Wahoo RFLKT / Blue SC / Tickr
Any avid mountain biker – especially those who race – will ride with a cyclometer mounted to their handlebars. For years my cyclometer of choice was a Polar S610. It provided speed, distance, altitude, and heart rate monitor functions. It also allowed me to upload data from the cyclometer to my PC via infrared link so I could check calories burned and total vertical ascent during a ride. This did the job fine for over ten years. Two years ago a biking buddy recommended the Strava app to me. It`s an app that runs on any GPS enabled iPhone or Android device and allows bikers to upload their rides, keep track of distance travelled, seek out new trails, and network with other cyclists on a user’s ‘friend’ list. Once I started using Strava I was in a conundrum: I was using my Polar to give me the data I needed to refer to during my ride, and using Strava to record and share my ride after the fact. Since my iPhone was in my hydration pack, I didn’t see my Strava data until I was at home chilling with a frosty beverage. I couldn’t help but think to myself: “self, it would be great if you could see your Strava data on your handlebars”. I could if I mounted my phone on my bars or stem but didn’t want to do that for fear of trashing it in a crash. Battery life with the phone`s display always on would present another challenge. Along came Wahoo to solve all these problems.
The Wahoo RFLKT is like an instrument panel for your Strava app. It can display a variety of data on user configurable screens. Some of the items that can be displayed are speed, cadence, distance, heart rate, time of day, lap time, workout duration, and more. The data is transmitted via Bluetooth – in my case – from my iPhone 5S. Wahoo has created a modular system that includes a heart rate monitor (Tickr) and speed cadence sensor (Blue SC). The heart rate monitor function is great for training and I use it to evaluate when I have to back off, and when I can push. Since the phone’s GPS can provide speed data potential users might wonder what is the use of the speed sensor on the Blue SC? Since during the winter months I like to ride at Joyride 150 and the GPS reception there is terrible, the Blue SC will give me accurate distance data for my indoor workouts.
Setting It Up
The Wahoo RFLKT comes with a plastic mounting bracket that can be configured to mount on the handlebar stem or the handlebars. I went for the handlebar mount which sets up easily with just a single bolt. The Blue SC includes magnets for the crank arm and rear wheel, plus a sensor that mounts on the rear chainstay. To mount the crank arm magnet the pedal opposite the driveline has to be removed, the magnet slides on, and then the pedal is reinstalled. The wheel sensor just mounts to a spoke. The Blue SC sensor unit took a bit of fiddling to attach to the rear chainstay of my bike. I used a piece of old inner tube between the sensor and chain stay and the included tie wraps to keep it in place. After the Blue SC was mounted, I tweaked the magnet position for the wheel and pedal senor. The Tickr is a basic chest strap. Moisten it with tap water to ensure good conductivity with the user’s chest and it just snaps into place.
While setting my RFLKT up I accidentally dropped my unit on a concrete floor which cracked the display. I used the Wahoo tech support web page to tell them of my misfortune. The folks at Wahoo were kind enough to send me a brand new unit to replace the one I had broken. Moral of the story: while the RFLKT is fairly durable, don`t drop it on cement!
Wahoo has a downloadable app for detecting and configuring sensors. They also have their Fitness app which is great for runners or cyclists. My original intent was to feed Strava data to the RFLKT, but I soon realized that Strava was limited in how the data was displayed on the RFLKT. The Wahoo Fitness app allows for total customization of the RFLKT display with up to 6 custom data fields, plus control of music playback from the connected smartphone. I opted for one of the stock configurations that shows workout elapsed time, speed, distance, cadence, and heart rate.
Before I hit the trails, I needed to configure my setup. This involved telling the software to use the Blue SC to measure speed and distance, configuring my bike’s wheel circumference so speed and distance are accurately measured, and setting up a workout profile for cycling. Delving into the setup there are also options for custom RFLKT screens and assigning functions to each of the four buttons on the RFLKT. I went for a stock configuration: top left activates the backlight for 5 seconds, top right turns the RFLKT on and pauses the workout, bottom left and right toggle between different RFLKT screens.
Once the hardware and software was set up and tested it was time to ride. To get going, activate the Wahoo Fitness app, push the top right button on the RFLKT to turn it on and check to see that all the sensors are connecting to the Fitness app. I had a connectivity issue with the RFLKT where the screen would just blank out during a ride. Once again the Wahoo tech support page came to the rescue. I was able to eventually solve the problem on my own, but the folks at Wahoo seemed genuinely interested in helping me solve my problem and replied to my support request within 24 hours.
The problem I was having with the RFLKT turning off mid-ride was due to an improper handshake. I just make sure that every ride I see the handshake screen on the RFLKT before starting out on my ride. If the handshake screen doesn’t come up (the RFLKT will just connect and display the data screen) I power the RFLKT down by holding the top two buttons in for about ten seconds, and then power it up again. The handshake screen always appears on the second attempt. There are options for auto-pause during the ride. I’ve gone for manual stop-start since Strava calculates segment times on its own so long as the timer is running. This also gives me the option of figuring out a split time for guys riding behind me and arriving at a resting point like Three Rocks or the Cricket Tree.
After my first ride with Wahoo RFLKT I took my trusty Polar S610 off my handlebars and now rely solely on the RFLKT / Blue SC / Tickr for ride data. The Wahoo Fitness app pushes my data to Strava after the ride which gives me the best of both worlds: Bluetooth data acquisition and display on my handlebars via Fitness, and the analysis and social media aspects of Strava. Power consumption doesn’t seem to be a problem as I’ve been on 4 hour rides without running out of juice on my phone. I did manage to kill the battery in my RFLKT by bringing it into my condo with my phone rather than leaving it on my bike. When I just leave the RFLKT on my bike it turns itself off after losing the connection with me phone. Since it never lost that connection it just stayed on and ran down the battery.
It took a bit of work to configure the sensors and to get the RFLKT working reliably, but once I figured everything out it’s been a totally reliable setup. Wahoo’s technical support has been very helpful too, and were there when I needed them. For about a third of what I paid for my Polar S610 I have a much more advanced setup that is just as reliable and connects with my favourite cycling apps. The beauty of this setup is that you can start out with just the RFLKT, and add sensors as you see fit. The RFLKT / Blue SC combo will work without a smartphone as a self-contained unit but I didn’t test that functionality so I can’t comment on it. I can however highly recommend the RFLKT / Blue SC / Tickr / iPhone 5S combo. It’s great having access to all that data while out on the trail – all the while leaving my phone safely stowed in my hydration pack. Overall I`d give this setup 4.5 stars out of 5 with a half point deducted for the inconvenience of working out the disconnection issue.
The Wahoo RFLKT retails for $100 at the Apple Store. The Tickr and Blue SC are another $60 each and are also available at the Apple Store.