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Wahoo Rolls Out ELEMNT/BOLT Live Tracking with Data & Routes

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One of my biggest complaints about live tracking on Wahoo’s platform over the last year and a half is that it sucked.  I mean, not just a little suck, but a big suck.  Previously when you enabled live tracking on the Wahoo devices to send a tracking link to a friend/friend-with-benefits, it would provide information about your position.

Except, that’s all it did.  It just showed a single blue dot of your current locale.  No past track history.  No sensor data.  No climb data.  Just a random-ass blue dot on a map with zero context.

But as of today, it sucks less.

Actually, they’ve moved from sucky to awesome in one fell swoop.

With a firmware and app update released today, the Wahoo cycling computers now show proper live tracking information to friends and family, and even give some pretty unique and cool features that Garmin (who is basically the only other bike computer with this capability) doesn’t have.

I went out for a bit of a ride last night to test things out, so here’s my findings.

Setting it up:

While this post is written about my usage with the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT, all of this applies equally to the BOLT and the regular ELEMNT.  Zero difference here.

To start, you’ll need to update the firmware on the unit as well as your phone app, which provides the new options. All of this only takes a few minutes to complete.

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For those curious, here’s the other things included in this particular release:

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Next, you’ll dive into the Live Tracking options on your app (Share Tracking Link, after enabling ‘Live Track’).  You’ve got three options within that:

Share Until End of Day: This simply shares that link until midnight. This is useful if someone clicks on the link afterwards, at least they won’t just get a random error.

Share Forever: This is as it implies, the link is good forever.  Meaning that if a person comes back a week later and you’re on a different ride, then they can see where you are then.  Obviously, be careful with this type of link.

Share Automatically: If you hit this, then anytime you go for a ride the app will trigger notifications to Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail recipients.  You can select which, if any of these, get the link.  For example, I have it set to e-mail myself, my coach, and The Girl.  If you’re more of a social butterfly, you could also do Facebook and Twitter.

But there’s also a fourth option – which is to revoke everything.  This instantly invalidates all links, removing access to your cycling stalkers.

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With that, things are basically done.  Seriously, it’s that simple.

Note that if you have any sensors on your bike, do ensure that they’re connected as normal (obviously).  Else, you won’t get sensor data (heart rate, cadence, power).

During the ride:

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For the most part, you’ll ride as normal here.  However, what’s super important is that you have the Wahoo ELEMNT companion app open on your phone.

Not Open = No Live Tracking.

Of course, you can shut off the screen on your phone and change to other apps, but somewhere in the background the Wahoo app has to be cookin’.

Next to note is that the Live Tracking can display your planned route to others.  This is a big change from Garmin, which can’t display your loaded/planned route.  Below you can see what a route looks like, with my current position and the route.  It’s mostly out and back, so it’s not as nifty looking as a circular route.  But you get the point.

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(Side note: You won’t see the planned route on my remaining screenshots due to an odd bug I found with the way I started the live track.  Subsequent starts seemed fine…but, I wasn’t about to drag my butt up the mountain yet again for another screenshot. Wahoo is looking into why the bug occurred via one method but not the other.)

With everything ready, you can press start as normal.  A few seconds later your friends/family/affairs will receive the live tracking link.  Note that in my case it went into my ‘Clutter’ folder in my e-mail, so you may want to check Spam/Junk/Clutter/etc… folders in your e-mail.  Or, tell those who are following you to do so as well.

At this point, if you look at yourself using the mobile site (it’s responsive to different screen sizes), you’ll see your current location without any track…since I haven’t gone anywhere.  You can scroll down to see tabs for the data metrics for different data sets (power, cadence, heart rate, elevation).

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So let’s fast forward (up and) down the road a ton to see what those metrics and lines look like there:

As you can see above, you can dive into all the data sets, as well as averages and maxes.  In many ways this isn’t too much different than Garmin’s site, though Garmin’s app doesn’t show you sensor data on the mobile app – just the desktop app.

