Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs Garmin Edge 530: Does The Updated BOLT Change The Picture?

Earlier in 2021, I published a post comparing the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT, as was, with the Garmin Edge 530.

Then Wahoo went and released a new version of the BOLT, with some pretty significant upgrades.

So that post had a short shelf life.

Now, having bought the new version of the BOLT and given it a good going over, I wanted to provide an updated version of my ELEMNT BOLT vs Edge 530 comparison.

In this post I will cover:

  1. A QUICK summary of the upgrades that Wahoo has applied to the V2 ELEMNT BOLT;
  2. How these improvements change the analysis as we compare the features and performance of two devices; and
  3. Some updated conclusions – in other words, now which one should you buy?

Garmin Edge 530 vs ELEMNT BOLT V2

What has changed with the new updated ELEMNT BOLT

I’ve done a whole post on this (Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V1 vs V2), but here are the headlines:

  • The new BOLT has a colour display, the screen is larger and less reflective. Just generally, the viewing experience has improved.
  • The case is black and the device is slightly larger. The buttons on the front are flush rather than indented.
  • The V2 BOLT has proper on-board mapping. It can, and does, re-route you if you go off course.
  • It has gone up slightly in price. The new BOLT will set you back £265 or $299.
  • The charging port has switched from micro-USB to USB-C, which makes it quicker to pump in your electricity juice.
  • The aero out front mount is slightly longer so your old BOLT won’t fit on it. Probably not all that relevant.
Garmin Edge 530

🥊 High performance at a reasonable price

🧩 Intelligent route mapping (unlike previous 5xx models)

🕹 Not touchscreen (not a dealbreaker for me)

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What has changed on the Edge 530?

Unlike Wahoo, when Garmin launches a new device, it goes with the tried and tested approach of … CHANGING THE NAME. Which helps all of us out.

The Edge 530 is still called the Edge 530, which means…. it’s the same device as before.

Actually, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Garmin has released a couple of firmware updates since my original video, including the reasonably significant upgrade to version 8.0.

This improved navigation by introducing new map themes that have better visibility and contrast, adding highlighting of popular roads a la Strava heatmaps and adding directional arrows to routes and courses.

A new ‘Sync Now’ menu item was added to the Status screen, plus a whole raft of minor improvements to various features that I’d probably struggle to notice.

Oh yeah. The updates also increased course routing speed but I have no way of measuring that.

So the question is, do the upgrades to the BOLT, offset by the increase in price over the old version and the mild tweaks to the Edge 530 firmware, change our tremendously complex Edge 530 vs BOLT analysis?

Let’s start with the area that has seen the most significant upgrade on the V2 BOLT… the charging port.

(Not the charging port.)

The new version of the BOLT now matches the Edge 530 in the navigation and on-device routing stakes.

Previously the BOLT relied on breadcrumb navigation and was unable to re-route on the device.

Now, like the Edge, if you take a wrong turn on the course you’re following, the BOLT will automatically re-route to get you back on track.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 map

If you upload a route file that does not contain turn-by-turn directions, such as one from Strava, the BOLT will create its own cue sheet and flash up turn alerts over the course of your ride.

With the V2 BOLT, the ‘Take me to…’ option that was previously just on the smartphone app has been replicated on the device.

Now, like the Edge 530, you can select a point on the BOLT’s mapping screen and the device itself will calculate you a route. Also like the 530, the BOLT can direct you to the the start of your route.

So, big picture wise, the navigation features are very similar. And as you might expect, they’re pretty similar in use.

Both devices do indeed recognise when you’ve gone off course and both, after a few seconds, will give some sort of re-direction instruction.

Re-Routing When You Go Off Course

As you know, this channel is not one for exhaustive scientific testing. I pontificate based on intuition and small sample sizes.

My sense is that the Edge 530 tends to stick with the ‘Do a U-turn’ instruction, even when you’ve gone quite far off course and there is a sensible option for carrying on and meeting your course at a slightly later point.

The BOLT seems quicker to acknowledge the psychological maelstrom caused by riding back the way you came.

Again, my ‘feelz’ is that the Wahoo is more likely to come up with new directions that will keep you moving forward and then re-join your route a few kilometres down the road.

Both devices seem pretty quick at the actual calculation of the re-route – you’d hope so when the answer is ‘Do a U-turn’ – so not much to separate them there.

Maps

The map on the original V1 BOLT was, in hindsight, pretty rubbish. It was a small monochrome display populated by a load of grey lines.

The V2 BOLT obviously now has a colour one. It’s still quite simplistic though. It doesn’t seem to show road names. The Edge 530 maps are more detailed. They do label road names and other places.

