Skip to main content

Hands on: Wahoo Elemnt Rival review

Wahoo’s first ever sports watch is one for the triathletes

What is a hands on review?
Wahoo Elemnt Rival
(Image: © Michael Sawh)

For

  • Works with Wahoo bike computers
  • Touchless Transitions for triathletes
  • Accurate GPS tracking

Against

  • Lacks smartwatch features
  • No training insights

Wahoo has officially unveiled the Elemnt Rival, the company’s first ever multisports watch that it hopes will stand out from the crowd with a set of features designed just for triathletes you won’t find on Garmin, Polar and Coros multisport watches.

The Rival has everything you’d expect to find to track runs, rides and swims. In addition to that, it’s adding Touchless Transitions, which can automatically recognise when you’re moving from your swim leg to your bike and then over to that run. There’s also features that play nice with Wahoo’s bike computers and indoor trainers.

A foray into the world of sports watches seems like a bold move from Wahoo. Having shown it can make great cycling and running tech, it clearly feels it has enough expertise in this space to make the Rival one to rival the already impressive watch competition.

Wahoo Elemnt price and release date

The Elemnt Rival is available to buy now from Wahoo’s website priced at £349.99/$379.99 (about AU$520). That matches the price of Polar’s Grit X outdoor watch, which does also offer triathlon-friendly features. It comes in $100 cheaper than the Garmin Forerunner 745, Garmin’s cheapest triathlon-friendly watch.

Wahoo Elemnt Rival

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

Design and display

The Rival definitely has a bit of a Garmin Fenix look to it with its 50mm, nylon polymer case and classy-looking ceramic bezel. At 17mm, it’s chunkier on paper than Garmin’s outdoor watch, but it’s a relatively light watch to wear.

Front and center is a 39mm transflective display with an array of five physical buttons to navigate the display. That’s partnered up with a soft touch silicone strap that can be removed via a simple pin mechanism and is suitable for wrist sizes between 140mm to 240mm circumference.

Around the back is the optical heart rate sensor and the charging pins, which attach to a charging cradle that covers the entire rear of the case. The package as a whole is water resistant up to 50 meters making it safe for pool swimming and that all important open water swimming action.

Wahoo Elemnt Rival

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

The display, as mentioned, is the transflective kind that isn’t touchscreen and offers a 240 x 240 resolution. That matches what you get on a lot of Garmin’s Forerunner watches. You can pick from a small collection of digital and analog watch faces to drop onto it as well, which you’ll need to do from the companion phone app.

Wahoo also includes an ambient light sensor that can automatically adjust the screen to black or white depending on lighting conditions. You do also have the option to set it to one or the other as well, if you do have a preference.

Features and fitness

In terms of the features you’re getting to power sports tracking, there’s built-in GPS, an optical heart rate monitor, as well as a barometer sensor to measure elevation and an accelerometer motion sensor for indoor tracking.

There’s ANT+ and Bluetooth support here too, letting you pair it up with other Wahoo devices like its bike computers, indoor trainers and heart rate monitor chest straps. It also plays nice with non-Wahoo devices. For runners, it’s currently working on adding support for additional sensors and footpods like Stryd as well.

The battery life you get to play with is up to two weeks in smartwatch mode according to Wahoo. Those smartwatch features are kept to a minimum too, with just the ability to view smartphone notifications supported. When you put the GPS tracking to good use, it promises 24 hours of battery life.

When it’s time to track, there’s a sizable collection of sports modes at your disposal with core ones like triathlon, cycling, running and swimming the best served as far as what metrics you’ll be able to see. It’s the triathlon support where you’ll find the Elemnt’s most unique features though.

Wahoo Elemnt Rival

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

The first is Touchless Transitions, which promises to track your transitions during an event without having to manually do anything on the watch. Once you hit the start button on the triathlon tracking mode, the watch uses motion sensors and Wahoo’s own software algorithms to recognise when you’re making those transitions. It also lets you edit them post-race if they don’t quite match up to your official race result.

The other big feature is called Multisport Handover and that brings Wahoo’s Elemnt GPS bike computer into the picture. With the bike computer powered on in the transition area, it will stay in a low-power mode waiting for when you head over to your bike after your swim. When it detects the watch is in range, it will connect to continue the tracking progress on the bike computer.

Wahoo Elemnt Rival

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

Outside of triathlon mode, you’ll find some pretty standard support for other core sports. So for open water swimming, you’ll be able to see GPS-based distance tracking along with time and pace. You’ll get similar stats in the pool along with extras like SWOLF scores.

On the bike, you’ll be able to view GPS-based distance as well as time and speed. There’s elevation data and access to heart rate data as well. For indoor bike action, it can also take control of Wahoo’s Kickr smart trainer and will also pair up with power meter and cadence sensors too.

Wahoo Elemnt Rival

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

If you care about counting steps, it does that too and can continuously monitor heart rate. You can’t track sleep. Wahoo tells us it has the capacity to do this, but it wants to make sure it can add the support that it thinks offers value to wearers.

We didn’t get to put it to the triathlon test, but did manage to get some running time in with it and it held up well against Garmin’s Forerunner 945 for accuracy on GPS distance tracking and usual metrics. Heart rate monitoring was good on the whole, it did post very low average readings on a quicker run. There’s some nice touches on the software front, like the addition of a real-time lap splits screen and the ability to hold down the bottom two physical buttons to toggle through displaying up to six data fields.

Early verdict

The arrival of the Elemnt Rival is an interesting move from Wahoo. While there’s some interesting triathlon-centric features here, there isn’t a huge deal different on offer from what you can get from other multisport watches. There’s no training or recovery insights and far more basic smartwatch features, which we’d be less concerned about.

That being said, it is an attractive-looking watch and for those locked into the Wahoo ecosystem and like the idea of a watch that plays nice with existing bike setups, it could well have appeal. It’s certainly not a cheap sports watch, but potentially Wahoo might have something here with the Elemnt Rival.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.