The New Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT Review
PEZ readers will know that I’m a Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM convert when it comes to bicycle computers:
Personally, I’m sold on the ROAM. For me and the kind of riding I do, it does what I need it to do and does it very well. I’ve grown used to and appreciate the larger form factor, i.e., bigger screen. And the overall experience/usage is easier than my previous Garmin thanks to the companion ELEMNT phone app.
But I know a lot of riders prefer a smaller form factor. Wahoo has the ELEMNT BOLT for them, but one of the things it lacks compared to the ROAM is a color screen, which is most noticeable with maps:
I had a chance to ride with the BOLT for a little bit before the ROAM and – especially coming from a Garmin – found the black and white maps not so easy to read. They’re basically black lines against a white background.
Well, Wahoo has updated the BOLT (first introduced in 2017) with a 64-color, high-contrast screen, as well as:
- Smart navigation features, including smart elevation
- 16 GB of on-device storage (up from 4 GB)
- USB-C charging
What a difference color makes
For PEZ readers who want the BLUF (bottom line up front): The BIG difference between the original BOLT and the updated BOLT is the color screen — especially when you’re on the Map page. Instead of just black lines, the updated BOLT makes the same use of colors similar to its big brother ROAM. It’s not as detailed as Google Maps or a Garmin-level color map. Instead, Wahoo uses color to help distinguish key features to help make the map easier to read:
- Gray – for “regular” streets (NOTE that the Wahoo map doesn’t have street names)
- Yellow – for “main” roads (lighter to darker shades depending on how “big” the road is)
- Dark blue – for bike trails
- Light (aqua-ish) blue – for water
The difference between old (L) and new (R) is readily apparent
Color also comes into play when navigating:
- Black chevrons indicate you’re on the route
- Blue chevrons re-route you back on course
Left: Black chevrons show me on course. Right: Blue chevrons to re-route me back on course (as well as a turn direction cue).
Power and HR data can use color to let you know what zone you’re in
Wahoo also uses color to display post-ride data
If “You had me at color” is all you needed to know to decide that you want the new Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT, I guess you can stop reading. But if you want to learn more about the updated BOLT, please continue.
What’s in the box: Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT – $279.99
In addition to the BOLT, you get (counter-clockwise from the left): Quick Start Guide, zip ties, stem mount (secured by the zip ties), USB-C charging cord, integrated aero out front bar mount (plus locking screw just in case you’re thinking of doing UCI-sanctioned racing and want to affix the BOLT in place on the mount to make it a “permanent” part of the bike for weigh-in purposes, but can also serve as an anti-theft feature), and product info (in a plethora of languages)
Size-wise, the updated BOLT is just a tad bigger than the original BOLT, but the screen real estate (durable, scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass) is the same diagonal 2.2 inches (5.4 cm). However, instead of B&W, it’s a color screen with 240×300 pixels screen resolution.
The updated BOLT (middle) has the same size screen as the original BOLT (left) but is ever so slightly larger and takes its form factor cues from its bigger brother ROAM (right)
Stated battery life is 15 hours (same as the original BOLT). Based on my experience with both the BOLT and ROAM, that’s probably an absolute best case. Realistically, expect something slightly less in most real world riding.
The updated BOLT is IPX7 water rated — meaning its waterproof and can be submerged to 1-meter depth for 30 minutes (again, same as the original BOLT). I don’t intentionally do #9 rides, but can attest to both the BOLT and ROAM holding up when I’ve been caught out in downpours. So I would expect the same for the updated BOLT.
The updated Bolt spec is a little porkier than the original: 2.4 oz (68 gr) vs 2.2 oz (62 gr) — and mine weighed in a couple grams more
Satellite position/location is via GPS, Galileo (developed by the European Union), and GLONASS (Russia’s global navigation system). Between the three of them, you should be able to know where you are to within at least 10 meters or better.
Because the weight weenies will want to know
The out front mount and BOLT work together to present a sleek profile to the wind #aero #marginalgains
There’s a single button on the left side for power on/off, which also toggles to and from the settings screen. There are two buttons of the right side to change (zoom in and out) the number of fields displayed (more about that later), as well as to scroll on the settings screen. And three larger what Wahoo calls “smart buttons” on the bottom that control functions displayed on the screen above them.
Across the top are a series of LEDs that can be set for directions and notifications.
