A big thing many cyclists deal contend with is their choice in bike computer. Seems like these days the choice boils down to either a Wahoo bike computer or one from Garmin. Let's take a look at the best these companies have to offer.
I've been using a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt since April 2018. It was the first bike computer I've ever owned. Loved it! Great little computer with equally great software. Setup was a breeze and everything just worked.
I use past tense because when the Garmin Edge 530 and 830 was announced, interest in upgrading my bike computer went up. Since I was venturing into gravel riding territory, the ability to navigate off the beaten path now became somewhat of a necessity. However, when I inquired about the availability of the Edge 830 I was told that Wahoo had a new Elemnt to be announced just weeks away. So...I waited.
Then, at the beginning of May, the Wahoo Element Roam was announced. At first glance, this looked to be the perfect upgrade to my Bolt. However, after reading multiple reviews, it quickly became apparent that the Roam, while a worthy upgrade from the Bolt, didn't appear to be as good of a deal as what Garmin released. Many have pointed out that it would seem the Roam doesn't fare all that well when compared to the competition. As DC Rainmaker says in his review of the Elemnt Roam:
But the competition has stepped up. In those two years there’s new entrants from the highly vibrant display and deep navigational features of the Hammerhead Karoo at $399. Garmin released their Edge 520 Plus with full routing at $279, and Sigma topped out the higher end with their ROX 12. And that’s before we even consider last week’s Edge 530 ($299), and Edge 830 ($399) units from Garmin. Today, people expect at the $299 price point to have routing and on-device navigation. And at $379 for the ROAM, it better be fantastic. Like, rainbow farting pony fantastic.
That's what stopped me from waiting on the Roam: the price! For $399, I could buy an Edge 830 which has a better screen, more features, and better on-device navigation. And that's exactly what I did! I sold my Bolt and upgraded to a Garmin Edge 830.
Now a few weeks in, I started wondering if maybe I might have made a mistake. The change from the Wahoo to the Garmin ecosystem isn't without its flaws. The difference in quality with the software is a pretty start contrast. But then again, so is the quality of the hardware. It's like this: Garmin has better hardware, Wahoo has better software.
One thing I noticed right off the bat with my new Garmin Edge 830 is the hardware quality. It just feels like its better quality compared to my Elemnt Bolt. For instance, I was always pissed off about the USB port cover on my Bolt. The damn thing was difficult to get on and just would never stay on. It would just dangle there off the unit while mounted on my bike. By comparison, the Edge 830's USB port cover goes on and off without any issues whatsoever. That's one major difference. The rest are fairly minor. The Bolt is a good quality bike computer. It's just that the Edge 830 quality is just better.
But its the software where Wahoo makes inroads. With the Elemnt, everything is done through the Elemnt Companion app. All of the configuration settings are done through it and syncing with third-party services is a breeze. It's not without its own bugs and idiosyncracies though. I've had problems getting it to sync right with Apple Health for instance. Not a biggie really cause, to be honest, even Garmin is having problems with this too.
By comparison, Garmin syncs everything through Garmin Connect and requires most configuration to be done on the device itself. Not a big deal but...well...Garmin Connect is a weird beast. Sometimes going into certain setting in Garmin Connect don't work and you have to restart the app. The look and feel and overall design just aren't as polished as the Elemnt Companion app. It's an app that feels dated compared to what Wahoo is doing with the Elemnt.
Today (May 24, 2019), I called to see if my local bike shop had any Wahoo Elemnt Roam's in stock. I figured that the best way to know for sure if I made the right choice would be to just buy a Roam and try it out. Whichever one I didn't like I could just return. Funny thing is that I was told that they didn't have any in stock. Seems Wahoo is having production issues with the new Roam and won't be releasing new ones till late June early July. That's not a good sign!
So...looks like I'm sticking with the Edge 830! Here are my reasons why:
The Edge 830 is faster and snappier than the Roam. Based on reviews, one of the complaints about the Roam was that it was a little slow...especially with navigation. Turn-by-turn directions are said to be slower by comparison to the Edge 830 and other newer bike computers.
TrainerRoad has the ability to push outside workouts to Garmin units. This is kind of a cool thing to me. I've done some indoor training using TrainerRoad and really like it but...sigh...I really would rather be outside riding. With this I can carry some workouts with me on the road and do them there. Garmin has already announced their Training API. With Wahoo though, like many things, they say they'll be doing it but no word on when.
The Edge 830 has better navigation. While the Roam certainly looks to have improved navigation over the Bolt, I'm just not sure about the quality of the maps. The chevron style overlays just don't look as clean as what Garmin does with their navigation. Plus, the Edge 830 allows you to quickly choose a new point on a map to navigate to which, for me, is an advantage. I've had way too many instances where a road or trail was closed and needed to quickly change my route. The Edge 830 looks to solve this one problem more effectively than the Roam.
The Edge 830 has a full color screen. The Roam is faux color screen. It's not really full color. Plus, it's a touch-screen which, based on my experience so far, is pretty good. Maps and other information screens just look complete by comparison to what I've seen of the Roam.
Which is the real rub. I can't pickup a Roam right now. But, even then, would I even want to? The differences in features between these two devices is rather stark. And at price points that are within $20 of each other, it seems the Edge 830 is a better deal, right? I certainly hope so. While I like the quality of the hardware, the Garmin ecosystem is certainly a bit finicky in terms of software quality. Wahoo is solid in that department...but their slow to evolve and respond to new things. Garmin seems quick to roll out new features like their Training API and such. So there's pluses and minuses on each front. For now though, I think the Garmin Edge 530 and 830 are good picks. If the Roam were $100 less I might have held out for one. Oh well! :P
Update (July 31, 2019)
After living with an Edge 830 for a little over 3 months, I have finally come to the conclusion that it's just not stable yet. Many of the reports I've read on the Garmin forums reveal that I'm not the only one.
The main problem I've been having is sensor dropouts. I had some rides where my power meter dropped out and didn't come back online till close to the end of my ride. On one really big ride, my heart rate monitor started dropping out in the middle of the ride which on a hot summer day isn't good. Garmin appears to be well aware of this based on a Sensor Dropout Feedback post on their forum. However, it appears that even after a few software updates along with a more recent beta update, the problems still persist for many people.
This didn't leave me with a fuzzy feeling so, after contemplating it really hard, I decided to jump ship and return the Edge 830. Fortunately, my local bike shop is super awesome and allowed me to exchange the Garmin for a new Wahoo Elemnt Roam. Since I came from an Elemnt Bolt, the Roam felt right at home for me. The hardware isn't quite as slick and it doesn't have all the features of the Edge 830, but it's likely to be super solid and more stable which is exactly what I need.