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Wahoo RIVAL Multisport GPS Watch In-Depth Review

Wahoo-RIVAL-In-Depth-Review

It’s here. Finally. After years of rumors, leaks, and even a high crimes story I’ve got for another day, Wahoo’s first watch has landed – the aptly named Wahoo RIVAL, a $379 entrant in a field full of competitive options.

And to begin, despite what clickbait headlines you might read today – no, it’s not a Garmin killer. Nor is it a Suunto killer, nor a Polar killer, nor a COROS killer. It’s not even a killer of the already dead TomTom multisport watches.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not promising. It is. And one day, it might take some sales from those companies above – undoubtedly. And while Wahoo has a long road ahead of them, the company also has a long history of coming into the market and causing grief for incumbents. Remember CompuTrainer? Yup – Wahoo was the legit ‘CompuTrainer Killer’. Of course, wearables are a far more established, widespread, and a more difficult market to master – as the RIVAL shows.

For Wahoo’s first go at this, they’re squarely targeting the triathlon market. Specifically – swim, bike, run. RIVAL’s marquee feature is a new touchless transition mode that automatically changes the sport modes on your watch as you iterate through your triathlon race. It even allows you to ‘undo’ mid-race if you or the algorithm makes a mistake, and to top that off, lets you get super precise on transition splits after the fact in the app before it uploads to 3rd party sites like Strava or TrainingPeaks. It’s super cool.

But, we’ll get into all the features at a high level in the next section, before diving into them in even more detail later on in the sports section. I legit went out and did a mock-triathlon in mid-November in Northern Europe to test it all out. You’re welcome.

Finally, note that Wahoo sent me a media loaner RIVAL for the purposes of testing. As usual, afterwards I’ll send it back to them and go out and pick up my own through normal retail channels. I don’t take any money, ads, or products from companies I review. If you’ve found this review useful, feel free to hit up the links at the end of the site. Or, consider becoming a DCR Supporter.

With that – let’s get on with it.

Quick Summary:

As I started off with, RIVAL is a triathlon watch, which means it can cover swim/bike/run both indoors and outdoors. So you can do openwater swims, pool swims, use a power meter on the bike – and it’ll even pair with and record running power data from a Stryd running power meter. It’s got a barometric altimeter for more accurate elevation data. It’s got the optical HR sensor in the back for workout HR data (including while swimming). For the most part, the features on the RIVAL are pretty basic. They’re roughly on-par with a TomTom Multisport GPS watch from 7 years ago, albeit with a few features in different buckets. It’s just that the RIVAL looks a heck of a lot better, and also has more robust sensor support (inversely, TomTom had better activity tracking data, GPS/HR accuracy, and full structured workout support).

Here’s the top line specs of the RIVAL:

– GPS watch with claimed battery life of 24 hours GPS, and 14 days standby
– Color 240x240px screen (64 colors) with Gorilla Glass
– Barometric altimeter
– Optical HR sensor (for workout and 24×7 tracking)
– Ambient light sensor
– Water-resistant to 5ATM (50 meters)
– Changeable wrist straps
– Broadcasts your heart rate over Bluetooth Smart & ANT+
– Livetrack support when paired with phone
– Multisport/triathlon mode, including touchless transitions
– Has timer & stopwatch
– Supports ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors
– Supports running power meters like Stryd
– Supports Running Dynamics from TICKR-X (new 2020 variant)
– Uploads to 3rd party sites like Strava, TrainingPeaks, Dropbox, and tons more

Now here’s the thing – I’m sure Wahoo won’t terribly like me listing out all the things that aren’t in this watch, but when there’s no baseline to establish from, and no clarity on Wahoo’s own site, this is the kind of detail people actually want. Else, one can just read marketing fluff (or regurgitated marketing fluff somewhere else):

– No structured workout support
– No courses/routing/navigation/compass support
– No maps or breadcrumb trails
– No music
– No contactless payments
– No 24×7 HR data in the app
– No sleep tracking, stairs, or most other activity tracking metrics
– No watch time alarms
– No sport alerts (e.g. heart rate zones, speed, power, cadence, etc…)
– No 3rd party apps on the watch itself
– No Strava Live Segments on device itself
– No training load, recovery, or other physiological type metrics
– No anything else I didn’t explicitly list above.

Now, as for whether or not these features get rolled out – undoubtedly some will. When is a tougher question. Wahoo says they want to aim for roughly a quarterly release cadence for major releases, but may drop smaller things earlier/when ready. Jose Mendez, Director of Product Development for Wahoo Fitness noted that “We’re launching a business, a product category, we’re not launching a product”, and that ultimately, “This is our dipping our toe in the water.”

And I’m glad to see them loosely committing to a quarterly release cycle, but the simple reality here is that they need to be more explicit in what they’re planning on doing. That’s what both Suunto and Polar did when they arrived on the scene with heavily under-featured watches. And while Wahoo might believe they’d be giving their competitors an advantage – that’s a pretty hard line to swallow.

What’s in the box:

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I really like the RIVAL box. It’s easily one of my favorite watch boxes out there. And sure, it’s very similar to Wahoo’s ROAM box, but still…it’s super nice.

It unfolds out to the left, telling you to never lose focus. Ironically, a number of my video shots lost focus on this. But that’s neither here nor there.

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Once you do manage to focus, it’s super clear this is all about triathlon. You can see what’s clearly a mass triathlon start up top, followed by a triathlete on a triathlon bike, followed by someone realizing they should have stopped after the bike.

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Sliding the box out from itself, you’ve got the watch:

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Take all that stuff out, and here’s what you’ve got:

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Here’s a better picture of that. Basically, it’s just two little manual booklets, the watch, and the charging puck:

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The charging puck is…well…round. And kinda flat. And has a clippy thing, so it does hold the unit securely:

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And then here’s a close-up of the watch and band:

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And for weight comparison, it clocks in at 54g, as compared to a pile of watches in this realm:

Oh, and sizing-wise you can see it’s definitely a bit larger than all those, more in line with a Fenix 6 series watch. Here’s the rolling pin, first with a bulkier set of watches:

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Left to right: Polar Grit X, Wahoo RIVAL, COROS Vertix, Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

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And then with a slimmer set of watches:

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Garmin FR745, Wahoo RIVAL, COROS Pace 2, Polar Vantage V2

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Ok, with that let’s start using it.

The Basics:

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In this section I typically cover some of the basic user interface aspects, such as how to navigate the menus, charging, app connectivity basics, as well as daily activity tracking type features (steps/etc). For the sport-specific features you’ll want to hit up the next section.

To begin, the RIVAL has five dedicated buttons. The screen is (thankfully) not a touchscreen device. It’s not that I’m opposed to touchscreens, it’s just that for hyper-sport specific purposes, I rarely find them useful. Even in the case of the Suunto 9 or Polar Vantage V series that have touchscreens, I very rarely use the touchscreen elements. The buttons work better. Of course, there are good touch-screen implementations, but they tend to skew non-sport focused (like the Apple Watch). The middle-ground options like the Garmin Venu series touchscreens are kinda ‘meh’ for usability purposes.

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Speaking of ‘meh’, so is the RIVAL’s user interface. The good thing is I expect it’ll change mature. As I sit here and try and explain how this works, I realize that’s a surprisingly complicated concept. Mostly because it’s not super intuitive. I guess to begin, the upper right button is how you access your smartphone notifications. These are read-only, so there’s no responding to notifications here.

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The watch can be configured to automatically enter do-not-disturb mode at a given time each day, or, you can always manually set DND by just long-holding the upper right button.

Next, the middle-right button lets you select from a predefined list of sports to start. These are: Running (GPS), Treadmill, Lap Swimming, Openwater Swim, Cycling (GPS), KICKR, Strength, Yoga, Triathlon. However, you can also make your own profiles (more on that later).

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While the indoor cycling option is explicitly labeled ‘KICKR’, the reality is that you can use it for any indoor training, and it’ll pair with any ANT+ FE-C trainer. But we’ll talk about all the sports bits down below.

Next, the bottom right button – this…this is where things get confusing. This is essentially the same as the middle right button, but it bypasses the sport selection, and jumps straight to the last sport you used. However, if you press the lower right button a second time, it’ll show the data fields for that sport, then a third time it’ll show your heart rate for the last 2 hours, and press it one last time and it (might) show you elevation (if on an outdoor activity):

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The bottom left button iterates through the exact same way as the bottom right button, but in reverse. What Wahoo is attempting to do here is basically bridge the divide between the ‘sport’ side of the house (as in, when you choose a given sport to start a workout), and the normal ‘widget’ side of the house, which is where you’d expect to see things like daily steps, 24×7 HR data, etc… Except, in this implementation they’re all confusingly mixed together, and atop that, if you press the lower left/right buttons (purposefully or caught on your jacket), then it immediately begins GPS search.

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Wahoo says the reason they did this is because people would get confused on a Garmin watch trying to get to something like the compass or weather widgets mid-workout, and thus couldn’t easily remember/figure out how to get back to those. And yes, I actually agree with that. It can be tough for non-savvy users to figure out.

But in this context, the opposite is more annoying. I don’t want to be in workout mode anytime I’m trying to check a widget for the other 23 hours of the day I’m not working out. Not to mention, the RIVAL doesn’t yet have compass mode or weather widgets or anything else. I think ideally their concept would only work if you were in a workout mode, allowing you to see those non-workout widgets. But unless in workout mode, don’t show me workout data pages for a sport I’m most definitely not doing this moment. In any event, I think Wahoo is listening to the feedback around this, so hopefully we’ll see some tweaks.

Next, you can long-hold the bottom left button to get to settings. This includes things like pairing sensors, a simple stopwatch & timer, workout history, and turning off the watch.

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There are no wake-up alarms at this point, though admittedly I can’t remember the last time I set the alarm on my watch as opposed to just using my phone.

Next, you can access the different widgets by double-holding the lower two buttons together, which changes the watch-face data fields. Honestly, this is a bit confusing too.

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However, you can customize the watch face, from four different options:

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You can see above you can also tweak the seconds, date, and accent color.

When it comes to the backlight, you can manually enable it by pressing the upper left button. There’s no raise to wake or gesture support, though, the backlight should automatically stay-on the entire time during a workout at night.

I’d describe the backlight as ‘fine’ for my pretty good eyes. Not glow fantastic, but…well…fine. I’ve used it on many night workouts without issues seeing it. In a semi-related setting, you can change between light mode and dark mode, between off/auto/on.

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Finally, when it comes to things like tracking steps, heart rate, stairs, sleep, etc… it’s incredibly minimal right now. The watch itself will show your current step total for the day against your static step goal (which you can customize). You can see that on the watch face, as well as your current heart rate:

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And as shown earlier, you can also see the last two hours of heart rate data in the widget roll.

But when it comes to the app…there’s almost nothing. The Wahoo app will only show you the total steps you did each day that week, and only for the current week you’re in. Once the clock strikes midnight you can’t see/access that data anymore within the Wahoo app. Here’s the before/after midnight look at things for steps. There’s no method to look at last week’s steps, or to dive in and see details about today’s steps (such as how they allocate over the course of the day). That little settings icon there simply toggles other week summary pages like ones for cycling, gym workouts, and swimming:

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And that’s it. There’s no sleep tracking, nor is there any way to look at heart rate data. Wahoo says they are storing that HR data, as well as step data. And that better reporting is definitely in the pipeline.

