Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Gps Bike Computer Review
Garmin has a new competitor, the Bolt is a great GPS computer which boasts a better battery life than the Edge series and is an ideal investment if you desire a full-featured, aero GPS computer for an affordable cost.
Simple to program and on-the-fly modifications to what is displayed on the screen
The battery life is better than its competitors
The screen features a simple to read design
Bluetooth and WiFi connectable
Features an aero design
Built in workouts
The colorless maps are not as strong as those of Garmin
Workouts cannot yet be imported
Some programming features require an iPhone or Android smartphone
Personally, despite Wahoo’s statement that the product is better in regards to aerodynamics than both the Garmin Edge 520 and 820 which are of a similar size to the Bolt, the simple yet strong practicality, compacted shape, fantastic battery life (which was three times that of the Edge computers when I used the navigation features), affordable cost as well as the simple to utilize exercise practicality are my standout features.
The Bolt features the usual metrics and alterations in regards to speed, time, distance, power, heart rate, elevation as well as the rest, it also features incorporation with a number of appliances, ranging from your smartphone and Wi-Fi to eTap and the Moxy oxygenation sensor.
Turn-by-turn navigation, Strava Live Segments, Live Track, as well as an option named ‘take me anywhere’, an option which enables you to pick a destination via your smartphone and the Bolt will provide the route to the destination, all of these features are provided by the Elemnt Bolt.
A workout functionality which independently synchronizes with both Today’s plan and TrainingPeaks is also provided with the Elemnt Bolt, this Elemnt leads users across workout intervals and features a bar-graph graphic as well as pop-up prompts (such as “next interval in 10 seconds — 500w — hard!”) and power targets to encourage you along the way.
Using your Android or iPhone you are able to effortlessly link your Elemnt Bolt with the smartphone app, the process is simple, just tap and drag the information to the area where you want to and in the order which you prefer, as opposed to frustratingly clicking a load of buttons on a PC.
In addition to this, the Bolt features physical buttons which users can press, these are 2 zoom buttons on the right side, they are not just used for the map and elevation profile, they are also used to boost or reduce the quantity of fields displayed on any information screen.
The Bolt also features 3 buttons on the top, these are for simple uses such as to start, stop, select and dismiss, a button is also present on the left-side, this is used to power the device (on/off) and to access the device’s settings. Therefore, the newer Bolt shares some likeliness with the previous model in this regard, the only difference is that its size has been reduces, as well as a fact that a sole strand of LEDs are located along the top of the device as opposed to LEDS being located at the top and on the left face of the device.
Garmin’s manner of presenting the navigation is better than that of the Bolt, with the Garmin’s colour screen also featuring more detail. As for the Bolt, its directions are derived from Strava routes and are shown by a colorful line on the map, as well as LEDs which flash should you go astray, yet the turn-by-turn function necessitates for the utilization of directions provided by Ride with either GPS or Komoots.
Unlike the Elemnt Bolt, Garmin enables users to utilize their own interval workouts which are accompanied by useful animations.
Yet overall, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, which features a simple to understand model, provides greater value for money compared with the Edge 520/ 820, however, the only downside is the fact that one must own either an Android or iPhone smartphone.
Design features of the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt
- A maximum of 9 fields are displayed on each page, the buttons at the sides of the device are used to boost and reduce which fields you see in the order which you like
- Over 170 information field choices to choose from
- Using the Elemnt smartphone app, you can organize the arrangement
- Connectable via ANT+, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- Upon the completion of your ride, the data is uploaded onto your favorite websites instantly
- The screen measures 2.2in/55.9mm
- The weight of the device comes in at 2.1oz/60g
- The battery life is supposedly meant to last up to 15 hours, and with the LEDs switched off, you can expect 5 more hours of battery life
- 7 LEDs can be arranged for navigational purposes, Strava Live Segments or targets for heart rate, power, speed etc.
- The aerodynamic device features a mount which is incorporated into it
- The top face features 3 buttons, the side features 2 arrow shaped buttons, whilst a single button exists for both power and to enable users to access the settings
- The device does not feature a touchscreen
How can you use your smartphone with the Elemnt Bolt?