If you’re already a BOLT (or other Wahoo ELEMNT computer) owner, you can skip this part because you already know what to do.
But if you’re a new Wahooligan, the first thing you’ll need to do is download the ELEMNT companion app (either Android or iOS) on your phone because the app is what you use to set up and configure the BOLT (you can also do it directly on the BOLT but the app is so much easier to use). Then turn on the BOLT and wait for a QR code to appear (if for some reason it doesn’t, push the on/off button on the left side once to get to the settings menu, use the zoom buttons on the right side to scroll to PAIR PHONE, and then push the middle smart button to start the pairing process).
When you turn the Bolt on for the first time, it should cycle to a screen with a QR code
Scan the QR code with the ELEMNT app and just follow the prompts. And don’t forget to update!
It’s all about the app
For anything other than actual riding, the important thing to remember is that you can do pretty much everything you need to do via the app. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s easier to show screen shots than it is to describe in words.
The app allows you to configure all this stuff!
Pairing sensors is easy peasy with the ELEMNT app:
- Select SET UP SENSORS
- Wake up the sensors you want to pair and they will appear as UNSAVED SENSORS
- Tap on the sensor you want to pair and then save it when prompted
- Voila! Tu es fini!
Configuring pages (screens)
Wahoo calls them pages, but they’re screens by any other name. By default, the BOLT is pre-loaded with three pages:
- Workout data
Left-to-right: default Workout data, Climbing, and Map
You configure each of the pages with the app, which allows you to choose what data you want displayed and where you want it displayed on the screen.
In addition to the three default pages, you can create your own custom pages
Put your finger on the three horizontal lines on the right to move a data field up or down to change where it’s displayed on the BOLT screen (or swipe left to completely delete the data field). Tap on a data field to replace it with a different one.
Left-to-right: Tap on the data field you want to replace — in this case Active Time (workout), select the data field you want to replace it with — Climbing, select what data you want displayed — Total Ascent (workout), and Voila!
TOP: re-configured Workout data page on the app and BOLT; BOTTOM: re-configured Climbing page (I chose to use the default Map page)
Creating a custom page
Want to create a custom page? Piece of cake with the app. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Even though I just use a power meter (4iiii Precision left side only crank arm) for “fun,” I created a custom power meter page
LEDs and Sounds
The LEDs across the top on the BOLT can be set to light up for speed, power, and heart rate. If you set them for speed, the middle LED is your current average speed. LEDs to the right (blue) indicate that you’re currently riding at a higher average speed and to the left (yellow) indicate a lesser average speed. If you choose power or heart rate, the LEDs will light up different colors — white, blue, green, yellow, red — depending on what zone you’re in.
LEDs can also be set for:
- Notifications (email, text, phone call)
- Turn by turn directions
- Workout paused/resumed
- Strava Live segments
- Planned workouts
The top LEDs move right to left to let me know to turn left
Similarly, you can turn sounds on or off for:
- Turn by turn directions
- Workout paused/resumed
- Planned workouts
Speaking of notifications, I’ll re-iterate from my previous review of the ROAM:
Although I keep my phone in my back jersey pocket when I ride, I prefer to be “disconnected” from it. After all, part of riding is to get away from it all. But as a practical matter, I’ve set my Roam up to display any text messages (but not email) that I receive. This is mostly in case my wife or daughter needs to get a hold of me while I’m riding.
When I receive a text message, the top row LEDs light up green and the message pops up on my screen. Especially if I’m in a group, I’m not going to divert my attention to try to read the entirety of the message. But I can glance down to see who it’s from and whether it warrants me having to stop and respond immediately. The message will disappear off the screen of its own accord, but you can also press one of the function buttons to discard it (off the Roam, not your phone) immediately. You can also press DND (do not disturb), which will turn off alert pop ups for a set period of time (configured in the app).
Where I’ve found this feature most handy is when I’m riding to the ride start of a group ride I’ve organized. If someone texts me because they’re running behind schedule, I can know that en route and know to wait for them. No more having to pull my phone out of my jersey pocket to check for texts (yes, I’m lazy).
The LEDs flash green (and I get a beep) when I get a text message
One of the things I really like about the Wahoo ELEMNT bike computers is the zoom feature, which allows you to display more or less data fields based on how you prioritized them in the app.
