I bought the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT to add to my collection of head units that help me compare power meters side by side.  Little did I know then that the BOLT would become the one I keep on my bike when testing time is over.  It has replaced the Garmin Edge 520 as my preferred bike computer.

True, the 520 is better than other Garmins in the Edge line and far better than the non-Garmins in my collection – a Joule GPS, Wahoo RFLKT+ and Suunto Movestick for my laptop.  But there are things Garmin can do better with the 520.  Plenty of them.Garmin Edge 520 Wahoo Elemnt BOLT and Joule GPS

Wahoo may be better known for their trainers but the BOLT isn’t Wahoo’s first rodeo in head units.  Their previous RFLKT, RFLK+ and ELEMNT head units were very innovative and well priced but couldn’t quite compete with Garmin in the end for a variety of reasons.

With the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT, Wahoo has exploited the Edge 520’s shortcomings and matching many of the features where Garmin Edge units excel.  For me, and I would expect most road cycling enthusiasts, the BOLT is a clear winner over the 520 in almost every way that matters.

[Note: Wahoo calls the BOLT by its full name, the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT.  The company also makes the Wahoo ELEMNT, an almost smartphone-sized predecessor to the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT.  The two units operate the same way and that is probably why Wahoo uses the ELEMNT in both names.

But, I find the two Wahoo model names confusing.  Garmin is clearer.  Their Edge units have different model numbers after each use of the Edge name (Edge 520, Edge 820, Edge 1000).

To avoid confusion among the Wahooligans, I’m calling the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT just the BOLT going forward.

And, Garmin upped it’s 520 game when it replaced it with the 520 PLUS which I will call the 520 going forward]

Among the things I believe matter most in choosing a head unit, here are the ways the BOLT and 520 differ and where the BOLT almost always comes out on top.


While the two units have the same physical and screen size, the BOLT’s screen is sharper and brighter than the 520.  For a middle-aged, far-sighted fart like me who needs 1.50+ magnification glasses for computer and reading distances, I find the BOLT’s screen far easier to read and a difference maker between the two units.

Garmin Edge 520 and Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT

Garmin Edge 520 and Wahoo Bolt

The BOLT’s sharper and brighter screen is notable when the font size of the numbers is the same.  But, even better, you can change the font size on the BOLT merely by toggling the up/down buttons on the right to decrease or increase the number of fields you have on the screen.

Even better still, the top field number is always larger than the others as you go up and down from 3 to 7 fields on the screen.  And as you go from more to fewer fields, all the numbers get larger.  With the 520, it always seems like there is a lot of white space and wasted real-estate on the display.

If you like to focus on one number to guide you as you ride – perhaps your speed or cadence or, in my case, my average 3-second power – this larger top number stands out that much more while the other numbers that matter to you are clear and just below it.

You can change the font size and number of fields on the 520 but you have to set up a different page to do that.  With the BOLT, you change the number and size of the fields within the page you already have set up.  In both units, you have a limited number of pages.  With the BOLT, however, you don’t need to add pages or change between them nearly as often as you do in the 520 to get the same info.

Finally, I find the BOLT screen sharp and bright enough that I don’t need to use any backlight riding outside during the day and with the room lights turned on while on a trainer.  I usually have the 520 set to at least 80% brightness with a 15-second timeout and often find myself toggling between pages just to turn the backlight on.  BOLT’s advantage here obviously saves battery when you do toggle within or between pages.  It also saves you the need to toggle as often and keeps both hands on the bars when riding outside.


The buttons on the BOLT make a lot more sense and I find are far more intuitive than on the 520.

The on/off button on both head units is on the upper left.  That makes sense as that location is the least natural spot to put a button for the right-hand dominated world on a ride (sorry lefties).   You’ll use it once or twice before you set off on your ride (on, then off or only on if you leave it alone and let it turn off by itself) unless you want to change settings mid-ride which I don’t suggest you do while underway.

What makes less sense is that the 520 has the up/down buttons many will use frequently to switch pages during a ride on the lower left side of the unit as well.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT Left Center Right buttons

Bolt (black) and 520 (white) left, center and right buttons

Not only do you need to use your left hand to do this, you need to take that same hand away from the area of the left hand STI (aka shifter/brake levers, aka brifter).  This is the side where you control the front brake on most bikes, the brake you should use first when slowing your bike.

