First-ride review: Wahoo updated Elemnt Roam 2 flagship head unit

The Roam was due an update and now it's here. We take a look at all that's new and all that's not with the new Elemnt Roam 2.

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2022 has been a busy year for Wahoo. The brand launched its long-awaited Powrlink Zero power meter pedals and Rollr trainer in March, before acquiring RGT and the subsequent rollout of the Wahoo Systm X in April. Then, just last month, the brand announced updated WiFi-enabled Kickr and Kickr Bike smart-trainers.

If that wasn’t enough, Wahoo has today announced an updated Elemnt Roam head unit with a host of new features bundled into a familiar Roam-shaped package.

[ct_story_highlights]What it is: The second generation of Wahoo Fitness’s popular Elemnt Roam head unit.||Features: Dual-Band GPS, 64-color LCD screen, Wahoo Systm workout sync, 32 GB on-board memory for expanded map packs, familiar feel and function. ||Weight: 100 g (head unit only, without mount)||Price: US$400 / £350 / AU$600 / €400 ||Highs: Familiar Wahoo setup and functionality, new buttons, colour, lots of colour, Dual-Band GPS, modest price bump. ||Lows: Slow start up, limited phone connectivity, easy to forget this is a new head unit.[/ct_story_highlights]

Wahoo first launched its flagship Elemnt Roam head unit back in 2019 as a bigger, brighter, and improved version of its Elemnt Bolt. The Bolt has since caught up with a colour screen and improved buttons, and so an update to the Roam was at least somewhat expected. Much like those new Kickr trainers, though, Wahoo hasn’t gone all out with a completely new device, but rather focused on making subtle yet meaningful updates to improve the user experience and overall functionality of the new Roam.

So what’s new?

The new Roam is identical in shape and size to the first generation of Wahoo’s flagship head unit. In fact, one could easily upgrade from the current Roam to the second generation Roam without their training mates ever even noticing. That said, there are a few subtle hardware updates to spot, if you know what to look for.

Most obvious are the new convex buttons, carried over from the Elemnt Bolt 2 released last year and replacing the old concave buttons. Speaking of buttons, the power button is now slightly further up and out of the way on the side of the head unit, while the up/down zoom buttons on the right-hand side are now ever so slightly larger. The casing itself is now all black, a switch from the black and grey design of old, with the new glossy finish certainly a step in the right direction in my book.

There’s also now a USB-C charging port and so-called “advanced training sensors” including an accelerometer and a gyroscope, although these don’t actually do anything right now. Wahoo says these sensors are “enabled on this device to allow us to expand our feature offerings in the future. We have plans for them down the road. Stay tuned!” What those plans could be is not entirely clear, although one could safely assume the crash and incident detection feature not currently available with Wahoo head units could be on the way. A new ambient light sensor automatically adjusts screen brightness for better visibility and battery life in all lighting conditions.

There’s good news in terms of GPS accuracy also, as Wahoo has equipped the new Roam with Dual-Band GPS, the first Elemnt head unit to receive such treatment. Dual-Band GPS simply means the new Roam can receive two different signals at different frequencies from different satellites way up above us. Receiving two signals and two frequencies at the same location is said to deliver much more accurate GPS data, especially in challenging locations where GPS reception may be limited, such as wooded and urban areas.

So many colours; 64 in fact. While we probably could get by with less than 64 colours, the screen is pretty nice.

Then there is the new 64-colour high-contrast screen, another feature carried over from the new Bolt 2 announced last year, and a vast upgrade over the eight colours on the previous Roam display. The screen update is said to provide easier navigation through workout screens, more detailed mapping data and easier-to-read colour-coded charts, graphs and data fields.

On first impressions, the new workout and mapping screens are nice, although the 56 extra colours are understandably much less of an upgrade than that original switch from no colour to just eight colours a few years back.

