (including ANT+ FE-C)
- Support for running power meters (such as Stryd) and running dynamics
- Calls, messages and emails notifications (email only on iOS)
In short, pretty basic things for a watch at this price range. The problem with the Wahoo watch is when we look for missing features:
- No advanced workouts (neither from the app, nor imported from TrainingPeaks).
- No route navigation
- No magnetic compass
- Very basic daily activity tracking (only steps and distance, no ascended floors or rest analysis)
- Absolutely no performance metric or training load
- No VO2Max estimation
- No alarm on the watch
- No alerts on sport profiles (HR alerts, power, pace, cadence, etc.)
And of course not to talk about more complicated things like music playback or wireless payments.
The Wahoo ELMNT Rival arrives on the market with many shortcomings, features that in watches not from Garmin but other brands (Polar, Suunto, COROS...) have among their most basic features. However remember what I just said to you, Wahoo is not presenting a watch, it is a long-term project.
Wahoo already has several bike computers with nice features. They have route navigation, support advanced training even downloaded from TrainingPeaks, allow you to control rollers through ANT+FE-C (from those advanced trainings)...
In short, Wahoo has many things already developed that they need to adapt. The time and money that the manufacturer wants to allocate to programmers comes into play. Because it's not as easy as “loading software”, everything has to be adapted to a much smaller screen and a different operation. However, they already have a platform created, a mobile app, etc. It is not that they start from scratch.
Will all the features of the bike computers get to the watch? Wahoo hasn't said anything about it, but I'm sure that's what they're thinking. If we look at how their bike computers have evolved we can see that they have been releasing updates quite steadily, even years after the release to the market. It's not that in a year they will be presenting RIVAL2 with everything that the first model is missing.
But if they want the end customer to bet on this watch, they should give us some clues on what they will be working on. They have to tell us what they want to achieve with the ELEMNT Rival and where they want to go. What are the features we can expect and in what time frame. Give us something tangible.
That does not mean that Wahoo has arrived on the market without any new features. In fact they bring a rather interesting one for triathletes.
Automatic transitions on the Wahoo ELEMNT Rival
With the ELEMNT Rival Wahoo introduces automatic transitions for triathlon. It is not that the use of buttons to change segments is eliminated, in fact we can continue marking the segments manually as before (when leaving the water to mark T1, when riding on the bike, etc).
What Wahoo does is, through an algorithm, determine when you are in one of the sports or if you are in a transition. This will automatically do so in case you forget to press the button when you get out of the water or when you start riding the bike (I don't know about you, but I forget to press the button at the correct place in all races).
But automatic transitions don't end there. Because the algorithm is not going to be perfect, we can easily edit those transitions in the app, to fix them at the exact point. In fact, the platform will wait for us to do the review before sending the activity to external services such as Strava or TrainingPeaks.
Similar to Garmin's extended display feature, Wahoo has included the Multisport Handover feature on both their watch and bike computers.
Leave your Wahoo ELEMNT on the bike in multi-sport mode and go swimming. When you reach the bike, the bike computer screen will turn on and you will be able to see swimming data, total time and all the information relevant to the bike ride.
That is, the bike computer will not record any activity, it will simply replicate the information that the watch is transmitting to it.
Wahoo ELMNT Rival opinion
Today it's difficult to recommend this watch to anyone, even if you are a huge Wahooligan fan. There are still too many unknowns and shortcomings around the watch to tell you that you can step forward and buy it.
Not only for what it's missing, also throughout the market you have around. If you are looking for a triathlon watch there are much cheaper and capable options in many other brands, such as the Polar Vantage M that in a few days will get below 200€ for Black Friday. Or the COROS PACE 2 that when the distribution is normalized you can buy for 200€ and even gives you running power.
I still think it's an interesting move because we already know what Wahoo is capable of, and their bike computers are vivid proof of that. Of course, the road ahead is going to be long (and probably not easy), but it is good news that they have dared to finally make the jump to the segment of GPS watches.
And with that... thanks for reading!