I’ve owned a Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT for a while now (like nearly 3½ years), so it’s about time I shared my thoughts in the form of a review. If you’re thinking about buying a new cycling computer, this post will contain all you need to know.
Summary and Recommendation
This post is a bit of a monster. Here’s my summary and recommendation in bitesize form:
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLTis VERY easy to use
- The screen is clean and easy to read, with good contrast – data fields were visible in all light conditions (except eclipse – I didn’t test during eclipse…)
- The integration with the Wahoo app works very well – it keeps fiddling around with settings on the device itself to a minimum (like virtually not at all)
- The BOLT doesn’t have true mapping (you can’t re-route on the device itself if you take a wrong turning) but the ‘breadcrumb trails’ (along with the app) are more than enough for my needs
- It looks attractive and the included out-front mount purports to be a little bit aero (#aero) – c’mon people, these things matter!
TLDR: Recommended as an excellent all-round bike GPS device.
And here are the links to treat yourself to a whizzbang new bike GPS:
Okay, with the summary out of the way, it’s time for the detail. Grab an appropriate performance-enhancing beverage of your choice and let’s dig in…
What Is It, This ELEMNT BOLT?
A. Bike. GPS. Device.
It’s a bike computer that attaches to your handlebars. It records and displays data on your ride, either picking information up from sensors attached to the bike (and sometimes to you) or by using the built in GPS chipset (to know where you’ve been, how long you’ve taken to get there, etc).
If you want to know more about bike GPS devices in general, I’ve written quite a few posts which you might want to read.
You could start with my Ultimate Guide to Bike GPS devices – the headline probably (definitely!) oversells it, but it’ll give you a good overview.
What’s In The Box (And What Does The Box Look Like)?
All good reviews need to involve some sort of ‘unboxing’. Thusly, here are a selection of photos that explain what you get when you buy a BOLT.
Firstly the box, because every good unboxing requires one. There was actually an outer box, as I ordered the Wahoo from Wiggle and it got magi-delivered through the post. Tsch, modern life.
The sides of the box unfurl and you get a bit of promotional bumf. I guess this is aimed more at the casual, shop-based picker-upperer, who still requires a little persuasion to purchase, rather than someone that was essentially stuck with it. Still, helpful stuff (that I never read…).
As is usual in this post-iPhone age, the device is presented up encased in a plastic presentation pouch, with all the additional gubbins hidden beneath. And this device came with gubbins-a-plenty (my Pantomime name).
I bought the ‘bundle’ version, so the BOLT also came with a heart rate strap and speed and cadence sensors. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), if you buy the device-only version, you’ll get … only the device (plus the charging and bike-attaching paraphernalia).
I know you yearn to see a Wahoo speed sensor up close. I do not like to disappoint.
Here it is, sitting in a mount, which you use to attach it to the hub of either your front or rear wheel. So not the usual magnet on a spoke, passing by a sensor setup that you might be used to in speed sensors of yore.
And here is the cadence sensor. The pod (the bit at the bottom) goes in the mount (the bigger thing in the middle) and you use the zip-ties to attach them both to the inside of your crank arm (the non-drive side).
I was about to say that my Garmin cadence sensor is more elegant (the Garmin bit that goes on the crank arm is essentially a heavy rubber band with a magnet built into it) but then I realised that the Wahoo version doesn’t use magnets. My Garmin sensors are only (très) elegant because I have a hole in my chainstay where the sensor for the cadence and speed sits.
If you are not blessed with a hole (an intentional one) in your bike frame for a
Also, CONFESSION TIME. I haven’t actually yet fitted either the speed or cadence sensors to my bike. As you’ll read below, the BOLT was so easy to get going, using my existing (whisper it) Garmin speed and cadence sensors, that I never really got round to fitting them…
I will report back (and, update this post), when I’ve done so.
(For the time being, I do note some online reviews suggest battery life is an issue with the Wahoo sensors – probably worth doing a bit of digging around this before splurging on the ‘bundle’ over the device-only option).
…Anywayz… the bundle option also includes a heart rate strap. Behold. It connects via Bluetooth Smart and, when purchased on a standalone basis, revels in the ‘Tickr’ name (following the Wahoo strategy of omitting the odd vowel from its product names).
Aero Mount For Aero Mont
Wahoo supply two options for mounting the BOLT to your bike.
