Garmin Edge 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT: The Mid-Range Bike GPS Punch Up

In this post I compare the Garmin Edge 530 with the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT in a battle* of the mid-range bike GPS devices.

(* A battle to the, er, battery death… I thenk yow)

I’ve owned the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT since mid-2017 and used it A LOT.

The Edge 530 I bought in late 2020 for ships and googles in order to review, create comparison videos and just enjoy some more Garmin vibes (I also owned the Edge 510 and 520, back in the day).

STOP PRESS: Wahoo Have Updated The BOLT (May 2021)

Hmm, this is annoying. Wahoo have released a new version of the BOLT (unofficially people seem to be calling it a V2). Which means some of the content in this post is no longer accurate. A full refresh is on the way but in the meantime, I’ve mentioned a few of the key updates in the summary below.

A lot of the THRUST of this article remains correct though. The new BOLT maintains the Wahoo trend of being easy to use and *just working*. It now does so with a nice colour screen and with proper navigation.

And to keep you going:

  1. here’s a photo of my new BOLT (bought on launch day and used on virtually all my rides since) and my hand…
  2. here is my comparison of the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM and the (new V2 version) ELEMNT BOLT;
  3. and here is my new post comparing all the differences between the original V1 ELEMNT BOLT and the new V2 ELEMNT BOLT.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 in my hand

Key Summary Differences & Recommendation

  • Screen: Edge 530 has a larger colour screen; ELEMNT BOLT is monochrome (UPDATE: now it is COLOUR!) but has sharp contrast (new version still has sharp contrast)
  • Navigation: Edge 530 has full on-board navigation with detailed maps; ELEMNT BOLT is good for following a known route but cannot recalculate on the fly (UPDATE: the new BOLT now has full on-board navigation);
  • Ease of use: ELEMNT BOLT is very easy to use and the smartphone integration is excellent; Edge 530 is made more complex by the number of features and menus (but everything can be done on the device).
  • Price: the ELEMNT BOLT is ~£60/$70 cheaper than the Edge 530 (UPDATE: they are now very close in price – the V2 BOLT is $20/£10 cheaper than the Edge 530)

Edge 530 vs ELEMNT BOLT on handlebars

ELEMNT BOLT (my daily driver for 3½ years) is best if you’re looking for a great user experience (UPDATE: still true!) and want a GPS that does all the basics (and many ‘non-basics’) really well (UPDATE: True in that it functions well; but now with full onboard mapping).

The Garmin Edge 530 is the better choice if you use a bike computer a lot for navigation (UPDATE: less obviously the case now) and/or you want all the sophisticated software features (UPDATE: Definitely still the case).

That’s the summary sauce, now let’s get into the detail… erm, soup?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy something, I get a small commission. You pay the same price.

Products Mentioned In This Post

(No prizes for guessing what these might be…)

Garmin Edge 530

🥊 High performance at a reasonable price

🧩 Intelligent route mapping (unlike previous 5xx models)

🕹 Not touchscreen (not a dealbreaker for me)

Check price - Amazon Check price - Competitive Cyclist
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

What Is A Bike GPS?

Every time…

Both the Wahoo BOLT and the Garmin Edge 530 are small bike computers that you affix to your handlebars.

Using the majick of GPS (satellites… triangulation…) they track where you ride, record and display how fast you are going, and, if you so choose, help you follow a route.

Obviously they do a 1001 other things, some of which we’ll cover in this post, but you get the broad idea.

Where Does Each Device Come In The Range?

With the Wahoo range, this is a dead easy question to answer. The ELEMNT BOLT is at the bottom of the range.

But wait.

This is an unfair depiction. There are only two devices in the Wahoo ELEMNT range, the BOLT (this one) and the ROAM*.

(* You can still buy the original ELEMNT but it doesn’t feature on the Wahoo website anymore).

Whilst it seems like semantic wrangling, it ‘feels’ more accurate to say that the BOLT is second from top in the Wahoo range. It is a fully-featured, up-to-date bike computer that will do everything even a professional cyclist needs it to do.

The ranking of the Edge 530 is more complicated. There are three more expensive bike computers in the Garmin range (the Edge 830, Edge 1030 and the Edge 1030 Plus). There are two devices below it and possibly one off to the side.

