Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL review

The first wearable form Wahoo gets tested.

You all know Wahoo from their ELEMNT cycling computers, KICKR Trainers and TICKR heart rate monitors and other sensors. Last November Wahoo announced that they were stepping in the world of wearables with the ELEMNT RIVAL. A markets that is flooded with competition. Not just the Apple and Android Watches, but Garmin, Polar, Suunto and what not have a dominance in the sports watch market. But some years ago, Wahoo did the same with the cycling computer market and quickly gathered a sizeable market share and followers. The new watch, the ELEMNT RIVAL is what I would say a first step. It’s by no means a Garmin / Polar / etc killer.

The name RIVAL states its intentions. To Rival (Garmin/Polar/Suunto). But at the moment, the rivalry stops with the name. As upon launch the watch shows great promise but is lacking in a lot of features. That’s not to say that these features won’t be added later, but Wahoo has not given clear roadmap or promises so your buying a beautiful, decently working watch. With a promise.

Specifications

Dimensions46.5 x 46.5 x 15.3 mm
Display Size1.2 in (30.4 mm) diameter
Display TypeColour
Display Resolution240 x 240
Lens MaterialGorilla® Glass
Bezel MaterialCeramic
Case MaterialNylon Polymer
Strap MaterialSilicone
Strap Length10 in (25.4 cm)
Fits wrist circumference140 mm – 240 mm
Weight53 g
BatteryRechargeable Lithium Ion
Battery LifeSmartwatch Mode: 14 days
GPS or HR Mode: Up to 24 hours
GPSBuilt-in GPS and GLONASS
Water Rating5 ATM (water resistant up to 50 meters)
Ambient Light SensorYes

First look

The ELEMNT Rival is available in two colours. Kona White and Stealth Grey. I got a Stealth Grey so you’ll see detailed shots from that. For the white edition you’ll need to do with the PR kit I got. Let’s have a look at some nice quality images.

For more stock photos have a look at my announcement post.

Battery & Charging

As you’ve seen in the specs the battery lasts about 24 hours on a full charge when in a workout. This is quite long and ideal for endurance an (full) triathlons. You can charge the RIVAL with the accompanied cradle which fits snugly on the back, there really much about it. I personally prefer cradles like this over plugs.

Pairing the Wahoo RIVAL with it's companion app.
Pairing is easy.

Setup

If you’re familiar with other Wahoo devices the setup will be no surprise. If not, it’s really easy. Just download the app, select “pair device” and off you go. On the watch it will actually start in pair mode the first time you turn it on and display a QR code you can scan with your phone.
When paired, the app allows you to easily set a number of things on your watch, most you can’t even change on the watch itself. Let’s start with the basics like the watchface, colour and datafields.

From the main overview you can set the Watchface and the then the detail colour. Not a big selection of options at the moment, not even a custom colour.

You have a selection of 3 datafields to display on your default watchface. I’ve chosen my HR, my stepcount and the time in Melbourne. Your 24/7 data (your HR and steps) can be synced to Google Fit.

Then you have your sensors (which you can bind on the watch itself too) and alerts. In your sensors overview you can even rename them for convenience. On your watch that looks like this:

Onward to the sports profiles:

Then on the profiles there is a list already made for you which you can tune to your liking. You can also create new profiles from scratch, based on a template or an existing profile. You can create a multisport profile with your own steps, at least, so I’m told. This is listed in the updates of last December, but my app doesn’t show me this option.
UPDATE: It’s rolled out to a small group of users as a test.
On your watch it looks like this:

The circle closes around the watchface as the ELEMNT RIVAL is finding satellites.

Working out

The RIVAL supports various workout profiles and mostly they differ in what they display and how they sync. As the profiles aren’t really profiles. They seem more like placeholders. A ski profile doesn’t give you a whole lot information like a Polar watch in ski mode. It feels like this is a bit under developed at the moment and can be improved later.