For now, that data is also sent over to Apple Health and Google Fit.  For example, you can see tidbits of this in Apple Health, but it’s sporadic at best. I’m missing entire days for both steps and heart rate, and even some days it only plots a single data point. Just one second’s worth. Wahoo says they’re aware of this issue and hope to have it resolved shortly after launch.

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I get it, this is likely low-priority stuff. While I think it’s important to feed data into Apple Health and Google Fit, I wonder how many normal people actually ever use that data put there (in a cross-pollination kinda way).

In my mind what’s far more important is getting clear reporting of 24×7 type metrics within the Wahoo app, beyond just this week’s step totals.

Sport Details:

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If you’re buying the RIVAL, you’re doing so for the purposes of sport – and likely more specifically, as a triathlete (at least for now). So throughout the course of this section I’ll dive into all the sport features, including doing a test triathlon.

To start with recording a workout (or race), you’ll press the middle right button, which brings open the sport menu:

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It’s here you’ll choose the sport mode you want. By default that’s: Running (GPS), Treadmill, Lap Swimming, Openwater Swim, Cycling (GPS), KICKR, Strength, Yoga, Triathlon.

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However, from within the app you can make your own sport profiles by selecting ‘Add Workout profile”. From there you’ve got three options: Using a template, duplicating one of your previous profiles, and creating a new profile from the ground up. If you choose a template there are piles of sport modes per overall category (5 types of ‘running’, 10 types of cycling, etc…):

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While some of these do include more sport-specific data files, a number of them are basically just a different icon. For example, choosing the skiing one just gives you the empty shell without any data pages specific to skiing (or at all for that matter). I think this is an area where they’ve just outlined a starting point, but would ultimately offer actual differences in the profiles down the road. For example on a Polar watch, there are substantial fine-tuned differences in calorie profiles. On a Garmin watch if you select skiing you get specific skiing metrics, or specific paddling metrics for certain water sports.

Using the duplicate a profile or build a profile from the ground up isn’t honestly much different. For any given profile you’ve basically got four key things you can tweak + the data pages. So you can enable/disable optical HR, GPS, Auto-Pause, and Auto-Lap. I guess five things if you include the name of the profile.

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From a data page standpoint, you can create multiple custom data pages with up to six data fields per page. These are then ranked in order of preference, so you can use the PerfectView zoom function if you want to, on the fly.

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Wahoo has long gotten props for their customization of data fields via the app – and it’s true, it’s definitely good. On the flipside, you can’t customize data fields or sport modes mid-workout on the device itself. One of these days companies from both sides of that divide will allow us to do both, depending on our preferences.

Looking at the data fields, here’s a quick gallery of what that looks like with a few different data pages. Note that there is an elevation and heart rate graph page in the mix.

Above you’ll see some data pages that are 1 field in size, and others that are 6 fields in size. Technically speaking, that’s actually the same data page. Wahoo has something they call ‘PerfectView’, which basically means you can squeeze the bottom two buttons together mid-workout to add or remove fields based on a predefined priority order – the order we set in the app settings above.

This is the exact same concept as on their bike computers, except it just requires the two button press here instead of up/down in the menus. This feature can be handy out on a long-run where you just want to get rid of everything but time, or heart rate – whatever you value the most.

Ok, with everything all set, let’s go back to running mode and head out for a run. As you get GPS signal it’ll loop around the outside of the watch showing the GPS satellite reception until it’s locked. Generally this was about the same time duration as the Garmin FR745 and Polar Grit X units I was using most days concurrently. That’s logical, because it’s likely the exact same GPS chipset. Wahoo uses Sony for their RIVAL, just as Polar and Garmin do for all their recent units.

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Once locked, it’ll change that play/start button to green, and you’re good to go. At this point, it’s honestly just like any other GPS watch – you run/bike/whatever, and it shows your data metrics in real-time.

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You’ve got auto-lap if you configured it, using either distance or time. As well as auto-pause if you’ve got that enabled too.

Also, while the RIVAL is supposed to support the ANT+ Running Dynamics standard, it appears there’s still some bugs there. In my testing, using a non-Wahoo strap that’s capable of Running Dynamics isn’t enumerating any data at this point. Only the TICKR X (2020 edition) is working. In my case, I created a running dynamics workout page for the run profile, and then paired up the TICKR X. Here’s a very brief test showing the vertical oscillation and ground contact time data from the TICKR X:

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I also tried the Garmin HRM-PRO (which follows the ANT+ standard for Running Dynamics), but that didn’t enumerate any data. In theory, the RIVAL should eventually work with the HRM-PRO, HRM-TRI, and HRM-RUN straps from Garmin, which properly transmit that data like the TICKR X 2020 does (after all, you can use a TICKR X 2020 strap with a Garmin device and get running dynamics data).

Note that you’ll likely still see a slight difference there, as Wahoo doesn’t actually leverage the exact same fields as Garmin. For example Wahoo doesn’t do GCT Balance, whereas Garmin does. It’s unclear if those added metrics will make the cut once compatibility is sorted out.

Next, for running specifically, it does support running power. Or more specifically, displaying and recording power while running. if paired with a compatible sensor transmitting power using the ANT+ or BLE power standards. You can use any of the cycling running fields in the running profile, and it’ll record that data. It’s not as extensive as COROS’s running power support (natively or for Stryd). But if you just want to display or record the data no-fuss, this works just fine. However, it won’t display it in the Wahoo app itself. But it will to 3rd parties.

Here’s a run from this weekend with Stryd power, shown on TrainingPeaks:

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After the run is complete, you’ll see your summary metrics. This is super basic and doesn’t include maps/route outlines, time in zones, or anything else. Just a list of top-line metrics, followed by your lap splits:

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Switching topics over to indoor training, it’s all basically identical to outdoor training, except without GPS. For example, on a trainer you’ll select the option labeled ‘KICKR’. While the indoor cycling option is explicitly labeled ‘KICKR’, the reality is that you can use it for any indoor training, and it’ll pair with any ANT+ FE-C trainer. Though you can’t execute any structured workouts on it yet.

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Once in a workout if you want to use control mode, you can two-button hold the lower left buttons, and then manually set a new target one digit at a time (meaning, to set 315w, you first set the 3 using up/down, then the 1, then the 5.)  Realistically, nobody’s going to do that. So I’ll just wait for actual structured workout support.

In my case, I used TrainerRoad and Zwift, and then just recorded the workout as well on the RIVAL. Mid-workout you’ll get data details just like with other sports:

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While I had some earlier bugs with trainers, in the most recent firmware update I’ve used it with various trainers recording the data without issue.

Next, we’ve got triathlon mode. In this mode you’ll iterate from swim to bike to run (with transitions as well). While at present there isn’t the ability to create your own custom multisport mode, Wahoo says it’s coming. Also, you can technically do something like a swim-run by long-holding the upper right button mid-workout, which will select a different sport profile. You can do this indefinitely, so basically, you can create a manual on-the-fly multisport mode.

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In my case, I went out and swam in very chilly water. I jumped in, swore a bunch, and then swam. I kept swearing however.

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Once I was done with freezing my ass off, I got out of the water and headed to my bike. However, notably, I did *NOT* press any buttons on the RIVAL. I wanted to see how Wahoo’s new ‘Touchless Transitions’ feature worked. This feature is supposed to automatically detect each leg of the race, and transition your watch appropriately to the correct sport. Initially when I got to my bike, it was still showing swim. By this point I had walked down the 50-75m dock, got my cycling shoes on, and put on my coat for the ride.

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However, a short time later it updated to show T1, and you can actually see it backdate the T1 and Swim times (above it shows 16:03, and then below it shows 15:51).

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Of course, you’re now looking at the Wahoo ROAM. That’s because before I started my ‘race’, I placed the ROAM on my handlebars, and I held the menu button down and entered ‘Multisport mode’, which basically becomes a mirror of the Wahoo RIVAL watch. It’s basically the same concept as Garmin’s not-well-known screen mirroring that I posted about a year ago. Once paired together, the RIVAL transmits data to the ROAM, though the ROAM doesn’t record anything else. It’s just like AirPlay (or casting) from your phone to a TV screen. This works for *ANY* Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT/ROAM bike computer.

In any case, with my bike unlocked from the post, I headed out to my transition line, which was the start of the bike path. I had decided ahead of time that’d be my mount/dismount/finish line. Also, I didn’t take my wetsuit off. It was far too cold for that. November and all:

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In any case, I left T1, and about 45 seconds later the RIVAL (and along with it ROAM), switched to cycling. In this case, it backdated the start of cycling to about 20 seconds earlier. So not quite perfect, but fine for now. We’ll fix it afterwards. And again, you can ALWAYS manually advance through the sports just like you have on any other watch, in this case by pressing the middle right button.

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I was a bit surprised it took RIVAL this long to detect cycling, since in this case I had a power meter paired, so logically as soon as I started pedaling more than a second or two, I’d have expected it to switch over. But Wahoo says at this point the algorithm doesn’t yet take into account sensor data, rather, just internal assumptions in the watch itself.

Further, and probably even cooler – you can always ‘undo’ a transition/sport change. So if you accidentally advance to T2 while on the bike, you can simply hold the upper right to undo it back to cycling. Super cool.

While riding, I kept an eye on the ROAM/RIVAL connection. One of the things I’d seen in the past with Garmin’s triathlon mirroring mode, is that it’s sometimes prone to drop-outs. And that was the case here with Wahoo’s as well. While my triathlon test bike segment was short (just 10KM), it did drop out towards the end for my guessing 15+ seconds. When it did that, data updating stopped.

That aside, one of the data fields I loved on the ROAM though was the overall triathlon stats, showing my splits for each segment. I don’t know why, but this was just cool.

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I rolled back into transition, and it took about 15 seconds for it to switch to showing T2. Then, as I left my bike behind, I ran out to my transition line. It switched over to ‘Running’ automatically, ironically almost exactly on the transition line. Of course, I suspect detecting running is pretty easy by comparison to cycling. Then I ran. And it did its thing.

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I then finished up my run and stopped the watch like any normal human (or normal watch).

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Afterwards, it gave me a summary of all the splits:

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However, probably my favorite feature on RIVAL isn’t on RIVAL itself – it’s on the smartphone app, which allows you to edit (dynamically) the exact start/end points of each segment in that triathlon. So if auto-detect didn’t work, or if your brain to hand signals didn’t work, you can easily and quickly fix it afterwards. Silly easy. You just drag the start/end point to where you want it on the map….and done.

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In fact, the key bit here is that Wahoo will actually wait before uploading any multisport workout/race to 3rd party sites like Strava, until you’ve reviewed it. Even cooler is that you can undo and redo this as many times as you’d like on a given workout/race. It’s awesome. So awesome. Albeit, it’s unfortunate that the coolest and probably most marquee set of features on the RIVAL is something that realistically very few people are going to use over the next 6-9 months due to the world situation.

Last but not least, and perhaps somewhat out of order, is that the Rival can pair to ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors. These include:

ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart power meters
ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart heart rate straps
ANT+ FE-C trainers
ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart cycling speed sensors
ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensors

You can pair sensors either via the smartphone app, or on the watch itself – just like you would on a Wahoo ELEMNT series unit:

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And here’s what it looks like via the app, including the ability to rename sensors:

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Additionally, for broadcasting of data, the RIVAL will broadcast out your heart rate (as measured by the optical HR sensor) over both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart. You can toggle this on app or watch, and it’ll broadcast all the time behind the scenes.