To cut to the chase, both the BOLT and the Edge 530 are mid-range bike computers. High quality, loads of features, do all the basic stuff well, pros use them.

Newness / Ongoing Firmware Updates

The Edge 530 is definitely newer than the ELEMNT BOLT. The latter was released in March 2017. The Garmin device was launched in April 2019.

The BOLT is still very much current though. I mentioned it’s one of only two devices in the Wahoo bike computer line up. It’s still getting firmware updates, the last one released on 11 January 2021 (the same date as the last update for the newer ELEMNT ROAM).

The last Edge 530 firmware update was in early February 2021.

Whilst both the Wahoo and the Garmin are current models, clearly the BOLT has been around for two years longer than the Edge 530. You’d guess that the BOLT might be superseded first, but then who knows (I certainly don’t).

Price

Those cheeky bike GPS makers have a habit of changing prices from time to time, making it difficult for us lowly velobloggers to keep up. Probably best to check prices via the links above and at the bottom of this post.

However, at the time of writing, the Garmin Edge 530 is more expensive than the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT. I guess this makes sense given the feature set and larger colour screen.

The difference is around $70/£60, with the Edge 530 selling on a device only basis for $300/£246 and the ELEMNT BOLT $230/£185. When bundled with heart rate strap and speed/cadence sensors, both will cost more but the relative difference remains.

So the question: is the Garmin Edge 530 worth the extra cost versus the ELEMNT BOLT. Well let’s see…

Look and feel

This is probably one for you to judge based on the photos (or the video). Both devices are have rounded corners rather than being super-angular (design expression).

The ELEMNT BOLT is designed to be somewhat aerodynamic, particularly when attached to the purpose-designed out-front mount.

For choice, the Edge 530 looks a bit more modern. There is no bevel around the screen – the whole top panel of the device is sleek and smooth (a la your smartphone). Buttons are restricted to the edges (ha).

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT vs Garmin Edge 530 comparison

You could then say that the ELEMNT BOLT looks less refined. There is an obvious plastic border around the screen. The three buttons on the top of the device (at the bottom edge of the screen, whilst sculpted, are obviously there (not least because they are made of a slightly-different rubberised material).

BUT the BOLT is petite – noticeably smaller than the Edge 530 – and the buttons speak more to a functional aesthetic rather than clumsy design.

I’m not sure what it is but I actually prefer the look of the BOLT over the 530 (admittedly there’s not much in it).

Size and Weight

As mentioned, the Edge 530 is bigger than the ELEMNT BOLT. This wasn’t the case for its forerunner (Eh, Garministas? Eh?), the Edge 520, which was pretty much the same size as the BOLT.

Look, I could measure it with a ruler, or consult the dimensions of the websites, but I can’t be bothered. To my amateur (p1ss) artist’s eye, I’d say the Edge 530 is 10% wider and 20% longer.

Depth wise, its actually thinner than the BOLT (which I didn’t realise until I compared them side by side).

Neither device is large, even by the standards of the smallest smartphone (albeit not as thin). Neither looks strange or outsized on my handlebars (or yours). In fact they both look good, which is all we really care about.

The Edge, unsurprisingly, is marginally heavier than the ELEMNT BOLT. But we’re talking 13g difference, on devices that weigh in the range 60-75g.

Clearly this weight difference is effectively zero. Show me evidence of your 4% body fat ratio and then we’ll talk about whether 13g extra weight matters.

Screen

Well, the Edge 530 has a bigger screen, stated as 2.6″, which I think is the diagonal dimension [checks with ruler… confirmed]. The BOLT stands at a lowly 2.2″.

The Edge has a colour screen; the BOLT is monochrome (or ‘greyscale’). Neither of them are touchscreen.

Firstly on size, the BOLT’s screen is big enough. It has sufficient ‘real estate’ to display 9 data fields.

Text and numbers are clearly visible when the device is affixed to the handlebars (or the mount) and your head is… well, where your head goes when riding a bike. The mapping features are perfectly usable even on this bijou screen.

The Edge 530 obviously has a bit more screen space in which to spread things out. It also seems to operate at a higher resolution.

ELEMNT BOLT vs Edge 530 on a bike ride

The Edge displays smaller icons than Wahoo attempts to show on the BOLT. The text is smoother (is that how you say it?).

