February 8, 2023

Money News PH

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The best bike computers (2022): Garmin, Wahoo, Bontrager, Hammerhead

Wahoo offers two solid bike computers: the $300 Elemnt Bolt, a sleek, small, aerodynamic unit designed for racing; and the larger Elemnt Roam, about the size of a pack of Marlboros, which is designed for pathfinding. The Roam had been on the market for three years when it was updated in October 2022. I tested this new version.

The latest version of the Roam, which looks just like its older brother, offers dual-frequency GPS. The oversimplified explanation: dual frequency allows the GPS device to operate on two frequency bands instead of one. Single frequency GPS devices offer accuracy within 15 feet. Dual frequency GPS devices offer accuracy within centimeters.

Where can that make a difference? Let’s say you’re biking through an aspen forest in the Rocky Mountains on poorly maintained singletrack. With single-frequency GPS, objects such as towering trees can block or confuse the signal, which can result in route inaccuracies that can cause you to get lost. In an urban setting where you can stop at the local coffee shop and ask for directions, that might not be a big deal. But in the wild, going 15 feet off track can mean making a critical mistake.

With the amplified dual signal, turn-by-turn navigation prompts for all maps of all file types – either preloaded or uploaded via apps like Strava, Komoot or Ride with GPS – are spot on. If you ever make a wrong turn, there is a detour function that will quickly put you back on the right path. If you’re really lost, the breadcrumb feature will navigate you back to where you started, even if the device is offline.

Also new: “The Summit”, color-coded gradients in the data field for the incline and elevation graph when riding a third-party route or a Strava segment. No wonder the Forest Service Mountain Road seemed reckless and endless: you can now see that it had a 13 percent grade.

I liked the Roam’s easy-to-read screen, which uses an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the LED backlight. Instead of a touchscreen, there are three bottom buttons that let you toggle between custom screens like the main map, nearby Strava segments, and the home dashboard. This dashboard includes miles per hour, miles ridden, clock, ride time, heart rate (when paired with a heart rate monitor), revolutions per minute (when paired with a power meter), and average miles per hour. You can zoom in or out on the dashboard by pressing the bottom right button, a great feature for aging eyes.

Battery life is 17 hours on the newly upgraded Roam, about the same as the old model. That level of endurance pales in comparison to the Garmin 1040 Solar, but the Wahoo is still a solid choice for anything under that time limit. With an expanded 32GB of memory, there’s more room to store favorite routes, detailed maps of new locations, up to five structured workouts from Wahoo, and planned workouts from partner apps like TrainerRoad, Training Peaks, and Today’s Plan.

One of my mid-testers found the included handlebar clamp to be too strong, as the Roam snapped into a plastic frame almost the size of the unit itself. The computer is unlikely to break or slip out of position while riding, but the extended plastic bracket feels looks like it could break in half in an accident.