In this post, my review of the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2.
But if you came for a tech-tal examination of all the features and specs in excruciating detail, you’re in the wrong place.
That sort of triple sod can be found in my various comparison posts involving the BOLT V2.
Instead I’ll focus on my overall experience with the BOLT over the past year and a half, what I like, what’s a bit meh, and my slightly tepid hot take on who should buy one.
And the too long didn’t watch?
I very like this bike computer. If you value simplicity, ease of use and the touch of flesh on rubber, then the BOLT V2 is the for you.
Here Is A QUICK Video Version of This Post
So What Is The ELEMNT BOLT V2?
The BOLT is a compact but fully featured GPS bike computer:
- It records and displays all sorts of important stats about your ride: speed, distance, heart rate, distance to the pub.
- It has full onboard navigation. Select a point on the map and the BOLT will route you there. Go off course and it’ll recalculate.
- You can also upload routes, if that’s what tickles your pickles, from all the usual apps: Strava, Komoot, and of course Wahoo’s own ELEMNT app.
- The BOLT connects to a pornucopia of data sensors, and can control workouts on your smart trainer, should you like being dominated.
- A word of caution though, it’s not a touchscreen, I repeat its not a touchscreen. Only buttons does it have.
The current version of the BOLT, dubbed the V2, came out in May 2021, replacing the original greyscale version, which was, itself, a great little bike computer.
Is it still a great little bike computer.
In short, yes….
Here are 5 things I like and 2 things to bear in mind about the newer BOLT, starting with the positives.
Things I Like About
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2
1. The User Interface
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I like the simplicity and intuitiveness of the Wahoo ecosystem. The device and the ELEMNT iPhone app work seamlessly together (I can’t speak for the Android version).
Some folks won’t like the reliance on the smartphone app to make changes that can’t be done on the device, but personally I like this approach.
The device menus are kept clean and straightforward. The app leverages our familiarity with, er, how apps generally work these days.
In addition to setting up the BOLT, turning on and off various features, planning routes and creating workouts, you use the app to tailor the data screens that you can view whilst riding. This is a rod hull of a lot easier on a touchscreen phone app than button wrangling on a bike GPS (hence why Garmin has finally added this feature on the Garmin Connect app for it’s newer 540 device).
2. The Screen
I. Love. This. Screen.
It’s up there with Hammerhead Karoo 2 in challenging for the ‘best display I’ve seen on a bike GPS’ award (an illustrious accolade).
The BOLT’s screen has a nice matte finish that reduces reflections on a sunny day. The images (pixels?) are sharp and bright. The text and numbers are well defined and easy to read.
The V2 BOLT is a colour device, updated from the original’s monochrome display. I wouldn’t say Wahoo has gone overboard in deploying these colours. However they certainly improve the readability of the map displays and the turn by turn direction alerts.
On the data grid screens, colours are used cleverly as the background to certain fields, heart rate, power, to denote which zone you’re in. Nice…
I will accept your angry shouts that the BOLT is possess-ED of a relatively small display. But then this is designed as a compact bike computer. There’s a trade off.
It doesn’t feel too small though. Perhaps if you’re doing loads of navigation without a predefined road, where you want to see ‘more map’ at any one time, a larger screen would help. For me though, I’m good.
Wahoo does a good job of using the screen real estate. When you use the up-down buttons to reduce the number of data fields on any of the grid pages, the fonts for the remaining fields increase in size to jumbo levels.
So even those who ride more by sonar than sight should still be able to see their 3 second power output.
3. The Buttons
Pogo-ing back to the user interface a little, I like the buttons on the BOLT.
And whilst they certainly feel nice to touch (oooh, rubbery…), I’m more talking location.
The three on the front are easy to access whilst riding. Their placement means that they can be multi functional, with little labels appearing on the screen to tell you what they do in that context.
The buttons on the right edge of the device are obviously for up-downy type purposes.
At no point when using the BOLT have I pressed a button, accidentally or otherwise, that has done the diametrically opposite action to what I was expecting. Which is not the case for it’s biggest direct competitor that shall remain nameless (ahem Garmin Edge 530).
And they don’t collect rain water. Which is more than can be said for the buttons on the V1.
4. Stable Firmware
Disclaimer: I can only speak to the device that I bought and have used these past 18 months.
It seems pretty stable. I know there were teething issues initially for some users but I’ve never experienced any. I can’t remember it crashing or losing any data.