The ability to display colours means things stand out more. Colour plus a larger screen means that the maps shown on the Garmin are more detailed and much more like what you’d expect to see on a, er, map.

The Edge 530 clearly wins in this area. It’s one of the features of the device that you’re paying extra for.

That said, the BOLT is more than capable of displaying all the key ride data you need. Indeed, the text seems sharper and more defined on the BOLT.

If you reduce the number of data fields down to a small number (between 1 and 4), the text in some of the fields on the BOLT is larger than the equivalent screen on the Edge 530. After a certain point, Garmin stops increasing the font size and just adds in white space.

Smartphone App

Well both Garmin and Wahoo have an app (Rod Hull, everyone’s got an app!).

The important distinction is that Garmin Connect is more of a built out fitness ecosystem, with challenges, badges, connections and leader boards (i.e. social stuff). You can log in to Garmin Connect via the website in addition to the app.

The function of ELEMNT app is primarily to set up and manage your ELEMNT device, with a little bit of activity storage and analysis functionality built in.

ELEMNT BOLT with Wahoo ELEMNT app

Using the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT device is heavily integrated with using the app. There are a number of settings and functions on the device that can only be changed or accessed via the app.

The app is clean, intuitive and stable (i.e. it doesn’t crash randomly and/or just not work). The integration between the app and the BOLT device works really well. As I’ll mention (if I remember) in the navigation section, you need to use the app if you want to re-route when out on a ride.

The Garmin Connect app is certainly used in the setup of the Edge 530. It helps you connect to your wifi and connect sensors (he says, struggling to recall the setup process).

Edge 530 with Garmin Connect app

After that, whilst you can use the app to change some things (more around your personal info, heart rate zones) and add third party apps/widgets, most of the standard changes to device settings are done on the Edge 530 itself.

To be honest, with my Garmin Connect app set up to sync with Strava, I don’t use it a great deal. I use the ELEMNT app far more (because it maximises my enjoyment of the BOLT) and I like it. It does a few features well (where perhaps Garmin Connect does a lot of things not quite so well).

The app is probably not a reason by itself for choosing between the Edge 530 and the ELEMNT BOLT. But you should be aware that if you go for the BOLT, you’re buying into the concept of the device and app working together (which is no bad thing).

Ease Of Use

For me, the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT is easier to use than the Edge 530.

This is partly due to the Edge 530 having a vast array of options and features, and requiring multiple nested options and menu locations to house them all.

Whilst the BOLT is hardly under-endowed in the feature department, the slightly more limited functionality makes it easier for the Wahoo engineers to fit everything in without so many menus.

The ELEMNT BOLT is designed to be operated through the symbiotic (ooh, get me) use of the device and the smartphone app (it can be used without a smartphone but I assume you’ll be limited in what you can do).

If you’re ‘down’ with this device+app approach, then it makes using the BOLT extremely intuitive.

The split between what you can do on the device versus in the app makes sense. For functions shifted to the app (e.g. customising the data screens/fields), these are made easier by being on a phone (touchscreen, larger display, familiar gestures).

In addition, the buttons on top of the BOLT (directly below the screen) are positioned such that a little label is displayed above them (on the screen) indicating their purpose.

The functions of the buttons change depending on the screen you’re in/what you’re doing. The labels change to reflect the current function. It’s a little thing (but also a faintly genius one) that makes GPS-wrangling the BOLT even more straightforward.

To be clear, the Edge 530 is not hard to use. Settings and options are generally where you’d guess them to be. There is a large colour screen to show all the various menus.

The Edge is a powerful bike computer with a large number of software features (and the ability to add more via the ConnectIQ third party app store). You’re not reliant on a smartphone. Everything can be done on the device.

That being the case, operation of the Edge 530 is always going to be slightly more complicated than the more streamlined BOLT. But once you’ve used it for a bit, and investigated all the sub-menus, it’s generally easy to get along with.

Recording, Uploading and Syncing Ride Data

Some things are a given with modern bike GPS devices. Both the Edge 530 and ELEMNT BOLT (obviously) do this, and they do it well.

Press a button to start (or be prompted by the alert when the GPS detects movement) record data (accurately), press button to stop, select save, automatically upload to the relevant app.

‘Relevant app’ then automatically syncs with other cycling/ride data/training apps that you might have connected to your account.