The Wahoo fitness company, which initially started out as an iPhone accessory provider, was established a number of years ago by Chip Hawkins. Chip became frustrated that he was unable to transfer his statistics from his power meter and GPS to one deice, then he realized that his iPhone would be the perfect ‘computer’ for the job and hence he created the ANT+IPhone dongle, a means of transferring such data to one’s smartphone.
Numerous inventions later and the Elemnt Bolt is a device which still necessitates for a smartphone for some set-up and extra features, albeit this time an Android smartphone is also compatible.
If you are familiar with using a number of apps on your smartphone, then using the Elemnt app is simple, the app enables users to simply drag-and-drop the data which they want to display and in the order they prefer, whilst the app also synchronizes with the Bolt meaning that should you make a change on the app, then the same alteration will be made on the device itself.
However, to access the settings, your Elemnt Bolt must be switched on and close to your smartphone, a better means of doing so would be by using the same method which Google Docs use, this enables you to make changes on the app and these changes would be applied to the Bolt the next time it is switched on.
Upon setting up the Elemnt Bolt, your phone is no longer necessary to use the device, at this point you can simply use the buttons on the Bolt to access the usual features such as starting and stopping as well as navigating through the data pages, the buttons can also be used to synchronize the Bolt with devices such as power meters and heart-rate monitors or to search current Routes or chasing Strava sections. Upon completion of your ride the Elemnt Bolt automatically logs your data to either your home Wi-Fi or any other registered Wi-Fi should it be in range.
However, connecting your phone to your Elemnt Bolt does still have its advantages, such as allowing you to receive text messages, phone calls and email alerts, whilst also enabling you to have your ride information to be instantly logged upon completion, irrespective of wherever you are. Using your phone also enable you to access the ‘Live Track’ feature, a feature which enables other Bolt users to track you online or via their personal Bolt devices using the ‘Take me anywhere’ option on their device.
The Garmin Edge on the other hand enables you to program the Bolt so that it instantaneously logs your statistics regarding your ride to certain sites including the likes of Strava, Training Peaks and Today’s plan.
The app used for the Elemnt Bolt is rather comprehensive in regards to the ride analysis in the sense that the device can easily be programmed to display what the user wants to see (including Strava Segment results) and where they want to see it.
The aerodynamic design of the Bolt
The first Elemnt Bolt was thick and large, whilst the newer model is sleeker and more discreet, the computer and mount also feature an aerodynamic design. Dimitris Katsansis, the man who was involved in the creation of successful race bikes such as those of Team Sky (the Pinarello bike) for 2015 and 2016 as well as that of Bradley Wiggins which helped him attain the world record, was involved in the creation of the Elemnt Bolt.
Initially, Wahoo began the creation of the Bolt with a number of shape proposals, all of which featured no buttons or screens, and were tested by Katsansis via CFD.
To provide a continuous curving surface, the computer’s lower lip folds inside of the mount.
All of this results in a product which, supposedly offers half the drag of the Garmin Edge 520 when placed on a Garmin mount and when assessed over various angles of wind and mount angles. The company also state that the Bolt is able to conserve 1.5W more of power than the Edge 520, meaning that 12.6 seconds is saved when users ride at a constant speed of 21 mph for more than 40k.
The Bolt is mounted ahead of the stem and handlebar on the majority of bikes, this is because the company aimed to guarantee that the mount works in numerous positions, yet I would prefer for the computer to be mounted in a closer position to the handlebar.
The mount which is used for the Elemnt Bolt is stronger than that of the previous model which is notorious for flexing whenever buttons are pressed.
Navigation features and battery life of the Bolt
An advantage that Elemnt Bolt devices have over Edge devices is that the Bolt features data transfer which doesn’t necessitate for the use of a wire.
Although Edge units are able to log ride through the use of Bluetooth on the 520 model and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for the 820 and 100 models, you must utilize a USB cable to link your Edge to a PC so as to drag and drop files for courses and/or exercises.
