It's been four years since American brand Wahoo launched the first version of its Elemnt Bolt, quickly gaining reputation as a brand offering some of the best bike computers on the market and asserting itself as a proper competitor to the industry giant: Garmin.
The first version of the Elemnt Bolt offered innovative integration with Wahoo’s app from which users could control the arrangement of data fields on pages and plan routes. As we become more reliant on our bike computers (did a ride even happen if it wasn’t recorded?) and as the trend of adventure riding is rising exponentially, it was time for an upgrade to the Bolt.
The first iteration of the Bolt offered some basic mapping but it lacked a re-routing function directly from the headunit. With the new version of the Bolt, Wahoo has improved a multitude of features — perhaps most notably the maps page and its functionality, meaning you can trust the Bolt even further to guide you on the wildest of rides.
In fact, the new version of the Bolt has all the features of Wahoo’s more expensive offering, the Elemnt Roam, stuffed into a smaller and more compact package. The majority of differences between the new Bolt and the Roam lie in their sizes: the Roam is a much larger unit, one that Wahoo claims is designed for endurance riding rather than being a compact, aerodynamic unit like the Bolt.
With this being said, the new version of the Bolt is one of the most versatile and functional bike computers on the market. Be it for use in a race, for guiding users round bike-packing adventures, or commuting round the inner city, the new Bolt has useful features for it all, arguably catapulting itself to the top of Wahoo’s current range, despite being cheaper than the Roam.
Maps and display
While the old Bolt had no colour at all, and the Wahoo Roam has 8 colours in its palette, the new Bolt features an impressive 64 colours. This is a huge upgrade in terms of usability of the maps, and makes following directions a whole lot easier. Wahoo utilises this range of colours exceedingly well, showing bike paths blue, main roads in yellow and larger roads in orange, all in a super crisp display.
Another new feature is the ability to colour code metrics on the training page. This means that data fields like power or heart rate can be coloured depending on the one you wish to focus on. For example, heart rate can be in a red box if this is the focal point for the ride. In hard efforts or in busy areas where you need just a quick glance at your data, this is a real benefit and makes following specific power zones during efforts much less complicated.
As with all Wahoo head units, the LEDs at the top of the screen can provide directions, notifications and indicate power and heart rate zones. Colours are also used to show you how far along a Strava segment you are on the Maps page – no doubt a welcome feature for those KOM/QOM hunters out there.
When examined closely, you can see that there is an ambient light sensor in the upper left corner of the Bolt, meaning the screen brightness will auto adjust depending on conditions, a useful function when going through tunnels or if riding into the later hours. When we tested the Bolt, this was a little slow to respond in some situations but was still an impressive feature that helped battery life as well as visibility.
Colours aside, the maps on the Bolt have been treated to some other big upgrades from Wahoo. Perhaps the most useful of them all is the smart navigation feature which means that the route adjusts if you go off-course. The accuracy of this was impressive, and allows full confidence in the maps of the new Bolt. When using the old iteration, it wasn’t uncommon to have to stop by the side of the road and consult trusty Google maps if you veered off the set route. The new Bolt completely solves this issue.
In addition, the new Bolt gives the option to navigate to any saved areas directly from the headunit. If you have your home address on the saved areas page, just a simple press of a button means that the Bolt can, incredibly quickly, provide you with a route to home. In addition, it’s possible to select your preferred surfaces from the unit when creating a route, depending on if you wish to ride off-road, or on tarmac on your journey.
The font has also changed on the new Elemnt Bolt, making it, in my opinion, much more user-friendly and easier to read at a quick glance. A scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass makes the new Bolt especially durable, too, a useful upgrade for winter and off-ride riding especially.
Compared to the old Bolt, Wahoo has changed the buttons on the new release, making them have a much more positive click, especially when using gloved fingers. The buttons on the old Bolt were a real hindrance in the winter, sometimes difficult to change while riding. Clearly taking consumer feedback on board, Wahoo has made the buttons on the new Bolt raised slightly, as opposed to concave, and added a more prominent texture, making them far easier to press.
A common issue for many of us was the charging port cover on the old Bolt. Flimsy and difficult to keep in place, it could often come open on rides and allow moisture into the port. The cover on the new Bolt feels much more secure, tending to stay put throughout a ride. It’s also replaceable if required, a handy feature. We’re yet to test the Bolt in the harshest of wet conditions but we’ll be able to give a full verdict on its durability after a winter of riding.
In another change, the new Wahoo Bolt has a USB-C charging port making it much more water resistant and increasing charging speed from 1.5A to 5A, faster than Wahoo’s Roam. However, the bigger battery in the Roam does mean it won’t need to be charged as often, perhaps the better option for all-day epic adventures.
The new Bolt has a battery life of 15 hours, and we found it to live up to this even when having brightness on full, using power and heart rate sensors and using the maps features. This means that even with all features in use, the Bolt will last long enough for most of us, unless a super long ride is on the cards.
Again with impressive attention to detail and usability in mind, when turning the Bolt off, it gives a reminder of the battery life left on the device at that time, giving a nudge if needed to put it on charge. The Bolt also has an increased onboard memory of 16GB, meaning it can hold more routes and old training files.
We would note that the start up on the new Bolt is slightly slower than on the older iteration, but this is largely understandable with the amount of new features on the device. It wasn’t something that was a huge hindrance for us, but it could be frustrating if you’re running late for a group ride and want every single metre recorded.
The new Bolt comes with a sleek and aero out front mount, keeping to Wahoo’s claim that this is a device designed for high performance. You can also use the new Bolt on the original Bolt mount, but it doesn’t have a perfect fit with a small gap in between the unit and the mount. As big fans of the original mount style, we can’t see many reasons behind the change in mount from Wahoo for the new version of the Bolt, and it seems like a bit of an unnecessary alteration.
We were impressed with the new version of the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. Retailing at around £250, it’s an high-performance bike computer that doesn’t break the bank. The upgrade to the maps in both colour and functionality is likely the most notable change, and one that will be invaluable to those who like to explore and find new areas on the bike.
Wahoo has managed to innovate without changing its original identity or getting rid of any features that made the original Bolt so groundbreaking. The American brand hasn’t gone for a touchscreen or tried to mimic its competitors, instead it has made measured and well-thought out upgrades that have clearly been decided by extensive testing in the field. This makes the new Wahoo Bolt one of the most modern and well-rounded options available in the world of bike computers.
While the Roam might be a preferable choice for epic bike adventures thanks to its larger screen and longer battery life, the Bolt has all the same functionalities and is much more compact and aerodynamic. It’s a yes from us.