The Edge’s v8 firmware update (June 2021) brought two new map themes. In addition to the Classic map colour scheme (that we all know and lover?!?), we now have High Contrast

[Danger danger, high contrast]

… and Mountain Biking.

Garmin Edge 530 map screen

High contrast replaces most of the shades of green and grey that depict fields, woodland and built up areas with a predominantly white background.

As in most areas when comparing the BOLT with Edge 530, the latter provides more ability to tweak your map settings.

As well as choosing the map theme, you can change for history line colour, whether to display contours, whether to show the popularity map (based on Garmin’s ride traffic data – like Strava Heatmaps).

With the ELEMNT BOLT, you get what you’re given. Which, to be fair, is an attractively clear, easy-to-understand map, with sufficient detail for my needs.

Your personal colour philosophy may require your ride tracking line to be a dark green or yellow. Me, providing I can see it, I couldn’t give a ph…

As you can perhaps infer, for me, the BOLT V2 has overtaken the Edge 530 in the navigation stakes, at least from a road cycling perspective.

I know early units of the new BOLT were reported to have technical issues, maybe caused by mapping data in cities. My device hasn’t had any problems, not least because I live in the countryside.

I do have a slight query as to whether the BOLT’s GPS is ‘slightly off to the side’ in terms of positioning. There is one particular Strava Live Segment which doesn’t kick in on the BOLT because I miss the start point, but it triggers on the Edge 530. It seems I miss it by about 10 yards.

But this could just as easily be the start position of the Strava segment itself. All BOLT-recorded rides on Strava look accurate, certainly for my needs.

In terms of difference, it’s not so much the underlying navigation ‘engine’ (said the non-software engineer) driving either device, but how they translate that into the user experience.

And here the BOLT wins.

It is more intuitive to use, particularly when you’re simultaneously trying to ride the bike.

From the map screen, the labeled buttons on the front of the BOLT identify quickly how to get to the cue sheet. It’s easier to zoom in and out and move around the map.

Upcoming turn direction alerts on the BOLT, which flash up a few hundred metres in advance, are obviously alerts. The Edge ones can look similar to the map screen itself, causing confusion until you realise you need to clear them in order to get back to the usual data screens.

There will no doubt be expert Edge users rolling their eyes because all of these features can be tweaked to suit my preferences (I don’t know). My point is that the BOLT is easy and intuitive right out of the box. It makes sense quickly to the non-expert user.

Display & Readability

I mentioned already that the new ELEMNT BOLT has a colour display. It now matches the Edge 530. The BOLT has 64 colours.

I’m not sure Garmin states how many colours there are on the Edge 530.

Despite the Wahoo now having colour, the 530 still seems to make more use of them. Wahoo’s colour deployment (which is probably not the term) is quite subtle and restrained.

Whatever Wahoo is doing, it works for me.

I always used to find the original BOLT more readable than the Edge 530. Although it had a monochrome display, text and numbers seemed sharper than the colour Garmin.

When you reduced the number of fields on the BOLT data screen to one or two, the font size increased considerably.

The new V2 BOLT is even better. White backgrounds are now properly white rather light grey. Contrast is excellent.

The screen on the BOLT is matte rather than shiny, so bright sunlight does not cause reflections that inhibit your view. It has retained the ability to show a small number of data fields in a large font.

Compared to the BOLT, I find the display on the Edge 530 to be a bit blurry. The text is less defined. Garmintext always seems to remain relatively small, however many fields you show.

Talking of brightness, the V2 BOLT now has an ambient light sensor, so it will react automatically to the light conditions you’re riding in. This now matches the Edge 530, which always had a sensor.

As a somewhat non-interesting aside, neither the Edge 530 nor the ELEMNT BOLT is as bright as the Stages Dash M50.

Garmin Edge 530 vs ELEMNT BOLT V2 vs Stages Dash M50 handlebars

To sum up on the screen and display front, I don’t think the Edge 530 is bad, per se (pig). The new BOLT is just better.

Usability

On device operability is still more straightforward on the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT. Partly, perhaps all-y, this is because there are fewer things you can do on the device.

For the features that the BOLT does have, a lot of the tweaking, selecting and uploading is done via the Wahoo ELEMNT smartphone app. The stuff that can be controlled on the device itself is limited, making menus cleaner and the BOLT generally more intuitive.

I have also always been a fan of the three buttons on the front of the BOLT, under the screen. These have been retained on the V2, albeit they are no longer indented. They’re pleasant to press (if you can have an emotional reaction to operating a button). More importantly, they allow for labels to appear next to them, explaining what they do on any given page.

