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review

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt

8
£249.99

VERDICT:

8
10
Neat GPS bike computer now with a colour screen that improves clarity, and updated navigation features
Colour screen
Automatic re-routing
On-device navigation features
Improved storage capacity
Small screen
Increased price
Buttons can be fiddly in long-fingered gloves
Weight: 
70g

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The updated Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is more expensive than previously, but the addition of colour to the screen improves clarity and a couple of neat navigation features improve the user experience and justify the extra cash.

Navigation

Let's start with navigation. The new version of the Elemnt Bolt features Smart Navigation previously found only on the Elemnt Roam. Say you're following a route and you miss a turn or the road you want to go down is closed, Smart Navigation means that the software will re-route you (you can turn this feature off if you're not keen).

When you go off course, rather than having a meltdown about it, the Elemnt Bolt just beeps, the LEDs along the top of the screen flash red, and you get an amended route – usually within seconds, sometimes a little longer. This has always worked well for me, giving me a sensible alternative.

> Find your nearest dealer here

> Buy this online here

You can also get instructions for retracing your ride and routing back to the start from the Elemnt Bolt itself rather than needing to go via Wahoo's Elemnt smartphone app (you can retrace your current ride directly on the first generation Elemnt Bolt now too).

The 'Take Me To...' feature – which works out the route and navigates you to a place of your choosing with turn-by-turn directions – is also now available on the device whereas it was just a feature of the app previously. You can either ask the Elemnt Bolt to take you to a saved location or use the buttons to move around the map and select a target destination visually. These navigation features worked exactly as advertised.

The advantage is that you can now do all this stuff on the fly (if you're careful, obviously; don't go blaming me if you ride into a ditch) rather than needing to pull over and use the app. Lost and want to get home? You just scroll to the maps page, select 'home', and you'll get the directions. Granted, you could have hooked your phone out of your pocket previously and done this while riding along, but it's easier and safer to do it via the device itself.

2021 Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS computer - 1.jpeg

You can also use the app to create routes to follow, as with the first generation Elemnt Bolt, syncing from Strava, Komoot, and other third-party apps, or selecting .fit, .gpx, or .tcx files on a website, email, and so on.

The mapping is clear, while the chevrons showing your route and the turn-by-turn instructions are easy enough to follow, but I haven't found the navigation to be perfect. I've missed turns because the Elemnt Bolt hasn't kept up with my true position. It has told me it's 100m until the next right turn, for instance, when in reality I've just passed it.

When this happens, the LEDs flash within a few seconds to alert you to the error. You can either spin around and go back to the turning, or wait for the Elemnt Bolt to re-route you (see above) – sub-optimal, but usually not the end of the world.

> GPS cycle route planning made easy – how to plan and follow a bike route

I've also been routed on gravel tracks a few times when I've specified that I want to stay on roads. This is because the Elemnt Bolt uses OpenStreetMap and any errors on there are carried over. Other units that use OpenStreetMap do the same thing. On the whole, though, the Elemnt Bolt's navigational capabilities are very good.

Other features

The previous Wahoo Elemnt Bolt had 4GB of memory but that has increased to 16GB on the new version so it can hold mapping data for much larger areas. The device didn't come with mapping for Italy, for instance, so I went to the app, selected the relevant maps (774MB), and downloaded them before a recent trip. You could do this previously, it's just that there's much more space now. If you're travelling abroad, make sure you get the relevant maps while you have a good wifi connection.

As mentioned above, you still get a series of LEDs along the top of the display that you can customise to indicate your speed, power or heart rate. Some people find them useful but you can turn them off if you're not a fan.

You control the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt via six buttons, the same as previously, but once up and running most things are handled by the three that sit just below the display.

Wahoo Element Bolt 2021 - buttons.jpg

Wahoo is excited that these buttons are now convex, raised a fraction above the level of the screen, while they were previously slightly recessed. The idea is that it's now easier to select actions and scroll through workout pages, even in long-fingered gloves.

I must say, though, I disagree with Wahoo (and some other reviewers) here. Previously, I found it quite easy to distinguish between the buttons by feel alone. I find the new design marginally more difficult. The buttons are less convex on the new model than they were concave on the previous one. It's not a deal-breaker, I just don't feel this is the step forward that Wahoo thinks it is.

