VCSE Reviews – Wahoo Elemnt GPS

Better known for their indoor trainer range US brand Wahoo have taken what some might say is a brave decision to enter the ultra competitive bike GPS market. Competitive is certainly one word to use to describe the GPS sector. I could also describe the near monopoly status of most riders (myself included) go to brand Garmin who have left a string of rivals on the canvas, knocked out by the sheer omnipresence of devices like the 520 and 1000.

Nav Screen

Wahoo have launched two devices; the Elemnt that I will review here and the Bolt. The Bolt has a smaller form factor than the Elemnt but also comes with an additional USP in that the device itself and it’s (supplied) bar mount are designed to save time and power over a given distance. This feature is very much in keeping with Wahoo’s brand ethos of harnessing technology to improve results.

Of course PB’s are all relative and as someone who is firmly towards the duffer end of the athletic spectrum i’m not entirely sure a few watts here and there are going to have as much of an impact as a few kilos off the VCSE waistline. Sized about a third as big again as its little brother the Bolt the Elemnt is perhaps the ideal partner for those of us that want the data but also want to enjoy the ride. Priced at £249.99 it’s firmly in Garmin 520 territory and that’s a device that like its predecessors the 500 and 510 feels like the GPS for most riders most of the time. It makes sense to compare the Elemnt with a Garmin device as it’s generally always going to be a Garmin product that you will be bench-marking against; whether that’s an existing device or a potential upgrade.

The Elemnt has one significant advantage over the 520 straight out of the box as it offers mapped navigation. Sure the map itself isn’t super sophisticated but it’s a lot easier to see how to get back onto a downloaded route with the Elemnt if you have taken a wrong turn somewhere. All of that’s kind of secondary really in comparison to where I think the Wahoo really scores; ease of use and set up. Ask anyone who uses a Garmin and most will probably say that they pretty much bypass using Garmin’s proprietorial Connect software and app. Garmin always wanted Connect to be some kind of Strava rival. Ironic really when you consider Strava is to cycling apps what Garmin is to bike GPS. Wahoo do have an app for the Elemnt but unlike Connect it positively reinforces use of Strava.

The Elemnt app is the jump off point for setting up the device and it’s super easy to link to your Strava account. Wahoo also supports an app and software called ‘Ride with GPS’. I hadn’t come across Ride with GPS before and probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been wondering how to get a route on to the Elemnt so I could test its navigation abilities. The good news for those of you reading this review who are similarly in the dark with regard to this interloper is that you don’t need to use it at all. Opening up the Elemnt app I clicked the ‘Routes’ tab and discovered that all of my Strava routes had been synced over already. I created a local loop and within a few seconds of saving it on the laptop it had appeared in the Elemnt app. Loading the route onto the Elemnt couldn’t be easier with a bluetooth connection between your phone and the device and when you’re ready to go you can start the ride from the app or from the device itself.

I had been impressed with how easy it was to set up the Elemnt too. I have been using a demo unit that’s had a few users before me so anyone doing a from the box set up from new will find things simple and quick to do. In comparison to a Garmin set up, the Wahoo is faster and far more intuitive. The Elemnt supports integration for things like Di2 and power and I will admit I haven’t tested these as I wasn’t riding my own bike for this test but if pairing a HRM is anything to go by it should be a doddle. Connecting just involves a few button presses (the three buttons on the base of the unit default to various uses dependent on the display) and then holding the device to the HRM or vice versa. Even my third party Polar strap and Garmin HRM couldn’t faze the Elemnt and another neat feature was that the everything you connect automatically shows up as an additional field on the screen.

Post ride data

The Elemnt has a similar display to an Amazon Kindle and it’s pretty clear even in direct sunlight. OK, so it’s not a colour display but given the additional feature set over the 520 I think it’s a compromise most people could live with. Most of the info you could want on a ride is available via the default screen including speed, distance and calories burned. As I wasn’t connecting power or cadence I didn’t miss the data (although cadence is shown on the ‘front page’ too). Scrolling through the screens brings up additional data fields and then the mapping. When following a route it’s clearly shown on the map and if you’re not looking at the map the lights on the the edge of the screen provide prompts. These LED’s can be programmed to highlight optimum power or to indicate if you’re on course for your time on the bike course for a triathlon. I’m pretty sure I am only scratching the surface of what the Elemnt can do based on this short test. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Elemnt had determined suggested HR and Power training zones and an estimated FTP figure for me after just two rides.

