I’ve been a massive fan of Wahoo bike computers since the beginning of recorded time. Or 2017.
I’ve had a particular soft spot for the
But as a result of said buying spree, I’ve now bought the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM and the brand new V2 version of the ELEMNT BOLT.
And in this post I’m going to compare them. So clip in, strap on and prepare to zone out!
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Would sir-or-madam like to see a live action comparison of the two devices? Bien sur… [sings] BE… OUR… GUEST…!
What Do The
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT and ROAM Actually Do?
Both the BOLT and ROAM are fully featured bike GPS devices.
They have onboard microchips, aerials and other techno-bobbins that pick up signals from satellite networks to determine where they are at any given moment.
So they can be used to record where you’ve been on a ride, plus, at any given time, tell you your speed, distance covered and a raft of other time-space continuum factoids.
(All of which, as any self-respecting road cyclist knows, is ‘VERY IMPORTANT’.)
The BOLT and the ROAM also have the ability to connect to a variety of other data sensors spread around your bike and body.
At the bog standard end of the sensor spectrum, this might be speed and cadence sensors, or a heart rate strap.
Increasingly more bog standard: power meter, ANT+
Less common (and frankly made up): parking sensors.
I’ll go into each of the main features that the BOLT and the ROAM share later in this post.
But first, if you’re comparing them, presumably you’re most interested in the differences. So let’s start with those.
Note: links like the ones above are affiliate links – if you click and buy something, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you (my affiliate links policy).
What Are The Differences Between The ELEMNT BOLT and the ELEMNT ROAM?
Prior to the release of the updated V2 BOLT, the differences were more (Tony) stark.
Now there are fewer of them, and without giving it away (ok, I will), most of the differences, in my un-esteemed opinion, favour the BOLT over the ROAM.
(By the way, check out this post if you want to see what has changed between the original V1 ELEMNT BOLT and the new V2 version.)
Without even switching them on, it is obvious that the BOLT is smaller than the ROAM.
Whilst the new BOLT is very slightly larger than the v1 version, it still remains a step change more mini than the ROAM.
I could supply the dimensions (okay I will: BOLT 77mm x 47 x 21; ROAM 89mm x 54 x 18) but the message is better delivered by fotografía.
Whilst I get the chunky look aesthetic, for me the ROAM is a little bit too meaty, beaty big and bouncy.
Although we have this large case, the proportion of it taken up by the ROAM’s screen is relatively small. The bevels are, how shall we say this… er, gigantic?
I understand that they need to accommodate two sets of LEDs, one down the side and one along the top. And obviously I’m not party to the technical challenges of designing a decent bike GPS. But personally I think the ROAM’s thick edges are a bit much.
The extra size obviously translates into more kgs to lug around. Or gs in this case.
About 25 of them. And as we’ve discussed, almost to the point of boredom, an extra 25g is neither here nor there for 99.99999 per cent of riders.
The Out Front Mount
The cleat-fixing-type-mounty-type system thing is the same between the BOLT and the ROAM.
(What?!? Try again).
The ROAM and BOLT use the same handlebar/stem mount.
The out front mounts are different. This makes sense. Both are designed to integrate somewhat into a cut out on the underside of each device.
Wahoo claims this makes the BOLT (hashtag) aero and the ROAM … well, they’re silent on this (because it looks good?).
Basically, you need to make sure you use a BOLT device with a BOLT out front mount, and a ROAM with a ROAM mount.
It all comes down to the size of the cut-out.
A ROAM can fit on the BOLT mount, but it leaves an odd looking gap that negates the whole integrated mount thing.
The BOLT’s recessed bit is just too small, so it won’t fit on a ROAM mount.
Quick aside: the new BOLT will fit on an old BOLT mount, but not vice versa. That’s a subject for another post.
A key feature of Wahoo bike computers is the use of LEDs built into the bevels around the screen. I love my Wahoo LEDs, as do many other Wahoo-la hoopas.
They can be used to display data like speed, power and heart rate, provide alerts and integrate with third party devices like the Garmin Varia
In simple terms, the ELEMNT ROAM has more of them. It has a row above the screen, and a column down the left hand side.
You could use the row at the top to show, say, current speed relative to ride average speed, and the LEDs down the side with a Garmin Varia to track overtaking cars as they approach.