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Below on the desktop site you can see the data graphs overlaid on Garmin’s live tracking services, as well as the ability to show all data sets on one graph.  This can actually be handy if you want to correlate something like a hill to why heart rate increased.

Ray Live

Of course, what’s also obvious is that Wahoo’s app looks more like 2017, as opposed to Garmin’s tracking site from last decade.  Actually, that’s not entirely fair – they introduced it in January 2013…and haven’t changed it one bit since for cycling (seriously, you can go back and look at my screenshots in that linked section).

Which, has always been my complaint about it.  Garmin has had half a decade to improve it in ANY way possible.  I can think of and have noted plenty: Adding planned/loaded route to overlay, snapping to a known race course (i.e. Ironman course when using a wearable), allowing you to add photos mid-route via your phone (many people do that with Strava today), having better graphs, displaying Strava segments on it as you hit PR’s, displaying fun stats like you hitting distance/wattage/etc PR’s (which Garmin knows too), showing battery status of the Garmin device or phone.  Need I give more examples?

But there is one thing that Garmin does that Wahoo doesn’t: Numerous and better map providers.

Wahoo uses Mapbox for generic terrain maps, whereas Garmin allows you to choose between Garmin, OSM, and Microsoft (Bing) maps, as well as satellite or road maps from either Google/Microsoft source. This can be useful in seeing what’s around you.  For example during today’s ride when it’s neat to see the snow-covered mountain passes of the French and Swiss Alps I was riding through:

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This is of course because Garmin is paying for accessing these multiple semi-costly mapping services, whereas Wahoo is using just one…and a really darn inexpensive one at that.

Looping back to the ELEMNT though, one early complaint a while back was that the mobile/ELEMNT connection wasn’t very resilient to cellular connectivity drop-outs, causing the tracking session to outright die.  In this case though, it seemed to do well.  I went through areas where cellular connectivity dropped out and I had no issues with the service resuming properly.  Also of note is that on the Wahoo site it’ll show you battery status of the device, which is kinda neat (seen below left image to the right of my name if I hover above it).   Further, on the right image you can see how ‘old’ the data is – 19 seconds in this case.

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Overall, it worked fairly well aside from the initial route overlay quirk I ran into, and the graphs are just a heck of a lot nicer to look at.

One other oddity though I did notice though was that the final numbers between the BOLT device and the Live Tracking site were slightly different.  Not hugely different, but slightly different – a few watts off for the max power for example.  They were substantially off for the average power, but that appears to be a case of the Live Tracking site displaying average power with zeros not recorded, whereas my BOLT with zeros recorded.  I could see how that’d be a little display preference quirk.

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In talking with Wahoo, they’ve identified the root of this bug and it’s set to be fixed next week (behind the scenes on the web platform).

Wrap-up:

Overall this is good stuff and great to see them moving the goal posts forward.  In many ways this kinda reminds me of last summer when Wahoo added Strava Live Segments integration to their ELEMNT.  They weren’t the first (that was Garmin), nor the most timely, but when they did it – they really did it right (and have recently improved it a bunch last month).

It’s sorta like this for Live Tracking as well, they weren’t first, but overnight they’re the best now in that category.  Do note that while I think Quarq’s Race Intelligence and their standalone Qollector service is better in many circumstances, it’s not a head unit but rather a standalone tracking device – so a bit different use case and grouping here.

Also, some might ask why you’d use this instead of just a phone app.  The main reasons are simple:

A) It doesn’t impact your phone battery by polling GPS every second (that’s off-loaded to the BOLT), which is an insta-killer
B) It can collect sensor data that your phone likely can’t (such as ANT+ data on an iOS device)

Of course – I’m sure there will be some who want Wahoo to focus on other items with this firmware update.  And they did too – such as Strava accuracy improvements and a bunch of other random things. And they delivered a big firmware update last month too.  Which doesn’t take away from Garmin doing frequent almost monthly Edge series updates as well.

What’s cool here is the segment continues to improve and we’re seeing a lot of great competition from a lot of players, be it Wahoo, Lezyne, Polar, or soon other startups like Hammerhead.  And all that’s great for consumers!

