The Elemnt Rival is a sophisticated smartwatch for fitness training, but its accuracy let it down.
The Wahoo Elemnt Rival is a GPS smartwatch that’ll track your ride, record your heart rate for fitness training (if that’s your thing), and send all the data to an app on your phone to pore over later. Oh and it’ll display your messages, emails and calls so there’s less need to get your phone out and distract yourself on a ride. That’s the bare bones of the Elemnt Rival, and about all most mountain bikers want from a smartwatch, although there’s a lot more going on too if you’re into running, triathlon (heaven forbidden) or any other distractions from the gold standard: mountain biking.
The unit itself is mid-sized as far as smartwatches go, there are bigger and smaller options out there from the likes of Suunto and Garmin. There’s a correspondingly big screen to view all the metrics, a ceramic bezel that Wahoo says improves its GPS accuracy, and a Gorrialla Glass screen. It’s chunky looking but impressively light, and after two months use it’s still immaculate, despite a pretty heavy crash that dinged up my phone.
Riding with the Elemnt Rival is a cinch, out of the box you pair it just once with your smartphone, then all you need to do is hit record when you want to ride. After that it automatically sends the riding data to your phone, there’s no need to plug it in or tap any buttons to send the numbers across. The information the watch gives you is fairly limited compared to the competition, but really that’s no bad thing though. You get access to distance, elevation gain, time, moving time, speed (average and max), average climbing speed, calories, heart rate and heart rate zones, and on the app you can see a map of where you’ve been. Wahoo argues the Elemnt Rival is for serious athletes who don’t want gimmicks like being told to drink more water, and I agree – I don’t want it to count how many times I’ve climbed the stairs, and navigation is best done with a bar mounted computer. It would be great to grab a post-ride coffee and pay with just my watch though.
Out on the bike the big screen and clear, customisable display is the best I’ve tried, it’s easy to spot with just a quick glance. I used the Wahoo to temper my recovery rides, making use of the colour coded heart rate zones to instantly see if I was hitting the right spot. Unfortunately all that goes to pot if the heart rate monitor isn’t accurate – the Elemnt Rival sometimes over clocked my palpitations to the tune of 20-30 beats per minute, and occasionally under counted too. It doesn’t happen all the time, but enough to skew the data. I benchmarked the watch against a Garmin Vivoactive 4s worn on the opposite wrist and had no such problems.
GPS accuracy is the real make or break of a good watch though, and again I compared it to the Garmin, running both watches on multiple rides. The Elemnt Rival consistently recorded shorter rides to the Garmin, around 17m per kilometre – not much, but it tells me the Wahoo must be less accurate, potentially losing signal and making straight lines where there are really corners. Checking out the map screen the Wahoo had me veering off the trail and riding through lakes while the Garmin seemed to be less wayward.
Wahoo says there will be plenty of updates to the Elemnt Rival as time goes on, increasing it’s accuracy and adding more functions – just last month it updated to receive WhatsApp messages. It’s clear display is superlative, and the app and watch itself simple and compelling to use, but it’s hard to recommend in its current form when there are so many better rivals out there for less money.