Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review: Wahoo Fitness RFLKT iPhone Powered Bike Computer



I had been looking forward to testing out the Wahoo Fitness RFLKT since I first came across it earlier this year. The premise is super innovative - run the Wahoo Fitness cycling app on your iPhone (4s or 5), tracking all of the relevant data from GPS and other sensors, and transmit that data to a display mounted on your handlebars. Oh yea, and that display also has buttons to flip through various custom screens and your iTunes playlist. Again, innovative and right up my alley.




When Wahoo agreed to send me a demo unit to review this past June, I couldn't wait to give it a go.

Unboxing the RFLKT


I first posted this unboxing video back in early June. It just gives a quick look at what you get from Wahoo out of the box. Note, that the unit in the video comes with the forward mount, but the stem mount is definitely included as well.



Here is a look at all of the included parts laid out. Pretty simple, but versatile enough to mount in multiple positions on multiple stem/bar sizes.

Mounting the RFLKT


I mounted the RFLKT unit using both the forward facing and center stem mounts. Of the two, I have to say I preferred the forward facing position because of its sturdiness and for better line of sight. The stem mount is designed very well with thick gauged rubber bands replacing the need for zip ties, however they do give a bit too much when the unit's buttons are pressed. This can cause the RFLKT to shift from side-to-side and serve as an unnecessary distraction. 

Good comparison of RFLKT size versus Bontrager Node 1.

Sensors Needed 


To take full advantage of the RFLKT, or really any other cycling computer, you need to have the proper sensors (speed, cadence, heart and maybe power if you care about that). Since the RFLKT is a based on input to the app from your iPhone, some specialized BLE sensors are needed. I personally use standard ANT+ sensors that are converted to BLE by my 4iiii Viiiiva heart rate strap (more on that process here), but you can also pick up sensors from Wahoo to accomplish the ideal setup:

Setting Up Screens and Navigation


The RFLKT really functions just like any other cycling computer, except you have the option of having multiple displays with a whole host of workout data variables. I personally didn’t step too far outside the box, but did monitor following on my main screen during test rides:
  • Workout running time
  • Total Miles (tracked from ANT+ speed sensor via 4iiii Viiiiva ANT+/BLE bridge)
  • Current Speed (tracked from ANT+ speed sensor via 4iiii Viiiiva ANT+/BLE bridge)
  • Current Heart Rate (tracked via Viiiiva)
  • Cadence (tracked from ANT+ speed sensor via 4iiii Viiiiva ANT+/BLE bridge)

  


I had other screens for current/average/max speed and heart rate, and one for workout, calories and system battery. I setup my four side buttons as follows:
  • Top Left - Previous Track (iTunes Playlist)
  • Top Right - Next Track (iTunes Playlist)
  • Bottom Right - Next Page/Screen
  • Bottom Left - Lap 



On to the RFLKT Review


The Good


Like I said in the beginning, I am all-in behind the concept of the RFLKT. It is innovative, simple and very functional. It can be mounted in multiple spots, displays all relevant data, and can control your playlist without the need to mess around with Siri controls or your headphone volume/track rocker. You can now switch between Gaga songs with ease, albeit with more than just a little shame.

The Wahoo Fitness application itself is also simple yet powerful, and provides a strong platform for building your custom RFLKT setup. Pairing different sensors with this app is probably the easiest of any I've used, with all pairing options available in a simple pull-down toolbox.



When setup correctly, you can really reduce the number of touches needed to get important data mid-ride. Here are some screenshots of possible setups.



Finally, if you don't want to use the Wahoo Fitness app, the RFLKT also works with Cyclemeter, a popular cycling specific app that will run you $4.99 in the App Store. I haven't personally used it, but I have heard good things from some people I trust. 

The Bad


There are only a few areas that gave me pause during this test, including early version GPS issues, slow updates, not enough apps, and a screen that can be difficult to read in low light.

When I first received the demo unit back in June, I would routinely get hit with skewed data like 60 mph+ top speeds (I live in Nebraska, relatively flat, not possible) and a constant 1-3p mph speed reading while standing still. Needless to say, this was a problem, and one that the company addressed with an update a few weeks later, which seems to have fixed the problem.

[pre-update data] Max: 60.7 Current: 1.3 (standing still)


Regarding slow updates, I stepped out the door this past weekend and went to turn on the Wahoo app, but when I paired the RFLKT I was asked if I would like to update the software. Sure I thought, but after five minutes of waiting for the download (on wifi) and then another few minutes for my custom screens to port over onto the RFLKT. Another prompt to turn my Bluetooth off, then back on corrupted something, which prevented Wahoo or even Strava from connecting to my HR sensor. Three minutes or so later after a phone restart and another two to three to pair all of my sensors again, I was finally ready to go. If I had had a group waiting on me, forget about it, I would have had to skip everything and bum the data off of someone else. Bottom line - make sure the app and RFLKT are up to date the night before you ride to avoid any potential delays. Sorry for the rant - I just wanted those 20 extra minutes back for the riding.

Probably not as much a fault of Wahoo as other app developers, but I would love to see some of the other major cycling app makers like Strava and Map My Ride get in on the RFLKT game.

Finally, I found the screen on the RFLKT to be the biggest miss. It get's hard to see in low-light conditions, especially with sunglasses. The backlight does little to improve things, much like the old digital watches pre IndeGlo. Using E-Paper like the Pebble watch or Kindle could have been used to improve this, but I am not completely in tune with the technical limitations.

The Verdict


With all of it's capabilities and a price tag of only $129, I feel that the Wahoo RFLKT is perfect for the recreational to enthusiast rider/technophile who loves data and isn't afraid of a little customization. The device is definitely a talking point on group rides and draws a lot of positive attention, especially when you start flipping through your Frampton Comes Alive... I mean Zeppelin album...

I am not ready to give up my current setup in favor of the RFLKT on my road bike, but I can definitely picture one on my trainer/coffee/commuter bike in the near future. 

Supporting Reviews Like This One


First and foremost, thank you for reading this far into this review and any others you may have come across in the past. I really get a charge out of trying out new products and giving my honest feedback on how they apply to the way I ride and appreciate the sport of cycling. I know I am nowhere close to the talent level of a DC Rainmaker, nor do I have the writing skills of folks who do this for a living, but I take a lot of pride in putting together a review that would help someone like me know a little bit more about cool bike stuff. 

So, if you loved the review, or just my amazing wit and charm, and feel compelled to purchase the Wahoo RFLKT for yourself, please consider doing so on Amazon here: Wahoo Fitness RFLKT iPhone Powered Bike Computer

You can also pick up the Wahoo Speed and Cadence Sensor and Wahoo Blue Heart Rate Strap there too, knowing full well that all support will be converted directly into espresso and consumed each morning to alleviate the haze of late-night writing. 

Be well and keep riding! 

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With all of it's capabilities and a price tag of only $129, I feel that the Wahoo RFLKT is perfect for the recreational to enthusiast rider/technophile who loves data and isn't afraid of a little customization.
Wahoo Fitness RFLKT iPhone Powered Bike Computer
Date published: 08/17/2013
3.5 / 5 stars
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