Last year Wahoo caused a bit of an upset in the GPS world releasing the Wahoo Elemnt to go head to head with the lead products from Garmin and Polar. For 2017 Wahoo has released a smaller version of the Element – the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, with a key selling feature that the unit has been tuned for aerodynamic performance, which is a pretty unique selling point
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Review – An Aerodynamically focused GPS!
When Wahoo launched a fully fledged cycling GPS unit the very much when at the problem in their own way. Much the same way as they did with the original KICKR – looking at products already on the market, and building the product they as riders wanted themselves.
The major draw for the Wahoo Elemnt was the inclusion of top and side status lights, which give quickly glanceable information in a way that riders have not had before.
But the original Elemnt, isn’t the smallest of the GPS units on the market, so for 2017, Wahoo have produced a shrunken Elemnt – The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. Essentially the larger Elemnt gubbins in a smaller, more slippery form factor – and that is something they have seriously focused on with the Bolt
The Wahoo Elemnt comes lovingly packaged as you would expect. The quality of the packaging feels much more akin to that of a high-end watch, or perfume, as is becoming the way with a lot of gadgets. On the full-size Wahoo Elemnt there are three mounts, as the Bolt has shrunk, so have the accessories with a stem/bar mount and the out front mount now only being included
Which I suppose is a good run down of what’s in the box. two mounts, charging cable, four industrial cable ties of the stem mount, dead tree manuals and an extra retaining screw
The original Elemnt, which while it is a great bit of kit, I think it would be difficult to be described as anything other than industrial. By comparison, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, partially due to the aerodynamics, and partially from a visual perspective is a much smoother, more visually pleasing design.
Whilst the original Elemnt looked rather, brick like, compared to its competitors
The new Wahoo Elemnt stacks up well the visual stakes departments against other GPS devices on the market, with the Garmin 820 probably the closest competitor
Which looks surprisingly like a Garmin mount… But twisted by 90deg, and with just enough changes to the edges/wings as to avoid infringement. You could file the edges down slightly… But then the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt would sit at 90deg. Plus as well as voiding the warranty, it would pretty much ruin the aero profile that Wahoo have worked so hard on, which is evidenced when you put the Bolt onto the out front mountings
The out front mount really is what makes aero package on the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt
Conversely, if you are using a third party stem/mount or even the stem mounted fixing that aero sculpting is rendered void.
Realistically is this aero package designed for you and me? No, it is designed pro athletes and racers. This is confirmed by the presence of an “optional locking screw” that allows a team/rider to physically fix the Wahoo Bolt to a competitors bike for when putting their machine through the weigh in
Carrying on around the rest of the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt the charging micro USB port is hidden under a sky blue flap.
We have the power button on the top, which is also used to access the settings functions.
Up and down buttons, which are an improvement from the double rocker switch on the RIGHT of the unit on the original Elemnt. There are used to scroll through menus, and specifically, control the number of size of the data fields when you are out on a ride
Then at the bottom, three sizeable rubber buttons, changing depending on the mode. The middle button normally being the action/select button, with the LEFT a history/options button and the RIGHT next page/options button.
These buttons are a MASSIVE improvement from the original Elemnt, which was criticised on the button front. Now they have excellent responsiveness, nice and grippy, and just the right amount of travel and click so that you know they have been pressed.
Speaking of design the screen is in the grand scheme of things a fairly straightforward affair, but you know what? It works, particularly when you are on a day light ride
Now the screen on the Bolt has been shrunk, which is something that the company can’t get away from, but the exceptionally intuitive approach to zooming in and out of the data on pages using the RIGHT sided buttons overcomes the screen real-estate issue with ease
With the original Elemnt, I found the back light a little bit lack lustre, which was quite evident in low light conditions
On the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, the backlight has been improved, and whilst the screen still isn’t a bright as some units, but you do get a very uniform illumination right across the display, and that eases my OCD!
One of the game changers from the original Elemnt launch was the side and top mounted LEDs, however on the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt that has now been reduced to just the top lights.
Without question, the LED’s remain the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt crowning glory. I’m actually surprised someone hasn’t come up with this before!
Using these LED’s to give you an idea of your performance is one of the best ways of getting riding data I have seen – VERY glanceable! As far as I’ve concerned the use of LED’s in this way is the killer feature on the Wahoo Elemnt, and have a roll in both navigation and Strava segments.