With the Edge 530, the buttons are on both sides and the front, er, Edge. You have to remember what each one does. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pressed the Back button (bottom right button) when I meant to press Enter (top right button).

When riding, I sometimes find myself squeezing the Edge in order to press a button on one side and accidentally pressing the one on the opposite side.

For all that, given how much you can do with the Edge 530, the onboard user interface isn’t bad. The various options are spread around a number of sensible menus. A number of settings and features can be accessed from a quick start style menu on the home screen.

The Edge 530 just takes more getting used to and a bit more work to find things. If you can do something on the ELEMNT BOLT, you’ll work out how to do it quickly and intuitively.

Features! Features! Features!

The original ELEMNT BOLT had fewer features than the Edge 530. The new V2 BOLT still has fewer features.

The revamp to V2 appears more focused on hardware improvements, and whatever software changes that resulted (e.g. adding on-board navigation), rather than adding more individual features.

The Edge 530 has more stuff built into it: Climbpro, a broader swath of training and performance metrics, various mountain bike specific metrics, to name but a few.

Garmin Edge 530 ClimbPro

You can get, and I have got, very excited reading about all the flashy whizzbangery on the Garmin website.

BUT, on a day to day basis, my usage is limited to a smaller number of features, most of which are also present on the ELEMNT BOLT.

Whilst the bike alarm feature, which sort of acts like a car alarm whilst your steed is parked outside a favourite coffee stop, sounds cool, I’ve never found cause to use it. Your bike security mileage may vary.

The exception that proves my decidedly vague rule, is Garmin’s ClimbPro feature.

ClimbPro identifies each climb on your route and provides a colour-coded gradient chart. Very helpful, if like me, you spend most of a given climb wondering when it will finish (and hoping it will be soon).

The BOLT does track progress on your route elevation chart, and you can zoom in, but it’s not as clear exactly how much pain you’ve got left on a climb.

Mountain Biking

I can also see, if you swing to the mountain bike dark side, that Edge 530 may appeal over the BOLT.

In addition to containing better trail maps (I think… do your own research on this), the Edge 530 tracks various MTB metrics, such as flow, grit and air time.

My plan (whisper it) is to do more mountain biking over the coming 12 months. I’ll certainly be monitoring flow and maximising air time. I’ll report back in. In the meantime, I’ll just note that the Edge 530 is probably a better device if you are more mountain biker than road cyclist.

So, to conclude this section, in terms of feature set, the Edge 530 definitely wins over the ELEMNT BOLT. Simply put, the Edge 530 has more of them, particularly if your velo interests extend beyond road cycling.

I’ll leave it to you to decide how many features you actually need (hint: it’s probably not all of them).

Safety and Security

The Edge 530 is better than the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT in terms of safety and security-related features.

The aforementioned Bike Alarm will sound an alarm and send a phone notification if your bike is moved. Sadly it doesn’t act as an immobiliser like your car. For this you need a … bike lock.

There’s no equivalent alarm feature on the BOLT.

Live Tracking, which as well as being of profound fitness performance interest (I’m sure) to my dot-watching wife is a safety-cum-logistics feature, is common to both the Edge 530 and the BOLT.

In both cases, when you supply them with a link, VERY INTERESTED family members (or anyone with a passing interest) can track your progress on a map.

Edge 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 bike GPS

Garmin shades it in terms of incident detection. This is built into the Edge 530. Via some software plus motion sensing plus algorithms (?) wizardry, the device will determine if you’ve had a crash.

After giving you a few moments to cancel (for a false alarm), the Edge 530 will send a text message and email to your emergency contacts (provided the Edge is connected to your phone).

You can also send the request for emergency assistance manually as well.

Whilst Wahoo has a similar feature, it relies on you having a separate specific Specialized ANGi sensor (normally attached to your helmet).

So to achieve with the ELEMNT BOLT what the Edge 530 does out of the box, you’d need to pay for a specific sensor as well as (I think) an annual subscription to keep the ANGi working.

Training

When we talk training features, there is a very real risk that I quickly get over my skis. My training style is, how-you-say, ‘intuitive’.

I mainly just ride about. Sometimes there are hills.

So my comparison of the Edge 530 and the V2 ELEMNT BOLT in this arena is somewhat hypothetical.

From what I can see, I’d be happy with both of them. Once again, the devices split across the same philosophical divide: Garmin goes for lots of features and complexity; Wahoo keeps it somewhat simple.

You can upload structured workouts to both the ELEMNT BOLT and the Edge 530. There are a few built into Wahoo Fitness app, plus you can sync from 3rd party apps. Garmin Connect can also connect with 3rd party training platforms.

