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Home / Reviews / Wahoo Elemnt Rival watch review - Multisport watches - Tri-tech

Wahoo Elemnt Rival watch review

Updates have elevated the Wahoo Elemnt Rival to another level, but is it enough to propel it ahead of the competition?

Wahoo Elemnt Rival watch

The Wahoo Elemnt Rival launched two years ago and is Wahoo’s sole foray into the world of triathlon watches.

The key to this debut was usability. They stripped out features they deemed redundant to focus on ones that they deemed useful.

After a long test, our opinion was split – we appreciated them not overloading the watch with superfluous features but felt the audience would expect a little more physiological and performance insight for the money.

Wahoo Elemnt Rival review

Fast-forward to today and a suite of software updates has significantly altered the original proposition.

First up, you can now measure your sleep quantity and quality via its Sleep Beta function.

The Beta aspect highlights that this is a work in progress but visually, at least, on the Wahoo app, it looked similar to many.

Honestly, we don’t pay too much credence to this info as wrist-based sleep trackers are notoriously inconsistent when it comes to stages of sleep data.

More usefully for triathletes, it now includes Lap Swimming Drill Mode that keeps track of your distance and swim pace in the pool when using other strokes beyond freestyle. This is appreciated as triathletes like to vary stroke choice in practice.

The Rival now integrates with the STRYD Running Pod, too, if you’re looking to run by wattages.

Another update to the original is the smart notifications, which now includes calls, texts, emails… which will appeal to many. If that’s not you, it is possible to switch these off.

Of course, it also retains the positives that made the Rival a hit with so many triathletes. The key one is Touchless Transition Tracking, where you don’t need to press one of the five buttons to signal you’ve moved from swim to T1 to bike to T1 to run.

Instead, it gauges your body position to determine discipline. It’s a cracking idea and, on the whole, works well, albeit it’s much quicker recognising the move from T2 to run than T1 to bike.

If it’s not accurate for some reason, you’re given the option to correct splits before downloading to the app.

Another fine trick is syncing to a Wahoo bike computer so you can see your swim split and bike data as you pedal.

During testing, we also had access to the latest Wahoo Kickr Bike, which connects seamlessly for wrist-based control. In fact, Wahoo’s become masters at dialling in their products to one performance-based and highly usable ecosystem.

As we mentioned in test one, GPS can still be a little slow on the uptake in built-up areas but generally it’s good.

All in all, these upgrades add more triathlon appeal and value for money, but given the fact it’s over two years since the Elemnt Rival came out we’re hoping a new multisport watch will be on the horizon soon. Watch this space…

Verdict: Impressive updates build on soild foundations for strong tri appeal.

Score: 82%

Pair this with…

Wahoo Tickrx

Wahoo Tickr X

While the heart rate monitors on watches have come on leaps and bounds over the years, chest-based monitors are still widely appreciated to be more accurate and responsive.

And that’s particularly the case when picking up the pace and taking on interval sessions or hill running workouts.

Given how slick the Wahoo ecosystem is, it just makes sense to pair the Elemnt Rival watch with one of the brand’s on chest-based heart rate monitors.

The Tickr X is the premium option from the brand, offering ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, plus a claimed 500 hours of battery life.

It’s not designed for swimming, but does offer additional metrics on the run and bike, such as cadence.

Profile image of James Witts James Witts Freelance sports writer and author


Former 220 Triathlon magazine editor James is a cycling and sports writer and editor who's been riding bikes impressively slowly since his first iridescent-blue Peugeot road bike back in the 80s. He's a regular contributor to a number of cycling and endurance-sports publications, plus he's authored four books: The Science of the Tour de France: Training secrets of the world’s best cyclists, Bike Book: Complete Bicycle Maintenance, Training Secrets of the World's Greatest Footballers: How Science is Transforming the Modern Game, and Riding With The Rocketmen: One Man's Journey on the Shoulders of Cycling Giants