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Cycling Cycling Computers and GPS Units Gear Reviews

Wahoo ELEMNT Mini GPS Cycling Computer Review

Early in the year, Wahoo put the ELEMNT on a diet to release the Wahoo ELMNT Bolt. Not content with one slimmed down device, Wahoo has also released a cycling computer that runs on a single coin cell – the Wahoo ELEMNT Mini
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Wahoo ELEMNT Mini GPS Cycling Computer Review

Wahoo now has a 1-2-3 product line in an attempt to win customers from all sections of the market. The Wahoo ELEMNT as the flagship model, the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt for the mid-range, and now the Wahoo ELEMNT Mini which is pitched more towards the casual cyclist.

One of the clearest indicators in my mind that the Wahoo ELEMNT Mini is geared towards the more casual rider is the lack of GPS.  Some smaller cycling units use GPS in order to give distance and speed – yes there are frequently other rudimentary functions that GPS can perform, but most of the time, esp on the commuter bike I’m only using the information for speed and distance when cycling to work. The Strava rankings from various segments are merely a nice aside.

Wahoo has opted to forgo the GPS on the Mini in favour of battery life (but don’t worry, you can still connect to your phones GPS, for all that tracking goodness) in case you want to run sans phone, Wahoo has also included their  Speed Sensor. So let’s see how that plan bears out in the real world!

Wahoo ELEMNT Mini DESIGN

The Wahoo Elemnt Mini comes in a case not much bigger than a DVD case, giving you an idea of just how thin the device inside is! lovingly packaged as you would expect.

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It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a small box, isn’t going to have too much inside. So what do we have?

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One Wahoo specific mounts which can be attached to the either your stem or the handlebars with the included zip ties, we’ve also got the previously mentioned Bluettoh Wahoo Speed sensor for attaching to your wheel hub and finally a couple of bits of dead tree. One thing that is absent is a charging cable – as the Wahoo Elemnt Mini uses a coin cell to power it, rather than rechargeable batteries

Essentially the Wahoo Elemnt Mini is a reimaging of one of Wahoo’s original devices, the RFLKT, which could be a little temperamental. This is one of the reasons that I think Whaoo has bundled the speed sensor in the box, as it provides a pretty sure fire back up if there are any communication issues between the phone and the Wahoo Elemnt Mini

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As for the Wahoo Elemnt Mini, this is a very simple device, with just two buttons on the front, and not a lot else! Wahoo has listened to customer feedback from the original Element and has ensured that the buttons on the Wahoo Elemnt Minire snappy and have a good tactile feedback.

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On the back, we have got the Wahoo quarter turn mount and safety information, and it is it! Instead of a charging port, you’ve four screws to get to the coin cell underneath, which needs to be replaced about once a YEAR. so yes, ditching the GPS and backlight seems to have been a good idea for power management

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Whilst there is still the same design language of the other Elemnt computers. The Wahoo Elemnt Mini is definitely made to hit it’s £55 price point. Save for the buttons, you have a hard plastic shell, and it must be said, without any form of grip around the edges. I’ve dropped the unit a couple of times as a result, but again, the hard plastic has won out, as it has not shown a single mark!

TitaniumGeek IMG 6884 Wahoo ELEMNT Mini GPS Cycling Computer Review Cycling Cycling Computers and GPS Units Gear Reviews  Wahoo Elemnt Wahoo GPS Cycling GPS Cycling computer cycling   Image of IMG 6884Whilst the original Elemnt looked rather, brick-like, compared to its competitors, the Mini is dwarfed by most other units of the market, but price for price, nothing else is really comparable even from budget manufacturers like Cat Eye

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The Screen

Speaking of design the screen is in the grand scheme of things a fairly straightforward affair, especially when you take into account there isn’t even at 1980’s backlight here.

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Polar have in the past hit on this with the M430 watch and the M460 GPS. You don’t need a colourful display, what you need is readability.

With that, the screen on the Wahoo Elemnt Mini, just like the rest of the Elemnt range is sharp and crisp, without looking like a school calendar as you get with some cheaper cycling computers, adn yes, you get excellent direct sunlight legibility – just don’t expect to see anything in the dark!



Specification

  • Device weight – 31 grams
  • Screen: 45.7mm – Black and White
  • Battery: CR2450 – 1 YEAR – (250hrs)  NO I HAVNT TESTED THAT CLAIM!
  • Water resistance: IPX7 (waterproof to 5f )
  • Sensor compatibility:
    • Heart Rate
    • Speed
    • Cadence
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, ANT+

Wahoo has been very canny with the Wahoo Elemnt Mini by offloading a lot of features, like the GPS, and the Live Track Portal they can bill the Wahoo Elemnt Mini as having safety features akin to the  Garmin Edge 820, or the ICE Dot, yet at the same time not being any different than the current Strava Beacon system and without any hardware compromises

Wahoo Elemnt Mini User Manual

There is no downloadable PDF for the Wahoo Elemnt Mini, but Wahoo does have a setup and FAQ website here

Wahoo Elemnt Mini Companion App

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Available for Apple or Google – note this the Wahoo Elemnt app, NOT the Wahoo Fitness App

As mentioned, the Wahoo Elemnt Mini can be used as a standalone device. WHere you’ll basically get heart rate, cadence, distance and time on the unit displayed. It is when paired with the Wahoo Fitness app, that you start to unlock some of the additional value. When I say additional value, I want to go back to the fact we are talking about a £50 cycling computer here. It is the Wahoo app that gives the real value for money

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The Wahoo Elemnt Mini is paired to the phone by scanning the QR code displayed on the Mini. This has to be one of the easiest ways of pairing a unit; I’m definitely very pro this approach being used by other companies to initiate pairing of devices. It is already used for trainer identification on Elite turbos and just makes things easier for the end user

Normally I say it’s vital to download a products app in order to get whatever updates are available, in but the case of the MINI you won’t get far without the Elment App

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You can use the Wahoo Elemnt Mini without the app, but you’ll basically be using it as a stopwatch, as there is no way to pair sensors to the Mini on its own. The two buttons on the mini are literally limited to Start/Stop and Page/Lap.