I guess the $64,000 question is should you choose an Elemnt over the default choice GPS. Based on my experience I would say definitely. The Elemnt is quick and easy to set up and the link between the device and the supporting app is not some kind of gimmick to try and provide a point of difference. There’s no gamble involved in choosing the Elemnt over the competition. Take the time to get to know it and even if you use the bare minimum of connectivity you’ll be getting usable training data from the get go.

Pros – ease of set up, intuitive UI, great integration between the app and device. A genuine alternative to Garmin

Cons – device must be switched on to sync ride data, Bolt definitely got the looks 

Further thoughts…

A niggling back injury has kept me off the bike recently but I noticed that my original post had stirred a bit of BTL comment on social media. It’s  always interesting to see how people react to what are essentially op ed posts. Even a review is based on my own experience or take on a particular product; I’m not suggesting it’s in any way definitive.

But let’s get back to the Elemnt.

did get around to pairing it with my powermeter and I can confirm it was just as easy to do that as it was to pair an HRM. The biggest learn for me came from getting to know the Wahoo app better. I initially loved that I didn’t have to go through a series of menus on the device to add a new data field; the Wahoo (as I describe above) does that automatically. What I hadn’t realised was how easy it is to add and remove data fields from the Elemnt screen via the app, including rearranging the order of data fields, customising screens and resizing key read outs like watts.

OK, all of this is possible on a Garmin but it’s way faster to do it via your phone touchscreen.

Another area that stimulated some debate is the Elemnt’s navigation features. I hadn’t gone into much detail on this as my rides had all taken place on local roads. Yeah, I had sent a route to the Elemnt but if I did deviate from it I wasn’t about to get lost. I’m still not able to say whether or not the Elemnt is any better than a Garmin in this respect. If you want to know if the Elemnt can get you back on course after inadvertently straying away from a planned route, you’re not going to find that info here. What I would say is that if you do get ‘lost’ by a few hundred yards from a route plan is; ‘so what?’ Now at this point someone will say; ‘Ah, but what if you get routed on to a motorway?’ My opinion is that if you slavishly follow the arrows on your navigation device a la Chris Froome looking at his stem, you kinda deserve to end up there!

Much has been written and discussed about the Ride With software that Wahoo suggest / recommend. I was put off by that as soon as I saw the subscription model and what felt like a clunky UI from the outset. The Elemnt allows you to input a planned route from Strava quickly and easily via the app. If you’re unfamiliar with the roads you’re going to be riding on Strava can suggest a route that’s popular with other riders. That’s enough navigation for me thanks.

So do I think you should still choose an Elemnt over a Garmin. If you want my opinion, yes. There will always be someone out there for whom a device is better or worse for a very specific reason. I also get, that it’s not always possible to test a product in depth before you buy; I’m lucky to be able to do that. After ‘living’ with the Elemnt for a few months now though I still think it’s worth making the change from the default choice to the new kid on the block.


VCSE reviews – Raleigh Magni MTB helmet 

Other than doing a few commutes to and from the LBS* I was working in at the time, I hadn’t thrown a leg over my hardtail MTB since the summer of 2014. Now working somewhere that you can get a trade price (+10%) deal is always likely to prove fatal to a bike tart like me and the time that I worked in this particular shop was no exception. The 2012 Giant XTC 29er that dealt with most of my off road duties had acquired various upgrades including Ritchey Vantage tubeless ready wheels and a Rotor double Q ring chainset.

The final piece in the jigsaw was a (new at the time) Stanton Sherpa 853 frame; the intention being to carry out a frame swap with the Giant. There were a few bumps in the trail before the bike was finished. New forks as the steerer on the original Rockshox was marginally too short and a few other niggles saw the Stanton rolling chassis hung in my workshop in the Autumn with every intention for me to get the bike completed for the following summer.

What followed was a rather more significant obstacle to completion; the Stanton got stolen. Long story short is that it was recovered within a week. Maybe the thief thought it was a bit too hot to handle (it’s a pretty rare bike around here)? Now you may be asking at this point; what has any of this got to do with a helmet? Stay with me as they are connected.

I had hooked myself up with a 661 Recon helmet back in 2012 when that was pretty much the only ‘Enduro’ helmet available. Come to think of it I’m not even sure that Enduro was a ‘thing’ back then. These were the days when 650b wheels were pretty new on the MTB scene and long travel was 140mm and generally rolling on 26″ wheels. Fast forward to 2016 and no one rides trail bikes and it’s all about Enduro and 160mm travel. Fox is no longer a byword for performance suspension and Rockshox make rear shocks that the best riders would actually consider. Funny how things can change in a couple of years.