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65 Comments

  1. Firsty Mcfirsty

    First! Thanks for the update Ray! How did the app impact battery life on your phone with livetracking on? I understand it saves a lot of battery with the gps coming from wahoo element, but the app background running and triggering cell connectivity tx and rx how did that imoact your battery?

    • It’s hard to say exactly, since I was running two live tracking apps (Garmin and Wahoo), plus a bunch of other apps in the background.

      That said, my battery at the start was 40%, and about 75mins later was 20%. But I was constantly taking screenshots (I took about 50 in total, somehow), along with photos (about 40) for this post I didn’t use and another post later (and again, live tracking on two devices).

      So I know…not super helpful. Sorry!

    • Ryan Zielinski

      I did a 6 hr. 20 min ride today, with live tracking and my phone had about 40% battery left at the end. Started at a full charge. My phone is a Google Pixel FWIW. Also, I was riding through the mountains so I’m sure some extra battery was used searching for a signal.

    • Henning Maagerud

      I started out with a fully charged iPhone 6+ today, and 6h10m later it was at 70%. With live tracking.

  2. Eric Jackson

    Awesome and timely review. I am ready to pop on the Elemnt especially after they seemed to have nailed the Live Tracking.

    Ray do you think you will have the time to check out the ERG/Trainer control any time soon. Maybe Shane Miller will do it?

    Again, thank you for the quick update!

    • Thanks!

      I included an ERG control piece within my BOLT (and ELEMNT) review. I think it’s the best implementation of a trainer control out there, especially for manual ERG workouts (i.e. changing wattage via the head unit on the fly).

      The problem however is that it doesn’t support FE-C trainers, and while Wahoo promised it a year ago…it’s still nuttin’. So it ‘only’ works with the KICKR/SNAP today. So if you’ve got one of those – awesome. But if not, sad panda.

    • Eli

      Does that include the ConnectIQ apps that can control the trainer for saying it beat garmin apps? Seems like xert is very good at that. Though guess I can use their android app.

    • Xert’s trainer app came out about a year (maybe more?) after Garmin implemented trainer support.

      Xert’s control is very good, but it’s also doing something totally different than what Garmin’s native capabilities are. They complement each other well, but don’t replace each other.

    • Eli

      I just mean if your goal is to try to get faster then xert’s ability to control the trainer could be considered the best way to control the trainer which would require an Edge unit. Well unless wahoo will add xert apps

  3. Michael Ashton

    Great review Ray – as usual! Simply, would you classify this Wahoo firmware update as a Gamin killer? Specifically, an Edge 820 killer? I have an 820 and have become beyond frustrated with the gremlins in the device. I’m on the verge making a change, or possibly keeping the headache (820).

    • Tommy

      Coming from an edge 1000 to the wahoo, I’d consider it a Garmin killer…even without this update. I’ve tried the element and bolt. Prefer the bolt. Louder beeos, neater package

    • It’s not an Edge 820 killer, no. But it does edge closer to being an Edge 520 killer depending on your use cases. For some people, it’s already an Edge 520 killer, and for others, it’s not.

      But more on that on (hopefully) Thursday with a post comparing those two.

    • Robin

      Hmm… Any hints? I was going to pop some money down today on a Edge 520. I already have a Forerunner 235 and was thinking it was worthwhile staying in the same ecosystem.

    • Frank

      All I can say is that I brought one to replace my 820 two weeks ago. Cannot be more satisfied!

      Frank

    • Bill

      Already replace my 520 with bolt month ago and I do like it very much, especially control is more responsive and informative. Route setting is simple and data sync is the part I like most. Garmin connect is suck and no need to bear of it now.

    • Dan

      I bought an element to replace my 810 and I like it much better.