Further, you are taking your hand off that lever AND probably looking at your head unit to see the results of the page changed you’ve made, truly a bad combination when you should be looking at the road and all that is going on around you.  (Sorry Mr. Froome).

The BOLT has those up/down buttons on the right-hand side.  That favors right handed riders and takes you away from your secondary, rear brake.  The BOLT’s up/down buttons only change how many fields see on the screen when you are in a page.  Theoretically, then, you would use those buttons less often.

The buttons that change the page you are on, start/pause/resume a ride, start a new lap and confirm certain actions (yes or no) are on the top of the BOLT just below the screen.  They also have labels just above them on the screen though are in a font size a bit too small for somewhat visually challenged, middle-aged riders like me to see.

The placement of these BOLT buttons is a superior design to the 520 where the start/pause/resume and lap buttons are on the lower edge of the unit, 90 degrees to the bottom the screen.  With some out-front mounts including a couple I’ve used, there’s not a lot of room for your thumb between the buttons and the handlebar.

I do find the 520s physical buttons to be an improvement over the touchscreen ones on other Edge units but they still aren’t ergonomically well positioned for me.  The BOLT buttons, however, are more natural and more logically placed.

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BOLT takes advantage of the touchscreen on your smartphone to make finding your sensors and customizing pages easy peasy.  You can drag-and-drop the fields you want to the pages you want.  You can reorganize the order of the fields within a page, in the same way, dragging and dropping them on your phone.  You can find, save or delete sensors in the same drag-and-drop way.  The changes show up almost immediately on your BOLT screen.

You can also add and save sensors on the BOLT itself but doing it on the phone is that much easier.

The first time I did hill repeats with the BOLT, I stopped at the top of the first repeat, pulled out my phone and added and reordered the fields on my lap page.  Took me about a minute.  (I wish it had taken longer.  I needed an excuse to catch my breath.)

Setting up the 520 isn’t hard (setting up a Joule GPS is way harder), but it’s a series of button pushes back and forth.  One could get some serious callouses doing that.

In the touch screen phone world we live in, BOLT is hip and the 520 is old school or the BOLT is dope and the 520 is whack or whatever words hipper enthusiasts than me actually use.

All of this assumes you are an iPhone or Android smartphone user.  You need to use the Wahoo ELEMNT app to set up your phone even though you don’t need to ride with it to make it work.

I haven’t done a side by side comparison but both the BOLT and 520 have tons of fields to choose from.  There weren’t any fields I wanted that I couldn’t find on either

In Garmin’s favor, the 520 triggers a reminder on your screen you zero-offset your power meter when you wake it up.  With the BOLT, you don’t get a reminder.  You have to open the menu (push the on-off button once), highlight the power meter in your sensor list (scroll to it with the down button) and push the calibrate button (left button on the front of your screen.)  You should zero-offset once your bike is at the outside temperature at the beginning of each ride.  That was your reminder.

The 520 also tells you what power zone you are in with 1 decimal place while the BOLT only gives you the integer number.  Being in Zone 3.2 is a whole lot different than being in 3.8.  Being in Zone 3 doesn’t tell me enough.  I hope BOLT improves on this.

BOLT does have a set of colored LEDs across the top that can give you a quick glimpse of your instantaneous power zone.  I find this complements the smoothed average power and zone info I use.  Those same LEDs can be set to show you what heart rate zone you are in and whether you are going faster, slower or near your average speed.  These are helpful if not revolutionary innovations.

You can also connect the BOLT with sensors using ANT+ and Bluetooth while Garmin only connects with ANT+.  That’s a partial advantage for the BOLT; I find ANT+ is a more robust protocol and I connect power meters and other sensors using ANT+ when I can.

While I’m not a smart trainer user, I’m also told the BOLT does a superior job of communicating with and controlling your trainer. (Makes sense.  Wahoo also makes trainers.)  It avoids the need to use 3rd party software to run between the head unit and trainer to control the resistance.  If that is important to you, there’s another check for the BOLT.

While not the case when the BOLT first came out, structured workouts you have created on Training Peaks and Today’s Plan can be loaded into both the BOLT and the 520.