The ELEMNT BOLT only has the row of LEDs above the screen.
Whilst I’m very much partial to a well-used LED, and having two sets is nice, I can certainly manage with one. So the BOLT single line set up is just fine for me.
As always, your LED-age may vary.
The main selling point in favour of the ROAM, now that Navigation has been equivalent-ised (more on that in a bit), is the larger screen.
Assuming of course that you want a larger screen.
With the introduction of the V2 version of the BOLT, both devices now have a colour screen. So it’s all about the size (but still a little bit about the colours).
The ROAM sports a 2.7″ display, whereas the BOLT’s measures (diagonally) 2.2″. In resolution terms, the ROAM gets an extra 80 vertical pixels (it has a 400×240 display, where the BOLT is 320×240).
Numbers, numbers everywhere and not enough to drink… what does this mean in practical terms?
For me, it doesn’t feel like the ROAM has a massive amount of extra screen real estate. The BOLT doesn’t suffer from a lack of pixels.
So the BOLT packs a mighty punch in a diminutive package. The display is sharper and clearer than on the ROAM. The ROAM is obviously pixelated, where the BOLT is a bit more HD.
Before this pixel party descends into full on (hashtag) BOLTlove, the ROAM’s larger screen does retain one benefit.
Many Wahoo-lean’s like the way that when you reduce the grid data display on a Wahoo down to one single field (e.g your speed), the font size increases dramatically (where Garmins cap out at a relatively small size).
The single data field font size is larger on the ROAM than on the BOLT. Indeed, you can have two data fields on the ROAM and the text remains larger than the single field display on the BOLT.
This relative advantage in font size for the ROAM continues as you increase the number of fields on your data screen. And, in fact, the larger ROAM screen displays up to 11 fields, whereas the BOLT stops at 9.
So if you either want to display one data field bigly or the most possible data fields little-y, then the ROAM shades it over the BOLT.
And talking about shades…
I mentioned BOLT’s V2 version brought with it rainbows and unicorns. The original BOLT display was monochrome. It was a simple choice: if you wanted a colour Wahoo device, you went with the ROAM.
And in fact the BOLT has leapfrogged the ROAM in the colour stakes. It displays a positively vibrant 64 different hues where the ROAM is limited to 8.
These extra shades are (obviously) used across the BOLT software wherever subtly different colours are helpful.
Most screens have an elemnt (ha!) of colour where the ROAM has to stick to monochrome, whether that’s the nice blue start button label, or the salmon stars next to your favourite routes.
More usefully, the extra colours are used as backgrounds for certain data fields, heart rate and power, to display which zone you are in, with those zones being set and colour-coded in the Wahoo ELEMNT app.
In the colour stakes, and the ‘display experience’ as a whole, the new BOLT is just better than the ROAM.
Whilst it has colours, the ROAM still feels a bit monochromey. The white backgrounds are more like a dull yellowish grey. The blocks of black don’t quite get there either. Compared to the BOLT, it all feels a little washed out.
Finally, and I’m not sure if this is a big point or not but the way the ROAM screen updates is a bit, er, different. It sort of ‘wipes’ from the left as you move between screens and up and down menu options. It’s quite noticeable.
The BOLT just changes in the normal way.
On balance I prefer not thinking about the screen updating, but I suppose it’s not a dealbreaker.
I guess this is sort of linked to the display section, maybe mixed in with a dash of user experience.
[Stop whiffling Mont…]
The new BOLT uses a greater variety of fonts than its predecessor and the ROAM. Or perhaps it’s the same font, just with more liberal use of lower case.
Where the ROAM uses capital letters throughout, the BOLT uses a mix of the two. Pop up alerts seem mainly to be in lower case.
I’ll admit, it doesn’t feel like the ROAM spends all its time shouting at me. The BOLT remains heavily skewed towards the capital letter.
I can’t see this difference forming any part of the buying decision for the rational cyclist. But then, hands up, who here is rational?
For the most part, the buttons on the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM and the BOLT are the same.
They have the same number and they’re all located in broadly the same places: Power/Menu on the left side, Up/Down on the right side and three multi-function buttons on the front, underneath the screen.
The main difference, and this results from the recent redesign, is that the buttons on the front of the BOLT are now flush with the top of the device (i.e. with the screen).
The ROAM follows the approach of the first generation BOLT where the front buttons are slightly recessed.