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While we’re talking broadcasting, there’s a few interesting nuances worth mentioning here. First of all, remember how above I used the Wahoo ROAM in the triathlon? Well, you can actually do that anytime you want. However, even in triathlon mode it’s doing slightly more than just mirroring the RIVAL. Specifically, it’ll quietly record any sensors paired on the Wahoo ROAM into the RIVAL’s workout .FIT file. Meaning, the RIVAL itself can’t yet pair to Di2/eTap/Varia Radar/Moxy, but it can via the ROAM. While you won’t see that data on the RIVAL watch at this point, it is being recorded behind the scenes.

Since I didn’t show it above, to make this all work, you need to have both the watch and ELEMNT series bike computer (any of them) paired on the same phone. This is so they initially know about each other. It’s like Tinder for sports tech. After that initial date, they can go off and cause trouble by themselves. Then, on the ELEMNT series unit, go into the menu, and simply tap ‘Multisport’:

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Now you’re in multisport mode, and it’ll show ‘Ready to Transition’. It’s that simple. As soon as the RIVAL is nearby and a workout started, it’ll begin to display data here.

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And what’s interesting here is that it’s actually quietly blending data pages on the ROAM (or ELEMNT/BOLT) behind the scenes, specifically the map, Strava Live Segments, and BestBikeSplit data pages. So in those cases, it’ll show you that information in standalone data pages on the ROAM. It won’t show up on the RIVAL, but the data is here on the ROAM.

Practically speaking this is really only practical for triathletes, but it’s triathletes that BestBikeSplit is really focused on. So it works out in this case. Again, remember that none of this data is recorded on the ELEMNT series unit, just on the RIVAL. It does also allow you to route as well using the ROAM, since the RIVAL doesn’t do routing by itself. Though again, unless you’re in a triathlon, you’re far more likely to just record the data on the ROAM itself.

Once you’re done, simply hit exit, and then off you go back to regular ELEMNT/ROAM/BOLT mode:

Wahoo-RIVAL-ROAM-Multisport-Mode-Exit

For those geeks in the crowd, it does not appear they’re using the official/proper ANT+ Extended Display mode specs here, since I was unable to use a Garmin to broadcast to it like with the extended display mode used by them and a handful of others. In further chatting with Wahoo, this is because the extended display spec didn’t meet the full needs of what they wanted to do.

Now before we wrap up this section, note that the RIVAL does support pool swims. Given the current situation, I wasn’t able to get a pool swim in, however, the core metrics including lengths, distance, pace, stroke count, stroke rate, and calories are supported. You can customize the pool size from preset options (e.g. 50m, 25y, etc…), or custom options. It seems to allow a minimum down to 1 yard/meter in length, and a maximum 99m/y in length:

DSC_1434

Notably however, you can also do the same lap-editing as in triathlon mode – but even more extensive with merging of lengths, splitting of lengths, or changing of times. That’s another super cool feature that nobody else really has, though unfortunately again – another super cool feature that won’t likely get as much use given various pool restrictions around the world.

With that, we’ve covered all there is to cover for now in the sports realm of RIVAL. While Wahoo is saying that functions like structured workout support is coming, there isn’t an exact timeframe for that. Hopefully, since much of the underlying code for cycling would already exist in their ELEMNT bike computer series, the timeframes for implementing this (or more simplistic interval workouts) will make it to the RIVAL sooner rather than later.

I’ll attempt to circle back in update posts when major features are added. So with that, let’s dive into accuracy.

GPS Accuracy:

DSC_1438

There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy.  A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road?  Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!

GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities.  I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day.  Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.

Over the years, I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology.  For example, I don’t place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them (I didn’t do that on any of my Wahoo RIVAL activities however, all workouts only had a single device per wrist).  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack.  Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy.

Next, as noted, I use just my daily training routes.  Using a single route over and over again isn’t really indicative of real-world conditions, it’s just indicative of one trail – that’s why I use routes all over the place.  The workouts you see here are just my normal daily workouts.

The Wahoo RIVAL has a Sony GPS chipset, which is the same chipset type that Garmin, Suunto, Polar, and COROS all use. Wahoo doesn’t allow you to change the recording rate, or GNSS type on RIVAL. Thus, it’s always set for 1-second recording with GPS+GLONASS. Therefore, that’s what I used in all my tests. Wahoo says that the watch is capable of Galileo, but they haven’t begun implementation or testing of that yet.

First up, we’ll look at a run or two, then a ride, and then some swim data. For this first run, we’ll start with what should be a pretty dead simple GPS test.  It’s literally a perfectly straight path with virtually no tree cover. It was an interval workout with my wife, and thus we made repeats back and forth along the path. It’s a good test to see how well the watch keeps the track on the path. In this case, it’s compared to the Polar GRIT X, and Garmin Forerunner 745 – both multisport watches. Here’s that data set:

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You can see the RIVAL in teal, and how the majority of the time on this stretch it was either significantly offset from the others, or slightly offset. While hard to see the blue on the GPS overlay below, you can see it’s off in the canal, and in particular, struggled going under the bridge:

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If we look at the 800m section of pathway that we did the majority of our intervals on, you can see the RIVAL was clearly offset much of the time in the canal. While I’m always up for a good canal swim, this one is bordered by free roaming horses, and they crap a lot. This would not be my preference for a canal swim location.

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That said, RIVAL did do better on this other straightaway next to the pony farms. I still wouldn’t swim there though.

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I asked Wahoo about this particular set, as I thought it should have been a pretty easy use case. They said that at this point they haven’t really gotten to the full tuning of the GPS data, and thus they expect to see this improve more, likely cleaning up some of these nuances.

And sometimes, other units get it wrong too. For example, a week or so later there’s this run that started off on this same pathway. You can see that the RIVAL was still off in the canal (this time on the other side of the path, but at least the water is less horsey there). The FR745 was in the horse-crap-canal, and the Polar Grit X was actually on the path.

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But let’s head somewhere else, this time into the forest a bit for a longer loop. This time with the same crew of units, plus also the NURVV running shoe pods. Basically they’ve got GPS on the sides of the shoe clip-on pods.  At a high level, the watches in this data set all look pretty good:

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But zooming in tells a different story. Setting aside the drunk NURVV GPS track, you can see the Wahoo RIVAL GPS track is often off smelling the (now very dead) flowers:

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It’s a pattern that would repeat itself throughout my testing. You can see how it’s constantly offset from the Garmin and Polar tracks, which are near identical.

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Or the same elsewhere in the run:

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Which again, doesn’t mean the others are perfect. You can see some slight wobbles from the Grit X and FR745 here in this section along the lake, but ultimately, the RIVAL had these wobbles far more frequently and far more impactfully than either the Garmin or Polar devices.

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So, let’s switch over to cycling and see how that rolls. And again, at a high level this looks pretty good. For this set I did a route through the forest and main roads, and then dove into a dedicated outdoor cycling track (width of a regular road) for endless loops. Portions of this are well forested.

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To begin, I go under this gigantic set of freeways and train tracks. It’s like the equivalent of a 10-12 lane road once everything is included, stretching over 100m wide with 3-4 different bridges. It’s really tricky for GPS units, and in this case, we can see that 3 out of 4 passes on this the RIVAL did fine, though it struggled a bit underneath. Note that on numerous other times I’ve passed under this bridge I didn’t see any notable issues.

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For this section passing through/past the woods, no issues here for the RIVAL:

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Next, looking at the upper half of the cycle track (which is about 1.5mi/2.4km in length), we see that it’s largely very close. There’s a few times it’s peaking out here and there, but no more than the Karoo 2 is undercutting the corners slightly.

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From a cornering standpoint the FR745 is the most consistently on the road on each corner:

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Same for the lower one. The Rival is the most consistently slightly offset. Largely not notable unless you really zoom in.

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Though, it does occasionally canal dip:

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Which, given its propensity to like going for a swim, maybe we should talk about GPS accuracy in openwater swims? Well, not well. Here’s an openwater swim session from yesterday, with the FR745 on my other wrist also in openwater mode, and then a reference GPS atop a swim buoy floating behind me.

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I’m not sure there’s really any value in zooming in on that one. The FR745 and swim buoy reference unit are almost identical. Scary impressive close actually.

Just in case this might have been a one-off, here’s another openwater swim that I did last week, as part of my mock-triathlon:

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It too showed significant track errors.  In talking to Wahoo about these specific swims, they believe there may be something antenna-wise on my unit. While they acknowledge the other land-based GPS tracks seemed to be about where they expect them, the openwater swim tracks are not at all what they expect.

In fact, one of their engineers even shared a large data set of openwater swims with me – including GPS tracks from this very swim dock, showing quite reasonable openwater GPS accuracy to a swim buy reference GPS (another RIVAL in run mode). Nothing like what I’ve seen above.

It sounds like they may be trying to get me another unit to go freeze my ass off again. Though, I suppose there’s probably not that many people in Europe or much of North America doing openwater swims this time of year (and the RIVAL isn’t yet shipping outside those two realms).

[Update: Exactly one minute after this review published, a Wahoo engineer ding-donged my doorbell to swap out a unit of theirs. They have a few engineers in the Netherlands, and in fact had spent the morning just a few hundred meters away from the DCR Cave freezing their asses off to swim the exact same routes I did, trying to replicate my issues. They couldn’t replicate it, but took my unit, and gave me theirs. They’re going to do a deep-dive into it, and depending on those results, I’ll head back out and become a popsicle again.]

Ultimately, in terms of GPS accuracy, the RIVAL as it stands today (ignoring the openwater issues), is kinda ‘meh’. It’s not as good as anything I’ve seen recently from Garmin, Polar, or COROS – but also isn’t bad either. If they can fix some of the more minor GPS meandering issues through software updates as they believe they can, then it’ll probably end up just like the others. If for no other reason than the fact that it’s likely all the exact same chipset anyway. But as always, software and antenna design play a huge role in overall device GPS accuracy.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Heart Rate Accuracy:

DSC_1321

Next up we’ve got heart rate accuracy.  This roughly falls into two buckets: 24×7 HR, and workout HR.  Unfortunately in the case of 24×7 data, there’s simply no way to validate that this time. Wahoo’s own app doesn’t display that data, and their connection at present to Apple’s HealthKit backend isn’t consistent enough to extract the data out. Thus, for now we’ll focus on the workout only data.

Note that the Wahoo RIVAL uses an optical HR sensor from Philips. It’s been a pretty darn long time since we’ve heard of Philips in this realm. Last time that occurred was back in the Mio days, where Mio licensed the Philips sensor for their initial products – and in fact, then sublicensed that to Garmin for Garmin’s FR225, the only Garmin wearable with a non-Garmin sensor. I’m not aware of any other mainstream wearable to use a Philips sensor since then, though, I do know they have actively been courting companies. I’m sure there are some watches out there with a Philips sensor but it’s just not disclosed.

DSC_1445

Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual.  Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy.  Position, and how the band is worn, are *the most important* pieces.  A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug.  It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts).  You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.

Ok, so in my testing, I simply use the watch throughout my normal workouts.  Those workouts include a wide variety of intensities and conditions, making them great for accuracy testing.  I’ve got steady runs, interval workouts on both bike and running.

For each test, I’m wearing additional devices, usually 3-4 in total, which capture data from other sensors.  Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the Garmin HRM-PRO or Wahoo TICKR X (2020 edition), but also Polar H9) as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the other wrist (lately the Whoop band, Polar OH1 Plus). Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.

We’re going to start with something simple here first, a relatively stable run. This seems like it would be an easy test, though to add a tiny bit of difficulty, I did a 30-second hard interval every mile. The reddish-brown line below is the RIVAL. Aside from the Whoop strap, it’s obviously the one that sticks out the most.