    • SeanU

      Same here – my Bolt replaced a 510 and I love it. The really only thing it lacks is Garmin Varia Smart support – so it even saved me some money :)

    • Phil

      Yep! I love my Bolt but I really wish they will support Varia radar.. :-(

  4. Mike M

    Great write up Ray. I don’t know when it happened exactly, but your writing chops have gotten really good and the “entertainment” part is right up there with the “tech” stuff nowadays. Thanks for everything you do.

    Still have a Bolt and a Garmin 520, but the pace of Wahoo’s innovation is way more exciting and fun to follow. I own pretty much everything Wahoo makes now and none of it sucks.

  5. Mike D

    Great review, thanks, Ray! I gave it a try on my Bolt this morning, and didn’t have the phone app open, so it didn’t do the Live Tracking. But once I finished the ride and opened the phone app, the ride uploaded to the site. So while not live, my latest ride is shown, presumably until I do another one.

    It’s pretty funny, I now have the Wahoo Bolt itself, the Wahoo app on the phone, the Wahoo Live Tracking site, and Strava — 4 “data repositories” — with 3 slightly-different takes on the data from my ride (the Bolt and the phone app agree). They’re all close, but slightly different not just on power, but on time, distance, ascent, average speed, and cadence — oddly, average heart rate was spot on across all of them!

    I really don’t care about “which is right” (clearly the highest power, fastest average speed, etc!), as they’re very close to each other — it’s just interesting to me that they’re all apparently doing different behind-the-scenes processing.

  6. Scott

    Man, the Bolt keeps getting better and better!

    Only thing holding my back from one is support for Garmin’s Varia rear radar light.

    I think it’s been asked before in a previous Bolt post, but do you think there’s any possibility it will ever be supported on the Bolt?

    • Bsquared

      I am also holding off selling my 520 and purchasing Elemnt or Bolt until Varia radar is supported (or Wahoo introduces its own radar). As I understand it, there is an ANT+ radar profile available to developers. Hoping Wahoo adds this to roadmap.

    • It’s always a possibility, but I suspect it’s low down the totem pole. Thinks like FE-C support, workout support and probably more 3rd party app type stuff I suspect are higher up the list (even lighting or GoPro control perhaps).

  7. Elizabeth

    Just curious how much of your phone data a 2-3 hr ride with live tracking enable would eat?

  8. Dr_LHA

    Wahoo is really doing a great job with the Elemnt.

    However, I wanted to question one thing. GPS isn’t really a battery killer on phones. Before I got my Elemnt I used a RFLKT and was easily able to ride centuries using my iPhone as the GPS. The trick is to turn off mobile data, or even turn on airplane mode (the GPS still works fine). Last time I did this I still had 45% battery on an iPhone 5 from a 113 miles ride, and I’m not a fast guy. This was with BLE HR and speed/cadence meters also.

    • Eli

      no mobile data means no live tracking

    • Bsquared

      Exactly, battery life on phones is good if you toggle one or two settings. On my long rides in the Sierras, where there is poor cellular coverage, I use RideWithGPS app on my iPhone in airplane mode for two reasons: i) backup in case there is a rare problem with my 520, and ii) its easier to stop and review the route on my phone than on my 520. If I stop and am in cell coverage, I’ll temporarily turn off airplane mode and text pics to my wife. Works great, have ridden some long 8-14 hour rides and have plenty of phone battery at the end.

  9. Eli

    This part isn’t clear:
    Of course you can shut off the screen on your phone and change to other apps, but somewhere in the background the Wahoo app has to be cookin’.

    The main app has to be running or is there a service style background process it uses? The problem with requiring the main app to run is the phone might kill it if it needs memory to run something else.

    Like if I run Waze and multitask too much (obviously only as a passenger) waze can be killed off so no more directions if I use too many other apps. That would suck for live tracking

    • If you kill off the app, the tracking won’t work. If you just background it, you’re fine. This all being on iOS, but should work the same on Android.

    • Dave

      Yes from experience with the previous version on Android you have to go into the app at the start of the ride so that the phone connects with the Elemnt, but once you’ve done that it will keep working in the background and you can use other apps.

  10. Simon Broomfield

    Excellent timing with Ride London just around the corner.