Option 1 is a (boring old) stem mount, which I was going to show a photo of but then realised how distinctly un-interesting it looks (if you’re keen, feel free to have a gander at the ‘contents of the box’ photo above, where it makes a cheeky appearance).
More exciting though, Wahoo also supplies an out-front mount for the BOLT. Whilst I haven’t yet tested it in the Sportive Cyclist wind tunnel, a quick visual assessment suggests the mount might be somewhat aero (#somewhatAero).
And since visuals are all that really matters when it comes to being aero, this ticks all the boxes for me. Please to enjoy a series of photos.
Sans BOLT, the aero mount looks distinctly un-aero.
However, its smooth, sculpted undercarriage hints at the aero benefits that await…
Note (to the extent you’re interested), that the underneath of BOLT device is cut away such that when twisted onto the outfront mount, the underside forms a single (yes!) aero (looking) curve.
Et voila, the photo below shows the device clicked neatly into the mount.
Incidentally, the hole at the bottom right of the mount, where the arm starts, is where you can insert a little screw (supplied) in order to secure the BOLT into the mount. This isn’t necessary from a practical perspective – the BOLT is held securely in place by the twist-in mount. Instead, it is to allow pro teams to classify the GPS device as being permanently attached to the bike for the purpose of meeting the UCI’s minimum weight requirement.
Given that I like to take my GPS device off the bike at the end of a ride, and my recreational rides haven’t tended to be governed by the UCI rulebook, I haven’t used the screw quite yet…
Ta da! Ready to fit to the handlebars of my trusty steed (my bike…).
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT device
Wait, you don’t want just to look at tedious close ups of plastic (pretend aero) bike mounts? You want to see what the BOLT itself looks like?
Oh, go on then… Here is a BOLT, complete with plastic (or whatever) pretend screen readout.
Above the screen you’ll note a horizontal line of 7 LEDs. These light up at various times when riding to designate, say, whether your current speed is above or below the average for the session, or to announce that you’ve missed a turn and gone off course from a route you were following.
Those three indentations below the screen are buttons, and that part of the device is rubberised and textured. You will have no slippy finger issues with this bike computer, oh no. The buttons on the front of the BOLT are used to scroll through the pages, start and stop the device etc.
(Oh, and in case you were wondering, the BOLT does not have a touchscreen – it’s all about physical buttons).
Talking of which, there are a further two on the right hand side of the device.
Generally these tend to perform ‘up/down’ function (or, on the ride data screens, adding and reducing the number of data fields showing on the page).
With the left hand side of the device not wanting to be shown up in the button stakes, we have…
… the power button. Which turns the BOLT on. And off.
The BOLT charges by way of a USB port on the bottom edge of the device, hidden beneath this subtle sky blue rubberised cover.
In addition to using the USB cable to plug simply into a power socket, I imagine you could use it to connect to your computer, but I haven’t tried this.
Given that most people will want to use the BOLT in conjunction with a smartphone (where you connect via Bluetooth), and with the prevalence of wifi in most homes, physically linking one to a computer feels like a rare scenario. Still, whatever floats your digital boat.
How Easy Is The BOLT To Set-up And Get Started?
Answer: about as easy as it gets.
For some reason, I decided that my first ride with my new electro-GPS gizmo would be a lunchtime ride on a ‘working from home day’ (if my boss is reading, I worked late… plus… work/life balance agenda etc etc).
I was desperate to get out on the bike as soon as lyrca-ly possible (ASALP). And setting up the BOLT took literally took a couple of minutes.
Thankfully I had done a little thinking ahead, so plugged it in to charge a few hours earlier (even then it was 50% charged out of the box). I installed the Wahoo iPhone app and it prompted me to scan the QR code* which appeared on the BOLT when I turned it on.
Which I did, and thusly the BOLT and my iPhone were officially
(*A QR code seems to be some sort of 2-dimensional bar code that, when presented up to the camera of your smartphone, automatically gets it to do something.)
I then had to create a Wahoo account (done from the iPhone), connect the BOLT to my wifi (done from the iPhone), allow it access to my Strava account (done from the iPhone) and fill in a few basic details – height, weight etc (yawn, done from the iPhone).
And that was about it. Ready to go.
(As might be obvious, I was using the iPhone app. There is an equivalent Android app. Based on my reading of the instructions for the Android app on the Wahoo website, I’d say the process is exactly the same as for iOS and therefore, one assumes, equally quick and intuitive).