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And ultimately, the above graph is basically RIVAL HR accuracy across a large pile of workouts, in a simple nutshell. It’s not great. It’s not horrific though either. It’s just a step below meh.

If we zoom in on these sets, you can see that anytime I add intensity, the RIVAL optical HR sensor gets confused.

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Let’s switch sports for a second. Here’s an indoor trainer ride on Zwift. Pretty stable for all of it as you can see. And as you’d expect, the optical HR sensor is pretty much consistent with everyone else here.

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However, at the end I decide to throw-down two sprints. Well, one half-sprint (600w), and then one legit sprint (1,000w). You can see on the first one, RIVAL lost the plot but did manage to find it again half-way through (super rare for a sensor). However, on that second sprint, it totally lost it entirely. We can see that the TICKR-X was fastest, and then the FR745 – but then the FR745 lost the plot and the OH1 found the plot. The Whoop was late to the game, but then the RIVAL made a half-hearted belch and ultimately said ‘Nah, we’re good here.’

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So you want an outside ride? Sure, no problem. Rival in blue this time.

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Ok, that was less than ideal. Dance to your own beat or something.

Now I do have this odd set here from a few weeks back, but I think something was up there. Honestly, it’s just too perfect. Seriously, it’s virtually identical to the Polar H9 strap. So my guess is that despite not listing the paired sensors in the file (while the ELEMNT does this, the RIVAL doesn’t), I’m suspicious on this set that it might have paired behind the scenes.

So, let’s look at another set. Here’s a shorter run from last week. This was pretty evenly paced, minus some intervals towards the end. You can see that the RIVAL, in blue, does reasonably well for the vast majority of it, save one big blip, and a few minor blips.

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And it tracks well in the intervals too. My guess is on that first interval below that the HRM-PRO chest strap did some cadence lock or something, as you can see it incorrectly spike high there.

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And here’s another run, this time intervals with my wife. I’d caution though that this isn’t high-intensity intervals for me though, as these cap-out at about my Z2 long-run heart rates. I point that out merely because intensity does matter here for accuracy. We see that for many of the intervals it does well, but it really struggles on the last couple 800’s, plus struggles on some of the sprints.

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Though equally, the FR745 struggled heavily on the 30” sprints here, as easily seen below:

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Note that the Polar Grit X was paired to the Polar H10 chest strap in this case.

As for swimming heart rate? Well, it appears Wahoo has turned that off by default now for openwater swims. It was enabled last week on my openwater swim, but now it’s disabled. Maybe it’ll return. Note that you cannot do offloading of heart rate data from a TICKR strap (or any other strap). It sounds like that too is in the cards, but as noted, there’s a lot of cards on the table to sort and complete.

Ultimately, I’d recommend using another heart rate sensor with the Wahoo RIVAL at this point, as the current optical HR sensor is just too prone to use either in daily non-interval usage, or in interval usage.

Product Comparison:

I’ve added the Wahoo RIVAL into the product comparison database, allowing you to compare it against other products that I’ve reviewed in the past.  For the purposes of below I’ve compared it against the Garmin FR745, Polar Grit X, Suunto 5, and COROS Pace 2. That’s perhaps a motley crew lineup, but it kinda works. One could argue doing COROS APEX instead of Pace 2 for a more polished look, or the Polar Vantage M instead of Grit X, or doing FR735XT instead of FR745 for better price but still more features.

But that’s no problem, you can always make your own charts in the product database.

Function/FeatureWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2020 @ 4:07 pm New Window
Price$379$199$499/499EUR$429$329
Product Announcement DateNov 17th, 2020Aug 2020Sept 16th, 2020Apr 22nd, 2020May 21st, 2019
Actual Availability/Shipping DateNov 17th, 2020Sept 2020Sept 16th, 2020Apr 22nd, 2020Early June 2019
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYes (with Galileo too)YesYes
Data TransferUSB, Bluetooth SmartBluetooth Smart (smartphone)USB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB & Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50m50mYes - 50mYes - 100mYes - 50m
Battery Life (GPS)24hrs GPS (14d standy)30 hours (regular), 60 hours (UltraMax)16hrs GPS, 21hrs UltraTracUp to 100 hoursUp to 40 hours
Recording Interval1-second1-second1S or Smart1sVariable
Quick Satellite ReceptionYesGreatGreatGreatGreat
AlertsAudible, VisualAudio/Visual/VibrationVibrate/Sound/VisualVibrate/Sound/VisualSound/Visual/Vibrate
Backlight GreatnessGoodGreatGreatGreatGood
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoYEsNoNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYesYes
MusicWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Can control phone musicNoNoYesNoNo
Has music storage and playbackNoNoYesNoNo
Streaming ServicesNoN/ASpotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, iHeartRadioNoNo
PaymentsWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNoNoYesNoNo
ConnectivityWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesNoYesNoNo
Group trackingNoNoYesNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoYes (via phone)NoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNoNo
CyclingWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYesYesYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsNoYesYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFYesNP onlyYesNoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoYesTBD Future UpdateNo
Crash detectionNoNoYesNoNo
RunningWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Designed for runningYesYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)No (has built-in accelerometer for treadmill)YesYesYesYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)YesYesWITH RD POD, HRM-TRI, HRM-PRO, OR HRM-RUN (NOT VIA OPTICAL HR)NoNo
Running PowerWith Stryd sensorYes (wrist based + Stryd support)With extra sensorYes (built-in)With extra sensor
VO2Max EstimationNoYesYEsYesYes
Race PredictorNoNoYesNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoYesYesNoYes
Run/Walk ModeNoNoYesNoNo
Track Recognition ModeNoYesYes
SwimmingWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeYeYesYEsYesYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterYesWITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM/HRM-PROYesYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYesYesYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYEsYesYes
Indoor Drill ModeNoVia Drill LogYesNoNo
Indoor auto-pause feature-No (it'll show rest time afterwards though)YesNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYEsYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths0-99y/m15y/m-300y/m14M/15Y TO 150Y/M20M/Y to 250 m/y15m/y to 1,200m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesYesYesyes
Can change yards to metersYesYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsDistanceYesYesN/ANo
TriathlonWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Designed for triathlonYesYesYesYesYes
Multisport modeYesYesYesYesYes
WorkoutsWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Create/Follow custom workoutsNoYesYesYesNo
On-unit interval FeatureNoYesYEsNoYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoYesYesYesYes
FunctionsWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesNo
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoYEsNo (but can give out of zone alerts)No
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoYesNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoNoYesNoNo
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoYesNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoYesNoNo
GeocachingNoNoVia GPS coordinatesNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoNoYesYesNo
NavigateWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoYesYesYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoYesNoYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NONoNoNoNo
Back to startNoNoYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoYesYesYes
SensorsWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometricBarometricGPS
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticN/AN/A
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYesYes
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)NoNoYesNoNo
ECG FunctionalityNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableNoYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesYesYesNoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)YesNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNo (can control VIRB though)NoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)NoNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoYesNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoYesNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYesYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesYesYEs
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableYesYesYEsYesYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoYesYesNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoYesNoNo
SoftwareWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
PC ApplicationN/ANoGarmin ExpressPolar Flowsync - Windows/MacPC/Mac
Web ApplicationN/ANoGarmin ConnectPolar FlowSuunto Sports Tracker Platform
Phone AppiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/AndroidiOS /Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNoNo
PurchaseWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
AmazonLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Backcountry.comLink
Competitive CyclistLink
REILinkLinkLink
WiggleLinkLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerWahoo RIVAL GPS WatchCOROS Pace 2Garmin Forerunner 745Polar Grit XSuunto 5
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink

And again – don’t forget you can make your own product comparison charts comparing any products using the product comparison database.

Summary:

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I’m excited about what Wahoo can do in this space. The journey to get to this point has been many years in the making, well before they truly started working on RIVAL (after all, the Magellan Echo was actually a Wahoo watch). Just as I’m excited to see COROS really finding their stride lately in products. Having competition is good for consumers – just as it was when Wahoo started in earnest with the ELEMNT series a few years back. But it was really the 2nd unit – the Wahoo BOLT, that pushed Garmin into responding. That was a great period of new features and increased benefits for the consumers.

And there are a handful of awesome things about RIVAL. The touchless transitions is cool. Not so much for just going freestyle mid-race, but there in case you forget to press the button in the heat of the moment (or, double-press and need to undo mid-race). That’s great. Even more awesome is the app editor for super-precisely slicing and dicing your triathlon splits to the exact points on the map you want them to. Super cool stuff that nobody else is remotely doing.

However, that doesn’t mean I’d recommend the RIVAL today, not in its current iteration. I think with enough money and developers, we’re probably about 8-12 months away from being able to compete with the likes of Suunto in certain areas (non-battery ones). Another year after that, maybe Polar (…but only if Polar were to randomly stop development, which seems totally unlikely). Garmin? Well, that’s…who knows. After all – all these companies, COROS included, have teams already hot and running, and all developing the next great thing.

And to be clear – this isn’t all about features. Though, one has to remember that while it’s easy to dismiss feature comparisons, the reality is that all of us value different features on different watches. One person’s ‘must-have’ feature is another persons ‘shrug’. That’s ultimately why products with more features do better – they appeal to a broader set of people. Products with less features can instead compete on accuracy, price, or simply brand love. Unfortunately, the RIVAL is easily the least accurate optical HR sensor watch I’ve tested in a while, and GPS isn’t great either. Price-wise, it’s almost double the price of the new (and fairly accurate) COROS Pace 2. Or one can pick up a Garmin Fenix 5 series watch for well under this price these days, which is both more accurate and more full featured. Or Polar…or Suunto…etc.

And yes – I get it, Wahoo’s success in the bike computer market is all about simplicity over features. Polish over bugs. But RIVAL isn’t there today. It’s likely gonna be a while. And unlike a bike computer that you power off after the ride, a watch is on your wrist 24×7. It’s not the same world.

Anyways, like I said – I’m looking forward to seeing where Wahoo goes here, and seeing where they are in 6 months, 12 months, etc… Plus, as they said – they’re building a new product category at the company, not just a single watch.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

If you're shopping for the Wahoo RIVAL GPS Watch or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Thanks!

And finally, here’s a handy list of Wahoo accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though.

Wahoo RPM+SPEED Bundle (Dual ANT+/BLE)

Wahoo SPEED ANT+/BLE Sensor

Wahoo TICKR X (2020 Edition)

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, and also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

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169 Comments

  1. Tizzledk

    I was looking forward to the Rival. A bit disappointed but still glad to see its finally here.

  2. Ilan Levy

    Always good to see a new player in this market.
    A charging puck which should be adopted by Garmin as well.

  3. Casey

    Will read up on it later but didn’t see “peloton’ mentioned anywhere in here. This won’t measure pace and HR into Peloton running via their app / non-branded treadmill, will it?

  4. Maarten

    I think Wahoo has shown to proof themselves as disruptive product improvers. I changed from Polar to Garmin in the past, because while doing more than one sports the product portfolio of Garmin was just more complete. All of this brought together in Garmin connect.
    Now Wahoo adding this to the “Wahoo family”. I assume they will in due time will deliver a minimal viable feature set to be competitive, how will this all be merged in to an “eco-system” like connect or flow?

  5. Good stuff, Ray! Love the message from The Girl, sounds very familiar!

    Also, it should be “marquee feature”.