One of the things that has changed is that there’s no a whole range of brands doing Enduro style headgear and that rather convoluted preamble has finally arrived at the Raleigh Magni helmet.

First things first is that it might look familiar. That’s because the shell is also used by O’Neal and 7iDP for their own more expensive offerings (roughly £20 more than the Magni). So the first tick in the box is that this is a pretty trick looking lid that costs little more than your typical entry level Giro. OK, so it’s missing some of the oh so fashionable day-glo colour ways that are needed to hang with the Enduro cool kids but at least the black green combo looks like it might be acquainted with them.

With some Enduro style helmets costing more than £100 the Raleigh Magni certainly appears to offer value for money and if cost and looks are you top priorities then this might be your helmet of choice. If you’re on a budget or upgrading from an XC style lid priced less than £40 the Magni might feel pretty good too. The difficulty for me reviewing the Magni is that I’m not comparing it to a £30 Bell as that’s not the kind of helmet I normally wear. Against an S Works Evade or Catlike Whisper the Magni feels like what it is; cheap.


This isn’t quite as bad as it first sounds. When you pay for your Magni your investing in a good looking design that’s good enough for a brand like O’Neal to put their name on it. I have no doubt that the Magni would be no less protective of the VCSE grey matter if I parted company with my bike. What Raleigh have done here is take a mid range design and pared it down to an entry level price by speccing a chin strap and retention system that you would normally see on a helmet costing £20. The retention dial is fairly noisy to use (no bad thing) but there isn’t always a sense that the sound of the ratchet equals actual adjustment. Sizing is good and there’s enough of a range of sizes available for the Magni to fit most riders with the normal caveats that not every brands helmet shape suits everyone’s head shape (I’m generally fine with any Specialized lid but can’t get a Scott to fit).

So far I have only ridden in the Magni on cold days so I can’t comment too much on the quality of the ventilation on offer but when the going gets hot what I can only guess as another cost saving becomes all to apparent. There isn’t masses of padding but there’s a strip running around the front of the helmet that would cover your forehead. Comfort wise it’s fine but it appears to have no absorbent qualities at all. It’s not unusual to feel a little rivulet of sweat running down my face on a harder effort. I can live with the built to a price feel of some of the fittings on the Magni as I trust the shell to look after me in an accident. Where I part company is the pads inability to absorb moisture and I’m wondering  if this can only get worse as the weather improves.

So should you buy one? If you want an Enduro helmet and you’re on a budget, you will not buy cheaper and arguably better than a Raleigh Magni. If, on the other hand you’re the kind of rider that tools around on a Enduro bike costing £2,000 or more then you can probably afford something that’s not built down to a price and the Magni’s not for you.

Pros – looks, price (probably in that order) decent size range and overall weight

Cons – fittings look and feel cheap, might be too hot in summer 

VCSE’s 2015 Cycling News Reader Poll

I posted my thoughts on the Cycling News Reader Poll last year so here’s this years submission. I haven’t posted anything since the end of the Vuelta for all sorts of different reasons so there might be an end of season review feel to this post as well (maybe!).

I haven’t written about every nominee as it does feel a bit like the Cycling News team went with ten nominees for the Best Male category and then wondered if there would be a bit of a Twitterstorm if they didn’t have the same number of nominees in the other categories. While some of the nominations feel like they have been added for the sake of it, there are other categories where I don’t know enough about the subject matter to comment on whether or not a riders inclusion is warranted. Either way, there won’t be pages and pages on the Mountain Bike or Cyclocross categories.

So without fanfare or drum roll here’s my picks for the 2015.

Best Male Road Rider

So the normal suspects you would expect to see in an end of year poll are hear, alongside a couple of surprises. Lets deal with those first.

Peter Sagan
Peter Sagan

Richie Porte started the year in fantastic form winning Paris Nice for the second time amongst other things and generally looking like a better rider than Chris Froome during the early part of the year. Things began to unravel at the Giro and he began to resemble the rider who hadn’t exactly thrived when he was asked to pick up the team leadership from Froome in the 2014 Tour. Porte’s results post his return to racing after the Giro were less than spectacular and he even found himself slipping in his support role to best pal Froome at the Tour. If I was filling out Porte’s report card in April he would have got a A star but ahead of what is now (probably) a make or break move to BMC in 2016 he’s probably a C minus.

