Evaluate: Wahoo’s first GPS smartwatch, the Do-It-All ELEMNT RIVAL

Get more data to hand – without using your fingertips.

Heart rate monitors, fitness trackers, and sports watches; Wahoo Fitness has only dominated in two of these three categories so far. Today Wahoo is developing the Trifecta of competitive sports wearables together with its competitors.

The ELEMNT RIVAL watch ($ 380) markets itself as a versatile, stylish, and feature-rich GPS smartwatch with all the options you want. It measures heart rate, steps, distance and calories burned around the clock – plus mileage, speed, average and maximum pace and a number of other metrics, depending on your activity.

Oh, and it automatically syncs your workout with yours connected Wahoo app, komoot, Strava, Nike Run Apps and more.

“The real magic of RIVAL is that we were able to use everything we did with the ELEMNT bike computer to create a perfect parallel that gives triathletes and runners the same ease of use,” said Chip Hawkins, founder of Wahoo.

Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT RIVAL technical data

  • Components: Damage-resistant gorilla glass, ceramic bezel, silicone bracelet
  • Weight: 50 g
  • Physical Properties: Waterproof to 50 m, optical HR monitor, screen lock, ambient light sensor, 4 dial options
  • Properties: 9 sport modes (including triathlon mode), live tracking, customizable data fields, screen zoom, step tracker
  • Price: $ 380

Lemond e-bike

LeMond explodes in e-bikes: Storied brand relaunches with carbon builds

Not in races? Don’t worry, LeMond Bicycles is now making e-bikes for everyday riders. Continue reading…

Wahoo ELEMNT Smartwatch Review

It’s November in Colorado (and it snowed last week) so I couldn’t test the swim functions. However, I splashed and submerged the watch a few times and saw no complaints about the water resistance. Despite the temperatures, I tested the other six – not three, not four, but six – sport modes ELEMNT RIVAL offers.

The first week I had the watch, I wanted to familiarize myself with its settings and its app (which was still in beta testing) before embarking on a big running or summit meeting. In that first week, I did six workouts: five running workouts (with a treadmill session and the rest outdoors) and one strength training and yoga session.

I also carried it to the grocery store, commuted to the office, worked out in the park, and walked the dog. (Fun fact: jogging with a dog, child, stroller, and cup of coffee is equivalent to a 17-minute mile.)

Wahoo RIVAL test

During the second week of testing the watch, I was careful to push the limits of the sport modes. I ran into the mountains, cycled through the city and even did a sprint triathlon – my version was a SUP bike run (again it’s November and sleet).

However, this is the part where I say I am not a professional athlete. I’m not training for a race (or soon to be part of one thanks to COVID). The workouts I chose weren’t about getting a PR, but rather finding out the breadth of performance data that the ELEMNT RIVAL smartwatch can provide.

Wahoo RIVAL watches

Besides, I’m a little old-fashioned. I still listen to tapes, carry cash, and prefer books to their e-reader counterparts. All of this means that I am not a die-hard smartwatch user. I’ve tested a few smartwatches but never felt compelled to own one. That’s all to say, I don’t have a lot of brand or feature prejudice.

The one-page quick start guide that came with the app had all of the instructions I needed. The ambient light sensor (which changes the screen brightness) worked great and made it easy to view my data. A good view of the screen is tremendous when walking at night, in full sun, or with fogged glasses.

Even better, Wahoo Fitness added a “perfect zoom” feature that lets you choose what data to display on the screen. These options range from a display in large font, elapsed time, or mileage, to a six-way split screen for active time, mileage, heart rate, cadence, lap time, and more.

The analog and digital watch displays, pedometer, and each sport mode I tried all worked great.

Sprint triathlon test

Triathlon transitionsThe author reviews the Wahoo’s T1 transition period (from SUP to bike).

While I couldn’t get the multisport mode to record my swim segment (because I was paddling), the open water swim mode tracked my SUP time and distance (in yards) independently with no problem.

The main feature of the Wahoo Triathlon mode is its contactless transitions – it automatically changes disciplines for you, calculates the transition time and knows when to start your next stage.

All of this is shown on the watch. And you can manually stop or edit your transitions if necessary – although I didn’t because I found the transitions to be very accurate.

I finished my sprint tri (half mile SUP, 12 mile bike, 5 km run) in 1:40. Of course, if I just wanted an end time I could have run a timer. I also recorded my leg and transition times, GPS route, and heart rate during every minute of the workout.

Now I have a base goal if I decide to try a second time. (I’ll choose a day and a place where hopefully there won’t be a headwind of 32 km / h.) And who knows, maybe SUP starts tris.

Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL versus Garmin, Suunto

When it comes to wearables like GPS smartwatches, at least two big brands come to mind: Garmin and Suunto. How does the RIVAL compare? By no means is this a head-to-head comparison, but rather a quick look at similar watches on the market.

Like other brands, the Wahoo watch has features like a heart rate monitor, water resistance, triathlon mode, and compatibility with fitness apps.

The ELEMNT RIVAL has a 240 × 240 screen (like similar Garmin models and slightly smaller than the 320 × 300 screen of the Suunto 9). The battery life (depending on the brand) is the same: 14 days for the watch and a GPS battery life of 24 hours. The water resistance of up to 50 m is also comparable to other watches on the market.

Where the ELEMNT RIVAL differs a little are its additional functions on the screen, such as the contactless transitions in triathlon mode, the perfect zoom and compatibility with other Wahoo products. (No other clocks currently on the market can connect Wahoos KICKR Trainer.)

But here’s the real kicker: the Wahoo Fitness RIVAL watch has a low and competitive price point of $ 380. (The Suunto 9 and Garmin Forerunner 745 are both $ 500.)


My biggest question at the beginning was, “How will this watch work? Are the features specifically well designed and does it make a difference? “For me the answer is a surprising and resounding yes.

I wasn’t suddenly hyper-focused on seconds between divisions or fixated on calorie counts. But I thought a lot more about how active I was (or not) in a day and how I could use exercise history to improve my performance over time.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with Wahoo’s ELEMNT RIVAL watch. In particular, I appreciated the ease of setup and the seamless ability to switch between sports disciplines. I won’t wait for a specific SUP mode, but I wouldn’t mind if Wahoo continued to develop its watch technology either. Think climbing, paddling, adventure races, ski races – the possibilities are endless.

Until then, I am looking forward to the opportunity to continue testing the ELEMNT RIVAL in the classic categories of swimming, cycling and running.

Wahoo watch tests

beyond the backyard movie

‘Beyond the Back Yard’: Bike Packrafting the Potomac

Paddle powerhouse brand NRS just released their latest short film that follows two friends biking on the Potomac River. Continue reading…

Related Articles