Lastly, in terms of hardware, the new Roam now boasts eight times the memory capacity of the original Roam, with 32 GB of internal storage. That’s double the capacity of the Bolt 2, and should prove plenty for storing countless maps and routes. For most new Roam users, this expanded memory will likely just mean they can skip the bother of opening the Wahoo Companion smartphone app to delete unused routes or maps. But it also means Wahoo can cram its maps with more details, including golf courses, hospitals, schools, parks, etc. These expanded map packs are exclusively compatible with the new Roam device thanks to its larger screen size and increased memory compared to the original Roam and even the Bolt 2.

Despite these power-hungry hardware upgrades, the claimed battery life remains the same at 17 hours and the new and old Roam devices we have here weigh within one gram of each other at 99 and 100 grams. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet had a chance to test out the 17-hour run time.

Roam smarter

Load Wahoo Systm workouts directly from your companion app to the new Roam head unit.

In addition to the hardware upgrades, Wahoo has also added a host of software upgrades, with the best news being that some of these will also roll out to the other Elemnt head units. While the basic layout and functionality remain the same, Wahoo has added auto-syncing with its Wahoo X training platform, its Summit Segments Climb tracker, and several other new features in the Roam 2.

The Systm outdoor workout sync has to be the most interesting of these new features. Riders can sync workouts directly from their Wahoo X subscriptions to compatible Roam head units, bringing the indoor structured workouts outdoors for the first time. Outdoor workout sync was first mentioned as far back as the initial Systm launch in September 2021 and finally goes live today.

For what seems like such a seemingly simple feature – merely loading scheduled workouts to a head unit – it could prove quite the differentiator for Wahoo as it aims to create the “world’s most complete training app.” We haven’t yet had a chance to try to the Systm workout sync, but the complete training app goal seems a step closer to reality now for Wahoo as it offers the structured training plans and workout options of Systm seamlessly across both the real and virtual worlds.

The Summit Segments climb feature also makes its way to the new Roam. Wahoo released the Summit Segments back in March, basically offering colour-coded climb profiles on pre-loaded routes and the remaining elevation gain on the currently loaded route. It’s a neat feature, making climb elevation profiles much more intuitive with colour-coded gradients.

That said, the Summit Segments felt like a slightly half-baked response to Hammerhead’s popular Climber feature and Garmin’s ClimbPro, which both offer more detail on each climb, and was even quickly outdone when Hammerhead unveiled its new predictive Climber, able to provide details for predicted climbs even on free rides with no pre-loaded route.

Wahoo’s Summit Segment feature, now updated with more climb-specific details.

Wahoo has now updated the Summit Segment climb feature, to show already completed climbs, and more in-depth information on current and upcoming climbs en route. That said, the Summit Segments feature will still only work with pre-loaded and “take me to” routes loaded through the head unit – no predictive climbing just yet. The Summit Segment feature is expected to roll out in mid-to-late October, and will also come to the Bolt 2 and the original Roam head unit.

Speaking of routes, Wahoo has also announced its new Public Route Sharing feature set to roll out sometime in October across the entire Elemnt range. Public Route Sharing kind of does what it suggests, allowing Elemnt Companion app users to share routes and multiple ride files to other companion app users wirelessly and seamlessly. The receiving user can then select the routes on their app and send them directly to their Elemnt head units. It’s another simple yet welcome offering and builds on Wahoo’s existing peer-to-peer sharing, bringing the function entirely within the Elemnt app.

The new Backup and Restore feature should make setting up a new head unit a breeze for existing Elemnt users.

Unboxing and setting up the new Elemnt Roam, I couldn’t help but wish Wahoo would offer a copy and paste feature for loading my previous Elemnt head unit configurations onto new devices. As it turns out, Wahoo had already answered my wish with its new “Backup and Restore” feature. The new feature saves a backup of your Elemnt head unit configurations for future transfers to new devices. Simple, but neat. I like it, even if I already had the job done when I found out about it.

Lastly, both the new Roam and the Bolt 2 will now offer Supersapiens integration, providing live glucose monitoring for Supersapiens users, and Screen Recording to, ah, record your Roam screen display. Many users will likely only ever need Screen Record should they require technical support from Wahoo’s customer support team, but in case you are wondering, it is also how YouTubers get those live head unit displays on their videos.

