Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V1 vs V2: What Has Changed (And Which Is Better)?

Kablammy!

Wahoo has released a new version of the ELEMNT BOLT, its small-but-mighty GPS bike computer.

Unhelpfully for search engines and consumers alike, Wahoo has neglected to give it a different name. The new device has simply replaced the old one on Wahoo’s website (Wah-bsite). Almost as if the first version never existed at all…

[Mont gazes wistfully into the distance…]

More illustrious bike tech reviewers than I seem to have christened the 2021 version of the BOLT as the V2, so I’ll go with that.

Anyway, in rather an exciting move (for me), I sprang into action on launch day and bought the new device (the V2…). It came a few days later and I’ve been using it for most of my rides since.

So here is my comparison of the new V2 BOLT with my much beloved original one (which I bought in 2017 and used almost exclusively until I went GPS trigger happy towards the back end of 2020).

In this post, you will learn (get a barely-credible ‘hot take’ on):

  1. The key differences (and similarities) between the two devices
  2. If the V2 is better than the V1 BOLT
  3. Whether you should upgrade

So let’s get into the major changes.

The V2 BOLT Has A Colour Screen

The BOLT has joined the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM and the majority of the Garmin Edge line up in featuring a colour screen, as opposed to the old, er, grey and light grey one.

Now I must admit quite like the reverse coolness of having a monochrome-screened bike computer. Real men neither eat quiche nor need a colour display.

However, like many of my opinions, this proved to be built on shaky foundations, and with the new BOLT I’ve changed my mind.

It’s not like Wahoo have gone full psychedelic, rainbow unicorn. The text is still black rather than Elephant Fart.

ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs V1 colour screen

But for the palette stat fans, the new BOLT screen features 64 colours. Which is a lot more than the 8 on the ELEMNT ROAM (56 more…).

The additional colours are used sparingly in the updated UI design, and overall improve the experience.

The colour maps are more detailed and easier to understand than the original BOLT monochrome ones.

Colours are used as the background for data fields like heart rate and power to denote what zone you are in. Assuming you’ve set them up correctly (using the Wahoo ELEMNT partner app on your smartphone), the changing colours make it easy to work out which zone you’re in versus trying to work it out based solely on current heart rate (or power).

Alongside the monochrome-to-colour screen upgrade, the other BIG CHANGE () between the old and the new version of the BOLT is the introduction of full on-board navigation.

Whilst the V1 BOLT had routes and turn-by-turn directions, it did this via the ‘breadcrumb’ approach.

Having uploaded a route to the device, created on the Wahoo ELEMNT smartphone app or synced from Strava or RideWithGPS, said route was essentially a series of GPS waypoints overlaid onto a map (with lines, or rather chevrons, drawn between them).

The old BOLT didn’t know what road you were on. It had no concept of roads (poor chap). If you went off course, whilst you’d get an alert and the LEDs would flash red, it couldn’t re-direct you or re-route.

ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs V1 navigation

The new V2 BOLT (like the larger ELEMNT ROAM – see my comparison of the two devices) has ‘proper’ navigation.

The V2 works like your smartphone, car GPS, your brain with an Ordinance Survey map. If you take a wrong turn, or are forced to deviate from your route, the V2 BOLT will re-calculate and plot a new course to get you back on track.

And my preliminary testing suggests the new V2 BOLT is better at this re-routing malarkey than competitor devices from Garmin and Bryton. The BOLT is quick to identify when you’re off-course, and similarly speedy to work out a sensible alternative.

And ‘sensible’ is a key distinction. My Garmin Edge 530 and 830 both seem to make liberal use of the ‘Do a U-turn’ instruction (which is not helpful).

Early days (a full comparison of the V2 BOLT with the Edge 530 and 830 will follow) but so far I’m getting good vibes in my loins. Also the BOLT seems good at navigation (brrp).

Case Redesign

The aesthetic changes are somewhat subtle but worth talking about.

(For a semi-serious road cyclist like your good self, aesthetic changes are ALWAYS worth talking about…)

The screen on the V2 BOLT is now flush with the top of the device, rather than being inset slightly with small bevels.

The result: the newer version looks more modern and sleek.

ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs V1 case design

The V2 is all black where my original V1 BOLT was a darkish grey.

I know Wahoo did start to release ‘stealth’ versions of the first BOLT, but either way, the new colour scheme (is ‘black’ a colour scheme?) makes for a very smart looking device.

I likes it.

Buttons

The buttons are all in the same place as the original BOLT, but the three rubberised ones on the front are now flat in line with the screen, rather than being slightly depressed.

Bad news if you like the extra water storage capacity on rainy rides. Better news if you struggled with the old button format.

I must admit I didn’t struggle with the old format. In fact, I really liked how the depressions guided my finger in, so to speak. So it remains to be seen whether this constitutes an improvement.

LEDs

The row of LEDs above the screen on my original v1 BOLT are very bright. Each one is picked out with an individual translucent oval of plastic.

For the v2 BOLT, the track of LEDs sit behind the single flush top of the device, with little windows to allow the LEDs to shine through.