The BOLT uploads ride data to the ELEMNT app automatically without me having to think about it. I can’t recall it missing one.
Occasionally I’ve had to go in to the ELEMNT app to retry a failed sync to Strava, but I’m pretty sure that’s an issue with the app and my phone, not the BOLT itself. Even then, this is pretty rare. I am struggling to remember the last time it happened, so perhaps had been fixed
Wahoo updates the firmware on the device on a pretty regular basis. These come via alerts in the app, or you can check via the device system menu. Firmware updates are delivered via Wi-Fi. It’s all very easy.
Sometimes these updates are bug fixes and tweaks. At other times Wahoo deploys fully fledged new features, such as the recent addition of eating and drinking alerts.
Wahoo isn’t unusual in this amongst the main GPS device manufacturers but it’s an important factor nonetheless if you’re going to invest money in a device and spend time embedding it in your cycling workflow.
(Who says ‘embedding in a cycling workflow’…?).
5. Battery Life
The BOLT V2 seems to go ages between charges. It has more than enough juice to keep going over a number of my longer rides.
And when it does need a power up, it has an up-to-date USB-C port for rapid charging (in the photo, the V2 BOLT is the bottom one).
And now for a couple of downsides. Or at least things to bear in mind.
So those are some positives. I could have also included ‘It just works’ as a section. But I couldn’t be harrised. It’s implied.
Time for a few aspects of the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 that are just a bit … meh.
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 Areas For Improvement
1. Screen ‘Real Estate’ is … Limited
Agreed, the display is quite small
But then this is designed as a compact bike computer. There’s a trade off.
Perhaps if you need it mainly for navigation, a larger screen would allow you to see ‘more map’.
For me though, I’ve found it big enough.
[Whispers] … like the contents of my pants… [stops whispering]
2. Release of features is a bit lacklustre
Whilst Wahoo has always prioritised a clean user experience over stuffing extra whizzbang features into the BOLT (and it’s siblings), it has always felt at the forefront of the bike computer market.
But now it’s lagging. Hammerhead seems to release new features weekly (though this might be good PR as much as its firmware updates). Garmin has gone and released a full update of the BOLT’s primary button-only rival in the form of the Edge 540, with the new more app-like UI and the option for solar re-charging.
Wahoo may need a good spray of deep heat on its knackers (in the metaphorical, technology-development sense), to keep up with competitors.
3. Summit Feature Could Be
On a similar ragga tip, a specific feature on the BOLT that has fallen behind the competition.
I was a big fan of Garmin’s ClimbPro feature when it came out (a dedicated climbing page that pops up when you tackle a climb on a route).
I was an even bigger fan of the equivalent feature on the Karoo 2 (a function similar in principle but it identifies climbs even when you’re not following a route). I love knowing how much suffering I’ve got left on a long (or short) ascent.
With the 540/840 release (and a firmware update on the 1040), Garmin has updated ClimbPro so that it too identifies climbs on all rides, not just when following a course.
Wahoo, with the Summit Climb Segments feature, now finds itself sat with Bryton in showing specific climb-by-climb detail when following a route.
That said… it does sound as it Wahoo has a major overhaul of the Summit feature coming soon, as alluded to (actually, not ‘alluded to’, he explicitly states it) by GPLama in this recent video about the Edge 540/840 launch.
Who Should Buy The
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2
Yeah, so as I find myself scrabbling around for some more negatives, I’m coming to the conclusion that I still really like the BOLT. It gives me a warm loinglow every time I use it.
If you want a touchscreen then clearly it’s not for you (consider the Karoo 2 if you want a touchscreen device that also has a beautiful matte display).
If you want sophisticated training and recovery metrics built into the device, then Garmin is the leader (I think I’d be choosing the touchscreen 840 over the 540, even though it’s quite a cost step-up from the BOLT).
But if you want the best buttons-only bike GPS, I think the BOLT V2 hits the sweetmeat in the market. Compact, easy to use, beautiful screen, integrates well with your phone, good value.
Bish, bash, and if you’ll allow me, BOLT.
Here are some other articles about Wahoo bike computers:
- My comparison of the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 and the Garmin Edge 530
- A fuller exposition of the ELEMNT BOLT V2 versus the original V1 BOLT
- Finally, a post about the ELEMNT BOLT V2 and the original ELEMNT ROAM