Wahoo’s Biggest Competitor Is Their Own Lackluster Hardware

Posted on June 11th, 2019 by Jeff Whitfield | Comments

Journal


Did you see what I did there with the title? I basically just flip-flopped what DC Rainmaker said in his post entitled “Garmin’s Biggest Competitor Is Their Own Software Instability”. It’s not that I disagree with DC Rainmaker. I actually do agree with him. He makes a lot of very fair points. However, there’s another angle to this that I think is missing.

I’ve talked about my switch from a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt to a Garmin Edge 830 already and explained my reasoning for it. I really did like my Elemnt Bolt and really, really, really wanted to like the Roam as well. I actually held off buying the Edge 830 till I saw what Wahoo had to offer. After they debuted the Roam, I felt it was simply too little for too much. Even DC Rainmaker said as much in his own review of the Wahoo Elemnt Roam:

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.

When I saw the features of the Garmin Edge 530 and 830, I pretty much saw a rainbow farting pony. The Roam just didn’t feel like it was worth $379. For just $20 more, I felt like the Edge 830 offered far, far more value and bang for the buck by comparison.

The thing is…DC Rainmaker isn’t wrong. After getting the Edge 830, even I was contemplating my choice. The software does seem a little buggy at times and, by comparison to Wahoo’s software, it’s kind of clunky too. Just not as well designed as what Wahoo offers.

And even some of the features that people complain about aren’t even features I fully rely on. Garmin LiveTrack? Couldn’t care less. It’s a feature I don’t even use. Garmin Edge Bluetooth to phone connectivity? I have my Apple Watch on and it does all that anyways. Again, a feature I don’t really need. I think it really boils down to core features vs add-on features; Garmin probably put in more time on the core ones and less on the add-on ones.

But that’s just it. With virtually every manufacturer of bike computers there is a give and take relationship to features, usability, and design. Now, I can’t speak to the quality of hardware and software by other manufacturers. I’ve looked at what Stages, Lezyne, and others offer but when it comes to the high-end, it’s really down to just Garmin and Wahoo. And when you start comparing Garmin to Wahoo, it really comes down to a compromise between either the software or the hardware.

Want more overall stability? You can’t go wrong with a Wahoo Elemnt. But with that stability comes a compromise in specs. Wahoo simply doesn’t have what some would call cutting edge hardware specs. Their bike computers are slower and even the latest Roam isn’t exactly a full color screen computer. Plus there’s the issue of some incompatibility with third-party add-ons. But, on the plus side, the software is really well designed and makes it super quick and easy to get up and running. Only downside is that you’re tied to your phone if you need to make changes to the configuration.

What more cutting edge hardware? Then the latest Garmin bike computers are for you. But with that cutting edge hardware comes some compromises to the quality of the software as well as some stability issues here and there with the hardware. If you can live with that then you’ll have a faster bike computer with some pretty snazzy features. You can make a lot of changes to your configuration on the fly without needing to sync anything from your phone. However, as DC Rainmaker points you, some features are super buggy and can cause a lot of frustration, enough to cause some Garmin users to jump ship.

Personally, I don’t think Apple is even a fair competitor to Garmin or Wahoo really. Wahoo is closer to being more Apple-like when it comes to the design of their software…but not so much in their hardware. Garmin is kind of closer to Apple when it comes to the features of their hardware but they’re more like Microsoft when it comes to the design of their software really.

Which brings me to my point: Everything about bike computers is a compromise! Not one of them is perfect in any way. DC Rainmaker makes some very fair points. But I think some perspective is needed as well. The cycling community, hell, the whole fitness community for that matter, needs to understand that the real problem is a lack of insight into the design of these products overall. It’s not just Garmin that should heed DC Rainmaker’s proposal…it’s pretty much the entire industry!

Update (July 31, 2019)

I just mentioned this in my post about Garmin vs Wahoo but I'm repeating it here as well. After careful contemplation, I decided to jump ship from Garmin and go back to a Wahoo unit. I've been having problems with sensor dropouts, especially the heart rate sensor which is by far the most important one for me, especially on really hot days. So, a Wahoo Elemnt Roam it is!

This doesn't change my opinion at all in this post though. Like I said, the main compromise between Garmin and Wahoo is features over stability. I was hoping the features of the Garmin would win me over. Which it did initially...but very quickly the instabilities reared their head and I had to make a decision rather quickly on whether or not these are a showstopper. My conclusion was that they were.

The Wahoo Elemnt Roam, while not quite as slick as the Garmin Edge 830 (or the Edge 530 for that matter), is still likely to be a better choice if your main requirement is stability. Right out of the box, I can already tell that the navigation capabilities of the Roam are a step down from the Edge 530/830. Still, what's there works. It's not as good but it should work for my needs which is honestly all that matters. So...Wahoo it is for now!  :P Read more