One of the best things about the Elemnt Bolt – and other Wahoo devices – has always been the ability to customise the data screens easily through the Elemnt app, and that remains the case. You open the app, select the data fields you want to see and remove the ones you don't; you can move them into any order you like, and your setup is reflected on the device.

Wahoo Element Bolt 2021.jpg

Another is ease of integration with third-party apps, such as Strava. Wahoo is the best in the business as far as app setup and integration is concerned.

As before, the Elemnt Bolt has an IPX7 waterproof rating – I've never had any worries in the past – and the best-case scenario run-time is up to about 15 hours, although that'll depend on what you ask it to do.

Display

The updated Elemnt Bolt still has a 240x320 pixel screen but the big change is that whereas the previous model was black and white – well, black and grey to be more accurate – the new one is 64 colour. The existing Wahoo Elemnt Roam is eight colour.

> Read our review of the Wahoo Elemnt Roam here

Wahoo hasn't splashed colour all over the place, though. The Elemnt Bolt is nothing like an Apple Watch, say, where pretty much everything is Disneyland-bright. Rather, colour is used to aid clarity and little more. It gives you zone colouring for your heart rate and power – in other words, the background colour tells you which of your preset zones you're currently in – and, not surprisingly, makes the biggest difference to the mapping.

2021 Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS computer - 2.jpeg

If you used the old Wahoo Elemnt Bolt you'll know that there are only so many ways to make black lines look different from one another on a map, and that can be even more of an issue when vibration from the road makes things blurry. Life's a whole lot easier when maps feature coloured roads, rivers that are blue, parks that are green, and so on. It's just better. That said, I think that colour could be used more extensively to make navigation clearer on the new Elemnt Bolt – there's still a whole lot of black used on the mapping.

The size of the screen limits the mapping to some extent – 55.9mm is pretty small – but zooming in/out is a one-button operation. You also get an ambient light sensor and if you flick to the 'auto' setting the Elemnt Bolt will adjust the backlight to suit the conditions. The Wahoo Elemnt Roam already has this feature. It works well and is especially handy on evening rides when daylight gradually diminishes.

Size

The new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is slightly larger than the old version – which I've been using regularly for years – but you probably wouldn't notice that unless you put them alongside one another.

Wahoo Element Bolt 2021 - searching for GPS.jpg

The second-generation model measures 3.05in x 1.86in x 0.84in. That's 77mm x 47mm x 21mm in new money.

Wahoo Element Bolt 2021 - screen.jpg

The display is 2.2in, or 55.9mm (measured diagonally), which is the same as previously, and the weight on the road.cc scales (device only, not including the mount) is 70g. The previous model was 61g so... pfft! That's not the sort of weight increase that's going to keep you up at night.

In the box

As well as the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt itself, in the box you get a bolt-on out-front mount, a stem/handlebar mount and zip-ties to hold it in place, and a USB-C charging cable. You also get some Important Product Information, which isn't that important (unless you're the sort of person who actually would eat batteries or unquestioningly follow navigation instructions if the road has been dug up) and a Quick Start Guide, which is handy.

Wahoo Element Bolt 2021 - box opened.jpg

The first generation Wahoo Elemnt Bolt used a Micro USB connection, which is sooooo last decade. The USB-C connector is much more robust.

The quarter-turn device/mount attachment system hasn't changed but the out-front mount is slightly larger than previously – although still 27g. This means you can use a new Elemnt Bolt on an old out-front mount – although the integration isn't particularly neat – but a first-generation device won't fit on the new out-front mount.

Wahoo Element Bolt 2021 - back.jpg

Price

The price of the Elemnt Bolt has increased considerably from £184.99 to £249.99. That's a rise of £65 or 35%.

For comparison, Garmin's Edge 530 is £259.99 – so a tenner more expensive at full RRP (although you might find it cheaper). This is the Elemnt Bolt's obvious rival and discussions about the merits of each can get quite emotive. We've put together a video comparing them.

> 11 of the best cheap GPS cycling computers

There's a lot that's very similar about the two units. They're about the same size and weight (the Garmin 530 has a slightly larger screen), both have an IPX7 waterproof rating and support things like Strava Live. The navigation features are broadly similar too.