There are all sorts of other features, bells and whistles, boops, and bops that the BOLT and 520 have, some of which may appeal to you or not.  None are game changers or decision makers for me or do I think they would be for most road cycling enthusiasts.


Quite simply, the BOLT battery lasts much longer than the 520.  Using them side by side on a recent century ride with the GPS maps on in both units, the BOLT had about 1/3rd of its battery left while the 520 was nearly tapped out.  Other reviewers have noted as much as a 2X to 3X longer battery life for the BOLT over the 520.

In most of my riding, battery life isn’t an issue.  I make a habit of plugging in my lights and any head units I’ve been using during the week every Sunday.  They usually have enough charge to last through a regular week of 6-8 hours of riding.

If I’m going on a 100 mile or longer ride with the 520 where I want to use the GPS to help me navigate the course, I’ve learned to turn the display brightness down. To conserve battery, I’ll also shut off the navigation when I don’t need it.  One of my friends brings one of the lipstick-sized batteries along, plugs it into the 520 and tapes it to his bars.

With the BOLT, I no longer need to worry about any of that.


I ride a lot of regular routes I know where I don’t need or use the GPS navigation feature.  When I head out on a group ride or do a smaller event ride though, I do use navigation because it’s often a route I haven’t ridden. I like the confidence of knowing where I need to make the next turn especially if (when?) I fall off the back.

The Garmin Edge 520 Plus added considerably to the maps that were available on the 520 (essentially none – you had to download open source maps). It’s a robust set of route maps that also include off-road maps in some cases for gravel riding navigation.

The BOLT comes with detailed maps through the ELEMNT smartphone app and enables turn notification out of the box.  With the early versions of the Plus, the Garmin included maps had a tendency to overwhelm the processor in places where you need to navigate multiple turns in a small area. The result was that notifications came after the point where you were supposed to make some turns. I suspect that got worked out with firmware updates though I can’t say for sure.

From there, there is a bit of divergence in their navigation approach.

To start a route on the 520, you need to push buttons on either edge of the unit through four menus (Menu>Training>Courses>Course Option) including some up-down scrolling to get to your course.  Try remembering that sequence when you are hustling to get to the start of a ride.

With the BOLT, you hit the page button at the bottom of the screen until the map page comes up (usually one push the workout page the BOLT initially powers to).  Then you push the route button also at the bottom of the screen on that page and scroll down and enter your route.  Intuitive.  Done.  Worry about other things.

BOLT also puts the most recently entered route at the top of your list.  The 520 puts them in alphanumeric and alphabetical order.   If you are doing Wicked Right for the first time (shame) and just loaded it, the route will be at the top of your BOLT list.  On the 520, you might need to scroll through 15 other rides to get to it.  (Pro Tip: Scroll up to get to the bottom of your list on the 520).

The 520 has a color screen, uses a distinct color to show what road you should ride on and a distinct arrow to show where you should make the upcoming turns.  The BOLT’s screen is black and white and an arrow to show you the route and turns.  PotAto – PotAHto.

When underway, the BOLT also creates a cascade of arrows I find is superior to the colored line on the 520.  I wasn’t able to take a picture while underway (no Go Pro) so here’s a screen grab from the Wahoo site of what you’ll see while riding.

Using the up/down button on the BOLT, you can zoom in and zoom out the map to get a higher level or more granular view of where you are in relationship to the roads around you and your upcoming turn.  I find this feature in combination with the cascading arrows especially helpful when trying to decide which turn to take at more complicated intersections where you might have two or three roads leading in and out of it.

Another plus for the BOLT is how its turn navigation interacts with the ride data.  If you have a page up on the 520 with your regular array of performance fields and come to a turn, the turn notification street name and arrow will overlay the data fields on the bottom third or so of the screen.  So, for example, if you have heart rate and speed as the bottom two fields of the six on your screen, you won’t be able to see that for the quarter mile or so period from when the notification turns on until it goes off after exiting the turn.

The BOLT merely adds the turn notification to the bottom as if it was two additional fields while shifting the other performance fields up the screen and keeping them fully visible. This is like going from 5 to 7 fields.  The 5 fields you were looking at before shift up and get a bit smaller and the turn information shows up at the bottom.  Once you exit the turn, the performance fields shift down again.

When you get a phone or text notification, the field shifting versus field covering works the same way on the BOLT versus the 520.