Another ‘What were they thinking?’ addition to the Best Male nomination is Mark Cavendish. Cav started the year under pressure to deliver results at Etixx and ended the year with a new team. While he isn’t the only sprinter to have had a less than stellar year (Marcel Kittel anyone?) it wasn’t perhaps the return to winning ways that everyone (the rider, his team, his fans) wanted. Sure Cav notched up another Tour stage win but he was completely outshone by a resurgent Andre Griepel in terms of number of wins and by the German’s victory on the most important stage of all in Paris. Cav of course remains a massive personality in the peloton and among UK fans but even the most diehard Cav supporter would find it hard to justify his selection as the best rider.

Another early starter was Alexander Kristoff. After Flanders I asked if anyone could stop him from winning any race he chose. Well as with so many predictions there was an element of hubris and Kristoff didn’t go on to win stages at the Tour for fun. In fact other than a low key win towards the end of the year it felt as if the Katusha rider had slipped from the radar screen completely.

Perhaps the sprinter who did the best job of retaining form over the whole season was John Degenkolb. With Marcel Kittel’s catastrophic loss of form Degenkolb became the key focus for his Giant Alpecin team in 2015. That Degenkolb took his first monument in Milan San Remo was perhaps less of a surprise than him taking his second a matter of weeks later in Paris Roubaix. Unlike his rivals Degenkolb was adaptable enough to still win grand tour bunch sprints including the final day around Madrid in the Vuelta. Degenkolb, once a target for Etixx as an eventual replacement for Tom Boonen the irony is that while the team retain the shampoo brand title sponsor it is Kittel who is leaving for the Belgian outfit.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Best Male poll without the Tour winner and sure enough Chris Froome is included. I’ll credit Froomey for not quite sticking to the script this year and looking pretty ordinary on the bike until the latter stages of the Dauphine. The way that he and his Sky teammates bossed the Tour from stage 2 onwards without too much there to unsettle them deserved better than the piss that was literally poured on them in France. There was a tilt a Vuelta Tour double but that was undone by another accident that may or may not have been bought on by bike handling skills. A second Tour win for the honorary Brit is no mean achievement but no better or worse than the other grand tour winners from this year.

And what of those two? Alberto Contador won the Giro pretty much singlehanded as his Tinkoff teammates struggled to keep pace with Astana. It was pretty clear how much this had taken out of him when he was the first of the big names to really suffer in the Tour. The Giro win didn’t taste quite as sweet while struggling to keep up with Froome and co in July and it’s no surprise that Contador wants to go out with a band in France next year. Fabio Aru was up and down like a yoyo on the Giro and then later during the Vuelta but showed enough to hold on to second place in Italy and then go one better in Spain. Perhaps not the most popular winner of the Vuelta thanks to his team and the manner of the win he looks increasingly like the favoured rider at Astana.

When the BBC crown their Sports Personality each year the debate afterwards often centres less on the winners sporting success as much as are they in fact a personality. When Bradley Wiggins won in 2012 both boxes could be firmly ticked as he rocked up in a wickedly tailored suit and was pissed before the broadcast had even finished. All of that plus Britain’s first ever Tour winner and an Olympic Gold medallist to (Chelsea) boot! Froome the following year wasn’t really in the running, despite Sky’s best efforts to add colour to him. Politeness doesn’t really ‘sell’. Peter Sagan started the year unable to win. I wondered if the pressure of his multi million dollar contract at Tinkoff was having an effect. A trip to the US for the Tour of California where they LOVE him provided the rejuvination and while there wasn’t a win at the Tour the green jersey was duly claimed. It was the end of season single handed win at the world championships that delivered the result that Oleg Tinkoff’s millions demanded but it was the return of Sagan’s sense of fun in post stage interviews at the Tour that cements him as my pick for Best Male rider of 2015.

Best Male Team

Fortunately Cycling News allow us a choice. Don’t fancy any of their nominee’s? Pick one of your own. And that’s what I have done with my Best Male Team selection.

MTN Qhubeka might not have been the winningest team of 2015. In fact they didn’t pick up masses of victories full stop, but it was the significance of what they achieved this year that makes them my pick for Best Male Team.

Bringing Brian Smith on board as General Manager saw the team step up a gear with a number of high profile signings and key changes in equipment to become one of the most distinctive outfits in the peloton. A stage win in the Tour and the Vuelta and Edvald Boasson Hagen winning the overall at the Tour of Britain were the arguably bigger wins than the KOM jersey at the Dauphine but more importantly that was won by a black African rider: Daniel Teklehaimanot. Smith has the challenge of continuing to get the best out of an ageing team of ‘big’ names like new addition Cavendish and promoting the best of the African riders. If he can do this it could be one of the most important components of cycling becoming a more diverse and genuinely global sport.