How Do You Attach It To Your Bike (And Is THAT Easy)?
Answer: YES! (to the question in brackets).
As mentioned above, we have two attachment options: the stem mount or the out-front aero mount. The former might have taken a little time (or at least a little careful consideration) because the mount attaches to your stem with zip-ties. I only wanted to do that once.
Instead I chose the aero mount because… you know… #aero.
Attaching it was simples.
I dug out the appropriately-sized allen key (hex key for los Americanos) and loosened the bolt. This allowed me to slip the bracket around the desired section of my handlebars, and then I tightened the bolt to fix it in place. A two minute job (if that).
Then it was a case of placing the BOLT device onto the mount at a slight angle and then twisting it until it clicked into place. Whilst my describing skills have probably come up a touch short, I can confirm that it’s all very obvious and not dissimilar to the Garmin mount system.
Intuitive To Use
Yeah, so I think we’re detecting something of a theme. The BOLT felt straightforward to operate, right from the start.
At some point in the ‘onboarding’ process, an image from within the app explained what each of the buttons do. In case, like me, you’re wont to promptly forget such vital information, the buttons on the front of the device (below the screen) are labelled (on the section of said screen immediately above), depending on their function at that time.
For my first ride, I didn’t have time (#worklifebalance) to fit the speed and cadence sensors to my bike (or fit the heart rate strap to my body) which no doubt simplified things. But still, I pressed the button to start, got on with my ride, and the BOLT got on with doing its thing.
I should say, I was ‘dual devicing’ (maybe duel devicing?), riding with my old (sniff) Edge 510 as well as the BOLT, and I just hit start on that device as well. And it too got on with doing it’s thing.
I guess the point I’m making is that back in the day, starting with a new Edge device involved quite a lot of messing around before things seemed to be up and running. With the BOLT there was none of that.
Screen And Visibility
I have no objective measure of determining the relative clarity of the BOLT versus other devices (including my Edge 510).
I will say that my highly subjective eyes found the text and numbers displayed on the screen to be very well defined and therefore easy to read whilst riding. I’ve had no problems with readability in all the myriad riding conditions where I’ve used the BOLT (including one ride so wet that the recessed buttons on the front all filled with water…).
The photo above shows the BOLT display next to my 510. It certainly gives the impression that the display on the BOLT is significantly better. I’m sure this is true – the 510 is 5 years old and is touchscreen to boot – but I think the angle of the photo might overemphasise the difference.
Still, the display on the BOLT is excellent. As you’ll see further down this post, you can reduce the number of data items showing, in which case the font size increases markedly, further aiding visibility.
Uploading Ride Data…
…Is a piece of piddle. In fact, after I finished my first ride above, the file had uploaded to my Strava account before I’d even thought about it.
When you hit the button to confirm finishing a ride, the summary screen shows up, display your vital (ride) statistics.
If you hit the button that is bottom right of the screen, now labelled ‘Week’ you get a summary of all your ride activity for that… week.
As soon as I wander within range of my home wifi, the ride immediately synchronises with my Strava account.
Now, to be fair, this happens on my Garmin Edge as well.
The difference is that when I hit ‘Yes’ to upload a finished ride on the Edge, it syncs to the Garmin Connect app on my iPhone using Bluetooth and then, because I’ve set it up to do so, Garmin Connect syncs the ride with my Strava account.
Returning to the BOLT (for ’tis the subject of this ‘review’), the headline message is, once again, that the uploading of ride data just works.
(If you don’t have a Strava account (what?!?), or an account with one of the other BOLT-compatible cycling apps, your ride data will simply upload – again automatically – to the Wahoo app for later perusal and in-depth analysis.)
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT ‘app’
Hmm, I’m not sure that in this day and age, the word ‘app’ needs the inverted commas (okay, quotation marks). I think it might just be a word and we’re just going to have to deal with that.
Basically, you (we, I) use the app to manage all aspects of your
life interactions with the BOLT and the world of Wahoo (which is not what Wahoo call it, sadly).
You can view data and maps from recent rides, select new routes or workouts to follow and update your Wahoo account profile with things like height, weight, age and, if you’re so inclined, your heart rate and power zones.
Finally, you employ the app in order to change settings on the BOLT. The ability to do this from the device itself is limited (to the point of not really being possible).