Seems like a small thing but I always hated the way the 520 covered up a couple of my fields and immediately noticed and smiled with satisfaction when I realized they were still there on the BOLT.

Anecdotally, the BOLT does somehow seem to notify you of turns earlier than the 520.  I’ve done a fair amount of comparison riding with the BOLT and 520 and alongside others in my club who have a Garmin and noticed this to be the case fairly consistently.  We wondered how this could be since we figured there are likely only one or two navigation chipsets out there and expect they would act the same way when responding to the same GPS satellite.  Software differences?  Black box stuff?

The BOLT does lack the ability to route you back on course the way the 520 does.  You get all sorts of beeps when you go off course with the BOLT so you have little excuse to turn things around and get going in the right direction.  I expect a software upgrade at some point would also bring BOLT on par with the 520 for this capability.  Certainly hope so.

To end this section at the start, there is one huge difference between the two head units when it comes to loading a route.  It’s called wireless.

With the 520, you need to download the route file to your computer, plug the 520 into your computer, and then upload the route file to a right folder in the Garmin folder list.  God forbid you can’t find or lose the Garmin USB to micro USB cord (many generic ones will charge but not communicate with your 520) or upload the route file to the wrong folder. (Choose the folder called New Files rather than any of more than 20 others including those called Courses, Custom Maps, Locations, and Workouts, all of which sound like reasonable places to put your route file).

My riding buddy Davo Mac, a guy with one of the sunniest dispositions I know recently entertained a group of us with a 5-minute rant about many of these Garmin ways of doing things from the breadcrumb map starting point down through the route file uploading. He topped it off with an expression of his dissatisfaction (I’ll leave it at that) that Garmin, the giant leader in bike, auto, marine and other navigation segments could have so many shortcomings in their system.

An industry giant’s weaknesses often provide opportunities for a newcomer’s innovation.

With this one route file uploading example (let alone the others I’ve gone through above it), BOLT has demonstrated how they innovate to make a better product.  Once your route file is up on your RideWithGPS or Strava Routes, you merely turn on your BOLT, push the Route button on your maps page and hit Sync.  WiFi moves the file onto your BOLT from there.  Magic.

Note that if you load up from Strava routes you don’t get turn notification.  But RideWithGPS is so much better in so many ways I wouldn’t use Strava for uploading routes.  The BOLT does play very nice with Strava in some of their signature features like Live Segments.

Speaking of which, you may recall Garmin tried to blunt the breakaway popularity of Strava segments and didn’t integrate with their Edge units for some time.  Worse, they embarrassed themselves with their own segments offering which has never caught on.  Needless to say, Garmin’s Edge units and Strava segments don’t work anywhere near “seamlessly”.

If you are out riding with your phone (and who doesn’t these days), you can also plug an address into the ELEMNT app and have a route automatically created and synced to your BOLT.  Nice


Both the BOLT and 520 will upload your results to Strava, TrainingPeaks, Today’s Plan and other apps that capture and analyze your results.

I don’t know about you, but I want to know my results well before I get to those apps.  Like, right away.

Here, the BOLT really excels.  The completeness, organization, and presentation of the data are so much better on the BOLT than the 520.  It’s also better than the results displays you can get on your Strava and TrainingPeaks phone apps.  I hardly feel the need to dig into my TrainingPeaks computer program more than once a week.

Here are a couple comparisons of the presentation of results (from different rides) including a couple to the far right with Zone details that are only available with the BOLT


In the US, the BOLT sells for USD $250 and the 520 Plus at $280. In the UK, the two sell at the same price of £200. When buying in Euros, the BOLT, at about €240, sells for about €10 less than the 520 Plus.

You can find and order the BOLT using these links to my top-ranked store Competitive Cyclist and compare prices from other recommended stores at Know’s Shop.

For the 520 plus, you can find and order it at these links to my top-ranked stores Competitive Cyclist and Merlin Cycles or search results at Know’s Shop.

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  • Thanks for another great (and detailed) write up. Will the Bolt pick up the (individual) Garmin speed and cadence sensors?

