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Wahoo Elemnt Rival GPS watch review

We’re massive fans of Wahoo’s intuitive, instant connection Elemnt GPS computers but how well does that performance translate to your wrist?

Wahoo Rival smart watch
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

The Wahoo Elemnt Rival collects, collates and displays essential training and ride data really well with connectivity, syncing, app-based control and multi-sport transitions being particular highlights. There are competitors offering more features for less cash, though.

For

  • Excellent connectivity
  • Clear displays
  • All the data most will need
  • Bonus multisport versatility
  • Comprehensive life/lifestyle integration
  • Tough construction

Against

  • Very pricey for features
  • Limited deep data dive
  • Very limited data review on watch
  • Slow GPS recognition
  • Occasional stop glitches

Wahoo has had massive success with its bar-mounted GPS computers and the Rival is designed to take all those essential features and put them onto your wrist with some extras for multi-sport users. It’s got some great elements too, but Wahoo’s gradual rollout of features definitely feels like a work in progress in which you’re paying full price for a partial product.

Design and performance

In terms of aesthetics, Wahoo has done a super tidy job with the Elemnt Rival. After months on our wrists, the Gorilla Glass is still unscathed and while the ceramic bezel doesn’t actually do anything, it gives you fancy diver's watch vibes. The function button is just about big enough to feel with fatter winter gloves and the features they control are consistent once you learn your way around them. 

It’s light enough to sit on your wrist without being obvious, even after a long day, and there’s enough stretch in the strap not to provoke arm pump even when it’s tight enough to make the optical heart rate monitor work as well as it can. Battery charging is done via a USB cradle, which is a bit of an admin pain but keeps the Rival waterproof down to 50m. Battery life is absolutely epic too, lasting well over a week if you train an hour or so a day and recharging is super fast when you do eventually have to whip it off so your 24/7 health data isn’t dramatically dented.

Wahoo has tried to bring as much functionality as possible across from the Roam and Bolt bar computers and that includes the three-step ‘Perfect View’ zoom function so you can concentrate on your key metric or see the maximum of 6 data streams. The display is very clear and the subtle but effective backlight can be set, on, off or auto, depending on your needs. There are two digital and two analog screen options with seven different accent colors. You can also manage up to six widgets of your choosing on the home face from a range of time, battery, steps, calories, heart rate and date options.

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Wahoo Rival smart watch

The watch face is customisable to show different metrics (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Wahoo Rival smart watch

USB cradle charger means the Rival watch is waterproof to 50m (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

The Rival uses the same Wahoo Elemnt App as the Roam and Bolt bar computers and it’s easy to instantly change the information you want to be displayed and review rides afterwards as long as you’re connected via Bluetooth. That information is tailored to whichever sport you choose from the menu too, so you’re getting the relevant numbers for running, open water or lap swimming, and even static activities like yoga, strength training and, unsurprisingly, it’ll integrate directly with Wahoo’s Kickr bike trainers. There’s even a triathlon-specific ‘transition’ mode where the watch will automatically switch from swim to ride to run, based on preset GPS coordinates or different sensor inputs.

In typical Wahoo style, integration with other devices is also excellent via Bluetooth or ANT+ and it’ll harvest data from any compatible heart rate belts, power meters, calls, texts, WhatsApp, mailbox, and more. It’ll sync and update automatically with all the usual ride and training programs too. For convenience, it’ll automatically broadcast its optical HR readout to your Roam or Bolt if you’re using both together. We’d definitely recommend a ‘proper’ chest belt for consistent and accurate cardiac info as, like all wrist monitors, accuracy can vary depending on wrist shape, your internal plumbing, your external hairiness or just how much you’re waving your arm about.

GPS accuracy is generally excellent and if you’re also a track runner, Wahoo has just added a neat feature that locks onto your track sections, smoothing out the oval for super-accurate lap data. The latest update also lets you control any music/audio coming from your smartphone too. 

However all updates are automatic, so make sure you check the website regularly or it might have grown a useful function without you realizing it. Another gripe is that we’ve often had to be really patient waiting for it to connect to the satellite grid so we can start. Our sample also regularly refuses to stop recording when we press the relevant button, which is frustrating.

Rolling out extra functions over time is a big part of the Rival package/approach and that’s not alien to this category (Polar, Garmin etc. regularly update software and firmware). For most riders it gives all the information they’ll ever need in terms of power, heart rate, TSS, calories too, and the way it can blend information from different sources or even switch sports mid-workout is a real bonus for multisport athletes. It’s definitely a double-edged sword of distilled essentials versus comprehensive post-ride feedback on the Rival or on the Elemnt app compared to the most geek-friendly competitors for a similar - or lower price.

Wahoo Rival smart watch

The Rival watch uses the current Wahoo Elemnt companion app to change settings and display ride data (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict 

From a physical perspective, the Elemnt Rival is great. It’s easy to read and operate (apart from the occasional refusal to stop and slow GPS recognition) it sits on your wrist well and plays really nicely with other devices. The amount of information it collects, collates and displays clearly is probably more than enough for anyone this side of a sports science degree. Yet there’s no escaping the fact you can get a similar feature spec for a lot less cash from other brands. 

Tech Specs: Wahoo Rival GPS watch

  • Price: $379.99 / £349.99 
  • Weight: 55g 
  • Color: Stealth Grey, Kona White
  • Size: 46.5 x 46.5 x 15.3 mm
  • Wireless connectivity: ANT+ and Bluetooth
  • Battery life: Smartwatch mode 14 days / GPS or HR mode up to 24 hours (claimed)