A proper rival to the computer giant Garmin is the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt that is small, aero but mightily functional and easy to use
The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is the computer that can actually rival Garmin. It is included in this years Editor’s Choice for thinking outside of the box, being easy to use and ultimately cheaper than its rival. The aero thinking and the fact you can bolt it to your mount all adds up to a neat package.
Wahoo is doing an amazing job taking the fight to Garmin. The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is the middle of three options that Wahoo offers and is an aerodynamically tuned out front computer, something no one else is offering on the market today.
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, as this is something annoying on other cycle computers, making setup and changes slow and clunky.
Wahoo has played it smart here, understanding that screen tech found on phones can’t be beaten, so why not use it? It is also very expensive, so why put it in the Elemnt Bolt and when it’s wet, which will likely happen on any given ride, it won’t work either, so why include it? Something that Garmin has struggled with, particular the Edge 820.
As you don’t get a touch screen on the unit you’ll need to use the three buttons on the front or the two buttons on the sides. These buttons are easy to use with gloves on and are nice and chunky without intruding on the unit.
I like the zoom function that the two side buttons offer. This means your screen can be eight data fields, more data, or if you want to concentrate on speed or power you can zoom in and only seen what you want, which will be bigger and easier to see, by clicking the up button – great for efforts out on the road.
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 Wahoo 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 21mph.
Unlike the original Elemnt, which has two LED strips, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt only has LED’s running at the top of the unit. The customisable Quicklook LED indicators on paper should be a smart feature to help efforts or navigation but in reality the LEDs are pretty pointless as during daylight as 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.
Maps are easy to follow too, I found it easier to view than Garmin, which sometimes you can mistake a road for the route you are intended to ride, especially if you are on a ride that loops back on roads you are riding out on. The road is chevroned so there is no mistake of which way you are going. Wahoo is better than you are going off-course too, it doesn’t freak out as bad!
It does also 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.
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.
The bolt also priced better than Garmin currently and so you are in for a saving too.
Overall the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is great little bike computer that is a viable alternative to a Garmin that we can highly recommend. The Bolt is great value, has very good battery life, works well and is easy to use. You will require an Android or IOS phone though.