The original Wahoo Elemnt Bolt sent ripples through the racing community when it launched in 2017. With its small size, aerodynamic design, stripped back functionality and reliable, black-and-white, button-operated screen it was the perfect antidote to the increasingly larger, more complex devices that seemed to be heading in the wrong direction despite their sophisticated mapping capabilities.
Now Wahoo has launched a new, beefed up Bolt that’s much more powerful than its predecessor, and indeed than the flagship Wahoo Elemnt Roam. It has four times the amount of memory at 16GB, a 64-colour screen, smart navigation, a bigger battery that has added a few grams (less than 10g, to be clear) and a whole raft of extra features that have trickled down from the Roam including the ambient light sensor.
But has the new Bolt cycling computer complicated things, perhaps lost the simplicity of the original?
Before I wrote the launch story I spoke to Wahoo product manager Megan Powers, who told me: “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.”
The Wahoo companion app is crucial to that feeling of ‘home’ of course, and obviously the new Bolt runs on that, along with its other devices including the Wahoo Elemnt Rival watch.
I’ve literally done a single ride on the new Bolt – a muddy, rainy 53-mile club run (hence the less than pristine appearance in these photos), so here are my first-ride impressions
Like all Wahoo products these days – and that includes the Wahoo Speedplay pedals – the packaging is part of the ‘UX’. The Bolt comes in an expensive-looking presentation box with a magnetic flap that opens out to reveal an Alpine vista and a rider nailing a sweeping bend, accompanied by the legend ‘Advantage by Design’. There’s a little window to the device itself, and you pull a tab of ribbon that slides out the drawer containing it.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: unboxing
As well as the device itself you get an out-front mount, a stem mount and zip-ties (it’s a pity Wahoo doesn’t use elastic bands, but as its aerodynamics are part of its USP they would probably rather you used the out-front mount). There’s also a USB-C charging cable – it now uses that newer system that charges faster than micro USB – and crucially the single, tiny ‘optional locking screw’ that’s not essential but if installed allows the device to be included by the UCI as part of your bike’s all-up weight. A little loophole that pros can exploit to meet the 6.8kg minimum weight limit.
I forgot to mention in the ‘Unboxing’ section that at the bottom of the box is the quick start guide – and that’s because it didn’t even occur to me to read it. Wahoo devices really are that simple to set up. Full disclosure – I already use the Wahoo Elemnt Roam and the Wahoo Elemnt Rival watch so I’m not new to Wahoo’s ‘ecosystem’ but this is my first Bolt.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: setup
Basically, once you’ve downloaded the Wahoo companion app, you power on the device, scan a QR code, follow the instructions on the app that ask you to input your WiFi password, authorise third-party apps and so on, and you’re ready to ride.
Later you can set up your data fields so that when you use the PerfectView zoom, which is still a feature of the new Bolt, you’re zooming in on the ones you want to see. All the customisation is done in the app, as before.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: first impressions
The new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt not only inherits the Wahoo Elemnt Roam’s features but it looks like a scaled-down Roam. The screen is 2.2in instead of 2.7in but everything else, including the black casing and the logo placement makes Wahoo’s range very unified-looking indeed.
Something that Wahoo has changed, however, is the three buttons below the screen. The old Bolt and Roam’s buttons are concave, and not always easy to operate with long-finger gloves. The new Bolt gets convex buttons that feel much more tactile, with a click that seems to come earlier and with less force than before.
As for the colour screen, Wahoo hasn’t gone overboard. Although there are 64 colours compared to the Roam’s eight and the old Bolt’s zero, it’s still a muted rather than psychedelic display, very like the Roam’s.
Making it even more low key, Wahoo has reworked the fonts. There are lower-case instructions in a very plain sans-serif font. It’s guiding you, not shouting at you.
I personally find the row of customisable LEDs not particularly useful but they are a Wahoo signature feature and are included here along the top of the screen.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: the ride
I rode the new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt straight without customising anything. However, I did make sure that I had the Sunday clubrun route on my routes list. I duplicated and favourited the Strava route that was shared on our WhatsApp group and it automatically appeared in my routes list on the Bolt the next time it synced.
The Bolt’s new mapping has new features – which are familiar to Roam users – such as rerouting, retracing, routing to a new location on device. It will also – as you’d expect with its new functionality – take you to the start of a route.
You can ride with your main ride data in front of you and whenever a turn is approaching, the cue pops up in a green band. I found it very easy to follow – much clearer than the Roam despite the smaller screen size.
Of the Bolt’s huge mapping coverage – thanks to its 16GB memory – I only used a tiny sliver in my Sunday Surrey sojourn. Wahoo says millions of miles are covered.
As for sensors, I used a Polar H10 heart rate monitor, which the Bolt found and paired with immediately, and which stayed paired for the three-hour ride. As you’d expect it can connect via ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart and also WiFi.
Because I hadn’t customised any of the colours, my heart rate zones – as stored in the Wahoo Elemnt companion app – were highlighted in the factory colours. Although I had my doubts about the usefulness of colour-coded zones for me personally despite a compelling explanation from Powers, I found that on a group ride – and therefore a bunch race – they are great for glancing at. Being able to see yourself literally going into the red is, well, not fun, but informative at least!
For time trials I tend to keep a very close eye on the actual numbers all the time, but when you need to be more aware of surroundings and fellow riders, I would say colour coding works.
I haven’t ridden it in the dark yet, but bench testing it indoors, the ambient light sensor works exactly like the Roam’s – it’s very sensitive to light changes and, as with the Roam, I wouldn’t hesitate to keep it on ‘auto’ without worry about battery drain.
There are many other ride features that the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt offers and I won’t go into them all here, but they include structured workouts, Multisport Handover (for triathletes using the Elemnt Rival watch), Strava Live Segments, smart notifications including from WhatsApp, Specialized ANGI integration
Talking of the battery, Wahoo claims 15 hours of runtime and I haven’t done 15 hours of riding with it yet. However, from what I’ve seen so far I’d say that’s accurate. My three hours of riding, sitting in a cafe for a while and experimenting with pages at home has left it on 73 per cent. Charging seemed really fast with the new USB-C, I wasn’t expecting to see 100 per centso soon. A year ago USB-C was slightly annoying because everything else used micro-USB, but now we’re even seeing lights using it and it just works better because it can carry more power (plus the connector can go in either way up).
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: value and conclusion
As I mentioned in the launch story, with its functionality and price increase from £184.99 to £249.99 Wahoo seems to be positioning the Bolt to go up against the Garmin Edge 530 rather than the Garmin Edge 130 Plus.
As for its position in the Wahoo range, it’s £50 cheaper than the Roam but at this early stage it’s hard to see how it’s inferior to the Roam, unless you consider a smaller screen to be a disadvantage. The Bolt’s runtime is a claimed 15 hours compared to the Roam’s 17, but other than that it seems like in the new Bolt you’re getting everything the Roam can offer and more.
Keep an eye out for our full review.
|Wahoo Elemnt Bolt|
|Unit Dimensions||3.05″ x 1.86″ x .84″|
|Display Size||2.2in / (55.9mm)|
|Display Type||64 Colour|
|Weight||2.4oz (68.38 grams)|
|Battery||Rechargable Lithium Ion|
|Battery Life||15 Hours|
|Supported Satellites||GPS, GLONASS, BEIDOU Galileo, and QZSS|
|Water Rating||IPX7 (Waterproof up to 5 ft)|
|Mount Types||Integrated out front and Stem|
|PerfectView Zoom buttons||Yes|
|Ambient Light Sensor||Yes|