  6. Sean

    Well, that was a disappointment.

    I was hoping we’d have a section on cow-tipping.

  7. Bart

    Hi Ray – you state “Color 240x240px touchscreen (64 colors) with Gorilla Glass” but then in the text you emphasize that this is not touchscreen device. I suppose the above statement needs to be corrected. Also – I think it is worth mentioning the size of the screen.

    • Definitely not a touchscreen. Thanks for the typo catch!

    • jww

      1.2″ screen, so similar to fenix 5 hardware.

      Would be really tough to go back in time to that “bezel to screen” ratio.

      I don’t understand this product. Sure Wahoo’s VC overlords demand a growth story, but indoor training is white hot so why not instead move to a more frequent refresh schedule on the trainers/connected bike, and double/triple/quadruple down on making Sufferfest more mainstream for the recurring revs?

  8. Why are you comparing to the Suunto 5 and not the Suunto 9?

    Also, I assume they’ll do like with the original ELMENT, that evolved over the first year with FW udpates

    • Because the Suunto 5 is a GPS multisport (triathlete) devices priced at $329 MSRP (compared to $379 for the RIVAL), and most closely matches the features of the RIVAL (though, it still has far more features).

      The Suunto 9 is more closely matched in size/battery/etc to the Fenix 6 series, which isn’t something I compared to the RIVAL too.

  9. Arnold Tuinman

    Wow… That watch did had a long way coming…

    Feels like a missed opportunity to not have a solid offering directly at launch. I was hoping it would be my next sports watch since I’m really happy with the Bolt computer and would like to stay on one app platform. However not having some sort of minimal navigation options or the possibility to listen to podcasts during longer runs is a no-go for me… Guess the Apple Watch 5 (which I only use as a sports watch) needs to stay a bit longer :(

    As always… Enjoyed reading your thoughts… Thanks for that!

  10. ET

    Termed multisport but only swim, bike, and run. Probably better calling it a tri/athlon/sport watch.

    As a minimum I need strength, row, and golf on top of the other three. This is far from a rival to a multisport garmin.

    • Nick

      Hey ET,

      All 3 of those (and many, many more) workout profiles are available to be added to Rival with the ELEMNT companion app. If you wanted, you could even do a strength-row-golf manual multisport workout ;)

  11. Billy P

    Your comments about apple health reminded me I’ve made a few runs at getting that app into a useable dataset with my garmin devices feeding data with almost no success. Has anyone without an apple watch ever gotten anything out of that app? (and does it even work well for apple watch users?)

    • To be fair, I do use it to get Apple Watch data out of Apple Health (using HealthFit as an app).

      But by and large, I’ve got tons of data flowing into Apple Health, and ultimately very little day to day usage for it. Which isn’t to say there isn’t value in it, or tremendous potential for it (such as medical studies). But I remain skeptical that even 1% of the population ever opens it up with any regularity.

  12. Jared

    I’m kind of surprised they didn’t just make an apple watch app and charge something like $50 for it. I’d easily pay that for an app from Wahoo or Garmin that worked well for activity tracking. Then you still have an apple watch for all day stuff.

  13. Giles E

    Surprised and disappointed the tidy workout imports from TrainingPeaks on the ELEMNTs didnt make it at launch. Would be really nice for running too.

  14. Meredith

    Is cow tipping so popular in the Amsterdam area you had to make a profile for it?
    :-)

  15. Scott

    What’s interesting is that this watch was supposed to come out 4-5 years ago. At that point, the (lack of) features wouldn’t have been a deal breaker because things like contactless payment, music, fitness tracking, etc. weren’t ubiquitous. Not so in 2020. Hope they can firmware this into something competitive.

  16. Tuomas Nylund

    “It’s got a barometric altimeter for more accurate power meter data.”
    I think this is supposed to say “more accurate elevation data,” or maybe I’ve misunderstood something about power meters :D

  17. pavel

    Garmin FR 745 – Swimming/RECORD HR UNDERWATER – WITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM/HRM-PRO (NOT WITH OPTICAL HR)

    is that actually right? I thought that you can record HR with optical HR now.

  18. David E.

    I knew something was coming when I saw the IG story on your swim in those miserable conditions yesterday. The only reason you would have put yourself through that was because an embargo on something was about to lift. . . :)

  19. JR

    TomTom never got enough love. I’ve had almost every Garmin, a Suunto, 2 Polars, and and Apple Watch, but none of them came close to the GPS and heart rate accuracy of the TomTom. If only it had a couple of real buttons I’d probably still be using it.

  20. Scott Jones

    Typo…
    “But that doesn’t mean it’s not promising. It is. And one day, it might take some sales from those companies above – undoubtedly. And while Wahoo has along road ahead of them”
    s/b

    “But that doesn’t mean it’s not promising. It is. And one day, it might take some sales from those companies above – undoubtedly. And while Wahoo has a long road ahead of them”

  21. Dan

    Perhaps I missed it in your writeup, but thoughts on build quality? Solid feel? Clicky buttons?

    • Good build quality of the watch itself – no issues there, and seems durable. I’ve whacked it a few times on various hard surfaces and no scratches yet.

      The build quality of the charging puck seems a bit questionable, specifically the small clip-portion that snaps over the top of the watch. I suspect that won’t last long.

  22. Martin

    Thanks for the review, it made it clear that this is not a watch for me.
    I want to applaud the return of the rolling pin photos! I really appreciate them for the size comparisons.

    • Nathan B

      This!

      Would have been useful to see a 935/945 on there as well. I realise they’re not the same price category, but very popular watches.

  23. Steve

    Thanks for the review as ever Ray.

    Seems a bit of a disappointment, but the auto-transitions are pretty cool, as is the manual adjusting of where those points are (same with lap swimming).

    Couple of comments…
    – on your mini-tri, you talk about getting out of your wetsuit, but then later say you left it on due to cold.
    – seems very strange to allow a 1 yard pool, but a max of 99 yard pool. Even a bath is bigger than 1 yard, so that’s pointless, yet in my area of SW London, we have a 100 yard outdoor lido.
    – with this device accepting stryd as a power meter, how does the watch deal with a quick switch from bike to run, or run to bike? When I (incorrectly) originally paired my stryd as a power meter with a Garmin (it works, but you only need to pair as a footpad with the connect iq data field as you’ll know), that caused big issues in tri’s/duathlons. The watch couldn’t transition from one power meter to the other, and especially in duathlons, it’d sometimes never end up connected to the bike power meter at all.

    • Yeah, the manual adjustment is awesome.

      Definitely wore my wetsuit as seen in the picture (and shortly video). Now my text properly matches. :)

      I agree the min/max lengths are weird, but…they are what they are. Most companies have min/max lengths around 9-14 meters/yards. I suspect they’ll deal with that at some point. And there are actually some longer pools than 100 yards. There’s one in Vancouver that’s well known that’s a fair bit higher. Plus that one in South America that one day I ant to get to that’s like a mile or whatever.

      As for power meter handoff, I didn’t have my Stryd fully charged on that tri run – so not sure there. I’ll poke around with it.

    • Steve

      Yep, I also saw your insta story before the article was released. Loved the fact you retained the goggles! Reminded me of my clubmate who holds the marathon record for being dressed as a swimmer.

      Be interested to know how they deal with the stryd v bike power transition. Same with the Coros tbh. If Garmin do release native run power, then it’ll be an interesting thing to handle. I’d argue it’d be better if they actually created a new rpower ant+ feed, as that way with sensor pooling it can be connected to both, but the activity profile allows it to know to only record traditional power on a bike activity, and rpower on a run activity. Leveraging a single “power” feed is going to be tricky to resolve I’d imagine.

  24. Sam

    I don’t mind the shortcomings and the limitation of the watch but that font tho, I would get crazy or sad or miserable or worse watching at this everyday (which seems to be the default font for all wahoo product)

  25. Retzel Orquiza

    Looking forward to structured training while connected to an ANT+ smart trainer. No need for a separate watch or head unit or phone. I do hope they come up with some basic navigation functions on future updates

  26. MartinR

    Competition is great, for consumers! Thank you for your service, Wahoo. ;)

  27. Mr. T

    Honestly. I got bored 1/2 though the review. That not an indictment of Ray…just that the whole product seems “meh”. Wahoo it seems is asking people to pay $180 more than COROS Pace2 which has arguably more features on the hope that it will improve to its value. That is a tough ask….probably less tough because it’s an established company. But still.

    Basic stuff like not having an alarm seems to make no sense or no way to see 24/7 HR.

    I get they are getting into a new area but with this time. But I hoped for more of a splash than a dipping toe into the water.

  28. ‘No courses/routing/navigation/compass support’

    Same with the Corus – am I the only one that runs in unfamiliar places?

    • Giles E

      Not at all, and quite a surprise given the native Kommoot / RWGPS / Strava Routes integration of their bike computers being a key part of their success, due to the simplicity of the sync to a “it just works” kinda thing.

    • Pavel Vishnyakov

      I wish they tweaked their third-party (for me specifically – Komoot) integration to have two independent toggles – one for downloading courses and the other one for uploading workouts.
      I’m always annoyed that after every ride I have to go to Komoot and manually delete that ride, but cannot just disconnect it because I use it to plan all my routes.

      Send a feature suggestion to Wahoo a while back – but no updates.

    • Wahoo Murray

      Pavel, in the companion app go into the auto upload settings and you can disable it for specific sites.

    • Pavel Vishnyakov

      I can do that but but I will also lose an ability to DOWNLOAD routes from that service.
      I use Komoot as a route planning tool, so I would like to be able to download routes from it and at the same time not upload my rides to it.

  29. Sebastien

    Very happy to discover your in-depth review as always, my go to place before buying any device.

    Mainly cyclist and occasional triathlete, I have been using Garmin 935 for few years now, and Wahoo Elemnt bike computer.
    At the beginning syncing devices together, and with Strava was automatic, BUT Garmin started to play alone in banning third parties apps, forcing us to manually upload every single activity not recorded with a Garmin device…making it very painful to say the least! Like we are not busy with other things.
    Plus, can’t really use Garmin tri features without a Garmin bike computer which battery life is too short, and not as easy to use as Wahoo… now I am very unhappy!

    Strava Live segment is available on Wahoo Elemnt so it is not really a cons, but yes the other metrics like sleep and other in-depth data need to become available.

    But, I can’t stress enough, that after years of being treated by disdain from Garmin (no your plastic watch is not cheap and can’t even be repaired; my HR sensor imploded after few months…), I can’t wait the day to say goodby to Garmin for good!

    Sorry Garmin, but you don’t deserve to be put on a pedestal, and this is what happen when you treat your anger your customers.

    Welcome Rival!

  30. Brian

    I might be guessing wrong here but it sure seems like Wahoo wants to get “a product” out for the Christmas buying season with the hope they’ll backfill alot of these features later. No sale for me, my 945 is a far superior product.

  31. Hello Ray, thanks for the review, interesting to read, as always!

    One question, though: is there the option to have a “altimeter lock” on during exercise? I’m really getting frustrated over my Garmin Instinct, as this behaves really weird during exercises (or outside, for that matter):
    * finishing with 50m altitude difference on a 5k run
    * having a totally different altitude after sleeping
    * weird altitude profile when cycling through tunnels (they go occasionally about 100m below sea-level here)

    What data is made available from the barometer? A trend of the last 24/48/… hours? Does the watch switch between altimeter- and barometer-mode? My Suunto Traverse was spot-on (you could also configure one sport as “barometer-only”, like sea-kayaking) for this and air pressure/altimeter is becoming one of the most important metrics for me. I really can live with less accurate GPS or pulse-data.

