I’ve used a Wahoo GPS unit since November 2016, starting with the original Elemnt and now the Elemnt Bolt (I’m just going to use ‘Elemnt’ to refer to either device). Since then, with the exception of a small problem with one firmware upgrade which was quickly resolved, it has been trouble-free and easy to use. The top feature for me is still how well-integrated the device is with Ride with GPS (RWG) and how easy it is to load routes without needing to connect to a computer.

Here is what I know about using RWG and the Elemnt together. This may sound a bit confusing the first time through but, it’s easy once you’ve done it once or twice.


These steps only need to be done once. Not all are absolutely required but, if you plan to use RWG consistently with your Elemnt, these will help.

  1. Install the Wahoo Elemnt app on your phone. This step is absolutely necessary to set up and configure the Elemnt, regardless of whether you plan to use RWG or not
  2. Create a RWG account. You don’t need to pay for an account. The free version works just fine unless you decide you want to use some of the advanced route editing features
  3. Use the Elemnt app on your phone to link to your RWG account
  4. Use the Elemnt app on your phone to configure one or more Wi-Fi networks. Set up any Wi-Fi network where it might be convenient to synchronize a route to your Elemnt. I have mine set to use my home network, a network at my office and to use my phone when I use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot. You will typically not be able to use public/hotel Wi-Fi networks because there is often a 2nd step that requires you to agree to terms and conditions via a web browser before you get connected. There is no way for the Elemnt to complete that step so it will never connect.
  5. Install the RWG app on your phone. Log into the account you created in step 2

RWG Tips

When you synchronize your Elemnt with RWG, using the methods spelled out below, you will have access to two categories of routes – routes that you own/are in your account and routes that you have “pinned”, regardless of who owns them.

You can pin routes you own to make them easier to find and you can pin routes owned by others to make them appear in a section of your account. You pin a route from the RWG web interface by clicking the “Pin” button in the upper left corner of the route page. You can see a list of routes you’ve pinned and remove routes from the list from the Pinned tab on the main Profile screen. I like to keep the Pinned list small to make it easy to find the route I want so I regularly unpin routes that I no longer need. That doesn’t delete the route, just removes it from the Pinned list.

You can also Pin routes from within the RWG app. While viewing the route, touch the vertical line of 3 dots in the upper right of the screen and then touch Pin (Pin This on an iPhone). You can find your pinned routes by tapping the “Library” icon at the bottom then picking Pinned. Routes can by unpinned on the same screen where you pin them.

Pinning a route is quick and easy but it means that if someone else owns the ride they can delete/change it and you will no longer have access to the route you wanted.  It also means that you can’t make any changes to the route if you want a modified version.  Use the “Copy to My Routes” option to put your own copy of someone else’s route in your account.  Pinning a route for an organized ride, instead of copying it, is usually the best idea because you will have access to any recent updates made by the organizers.

Turn-by-turn directions is a key feature of using your Elemnt to navigate. Unlike GPS units from other companies, like Garmin, the Elemnt does not calculate its own turn-by-turn directions. It uses the cue sheet entries from RWG to show turn information (direction, road name, distance to next turn, etc.). You can customize the cue sheet in RWG to add entries, change descriptions, remove unnecessary cues, etc. and all of that will be displayed on the Elemnt.

But, it also means that if the RWG route has an incorrect cue sheet entry or no entries at all, you will get incorrect or no turn-by-turn instructions. Routes that were created with the RWG Plan tool will have a cue sheet but routes that were created from someone’s ride history or another mapping program will not. If someone goes for a ride and records it with their GPS, they can upload the data to RWG, creating a ride record. That ride can easily be converted to a route so that you can follow it on a future ride. But, that route will not have cue sheet entries and you will not get turn-by-turn directions if you use it. You will see the route on the map page but you won’t see distance-to-next fields or pop-up turn notifications. The only way to fix that is to recreate the route with the Plan tool. If you don’t see a cue sheet down the left side of the route on the web page, turn-by-turn directions aren’t going to work.

One advantage of a paid RWG account is the ability to trace an existing route to make a new one.  This makes it very quick and easy to recreate a route and create cue sheet entries in the process.

Wi-Fi Sync

If you’re near any of the Wi-Fi networks you configured in the Elemnt app, syncing routes to the Elemnt is very simple. Use the Page button to get to the Map screen. Press the Route button to get to the list of routes on the device. Press the Sync button to start a sync with RWG (and other similar accounts you may have configured, like Strava). The Elemnt will make a Wi-Fi connection and download all routes that are in your RWG account and all routes you have pinned, regardless of who owns them. 99 times out of 100, this is how I sync routes. If I’m doing an organized ride that publishes the route via RWG, I open the route in a web browser, pin it, then hit Sync on the Elemnt and I’m set. If I’m going to ride a route I created, I just make sure I run a sync on the Elemnt and give it enough time to finish before I leave the house.

Smartphone App Sync

If you’re not near a Wi-Fi connection, but have cell service, you can use the Elemnt app to sync individual routes to your Elemnt. Unlike a Wi-Fi sync, this method does not download every route to your Elemnt. But, it will sync every route to your phone which can then be used to send individual routes to your Elemnt.

Open the Elemnt app on your phone and power on the Elemnt. In a few seconds, the phone and the Elemnt will connect. Select Routes from the app menu and wait for it to sync with your RWG account. You can sort the list of routes alphabetically, by date, by proximity to your current location (think “show me rides that start from here”) or by Starred, which is just the Elemnt app term for Pinned.

Find the route you want to transfer to your Elemnt and tap it. The route map will appear with options to reverse the route and to select the route. When you tap Select Route it will be sent to your Elemnt via Bluetooth.

Loading routes this way is very powerful if you combine it with the RWG app. For example, if someone emails you a link to a ride but you’re already at the ride start, you can open the link with the RWG app, pin it, then open the Elemnt app, give it a minute to sync with your account, find the route you just pinned and send it, via Bluetooth, to your Elemnt.

USB Sync

It is possible to synchronize a route with your Elemnt via USB. Honestly, this isn’t likely to be as useful as the other options but it does work. If you have a computer with Internet access and a USB cable, you can transfer a route file directly to the Elemnt. This might be useful if you had a computer with public Wi-Fi access but no cell coverage so neither of the other options works.

Connect the Elemnt to the computer with the USB cable. It will show up as a connected device. You can open it and navigate to the routes folder. From the RWG web page, view the route you want to load and click the Export tab on the upper right. Select TCX Course as the export format. Save/copy the exported file to the routes folder on the Elemnt. You can download multiple files this way.

Safely disconnect the Elemnt from the computer. Press the Page button to get to the Map screen, press Route to get to the list of routes on your Elemnt then press Sync. The Elemnt can’t get to RWG to download routes because it can’t get a Wi-Fi connection but it will load the TCX Course files you downloaded and you will find them in the routes list.


Getting the most out of all the features of RWG is outside the scope of this post.

Filed under: GearTechnology