Before Wahoo came along Garmin seemed on course to become entirely synonymous with GPS cycling computers. Instead, this inexorable journey towards the enviable status of brand/product category synecdoche found itself unexpectedly re-routed by the arrival of Wahoo’s Elemnt device.
Launched in 2016 and featuring an innovative app-led set-up, this smart and tactile bicycle computer did a ton of clever things, many of which have since become standard whatever company supplies your unit. This initial device soon begat two offspring, the first the smaller and more race-focused Bolt, the latter the larger and more adventurous Roam.
Obviously, all parents must at least pretend to love their children equally. However, the general public remains free to pick a favourite, as are Wahoo’s sponsored athletes. And it turns out both have increasingly been plumping for the newer Roam. Perhaps drawn in by its colour screen or the better onboard mapping, even the device’s extra weight and less aerodynamic profile haven’t deterred riders from teams including Ineos, Bora-Hansgrohe, and EF Education from bolting Wahoo’s less slippery computer to their handlebars.
A more Roam-like Bolt
However, recently fully spruced up after four years on the market, the new Bolt is now right back in the mix. So, what’s new? Well, because four years is a long time in technology, quite a lot.
First, despite remaining the smaller unit, the new Bolt sidles up to its bigger brother with a new and enhanced matching map pack. Allowing for smart navigation and on-device destination selection, you can now also pick a location directly on the map rather than entering the details manually. Pan and zoom to find where you want to go, and the Bolt will quickly work out how best to get there. It’s a feature particularly useful if you want to get somewhere more remote than say, ‘the pub’, or ‘the junction of x and y’. At the same time, whether using this feature or following a pre-selected route, you can now opt to pause your progress to go off-course without the device continually trying to reroute you. Both modes of navigation come with turn-by-turn prompts and flashing lights across the top of the device to warn of upcoming junctions while, like debutants arriving at a ball, each hill gets announced alongside its elevation details and other key stats.
For those that like to ruin a good bike ride by sandwiching it between a swim and a run (hey, only joking, triantelopes), the Bolt also automatically connects to Wahoo’s latest Rival smartwatch; a useful ability if you’re hopping between activities. Also allowing you to locate your friends or take on Strava live segments, the latest Bolt is also useful if your training session is indoors, a feature it manages by also being able to control Wahoo’s range of Kickr trainers. This is a facet it achieves by also being able to command Wahoo’s range of Kickr smart turbo trainers. Meaning you can use the device as a handlebar-mounted remote controller, this lets you flick between EGR modes, adjust the level of resistance, play through pre-installed workouts on the device, or even relive stored routes that you’ve captured from the world outside.
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Comes in colours
All those talents aside, the first thing anyone is likely to notice is that the Bolt now comes in colour. And proper bright, punchy colour it is too. Always very neat in both its mapping and the way it displayed data, the latest Bolt now benefits from an updated 64-colour screen. Remaining at medium-sized 240x300 pixels across, it’s nevertheless now easier to read, thanks in part to an in-built ambient light sensor. Hidden behind a tough Gorilla Glass screen, the addition of colour is not only pretty, but makes following zones, programmes, or mapping less demanding of your attention.
Battery life is chunky at around 15 hours, while IPX7 waterproofing means you’ll need to come up for air before it does. A few other small tweaks have been made following customer feedback, such as the convex buttons that are easier to operate with gloved hands.
Formerly the Bolt’s big selling point, Wahoo still claims the device generates over 50% less drag than its leading competitor. According to Wahoo, this will net you around a watt at 20 mph; a useful saving, but not as useful as ensuring you don’t make a wrong turn; something the new Bolt also does an even better job of.
Generally, all that said, the updates are more noticeable in the Bolt’s operation than in its appearance; at least until you turn it on. Now far more capable, it’s very much closed the gap on its bigger sibling in functionality if not size. Of course, being more Roam-esque, the Bolt has crept a little closer to it in price too. Yet, clocking in at £250 and still £50 cheaper than the larger unit, it’s hard to see either as anything other than excellent value compared to the rest of the market.