    Thanks!

  32. Patrick

    I’m just here for the comments. I promise to wear a mask and keep 1 meter / 6 feet away.

  33. Dave Lusty

    Any idea how much storage is in there? That would give a nice indication as to whether they could implement certain features like apps or music, given sufficient development. Wahoo have a history of long support from what I can see so it would be reassuring if they didn’t play the garmin trick of artificially limiting things to allow for future replacements. Garmin once “upgraded” the Fenix from 32MB to 64MB (I think!) to allow for larger ConnectIQ apps when they could easily have dropped 16GB in to enable mapping. The number of times Garmin have played the “unfortunately that model doesn’t have x so can’t get this new feature” game is crazy, and not for justifiable things being missing.
    sorry that turned into a bit of a rant! any idea how big the storage is? does it connect as USB storage on a PC?

    • Dave Lusty

      That’s disapointing. I feel like just measuring in MB in 2020 they’ve already taken a huge wrong turn. It would add pennies to have made that 1GB which would have given all kinds of options for firmware upgrades. As it is this watch’s potential is limited to Fenix 3 territory which by today’s standard is pretty limited. I really hope they do good things, but the time to market and this spec suggests otherwise.

    • David W

      The whole reason I don’t use the Wahoo Roam bike computer is because it has too little map memory. I can’t even load the maps for the TWO US states that I am in all the time (CA and AZ) at the same time. Seems like a huge oversight. Especially since my Garmin 1030, Stages Dash, and even Garmin FR945 have at least the maps for the entire US. I would hope that they learned something and added more memory to the Rival.

  34. klaus

    Hi,
    is this watch android based like the element cycle computer?

    When you connect the watch to your computer over USB is it connected as USB-Disk-Device or MTP-Device?


    Now you could stop swimming in the cold water. Or want you to continue and be more cool than desfit who did the swim test in warm water ;-).

    • android:dont know
      USB: yes and the \daily folder has the fit files in
      also there is native dropbox integration with the wahoo platform to achieve a similar effect

    • JF

      Getting files out via USB without the cloud is huge in my books. Hopefully they will also support uploading routes via usb storage too if/when they supporr routes.

  35. Waiting that they finally open their API (which is in work since months – or at least a year) to sync with Runalyze. interesting watch in a highly competitive market.

  36. Howard j LEE

    i LOVE this write up…..thanks

  37. Barry D

    Initially got worried I should have held off in buying a new watch when I saw the Wahoo e-mail, but relieved with my choice of Coros Pace 2 that has more features, better accuracy and most importantly a heck of a lot cheaper. Phew.

  38. fneu

    Looks like the pictures/weights of Polar Grit X and Garmin Fenix 6 Pro are switched.

  39. Donnie Barnes

    Hate that charging puck. I really think they could have distinguished themselves here with a side-clip that would allow for reasonable charging while still wearing for those doing ultra-long events. But I’m guessing the next iteration (or maybe one more) of Solar from Garmin will end up owning that space for a long time. *shrug*

    • Nick

      24 hour battery life with GPS seems very reasonable. I’m sure there are longer events but making hardware decisions targeting that level of niche isn’t going to happen.

  40. JD

    Geez, where were you that you could lock up your bike like that (with gear!) and go for a run?
    I would have looked for a gully in the woods and buried everything in leaves.
    Or were you just running laps around that pole. :)
    .

  41. Felipe Serra

    Swap the image of Polar Grit X with Garmin Fenix 6 Pro and everything will be ok. :)

  42. Jamee Mikell

    Another Wahoo product with too many vowels for a Wahoo product. Maybe that’s part of the problem? 🤣

  43. Bruce Burkhalter

    “and even a high crimes story I’ve got for another day”

    Please post this soon! Very interested to hear it!

    Given the long road Wahoo has in front of them, how do you feel about their commitment and team to implement a lot of the stuff on your “No..” list? They have certainly done it with the ELEMNT line but there sure is a lot of work to do for RIVAL.

    • Definitely.

      I actually wrote it almost a year ago. Never published it at the time. But definitely plan to here shortly. Just want to do a quick follow-up on a few of those loose ends. It’s a fascinating story.

    • David W

      About a year ago I asked a person at Wahoo how many software developers are assigned to each product (I was whining about the lack of Kickr Bike firmware updates at the time). I was told that it was, in general, 1 or 2. With the Rival being new I would hope it was a bigger number than 1 or 2. But even if it is 10 or 20 it will take a long time to add all of the missing features.

  44. Oscar P

    When reading the review it’s almost like the Rival was thought of being a race-only watch. I’d welcome something like that at expense of all the other smartwatch features but if it focused on a slimmer build, solid accuracy, ease of use (love those auto transitions), durability and a lower price point.

    Te highlights of the Rival seem to me like features that others could implement via software. Or am I missing something? Maybe they needed Wahoo to push up these features on their priority list.

    Looking forward to racing, like their ad says, and “Never Lose Focus” because of the watch.

    • GLT

      +1

      It is understandable they are hitting the one-watch-does-most mark at this trim level, but it may be getting crowded there. One or two innovations between two competing models may not be enough to outweigh ecosystem advantages. That being said, doing more interesting things with the on-device interfaces and allowing the final commit of the data to be post-activity are welcome additions.

  45. Gonzalo

    It looks like a fénix

  46. DLinLV

    Sorry. You lost me with the lack of Oreo comparison size photo. Tho, Cow Tipping tracking is huge. Like to see Curling stats added next.

    Might still consider this as a backup, if I catch it on a good sale.

    • The Rules state that the Oreo can only be utilized when the watch size is equal to the the surface area of the Oreo. Otherwise, it must remain in the closet until the time is right. In this case, the surface area of the Rival is not a match for the Oreo.

  47. DS1

    I see that the GPS does not map as accurately as others, but is its actual distance measurement also off? Or is this just a “pretty maps” concern?

    • Mike

      In the GPS Accuracy section of the RIVAL review, if you click on this link link to analyze.dcrainmaker.com you’ll see the raw data.

      If you scroll right to the bottom, you’ll see the Karoo distance is 23.74 km, Garmin FR745 is 23.72 km, and Wahoo RIVAL is off by just shy of a tenth of a kilometer over this distance, reading high at 23.81 km.

    • GLT

      If you see a scenario that reminds you of one of your routes then deep-diving into Ray’s published stats can be helpful.

    • Indeed, one of the the reasons I almost never talk about end-state distance unless something is horrific, is that it’s super misleading.

      As Robert Chung used to always point out for power meter testing, you can be wrong 100% of the time, and still get the average right. That’s the case with distance too. If it undershoots and overshoots constantly, it can actually still be correct on distance, but in all the wrong ways. That has implications for things like Strava Live Segments, but also just simple GPS pacing too.

    • giorgitd

      ‘…you can be wrong 100% of the time, and still get the average…’ *right*? Was that a typo?

    • Grr…right is right. :)

  48. Michele Brussa

    Hi, thx for (always first and best) review.
    No custom workouts? No map? No kickr control (erg workout programmed)? All things that Wahoo can improve via software but…processor could work in the future? For now… is RIVAL a sport watch for who doesn’t train?

  49. Mark Pitts

    I wish companies would just drop wrist-based heart rate from serious sports watches. Every manufacturer feels compelled to check the box for 24-hr rate, but what’s the point if the data is garbage?

    In other news: the Elemnt Bolt is the only thing left with a black and white screen. Will we see an updated Bolt soon?

    • Brian

      I long for a device without the OHR “wart” on the back. The original Vivoactive had a terrific slim profile but that model/look has totally been abandoned. I don’t get it.

  50. Che

    At.Long.Freaking.Last.

  51. Luke T.

    The rolling pin has finally returned! 👌

  52. Ok Kid

    It looks like a Fenix….

  53. JF

    Thanks for the write-up. I think you’re a bit harsh, I like a lot what I see.

    I still use a Polar V800 but unfortunately the battery is reaching EOL, so I’be been looking at the newest Polar watches, only to realize that they still lack some basic things, like displaying averages when you hit the lap button. They developped all these lifestyle features at the expense of basic core functionality. Apparently I’m not the only one feeling that way.

    So Wahoo’s approach is kind of refreshing.

    It would be good to know in more details what data the watch can display (could I finally get 1min avg power with my Stryd ???) and again, basic stuff like what data you get when hitting the lap button, or if you can show last lap data (you can’t on the new Polar anymore except for the V2). Getting fit files via USB, without the cloud, is huge as well if confirmed.

    Final judgement pending finding a manual to get those details and pending roadmap re route support, which I occasionally need, but I do like the “back to basics” thing and I hope they’ll stick to it and not bow to the lifestyle features sirens.

    And regarding replacing my v800, it’s sad to see that so far my best option is to pay 190 eur to get the battery changed, rather than getting a new model.

  54. morey

    Just curious- What data fields do you select for “Cow Tipping”?

  55. Chappo

    Hi DCR, looks like the Polar Grit X and Garmin Fenix 6 Pro pics are mixed up in the weight comparison.

  56. Andras

    Hi Ray, my wife uses the garmin watch alert in silent mode, so she can wake up without waking me up and sometimes for other stuff as a reminder:)
    Maybe i missed in your review, can we download the data from the watch without cloud/phone app, only via usb?

    • Yup – USB access still there for direct .FIT file access.

    • Dan

      I wake every morning to a silent Garmin watch vibration — wakes me but not my wife. Apparently that’s my 1% feature (as Ray put it).

    • “Apparently that’s my 1% feature (as Ray put it).”

      Yup – and that’s the main takeaway here. It’s easier to have less 1% features on a bike computer, because people don’t have it on their body 24×7 using it. It becomes more challenging the more time someone spends with a device. It’s also more challenging the more multi-purpose a device is. For a bike computer, it just has to be good at being…a….bike computer.

      Whereas this has to be good at being a run companion, swim companion, cow-tipping companion, etc…

      I’m optimistic Wahoo will get to a competitive standpoint in some price points, but I think we won’t see that for 8-12 months.

    • Yanick

      Hi Dan,

      Same for me using the vibrating alarm from Garmin to wake up but not everyone in th e house.

      Your not the only one.

  57. Nick

    I read this today after having just packaged up my Fenix 5+ to return to Garmin following hardware issues. In the past 12 years I’ve had 1 Garmin bike computer and 3 Garmin watches, all of which have broken down on me. I’ve had no such problems with the Wahoo bike computer and my TomTom was flawless until I foolishly upgraded to the Fenix. The comparison to the TomTom is interesting as it was the lack of features there that pushed me to upgrade (particularly in the swimming department). Non-sports features (sleep/step tracking, contacless payments, ugly custom watch faces, pointless apps etc) are of zero interest to me and from my experience with the Bolt I’m really confident they’ll roll out plenty of software upgrades. But the poor GPS accuracy kills this for me. Maybe it can also be improved with new software but I don’t see how you can release something that doesn’t nail its main function. I’ll wait for the next one and then I’ll happily ditch Garmin’s junk again.

    • David W

      I don’t know if you can count only your personal experience for determining reliability. I had a Garmin 800 that failed twice. However, my old 500, my 1030, and my FR945 watch have been perfect. And Garmin replaced the 800’s even though they were out of warranty. I also have a Wahoo Elemnt and two Bolts. The Elemnt has been perfect, both Bolts were replaced for screen failures. Wahoo also had great customer service on this. Without data from a larger sample of people I don’t think that you can make any blanket statement about reliability. I care more about customer service if you are one of the unlucky ones. So far both Garmin and Wahoo have been great for me.