As for the Elemnt, users are able to upload courses via the smartphone Bolt application, meaning that courses which you have devised on Strava, Komoots or Ride with GPS will automatically appear on the Bolt. However, the only drawback in regards to using Strava is the fact that the courses set on Strava appear as lines displayed on your map, meaning that comprehensive directions are only provided by the other 2 sites.
Should you use either of the other 2, navigation is fantastic, both providers offer clear prompts and high quality maps, users can also access any page they want to on their Bolt and still be notified at the bottom of the screen where and when the next turn is. In addition to this, a strand of LED lights at the top of the device flicker in accordance to the direction and closeness of the next turn, while the information pop-ups even offer genuine time/distance countdowns as you travel towards a turn.
Alphanumerical data is displayed perfectly on the colorless screen, yet at times it can be mistaken for the navigation feature when in crowded residential areas and at a specific degree of zoom. In addition to this, the black line which indicates the directions may become hidden in the black and white street outlines, however, having said that I did not miss a single turn, so it is evident that in regards to color and display, Garmin have the upper hand.
The Bolt does not enable users to move around the map rather one can simply zoom in and out, however, the Garmin Edge 820 enables users to do both.
Whilst I was using the navigation feature of the Bolt, it became evident that the battery life was much more lasting than that of any Garmin device, with these usually managing just over 4 hours on a full battery as opposed to 5 and a half of the Elemnt Bolt on which I used the navigation and Strava Live Segments for the duration of my ride, in addition to this, the battery life only went down to 55% from 96%.
In addition to this, the Bolt features detailed maps from all sorts of places in the world, albeit they aren’t as colorful and do not display as many points of interest, yet they are useful.
The Elemnt Bolt and Strava Live Segments
If Strava isn’t your thing then move along to the next section, however, if it is something which you utilize, the Bolt enables users to pursue Segment times against your personal record or the KOM/QOM, that too whilst sticking to a course.
By simply starring certain Segments on Strava, the Bolt will automatically register them.
To alert you of impending segments, the Bolt offers two ways, the first of which is a 200 meter bleep from the start, for this to work, users needn’t be on a specific page, and this method is ideal for those who are familiar with the start, for instance if it is your favorite climb. Yet should you venture into an area with which you aren’t familiar, then this means is rather ineffective, for instance I turned back a couple of times on a test ride in California following the beep which came as I was already set to go. A 1km notification which precedes a 200 meter notification would be more effective.
On the Bolts’ Strava Live Segments page, users are able to view all starred Segments, provided that they are within a 1-mile radius, and upon them being shown, a time/distance countdown appears.
Both scenarios mean that the Strava Live Segments page of the Bolt dominates, thus displaying the time to beat, the time you are on course for and how well you are doing in accordance to the general pace of the target score. However, as Strava fail to offer accurate times for any specific part of the route, you will not be given an accurate time if for example 50% of the segment is downhill and the other 50% is uphill.
However, despite this being the case, upon completion of your ride your time is displayed (‘Provisional’, the score is displayed almost like a race supervisor who has announced scores prematurely) so too is the time goal.
A comparable feature exists on the Garmin, Strava Live Segment are a fun distraction and means of motivation is they are used occasionally, however, should you favorite a large number of segments then the bleeping can become frustrating.
Strava Live Segments can be accessed whilst staying on a course, thus making it ideal for venturing into new areas, however, despite the fact that the directions which appear at the bottom of the page, are helpful for staying on course, they can however hide some data, and although users can disregard text and call alerts, the sole option in regards to removing turn prompts was a ‘mute’ option.
Going for rides and working out with the Elemnt Bolt
Often it is the case with any device that whether a user likes the product or not is determined by the manner in which they intend to utilize the device, hence the Bolt is targeted more towards competitive riders than the previous model given its smaller size and increased aerodynamics.
Using the Bolt is a breeze, both ANT+ and Bluetooth synchronize with your sensors, while both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth automatically log your rides meaning that all of a user’s information is stored on Strava, Training Peaks, Today’s Plan, or any other preferred location. In this same way Strava Live Segments are also displayed on the Bolt without the need for either a USB cable or drag and dropping.