The new Roam is available now, and availability looks good. In fact, I actually spotted several Roam 2 devices in a bike shop last week. Pricing remains pretty stable, with the new Roam coming in at just $20 more than the list pricing on the original Roam at US$400 / £350 / AU$600 / €400 / CAD$600.

Iteration rather than revelation

The new Roam isn’t short on updates, but likewise, as far as new head units go, it’s certainly not a gamechanger set to shake up the market. Wahoo sent us a new Roam 2 head unit for review last week, but unfortunately, we have so far only managed one outdoor ride with the new device.

What we can say already is that the Roam 2 is every bit the easy-to-use, well-made, head unit immediately familiar to any Wahoo users. As with Wahoo’s other devices, all the initial setup and configurations are taken care of within the app, which was a fairly intuitive process previously and should now prove even more straightforward for existing Elemnt users with the new backup and restore feature.

Being identical in size, shape, and with the same Wahoo mount as the previous generation, the new head unit is perfectly compatible with existing Roam mounts and comes supplied with both an out-front and bar or stem mount.

Out on the road, it was very much a case of business as usual. I had to remind myself a few times that this was the new device. The new buttons are the only real reminder of that fact, apart from perhaps the Summit Segments Climbs should you be riding with a pre-loaded route, which I was not. It’s all “fit and forget”, which is great for existing and new Wahoo users alike, especially when coupled with the new updates and Dual-Band GPS, but it also feels a little boring.

Call me fussy, but I’d like a few more reminders I have the very latest gizmo when I have just forked out £350.

The Roam 2 takes a while to wake up.

Sticking with the “same old, same old” feeling, start-up times are still painfully slow and identical to the existing Roam. That said, navigating between pages is snappy, and I found the new buttons are an improvement, especially when wearing full-finger gloves. The new Roam feels just as robust, also, having already survived a hefty fall onto tiles as I fumbled back and forth between the head unit and keyboard while writing this review.

Still, though, I was left wanting more. Phone-connected features are still restricted to simple text and phone notifications, with no support for other apps, social media, or audio control features. While that will sit just fine with many, there are plenty, myself included, who look for such features in a new head unit.

Incident alerts could well be on their way to the new Roam, but so far, it’s another feature Wahoo’s flagship head unit is currently missing. And for the tech nerd like myself, the Elemnt is lacking all the excitement of Garmin’s Connect IQ store apps.

It’s also worth noting that while I do find the companion app a breeze to use, on the road, I often miss the option to change data fields without having to reach for my phone and scroll through an app.

All those shortcomings can probably be bundled into the non-deal-breaking category for most riders, and looking beyond these, the new Elemnt Roam is a solid and so-far-reliable top-tier head unit offering. We will, of course, keep using the new Roam longer term and update this review should the new device differentiate itself further, good or bad. But one gets the feeling having used the Gen 1 Roam, I already know the Gen 2 offering pretty well after just one ride.

That, of course, can be a great thing – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as the saying goes. Existing Wahoo head unit users will feel right at home with the new Roam’s familiarity and functionality. Would I recommend the new Roam for tech nerds like myself? Probably not. Wahoo just hasn’t done enough here should I want to track a whole host of data streams I currently rely on Garmin Connect IQ apps to record. That was why I still kept a Garmin around when I had all but switched to Wahoo head units for a while, and it’s one of the main reasons I’d continue to do so.

Nerds aside, though, the new Roam is not even a clear-cut choice for less-tech-focused users. If you can do without the larger screen or expanded map packs, you could save yourself the guts of £100 with the Bolt 2 and have almost the same functionality. While for many existing Roam users, there won’t be enough in the new Roam to justify the update just yet. That said, if you are a Wahoo Systm X subscriber, the new outdoor workout sync could make the Roam the only choice when the time comes to upgrade.

For others who just enjoy a larger screen and a large, solid-feeling platform with minimal faff, the Roam was already a great option. The new Roam is a more accurate, more colourful, and more integrated version of that already great option.

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