  11. Jason

    How did you get web access to your ride data? Did I miss something? I thought that ride data was only available on the phone app and that a web platform (like garmin connect) wasn’t available yet. I tried going to http://www.wahooligan.com and while my profile is there (current power zones, weight, height), none of my ride data is.

    • You receive a link via e-mail when you turn on the live tracking (that’s the part I talk about checking your Spam/Junk/Clutter folders).

    • Jason

      Ah…so unless you do live track, you don’t get access to any of your data on the web?

      I was hoping that Wahoo would implement a web based site that all your rides get loaded to for viewing, similar to garmin connect. I was told by their support that others have expressed interest and they were working towards it, but no ETA.

      I really like how they provide end of ride data on the phone app, so a web app that could consolidate some of that data, even if they charged for it like Strava premium, would be killer.

    • Edward Ng

      If you sync your ELEMNT to Strava, all of the data is available there as soon as it syncs up post-ride. Between Strava and all of the third-party plug-ins and apps that plug into Strava’s API (such as VeloViewer), I spend precisely 0 time looking at the metrics provided by Wahoo/ELEMNT itself, except when I haven’t had a chance to sync it yet (I don’t use auto-sync because I like to have all my pics lined up and ready to attach to the ride ASAP before I upload the ride, to ensure they make it into the Relive recap).

      -Ed

  12. It doesn’t look like the Moxy data comes through the Live Tracking. That would be a really cool feature. I’ve got an email in to Wahoo to see if they can add that in since they already support it on the Elemnt.

  13. Tim Corso

    Hey Ray,

    How long will the Element Bolt battery run for with live track turned on? My Edge 1000 only runs for 6 hours before the battery is exhausted. Which is no good for my big rides, where I needs naps for navigation. If you don’t have this info would you be able to do this test please? Pretty please?

    T.

    • Ryan Zielinski

      Hey, so I did a ride today with live tracking. 6 hr 20 minute ride. With routing/turn-by-turn directions. Power meter, HR strap and speed and cadence sensors and my Element has around 50% battery left. Started on a full charge. Hope that helps.

    • T Corso

      Very helpful – Thanks Ryan

  14. Jordi

    Great. Finally LT has gotten good.

    Last thing I’d like to see is an alert function to some chosen contacts when you haven’t moved for an amount of time (5 or 10 mins) in combination with ELEMNT/BOLT autopause. This could be a crash. The Wife is fond of this functionality in a specific app called RoadID. Unfortunately this has happened to me once. My wife and the ambulance were able to find me quite fast.

    RoadID works great, but implementation on the Wahoo platform is even better: trigger in combination with autopause. Now I have to pause this app manually apart from my ELEMNT during planned stops.

    A normal pause for food/drinks is usually after an hard/manual stop. I use autopause foor traffic stops and those don’t usually exceed 5 mins.

  15. Finally. Seriously. Cyclemeter has had this level of live tracking for at least 6 years and is easily one of the features I missed most.

    Cyclemeter also had the extremely cool ability to show the live map on Facebook without a user even clicking anything. I doubt Facebook’s API still allows that.

  16. Nick

    Just upgraded to Bolt from an Edge 520, getting used to it, but the regular improvements are a real plus.
    My one gripe is having to have the companion app open to Live Track or sync rides. Never had to do this with Garmin. Why is this?

    • You actually have to do it as well on Garmin. Again, as noted it doesn’t need to be open as you are seeing it running, it just needs to be somewhere launched in the background. It could well be from 2 days ago.

    • Nick

      Running Android never had to open/run Garmin connect, Edge would connect automatically. Very rarely used the Garmin app, just needed it to sync with Strava

  17. Tim Rogers

    Does this means they have changed the Find a Friend feature at all – the related feature where you can see friends’ locations on the Elemnt map? There was an “issue” that it was linked to the Live Tracking option – if you turned on Live Tracking previously, it meant that your location appears on the map for the whole world to see, along with all other Elemnt users in the form “Tim R.”. Which was just a little bit concerning to say the least.