- Device weight – 60 grams
- Screen: 56mm – Black and White
- Battery: 15hrs – pretty accurate
- Water resistance: IPX7 (waterproof to 5f )
- Sensor compatibility:
- The standard HRM, Speed, Cadence, and Power
- Muscle Oxygen sensors: BSXInsight and Moxy Muscle Oxygen Sensors
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, ANT+, WiFi
- Other bits:
- Shock proof
- Text, Email and Phone alerts
- Note this isn’t smart notifications,
- Direct KICKR control
- Turn By Turn navigation
- Electronic Gear display:
- Compatible with Shimano Dura Ace Di2, SRAM eTAP, FSA WE, and Campagnolo EPS, electronic shifting systems.
In some respects, I was a little surprised not to see a crash detection system built in, similar to the Garmin Edge 820, or the ICE Dot, however, I suppose the development of the Strava Beacon system has made that a less crucial feature for cycling GPS units now.
The system does have a Live Track portal using the Elemnt App,
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt User Manual
There is no downloadable PDF for the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, but Wahoo does have a setup and FAQ website here
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Companion App
The LED’s mentioned before, like the rest of the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, are controlled/Setup from the Wahoo Elemnt App.
The app is paired to the phone by scanning the QR code displayed on the Bolt. This has to be one of the easiest ways of pairing a unit; I’m definitely very pro this approach moving to other companies and device. It is already used for trainer identification on Elite turbos
You can still use the Bolt without the app, adding sensors manually for example, but that is about it. Without the phone, you are not really going to be able to customise the Wahoo Elemnt at all.
You can customise the LED bar to displayed Speed, Power or HR averages. In addition, they will also provide other direct information about the ride, such as phone notifications, and directions.
Whilst the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt does carry over notifications from the bigger unit, they can be a little tricky to sort, I found it took several pairings to get the notifications to come over from my phone
But again, they are not smart, so you are limited to text, email and phone, but the Bolt can display special characters though 🙂
If you REALLY don’t want you sister sending you a million on one texts when she finds out that they will come through on your GPS, you can also yourself a little peace, without disrupting the connection, simply by using the do not disturb feature in the app
Using the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt
Once you have actually connected to the phone, you are able to add WiFi networks to the Elemnt so that it can download firmware updates, and your Strava segments on its own.
Basically, without a phone for setup, you lose all the fun stuff!
At this point – STEP AWAY FROM THE DEVICE. Wahoo is prodigious at tweaking and playing with their firmware, so it’s quite likely you’ll have a lot of updates to do.
Thankfully pairing your devices to the Elemnt Bolt is also very straight forward. Merely putting the Bolt near the device, search, and bingo up it comes
Once everything installed on the Wahoo Elemnt, you can tweak your data screens.
The order that you put things in on the phone is more than just their position, on the screen. You can position 9 data fields.
The lowest will be the first data point to drop off when you start to zoom in and similarly the top data field will be the one maintained.
Generally, Wahoo’s defaults, and the page/field system is deliciously simple – and well laid out, I didn’t really change many of the fields, but then common fields are common.
As we’ve already discussed the Bluetooth notifications work intermittently, but Wifi connectivity and the uploads of activities works without issue,
In terms of that, is also vital in order to transmit your ride up into the cloud so everyone can see it. The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt isn’t proud; it seems to connect to everyone rather than just themselves and Strava, which is a more common approach. Interestingly though Garmin has now been dropped from the list.
Regarding further connectivity, you can share a ride with others, showing what you are doing at that particular time – but as mentioned there is no crash support
You share a link from the app, and your position is then broadcast from your phone during the ride
HOWEVER, this is exactly as it says, a live track. If you go to the same link at another point, it will not show you the data from that ride, but instead, exactly where you the device was last seen by GPS and communicated it’s position to Wahoo servers. The below picture was taken from the link I sent on the 29th of June but now shows my location on the 9th of August, as I’m wrapping up this review. So think about who you are sending your live track information to
Basically, you are better off using Strava Beacon!
Navigation/Ride with GP
On the above photo of “linked accounts”, you’ll see RideWithGPS – Wahoo currently doesn’t have an in-house mapping/navigation setup – even a year after launching the Elemnt, now the Bolt and a Mini on the way! Instead, Wahoo has opted to use routes download from either Strava or RideWithGPS
Let’s look at the RideWithGPS option
You have a huge pool of riders and routes, as the platform is device agnostic. However, it does mean without a phone and internet connection, you are not going to be loading any new routes.
To reiterate the HUGE pool of riders and route, there are 98,005 routes and rides within 50KM of my location in Warwick… now that is massive!