Climbing data Edge 530 vs ELEMNT BOLT

Talking of software integrations (we were!), both the BOLT and the Edge 530 connect to Strava (and both show Live Segments directly on the device), as well as the usual range of other third party apps (TrainingPeaks, RidewithGPS, Relive).

At a push, you’d say the ELEMNT BOLT is marginally more ‘connectable’ (it is after all the most integrated…) straight out of the box. Linking some 3rd party services to the Edge 530 may require an app from ConnectIQ (Garmin’s 3rd party app platform) be downloaded and installed to the device.

I haven’t found the lack of a particular software linkup harm my enjoyment of either device. Another factor that can be parked in the ‘am i bovvered’, er, parking space.

Routes & Navigation

Navigation capability probably marks the biggest difference between the Edge 530 and the ELEMNT BOLT. Bluntly, the Edge 530 is better at it (or it’s certainly more powerful in what it can do).

The mapping data on the Edge 530 includes street names. In simple terms, it knows where you are.

If you select a point on the map on the device, the Edge 530 can create a route, with turn-by-turn directions, to get you there. If you go off course, it will recalculate so you can rejoin (again with specific road directions).

(Importantly) if you upload a Strava route, the Edge will provide turn-by-turn directions (natively the Strava route files don’t contain this information).

On the other hand, the ELEMNT BOLT knows where you are (in terms of GPS coordinates), just not what street you’re on. When it guides you round a route, it is just following a series of points on the map.

If you go off course on an ELEMNT BOLT, it will tell you (and the LEDs will flash red), but it won’t recalculate the route. It will just point you in the general direction of the course, leaving you to work out exactly how to get there (the BOLT, like me, has every faith in you).

Edge 530 vs ELEMNT BOLT following a route

If you upload a Strava ride to the ELEMNT BOLT (which is incredibly easy – if you’ve starred a route in Strava, it automatically shows up in the ELEMNT app and on the routes page of the device), if won’t have turn-by-turn directions. You’ll just have to follow the chevrons marking the route on the map screen.

Routes sync’d (too lazy to type ‘synchronised’) from RideWithGPS do have turn-by-turn directions when you follow them on the ELEMNT BOLT because the route file from RwGPS contains them.

If you use other mapping software, provided the route contains the turn data, then the turn-by-turn alerts will show up on the BOLT screen as you ride a route.

(I should say, this is a big topic. If you want more specific detail on the BOLT and navigation, then check out my full Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT review. At some point I’ll post a detailed Garmin Edge 530 review – in the meantime check out my Edge 530 vs 830 comparison, where I also cover this topic).

In summary, the BOLT does a really good job of executing a more limited navigation feature set (a feature set that is more than enough for my needs).

And the Edge 530 actually does a really good job of executing a more extensive range of navigation capabilities. The maps are detailed.

The lack of touchscreen means having to use the buttons on the side to zoom in and move around the map. Garmin do a reasonable job of making this not nightmareishly clunky.

The navigation/maps experience is made a thousand times better by the Edge 530 having a much faster processor (aka ‘computing umph’) than older Edges. Zooming, moving and route creatin’ are all nice and zippy, with minimal use of ‘thinking time’.

Data Sensors / Hardware Integrations

I’ll cut to the chase, this isn’t really a basis on which to pick between the two devices:

  • Both the Edge and the BOLT connect to the ‘usual’ data sensors (speed, cadence, power meters, heart rate);
  • Both can connect with either ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart sensors (Garmins used to be ANT+ only);
  • Connecting data sensors to either device is straightforward.

Moving to the more specialist hardware integrations (what a term), both computers can connect with Di2 electronic gear systems.

Wahoo makes a point of mentioning that the BOLT also connects to Campagnolo EPS, SRAM eTap and the FSA one. I have a feeling the Edge 530 can do the same – it just refers to ANT+ electronic shifting (which I think these systems use).

Of increasingly importance, both devices will connect to and control smart indoor trainers, using the ANT+ FE-C communication protocol.

Wahoo obviously calls out specifically that the BOLT connects to the company’s KICKR range of smart trainers. Though since I don’t own one, I don’t know if that means that special features can be unlocked.

Wahoo claims that the BOLT is ‘the most integrated GPS … on the market’. I think you’d be hard pushed to find anything important that you couldn’t also connect to the Edge 530 (maybe the Specialized crash detection system).

