Jumping from Garmin to Wahoo

Along with preparation for doubles is checking on my GPS recording device … in other words, if I do a double, I want proof.  This really didn’t become an issue until I did a training ride, a 100 mile ride from my house to the Cliff House in San Francisco.  By the time I finished, I had a low battery indicator for the last 20 miles.  When I finally sync’d it, I discovered it had 4% battery life left.  This was just short of 8 hours of run time.  Sure, I could just re-charge it, mid-way through, with one of those portable battery chargers, but that’s inconvenient, and a pain.

Now we’ve all had problems with Garmin before, like not recording sometimes, GPS being way off … I’ve heard many really positive things about Wahoo, so this is the perfect opportunity to buy one.  After evaluating reviews, I decided to go with Wahoo Element, for both price, features, and more importantly, battery life.  It does advertise on its spec up to 17 hours battery life.  I went with this, over Roam, only because I didn’t need the pretty color maps, and the turn-by-turn, I figure I could get with Element.  Besides, I’m used to just downloading a course.  The price was good, $239, as opposed to $380 for the Roam.

It’s a nice big display, and I like the fact that you can zoom in/out, to display larger fonts with less number of fields, and if you zoom out for smaller fonts, it will display more number of fields.

The turn-by-turn, is displayed while viewing the map, so that’s pretty nice.  Even if you are not in the map view, it will give you an overlayed dialog, telling you where you need to turn.  However, I haven’t figured out, if you suddenly want to abandon the course, how to turn off the turn-by-turn navigation.  Gotta play with that a little more.

Ok, now to the gripes I have, after only a week playing with this.  First, you download the Wahoo app, and you control the Element via the smartphone app.  However, in order to connect to it, you need to have it connect via bluetooth.  However, I’ve found you can’t connect, as long as you have an already existing bluetooth connection on your phone.  For example, if you have a fitness watch paired via bluetooth on it (I happen to have a Garmin Vivoactive paired up with it), the app won’t find the Element GPS unit.  I was able to connect to it, if I reboot my phone.  I think even that was just a lucky chance.

After many Google searches, and browsing through Wahoo web site, I found that you have to disable all bluetooth connections, then connect from the Wahoo app to the Wahoo GPS (and no, you cannot try to connect from the bluetooth control panel).  So I had to disable bluetooth connection from my Vivoactive watch, headset, and any other bluetooth connections, then have Wahoo connect.  This same process holds true when you sync the ride from your Wahoo GPS, to the Wahoo app on the smartphone, and then eventually upload it to Strava, or whatever fitness app you prefer.

When I first got the Wahoo Element, it kept wanting me to update the firmware.  Now Wahoo updates firmware via Wifi, so the Wahoo Element is a Wifi client.  I tried for a week to update the firmware, but I couldn’t, even though it does have a proper Wifi connection.  Again, after many Google searches, I finally found the Element Wifi client only supports 2.4 GHz channel, and my standard on my WiFi Access Point is 5G.  Wow, seems like we are re-gressing in technology.  I had to add 2.4 GHz on my AP, then after that, I was able to get it to update the firmware.

The bluetooth thing is stupid, and the Wifi 2.4 GHz thing, was just driving me nuts, especially since I do Tech Support for a living.  It’s not like it’s something that they clearly point out in the documentation that comes with the box, because all it has is a getting started leaflet, which doesn’t go into any detail at all.

I really wish they could add some notes, in the Getting Started leaflet, that updating firmware requires 2.4 GHz wireless, and that sync’ing requires all other bluetooth connections to be disabled.  For a product that is trying to claim they are technologically advanced, these two things brings it backwards.  I wonder if the same problem occurs on Roam or Bolt.

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5 Responses to Jumping from Garmin to Wahoo

  1. Pete. says:

    Great review. The amount of Blue tooth to deal with now is getting pretty thick. I had the vivoactive but when it died on my 50K I needed something and went up to a more expensive Garmin which pretty awesome. 3 readouts is all I need and I can actually see them. I’m not doing any 100 mile runs or 200 mile bike rides …yet so I’m good to go with the Garmin although these new products sound enticing and will probably improve rapidly!

    • sevencyclist says:

      The part about disabling all bluetooth, just so that the GPS unit can communicate with the smartphone app, is just ridiculous. So far, that’s the only workaround I’ve found, other than rebooting the phone.

  2. I’ve been dragging my feet on getting anything. I still use the cat eye odometer for my ‘official’ total and run the Strava app on the iPhone, and YEP I carry a battery pack to keep it charged on the long rides!

  3. britcpower says:

    I jumped from the Garmin Wagon to a Stages Dash L50. The display is fantastic and the maps really good. I initially had a bit of a learning curve but that display really wins you over.

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