new Wahoo Bolt Review for 2021 & why the best ELEMNT just got better
The new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt and Garmin Edge 530 are the best performance bike computers and every review from real cyclists/triathletes says that. Both have all the features you need but the Wahoo Bolt simply offers a better rider experience although perhaps Garmin edges it for the few of you who have complex navigation needs.
A pertinent fact to ponder over is that the original Bolt is now a whopping 4 years old and yet it was still selling well last month. Why? There is a reason for that; a very good reason. You will find SURPRISINGLY FEW cyclists who buy a Wahoo and then switch away to another brand. Wahoo ELEMNTs have the “just works” factor and do what you want them to.
If you’re looking for a button-operated, small-format performance bikenav or if you just want to upgrade from your original Bolt v1…then get the Visa primed for action, start smiling and get one directly from Wahoo tomorrow.
Here is my short review of the new Wahoo Bolt with some further thoughts and 30 interesting BOLT-facts below, I’ll probably be using the Bolt 2 on my TT bike this year for a couple of HIMs and will share some experiences with that later.
new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Review - 2021
Verdict: the most usable bike computer for performance and navigation.
The new Bolt is a faster device than its 4-year old predecessor. Every existing feature is carried over and there are some sweet improvements including a pre-loaded routable map that adds the elevation and TBT directions to any route you load. The battery life is the same but the charge time is significantly faster and whilst the device+screen combo is essentially the same size, the screen quality is much improved with the colours boosted from monochrome to 64, although the resolution is unchanged.
The reasons to make an informed upgrade decision are given further below and there are 30 Facts to help those of you who are considering a switch to Wahoo…you won’t regret it.
The new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt covers every kind of riding you want to do from following a course from RwGPS whilst on holiday through to chasing Strava segment PRs live on your TT bike. If leading-edge, adaptive power training with Xert is your thing or if that lung-busting FTP-booster session from Training Peaks is more your cup of tea then all will be good.
Obviously, Bolt 2 will let you follow a Best Bike Split course with your Kickr smart trainer, bounce you senseless with your Kickr Climb, and hand off nicely during your triathlon to your Elemnt Rival watch. Heck, even your sweat will be compatible with your Kickr mat…or anyone else’s mat for that matter too.
Maybe you have a bog-standard heart rate strap or a Garmin Varia Radar light or maybe you have a pressing need to display 14 kinds of muscle oxygen data metrics or a Di2 gear visual chart you guessed it. All is good.
The new Wahoo Bolt is the real deal that is supported by an expansive cycling ecosystem. Wahoo is in the cycling game for the long term and it is Garmin’s only real cycling competitor right now.
Garmin’s Edge bike computers are good, they have slightly more, often useless, features although you will find it difficult to find those features as Garmin crams everything onto a small screen menu. Wahoo simplifies the bike computer experience very significantly and lets you do all the cycling admin on the companion app. That’s why the Bolt 2 is so easy to use. Oh, it’s also easy to use because there is no touchscreen. I don’t like touchscreens on the whole. The real differentiator for Garmin is its CIQ app store.
Here’s my problem: It’s taken two years to convince my 5 main cycling buddies to get the original Bolt. They’re happy with the Bolt but they’ve been miffed that I started using my ROAM again recently so I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen when I turn up with a new improved Bolt next Sunday. Oh dear, I think I’m going to get dropped.
- Great 15-hour battery life
- Complete smart trainer environment control – fan, trainer, climb
- Great Strava, RwGPS & TP integrations + many more
- *Total TBT routing*, re-routing and POI routing with a proper onboard map
- Onboard DEM – Digital Elevation Map for correct elevation.
- Full integration for training plans and complex structured workouts
- Highly intuitive interface, simplified by offloading rarely used features to the companion app
- Supports all external BLE & ANT+ sensors of note
- Sensibly tough Gorilla glass, easy-to-read colour screen and buttons that work
- LEDs for clear zone alerts and visual feedback for navigation and Varia Radar.
- Innovative hand-off with Wahoo Rival for triathletes
- Live tracking and notifications via the partner app.
£250, Eu280, $280 Direct from Wahoo Fitness
- Wahoo’s ecosystem currently lacks the ability to add 3rd party apps, although there are many push/pull links to other sports platforms like Strava & Training Peaks
- No touchscreen – that’s a good thing, right?
- You must have a smartphone to (re-)configure Bolt 2
new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt 2 Review – Is it worth the upgrade?
These are 4 key reasons to upgrade from your old Bolt and it’s pointless to upgrade from the Wahoo ROAM.
- Superior speed – processor speed, display rendering speed, re-routing speed and speed of battery charging
- Superior maps – pre-loaded TBT capability and DEM elevation intelligence
- Superior colour screen with durable Gorilla glass
- The age of your current Bolt, wear and tear.
