New Wahoo Elemnt Roam review: Impressive new features while maintaining core simplicity

The brand’s newest bike computer sees big upgrades without sacrificing ease of use or losing sight of its original aim

After launching the first Wahoo Elemnt Roam in 2019, Wahoo has today launched the second iteration of the Roam which has a host of new features and some essential improvements to functionality. Wahoo explains that navigation was at the forefront of development with the new Roam, with dual-band GPS being added to improve accuracy in areas with bad signal. 

Other standout features on the new Roam include the increased memory on the device (the original iteration of the Roam only had 4GB of memory and often led to riders having to load up and delete maps on the go), improved mapping detail and an array of new colour options on the display, making metrics easier to see at a glance. 

Mike Saturnia, CEO at Wahoo explains: “The new Elemnt Roam works to make riders' GPS experience as seamless and accurate as possible, while also providing unsurpassed data accuracy for athletes in a simple, easy to use product.”

Over the last few weeks, we’ve put the new Roam to the test to see if it lives up to these claims.

Display

One of the biggest upgrades to Wahoo’s new Roam compared to the previous iteration is the 64-colour screen, meaning it equals the number of colours on the Elemnt Bolt v2, which was, until today, Wahoo’s most up-to-date offering when it comes to head units. Like on the Bolt, Wahoo have used these colours sparingly on the Roam, meaning that the maps aren’t overbearing and are still easy to navigate.

The colours come into their own elsewhere, away from the maps page. They are used in data fields such as heart rate or power zones, meaning that with a quick glance you can view which zone you are in, especially useful when riding in busy areas or on fast sections of roads where you need to focus on surroundings. The other area where colour is useful is on climb profiles: the colours change as the gradient kicks up, which I found to be a big help when trying to pace my efforts on a difficult hill.

The new Elemnt Roam has the same size screen as the previous version, keeping with Wahoo’s unique and signature look that ties all of the units in their range together. It’s bigger than the Wahoo Bolt, meaning the maps are less cluttered and easier to read. The LED lights at the top of the screen remain on the new Roam, and these can be set to change colour depending on each rider’s preference (for example, they can light up based on power zones or heart rate zones or speed zones). With colour already used on the display itself to indicate these same metrics, I do find the LEDs a little redundant – they don’t have much use to me other than being a quirky feature which looks cool. I’d rather the additional black space on the unit utilised for a bigger screen on the Wahoo Roam.

I thought that Wahoo may introduce a touchscreen with the latest Roam and when I questioned this, the brand responded that touch screens did have benefits and it could be something they introduce in the future, but argued the current size screen, buttons and layout are easy for users to navigate without overcomplicating things. It’s true that the Roam is exceptionally easy to use once you get the hang of it, but sometimes it is fiddly to have to press multiple buttons to do one action. There’s also very little you can do within the head unit itself. To rearrange pages or use third-party apps like Strava, it’s all done within the Wahoo Elemnt app. Touch screens could allow more functionality from within the head unit in the future.

Like Bolt v2, the new Roam now also features USB-C charging capabilities, convex buttons and an ambient light sensor. 

Storage

After using the old iteration of the Roam, my biggest frustration was the lack of memory and storage space on the unit itself. There were occasions when I found myself about to head out on a ride in a foreign country, and I couldn’t load up my route to the Roam as I hadn’t downloaded the maps for that region. I’d have to delete maps from elsewhere to make space for new ones, and that would always eat into my ride time. Luckily, Wahoo have remedied this with the new Roam, and the unit comes with a whopping 32GB of memory (the original iteration of the Roam had 4GB and the Bolt v2 has 16GB).

Having this additional storage allowed me to have more robust maps and routing data on the device without keeping up with the frustrating maintenance. The new Roam comes with all maps loaded out of the box, meaning set-up is much easier. Impressively, Wahoo have managed to add this additional memory without sacrificing on battery life – the 17 hour battery life on the new ROAM matches what was on the original unit, a solid accomplishment given the more colourful screen and added number of features on the new unit. Additional memory also means more detailed maps: schools, parks, golf courses, hospitals and public landmarks can be displayed on the new Roam – I found this to be a nice feature when exploring new areas.

GPS accuracy and mapping

Another of the key changes on the new Roam is the addition of dual-band GPS, which provides additional accuracy in troublesome areas. This doesn't just mean in remote corners of the globe or in dense forests, but also in cities. These urban areas often have tall buildings with excessive windows and glass which can impact satellite signals negatively – sometimes even more so than in the mountains. As a rider who is based in the city, I found the GPS to be incredibly reliable when I was out using the new Roam, it found signal quickly and also recovered rides quickly if I turned the device off when stopped at a cafe. When compared to the previous iteration of the Roam, the new version was more accurate when looking at my ride traced on the map on the Wahoo Elemnt app.