The change on the BOLT came, apparently, from some users having difficulty pressing the indented buttons.
I actually quite like the way the ROAM approach guides the fingers to where you need to press.
But I won’t die in a ditch over it. The new BOLT buttons are fine. Not a dealbreaker.
Who’d have thunk the charging port would have merited a sentence, let alone a section. But here we are.
The new ELEMNT BOLT has (shock, horror) a USB-C charging port, as opposed to the ROAM’s
old fashioned standard micro-USB aperture.
In bike GPS world, it’s the BOLT that is unusual rather than the ROAM. Garmin still uses micro-USB, as do Bryton and others.
USB-C makes the BOLT quicker to charge – it can take up to 5 Amps if your power adapter and cable can supply it. The ROAM’s micro-USB is more like 1.5A.
This isn’t something that would ordinarily impact my life, other than that my list of USB-C devices is starting to reach critical mass.
But in the scenario where you realise just before a ride that your GPS isn’t charged, the USB-C port means BOLT will more quickly reach the point of sufficient charge (whatever that might be) than the ROAM.
Charging port type is not going to drive your buying decision (unless you’re a peculiarly hard line electrical engineer), but it’s definitely another plus in the BOLT’s pros column.
And it sort of leads us in to battery life.
The ELEMNT ROAM’s larger size houses a more capacious battery. Wahoo states up to 17 hours between charges.
The BOLT, as befits its more humble dimensions, accommodates a more modest battery. This gives it a claimed 15 hours of use before requiring a hot power injection.
In practical terms, there’s not much in it. Unless you’re doing a series of monster rides, day after day, with no plug socket in sight, both devices will stay charged for a sufficient number of rides that charging will not be an annoyance.
Technology huh? It’s a funny old trout.
The Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM is bigger and therefore has a larger battery. The BOLT is smaller and yet has more onboard storage (of the electronic variety).
This is Moore’s law in action (not to be confused with Murphy’s, Parkinson’s or Sod’s).
I’ll stop techno-wittering.
The new BOLT has 16GB. The ROAM has 4GB. I consulted Euclid and he told me that this is four times as much.
BOLT uses its additional memory banks to store maps for Europe, Australia and North America, which are already loaded onto the device.
And these maps now include elevation data. So that’s nice… And actually useful for showing the upcoming ride profile for routes calculated on the device.
This is mainly a similarity rather than a difference but I’ll list it with the latter because, hey, it’s my blog.
The navigation mini-difference is that the combination of more colours and pixels on the new ELEMNT BOLT means the displayed maps are more detailed than on the ROAM.
This is most obvious as you zoom out. The higher def BOLT can show more place names and smaller roads.
Now obviously you’re not going to follow a route on a map this scale, but it’s useful to find out where you are relative to nearby towns and villages.
Aside from that, the ROAM and the BOLT are the same from a navigation perspective.
If you know your Wa-history, you’ll know this wasn’t the case with the older BOLT. The new v2 BOLT now has full on-board routable mapping, which the ROAM always had.
Whence following a route and you go off-course, both devices will re-calculate and provide revised turn directions to get you back on track.
You can upload routes to both in the same way using the ELEMNT app. On the devices you can select a location on a map, using a set of cross hairs, and the BOLT, or the ROAM, will create a route.
Apart from the screen def, navigation is the sameballs.
The bleeps! They sound slightly different. But they occur in all the same places (i.e. for alerts mainly).
Only of interest for those with particularly sensitive ears. Which isn’t me.
Another category that could also slot into the ‘similarities’ section, but here we are.
Where possible from a technical perspective, the software improvements that have come with the release of the new BOLT have also come to the ROAM via firmware updates.
For example, the new BOLT added notifications for WhatsApp messages. Previously the screen pop-ups were limited to texts and emails (I think). The ROAM has also received this improvement*.
(* I’ll let you decide whether having your ride distracted with memes and questionable humour is a good thing).
There are a couple of areas where the ROAM’s limitations mean new software features can’t be ported across.
The ROAM’s limited palette means it doesn’t get data fields that colour code to the relevant zone, heart rate or power, that you’re riding in.
The smaller onboard storage means that the ROAM’s maps do not contain elevation data. You’ll rely on the route you upload, from Strava or wherever, to contain the data needed to see the upcoming elevation chart over the course of your ride.
