WHY I SWITCHED TO THE WAHOO ELEMNT BOLT

The Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT outperforms the Garmin Edge 530 from my comparative review in most of the important ways I evaluate and use a road cycling GPS computer. It’s also 20% to 30% less expensive at US$230/£184/€214 (available from stores I recommend for their pricing and customer satisfaction ratings here for US and Canadian residents and here for those living in the UK or EU countries).    


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 was over.  It replaced the Garmin Edge 520 as my preferred bike computer and I’d buy it again over the new Garmin Edge 530 which I’ve compared it to in this latest update.

True, the Edge 530 is the best yet of the 500 series and far better than other non-Garmins I’ve used in the past.  But there are things Garmin can do better with the Edge 530 to compare favorably with the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT.  Plenty of them.Garmin Edge 520 Wahoo Elemnt BOLT and Joule GPS

Wahoo may be better known for its trainers but the BOLT isn’t Wahoo’s first rodeo in head units.  Their previous RFLKT, RFLK+, and full-size 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 exploited the Edge 520’s shortcomings and matched many of the features where Garmin Edge units excel.  For me, and I would expect most road cycling enthusiasts, the BOLT was a clear winner over the 520 and remains so over 530 in almost every way that matters.  The Edge units offer some navigational and other features the BOLT doesn’t but I don’t feel those are significant enough for the ways most enthusiasts use their head units to overcome their comparative disadvantages in most of the other areas that do matter.

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 and the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM a newer unit that’s almost as large as the ELEMNT.  All three units operate the same way and that is probably why Wahoo uses the ELEMNT name in all of them.

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 530, Edge 830, Edge 1030, etc.).

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

Among the things I believe matter most in choosing a head unit, here are the ways the BOLT and Edge 530 differ and where the BOLT almost always comes out on top.

SCREEN

While the two units have the same physical and screen size, the BOLT’s screen is sharper and brighter than the 530.  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 530 display is 13% larger than the 520

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 530, 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 530 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 530 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 used to run my 520 at 80% brightness with a 15-second timeout and often found 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.

Yes, the BOLT’s screen is black and white while the 530 is color. While it may be more appealing, Garmin doesn’t use color to provide any functional gains whereas the sharper, brighter, font and map zoom screen capabilities the BOLT brings provide many.

The BOLT’s advantage here is clear (pun intended)!

BUTTONS

The buttons on the BOLT make a lot more sense and I find are far more intuitive than on the 530.

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 530 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. The 530 buttons are in the same position as the 520 but the 530 left side buttons are slightly more spread out

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 530 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 which makes it hard to get to them.

I do find the 530’s physical buttons to be better than the touchscreen ones on $100 more expense Edge 830 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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SETUP

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 530 isn’t hard, 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 530 is old school or the BOLT is dope and the 530 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 530 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 530 triggers a reminder on your screen to 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 530 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.

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, the structured workouts you have created or scheduled on Training Peaks, Trainer Road, and Today’s Plan can be loaded into both the BOLT and the 530.

There are all sorts of other features, bells and whistles, boops, and bops that the BOLT and 530 have, some of which may appeal to you or not.  The 530 and the Garmin ecosystem have many more of these than the BOLT. Live Segments, Climb Pro metrics, nutrition and hydration alerts, and mountain bike metrics are just some that come on the 530 that the BOLT lack.

Many of these are features or metrics you use during a ride.  Personally, I prefer to enjoy my ride and focus on the key metric (e.g. power, cadence, speed, gradient) that guides my performance.  I’m not the kind of rider that chases Strava segment PRs or KOMs. If you are, you may find some of the features on the 530 attractive nice-to-haves.  I don’t think any are need-to-haves, game-changers or decision-makers nor do I think they would be for most road cycling enthusiasts.

BATTERY

In a long ride, navigation required use mode, the BOLT battery lasts longer than the Edge 530’s.  What’s “long ride, navigation required” use?  For me, it’s GPS navigation on and three ANT+ sensors or devices connected (power meter, heart rate monitor, iPhone).  With the 530, I also have the screen backlit at 80% to give me as close to the same screen visibility as the BOLT provides with no backlight. I also set the 530 display to a 15-second timeout and to avoid draining its battery prematurely.

If you want to get text or phone notifications or some of the other features like Live Strava Segments on your 530, you also need to have Garmin Connect turned on which further drains the battery of the Edge (and your phone). The notification is merely a setting in your BOLT that connects to your phone so you don’t need an extra app open on your phone and communicating to your Wahoo.

Garmin claims 20 hours for the 530, 5 hours longer than for the 520, but that’s not with the GPS navigation or Garmin Connect on. The BOLT also claims 15 hours. Using them side by side in the use case I’ve described above, the BOLT lasts about 10 hours and the 530 about 6.5 hours.  Other reviewers have noted as much as a 2X to 3X longer battery life for the BOLT over the 530. Still others report more or less the same life.

I’ve not seen anyone report the 530 lasts longer than the BOLT. Depending on how you use it, for example, with some combination of the GPS or Garmin Connect turned off and backlight set to a lower level, I could envision them lasting about the same.

