Wahoo unveiled a new version of its Elemnt Bolt GPS bike computer earlier this week, complete with improved navigation and a colour display, and here are our very early thoughts.
This article is called a First Ride, and that’s literally the case. We’ve set up the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, explored the features, and taken it out on the road precisely once, so this is in no way a complete review. That’ll come later, once we’ve used the device regularly for a few weeks.
As well as the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt itself, in the box you get an 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 really 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.
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 device/mount attachment system hasn’t changed but the out-front mount is slightly larger than previously – although still 27g. This means that you can use a new Wahoo 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.
The new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is slightly larger than the old version, but not so much that you’d notice unless you put them alongside one another.
The second-generation model measures 3.05in x 1.86in x 0.84in. That’s 77mm x 47mm x 21mm in new money.
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.
The updated Elemnt Bolt still has a 240x300 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.
Wahoo hasn’t splashed colour all over the place, though. The Elemnt Bolt is nothing like as colourful as 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.
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 roads of various colours, rivers that are blue, parks that are green, and so on. It’s just better. A definite step forward. The size of the screen limits the mapping to some extent, 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.
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 I deliberately went off course a few times on my test ride, rather than having a meltdown about it the Elemnt Bolt just beeped, the LEDs along the top of the screen flashed red, and it gave me directions for getting back on track within seconds. No huffing or puffing, it just got on with the job, although we'll be testing it over many more routes over the coming weeks.
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. After a quick play, all of these navigation features worked exactly as advertised.
The advantage is that you can now do all this stuff on the fly 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.
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.
As mentioned, 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. I must say that having used the original Elemnt Bolt since its 2017 launch, I’ve never got into taking much notice of these LEDs, but they’re there if you want to use them.
The previous Wahoo Elemnt Bolt had a 4GB memory but that has quadrupled 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. 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.
The new Elemnt Bolt offers greater support for messaging services than previously, most notably for WhatsApp. In other words, if someone WhatsApps you while you’re riding, you can have the message come up on the display. Like pretty much everything else, if this feature doesn’t interest you, there’s the option of turning it off.
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 is really 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-finger gloves.
I’m not entirely convinced that the new device is simpler to operate as a result. My early impression is that the buttons were more distinct via touch alone on the previous version.
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, move them into any order you like, and your setup is reflected on the device. It’s the same with the new version, as is the 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 Wahoo claims the runtime is unchanged at 15 hours.
The price of the Elemnt Bolt has stepped up considerably from £184.99 to £249.99.
Expect a full review on road.cc soon.
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.