The net effect is that the LEDs on the v2 are not as bright and look a little blurred around the edges. Whilst they do the same job as on the v1, they don’t look as sharp.

It’s a little thing, and doesn’t materially impact performance, but you came here for the little things, right?

Charging Port

What the fug is this? None of my charging cables fit. The price of progress.

In a (not very) radical departure, Wahoo has fitted the new V2 BOLT with a USB-C charging port.

The old BOLT, plus pretty much every other bike GPS (Garmins, Brytons, Stages), had a micro-USB port.

ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs V1 charging port

The USB-C makes for faster charging. If you realise shortly before a ride that the V2 BOLT is low on battery, the higher amperage of the USB-C connection means you stand a fighting chance of getting enough charge into it before you clip in and head out.

Of course I jest about charging cables not fitting. You obviously get a USB-C cable with the V2 BOLT.

Outside of bikeGPSland (I venture there occasionally), USB-C chargerage is used extensively (my GoPro camera, my son’s Samsung phone, my daughter’s Kindle Fire).

Net net, I mark this one down in the column titled ‘Good Things’.

Size and Weight

I am somewhat amazed I’ve got this far without mentioning that the new V2 BOLT is slightly larger and heavier than the original one.

Perhaps that’s because the differences are so minimal that they don’t even trigger my usual anti-weight weenie rant (i.e the ‘get rid of that roll of midriff cushioning before talking to me about GPS weight’ diatribe).

ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs V1 length difference

It’s a few millimetres longer, no wider and 9g heavier.

The V1 to V2 size difference is important in one key respect, linked to the out-front mount. I’ll come onto that in a minute.

Or actually now.

The Out-Front Mount

The new ELEMNT BOLT is supplied with a different out-front mount to that of the original.

The differences are only small but relevant (particularly if you plan to keep your old BOLT as you upgrade).

ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs V1 out-front mount
The original BOLT in the original mount…

The V2 out-front mount is slightly longer, matching the different dimensions of the v2 BOLT.

Because of the way that the front edge of the out-front mount integrates with the underside of each device, this causes issues with compatibility.

The new V2 BOLT will fit on the old V1 mount, albeit with a gap that probably negates all of the BOLT’s claimed aero benefits.

ELEMNT BOLT V2 fits in an original V1 mount
New V2 ELEMNT BOLT attached to the original V1 mount

However, the older version of the BOLT will not fit on the new mount (IT DON’T WORK!). Just in case you find yourself in this situation.

Just to continue this somewhat esoteric discussion, the fixing cleat thing on the back of the device hasn’t changed. This is the same across all Wahoos (at least the two BOLTs and the ROAM) so all devices can be used interchangeably with the direct handlebar mount.

Computing Power

And thusly we move into the internals.

Now it’s not clear whether Wahoo has upgraded the CPU and whatever other silicony bits go into a BOLT device.

The new BOLT certainly seems fast enough to deal with the slew of new features. As mentioned above, re-routing when you go off course is completed zippity-quick.

Wahoo has increased the amount of data storage, from 4GB on the original V1 BOLT to 16GB on the new one. The device comes preloaded with the maps of more regions (I suppose we’d call them continents: Europe (yes, including the UK…), North America, Australia).

The extra storage also allows these maps to come complete with elevation data – in case any route you upload does not contain it.

Shadly, the maps on the original V1 BOLT will remain devoid of elevation data because the device simply can’t squeeze it into its GBs (which is also the case for the similarly-storaged 4GB ELEMNT ROAM).

Software Changes

Apart from the major additional software feature in the form of true on-board navigation, most other changes are more subtle.

Also, where the hardware is capable of supporting it, new features introduced with the V2 BOLT will be added to the original BOLT and the ROAM via firmware updates. Gratis of charge.

The changes that are V2 BOLT only are additive, rather than fundamentally changing the experience.

Fonts

Right, so this is not about the fonts changing, Percy (per se). Rather, the case.

Wahoo has historically been an all caps kind of company (as well as a ‘leave random vowels out’ kind of company).

Not any more.

Some of the pop up alerts on the V2 BOLT are now written in lower case as opposed to capitals. For instance, the movement-triggered alert to start recording and the one confirming you want to finish the ride.

Riders who enjoy a bit of rough and tumble should not worry though. Some alerts remain full shouty capitals e.g. when the RADAR IS DISCONNECTED!

Maybe Wahoo is going for a slightly more schizophrenic vibe with the new version of the BOLT.

Data Screens

The main grid format data screen, as well as the elevation, mapping and other ride screens remain essentially the same.

The colour screen does, however, allow the data (or the viewing experience) to be slightly enriched.

As mentioned earlier in the post, when displaying real-time heart rate (or power) data, the background for this particular data field will change colour depending which zone you are in.

ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs V1 data screens

It’s a little thing but actually quite useful.

You don’t need to waste screen real estate with a text field stating your current zone (if it was ever that important to you).

Nor do you have to memorise your zones and maintain the classification in your head as your heart rate or power output changes.

The Price

The price of the new BOLT is £250 / $280.

The slight issue is that I can’t find an official place to buy the first version of the BOLT.