Internal components have been upgraded and are faster, including the processor, battery tech and presumably the screen processor as well. Whilst the startup time is still relatively slow the usable experience is smoother all-around from changing screens to zooming in on maps. I specifically appreciate the much faster charging time via the upgraded USB-C port.
The old Bolt was somewhat hit-and-miss when it came to turn-by-turn directions. You were never quite sure if they would be displayed or if the source had included them. Now you can load ANY route and the new Bolt should create its own TBT directions for it.
The same principle applies to elevation profiles that also used to come with your route file. Now the Bolt has elevation information pre-built into its maps and so you will get a forward elevation profile when following any kind of route.
The maps are also simply superior because they are colour-augmented and more detailed. Because the Bolt is a medium-sized device, you are not buying it as a navigating workhorse and I find its maps are great for casual navigators like me.
Superior Colour Screen
The new colour maps and colour coded data fields are nice but the latter border on gimmicky. That said colour has been implemented discretely and functionally. It’s also worth a note that the new screen is now Gorilla glass which is nice, although I’ve never scratched a bike computer screen. But if you put yours in your pocket with keys then maybe you have.
Both the old and new Bolts quote a 15-hour battery life. It seems reasonable that the new screen gobbles more juice and that the battery has improved but with no net change to battery life that Wahoo wants to declare. The batteries in most electronics these days start to noticeably degrade after about 3 years. So, if you bought one of the first Elemnt Bolts, then you will probably now be down to 10 hours of battery life which is still perfectly fine but it could be a good time to sell the original while there’s still some life in it.
It’s also worth considering the condition of your twist mount, buttons and USB cover flap as those are the weak points of the original design. If they are loose, Wahoo might even replace your device but if you’ve had yours for a while you could use that as a somewhat paltry reason to upgrade 😉
A: Yes! It’s a worthwhile upgrade but not a necessary one. The £50/$70 price hike is justified by the improvements.
new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt – What’s Changed
- 64 colour screen for colour maps and colour data fields (was 8+1 colours on ROAM, monochrome on Bolt v1)
- 16Gb of storage for pre-loaded intelligent maps
- Fully re-routable mapping with on-device TBT and on-device elevation
- Faster processors, faster device
- Gorilla glass (was plastic on Bolt, Gorilla on Roam)
- USB-C Charging and faster charge time
- Imperceptibly larger and 8g heavier than the original, the mount is different but included with a new Bolt.
- App notification support includes WhatsApp and others.
- Various hardware/software tweaks – raised convex top buttons, new style side buttons, fonts, subtle menu changes, subtle & a new rubber USB cover design
new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt – more than a review, here are some Top facts, uses and features!
- The new Bolt has a proprietary aero mount and it appears to be compatible with a generic Garmin mount (twisted 90 degrees). Technically it’s not compatible and you might break your Wahoo twist-mount like I did if you repeatedly use a Garmin-compatible mount!
- The Bolt V2’s new aero mount is different from that of the old Bolt as it has to accommodate the slightly larger new Bolt. You can use the new Bolt on the old Bolt mount but you can’t use the old Bolt on the new Bolt mount neither can you use the new Bolt on the new ROAM mount. The Roam physically attaches to the new Bolt mount but there isn’t enough clearance with my bike handlebars to fully twist it.
- New and old Bolt mounts have 2 clever but tiny rubber grommets upon which the Bolt rests. This reduces vibrations a tad.
- Underneath the mount is a tiny hole. If you search again through the Bolt’s packaging you will find a tiny bolt (haha really) and you can bolt the Bolt Gen 2 to the mount. It won’t prevent your bike from being stolen but it will prevent your new Bolt from being opportunistically removed.
- Underneath the Bolt Gen 2, there is a strange-looking hole near the USB port. This is for attaching a tether which is handy for looping over your bars to ensure your pride and joy never inadvertently bounces off down the road in search of a car tyre.
- Bolt 2 has onboard map intelligence so it can re-route you if you make a wrong turn. Subtle colourations to your route errors and history and plan help you get back on track.
- If you don’t like re-routing or are worried about the battery hit then re-routing can be disabled on the Elemnt app
- The new Bolt will support the display of Turn-by-turn (TBT) instructions even if you have not supplied them…it uses its own inbuilt instructions! Cool!
- Google maps route workaround: on your phone create directions in google maps. Mail those directions to yourself on your phone. When you get the email and link, open the link with the ELEMNT app and the links sync to your BOLT…cool. A similar process might work for Apple Maps
Here’s some more
- There is a special screen on Bolt 2 only shown for Strava subscribers where your favourite segments pop up when you are about to race them. You can check your progress in real-time against the KOM or your PR/PB. This is separate from the link-up that everyone gets for their competed rides to be sent to Strava.