If you are using something esoteric in your ride setup, probably worth a specific Google, otherwise…

… For me, not an area that should particularly sway your buying decision.

Software Features

In terms of the number of software features, the Edge 530 beats the ELEMNT BOLT.

To be clear, for all the basic features, and even the common sophisticated ones (I already mentioned Strava Live Segments), the two devices are even Stephens.

Strava segments Edge 530 vs ELEMNT BOLT

Each generation of Garmin Edges (and sometimes in between via software updates) receives a raft of new native features. The 530 was no different.

Most usefully (for me), the ClimbPro feature automatically displays detailed (and colour-coded) climb data (gradient, ascent remaining) for all the climbs on your route (it does require you to be following a route).

Also for me are alerts to remind you (or me) to keep eating and drinking (there is apparently some science – the timing and amounts suggested are based on the course you’re riding, your physical state and the prevailing weather conditions.

Garmin Edge 530 ClimbPro feature

There are so many performance, training and ‘cycling dynamics’ features, that I don’t have the words left in this computer to record in this blog post. Google them (or consult the Garmin website). There are also mountain bike specific features, if you’re that way inclined.

In a nutshell, if having loads of interesting features and data to play around with is your bag, this might sway you towards the Edge 530 over the BOLT.

(I haven’t even mentioned Connect IQ, Garmin’s platform for 3rd parties to create widgets, data fields and apps, that can be used to add even more stuff to the Edge 530…)

Battery Life

(I love you guys but) I am not going to undertake a scientific test to verify the claims on battery life put forward by the manufacturers.

Wahoo says the ELEMNT BOLT will go up to 15 hours between charges. Garmin states up to 20 hours.

A comment on one of my YouTube videos questioned Garmin’s claims. Who knows? With the colour screen and other functions that you might use to a greater or lesser extent, there’s going to be more variability in how long the Edge goes between charges.

Whether it’s 15 hours or 20, I’m not going anywhere near those heady heights on a ride. In use, I’ve found the Edge and BOLT will record a number of rides before needing charging. Both helpfully give a percentage figure of battery life remaining rather than just a difficult-to-judge icon.

If you undertaking an ultra-endurance ride (or know you will struggle to charge over a period of days) then the Edge 530 is compatible with the Garmin Charge external battery pack, which connects to it via electrical contacts built into the mount.

In summary, I haven’t found battery life particularly consequential in choosing between the Edge 530 and the ELEMNT BOLT. Your voltage may vary.

Which One Would I Recommend / Which One Would I Buy?

Argh. I’ve written well over 3,000 words and I am still grappling with this.

I bought the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT and the Garmin Edge 520 at the same time (in 2017). The Edge 520 fell by the wayside. It was the BOLT that I kept using.

And I have been happy with the BOLT for 3½ years. More than happy. At times pretty evangelical.

If you value ease of use and a modern seamless experience between the device and a smartphone app – something that just works – then I’d recommend the ELEMNT BOLT.

The clear factor in favour of the Edge 530 are the powerful navigation features. It has ‘proper’ onboard navigation, where the BOLT does not. It natively adds turn-by-turn directions to routes where the file does not contain them.

The map screen is detailed, colourful and the device is powerful enough so moving around it not to be a massive pain in the harris.

Also, I must admit, I do like many of the software features that come as standard on the Edge 530 (particularly ClimbPro). It’s a device that will grow in its usefulness as road cycling gradually takes over your life…

So maybe it comes down to price. There is a reasonable saving to be made if you go for the BOLT over the Edge 530. Either way, and I’m afraid it’s a cop out (sorry), but I don’t think you’d be disappointed buying either of them.

Garmin Edge 530

🥊 High performance at a reasonable price

🧩 Intelligent route mapping (unlike previous 5xx models)

🕹 Not touchscreen (not a dealbreaker for me)

Check price - Amazon Check price - Competitive Cyclist
If you click this link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Monty - Sportive Cyclist
Monty is an enthusiastic road cyclist with only moderate talent. He started Sportive Cyclist in 2013 to record the journey to his first 100 mile ride, the RideLondon 100. Over time the blog has expanded to include training advice, gear reviews and road cycling tales, all from the perspective of a not-very-fit MAMIL. Since you're here, Monty would also like you to check out his YouTube channel. Also, Monty really needs to stop referring to himself in the third person.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.