Wahoo has uplevelled the Elemnt Bolt with a new 64-colour screen, expanded navigation and 16GB of memory to massively improve mapping capability.
However, the US brand, which has always made simplicity its primary focus, has been careful to carry over the signature easy-to-use interface and button layout that it says will not only feel like home for current users who are upgrading but also for new users coming into its ecosystem.
The look and feel of the new Bolt bring it closer to the Wahoo Elemnt Roam: the casing is now black with very similar Wahoo branding. And indeed it has taken on much of the functionality of the Roam. You can read my first ride report on the new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt here.
So what’s new and how is it different from the Roam?
Like the original Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, launched in 2017, the 2021 version is designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, keeping the wedge shape which integrates with an out-front mount that acts as a fairing for the underside. But it’s got a little thicker due to a bigger battery for the colour screen and more powerful processor, Wahoo says aerodynamicist Dimitris Katsanis, who designed the original Bolt’s casing in CFD, has had input into the new unit, and Wahoo’s product manager Megan Powers confirmed that the new Bolt was within the aerodynamic parameters that they set with the original.
The bigger battery has added 9g to the Bolt – it now weighs 69g and 96g with the out-front mount.
On-device smart navigation
For Roam users stepping into the new Bolt the upgraded navigation will feel familiar, but it will represent new territory for the original Bolt users.
The original Bolt’s navigation was very simple – sync a route, follow turn by turn directions via the very clean interface and keep a route list in the device’s menu from third-party apps. Wahoo says that with the new Bolt it started focusing on the smart navigation features, as used by the Roam, such as automatically rerouting riders who stray from their planned route, letting riders change destinations, routing back to the start, and retracing from the device without having to use a phone.
The screen size remains the same at 2.2in (compared to the Roam’s 2.7in) and is made from scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, and uses the same button layout – Wahoo continues to steer clear of touchscreens – but the big change is that it uses 64 colours. The original Bolt’s screen was black and white and the Roam uses just eight colours.
Wahoo says ensuring a screen is easily readable has always been its priority, and when it launched the original Bolt, black and white was more visible than the colour screens of the time.
According to Powers, Wahoo introduced colour screens with the Roam and now the enhanced colour screen of the Bolt only because it's satisfied that the technology has caught up with where it wants its screens to be in terms of clarity.
Wahoo has also used colour intelligently: certain data fields such as heart rate and power are colour coded by zone, so that all that's needed is a glance.
“If you need key data points very quickly you need to make sure you’re not having to search around a screen while you should be looking at the road ahead,” says Powers. “Colour gives you hits of data that you need quickly – we’re using colour where it’s most impactful.”
According to Wahoo, implementing colour gave it a chance to audit what its devices, could do, making the Bolt’s designers think differently about how they approached features and new hardware technology.
“In your post-ride analysis you always see your time in zone based on colour, but now to bring that exact same colour code onto the device is really intuitive. You can see your data and move on.”
PerfectView Zoom – where you can zoom in and out of data fields you’ve preselected via the companion app – is of course still a feature, as are the programmable LEDs around the screen.
16GB of memory
Wahoo has increased the memory of the new Bolt to 16GB – the Roam and the original Bolt have 4GB. This allows it to expand its mapping capability and to make exploring simpler with “millions of miles of roads and trails already preloaded,” according to Wahoo.
The expanded memory allows much more of the world to be covered without having to delete and install maps when in WiFi range. According to Wahoo, it’s not the whole world, but the locations that are on the new Bolt cover a massive amount of its user base.
Runtime is a claimed 15 hours (compared to the Roam’s 17 hours).
Wahoo has moved away from micro-USB charging to the newer USB-C, which offers faster charging.
The concave buttons of the Roam and the original Bolt have not been repeated – the three buttons at the bottom of the new Bolt’s screen are convex, easier to use with full-finger gloves (and also not as likely to fill with rainwater – although the Bolt is IPX7 waterproof).
Ambient light sensor
The new Bolt includes an ambient light sensor – as already used by the Roam – for the first time. When set to auto the backlight comes on in dimmer light conditions and switches off in brighter light.
Introduced with the Wahoo Elemnt Rival, this triathlon-specific feature whereby watch and bike computer integrate without the user needing to touch buttons is also a feature of the new Bolt.
So it looks like a considerable overhaul, but Wahoo is keen to stress that just because the new Bolt is considerably more powerful, it is still as user friendly and intuitive as the old Bolt – and indeed the rest of Wahoo’s range – and keeps all the features that Wahoo users love.
“Being able to do the customisations, the pairing with the third party apps, keeping the routes synced, keeping your device updated all though the app, is something we haven’t compromised on,” says Powers. “It’s really easy as a product line grows and as the feature set grows to add complexity to the experience. So we’ve always taken the time to make sure we’re not adding menus and sub menus and we’re doing it in a really clean and intuitive way that not only will feel like home for current users who are upgrading but for new users coming into our ecosystem. And the app is what powers a lot of that simplicity.”
Wahoo says it has no plans to wean its users off third-party apps: “It’s part of our ethos,” says Powers. “We understand that everyone sees data differently so being able to integrate with all these third party apps in a really seamless way – even as we build a more robust platform – we never want to step away from that because it’s not up to us to dictate what’s best for one person.”
With the price at £249.99 up from £184.99, the new Bolt seems aimed at more at the Garmin Edge 530 (£259.99) than the Edge 130 (£169.99). Like the Bolt, the Garmin 530 is a button-only device.
Meanwhile the Elemnt Roam remains Wahoo’s flagship computer at £299.99 but has the new Bolt overtaken it? “The bigger screen and slightly longer runtime remain a big draw for adventure riders,” according to Powers.
For the 2021 season, 11 professional cycling teams will use the new Bolt include, including Bora-Hansgrohe, Deceuninck-Quick Step, AG2R, Arkea Samsic, Alpecin-Fenix, Ale BTC Ljubljana, Rally, Team DSM, Cofidis, Trek Segafredo, and Team Twenty24.
Want to know more? Check out the first ride review of the new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt.
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Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor on the magazine following an MA in online journalism (yes, it was just after the dot-com bubble burst).
In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends a bit more time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
What's in the stable? There's a Colnago Master Olympic, a Hotta TT700, an ex-Castorama lo-pro that was ridden in the 1993 Tour de France, a Pinarello Montello, an Independent Fabrication Club Racer, a Shorter fixed winter bike and a renovated Roberts with a modern Campag groupset.
And the vital statistics:
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