Your background helper – that’s what the Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL Multisport GPS watch is supposed to be. Requiring minimal user input, it should ensure that the wearer can concentrate on their performance without any distractions. We found out how the watch works and how it performs in everyday use in our long-term test.
The Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL uses the ELEMNT technology that we already know from the US brand’s bike computers. By adding multi-sport features, it is intended to become a reliable companion for numerous sports, with a particular focus on triathlon, swimming, cycling and running. Sensors embedded in the watch should allow it to recognise transitions between sports automatically, allowing it to record time and workout data for each individually. This way, the athlete only has to activate the watch once, after which they can focus fully on their own performance. On top of that, the ELEMNT RIVAL can also remain active outside of workouts and, if desired, continuously track heart rate, steps and calories burned, cementing its intention to become a smart fitness companion for your everyday life. To help you stay on top of your training, the watch can be synced with your TrainingPeaks account, with any workouts planned there available to complete with corresponding instructions on your wrist. The ELEMNT RIVAL communicates with other ELEMNT cycling computers so that training and race data from multi-sport events are shared across all devices.
Look and feel of the Wahoo GPS watch
The first GPS watch from fitness specialists Wahoo features a sporty design, making it a good match for use in a sporting environment. However, it looks a bit out of place when worn with everyday clothes or on more formal occasions. Thanks to its low weight and easy adjustment of the band, the watch sits securely on the wrist, not least because of its silicone strap, avoiding any pressure points or discomfort. However, it feels sticky on the skin in warm temperatures and when sweating, as will often be the case during sports. We didn’t coddle the watch: it went through several falls on mountain bike trails, where it took direct blows from the ground and roots. Afterwards, it accompanied us to the sauna to recover. That’s not to speak of the numerous roads and gravel tracks it travelled along. While it may not exude the most premium look and feel, it’s nonetheless high-quality and has proven its robustness. We did encounter an issue with the control buttons, which collect dirt quickly and are hard to clean – the only solution is the old home remedy of washing-up liquid and an old toothbrush.
Operating the RIVAL
Operating the Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL takes some time to get used to initially as there is next to no explanation provided on the buttons. That said, once you’re used to what does what, the watch is easy and intuitive to use. Thanks to the buttons’ good haptic feedback, you can also control functionality intuitively without looking down at the watch face. When you do have to glance at it, you’ll be pleased by the customisable layout, which can be modified via a connected smartphone using the Wahoo ELEMNT app, with designs available that cater to every taste. The display is nice and bright, ensuring that everything is visible even in the dark or in midday sunlight. It also has extremely good contrast, resolving details well. Pair the watch with your smartphone and it will display notifications from apps like WhatsApp, Spotify or SoundCloud, alerting you to messages with a sound and/or vibration. You can also disconnect from the outside world by using “Do not disturb” mode and concentrate only on your exercise. While you can read messages on the watch, you won’t be able to reply to them. When listening to music, you can adjust the volume and switch to the next song. The Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL can be fully charged from an empty battery within about 90 minutes with its proprietary charger and will then last an average of 4–5 days for someone with an active lifestyle and tracking numerous activities. It’s a bit disappointing that without the charger, you’re out of luck: there’s no mini-USB or anything else here. It’s also incomprehensible that the stopwatch is hidden deep in the menu.
GPS watch technology
The Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL’s GPS allows you to record routes precisely – on foot, in the water or on two wheels. Even in dense forest, the GPS remains sufficiently accurate, meaning you’ll end up with a perfect track of your ride on a road bike or gravel bike, but might have to accept some small deviations when riding mountain bike trails in dense forest. At the beginning of an activity, the watch usually needs a short time to find GPS signal, meaning the first metres of a tour can occasionally be missing. As good as the tracking is, it’s a shame that the ELEMENT RIVAL offers no navigation at all. It can’t even display just directions, meaning that arrows or turn-by-turn directions can’t be transmitted from your phone. A missed opportunity! Could a software update remedy this? On the other hand, connecting to your phone is simple and intuitive and activities are quickly transferred via the Wahoo app. Common power meters or chest straps can also be easily paired with the watch, while the watch’s own heart rate monitor can also be paired with other devices. Great! However, the measured heart rate isn’t always accurate and can drop out, though this isn’t all that surprising for an optical heart rate monitor. You should make sure to strap the watch on tightly to remedy this by allowing the sensor to measure more consistently. Unfortunately, when the measurement drops out, gaps aren’t filled in or interpolated, with the resulting 0 reading distorting the overall recording. The green glowing sensor continuously lights up even when the watch is taken off, which can be especially annoying if you leave the watch next to your bed at night.
Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL Multisport GPS watch conclusion
The Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL impresses with its intuitive operation and accurate GPS recordings. This makes it a reliable companion for athletes who switch between different sports. While it is undoubtedly robust, its overall appearance doesn’t quite live up to its premium aspirations. Finally, those who want to be able to navigate via their wrist will unfortunately have to look elsewhere.
- precise tracking even in dense forest
- intuitive operation
- long battery life
- sits comfortably and inconspicuously on the wrist
- no navigation functionality
- proprietary charger
- stopwatch hidden in menu
Tester: Ben & Peter
Test duration: 6 months
Price: € 379.99
Weight: 52 g
Area of use: multi sport
More information on the Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL Multisport GPS watch at wahoofitness.com
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Benjamin Topf, Peter Walker & Tobias Hörsch Photos: Benjamin Topf