Triathlon

Wahoo RIVAL Multisport mode
Starting Triathlon mode.

As you might have guess from the colour name “Kona White”, the focus of the RIVAL is mainly triathletes. This becomes clear in a unique feature to the RIVAL: The automatic transition detection.
With this transition detection, when you’re in a race, you can select Triathlon from the workout profiles and the ELEMNT RIVAL will start with swimming. Once you stop swimming the watch detects this and starts T1. And then when you’re on the bike, it switches to bike mode, then T2 then running. And this works well. Even if it doesn’t you can adjust your timings later as the watch will record all metrics regardless. Or push the transition button to force a transition. So unlike me with my “unfortunate random foot on transition button”-incident from a couple of years ago, you’ll never have a 20 minute swim with a 20 minute T1 time.

More Triathlon Magic

Now we come to something that Wahoo has nailed too. If you own an ELEMNT Roam (or Bolt) you can put these in ‘multisport’ mode. As a result, when you get close enough, the computer will display the data from the watch. This is mega convenient, you can even start your transition!

You will even see Strava Live Segments and BestBikeSplit data pages on your computer but not on your RIVAL. However the RIVAL is the one recording everything. You can even do a route, so if you’re planning a race, look up the bike course add it beforehand. This will give you a nice heads-up on upcoming turns! So this really is Triathlon magic.

Data fields

As you might know from the ELEMNT computers, you can ‘zoom’ on your data pages. From one to six fields per page. On the RIVAL you use the two bottom buttons and cycle through one – six. Pretty convenient to have your main focus in field 1&2 and others lower for a glance later.

GPS accuracy

The RIVAL hosts the same Sony GPS chip that’s used by Garmin, Polar, Suunto and some others. But the accuracy is a bit lacking. It’s not off by a great margin but at the moment you can only do 1 second recording of GPS+GLONASS and Galileo is available but switched off (and you can not switch this on). Also the dataset / interpretation hasn’t gotten Wahoo’s full attention yet, which with updates could (and should improve).

While DC Rainmaker encountered quite some issues with open water swimming and GPS accuracy, I have unfortunately not been able to head out. When I got my watch, I was first struggling with long term covid recovery (basically 0,0 energy) and then we got winter. Full.On.Winter. I couldn’t even go open water swimming if I wanted to as there’s no ‘open’ water at the moment. I hope to update this soon.

So, I took the ELEMNT RIVAL on a running session along with a Polar Grit X and Garmin Vivoactive 4s.

For the following images these are the colors:
Blue = RIVAL
Red = Polar Grit X
Green = Garmin

As a heads up, I kinda screwed the pooch and forgot to turn the Garmin on until about a kilometer in… 🤦🏼‍♂️
In the first is the overview of my short run. It starts top center, and heads south through an open field with a couple of trees here and there, then hard right (west) through a forest and again hard right for half cover. I don’t live near any high-rises so I can’t test that. On the global picture it looks fine:

Wahoo RIVAL GPS Accuracy Test
You can see the green Garmin finding GPS and starting up too, first a bit uncertain, but then it’s all good.

The little loopback was a nice photo I took! (p.s.: follow me on Insta!)

Wahoo RIVAL GPS Accuracy Test through the woods
Plotted on the map the RIVAL seems the most accurate through the forest. It nails the merging of the two paths and then along the blue dotted line. Garmin is off the mark here the most.
Wahoo RIVAL GPS Accuracy Test under half cover
After more open field I had another turn, this time a sharper one with more half tree cover. Polar is best on the corner, but the RIVAL is most true to the path. the Grit X is decent, smooth and close. However, the Garmin is enjoying the snowy field a bit too much.

HR sensor & Accuracy

The ELEMNT RIVAL uses a Philips HR sensor. Something we haven’t seen in a while. Garmin and Polar use their own tech. And being a optical based wrist hr monitor: results may vary. Your skin colour, hairiness, how and where you wear the device all impact the results.