As you can see from the screen grab below, you can select which screens you want your BOLT device to show, connect various sensors, and set up when the LEDs will flash and when alert sounds, er, sound.
The ‘Customize Pages’… page enables you to switch on or off which data screens you want the BOLT to show whilst you’re on a ride. Each page can be further, er, customised in terms of selecting which pieces of data you’d like to see when riding
I mentioned above the LEDs that run horizontally along the top of the device (above the screen). You can use the app to decide what the LEDs are used for. Since I don’t have a power meter (… or do I …?) and I haven’t tended to use the heart rate strap (it’s on the list…), I’ve got the LEDs set up to show me my speed.
Talking Of Data Screens…
We WERE talking about data screens!
The ‘Workout Data’ page on the app screen shot above is your core ‘how fast am I going/how far have I ridden/er, what time is it?’ page. You’d expect to see a variant of this on any bike computer worth its salt (or maybe worth its satellites).
The clever thing about the ELEMNT BOLT is that, on the workout data page, you can use the up and down buttons on the side (told you they’d come in handy) to increase (and decrease) the number of fields showing on the screen at any one time.
So, say you’re a data fiend, you can have nine fields showing, as in this photo below (where, helpfully, as I took the photo whilst the BOLT was sitting on my desk, only the ‘Clock’ field contains anything resembling useful data.
If you’re only moderately data hungry, you can press the side buttons to reduce the number of fields showing to, say, four of your most favouritist fields, which each field readout increasing in size to fill the available screen ‘real estate’.
Finally, if you’re some sort of cyclo-minimalist who buys an expensive bike GPS device in order to display precisely one data output whilst riding (what is wrong with you!?!), a few more side button presses and the BOLT is happy to oblige.
What Apps Can You Connect And Sync With?
I mentioned Strava already. I’ve also linked my RidewithGPS account, so that any routes I create there are automatically synced with my BOLT.
The following screenshot from the Wahoo app gives you a flavour of the other fitness and training accounts you can also connect (should you so desire).
Does The BOLT Have Route Following Capabilities?
Yes (in short).
But (to continue), the BOLT does not have route creation capabilities. When you upload a ride (see below), the BOLT doesn’t ‘know’ which roads you are following. It cannot re-route you if you make a wrong turn (like a car sat-nav or Google Maps would).
Instead, the BOLT helps you to follow a series of navigational ‘bread crumbs’ (essentially GPS coordinates) that it overlays onto the simple maps that have been pre-loaded onto the device.
In terms of the detail shown, the maps are pretty simple:
The simplicity of the map above is possibly due to the relative lack of roads. On a recent hunt for more roads in a smaller area (otherwise known as a visit to my parents), I was lucky enough to be shown this smorgasbord of streets (plus a river – the wide light grey snake; and some footpaths – the thin lines). Lovely.
Once you’ve uploaded a route, you can see it displayed on the map.
This is more than enough detail for my purposes (not least because this is showing a section of a route that is in my local area…). The chevrons (yes, chevrons) point you in the direction you need to ride.
You can zoom out on the maps screen, in order to give you an overview of your ride. I would note that this does result in the map losing quite a lot of detail. Like roads…
(“Just ride around in a circle near Burton-on-Trent. It’ll be fine…”)
More usefully, hitting the ‘Page’ button brings up the screen showing the elevation chart for the proposed route, along with some relevant climbing related data fields (which clearly would be populated if you were looking at this screen whilst riding).
Even more usefully (particularly for those who are not riding one of your standard training loops) is the fact that the BOLT will display directional ‘cues’ at appropriate times whilst riding. Below is an example of the cue sheet page, telling you how much distance is left on the ride and, in this case, the next two turnings.
It’s important to note that in order for the BOLT to show you correct cues, these will need to be included as part of the route ‘file’ that is uploaded to the device.
By way of example, routes created on Strava and then sync’ed with the BOLT don’t contain turn-by-turn directions. The BOLT won’t therefore know to show them (there’s nothing to show) when you’re out following the route.
Alternatively, if you use RideWithGPS to create routes (which I am a bit partial to), these do contain the turn-by-turn data when sync’ed with the Wahoo. Thusly a series of handy turn directions are shown at more-or-less appropriate times. Good times.