- The original Wahoo Elemnt Bolt was sold partially on its aero saving. I seem to remember fellow blogger, dcrainmaker, quantifying the real saving as a third of a watt compared to the claims of 1.5w (hmmm!). Marginal gains and all but 1.5w always sounded a lot. I’ll go with Ray on that one
- If your Bolt is linked to your Wifi then, when you power up, it automatically and seamlessly pulls a list of your structured workouts/plans and routes from any and all of the 3rd party platforms you have connected with like RwGPS, Todays Plan, Komoot, Strava, Training Peaks and more.
- Only starred segments on Strava will be synced to your new Bolt for you to compete against. It IS possible to mute segments as you ride and it is possible to ride segments that are sub-sections of larger segments
- The new Bolt still has 3 side buttons and 3 top buttons. That’s a lot of buttons! but it is a design that works well. The two buttons on the right-hand side have a cool feature that lets you zoom in and out of your current screen – eg you can zoom from one metric to 7 and back again…and then change screen
- Those same ‘zoom’ buttons also have subtly different uses on different kinds of screens. For example, zooming in/out on the map screen or paging through the cues on a cue sheet.
- In fact, you can page to another screen with Di2 and zoom in too. If you have the latest Di2 buttons on your levers then you can configure the buttons to take a lap on your Bolt 2 or page to the next screen. Technically, the Di2 buttons seem to replicate the current behaviour of the top left and top right buttons on the Bolt 2 and a long-press on the buttons replicates the zoom up/down actions.
- Bolt 2 nicely supports the Garmin Varia radar. There are various ways to configure Bolt 2 that includes flashing LEDs and graphics that indicate how far cars are behind you. Garmin Varia is DEFINITELY a good safety purchase for all bike owners…get one, don’t die I want you to come back and buy a Bolt 3 here in a few more years time 🙂
- A cool screen metric is the forward elevation profile. If you are following a route then the Bolt 2 can give you a graph showing your progress up the current hill. The side buttons can let you zoom in/out on the current hill.
- To execute complex structured workouts you must either follow a 3rd party digital plan that sends them to the Bolt 2 or create them yourself. A workaround is to use the free version of Training Peaks where you can create workouts for today/tomorrow and have a library on TP no bigger than 5 workouts. You pay TP to get a proper service but that’s worth knowing as a freebie!
and yet more
- You must have a smartphone to configure a Wahoo Bolt Gen 2. You can’t change the screen layout in the middle of a ride without your smartphone but you can pair a new sensor or calibrate a PM mid-ride without the app.
- The ELEMNT app/Bolt supports live tracking via your smartphone where your position is relayed to some who you have granted access.
- The ELEMNT Bolt 2 works very nicely with the RIVAL triathlon watch to offload your bike stats from the Bolt to the Rival as you enter T2 in a triathlon. Bolt 2 can also use the HR broadcast from RIVAL.
- Completed workouts should upload over WiFi. For some reason mine don’t…grrr. They need to sync to my iPhone first. You may have more luck.
- Your Bolt 2 will display basic phone, email and app notifications from your smartphone.
- I’ve done an 8-hour navigation on a Wahoo ROAM following a TBT route and not getting lost too much…loads of battery life left….like half the battery. Expect the Bolt 2 to perform similarly when new.
- Wahoo’s maps are of mixed quality when it comes to accuracy. In the major countries, I think they are generally good and I’ve had no issues myself in the UK and France – USA is OK too, but issues are reported elsewhere.
- On the ROAM you have to manually download the routable map for your country over and above the maps that are already there. With the new Bolt, you do NOT have to do that. The routable maps come pre-loaded and can be changed over WiFi if you travel.
- Best Bike Split files are supported. Where you can plan your ideal race day performance and follow it on race day. You can also follow FIT file routes with the Bolt 2 controlling your Kickr and Kickr Climb to simulate your favourite TdF climb if it’s raining.
- ANT+ and BLE sensors are supported as is FE-C. Pretty much any sensor will pair up. When you first pair a new sensor type Bolt asks you if you want to put the associated data metrics on the screen…cool! eg power fields to display if you have just paired a power meter.
- Wahoo’s ELEMNT app was originally just a device admin tool but it has got progressively more powerful and you now get some decent workout stats reported too – nothing fancy. But Wahoo’s general assumption is that you will want to analyse or play with your workout data in some other 3rd platform and they facilitate you getting your data out of the Wahoo platform and into that of the partner platforms like TP or STRAVA.
- ELEMNT bike computers have the following pages with 9 data fields per page max: lap page (visible only after lap pressed), workout page, (multisport page), climbing page, map page, kicker control page, planned workout page, strava live segment page. As far as I know, you can put most metrics on any page and you can display 4 extra metrics on the map page.