If you want to build your own structured workouts for the BOLT, I think you need to have an account with one of these apps (such as TrainingPeaks). The free plans may be enough for you. Otherwise you’re paying to subscribe. For the Edge 530 you can create them directly in Garmin Connect, which is definitely free.

The ability to upload and follow structured workouts is about it for the ELEMNT BOLT, in terms of specific training features (and it might well be enough for most folks).

On the other handlebar, you can lose weeks of your life reading about all the training and performance features built in to the Edge 530.

The Edge will track things like training load and VO2 max over time, estimate recovery time needed after a ride and use activity history and performance data to assess whether you’re training productively.

If you have other compatible Garmin fitness devices, such as a watch, you can sync these metrics so that an activity recorded by any of them updates them all.

That’s before we talk about some of the performance metrics screens, such as Cycling Dynamics, and the reminders to eat, drink and be merry.

Some of the equivalent data to Cycling Dynamics can be shown on the BOLT data pages (e.g. left/right balance for those with the pedal power meters).

Ultimately, if it’s maximum training whir-clangery you’re after, the Edge 530 is the device to go with.

Charging Port

Finally we get on to charging port!

The V2 version of the ELEMNT BOLT really set the power cable cat amongst the GPS device pigeons. If we conveniently ignore the Hammerhead Karoo 2.

The new BOLT has a more modern and faster charging USB-C port, where the Edge 530 sticks with the old fuddy duddy micro-USB aperture.

For me, in practical terms, it hasn’t made a lot of difference.

I tend to keep charging GPS devices on a fairly frequent basis, so I don’t often find that I’m low on juice ahead of a ride (well, other than in my legs and body battery).

BUT. If you are someone that lives and rides close to the edge (of a low battery), the key attraction of USB-C is that it will charge the V2 BOLT to a meaningful charge level more quickly. For the electricity boffins, I think the BOLT can take 5A of current, versus something like 1-1.5A on the Edge 530.

USB-C is definitely the more modern charging port standard (and presumably is the way Garmin will go at some point). If you’ve only got 15 minutes to charge a device, you’ll get more minutes of ride tracking into a new BOLT than the Edge 530 (all else being equal).

Battery Life

Wahoo states up to 15 hours for V2 BOLT… which is exactly what it stated for the original V1 BOLT.

You can charge it whilst riding via a portable USB charger, although Wahoo doesn’t offer a neat, front-mountable charge like the Garmin, er, Charge.

For the Edge 530, Garmin specifies up to 20 hours of battery life.

So there is no change in the Edge 530 vs ELEMNT BOLT analysis following the upgrade of the latter.

My ride lengths don’t trouble the battery capacities of either, even if I leave it a few sessions between charging. Recharging devices has become pretty habitual for most people.

If you’re an ultra-endurance rider, the Edge 530 plus the Garmin Charge power pack is probably a neater overall solution. Otherwise it’s pretty much a wash.

How Does The New V2 Change The ELEMNT BOLT vs Edge 530 Buying Decision?

Ooh, good question (that you’ve probably had whilst reading this entire post).

As part of this, we need to talk about price.

In the period BV2 (before V2…), there was a noticeable price difference between the Edge and the BOLT.

The latter was cheaper, reflecting (I think) more the monochrome scheme and lack of true navigation, rather than the overall reduced feature set.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 in my hand

The BOLT now retails for £265/$299. The Edge 530 is normally £260/$299 (albeit I can see it’s on sale in the UK).

They’re as good as the same price.

If you liked the BOLT before (as I did), I think you’ll really like the BOLT V2 (as I do).

I don’t think you’ll feel short-changed paying the higher price. You now have full navigation and an excellent colour screen to recompense you for your extra moolah spent.

The justification for choosing the V2 BOLT over the Edge 530 at the same price is that you’re paying for the cleaner, more streamlined user interface.

If you were a rider that needed (or wanted) navigation and a colour screen, and went for the Edge 530 despite never being likely to use all of its features, the BOLT now becomes the better choice.

If you are firmly ensconced in the Garmin ecosystem, loves playing around with all the technical detail or is a keen mountain biker as well as road cyclist, or all of the above, then the advent of the BOLT V2 shouldn’t divert you from going with the Edge 530.

Oh, and if you really liked the large font size on the original BOLT then you’ll also really like it on the V2.

With that I’m away. I hope you found this post helpful. Buying links and all that kaboodle below.

Laters!

Garmin Edge 530

🥊 High performance at a reasonable price

🧩 Intelligent route mapping (unlike previous 5xx models)

🕹 Not touchscreen (not a dealbreaker for me)

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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.

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