Review: Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT GPS

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT – $250
wahoofitness.com
By Scott Williams

Claimed to be the first, fully aerodynamic GPS bike computer, the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT is packed with features that will please data junkies and weekend warriors alike. While I find the aerodynamic computer and mount integration impressive, the simple user interface is what makes the Wahoo stand above its competitors.

Aside from the standard performance measuring data metrics, the unit features Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ dual-band technology for device and sensor pairing, preloaded domestic and international maps, optional phone notifications, Bluetooth route syncing, turn-by-turn navigation with Komoot and RideWithGPS, Strava Live Segments, and so on and so on.

Size, weight, features,( and now) price make the ELEMNT BOLT and Garmin Edge 520 as direct of a comparison as you can find. The Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt and Garmin Edge 520 remind me a lot of the Apple versus Android showdown; while both units are similarly packed full of the latest and greatest features, the two companies approach the interface in two very different ways.

Garmin’s experience is primarily through the device itself. For instance, settings and menu configurations are all done on the device. Whereas on the ELEMNT BOLT, the device configuration is pushed through to your phone via Wahoo’s phone app, referred to as the Companion app. Speaking of apps, Garmin and Wahoo are different here as well. For many users, this will not make a difference as the primary third-party apps like RideWithGPS, Strava, and TrainingPeaks are configured to work with both Garmin and Wahoo devices. The difference lies in the more obscure third-party apps that are not as widely used. Garmin offers an open network through the company’s Connect IQ app, which allows free reign to develop apps for Garmin devices. Wahoo, however, wants to focus on ensuring an optimal user experience through a specially curated selection of third-party apps that are well-known and highly regarded.

Admittedly, I am not a user that takes full advantage of bike computer capabilities. I like tracking my rides through Strava mainly to see the ground I cover and ensuring I stay active enough to eat all the cookies I want. I’ll dabble here and there with pre-loaded routes, but most of my riding is off-road, and it’s difficult to create accurate singletrack routes.

As mentioned above, to set up the ELEMNT BOLT, you’ll need your phone, more specifically an Apple or Android smartphone so that you can download the free Companion app. Once downloaded, you’ll scan a QR code on the GPS unit with your phone’s camera, and the two devices will sync. Next, you’ll be prompted to create a Wahoo account login so that all your data can be saved. Within the Companion app, you’ll see four tabs at the bottom.

Functions
Ride – shows a map overlay of the current route and can select a planned workout or generated route.
Results – a repository for all activities that have been recorded using the Wahoo device. By choosing a particular ride, you can view all the recorded metrics, very similar to Garmin’s Connect app.
Profile – the user’s profile with power and heart rate zones as well as age, height and weight.
Settings – this is where the GPS display is configured by adding, removing and rearranging the presenting metrics as well as changing device settings and notifications.

It can not be emphasized enough how intuitive the ELEMNT BOLT is to set up and use. As a long-time Garmin Edge user (both the 510 and 520), I found the devices had their fair share of quirks and ill-timed software updates. All of which I turned a blind eye too. The Garmin user interface, however, was one that downright irritated me.

I never kept track of battery life for the Garmin, but it seems like I can get multiple rides in on the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT before having to charge it. So while the Edge 520 and ELEMENT BOLT both states a battery life of 15 hours, the Wahoo seems to outlast the Garmin from prior experience. Simplicity is the name of the game for me, and the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT is as intuitive as they come.

The Good
– Intuitive to set up and use.
– Improved battery life. The Companion app also sends a push notification to your phone as a reminder to charge the GPS unit.
– Similar screen size to Garmin Edge 520, but the ELEMNT BOLT has a sharper bolded font making it easier to read.
– Connects to most major third-party apps like Komoot, RideWithGPS, Strava and TrainingPeaks.
– Better placement of buttons.
– No need to connect to a computer, ever.
– Routes are synced to the GPS via Bluetooth.
– Mount comes with a locking screw to secure the GPS device to the mount.

The Bad
– Only routes created within Komoot and RideWithGPS allow turn-by-turn navigation. Strava-created routes are breadcrumb style (no specifics, Turn Left, Turn Right, etc.).
– The backlight is either on, off or user-defined duration up to 60 seconds. There is no automated night-mode option similar to Garmin devices.
– Curated library of only the most widely used third-party apps (moot point for most).
– If you use an aftermarket mount, there is no safety tether to loop around your bar.

Bonus
– If you want a larger screen, check out the Wahoo ELEMNT. It offers the same features as the ELEMNT BOLT but provides a 68.6 mm diagonal display compared to the ELEMNT BOLT’s 56 mm diagonal display.
– Aftermarket mounts from K-Edge offer Wahoo replacement pucks for $5 that will replace the Garmin mount in any of the company’s stem mounts.