Open the route, check it is one you want to try and sent it to Your Routes
Anything that is in your Routes section will then be copied to the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt when it next time you sync. On the Elemnt this had to be done over WiFi, but with the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, you are free to use your data allowance too!
You also have the option to create your own routes if you want. But you are not going to be able to easily set up routes whilst on the fly. Things are much better if you Bolt is near a computer
Once you’ve sorted your route on the site, check that your route has uploaded to the device before you head off – which you can do by hitting the Route button from the Map page. This will show you, and allow you to select routes stored on the GPS
Select your route, hit the central button, and you are good to go!
The route you have selected on the map is not particularly clear when you are on the start navigation screen
Perhaps highlighting the route name on the start screen might be a good start?
When you approach a turn, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt chimes, and flashes the top lights for each direction instruction
There is also the option to view to cue sheet to tell you where to go if you prefer to see a list of your directions before you set off
It should be noted, if you leave the course and go off piste…, you are largely on your own, as the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt will just beep and flash the lights at the top of the unit. What it won’t do is direct you back on course. This is one major difference with the higher Garmin offerings and the Wahoo GPS so far.
You can both quickly plan a route on the Garmin 820/1000 units themselves, but they can also get you back on track if you wrong. Which I’d actually think is more of a selling feature of the majority of riders rather than an aero shell?
Although in fairness, the Bolt does have point to point navigation via the app, you still need your phone, where as the Garmin’s can do that simply from the device. When I’m out for a ride, I normally like to leave my phone alone, which is one of the reasons I like GPS devices with the smart notifications, so I can continue to ignore it when it rings!
When you stop for a break, and the all important coffee and cake, if you are using a route loaded to the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, you can also view a little ride remaining summary, which is nice to plan how much cake you plan to take on!
Strava Live Segments
Frankly, the system using the LED features on the side of the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt works brilliantly. Plus the description on “let’s get started” in the Wahoo app really explains what is going on… apart from the fact all the pictures use the larger Elemnt, with the different LED arrangement
But it is one thing to show nice images of a function (on the wrong device), but that doesn’t actually give an indication of how well the Strava segments work in reality – rest assured, Wahoo have nailed the Strava Live Segments!
As you cycle round, you can see which of your starred segments you are closest to if you look on the Strava page
You will also get a pop up on your regular screen as you get close to a starred segment
As you cross the start line of a Strava Segment you get a big screen “GO!” and data fields so show your time, PR, and how far you are behind.
You can also change the page setup to show you the topography of your segment and where you are
At the end of a segment, you get a summary screen, if you want to pause, review and wipe the sweat off!!
Wahoo KICKR Integration
Obviously, with Wahoo’s break out product being the Wahoo KICKR, it makes sense that the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt retains the deep integration with their turbo trainer. This is one major advantage of having units designed to work together, connections and utility are just so simple.
You can perform all the admin functions for the KICKR directly from the sensor screen on the Bolt
From the KICKR screen directly, it is a case of press one button, and you can perform the calibration/spin down
With clear instructions on the screen for during the spin down – but to be fair, it is not really rocket science!
In order to connect the Wahoo KICKR to the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt so that you can USE the Bolt to control the KICKR, you must put the head unit into “indoor” mode, which is one press from the power button menu screen
Once connected, you have several options for using the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt with the KICKR trainer. Setting resistance level or percentage directly on the turbo, an ergo mode for if you are doing structured training, route simulation, which I find particularly useful if there is a course I’m looking to do, but it’s a long distance away and would like to try things out. Crucially we also have the option for third party apps to control the KICKR, such as Zwift, but to keep using the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt as a simple cycling head unit
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Conclusion
Is the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt a game changer… possibly, and part of that comes simply down to price.
The Garmin 520 is priced at about £200, while the Garmin 820 sits at £260 – by comparison, the Wahoo Bolt is a VERY strong competitor for 820, and with a significant price saving. It would be a straight forward home run for the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt if the unit were able to do on device GPS routing,
Wahoo has come at the cycling GPS device from a different route, recognising that the most important thing, when you are doing 40kph down the road is not the highest pixel density colour screen, but glanceable information. The LEDs around the top of the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt still work brilliantly for communication, if on a slightly smaller scale.
Overall the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is a great cycling GPS, and Wahoo are clearly trying to think differently and add real value to their GPS range, rather than just add spec sheet features, and on that point alone, other manufacturers should be very concerned!