The app is required to send the signal to i) search for sensors and then ii) pair to the included Wahoo Speed sensor, or any other compatible Bluetooth sensors – namely heart rate and cadence

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Wahoo, however, has made a bit of an odd choice here when it comes to sensors… the Wahoo Elemnt Mini will only pair with dual channel sensors, i.e Bluetooth and ANT+, so your single sided gadget such as the Polar A370 broadcasting its heart rate isn’t going to work. I don’t know of many watches that broadcast on both ANT+ and BLE, so this initially feels like an odd move from Wahoo.

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A move that get’s more irritating when you find out, the Wahoo Elemnt Mini will only work with Wahoo branded, dual-mode sensors! Even other dual mode sensors just sit there looking dumb.

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The short answer is that Wahoo wanted a system that worked out of the box. Part of this is actually to do with maintaining that 250hour battery life, as the system is quietly displaying the ANT+ single on the Wahoo Elemnt Mini display, but sending the Bluetooth to your phone.

On one hand needlessly complicated, but on the other, sending ANT+ signal once a second to give HR and speed data consumes much less juice than doing it over BLE. But I still feel that locking out other brands of dual-band sensor is a bit of a sly move, which I think has much more to do with Wahoo’s bottom line, than “easy of use”

 

But stepping away from comments about Wahoo selling their own branded kit, they are a company after all – they have also dropped some features on the Wahoo Elemnt Minit – through the app mind you- which previously used to be only seen on high-end cycle computers, such as smart notifications from your phone

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But don’t get worried if you are a bit antisocial, or just if you REALLY don’t want someone bothering you whilst on a ride, you can also give yourself a little peace, without disrupting the connection, simply by using the do not disturb feature in the app

Using the Wahoo Elemnt Mini

Normally this section is a little longer, but we’ve actually covered all the nuances of the device, and using the Mini is ridiculously simple once you’ve set it up. You hit start, and go.  That’s it!

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You can personalise the dispaly to show up to four fields, but I’ve found the simple three out of the box all I really need for commuting. It is worth while remembering that the Wahoo Elemnt Mini is a simple device in terms of tatacking as, as a rsult, the data you get at the end of aride is also very simple. You’ll some additional data if you HR is attached

Ultimately Wahoo might have made the single best commuter device on the market. Simply attach to the work horse and leave it

 

Connectivity

In spite of Whaoo playing jiggery-pokery with their own sensors, I did actually find the connectivity of the Wahoo Elemnt Mini a little variable. more than once did I have to reconnect my phone at the end of rides, which nullifies Wahoo’s BLE data broadcast whilst I was riding. But in terms of general connectivity, if you are buying the Wahoo Elemnt Mini for yourself, or as a gift for someone looking to get into cycling, the Wahoo Elemnt ap has connectivity covered almost completely

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The Wahoo isn’t proud; they will connect to everyone rather than just themselves and Strava, which is a more common approach. Interestingly though Garmin is still absent from the list. But for someone just starting out, the common apps like Strava and MyFitnessPal are there.

LiveTrack

Regarding further connectivity, you can share a ride with others, showing what you are doing at that particular time – but as mentioned there is no crash support. You share a link from the app, and your position is then broadcast from your phone during the ride

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HOWEVER, this is exactly as it says, a live track. If you go to the same link at another point, it will not show you the data from that ride, but instead, exactly where you the device was last seen by GPS and communicated it’s position to Wahoo servers. The below picture was taken from the link I sent on the 29th of June but now shows my location on the 29th of October as I’m wrapping up this review. So think about who you are sending your live track information to

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Basically, you are better off using Strava Beacon!

 

 

Wahoo Elemnt Mini Conclusion

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Wahoo have returned to the bottom end of the market with the Wahoo Elemnt Mini. That isnt a bad thing. Many entry level products are frankly quite hobbled, hoping you’ll quickly upgrade to a companies better kit. But it is you that has to discard and move upwards. With the Mini. Wahoo have created a simple device. This is not a master cycling computer for someone needing to know everything about their workout. Heck, I’m not sure that workout would really be used in this review as a term. But what they have created is an excellent commuter cycle computer. Something that is fire and forget. Especially with the 250 hour battery

Yes Wahoo has somewhat hobbled the device, requiring you to buy their own HRM and cadence sensor. But they give back in terms of leveraging a very powerful app to bring higher edge features to the user if they want to engage and dig a little deeper. I’m going to give 3 stars – it’s a simple device after all, but exceptionally well prices, and with hidden depths (and one hidden irritation – they should have also included the HRM sensor in my mind if they were going to lock the Wahoo Elemnt Mini down in this way)



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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. Feel free to drop me a line about sports tech, medicine, or frankly anything that you want to chat about!!