A squizz at my old review suggests it was being sold for £185/$230.

So that means an uplift of £65 or $50 – which sounds ok in US dollars but a bit of a chunkier increase in British Pounds Sterling Gold Standard Velocoin.

The cost of the new BOLT is set (ever so) slightly below that of the Edge 530* – which is now even more its direct Garmin competitor.

(Albeit, at the time of writing, the Edge 530 is on sale in the US, such that it costs ~$30 less than the new BOLT)

For completeness, the larger ELEMNT ROAM will set you back £300 or $380.

What Hasn’t Changed Between the V2 BOLT and the V1 BOLT?

Basically everything that made me j’adore my original BOLT.

The underlying Wahoo user interface and user experience (UI/UX for the tech folkx) remain the same and, in bike computer world, best in class.

(For more on the fundamental beauty of the V1 ELEMNT BOLT, you can check out my review here, plus a comparison with the Garmin Edge 530).

The additional features don’t add complexity. On-board navigation works how it should. Colour is used sparingly and adds clarity.

The BOLT remains highly intuitive and easy to set up. It does a very good job of getting out of your way, so you can get on and enjoy your bike ride.

ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs V1 back view
They both have the same Wahoo mounting… cleat?

The upgraded screen remains easy to read. You can still reduce the number of fields down such that you can show one or two data items (speed, say) in mahoosive numbers (for those that prefer jumbo radical clarity).

The new V2 BOLT retains the sense (essence?) imbued in the original: that the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT is a small but perfectly formed bike computer (even despite it being slightly larger than before).

It’s interesting (perhaps I should let you be the judge of that). Buying and using the V2 BOLT has rekindled (REKINDLD in Wahoo-speak) my love affair with Wahoo’s smallest bike computer. Which is an endorsement of sorts.

Should You Buy The New Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 Over The Older Version?

There are two questions here. And one of them is moot. Mute. Moot. [mouths silently]

If you are buying a new bike computer because you need a new bike computer, then the new version of the BOLT is the only one widely available.

From Wahoo’s perspective, the older v1 BOLT is no longer on sale – and the fact they’ve been out of stock for months suggests production stopped some time ago.

For the most part, the new BOLT has improved an already great bike computer. I loved my ELEMNT BOLT – in fact I still do.

With the slight caution that comes recommending a new device that may have teething issues yet to be fixed by firmware updates, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you buy the v2 BOLT.

Now the more pertinent question, for existing Wahoolahoops…

Should You Upgrade If You Already Own The Original BOLT V1?

(And it still works fine.)

Now this is an impossible question to answer… So let’s have a go.

If you are more than happy with your existing V1 BOLT, then there is no need to upgrade.

Presumably you selected it in the first place knowing that it did not have on-board navigation nor a colour display. That was the design spec. The V2 BOLT doesn’t fix a fundamental flaw with the original model.

ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs V1 should you upgrade

However, if you bought the original BOLT some time ago and feel in need of an upgrade (‘because you’re worth it’), I’d have no hesitation in recommending the V2 BOLT.

You get a GPS refresh, plus the additional features, without losing the familiar – and excellent – user experience.

My only question if you are in ‘GPS upgrade mode’ (and feel free to dismiss): do you want to consider the additional software features (training and performance monitoring, Climbpro, cycling dynamics) available on the Garmin Edge 530?

The answer (and it’s a perfectly good one) may well be, “I’m happy with the Wahoo ecosystem and I don’t need those features”, but now would be the time to ask these deep and searching questions*.

(* Just don’t do it out loud and in public.)

Other Bike GPSs Are Available (But Should You Buy Them?)

I’ve written this sub-heading and, to be honest, I’m not sure how much I want to write here.

Clearly, other bike GPS(es) are available.

There is a whole family of Garmin Edge devices to choose from. There are Brytons and Stages. The Hammerhead Karoo 2 seems interesting.

I’ve written extensively about the Garmin Edge 530, the Edge 830 (compared here with the 530), plus summarised the differences between the Edge 1030 and the 1030 Plus.

As linked to above, I written and YouTubed comparing the V1 BOLT with the Edge 530.

Here is my review and video about the Bryton Rider 750. A review of Stages Dash M50 is on the way (along with other content).

There’s plenty to there to help you with your research.

I’ll save grappling with the big picture family/ecosystem head-to-head (Garmin vs Wahoo) for another post.

You came here for a BOLT V1 vs V2 comparison and hopefully I’ve adequately stuffed one into your brainhole.

If you have any questions or an opinion, feel free to leave it in the comments section below.

Sa Calobra and goodnight!

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.

2 thoughts on “Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V1 vs V2: What Has Changed (And Which Is Better)?”

  1. Nice writing though I do miss one important thing: How is the readability in direct sunlight of V2 compared to V1?

    Greatings from MTB72 from the Netherlands

    Reply
    • Funny you should say that. I only noticed when I was filming for the video version of this post (out in a fortnight). The V2 has a lot less glare than the original. The screen doesn’t reflect light much at all. So the v2 is lot better in this regard.

      Reply

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