Best Female Road Rider

Lizzie Armitstead. No contest really. It might be a little bit churlish to say that Marianne Vos being injured for most of the season gave Lizzie a clear run but that would be pretty disrespectful to a talented core of riders within the women’s pro peloton just as much as it would be disrespectful to Lizzie.

Winning the world cup for the second year in a row demonstrated her form over the course of the season and the world championships was the icing on the cake. More importantly the way that she rode the race in 2015 showed that she had learnt the lessons of 2014 and didn’t let a winning position slip. The pressure will be on now (not least from a tendency to big up GB medal hopes by lazy journo’s) for a gold medal in the Olympic road race in Rio next year. The course doesn’t suit her but if anyone has the mental ability to overcome that it’s Lizzie Armitsead.

Best Women’s Team

Boels Dolmans might seem like the obvious choice. They’re Lizzie Armitstead’s team as well as the berth for riders like Evelyn Stevens. But my pick for Best Women’s team would be Velocio SRAM. The team emerged from the remains of the Specialized Lululemon squad that announced it was folding at the end of the 2014 season. Initally crowd funded the team were ultimately received backing from Cervelo and SRAM for the 2015 season. For various reasons the team in this incarnation is no more and the riders had to deal with the fact that they didn’t have a team for next year while there was still part of this year’s races to complete. It says a lot about this group of riders that they were still one of the winningest teams in the women’s peloton in 2015 and rounded off the season with the TTT world championship.

Keep reading for the rest of the VCSE winners here

Continue reading VCSE’s 2015 Cycling News Reader Poll

VCSE reviews – Roux A8 Carbon Drive

I think I first ‘promised’ a reviews section at the end of the first year of the blog (or at the beginning of the second) so it’s only taken me about a year and half to actually do something about it! Obviously in order to do them you need something to review in the first place and as I’m not yet in the bracket where I get asked to test anything it does make things kinda difficult*. Then there’s the whole thing about what to review; bikes, components, clothing? I guess my post on the Velothon could count as a review? Anyway I have a new thing and I haven’t seen it reviewed anywhere else so here goes..

First Impressions

Roux are a UK brand that offer a range of bikes from road through to cross with hybrids and tourers in between. The website launched in 2012 and a quick glance at the range shows how the designers have thought about what riders in this country want from their bike given a specific use. The touring bikes feature full mudguards and racks as standard for example and each model is priced at or below the all important Cycle to Work £1000 maximum.

Roux A8 Carbon Drive
Roux A8 Carbon Drive

Roux offer two bikes in the Belt range both featuring a Gates Carbon Drive belt in place of the chain found on most bikes. The advantages of a belt drive over a chain driven bike in theory are that the belt drive requires little or no maintenance or lubrication and should be long lived as the materials used in its construction are stretch free. Gates have extensive experience in this kind of drive system; a different version is used on Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Priced at £899.99 the Carbon Drive A8 is the top model in Roux’s two bike belt drive range. The 7005 series aluminium frame has pretty relaxed geometry mated to a alloy straight bladed fork. The Gates belt drives a Shimano Alfine 8 speed hub gear and stopping duties are provided by Shimano M445/7 hydraulic discs. The wheels are described as ‘triple chamber’ (I’m assuming triple wall) laced to Shimano centrelock hubs and Continental Contact rubber. There’s a full set of rack and mudguard mounts although some of these are compromised to all for the installation and removal of the belt drive. The frame has an understated matt finish but is slighty let down by some untidy welding. The finishing kit while unbranded looks decent enough in terms of quality and not out of place at this price point. If you’re wondering where your money has gone it’s reassuring that £899.99 has bought the best version of the Alfine hub gear and ever reliable Shimano disc brakes.


If you’re used to riding a road bike the Roux A8 has a very upright riding position out of the box. Flipping the stem would make things a bit more focused but this is probably not an issue for most of the riders this bike is aimed at. The Wellgo cage pedals supplied with the bike similarly will work for most but I changed them to A530 touring pedals to get some strength and stability. The DDK saddle is fine for the short journeys I have done so far but the seatpost can be adjusted for fore and aft movement only so you’re stuck a slightly nose up angle on the saddle.

Continue reading VCSE reviews – Roux A8 Carbon Drive