    • Dave, Yes, as long as your sensors are ANT+ or Bluetooth, the BOLT will communicate with them. The speed and cadence sensors that Garmin sells for about $70, part number 010-12104-00, are ANT+. ANT+ is a proprietary but open network protocol that is the dominant one for sensors in bike world. Garmin bought the protocol but it’s in their interest to make it available to everyone as they have. Steve

  • Interesting, but is it better than the Garmin 1000?

    • Tim, Depends what you value. The 1000 has a screen the size of a smartphone that operates pretty much the same as a the 520 and 820. If you want something that size on the front of your bike and are willing to pay nearly 2x the price of a BOLT or 520 for it, perhaps. I’m not a fan as you can read my take on the Garmin 1000 here. Steve

    • Tim, you’ll need to be the judge if real navigation and larger display of 1000 are worth it. I do a lot of riding on unfamiliar roads in the Sierras and California Coastal mountains, outside of cellular coverage, and therefore I find the Edge 1000 attractive. Would probably buy the 1000 if shopping today, but sticking with my 520 for now, hey, its paid for and works fine even if I have to load routes using a computer (boo!).

      I’ve had the 520 for 1+ years now, and recently played with the Bolt, the mapping & turn-by-turn directions are similar while out riding. The primary difference is that its far easier to load routes onto the Bolt. Both rely on RideWithGPS to create the turn-by-turn instructions, and will not re-route if you get off course. Both have small screens that can be hard to see with my single vision Rx sunglasses, both have somewhat crude maps, and that can make it easy to miss a turn – lets just say I have a lot of ‘bonus’ miles LOL. I’m not saying the 1000 will prevent you from missing turns, but on the 1000 its far easier to see the map and the big picture. Would definitely help if I upgraded riding glasses to progressive lenses, luckily I still have good close vision so pulling my sunglasses off allows me to read any screen on 520 or Bolt.

      The 1000 has true navigation, like in a car, so you can enter an address or point-of-interest without a cellular connection and it will create route. The lack of structured workouts on Bolt would be a deal killer for me, I even take my 520 to the gym for doing structured workouts on the Stages stationary bikes with power meters. I understand from DCRainmaker review the Bolt is scheduled for workout feature in future upgrade. Yay!

      Rather than upgrade to the 1000, or swap out to Bolt (love those buttons!), I continue to use the 520 and then run RWGPS app on my iPhone and put it into Airplane mode. While at home I download and save the route into RWGPS app, for offline use while in airplane mode or otherwise outside cell coverage. Then from time to time (photo opp!), or if I miss a turn, I reach into back jersey pocket and pull out my phone to review the route. I did a 14 hour ride last summer and my iPhone 5s battery ended at ~80%. Similar for my double century this year, outside for 16 hours and iPhone 7 ended at ~50% – there was more cell coverage so I didn’t use airplane mode as much so that my wife could see me on Find My Friends 🙂

      • Wahoo has just announced that structured workouts you have created on Training Peaks and Today’s Plan can now be loaded into both the BOLT .

  • I agree with your review Steve, and would only add that I was incredibly impressed with the Bolt’s ability to work with many different sensors. In my own case, after purchasing a power meter based on your reviews, I initially tried to ride using my iPhone 7+ as a head unit. The problem is that using the phone for navigation while picking up data from a power meter was awkward–two different apps were needed, and only one could be visible on the screen. And when I used Strava to display the power meter data, I couldn’t get Live Segments to work. Furthermore Strava doesn’t pick up cadence from Powertap pedal-based power meters (which is what I us—so I can swap them to a spin bike come winter), so I ended up trying to use Powertap’s app. That app works great for reading data from the power meter, but is lacking in other respects, such as navigation and Strava live segments. So I finally gave up and bought the Bolt and was amazed at how easy and intuitive it is to use, how it pairs with sensors with no fuss, and how many great features it has. Using Powertap pedals, it even lets you easily set the crank length–which I’ve had trouble with even using Powertap’s own app. The Bolt is really well engineered–and the software might even get better.