    Does anyone know if this has changed at all? This to me was potentially a more useful feature if they could fix the “stalkiness” it.

  18. Mark Huigen

    Next big step should be recalculating a route should you get lost hopefully! That would be absolutely awesome!

  19. KeithS

    It is a shame that the txt message option is not provided for the link sharing. This is also not a Garmin option but was standard on the RoadID app. Much more in likely to get picked up than an email etc

    • Joel

      iOS or Android? I used live tracking for the first time today, standard iOS share sheet pops up. Sent SMS to the wife who could click on the link and follow my ride. Worked a treat.

  20. Raymond Wright

    Why no option for text message notifications? Nobody that I know of has those.

    • It’s likely because doing so costs money. Not a lot of money, but some money.

      Fwiw – almost every carrier I know of allows you to send notifications to an e-mail address, that in turn goes to text. You can find these online pretty easily.

      Mid-way down this post, they list a lot of carriers and the format to use: link to lifehacker.com

  21. Chris

    Hey Ray,

    If you share via Facebook is there the ability to select a group to share with, so your not sharing with everyone?
    Say you only want to share with your family, or friends you ride with.

    • Jordi Backx

      Chris,

      This is done once to time you connect ELEMNT companion app to your FB profile. So you can’t set it up per ride unless you want to fumble around in the app/privacy settings of FB everytime you go on a ride.

  22. Jim

    Ray,

    Thanks for the detailed, timely update as always. I just got a Bolt and have gone on a couple of rides with it, but I’m stuck on one detail I haven’t seen answered anywhere.

    I don’t like to keep my training data in the cloud. With my old Garmin, I dumped ride data onto my PC using the ANT+ USB stick, and used Rubitrack to plot everything and do all the data analysis. Unfortunately, RT does not seem to support the ELEMNT/BOLT units directly just now. (Well, there’s a workaround described in exactly one thread on their board, , but it requires Dropbox).

    I did find that the Android File Transfer app works just fine to browse the directory tree on the BOLT, and I can copy the .FIT files onto my Mac (running El Capitan) by drag-and-drop. But when I try to import them into RT, it says that they contain no usable data or are corrupted! Moreover, not even GPS Visualizer knows what to do with those same files — and I’ve almost never seen a GPS data file that tool can’t handle.

    I don’t know enough about the .FIT file format to figure out what’s happening, but I was under the impression that the BOLT was writing these in a totally standard way. Do you have any ideas about how to successfully import this data without having to use some cloud-based service?

    Thanks a ton for all your hard work!

    -Jim

    With my new

    • Jay

      Best approach is to contact RT and ask them to update their FIT file parser.

    • Agree. My guess is that they haven’t updated to the V2 variant that came out over a year ago now.

      You could use some converter tools to get to .TCX, which RT probably still supports. And I believe if you e-mail yourself the files from the Wahoo app, it’ll give you a .TCX file as well.

  23. Jim

    @Jay: Turns out the old version of RT I was using (never upgraded, because it was expensive and I didn’t need/want any of the features in the newer version until now) did not have the revised V2 FIT parser. The new one appears to, so I’ve just downloaded a 2-week trial to see if it’s worth buying.

    @DCR: While I’m kicking the tires on the new version of RT, could you suggest a reliable FIT to TCX converter in case I decide to stick with the old one? I’ve already tried a handful (FIT-to-TCX, python-fitparse, TCX Converter.app, etc.) but none of them work.

    -Jim

  24. Christopher Mohr

    I hope they do as good a job with workouts as they’ve done with everything else. It’s really the only downside of the unit–2×20, you don’t need a structured workout function. 5 min @ FTP, 1 min @ 110% FTP, then 5 min of rest (16 times) is a workout that I would rather just be led through than have to keep count of. And services like today’s plan are becoming integrated with other sites like zwift, etc.

    Suffice it to say that expectations are high…

  25. Chris M Jennings

    Does anybody know if the live tracking can show mile markers as you ride?