Massive Magazine Of Maps
The BOLT (or maybe the app, who knows) seems to come with come with considerable coverage of cartography. Fiddling around in the menus of the Wahoo gives page after page of maps, including those in the screen shot below (which, since I’m still a fan of Sesame Street, are brought to you by the letters ‘S’, ‘U’ and ‘V’…).
There are many multitudes of maps from other continents as well…
And What Do The Directions Look Like When Riding?
I’m glad you asked. Mainly because I took some photos answering precisely that question.
almost crashing experimenting with taking photos with my phone whilst riding (and a video that would have qualified for ‘Most Tedious YouTube Video 2020’), I decided to take a few static shots, having paused my ride a few metres before a turn on the route.
I found the instructions quite easy to read. They appear on screen in good time for the turn. The distance count downs as you approach, which is helpful and I would say somewhat accurate. Often the turn was upon me and it said I still had 10 metres to go.
I imagine this is caused more by the quality of the GPS coordinate data rather than the BOLT not knowing where it is (though I base this assumption on absolutely no specialist knowledge at all).
In any event, it doesn’t really matter. A combo of being given fair warning of a direction, the name of the road being clearly stated, and a 10m margin of error being sufficiently close to get the right turn in most cases, means that the BOLT does a good job from a navigational aid perspective.
Live Tracking: What Is It And How Does It Work?
Well it’s a way you allow people to track you (live, like) when you’re out on the bike.
You share a link with family, friends, random people you’ve met, and they can click that link (ooh, internet) and see where you’ve been, where you are now and, if you’re following a predetermined route (rather than wandering aimlessly), it’ll show them where you plan to go.
Depending on how much of your life you share (I like to do Facebook Live sessions from my bathroom), you can set the live track link so that it is either valid until the end of the day or valid forever. I’d suggest the former choice is the safest for most people.
You can also set up the app such that a tracking link is sent out automatically each time you start a ride, either to a select few email recipients or to everyone on your company intranet (ha I jest, I course mean everyone you have befriend-agramed on Twittered-In).
The live tracking feature also allows you to see other Wahoo users whilst they’re out and about (presumably on their bike). The app screenshot above claims that a ‘Mark S’ is (was) conquering the lanes of South Derbyshire, whilst a foto taken of my BOLT device (at another time) had ‘Graham S’ (both members of the ‘S’ family?) riding through the D of Derby.
(Whilst something of a novelty for me at the moment, perhaps if BOLT (or other Wahoo device) ownership proliferates, this ability to find other Wahoo users nearby will be helpful for coordinating group rides.)
Making The ELEMNT BOLT Do Smartphoney Things
So a couple of Sundays ago, I was on my way out of the door, attempting to get a ride in before a school friend, over from Canada, was dropping by to tell me he was giving up his hard-earned career in medicine in order to day trade (!).
And also just to catch up (mainly to catch up).
Anyhoo, as I walk outside, fully lycra’d up, iPhone in back pocket, the BOLT suddenly started to ring. Which was a surprise.
Even more of a surprise because I am one of those people that has their phone on silent all of the time (I think I still have a 1990s sense of mobile phones being slightly pretentious… also I am scared of talking to humans).
It turned out that my iPhone was RINGING THROUGH MY BOLT (a phrase I never thought I’d write). And I hadn’t told it to.
Even more millenial was the fact that my mate was calling using WhatsApp, so the call was being done via my wifi (hashtag wifiWIN) and NOT THE MOBILE PHONE NETWORK (crazy…).
(In case you’re wondering, I answered the phone and had a nice chat with my pal about arrangements for his visit later that afternoon).
It’s not just phone calls. My wife texted (from Tesco) whilst I was writing this very post. I had the BOLT powered up on the desk next to me. In addition to appearing on my phone screen, the wordage of the text appeared on the BOLT (along with a suitably ’80s revival synth-pop bleep). If I had been on the bike, I could rest easy (ride easy) knowing that my wife was going to pick some snacks up for the kids.
At 4,000 words plus, this post has turned into a bit of whopper. I’ll keep concluding thoughts to a minimum.
My experience with the ELEMNT BOLT has been great. It’s really easy to set up and then use on the bike. The route upload features works well and I have no problem following the directions as they appear during a ride.
In short, I think we might have a Garmin-beater, people.
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT
Many thanks and I hope you found this review helpful.
If you already own a Wahoo and you love it (or hate it…), please let me know in the comments below.