> 13 of the best GPS cycling computers

The Garmin has a longer battery life and a greater number of features – such as built-in suggested workouts, dynamic performance monitoring and training status – but, like a lot of people, I find Wahoo's setup and use, a lot of it via the smartphone app, to be easier. Check out that video for a full analysis.

Overall

Version two of the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt marks a considerable step forward from the original, largely thanks to a colour screen – which makes for clearer mapping – and automatic re-routing if you go off your chosen course. The ability to access certain navigational features directly through the device rather than needing to go via Wahoo's smartphone app can also be handy, as can the increased storage capacity. The updated model is considerably more expensive than previously, but the significant improvements explain the price increase.

Verdict

Neat GPS bike computer now with a colour screen that improves clarity, and updated navigation features

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Wahoo Elemnt Bolt

Size tested: 3.05in x 1.86in x 0.84in

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Wahoo says, "Elemnt Bolt is purposefully built to provide a simple, intuitive ride experience in a sleek, aerodynamic design. This GPS bike computer features a 2.2 inch, 64 colour screen with an ambient light sensor to make it easy to see the metrics that matter most, at a glance. Perfect View Zoom, Quicklook LEDs, and customisable data pages allow you to personalize your device setup to ensure it's a helpful companion from the beginning to the end of your ride. With 16GB of memory and on-device navigation features, Elemnt Bolt can store the maps and routes you need to keep you on track and re-route on the fly. Bolt has a battery life of 15 hours and can be charged mid-ride thanks to its USB-C charging. Equipped with Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, and WiFi technology, Elemnt Bolt pairs seamlessly with all of your cycling sensors and complementary devices to get the most out of your time training. Designed for performance and engineered for simplicity - the Elemnt Bolt GPS Bike Computer makes every second count.

"The Elemnt Bolt is a fully integrated GPS bike computer, with a full list of compatible hardware and smartphone apps."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Here are some of the key navigation features:

ON-DEVICE TURN BY TURN NAVIGATION

The ELEMNT BOLT will automatically generate turn-by-turn prompts for routes and file types; including GPX files, TCX files, and routes imported from Strava, Ride With GPS, and Komoot. Top LEDs and audible cues let you know, at-a-glance, what your next turn is or if you've gotten off-course.

TAKE ME TO (ON-DEMAND ROUTE GENERATION)

Take Me To allows you to create a route with turn-by-turn directions by simply selecting a location directly on the ELEMNT BOLT map page, using its pan and zoom, or by selecting from one of your saved locations. In the ELEMNT Companion App, enter a destination, address, or point of interest and generate a route with turn-by-turn directions and sync it to the ELEMNT BOLT via Bluetooth.

RETRACE ROUTE

Either directly on the ELEMNT BOLT or in the ELEMNT Companion App, selecting Retrace Route will provide turn-by-turn directions to route you back to the starting point of your ride by reversing the route you just rode.

SAVED LOCATIONS

Save your favorite locations either directly on the ELEMNT BOLT or in the ELEMNT Companion App so you can easily generate a route on the fly and get turn-by-turn directions to your frequently visited spots.

GET ME STARTED (NAVIGATION TO START OF THE ROUTE)

Get Me Started is an on-device navigation feature that will give you turn-by-turn directions to the starting point of your route. When selected, ELEMNT BOLT will create a route for you; just follow the blue chevrons and when you reach your planned route, the chevrons will turn black

BACK ON TRACK (ON-DEMAND REROUTING)

Back on Track is an on-device navigation feature that will reroute you with turn-by-turn directions. If you take a wrong turn or veer off course, the ELEMNT BOLT will show blue chevrons directing you back to your planned route, and the chevrons will turn black when you are back on track.

ROUTE TO START (SHORTEST ROUTE)

Route to Start is an on-device navigation feature that will find the shortest way back to the start of your ride and create turn-by-turn directions. No need to follow the same route back home!

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
9/10
Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

It performs as promised, the various features living up to expectations.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The colour screen is a definite step forward, and some of the navigational features – such as automatic re-routing – are valuable.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The screen is small and I didn't get on especially well with the new buttons when using long-fingered gloves.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Garmin's Edge 530 is £259.99. This is the Elemnt Bolt's obvious rival. They each have pros and cons so we've put together a video comparing them.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

I think that this is a clear 8. It's a strong product at a reasonable price, given the tech and performance.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 48  Height: 190cm  Weight: 80kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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