    • Alex Masidlover

      More anecdata… I have had; 3 FR60’s broken straps/water ingress failures, FR305 – unit came apart while strapped to handlebars and was crushed by following car, Virb Elite – no longer charges, Edge 520 – usb connector fail, Varia Radar – button failure, footpod now generating sporadic random numbers, 310 XT 0 hardware going strong but required a reset every month when an activity corrupted and it then refused to start BUT HR Strap still going strong!

      Wahoo Elemnt now 2 years old and have had no issues (yet) and Ambit3 now 5.5 years old and hardware and firmware have been completely reliable (although the rest of Suunto’s ecosystem and their poor communication mean its highly unlikely I’ll buy another Suunto product).

      So I’m very interested in the Wahoo RIVAL, however, I’ll only buy once it has all the features that I actually use regularly (navigation and structured workouts being the key gaps) – I watched a lot of people get burnt expecting Suunto to make the Spartan (aptly named!) series and then S series a more modern version of the Ambit by releasing firmware updates to add the missing features…

      I do find it a bit concerning a) that the RIVAL has been rumoured for years (including with that name) and thus I assume under development, but has come out with so few features and b) that there isn’t a roadmap (when other Wahoo devices have had development roadmaps published).

    • chris benten

      I have a Fenix 3 that has given me 0 issues…other than broken bands. I do wish I had purchased the Sapphire version…if they had one then. the newer ones have not been compelling to me. I dislike optical HR as it does not work well enough…inaccurate during cycling and sucks the life out of the battery.

      I have even thought about bringing my F2 out of retirement but it needs a new battery.

    • Nick

      Sure. I realise this is just my experience here and I labeled it as such. I’ve given them money 4 times and every time I’ve been stung. My personal experience is 100% unreliable but I guess that’s just really bad luck. To be fair they didn’t kick up any fuss when returning the fenix but that thing did cost a lot of money. It sucks I’m without a watch for who knows how long. Apparently they don’t have much refurbished stock to give out for replacements right now.

  58. Alberto

    No alarms: Need no to apply.
    No structured workouts: Need no to apply

  59. rmann

    What do you mean when you say ‘maybe Polar (assuming Polar stopped developing entirely)’?
    I was thinking to get a Vantage M/V/V2 on black friday sale, but your comment makes me think otherwise. Do you mean polar is gonna shut its ship or something? Kindly explain?

    • Dave Lusty

      I think he just meant that Polar are moving forwards all the time so Wahoo could only catch them up if they stopped, which they probably won’t.

    • Dave is correct on my intention there. And also, I can see how that wording might be slightly confusing. I’ll tweak it slightly to be more clear.

      But yeah – my main point is that all their competitors have teams already dedicated and working on their respective product lines – so it’s not as if anyone is standing still. Now, to Wahoo’s credit here, I did specifically ask if the RIVAL team was standalone (as Wahoo typically shares resources like bumblebee soccer for whatever project is hot in the hopper), and they noted that while it was all hands on deck to get this out the door (totally common at any company), that the wearables division was now a dedicated thing with dedicated resources.

    • rmann

      hey DC RainMaker, thank you for clarifying this. I need your advise. With my limited budget U I was thinking of getting a Vantage M, however, the muscle load feature and recovery pro are missing in it. Is it worth to spend another 100 to 150 quid and get Vantage V. Can you comment on usability of muscle load like is it useful as an indicator towards possible future injuries etc. Asking as it is measurement is taken from wrist based data?

  60. Andrew M

    This product is an obvious fraud.

    Too many vowels in Rival to be a genuine Wahoo product.

  61. … Remember CompuTrainer? Yup – Wahoo was the legit ‘CompuTrainer Killer’… I am afraid NOT- Still waiting for someone to develop pedaling dynamics/SpinScan for the Wahoo.

  62. Jelle De Bock

    Indeed, non-competing set of features, but competing price point 😉. But it’s wahoo and I am pretty sure they’ll nail this one as well. Remembers me of the days with their original Elemnts which became more feature rich over time until the point they were where they are now.

  63. Puk

    How do you manage to get such a precise gps track with the Garmin 745?
    Are you using gps + glonass or galileleo? And is there anything else to get a more accurate gps track?

    I’m having a Garmin 645 and the gps is always, like 5-15 meters next to the road. Is it’s gps chip so much worse than the 745 or am I missing something?

  64. Pavel Vishnyakov

    Hi Ray,
    thanks for the review, it’s always nice to see a new competitor there. And the idea of being able to edit a multi-sport workout BEFORE uploading is nice. Though Wahoo experience with third-party services is a bit disappointing.
    I have a couple of question:
    1. Do you know if there will be a quick release mount for this? Considering that Wahoo is marketing this initial release to triathletes, it looks like an omission.
    2. The “extended display support” – is it ANT+ Extended Display (i.e. can I use my Wahoo bike computer as an external display for a Garmin watch) or just some proprietary tech?
    3. You mentioned that it’s possible to add fields by pressing two lower buttons. But can you remove fields (similar to how you do it on ELEMNT series via zoom in / zoom out buttons)?

    • Thanks Pavel-

      1) No quick release mount for this that I’m aware of, though, I’ve gotta believe it’d be plausible for someone to develop one. On one hand, I could see how given Wahoo’s focus on this being a triathlon watch, they’d want to develop one themselves to further that ideology. However, instead, they seem to be saying that it’s just better to use a Wahoo bike computer with it for a triathlon (which, to be fair, I don’t disagree with). Of course, affording both isn’t plausible in all cases.

      2) No, doesn’t appear to be using the ANT+ Extended Display Spec best I can tell. For example, when I toss it into multisport mode, and then point a Garmin FR745 at it searching for ANT+ Extended Display sensors, it doesn’t find anything. Shame. That said, they are doing some minor stuff beyond the ‘norm’ here where they’re also feeding the Di2/eTAP/Varia sensor data back to the RIVAL for .FIT file recording. It won’t show up on the watch, but it’s being stuffed into the file at least. I don’t know the ANT+ Extended Radar spec well enough to know whether that’s plausible with extended properties (my guess is yes, since you can do just about anything in the extended data bits).

      3) Yes, both add and remove. I demo it in the video starting around the 2:40ish marker or so, during the hands-on section.

      Cheers!

    • Pavel Vishnyakov

      I understand that sometimes the standard is limiting but on the other hand – it’s a standard which is used by other players. Right now, Extended Display is one of the features that slowly drives me towards donating my Wahoo ELEMNT to my parents and buying a Garmin bike computer.

  65. Just as a heads up to folks, I’ve added a bit more detail this morning on some of the ELEMNT/ROAM/BOLT connectivity bits, specifically around piping in Di2/eTAP/Moxy/Varia data to RIVAL, as well as around how those units work in concert for Strava Live Segments, BestBikeSplit, and mapping/routing.

    It’s in the sport section, or, you can just search for the word Tinder to find it quickly on this page.

    • Pavel Vishnyakov

      This is actually how I want Extended Display to behave – not simply mirror my watch, but be an extra display for it so I could have one set of metrics on the bike computer and another one on the watch (and do data piping so I don’t have to pair all my bike electronics to multiple devices at the same time).

  66. mikhail

    Nothing for me. Im waiting for new Suunto watch with Snapdragon 4100. Any info?

  67. Theo WIssen

    ‘Yes, Wahoo is launching their first multi-sport GPS watch, definitely gonna buy it!!!’. That was my first reaction as a big fan of Wahoo stuff. The watch also looks great with those huge buttons on the side.
    Then I went through your review and was flabbergasted that uploading GPX routes is not possible. Do a lot of (trail)running in unfamiliar places and cities and I always use a downloaded GPX file for that. Must admit that I’m a bit disappointed. For now Its a deal breaker for me. Hopefully there will be a future software update that makes uploading routes possible.

  68. David E.

    As a triathlete who regularly hits the wrong buttons in transition, I have to say that the Touchless Transitions thing is a cool and genuinely innovative feature. I don’t know enough to know whether this is a hardware- or a software-enabled feature. Is this the type of thing that Garmin tells a team of programmers to go implement, or will they be hamstrung by their hardware from doing so? I know my Whoop is actually really good at recognizing different activities. I assume that the Rival is using similar technology to tell when I’m swimming and when I’m biking or running. And I further assume from this that this isn’t actually all that complex a function to implement. Wahoo just thought to do it. Tl;dr: is there anything stopping Garmin from saying, “Nice feature you got there, Wahoo. Here it is on all of our watches, too”?

  69. Sparts

    I can’t think of any good reason to buy this.
    That’s a pity as competition is always welcome.

    Plus, it looks dated compared to other brands.

  70. Sparts

    Actually, having gone through the detailed review, this is an incredibly poor offering and you have to wonder why they even bothered to bring it to market.

    Seriously, if you gave me this for free, I’d still not use it.

    • GLT

      Ray’s reviews are comprehensive enough that the existing gaps are hard to ignore. Wahoo will definitely need to follow in behind the hardware release with updates. They seem to have an okay record for doing on the cycling side in the past.

      As far as timing goes the upsides of waiting for the feature set to be fully baked would be at the cost of missing holiday buying while Coros continues to build base. I suspect there will be more than a few KICKR owners that get one as a gift from their family. During the winter months it will remind them they have Wahoo in the pain cave, and the missing bits may start showing up by the time the weather improves.

  71. Florin

    Thank you for your review Ray.

    Is good to see that we have another player for sports watches on the market, maybe they will also manage to be competitive.
    For me this watch is very similar with Fenix 3 HR in 2020.

    Maybe Wahoo wants only to test the industry and not to have profits on this segment at this time. At this price I’m not sure how many people will buy this watch.

  72. Road Badger

    I am an unapologetic Wahoo fanboy with more Wahoo than a Wahoo showroom – we’re talking KICKR/Climb/Headwind/Bolt/TickrX.
    Furthermore I wrote to Wahoo a couple of years ago begging them to release a watch and pledging to buy it immediately if they did – I’ve been suffering with a G****n (Garmin) 235 which is basically so utterly useless I have resorted to running with an iPhone in my hand or a bike computer in my pocket.

    The point of this lengthy pre-amble is to make clear that if even someone like me is so disappointed by Wahoo’s watch offering that they are not going to consider buying it, Wahoo have got this badly wrong. I was shocked and bewildered by the review and the lack of features.
    How can there be no navigation?! Wahoo nailed this 5 years ago, surely just port the ELEMNT Bolt navigation onto the watch?! WHY oh why waste space and money on a worthless wrist HRM? Anyone dropping this money on a running watch owns a chest HRM. Why the narrow focus on triathletes, that’s so niche and alienates your standard issue runner.

    I am just so surprised and disappointed by this.

    PS Does anyone want to buy a Garmin 235 it’s amazing honesty 😬

    • David E.

      Well, if they focused this watch on “your standard issue runner,” that would be a first for Wahoo. They’re a cycling and triathlon company. You can say that they need to expand what they are, but they’ve never shown any inclination to deviate from that cycling focus and it seems to be working out ok for them. I’d suggest that also explains the absence of mapping on the watch. They’re counting on most cyclists/triathletes to have a separate bike computer that will always have superior mapping than the tiny screen of a watch. I’m a triathlete, and I quite literally have *never* used the mapping on my Garmin watch. I won’t be getting the Rival right away. I’m a fan of waiting for the second generation of any product, but the Touchless Transitions thing is the first useful innovation for triathletes on a watch that I can think of in a long time.

