Excellent sync with phone for setup, ride uploading, route downloading; easy to read and adjust; excellent battery life; automatic rerouting; LED notifications
Changing screen fields requires using your phone; can't scroll on map, only zoom in or zoom out; new USB-C charger may mean one more cable in your nest
The latest Elemnt Bolt is feature rich and still very easy to use. Any GPS computer can display and record a wealth of metrics. The Bolt excels at allowing you to tailor your configuration on the fly, and the new color graphics help you to stay on track, whether following a route or following a workout.
The revised Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is an excellent cycling computer. If you value a clear display, reliable navigation, long battery life, and helpful prompts, then the $279 computer is worth a look as a strong rival to Garmin’s Edge computers.
Wahoo upgraded the Element Bolt as of May 25, 2021. The new Bolt has a color screen and ‘smart’ navigation that can reroute you on the fly should you go off course. Compared to the original Bolt launched in 2017, the current Bolt has a slightly larger body and different graphics, new buttons that sit flush with the top, more storage (16gb from 4), and costs $279 instead of $229. It also recharges with a USB-C cable (like a GoPro) instead of a mini USB cable (like Garmins and previous Wahoos).
As before, six buttons (not a touchscreen) drive the unit’s operation, and seven little LEDs up top can be programmed to alert you for upcoming turns, incoming calls, or when you’re in or out of your desired power or heart-rate zone.
The color certainly makes the map screen easier to read, as the original Bolt’s black directional arrows often got muddled on the black road lines. But the color is also used for prompts when training, such as changing colors to reflect which power and/or heart rate zone you’re in. I found that feature to be helpful in easily staying on track without having to stare at numbers. Just a quick peripheral glance gives color-coded feedback.
The LEDs can also be configured for color-coded feedback.
The Elemnt Bolt is super easy to set up with the app, using drop-and-drag configuration on your phone to move things around. Similarly, it plays well with apps like TrainingPeaks and Strava, syncing nicely to autopopulate scheduled workouts and Strava Live Segments, and automatically uploading your ride as soon as you’re done via known wifi signals or your phone app.
Battery life is excellent. It is claimed at 15 hours — the same as Garmin Edge computers of the same size — and in my testing I found that to be believable. After a nine hours of run time (Unbound training…) during which I used navigation for seven hours, battery life was down to 60 percent from a full charge. (An Edge 830 was at 56 percent.)
Not too long ago, even bigger GPS computers like the Edge 1000 would only get 4.5 hours when using navigation. Battery life has improved tremendously, and that’s a great thing.
Elemnt Bolt advanced features
All GPS computers these days down to the $99 Leyzne Macro Plus GPS give you a full menu of metrics based on speed, distance, power, heart rate, cadence, elevation, and more. Most now give you text and call notifications on screen, too. So of course the Elemnt Bolt has all these features, with field options even including things like saturated hemoglobin, tire pressure, and phone battery life.
Wahoo’s forward-looking phone integration with all its products pays off for a phone-centric culture. Getting routes on your Bolt, for example, doesn’t require you to connect it to a computer with a cable. When synced with accounts you use like Strava, Ride With GPS, or SingleTracks, your saved routes sync to your Bolt. Or, a friend can email you a GPX file and you can open it with your Elemnt app and sync it to your computer. It’s handy.
Once you are following a route, the Bolt gives you a few ways to do so. On the navigation screen, you simply follow the arrows like you would Google Maps or something similar in your car. On any other screen, the Bolt will prompt you with auditory and visual cues for upcoming turns, and will pop up text directions on whatever screen you’re on. If you miss a turn or go off route, the Bolt beeps at you and flashes red, and then offers a suggested route to get you back on course.
A computer should make your workouts easier, not harder. The Bolt does a good job here by autopopulating your workouts from Today’s Plan (which you get free with Outside+), TrainingPeaks, or TrainerRoad. When your favorite workout app is synced, the Bolt will pop up that day’s workout and you just follow along, with color codes and LED prompt to keep you in the correct zone. The workout screen is customizable with the app, too, and you can scale the workout percentage-wise if need be.
You can pause the workout and still record your ride. This doesn’t sound like a novel feature, but Garmin for a long time didn’t have this option. In any event, it’s a sensible solution for training outside, where real life often gets in the way of that perfect interval. You can also jump ahead or back on work and rest intervals.
Strava Live Segments
Strava Live Segments let you chase your best time, the best time of the person your follow, or the QOM/KOM for any Strava Segment that your favorite on Strava. It gives you a heads up when you’re approaching a favorited Segment, and then provides graphic information on your progress compared to the target time, how far you have to go, your predicted finish time, and more. It can be a fun way to get some intensity in, chasing a little digital ghost on a random segment.
The Bolt has six buttons. The left button is for power and the menu. The two right buttons toggle up and down, serving to zoom in and out on maps, show more or fewer data fields, or move up in down in the menu. And then the functionality of the three buttons on the face of the Bolt change depending on what’s on the screen.
So no, it’s not a touchscreen computer. Generally, that’s a positive thing, as muck and moisture don’t affect your ability to use it. And the buttons have positive feedback so you can tell if you’ve pressed it. Also, pressing the page-advance button elicits a single LED flash a split-second before the screen changes. The primary downside to not having a touchscreen, in my estimation, is that you can’t change a particular field while riding the way you can with a newer Garmin Edge computer.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt vs Garmin Edge 520 Plus
With its upgrade to color, the Bolt is now the same price as the Garmin Edge 520 Plus at $279, and quite similar in size and function.
The Edge 520 Plus has seven buttons, all of which are on the sides, and is not touchscreen either.
The Edge 520 Plus also has turn-by-turn directions on a color map, Strava Live Segments, notifications, and claimed battery life of up to 15 hours. Similarly, you can sync your workouts from training apps to follow on the 520 Plus.
What the Garmin computer offers that Wahoo doesn’t is some visual power-meter analysis meant to be used with Garmin Vector pedals, plus some educated guesstimates (when used with heart rate and power) on your V02 max and advised recovery time. It also offers a ClimbPro feature that displays upcoming climbs visually and numerically on your route.
The Garmin does not have LEDs, nor can you easily set it up with a phone app. You have to thumb through the sub menus on the unit itself.
The Edge 520 Plus screen is 2.3in to the Bolt’s 2.2-inch, and the resolution is 265×200 pixels to the Bolt’s 300×240. Both work on ANT+ and Bluetooth.
Bottom line: A great computer for training, racing, and everyday riding
Ease of use, dependability, legibility, and long battery life. What more do you want from a bike computer? The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt doesn’t have every last bell or whistle under the sun, but it has everything you need to training, racing, and everyday riding, from color-coded training prompts to automatic workout and route syncing to navigation that’s easy to follow and can adapt if you get off track. It’s a button-driven — not a touchscreen — computer, but it’s fairly intuitive to use, nonetheless. Highly recommended.