The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is neat, compact bike computer that seeks to rival the likes of Garmin 520
What is the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt?
The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is a neat, compact cycling computer that is designed to be more aerodynamic than rival products.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: smartphone operated
To use and set up the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, you will require a smartphone. This will not be a downside to many riders, but I know several older riders who use GPS bike computers but who don’t own smartphones!
Pairing the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt with a smartphone is easy with the corresponding app efficiently taking you through the process. Once paired you can set up your data screens in the app and connect sensors such as heart rate and power. I had no issues doing this and the software was very easy to use. The app is really useful for customising data fields, setting up how many screens you have, the fields on those screens etc. I found this functionality useful and it makes sense to be able to do it through a smartphone.
Once set up the unit is controlled by way of two buttons on the side and three on the bottom. Unlike most Garmin units, the screen isn’t touch. The two buttons on the side control the zoom in and zoom out of the screen, while the buttons on the bottom switch between different screens.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: aerodynamic claims
One of the key features of the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is its claimed aerodynamic benefit. The Bolt has been designed to be aerodynamic and Wahoo claims that it exhibits a 50 per cent reduction of drag relative to competitors’ products such as the Garmin 520. Wahoo says that it has worked with aerodynamics expert Dimitris Katsanis, who was responsible for UK Cycling’s groundbreaking track bikes and equipment, as well as working with Team Sky and on Bradley Wiggins’s Hour Record bike.
Wahoo’s Elemnt Bolt aims to reduce drag by cleverly integrating the design of the computer and its mount together. Wahoo says it’s used computational fluid dynamics to model airflow over the Elemnt Bolt, finding that it results in drag savings. Put into context, Wahoo says that this equates to a decreased time in a 40km time trial time of 12.6 seconds when travelling at a rather leisurely 21mph.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: display and features
The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt shares some of the features of the original Elemnt computer launched in 2015. So it has Wahoo’s Quicklook customisable array of LED indicators and Perfect View zoom feature. On paper, the LEDs have a whole host of potential uses from navigation to effort gauging but when in use they’re pretty pointless as during daylight they are almost impossible to see. I actually forgot they were there when testing the unit and only noticed them while riding through the dark tunnel at the top of Puig Major in Majorca.
The 2.2in display on the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is clear and numbers are easy to read on the screen. Unlike the colour screens found on higher-end Garmin Edge units, the screen is black and white. Reading numbers and data fields on it is easy and clear, but the mapping function is far harder to read.
Following a black indicator on black roads, especially in complicated, busy areas is not the easiest. Although there isn’t a touch screen, I don’t consider this a downside as the buttons work really well and are easy to use with gloves on in winter.
It does score a punch against the Garmin with regard to maps though, as they are included on the base unit. With Garmin, they are an optional extra. While testing I did experience a faulty screen which clouded over, but Wahoo quickly replaced this under warranty and since then I have had no issues. I suspect I may have just been unlucky.
The zoom in and zoom out buttons on the side are useful as they work on any screen. This means that if you are viewing a data screen populated with nine little fields, you can zoom in until it becomes three or one large field. This is a feature that I think will be particularly useful to short-sighted riders, or when you want to concentrate on fewer numbers.
Watch: A complete guide to Garmin Edge Computers
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: battery life, size and security
Battery life has really impressed me. The Garmin Edge 520 claims to be around 15 hours, but when navigating I have never achieved anything close to this. The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt does however exhibit great battery life lasting typically two or three times longer than the Garmin 520.
Another little detail is a screw can be used to secure the computer to mount to give a little added security should your riding warrant it. It is a nice detail and may also be of use to pro teams as it would mean the computer could be included as part of the 6.8kg limit (and not removed) for UCI weigh-ins. It’s only 60g, but marginal gains and all that…
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: Strava integration and price comparison
The Elemnt Bolt offers full Strava integration, including Strava Live segments, as well as text and phone alerts. Retailing at £199.99 the Bolt is considerably less expensive than a £279.99 Garmin Edge 520. It’s also available as a bundle with Wahoo’s Tickr heart rate monitor and RPM speed and cadence sensor priced at £259.99.
Overall the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is great little bike computer that is a viable alternative to a Garmin that we can highly recommend. It isn't quite the Garmin killer as it isn't quite perfect - Garmin still has the edge (pun fully intended) when it comes to mapping and navigation. However, the Bolt is better value, has better battery life, works well and is easy to use. You will require an Android or IOS phone though.