    • Jonathan, Thanks for your comment. As you pointed, an iPhone really isn’t ideal as a fully capable cycling computer head unit. Ones designed for cycling like the Bolt, Garmins and a couple others are the way to go and Bolt is the leading one I’ve used. Steve

  • Great review. I recently purchased a bolt ( favouring the size over Wahoo Elemnt) for the Maratona de Dolomites ride at the beginning of June as I wanted a replacement for my trusty old garmin edge 500. I had read DC Rainmaker’s review and a number of others and like your comments, have seen many of my friends endure idiosyncrasies of various garmin units. I love my Bolt. It’s aesthetically appealing, easy to use and the connectivity and ability to be controlled from my phone makes it trounce garmin integration (IMHO). My only gripe is that the app seems to run very slowly on my phone from time to time – maybe a bug that needs ironing out

  • I had a Wahoo RFLKT and a few weeks ago bought the BOLT. It’s a great device. Does so much and its so easy to use. Glad I bought it instead of a Garmin unit. Only issue I find is that it drops the connection to my iPhone occasionally so I don’t get the text msgs on the device. I called Wahoo tech support and they know about this issue, but haven’t been able to pinpoint the reason why its happening. Also, get incorrect battery life on iPhone. Its seems to always be pegged at 156%. Minor bugs that I can live with since everything else is so great and easy to use.

    • I had the same exact problem. I’ve been in contact with Wahoo and the only thing that worked was to unpair the Bolt and my Apple Watch. Pair re-pair the Bolt and then re-pair the Apple Watch. The connection has been working pretty well since.

  • Thanks for the review on BOLT. Bought it 2 weeks ago as bundle (TICKR HRM, Cadence and Speed Sensor). Seamlessly connected with HRM. Yet to connect with cadence and speed sensors as I am still waiting for my Campy Zonda C17 ( recommended by you too!). Very user friendly via wahoo app.

  • Wish I’d read your review before I bought the 520 bundle last week.. ? Haven’t unboxed it yet, but will probably keep it. I’m generally a fan of Wahoo and have used their TICKRX pulse belt with my iPhone 7 for a while now. Bought the RFLKT by accident, and not the RFLKT+ with barometer, and have struggled to get correct elevation data in Strava. Have also struggled with some inconsistent pulse readings from my TICKRX. Same with all my previous pulse watches, so no I wanted to try GARMIN. I’ve also read that the 520 have better comparability with various indoor trainers, like the Tacx Neo. Is that so? Other benefits? Please comfort me! ?

    • OC, I have a RFLKT+. The BOLT is a world apart (ie a couple generations better). Wahoo is still an upstart so they don’t get everything right but they did get the better of Garmin on this one. Garmin is a lumbering giant. They act kind of like I used to when I told my kids who complained about dinner: you get what you get and don’t get upset, because that’s what there is. If you’ve got a Tacx trainer the Garmin will work with it fully; the BOLT will do power, speed and cadence. If you’ve got a Wahoo Kicker, the BOLT would be better. Steve

      • Thanks Steve. What really bothers me with the 520 is that I have to plug it in to a PC to upload routes. Correct?

        I’m on vacation in Spain at the moment, going for big ride in the mountains tomorrow. I have brought my iPhone and iPad, but no PC.. If that means that I can’t get the routes onto the new 520, I think I will return it. It should never be necessary to connect the unit to a PC in 2017, not even for software updates.

        • OC, I’m afraid you can’t get a new route on the 520 without plugging it in to a computer. Perhaps you can find someone who has one? Have a great vacation. Steve

  • Thanks for your very thorough review. Sounds like the Bolt is a compelling unit but for me the knockout factor is that it won’t connect with my Garmin Varia Rear Radar unit, which works flawlessly with the Garmin 520 and has made my road rides infinitely safer. If I’m wrong about this or if there is a similar unit that will connect to the Bolt, I’d love to hear about it.

  • And a question… Does the Bolt or the Elemnt app offer a feature similar to Garmin Livetrack, where others can track your exact position in real time? I agree that the Garmin interface is cumbersome, but I need these safety features.

    • Steve B. No, these Garmin features work only with Garmin Edge units. Same for Garmin Connect. Steve

      • Since my response to Steve B above, Wahoo has added what they call the Live Track Portal which does the same thing as the Garmin LiveTrack

  • Steve B: Bolt has a live tracking feature what link you can share via email or messanger. That is the way how I share my location with my wife at home. However the update is in every 2 minutes but at least more than nothing.

  • My main complaints about the 520 are having to connect it to my computer to upload a route from Strava and the lag in gradient data. Uploading rides to strava is occasionally a problem too. How quickly is gradient updated on the bolt? Will the Bolt calibrate elevation when you start a ride from a known location?

