Wahoo Element Bolt Review

I wrote this review for a job application, so I thought I’d put it up here as well.

Being some what of a luddite in the cycling computer world, the Bolt was the first one that I owned. Having been recording rides on my phone for a long time, as I increased my mileage and started to look at ultra endurance races, I took the plunge and got myself the Bolt. Looking at it from an ultra side of things, the three things I was looking for was good battery, easy navigation and good durability. The simplicity and the size of the Bolt drew me towards it compared to the more feature rich Roam. 

The Bolt comes in a high quality box, with a very nice integrated out front mount and a standard handlebar mount, complete with zip ties, the usual instructions and a charging cable. Setting up is a straight forward affair, but the Bolt does rely on you having a smart phone, meaning you can’t use it as a stand alone unit. Whilst this may put a few people off, by making the smart phone control the more complicated functions means that unit can be simpler to use. It has no touch screen, just 6 buttons (Power, Zoom in & out, and three at the base of the screen that control start/stop, the page you are viewing and lap/history/route) and there is close to unlimited customisation of pages, again controlled through the app. The only other piece of hardware is the strip of LEDs at the top of the screen.

The Bolt also comes with the necessary compatibility to pair with heart rate, cadence, power and the Kickr Smart trainer. It can sync with the usual cycling apps to which rides automatically upload. It has some pre loaded work outs, and workouts sync from your training app to the Bolt. As not much of a training fanatic, and still riding by feel, these features were not on the top of my tick list, but it’s good to know they are there if I decide to increase my watts per kilo. It also comes with live Strava segments and live notifications, but I turned these features off as I am not a fan of things constantly lighting up my screen. 

The out front mount is very nice to look at and also aero.

The first few rides with the Bolt were just a few hours, not following a set route on the device, just to see how it worked. Every time it quickly picked up GPS and had no issues with recording the rides. One thing I did notice is that the auto pause can get confused, but this never turned into a big issue for me as the loud beeps warned me of this and you can easily press restart. It also only happen once or twice. The initial signs after these first rides were good, the display was clear, the pre loaded base maps has good coverage, including most off road tracks, and the battery was good, using around 7% per hour of riding. 

Diving deep into the navigation side of things, the Bolt has two ways of following routes, depending on what app you have designed your route with. If the route has been designed with RideWithGPS or Strava, then the Bolt will give you turn by turn directions, breaking down distances until the next turn, and giving cue cards with the names of road on them. If the route has been designed on another app, or you simply have a GPX file you want to load onto the unit, which is done through the app, then you won’t get the turn by turn directions, just the route overlaid on the base map. In both cases, if you go off course, the Bolt will beep three times and the LEDs at the top of the screen will flash red until you rejoin the route. Have ridden with both, I found each one easy to follow, and whilst having the turn by turn directions is nice, I didn’t find crucial. Rejoining a route is easy enough, it takes the unit around 15 seconds to work out what’s happen and then it’ll put you back on the route. This is not however a unit that is good for making route decisions on the fly or re routing you to get back to a route, as you can’t scroll around the map. However, if I was in this situation, regardless of the computer I was using, I would mostly likely use my phone as looking at a map is more intuitive on phones than any cycling computer. 

The big test of the navigation and the unit as a whole came as I set off on a 330km bikepacking route that I had designed on RWGPS. The route has bits of on and off road, would feature an overnight stop and diversions from the route. Overall, the unit performed well, the navigation didn’t miss a beat, with me only missing a turn due to tiredness, which I was aware of straight away. The only time the navigation struggles is in built up areas where there are multiple streets, as the black and white display can make it confusing. It also got all sorts of conditions thrown at it, from dust to rain and back again. The battery life was good but not great, having done an 11hr day of riding with live navigation on permanently, I had about 30% battery left. 

The small size of the Bolt made it more appealing to me than it’s bigger brother, the Roam

In summary, the Bolt did what I wanted from a cycling computer. It’s simple to use, durable and has enough battery for big big days, although you’d want to consider a portable charger for multi day trips. Whilst not a feature rich as it’s big brother the Roam, I never felt that not having these features hindered my riding with the Bolt. 

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