However, as of yet, users are unable to incorporate workout files into the Bolt whereas Garmin’s Edge models enable you to do so, yet this was something which I never tried given how it necessitates for one to create an interval set in the Garmin ecosystem. However, given that Today’s plan and TrainingPeaks provide a simple means of exporting workouts I have warmed to the Garmin Edge’s ability to guide me through interval workouts, that too with color-represented graphics as well as straight information. Transferring workouts is possible with Wahoo, but not with the Bolt as of yet.
However, users can make use of a Best Bike Split File, this provides the speed, power and time aims for various sections of the route and incorporates LED indication which is displayed either over/on or under the aim for your preferred metric, such system could surely be employed to interval workouts as well.
In addition to this, the Bolt features an insightful and strong interface which enables users to gather a maximum of 9 fields of data on each page, thus allowing you to cram plenty of data into your rides. Concurrently, users are able to zoom both in and out of the map using buttons, meaning that should you simply want to concentrate on the current area, you are able to do so. The screen resolution is also sharp and is readable under dark and bright levels of light.
Scheduled and non-spontaneous automatically synchronized or prompted by your smartphone
For competitive riders, interval training has always been a fixture, whilst indoor workouts have grown in popularity as of late given the developments of directed and power- oriented exercise. A company who profit from directing cyclists during training sessions, TrainerRoad, monitor power, rhythm and heart beats and compare them with targets which are set using on one’s functional threshold power (FTP). In addition to this, smart trainers have also gained popularity as of late and aim to provide particular power opposition to match.
TrainingPeaks and Todays Plan, as well as numerous other coaching organizations have explored new means of providing training programms to keep up to date with current demand, this includes the use of power-oriented .fit files which enable smart trainers and workout files to be displayed on cycling computers.
This novel, power-oriented training has been integrated into Wahoo’s Elemnt and Bolt computers, while both Today’s Plan and TrainingPeaks exercises instantaneously synchronize with the devices.
Everyday workouts instantly appear upon powering on your device, this is applicable for those who subscribe to these packages whilst those who buy Element devices can enjoy a free 1-month trial.
However, irrespective of who you choose to subscribe to, Team Sky provide 5 default workouts for free, 2 of which are FTP tests, one of which is sprinting, the other focuses on climbing whilst the final of the 5 is a mix.
The device offers great usability given how a bar graph, similar to that of Trainer Road although far more condensed, monitors your whereabouts during the workout as opposed to how well the workout has been complete.
As well as beneficial prompts which appear 10-seconds prior to every interval, the alpha-numeric data, which is sharp and crisp, provides targets, genuine output and also displays your time.
Personally, I trialed the Beta edition, which is currently live, however, the complete edition, which is expected to release later enables users to stop workouts although it will continue to monitor your ide information, a useful feature if you get stuck in traffic, however, even in the beta edition, when the workout was halted the GPS location was still monitored.
Any .fit workout files which you devised in the workout builder can be displayed using the 2 TP software choices, however, when I tried this feature, it failed.
Similar to previous Elemnt devices, the side buttons enable users to view a greater/lesser number of data fields whilst the LED lights flicker in accordance to whether or not you are on course, either above or below for either target power or any other preferred metric.
Summary- The Elemnt Bolt is an affordable and comprehensive device
Coming in at a comparable size to the Garmin Edge 520 and 820 models, the Bolt is more affordable, features a longer battery life, is compatible with smartphones (Android or iPhone) and features a simple information transfer system, and when you consider the units, it seems that the company’s claims of it featuring better aerodynamics than the Edge models are true.
Having said that, in regards to appearance, be it of 3rd party IQ applications featuring color-coded tachometers or a normal map, the Garmin holds the advantage. However, the navigation line of the Edge can be confused for the outlines of streets on the Edge models whereas the Bolt features simple to read text and numbers on a colorless screen.
Nevertheless, if it is a comprehensive and affordable GPS device which is simple to understand and features incredible battery life that you are after, the Elemnt Bolt would be a good investment.