    • Scot, Yep, connecting it to a computer to load routes is a hassle with the 520. But note that the Strava data doesn’t doesn’t provide turn by turn notifications for the BOLT. The superior Ride With GPS does. And you can upload your ride data to both of those (and Training Peaks and others) wirelessly after the ride is over.

      I didn’t find a whole lot of difference in the lag time posting the gradient. Sometimes it’s earlier with the 520, sometimes with the BOLT, sometimes the same. They don’t always read the same either. The BOLT does give it to you to one decimal place (5.8) whereas the 520 only gives you a whole number (5). Elevation is a field you can show on one of your pages so you can see it at any point during your ride. I haven’t tried to calibrate it to a known location’s elevation but I assume since it is using GPS, it is picking the elevation off the map. Steve

  • Thanks for the thorough review!

    I understand that the Bolt and the earlier Elemnt are virtually the same, with the Bolt smaller and lighter, but lacking the lights on the sides of the “older” unit. What, besides price, makes you choose the Bolt over the Elemnt, especially if the Elemnt is that much larger, with a bigger screen for our aging eyes? Have you used the earlier model?

    • bobmac, I personally prefer the size of the ELEMNT BOLT to the larger ELEMNT, Garmin Edge 1000 and others of that size. For me, the larger units put the focus on what you are watching on the screen vs the smaller ones which keep my focus on the road and world around you. With the BOLT, I find the screen sharp enough to not need a larger one. Steve

  • Thanks again for another good review…Very informative

    I have been thinking about upgrade but the truth is, even after all these years my
    Garmin Edge 305 still does everything I need

    HRM, Distance,Time,Elevations etc
    I do not even use the GPS except when reviewing rides

    Also since I do not do Strava that feature also is not missed.

    But I do expect someday to change so good to see reviews like this that compares

    Thanks !

  • Hey Steve, a dumb question…strictly to satisfy my curiosity….when you are running multiple head units on your bike (ie. 520 and Bolt) are they able to both pair/pick up and “share” sensors. In other words, can you have one HR strap, one cadence sensor, and one speed sensor …that can simultaneously be monitored by each HU?

    • DaveMac, In a word, yes. I only use multiple head units when testing different power meters and most, though not all, power meters have built in speed and cadence sensors. So you pair up the power meter and the speed and cadence from each power meter come with the power reading. Only one HR strap though 🙂 Each head unit can see all the sensors and you choose which sensors you want it to use. Steve

  • Hello Fellow Enthusiasts,

    For those of you who may be wondering, the exclusive ITK10 discount code for In The Know Cycling readers at PBK UK is still very much alive. You simply need to go to PBK UK from any link on this site and it will work fine. You can find links to PBK UK in the right hand column of any page on this site.

    The code will no longer be accepted if you go to the PBK site directly or through a site other than this one. This avoids other sites from publishing the ITK10 code and PBK providing discounts that were intended exclusively for ITKC readers.


  • Thanks again for this write up. As a fellow middle aged fart relying on 1.50 eyeglasses, you had me at “I find the Bolt’s screen far easier to read…”. I’ve put a few hundred miles on the Bolt thus far. I don’t use navigation much…so can’t comment there, but especially like the brighter screen, and the quick set up via smartphone. Compared to my 520, about the only criticism I have found is that the Bolt seems a bit slower to pick up changes in the road Gradient. I also appreciate that the Bolt comes with an “out in front” hinged mount.
    I just received an email from Wahoo announcing their new Elemnt Mini ($99.99) and promptly ordered one for the wife’s bike. Compared to Garmin’s entry level/recreational computer, it seems a far better buy.

  • Steve, am I the only one syncing courses and workouts to the 520 using just my phone? Not saying there aren’t advantages to Elemnt and Bolt, just that it is possible to wirelessly push courses (and workouts) to the 520. I’ve had the 520 for almost two years now, and could swear from day one I’ve been able to open Garmin app on my phone, and send any GC course or workout to my 520. Just tried it right now, still works. The course needs to be in your Garmin Connect (GC) account, either by converting a previous ride to a course, or making your own course in GC.