  73. Nathan B

    This appears to be a monumental fail!

    I’m looking to upgrade my 935 to something with pay and music, and was hoping the rumoured Wahoo watch would let me get out of the Garmin Eco-system. It does not. This is would be a huge step backwards from the 935!

    It looks like Wahoo have rushed to get a watch out, and simply don’t want to/haven’t yet built a software-as-a-service back end. This explains the lack of sleep tracking, step counting etc, as they’d need an upgrade to their entire platform to keep track of it a la Garmin Connect.

    I understand that.

    What I don’t understand is making the *big feature* about your watch that you don’t need to press buttons between transition… but it’s not accurate enough to get it right (from here and Des Fit’s video), so you’ve got to press *more* buttons to manually correct it to where it needs to be after the fact.

    I have never understood why Garmin and other companies don’t just use sensors? Press the button to get out of the water (or use the barometric sensor) to start T1, then end it when the power or cadence sensor starts broadcasting. Do the same for T2, and pick up the footpod which i realise not everyone has but more of a reason for Garmin to sell them.

    Finally the lack of basic things such as an alarm (which I use vibrate every morning so as to not wake the wife) is beyond me. This is basic and just lazy from a dev point.

    (Posted on YT for the algorithm… and here for the SEO perks for the site ;) )

  74. Mark

    Hey sorry if covered. When you say Quarterly releases (hopefully) do you mean software updates for existing hardware? Thanks

  75. RODRIGO ALVAREZ

    Impressive and super detailed analysis, thanks a lot!!!! I have added you to my bookmarks

  76. David Pokluda

    I actually like what I’m seeing. I like the fact they don’t blindly copy what Garmin is doing and instead concentrate on specific audience/scenario (in this case triathlon). I think I am sold on that.

    Looking at the features it seems it has all I need for my triathlon training except one thing that I am not sure if that is covered or not. Let’s say my training asks for the following run:

    WU: 10min easy run
    Main: 10x (1min fast with 1min recovery)
    CD: 10min easy run

    Can this type of training be achieved with the watch? I was trying to look for ELEMNT Rival manual but I didn’t find it anywhere. Ray, would you know?

    Thank you. Good review.

    • Stephen Thomas

      User manual link to wahoofitness.com

      Claims it can load a “planned workout” but it’s not clear if that’s just for cycling or if running is supported as well.

    • Yeah, that’s just an incorrect copy/paste from the regular ELEMNT manual. Mostly because there are two buttons on the left, so one would logically say upper left or lower left. In this case, that feature most definitely doesn’t exist on the RIVAL today. Probably sometime early next year.

      As for David’s question with structured training, what you’re looking at today means you’d need to remember those steps in your head, and then could use the lap button to separate them out. But there’s no structured training functions today in RIVAL.

    • David Pokluda

      Thank you Stephen and Ray. You guys answered my question, thanks.

  77. Robert

    Does their app actually say “Utitlity Analog”?

    Gawd. Some QA there.

  78. Tom Kaufman

    I love how so many of these comments — as well as the comments on YouTube — validate Ray’s point about the 1% feature issue. “Gotta have bread crumbs.” “Who uses bread crumbs?” “Silent alarms totally unnecessary.” “My wife and I use silent alarms all the time.” “Who needs wrist-based heart rate monitoring?” “Who needs payments?” “How can you not have payments in 2020.”
    And on, and on. The 1% list will grow until Ray caps the comment feature. All of which are 100% valid comments, of course (and I have my own 1% items as well).
    I’m as disappointed as anyone about this release. That said, like many of the other geeks on this thread, I also recognize the limits of a small dev team. You’re a small company with a couple of devs going against a billion dollar beast. And that’s just on the software side; Garmin’s component purchasing power must be several orders of magnitude larger as well (which in turn impacts what you can do with software).
    So, yes, I’m disappointed Garmin won’t have a real competitor for a while. But I also feel for a dev team fighting it out as an underdog (been there, done that). I don’t feel for them enough to buy the watch because it doesn’t meet my 1% needs, and will instead keep using a 945 and AW4. But I’ll be rooting for the little guy, and hope they can iterate quickly enough that they end up with something at least remotely competitive before the finance side tells them to pull the plug.
    Thanks, Ray, great job as always.

    • inSyt

      So features like courses and breadcrumbs (thought I will never need those but they now my 1%) might be difficult and time consuming to code, but an alarm app? Also, why did they not use Firstbeat to add in some physiological features? A triathlon watch in 2020 with no v02max?

    • Stephen Thomas

      Probably because Garmin now owns Firstbeat and I somehow doubt they would license it to Wahoo on reasonable terms.

  79. hey Ray, a quick info point to those that are interested and then a question please.

    1. running power is shown in the lap data in the wahoo app.

    Wahoo clearly wants us to use this in conjunction with a bike computer. Therefore the acceptance is that this is the primary device for running and swimming and must do those well. I appreciate the device does not currently pair to footpods and in your table you say it is not footpod compatible

    Question

    2. Is the lack of footpod compatibility a hardware thing or a firmware thing and if the latter when might it be enabled (I would hope/assume the latter)

    thank you.

  80. Lodewyk

    Thanks fantastic review! Answered all the questions I had around the Rival

  81. I deeply respect Ray’s work and truly value his viewpoint. I read every word of this review and watched his video closely. Same goes for GP Lama and Desfit, who both provided solid video reviews of the Wahoo Rival. But even with all of this high-quality coverage, I felt like an important part of the story was missing. It wasn’t until I read the5krunner’s post entitled “Wahoo RIVAL Review | Watch out Garmin | New Triathlon Competitor” that I got the missing angle. I’m not going to summarize that post in this comment, you should read it for yourself. The thing is, if you take in all of this coverage and read all of the comments, you come away thinking Wahoo has committed product-release suicide. I don’t think that happened here. Wahoo is smart, cunning, nimble, and innovative. Before you close the book on the Rival, go read T5KR’s review. Then come back here and read Ray’s next post, because it will certainly be valuable, informative, and entertaining.

    • Tj

      I read the tfkr article but am still not clear on the missing piece you refer to. Future updates? Integration with their existing lineup? If I was to update my watch (coming from a Garmin), the coros pace seems like the best value proposition for a stand alone training watch (for me), and nothing said here or on tfkr about the Rival gives it a leg up.

  82. Janneman

    First 5 years of Wahoo DC Reviews = Innovative company taking on the big guys
    last 5 years of Wahoo DC Reviews = Wahoo lost their minds

    Would love to see more encouragement from you to promote new entrants into the market opposed to bashing. I’m a Wahoo fanboy and am encouraged to see someone taking on the Garmin behemoth as an “ecosystem” company.

    I’m also a CANYON Fanboy (Freakin frame cracked in the same spot 4 times)
    An Apple Fanboy (Yes I had the iPhone 4 that had the grip of death)

    The last while everything Wahoo is sub par or doomed?

    I guess Wahoo is barely reaching adolescence (10 years I believe?) as a fanboy I believe the next 10 years might be amazing.

    Anyway, will continue to enjoy the rest of your reviews other that anything Wahoo.

    Love, Cape Town. SA

    • I’m not really sure that’s super accurate.

      Ultimately though, I don’t write reviews for fanboys (don’t take that the wrong way, I’m speaking generally). I call it like it is, when things suck and when they’re great – including for Garmin, over and over. And I think in the last roughly 18 months, Wahoo has missed the mark more compared to prior to that point. I don’t think 18 months = 5 years.

      And there’s also products in the last 18 months I’ve liked – such as the new TICKR/TICKR X series. So again, not super accurate.

      However, aside from those media organizations that are trying to get advertising dollars from Wahoo, almost every review of RIVAL was some variant of ‘Meh’. Some independent reviewers beat around the bush a bit more, but ultimately, mostly meh.

      I agree, Wahoo can do amazing things. And has done amazing things. But I’m also not sure why I need to pretend to think something is super well executed on launch day, when it’s clearly not yet ready. Just not my style.

      Cheers.

  83. Great review!

    I’m amazed you used such a flimsy cable lock to lock your bike to the post. Almost half a million bikes get stolen each year in the Netherlands…..

    • I certainly wouldn’t leave it there all day. But mid-day on a weekday, for basically 10 mins in the swim (with plenty of triathletes around), and then another 15 mins on the run (still triathletes around), at a place that’s only accessible by walking or bike in the middle of the forest on a lake. Likely pretty safe.

      Also – I actually left a camera recording attached to it, with the red light blinking. I’m not sure if that helped or hurt, but that’s what I did. ;)

  84. João Cravo

    Hey Rey, during the review you said:

    “Wahoo has long gotten props for their customization of data fields via the app – and it’s true, it’s definitely good. On the flipside, you can’t customize data fields or sport modes mid-workout on the device itself. One of these days companies from both sides of that divide will allow us to do both, depending on our preferences”

    Do you think that Garmin will allow that customization in the phone app sometime in the near future?

    Thanks

    • Eventually. They do allow it on some Vivo devices (low-end). And we saw them add data-field sync/import for their newer Edge devices this summer. So it seems to be babysteps.

      Obviously, Garmin’s issue is that they’ve got a massive swath of legacy devices (we’re realistically talking something like 100+ different models across fitness/outdoor divisions over the years). I’ve long argued to just draw a line in the sand and call it done. Yes, people with older devices might get upset, but I feel like it’s been trying to boil the entire ocean for backwards compatibility, versus just making progress.

      Note – while for first time setup I certainly prefer the phone for quick updates, once we get beyond that 5 minute period, I generally prefer on-device editing, since I’ll change things mid workout/etc.

    • João Cravo

      It’s true that it is something that usually people use when setting up the device for the first time, but would make it some much easier doing it on the phone versus infinite clicks on the watch buttons.

      As for the backwards compatibility, i agree that they should draw a line in the sand for this. I dare say that Garmin as no problem with doing that, they are always doing that kind of stuff for features that could be applied to older devices but are exclusive for newer versions.

  85. Thanks for the great in-depth review. One thing you didn’t mention, or maybe I missed it, is the build quality. Will it stand up to a few knocks and scrapes?

  86. Kuifje777

    Does the watch show a heart rate and/or power zone gauge during activities? Thanks!

  87. Philippe

    Wow what a review. The level of details is insane. I was secretly waiting for a wahoo watch that redefine the tracking market but …

    I am tired of all the daily activity features. I just want a watch to track workouts (TRX and Cross training basically) in a simple manner. HR monitoring with my wahoo belt and some workout duration / logs features.

    Can you recommend a product like this ?

    Thanks !

  88. Frank Blodnitz

    I gave up on Wahoo after the Kickr mess. I purchased a new one, got a refurb replacement 2 times with shortened warranties. I used to be a Wahoo fanatic but I really can’t tolerate their customer service.

    In all likelihood I will never purchase a Wahoo product again.

    I had a gut feeling this watch would be rubbish just looking at the dial and all the wasted space that could have been used for a better viewing experience.

    Thank you Ray for an honest “not paid” for review of this.

  89. Jim Murff

    I am skeptical of Wahoo in this arena. Their head unit is gathering dust for me as it was so impossible to get it to pair during races esp to Pioneer power meter and they had the inside track on that… Also, I just have to say I think whoever designed that box and logo and even the name made an unfortunate choice. ELEMNTrival? Am I the only one who read it at first as ELEMNTrivial?