Please note: Wahoo ELEMNT devices will require Wahoo accounts from July 1

From July 1, users of Wahoo bike and watch computers will need a Wahoo account to continue using their devices with the Wahoo app, which is used for device setup / customization (including including synchronization with platforms like Strava). The account is free and only requires an email address (not even your name). Chances are you’ve already set this up on your device at some point in the past few years.

I recently received a few comments on this, and even noticed the callback on something or other that I was setting up for the last month or so. So I thought I would put together the most common questions I saw to clarify them.

In the background, when Wahoo started using ELEMNT bike computers six years ago, it was just your phone and the ELEMNT. But over time, it grew to support new features. Things like third-party structured training sync (like TrainingPeaks), which weren’t there when the first ELEMNT was introduced. The same goes for live tracking, which was added a few years later. These started to rely more and more on Wahoo’s backend cloud infrastructure. In fact, those geeks in the crowd probably noticed the occasional reference to a Wahoo cloud platform that kept things functional.

In the case of most bicycle computers / watches, it is not actually the device itself that is uploaded to Strava (or another site). Rather, it is an authenticated connection made to that company’s website (for example, the Wahoo website) on behalf of your device. But in Wahoo’s case, it started out as your real device – not your phone. Of course, your phone was aware of this connection, but in the end, it didn’t care much about being involved. It worked fine most of the time, but not always. Wahoo therefore started making layoffs in the system. Now your phone can download workouts to it as well, just like the device can. And going forward, the same goes for Wahoo’s cloud backend.


In fact, it comes down to some of the main reasons Wahoo says they do: trying to protect people’s data if a phone is lost, or just through the slowly expanding ecosystem of Wahoo apps. Right now, if you don’t create an account, lose your phone (and don’t have a backup), you lose your Wahoo workouts.

Of course, for some people, that’s what they want. They want a fully offline GPS bike computer that doesn’t push their workouts on any platform. This privacy-oriented stance indicates that any workout file beyond your direct control is more likely to be exposed / sold / etc to third parties. And yes, there is some truth to this (although realistically most companies protect your data better than most individuals). However, most device companies I know that * rarely, if ever * give or sell your workout data. While fitness platforms that don’t have their own hardware tend to sell your data like lemonade on a hot summer day, after all, that’s their motto.

Finally, for fun, Wahoo even has job offers for their cloud platform (plus those for the Sufferfest side of the house too):


The “millions of athletes” are slightly noteworthy, however, I suspect it’s the KICKR numbers that are pushing them over the line (rather than the ELEMNT series devices). These devices also operate Wahoo’s main cloud platform, through the Wahoo app. Yet millions are millions no matter how you get it!

List of quick questions:

Anyway, here are some quick Q&A style questions about the change I concocted:

How much does a Wahoo account cost? Nothing, it’s free.

What personal information do I need to provide? Wahoo says that only an email address is required, to act as the “glue”. In fact, they say they totally agree that this is a burner email address. They don’t care. They just need something to tie all the pieces together.

What happens if I don’t create a Wahoo account? The puppies are dying. Well, no actually Wahoo says your ELEMNT series device “is still fully functional but the workouts will not sync with the app, however a user can plug the device into their computer and extract the files. drive this way “. This means that you can (like a Garmin, Stages, Hammerhead and a few others) just plug it into a computer and grab the .FIT workout file, the old fashioned way. This is the * EXACT SAME * workout file that is uploaded to apps like Strava or TrainingPeaks. Except it won’t do it automatically. You won’t be able to configure most of the device’s settings either, as those settings require configuration of the app, which as of July 1 will no longer talk to the ELEMNT without a Wahoo account.

Technically speaking, what is using this Wahoo account? Currently, they use it to register partner sites (for example, a Strava account) between devices, save your workout history, and retry downloads.

Will my device still work if the Wahoo web goes down? Wahoo CEO Chip Hawkins said, “I want to be absolutely sure that if the cloud is down or you don’t have the internet, things are still working. But keeping all the functionality that we have in the app and in the cloud for the few who don’t want to go online has gotten really complex. », Noting that not all features using the cloud are related to mid-point type features, but rather things like a copy of your workout history, retrying behind-the-scenes Strava downloads, and syncing profile data .

What does their privacy policy officially say about what they do? Glad you asked, I read it tonight. Honestly, like most businesses, it’s full of loopholes (although it’s entirely unintentional). Depending on their policy, they can technically do just about anything they want. This is one of the fun things about the GDPR world. While companies are on more stringent terms, they’ve essentially made their privacy policies as generic and unnecessary as possible, essentially giving themselves leeway to do whatever they want and saying “we had it for you. said “later, and giving you no legal recourse.” So while the GDPR gives us more rights over access to our data, and sometimes over control of that data, it has also taught most businesses to just say “eff it” from the start and ask. to do whatever they want. And we all have no realistic choice but to say “I agree”.

What Wahoo Says They’ll Actually Do With Your Data? I asked for this too, Wahoo’s Chip Hawkins said in an email that “For privacy reasons, we do not sell or share any data with third parties or use it for anything other than improving the business. ‘user experience with our devices “. – This second part specifically refers to a clause in their confidentiality agreement that says they will use technically consolidated metrics data to improve the platform / service / device. For example, collecting data and the causes of device failures (which many, but not all, businesses do today).

Final thoughts:


Ultimately, it’s not 1995 (or 2005) anymore. The reason we as consumers expect firmware updates with new features every few months is because of this kind of data. It’s the abilities of businesses to see what percentage of their user base is experiencing certain issues and bugs, and to apply engineering resources to solve bigger problems faster. Or, for businesses, figuring out which features people actually use and which ones they never use. The engineering-driven reporting data collected by businesses today can be incredibly impressive and incredibly useful. I remember looking at this type of data in my Microsoft days with certain corporate products and seeing “Oh, this feature is used by millions of people.” And this feature is used by hundreds of thousands of people. And this feature here… it’s used by 3 people… around the world… never.

While we would like to think that all hardware and software are perfect, the simple reality is that they are not. It never will be. And certainly, anonymous reporting gets us part of the way, but not all the way.

A good example is the recent BOLT V2 from Wahoo. Anonymous accident reports would not have helped Wahoo solve my accident problems, which were due specifically to the dense road / bicycle networks in Amsterdam (and some other cities). After all, they needed my exact routes to replicate it. This data was automatically sent back to Wahoo – in that they had my crash data before I could even email it.

Of course, it is also valid to be concerned about privacy or dependencies on online platforms. I just wrote less than an hour ago about how Shimano essentially killed Pioneer bike computers, all because of the connection to their platform being cut off. Or in January, when a Sony GPS pre-cache actually broke the GPS on all new Garmin, Suunto, Polar, COROS and yes… even some Wahoo GPS devices. Or last summer, when Garmin Connect was down due to ransomware, which for some people with near-full devices meant a small task triggered by Garmin Connect to clean up old workout files for making room for new files was not performed – meaning that people’s devices would no longer record. Making sure there are no dependencies is trickier than it looks.

Without a doubt, in the case of Garmin, before this week – I suspect every person at Garmin and every consumer around the world would have said “No, there is no direct dependency on Garmin Connect staying online” . Which was true, better than anyone knows. Except when you were finally able to do workout # 198 without talking to Garmin Connect, that didn’t get you to save # 198 (seriously).

Nonetheless, I think these exceptionally rare examples are more than outweighed by the huge benefits responsible businesses can bring with cloud-connected devices, from fixes to simply making our lives easier. This is to ensure that responsible companies are held accountable for their promises and that irresponsible companies are challenged.

With that, thanks for reading!

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