    Another wireless sync option for 520 owners – routeCourse connect IQ app – open routeCourse on 520 and then load RWGPS, Strava, etc. routes in a similar fashion as Wahoo. Works very well in my limited testing, although it strips out the cue sheet at this time.

    So why do I find myself loading courses by tethering 520 to a laptop? Our club, like many, posts rides with a RideWithGPS route. After joining the club a few months after buying the 520, I was disappointed to learn it wasn’t possible to export a club RWGPS route and import into GC (’cause then you can sync with phone app). Not a big deal (for me), I have a habit of reviewing any club route on my laptop the night before the ride. The real advantage of RWGPS is that you can export a TCX file that includes a cue sheet, which is used by 520 and Wahoo to display more explicit turn-by-turn instructions (with text taken from cue sheet).

  • HI Steve, I know your comparison of the Bolt was along side with the 520, I have the Edge 820, I don’t know if you know anything about the 820, if you do, do you still would choose the Bolt over the 820? your thoughts please! thank you!

    • Sam, The 820 is essentially the 520 with a touch screen in place of physical buttons. So, my preference for the BOLT remains. Steve

  • Hey Steve, would you recommend Wahoo’s cadence, speed and heart rate monitor? Or would you go for some other products of the shelf? I would be buying the bundle most likely, but am wondering if there are better, but similarly priced options.

    • Carter, I have used all three of them and I would recommend them. I have used others but haven’t comprehensively surveyed the field. The heart monitor works fine (I have two because I often can’t find one), more durable than the Polar units I’ve used in the past. And the cadence and speed monitors go on pretty easily and don’t require a magnet on the spokes which can often get misaligned. I think you also get a better deal buying them as a bundle with the head unit than if you bought them separately. Steve

  • Can anyone tell me what the arrow indicates on the screen when the speed goes up or down on the screen, the arrow sometimes shows down or up irrespective of increase or decrease in speed.

    • Adithya, Depending on how you have it set, the arrow indicates whether your current speed is above or below your average or target. Check with Wahoo for more on how to set it. Steve

  • I’m currently using an old Garmin Forerunner 305 and am in the market for a new GPS computer unit. The Bolt looks appetizing, but there is one small feature I know the majority of the Garmin units have that I can find no mention of in everything I’ve read about the Bolt. That is the ability to mark a location while out on a ride. That feature seems like a little one, but it is a deal breaker for me. Do you know if waypoints can be saved on the Bolt? If so, do you need your smartphone app to do so? I hope not. I appreciate and even value the convenience of being able to set up a head unit with a phone app, but I’m not married to my phone and leave it at home on rides. One thing I wish were possible with the Bolt is that setup functionality be available on the unit as well as with the phone app. For me, these two things are the clincher in deciding who should get my money.

  • Without LiveTrack/Strava Beacon autoshare Wahoo cannot be sold to me. As a father of two little kids and a worrying wife at home one of the the biggest selling point of 520 is the automatic LIveTrack/Strava Beacon sharing via my connected phone. I have been using Edge 500 for the third seasons but waiting for a good black friday deal to grab my new 520.

    • I’m not sure that last post is accurate. My Wahoo Bolt has Live Tracking w/ data and routes. Works great and super easy to setup w/ smartphone interface. I usually text/share the link to the wife before my rides.

      • Does it send the link automatically by pressing activity start or do you have to pull out your phone from jersey, click/send/lock and put back the phone?

        • Gabor, Here’s the Wahoo Live Track Portal description…
          Live Track allows you to send a custom link to people who you want to share your location with during a ride. From the time you start a workout, to the time you stop, Live Track will update the web-based portal in real-time to keep others informed of your location, progress, and ride metrics. With Live Track, you can be you safely located by loved ones, tracked by a coach, or even meeting fellow riders in-route.

  • Thanks DaveMac. Since my response to Steve B above, Wahoo has added what they call the Live Track Portal which does the same thing as the Garmin LiveTrack.

    I imagine you could always be reached on your phone, regardless of what gps unit you were using or whether you were using one at all… Steve

  • hi steve, was doing lots of research and think i want to get this. the CC discount has expired. Cannot add promotion promo4860001 to profile 3020356965 because the promotion has expired

    is this right? thanks

  • John, Apologies. There was an error in the CC system caused by the end of the month. I have spoken with them and they assure me the code will be working again tomorrow. Steve

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