Zooming in on the Workout data page
Riding with the updated BOLT
If you have a route loaded, the Climbing page will show you the terrain profile (black for what you just rode and gray for what’s in front of you)
Riding with the updated BOLT is the same as any other Wahoo ELEMNT bike computer, which is pretty much like with any other cycling GPS computer. You power it on and press START (using one of the smart buttons) to start a ride. If you have the AUTO-PAUSE feature enabled, the Roam will pause whenever you stop (whether it’s a stop light or a coffee stop) and re-start when you start rolling again. At the end of the ride, press STOP and the Roam will ask you END RIDE? Press YES and your ride is recorded and will sync with whatever apps you’ve authorized.
Lots of choices for uploading/syncing rides
I have to admit that coming from the larger screen on the ROAM I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to see the smaller screen on the BOLT as well (in part because of aging eyes that need reading glasses). I’m happy to report that the smaller screen wasn’t a big issue. It’s clear and bright. Even with all the fields displayed on the Workout Data page, I could read them all. Plus the use of color for my power and heart rate made for easier viewing.
The new BOLT (L) makes more use of color (the lighter blue is water and the darker blue are bike trails) than the ROAM (R)
The real revelation with the new BOLT was the maps. Wahoo did more than just “shrink” the ROAM’s map features to fit on a smaller screen (2.2″ for the BOLT vs 2.7″ for the ROAM). The new BOLT is an improvement with its different use of colors. Even with the smaller screen, I found it easy to read the maps (especially in a “busier” urban environment). And the use of color for directional pop-ups made for easy reading.
If you synced a route (I use Ride With GPS, but you can sync from Strava, Komoot, BestBikeSplit, MTB Project, and Single Tracks too), navigation is the same as with the ROAM but with more use of color on the new BOLT:
Once riding, the Roam will alert you with turn-by-turn navigation directions (regardless of which page your viewing). Even though the Wahoo maps don’t have street names, the directions will tell you which way to turn and the name of the street. If you have the top row LEDs enabled, they will also “blink” in the direction you’re supposed to turn. And after you’ve made your turn, you’ll get an alert telling you how far to the next turn and what direction to turn.
If you go off course, the top row LEDs flash red and you’ll get an “off route” sound alert (I have the latter turned off because I don’t hear it so well). And the Roam will re-route you back to your original route.
One thing that’s new with the new BOLT is that in addition to blue chevrons to guide you back on route, you also get turn-by-turn directions
Just remember that Wahoo maps don’t have street names, so my admonition from my ROAM review still applies: “if you’re in a denser area with a lot of roads, you’ll have to pay more attention to figure out where you are on the map and when the next turn is.”
The new BOLT one ups its big brother ROAM in the map department
A better mousetrap
I know I haven’t covered every feature on the new BOLT (I’m sure PEZ readers know where to go on the web to find someone who excels at that and I’m not here to compete). For example, I haven’t used the Take Me To feature that allows you to create a route with turn-by-turn directions by using the pan and zoom feature to select a location directly on the map page. Or you can select from one of your saved locations. Or you can enter a destination, address, or point of interest via the ELEMNT Companion App to generate a route with turn-by-turn directions and sync it to the BOLT via Bluetooth.
I really like the automatic backlight feature when my riding takes me into the night
But it should be apparent that Wahoo has really up’ed their game with the new version of the ELEMNT BOLT. Is it a Garmin killer? At a price point comparable to the similarly sized Garmin Edge 520 Plus, let’s just say that it’s a more than worthy competitor.
The new BOLT also one-ups its big brother ROAM. Essentially, Wahoo brought the color features of the ROAM to the smaller screen BOLT and made them better. So definitely a better mousetrap. Am I giving up my ROAM for the new BOLT? From a practical (aging eyes) standpoint, I’m still partial to the larger screen real estate of the ROAM. So I’m hoping that it won’t be too long before Wahoo releases a bigger mousetrap with an updated ROAM emulating the new BOLT. But for those of y’all with 20/20 close-up vision and preferring a smaller form factor, there’s no reason to wait.
Say “hello” to the Brood X cicadas that have emerged on their 17 year cycle
Note: If you have other experiences with gear or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews or a slap in the head if you feel the need!
PezCyclingNews ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products you see here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper / safe use, handling, maintenance and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.