My first test was amazing. Comparing it to a Garmin device it was identical. And then I remembered I had set the RIVAL to listen to my Garmin watch as I used it on a bike ride that was way too cold and I had the RIVAL over my long sleeve. So that test went down the drain.
Then, as I’ve encountered a covid-19 energy drain, I gave the RIVAL to the Mrs. and it showed some inaccuracies which are not great.

Wahoo RIVAL heartrate Accuracy Test
Blue: Garmin — Orange: RIVAL

As you can see the Rival is a bit off. Quite high compared to the Garmin. Then suddenly at almost 15k it just.. drops. The ‘inverted spike’ in the Garmin at 16.5k is my wife adjusting the strap of it.

Another short run done by myself gives a slightly better result. This is actually from my GPS test. The Garmin is missing as that was not recording HR. Too many optical HR’s next to each other does not give accurate results, so it was in my pocket.

Wahoo RIVAL heartrate Accuracy Test
Two Kodak moments with drops.

Again the RIVAL in blue and Grit X in red. Both watches struggled at the start and I adjusted both just before the 1k mark. Then they were pretty much in agreement. A slight disagreement on my Kodak moments, but during the last kilometer, it’s almost scary identical. I double checked if the RIVAL wasn’t secretly listening to my Grit X, but looking at the drops to take a photo, it’s clear it wasn’t.

The heartrate can be broadcasted to other devices too. It will still record it itself. This is useful if you’re just going for a ride, it’s cold and you’re wearing long sleeves. If you own a ROAM you can set it to multisport, but if it’s a different cycling computer, you can leech your HR of your wrist.

What’s missing on the ELEMNT RIVAL

The list of what’s missing is quite long and maybe a bit unfair to compare ‘somebody’s first’ to someone else’s chapter 30 (as you shouldn’t do with your own training). But to know what you’re not getting here’s a list of features some other watches in the same price range do have:

Music – No download, no sync, no control.
Maps – No maps nor routing
Training – No scheduled workouts or HR / Power zones.
Sleep tracking – Usually nice to track fatigue but not the watch’ #1 goal.

In Conclusion

To summarise, I’d say the ELEMNT RIVAL is a beautiful watch. And certainly a watch that works on what it does (triathlon). It’s not full with features, but it’s also not a Garmin. So maybe you’re buying against ‘big Garmin’ or maybe you’re just a Wahooligan.
And you’re buying a promise.
But for $379 – it sits in price range in which you can get better more feature filled devices like the Polar Grit X ($418) or maybe even M ($245), Forerunner 745 ($499) or Suunto 5 ($210).
Now Wahoo is not the small startup it was ten years ago, so maybe that feeling of helping “the little guy” has worn off a bit. And maybe in a year’s time Wahoo can fix a couple issues, add some features, and close the gap to Suunto, Polar and Garmin (in that order). But those companies are all developing as well. So who knows. It certainly is a watch to keep in mind and I’ll keep updating in the future if new features are introduced.

Price and availability

Lastly, the price. You can buy the ELEMNT RIVAL directly from Wahoo, but also others. As it ships for free worldwide why not cut out the middle man? Unless you can get a better deal, obviously.

US$UK£EU€
$379,99 at Wahoo£349.99 at Wahoo€379,99 at Wahoo

Sponsored Links

Just a note about the “links to buy” in this article, as they are sponsored. I do look for the lowest price I can find at the time of writing in a handful of stores, but by using the links I earn from qualifying purchases made through these links.

2 Comments on Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL review

  1. I feel sorry for your pooch!
    there is no space on the watch for the MUSIC and MAPS.
    It’s almost certain that structured workouts and plans will come so that you can use it with your KICKR.
    Sleep tracking of some sorts will come.

    • Yeah, but wahoo did not give me any timeline or promises. So for as far as I know it’s just hearsay and rumours.

      At least I remembered to switch the Garmin on, would have really been a bummer to come home and have no material to use..

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