Wahoo has added this advanced GPS technology but has impressively kept the Roam at a reasonable price: it retails at £349.99. Currently, the only other computer on the market that supports dual band GPS is the Garmin Edge 1040 which comes in at a significantly higher price point.

The Roam keeps the smart-navigation feature seen on the previous iteration of the Roam and the Bolt v2. I’ve always found this to be an extremely useful feature, especially if you are forced to go off-route due to road closures. The Roam reroutes you quickly and efficiently, and directions are easy to follow. 

New features: Summit segments, outdoor structured workouts and more

While not yet rolled out, a feature that will be implemented across the new Roam and Bolt v2 in the near future is ‘summit segments.’ An upgrade to the colour coded elevation chart, summit segments will show riders the number of climbs they have on a loaded route and give additional details on each climb, for example, elevation gain, how much time has been spent on the climb, how long has already been done, how long is to go, and what climbs are coming up. We will provide more details on how functional this feature is once it’s rolled out, it’s going to be interesting to see how accurate the Wahoo is at finding climbs along a set route, and how much elevation it needs to classify a stretch of road as a climb.

Wahoo Summit Segment screen (Image: Wahoo)

A second feature from Wahoo, which is live today, is the introduction of outdoor structured workouts. Previously, workouts created on the Wahoo X app could not be loaded to a Wahoo unit, meaning that riders who followed a Wahoo Systm plan were limited when wanting to take their workout sessions outdoors. When outdoor structured workouts are rolled out, riders will be able to continue Systm training plans and have the workout plan displayed on the Wahoo unit. This is a big step in tying the Wahoo ecosystem together, and could encourage more users to start following Systm training programmes.

Wahoo has also launched today ‘Elemnt back-up and restore’ which means that the Elemnt app always saves a backup of each user's configuration (date pages, map cells etc.) This means that when a new device is purchased and linked to the Elemnt app, all of the user’s preferences will be saved meaning that the customisation doesn’t have to be redone on a new device. Additionally, Wahoo has now solidified its link with Supersapiens, so the glucose monitoring device can now be linked to the head unit.

Another feature which will be added to both the Roam and Bolt v2 in the future is public route sharing. This will mean that riders using a Wahoo will soon be able to broadcast routes from the Wahoo Elemnt app. This means that other app users in the same geographical area will be able to select the route on their companion app and send it to the bike computer. This is a feature that could be especially useful on big group rides or at the start of events when there are multiple riders looking to load up a route. 

Roam vs Bolt v2?

Since all of the above features are also going to be rolled out on Wahoo’s Bolt v2 as well as the newly released Roam, it begs the question: which one is right for me? After using both versions of the Wahoo head unit extensively, I think that the two main advantages of the Roam over the Bold are the bigger screen size (ideal for people who are short of sight, or who need more detailed maps on all-day adventures) and the new dual-band GPS. For riders who use a head unit mostly for navigation purposes, this additional GPS accuracy is a game-changer on the Roam. The longer battery life also makes the Roam suitable for bike-packing trips or multi-day races and events.

The Bolt still is an accurate device, and I’ve never had problems with GPS while using it, but I’m not someone who has pushed it to the limits of use. If I was going on a big trip, the battery life, extra memory and dual-band GPS would mean that the Roam would be my head unit of choice. For shorter rides or race days, the more compact, smaller Bolt v2 would be my go-to. It doesn't lack any of the features that the Roam offers, but it’s not as well-designed for multi-day riding.

Overall

Wahoo have made big improvements with the latest version of the Roam. The standout upgrades are undeniably the dual-band GPS, 64-colour screen and the 34GB of memory. Fundamentally, these make the Roam better fit for purpose: it can serve riders on long, all-day adventures because it’s easier to see maps and it’s easier to load and follow routes. The 17-hour battery life is enough for the majority of riding experiences and the bigger screen size compared to the Bolt makes maps much easier to read.

We’ll update this review once the new features are rolled out and we will see how they perform, but at first glance it looks like Wahoo is innovatively solving any pressure points that can ruin a bike ride – proving once again that its products are designed by people who ride themselves day in, day out. Wahoo is making innovations where they need to be made, helping riders to enjoy being out on their bike more, rather than overcomplicating things with too many features and creating a cluttered interface.

I’d like to see some upgrades to the aesthetics of the Roam, however. There does seem to be a lot of wasted screen space around the edge of the display, and the unit does have a bulkier feel when compared to some of its competitors. Additions like a touch screen or solar power charging could improve the ROAM, but this would understandably drive up the price point which, at £349.99, is impressively affordable for a unit with so many features and dual-band GPS.

For a rider looking to tackle multi-day adventures or ultra-rides who doesn’t want to break the bank, Wahoo’s Roam is one of the best options on the market. It wouldn’t be my choice to use in a short race where I was considering aerodynamics, or if I wasn’t planning to follow a route, but Wahoo offers the Bolt v2 for those purposes, and I’d trust the Roam to be reliable and study on any adventure.