Review: Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS bike computer

Review: Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS bike computer
  • Ease of use
  • Battery life
  • Accompanying mobile app
  • Customisation through widgets or screen
4.25

Summary

The wahoo elemnt bolt is a GPS cycling computer comparable to the Garmin 520: it comes with a map and no touch screen. Unlike the Garmin 1000, this cycling computer relies on physical buttons that actually turned out to be quite handy during pouring rain or unbearable heat.

 

Pros

The good

  • Map is less cluttered and the route to follow is clearly visible (there are black arrows indicating what direction should be followed)
  • Maps are pre-loaded and easy to access
  • Routes can be easily imported from Strava, RideWithGPS, MapMyRide and other websites
  • Battery lasted longer than it did for the same ride using a Garmin 520 (with the LED indicator enabled)
  • Sounds help not to miss a turn
  • LED indicator helps to notice when we are off course
  • Multiple buttons and the front
  • Easy to check routes and screen while riding as there are 3 buttons at the front that are very helpful
  • Customisable screens
  • Easy to zoom in / zoom out using the side buttons
  • Can sync/connect to bluetooth and ant+ sensors
  • The heart rate monitor, temperature (built in in wahoo elemnt bolt) and other sensors measurements are displayed on screen even before pressing start. This can be helpful to quickly check that the sensors are working as expected.

Cons

The bad

  • LEDs indicator requires a cue sheet for the route for them to work as indicators otherwise they will still work to indicate Heart rate, speed or other values
  • LEDs are difficult to see on a sunny afteroon but the map can still be read easily
  • Trees or areas with poor gps reception might give false positives causing the wahoo elemnt bolt to start chirping like a bird and LEDs blinking red despite not being off course
  • Streets shown on the map don’t contain names but the arrow might be enough to identify current location
  • Unlike Garmin 520 the wahoo elemnt bolt doesn’t calculate your recovery time
  • The mobile app doesn’t seem as polished as garmin connect. Some details as wind direction are not available
  • It is not possible to mute all sounds even after disabling them from the app
  • The Garmin mount is incompatible with the wahoo elemnt bolt mount (agh!)
  • Just a black and white screen (…although I prefer this!)
Sending
User Review
2.5 (2 votes)

After a comparison between the wahoo elemnt bolt and the Garmin 520 the results for me are: it depends.

For relatively short rides or where the route is known I’d still use my Garmin 520. The reason is that it will give me more stats after finishing the ride. I like knowing the estimated recovery time and also being able to see the wind direction during the ride. I am probably used to the Garmin Connect screens displaying: moving time, total time and other data which is mostly available from the Wahoo Fitness mobile app but not as colourful and polished.

Garmin 520 and Wahoo Elemnt Bolt comparison

Garmin 520 and Wahoo Elemnt Bolt comparison

However, for longer rides or rides where I have no idea where I’m going (and despite it becoming a chirping bird) I prefer the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. Having a collection of black arrows on the map to indicate the direction is particularly helpful when going twice over the same road or simply to see where to go next while cycling. The Garmin 520 colourful route doesn’t indicate direction and it might get a bit confusing when having a quick glance at it. There are roads with names on the map shown by the Garmin 520 but zooming in and out takes more time that simply looking at the black arrows shown by the Wahoo Elemnt bolt, and turning where it says to, regardless of having a cue sheet or not.

 

Garmin 520 coloured screen vs Wahoo black and white

Garmin with a route fully zoomed out (left) vs Wahoo with a route zoomed in (right)

The favourite feature:

LEDs and sounds

Just like Marmite this could be a lovely or a hateable feature.

Having a cue sheet, using the LEDs indicator and hearing the beep makes difficult to miss a turn or go the wrong way. The black arrows on the map are clear and, along with the beep, it leaves no doubt as to where to go next. This is something that could be at times confusing with the Garmin 520, particularly when 2 roads are really close to each other: shall I turn here or the next?. About 800 ft before reaching the point where you should turn you will get a beep and a nice LED arrow indicating where to go next, once the turn is complete the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt will beep again to confirm (or not) that it was the right turn. If you have made a mistake it will beep and display red LEDs but it will still allow you to see the map so you can go back or (sadly) confirm that it was a false positive. Unlike the Garmin 520 you won’t get an “off course” message that covers half the screen and you will still be able to see the map without having to zoom in / out.

At first sight it might look as if the Garmin 520 doesn’t give you so many false positives (LED and sound) but I think it is more like the Garmin doesn’t have any LEDs or makes any sound. In terms of the map, both cycling computers display the route and it is up to the rider to decide where to go. I found easier to follow the black arrow on the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt than the colourful route on the Garmin 520.

Not everything is great in terms of LEDs and sounds though. If the GPS coordinates from the cue sheet are a bit off, in comparison to the live GPS coordinates detected by the wahoo elemnt bolt, you will get false positives which are translated into beeps and red blinking LEDs despite going on the right direction. This could happen in some sections of the road where there are tall trees or simply poor GPS reception. Not a big ssue if the road is big enough and common sense prevails. If the roads are close to each other, looking at the map rather than relying on the beep and LEDs should clarify any doubt as to where to go next.

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