Earlier this year Wahoo dropped the price of their smallest, aerodynamic cycling computer while introducing the all black colour scheme called stealth. (previously dark grey and cyan accents)
At $220 The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt it packs a lot of punch, including all the regular features you expect to also find plus a lot more.
The Bolt is the smallest size computer of the Wahoo GPS computer range, its also the least expensive one. Above it sits the Roam, a more featured unit with a color screen. For its price and position it contains the features you would expect at this level, plus a few more brought to life in a very user friendly way.
- heart rate, speed, power, distance , laps, all that
- turn by turn navigation
- visual maps
- led direction lights
- wi fi and blue tooth connectivity
- 15hr battery life
- text and phone notifications
- compatibility with Strava, ridewithgps, kamoot, training peaks, mtb project, singletracks and todays plan.
Theres no touch screen like Garmin products at this price, instead Wahoo decided to a small 2.2″ black and white screen with all tactile buttons. (1 left, 3 on top, and 2 right) then supported with an app, mainly to configure the unit. The screen is clear and easy to read with a backlight that can be adjusted. The advantage of no touch screen is no unresponsive or wrong push button frustration and easy to use in rainy weather. The advantage of the black and white screen is increased readability.
The user experience is svelte, well designed and easy to follow. Frankly it blows Garmin interface out of the water. The more tricky stuff set up and is completed via the app, meaning its offloaded to a device with a big screen and an opportunity to undertand what you are doing rather than fumbling through half baked options on a small screen head unit.
The physical buttons are simple, on the top they control start/stop/pause and page, along with some other deeper stuff of loading routes and making laps. The side buttons control how much info is shown on the screen , via and up and down so to speak. And finally the singular left button controls all the hardware parameters, light, connectivity, updates, sensors, etc.
When mounted on the provided bar mount, the shape of the unit seamlessly integrates with the mount, hence the aerodynamic story. How much that has to offer in terms of watts I have no idea, but it looks slick and of a continuous design thought.
There are a ton of features with the Bolt, but here are the ones I really like in order of my importance.
1. Simple Maps
I do a fair amount of riding from a map. I prepare a route and up load it (automatically over wifi) , the navigation is really simple, cues pop up and you can switch to the map page to look at the on screen as it provides a thick chevroned trail to follow. You can easily zoom in and out of the map centred to your location but you cannot pan around the map. In Garmin products you can pan and thats a nice feature, but not possible here with Wahoo.
2. No Freeze Reliability
In 3 years, I have had the Wahoo crash twice. – At first this doest seem like a warranted feature but having had a Garmin 810 that used to freeze very other ride I can tell you reliability makes a big difference.
Hardware and software need to work together, but so many companies get it wrong. On the Wahoo Element, no freezing, restarting or crashing is a really nice thing. It’s also worth saying that when it does crash, it’s actually saved your data and restores it. Great reliability, leads me into auto updates to keep it reliable.
3. Great support / Auto Updates
Not only updates, but many frequent and good updates, the Wahoo team are always improving the software and fixing bugs. The unit auto updates when you power it on, and it takes seconds not minutes like desktop computers. I always power it up in my home before a ride to make sure my routes are synced and I have the latest software. I really like that Wahoo are always trying to tweak and improve the experience.
4. Elevation Page
A minor thing, when riding a route I like to see what climbs are coming and monitor my energy output. (I dunno, just a quirk of mine) I flick to the elevation page and it gives me a visual of the climb, I can see the peak and how far. It lets me know everything ahead of time. Big climbs coming up, how much longer on a climb and so forth. This is not a unique to Wahoo feature for sure, but its in the top of my list.
5. On the fly screen configuration
What is different about Wahoo is the function of the side buttons. On any page they can add or remove info (or data) on the fly, no settings needed.
Some rides I like to have a lot of data in front of me, with the main screen having 10 showing. Other times I like to dial it back and just have speed and distance.
Press the up button and top fields will get larger and others will disappear. Press the down button and they get smaller and more data fields get added. (ultimately you can control the sequence of fields in the app) Sometime I switch it mid ride, to keep my mind off things like elevation gain etc.
6. Automatic Uploads
I plan some routes in other software, mainly ridewithgps, the unit auto syncs those routes. I finish some rides, the unit auto uploads my rides to Strava. If the unit could take cool pictures and add them to my ride, that would be the cherry on the icing on the cake.
To show you the the simplicity and readability of the screen
Of fairly small consequence is the almost Apple level packaging. oh and the unit comes with two bar mounts included! plus a charge cable and some paper bits.
List of features not mentioned:
Workout Plans from 3rd parties
On Screen Strava segements
I will say there are a few relatively small drawbacks.
The biggest thing for me to get used to at first was No Street names floating around on the visual map. This is by far the biggest drawback when being lost. The way Wahoo program their maps, means there are no names if you are just free riding and hit the maps page. If you ride from a designed route, there are turns and names of streets. Have I not found this to be a problem over the last 3 years, maybe once. honestly. If im that lost, I pull out my phone, its easier and quicker.
Another thing to consider is there is No rerouting – on the Wahoo Element Bolt (there is on the Roam model). Having said that I had re-routing on Garmin units I have owned and it drove me nuts, proper bonkers. It always took me off track and down unintelligent roads. So I’m cool with out it, but some love re-routing.
Quality of hardware is a smidge lacking when in comparison with other manufacturers. Having owned several other brands, their plastics, buttons and executions are a smidge more refined in engineering terms. Is this a big deal, not really. But obviously if you are coming from a $600 Garmin unit, you will notice some differences.
After a few years of road and gravel, your mount will become rattily. Simple fix with two strips of electrical tape or buy a new mount. This is rather a picky detail, but maybe one that could have been avoided if the engineers ran an accelerated vibration test for long enough.
At $220 there is no reason not to have one. It will help you keep track of your goals and you will probably cycle more. Thats a great thing. Thanks Wahoo.
Futher awesome reviews can be found on DC Rainmaker, link here