- The map page can be configured to point with your direction heading up (otherwise I think it’s North-up)
- When pairing to your home WiFi network the Bolt won’t work with a 5Ghz signal on channels 1-9, just 2.4. Your high-speed WiFi should be ok with that but…
Please share any more Wahoo ELEMNT tips or facts to impress and delight us in the comments below!
new Wahoo Bolt vs Wahoo Elemnt ROAM – What’s the difference?
The key difference is simply the size, ROAM is bigger than Bolt with a bigger screen that’s slightly more suited for navigating as a result.
There are several less important differences as the ROAM has a slightly better battery life and the new Bolt has slightly improved map intelligence with pre-loaded TBT/Elevation information
new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt vs Garmin Edge 530 – What’s the difference?
The essential differences from Wahoo to Garmin are that: Garmin has a pedigree in mapping and map intelligence; Garmin has an app store (CIQ); Garmin are fully configurable as standalone devices and don’t need an app but as a result, they are complex to administer; Wahoo devices become quick to use and their interface seems ‘obvious’ once mastered; both Garmin & Wahoo tend to control retail prices as best they can; Wahoo tends to only allow online dealers who also have a physical store presence;
Most cyclist and triathletes will be perfectly happy with either a Garmin or Wahoo.
Those of you with extremely complex sports tech needs and immersive routing needs will already own a Garmin Edge and won’t be reading a review like this for guidance! You know who you are and are probably an expert in your field of tech.
To run this site, I need Garmin devices but as ‘me’ the cyclist and triathlete I prefer and normally use Wahoo/Hammerhead Karoo 2 bike computers for cycling.
new Wahoo Bolt 2 Technical Specs vs original Elemnt Bolt
Here is a comparison of the technical specs of the Wahoo Fitness Elemnt Bolt and Wahoo Bolt 2
|new Bolt (Gen 2, V2, 2021)||Bolt (Gen 1, 2017)|
|Weight||2.4 oz / 68 g||2.2 oz / 60g|
|Screen Resolution||240 x 300 px||240 x 300 px|
|Dimensions||L 1.86” x W 3.05” x D 0.84”||2.9″ x 1.8″ x 0.87″ /|
74.6mm x 47.3mm x 22.1mm
|Display||L 47 x W 77 x D 21 mm @64 Colors||L 47 x W 77 x D 21 mm|
|Display Size||2.2” / 56mm||2.2″ / 56mm|
|Battery Type||Lithium-Ion, USB-C rechargeable||Lithium-Ion, USB-B rechargeable|
|Battery Life||15 hours, fast recharge||15 hours|
|Connectivity||BLE, ANT+, Fe-C, WiFi||BLE, ANT+, Fe-C, WiFi|
|Announced||May 25th, 2021||Mar 14th, 2017|
new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Accuracy
I will circle back on this at some point in the future. For now, here are some pertinent GPS results in a variety of conditions as well as an elevation track over some Surrey hills.
Elevation – here the Bolt started out too high and maintained that discrepancy. Had it started out correctly it probably would have given a good result. I’m surprised that the inbuilt digital map elevation is not leveraged as it clearly wasn’t and I was following a route.
GPS – GPS, on the other hand, looks pretty decent although even less decent bike GPS tracks are perfectly fine in my opinion. Of particular interest is the behaviour under trees which was a not uncommon criticism of earlier Wahoos. These images show good GPS performance in many conditions but still a slight underperformance when zoomed into the Box Hill tree zig-zag. This level of error is of no concern to me but it might be to others of you and the errors could well be more pronounced through more closely packed trees on trail riding…roads are generally too easy to challenge a bike computer’s GPS.
GPS looks mildly improved over the original Bolt.
I don’t like to include bugs as they will be fixed. However, I will point these out as I know I will frequently update this review over the coming months
- Some sensors are hard to pair, they take perseverance but I’ve eventually got all to pair.
- Other people are having issues with sensor dropouts and in general, I’m not. HOWEVER, my Power2Max power meter is dropping out like crazy and this PM was one of the ones that were hard to pair up. When it does pair correctly, my HRM-PRO won’t pair at the same time! Wierd.
- I can’t get my Di2 top-buttons to control the Bolt 2.
- I’m not sure that the DEM always writes the elevation track
Take-Out from my Review on the new Wahoo Bolt
This is one of those upgrades where little seems to have changed but where the reality inside the bike computer is VERY different.
Compared to the original Bolt, this is really an entirely new piece of improved hardware with a couple of extra, meaningful software goodies thrown in in the form of mapping improvements. Highly, detailed issues like hard-to-press buttons with gloves and flappy charge covers have been fully addressed, usability improvements have been made with colours & new fonts on the interface and the whole ride experience is powered by a faster processor.
What more could we have expected? Answer…not a lot. This is a VERY sensible evolution of the Wahoo Bolt.
The new Wahoo Bolt is worth the upgrade and definitely worth switching from a competing brand if you are unhappy there.
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