Cycling computers are slowly evolving into something resembling a smartphone. We take a look at two top-notch options.
Wahoo Elemnt Roam
About this Cycling Computer
Boasting an upgraded case alongside better navigation features and a color screen, Wahoo’s new version of the Elemnt Bolt has been a long time coming. This sleek computer uses a very simple user interface to display and record everything from speed, distance, and cadence, to power, advanced pedaling dynamics (like Pioneer’s vector output), oxygen sensors, shifting, and onboard navigation without the need to connect to a phone. The 2.7-inch screen shows tons of info on zoomed-out data pages, the crisp display is easy to read at a glance, and two LED bars on the screen’s side and top give a bonus intuitive readout.
Wahoo crushes it in rock-solid, fast connectivity with a wide array of third-party sensors and online services like Strava. The display interface of this cycling computer is also notoriously well thought out and devilishly simple, showing what you need to see quickly. The improved onboard independent navigation system has been missing for a while, but things like automatic rerouting and route-to-starting point are more than just novel additions.
We were actually surprised with the battery life on the Roam, as it would lose power in standby much faster than the Garmin. Also—like any map-based navigation system—the automatically generated routes need a good real-world check before starting.
Garmin Edge 530
About this Cycling Computer
Garmin’s update to the well-loved color (and non-touchscreen) Edge 520 simply improves upon a lot of what Garmin had already done right: the same color onboard navigation and a host of customizable options, plus a bigger screen and a new range of “performance metrics” that basically help those who coach themselves. The 530 gives information on heat/altitude acclimatization, refueling, and rehydrating reminders, and uses previous training to determine a rider’s plan’s consistency. Garmin has also added a handful of neat new mountain-biking functions for the off-road inclined.
As always, Garmin packs a ton of functions into a small package, and what it does, it does relatively well. The bigger screen is a plus (though it’s still smaller than the Roam), and post-ride metrics are some of the most useful we’ve seen right out of the box. Battery life was also incredible.
One of Wahoo’s biggest advantages in the cycling computer realm is the Roam’s easy-to-navigate interface, as the Edge has a slightly steep learning curve. This is a blessing and a curse as the function-heavy Edge is very powerful, but can also get a little…complicated. Setting up everything on-device can be a little tougher than using a smartphone app like the Wahoo.
Which Cycling Computer Wins?
Wahoo’s Elemnt Roam wins by a hair for its simple-yet-intuitive interface and crisp color display with phone-free nav.