Age (Or Will Wahoo Bring Out A New Version)?
Well, Wahoo just ‘surprised’ us all with the release of the new V2 colour version of the ELEMNT BOLT, so there is clearly always the potential for this to happen.
I think it’s safe to say that we won’t see a new version of the ELEMNT BOLT for some time. It’s brand new and four years elapsed between version 1 and 2.
The ROAM is (obviously) now older than the BOLT. It was launched in 2019, making it 23 in squirrel years.
If Wahoo maintain the same update cadence as the BOLT, that gives us a couple more years with the current ROAM model.
I’ve got no special insight on this one though – certainly no one from Wahoo HQ is calling the Sportive Cyclist batphone on a regular basis.
Pure speculation (which is also the unofficial tagline of this website).
I should note, though, that Wahoo seems to have a policy of updating the software of older devices with features introduced on newer ones (limited to those features that can be supported by the older hardware).
So I’d be pretty comfortable about getting plenty of use, along with continued Wahoo support, out of either the ROAM or the BOLT.
In my Wah-exuberance I nearly forgot this one.
The ROAM costs more than the BOLT. The size of the price difference depends on where you live.
At the time of writing, the prices on the Wahoo website are as follows:
These are prices for the device only, but including the relevant out front mount.
- The price step-up seems greater in the US versus the UK ($100 is more than £50); BUT
- Prices overall are lower for US buyers (e.g. £250 translated to USD is a lot higher than $280)
Similarities Between the
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT and the ROAM
(Which is an inelegant sub-heading if ever I wrote one)
You’ve probably worked these out already.
Apart for some obvious physical differences, and some technical ones reflecting the ROAM being a little older, the majority of the software features and the functionality of the two devices are very similar.
The user experience, which is Wahoo’s key advantage over Garmin, is very good, whether on the ELEMNT ROAM or the BOLT.
Set up for both is really straightforward.
Both are ‘smartphone first’. Some of the settings can only be changed via the Wahoo ELEMNT app rather than via the menus on the ROAM or BOLT themselves.
This makes the screens and options actually on the devices cleaner with fewer menu rabbit holes to fall down.
Whilst we’ve mentioned that the BOLT has a sharper display, both devices can reduce down the number of fields shown on the data screens to maximise the text size for easy viewing.
Both connect to all the same sensors, smart trainers and other devices, via ANT+, Bluetooth and ANT+ FE-C.
The ROAM and BOLT will upload your ride data, and download any routes or workouts, automatically via wifi or through Bluetooth to your phone. There’s no difference in how they sync with third party apps like Strava.
In summary, both the ROAM and the BOLT just work. Which is nice.
Which One Would I Recommend / Which One Would I Buy?
Back in the version 1 BOLT days, the ROAM vs BOLT decision was based on a few clear distinctions. If you wanted a colour screen and/or on-device navigation, you went with the ROAM.
Now there are fewer material differences (though I’ve managed to write 3,000+ words on the topic “LOL”). The v2 BOLT has a colour screen and has on-board mapping.
So then it comes down to size. You’d expect the ROAM’s 2.6″ screen to suit those wanting a larger display, whilst the BOLT appeals to those wanting a smaller form factor (and to be ).
But the new BOLT’s brighter, more colorful and seemingly more defined screen, for me offsets the ROAM’s size advantage.
Aesthetics wise, I’m as big a fan of chunky as the next man, but the ROAM is a bit too much. That’s quite a lump of bike GPS on my handlebars.
I prefer the look and feel of the BOLT, even if I do think the flat as opposed to recessed front buttons are a backward step… slightly.
I loved my original monochrome v1 BOLT. Even without the on-board navigation, it did (does) everything I need from a bike computer. I didn’t once wish I had a larger display.
I like the upgrades on the new BOLT. I’m not going to say no to the whizzbang mapping or the attractive colour graphics. It continues to do all the original stuff well.
So I’d still choose the new BOLT over the ROAM. And that’s before noting the lower cost of the smaller device (a major plus to this deep pockets short arms Yorkshireman).
As always, your GPS mileage may vary. Do your own satellite-guided research. Etc.
Looking To Buy An ELEMNT ROAM or BOLT?
Here are the links in case you want to buy a nice shiny Wahoo bike computer (affiliate links; I get a small commission if you click and buy something):