Garmin touts the 530’s “battery saver mode” which they claim doubles the battery life but turns off the screen. Seems like having the display turned off is a rather extreme mode. They also sell an auxiliary battery that snaps into the bottom of a Garmin out-front mount if you really want to extend the 530’s life. It sells for another $130.  Uh, no thank you.

In most of my riding, battery life isn’t an issue.  Half of my rides are on routes I know so I don’t need to turn the navigation. I also have developed a habit of plugging in my lights and head unit every Sunday.  They usually have enough charge to last through a regular week of 6-10 hours of riding with the limited amount of navigation I use.

I do a half-dozen 100 mile, 6-hour or longer rides each year where I use the GPS to help me navigate the course as it is usually one I don’t know.  When I used to run the Edge 520, I learned to turn the display brightness down.  To conserve battery, I’ll also shut off the navigation when I didn’t need it or traded turns with other Garmin users so we all weren’t navigating and draining our batteries at the same time.

On those “long ride, navigation required” use situations, the 530 battery starts running low in the last third of the ride and gets me wondering whether it’s going to die before my legs and lungs do as we ride together toward the finish.

I don’t need that added mental stress. With the BOLT, I can focus on the ride.

NAVIGATION

Comparing the navigation abilities of the BOLT and 530, I considered several key performance categories which I’ll discuss separately below.

Maps and Uploading

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 new group ride or do an event, however, I do use navigation because it’s often a route I haven’t ridden before or for a while. I like the confidence of knowing where I need to make the next turn especially if (when?) I fall off the back or it’s time to take my turn pulling.  My sense of direction has also atrophied since I began using a car GPS years ago and was never very good in the first place.

The Garmin Edge 530 has a robust set of road maps that the 520 didn’t.  The 520 Plus did have a much better map set but used the same processor as the 520 and worked through the added maps and current one you were using too slowly. The 530 has the maps and a faster processor which allows you to get all the benefits from them.

Further, the 530 also has added trail and mountain bike maps to support your diversions from road cycling. This is a welcome addition for those of us roadies venturing into gravel riding.

The BOLT comes with detailed maps from around the world that load through the ELEMNT smartphone app when you first set up the BOLT.  To save memory for your saved rides or pre-mapped routes, you can also remove the maps and later add them back for world regions and nearby countries or states where you don’t normally ride.

With the 530, Garmin caught up with some of the innovative, important and truly differentiating functionality of the BOLT.

Most notably, with the 530 you can now upload routes from Ride with GPS, Strava and other route mapping apps over WiFi. With the 520, you had to plug it into your computer with a Garmin specific USB to micro-USB cord and upload the route file to the right folders.

Because of the range of on and off-road maps it offers, I give advantage in this part of the navigation comparison to the 530.

Finding and Starting a Route

To find and then start a route on the 530, 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 from 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.

The 530 puts your routes in alphanumeric and alphabetical order. BOLT gives you the option to sort your routes the same way as the 530 but also by length, proximity to your current location, and date that you added it.

I find the date listing really handy.  If, for example, you are doing Wicked Right for the first time (shame) and just loaded it from Ride with GPS, the route will be at the top of your BOLT list.  On the 530, if you’ve got 50 or more routes saved to your device as I do, you might need to scroll through a long list of routes to get to the one you want to ride.

Advantage BOLT

Navigation Display

The 530 has a color screen, uses a distinct color to show what road you are on and a distinct arrow to show where you should make the upcoming turns.  The BOLT’s screen is black and white and uses an arrow with a tail to show you from and to where to make your next turn.  PotAto – PotAHto.

When underway, the BOLT also creates a cascade of arrows I find is superior to the colored line on the 530.  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 530 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 gradient 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 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 530.

Seems like a small thing but I always hated the way the 520 (and now the 530) covered up a couple of my fields and immediately noticed and smiled with satisfaction when I realized they were still there on the BOLT.

While I favor the way BOLT displays and allows you to zoom the route in and out, I get that some people prefer a color screen. I’m going to call this one a push.

Routing

Both the 530 and BOLT provide turn by turn notification which performs equivalently.  Some will say one is quicker than the other in notifying, etc.  Riding with the two of them, I’ve found occasionally one will notify sooner than another but it’s never consistently one versus the other.  The difference in time between notifications is a few seconds at most and usually always with enough time to execute the turn in an unhurried way.

The BOLT cannot route you back on course the way the 530 does.  This is a real disadvantage of the BOLT especially if you get lost easily, are navigating in a congested area or if you are just riding along a nice stretch enjoying yourself and oblivious to your head unit.

While this is a real plus for the 530, it isn’t fool-proof.  I’ve been on a few group rides where the rerouting took those who got lost back to us in quite an inefficient way.  If they had merely turned around and backtracked once they realized their mistake, they would have gotten back to us more quickly. It’s much like the WTF discussion I have with my car’s GPS when I make a wrong turn and it tells me to go a way I know is more round-about than just doing a U-turn.

Depending on how you have it set up, you can get audio beeps or red flashing LEDs to alert you when you go off course with the BOLT.  You can also have the row of LEDs on the top of the BOLT signal you right or left as you close in on your turn. Note that the LEDs are less effective on a sunny day.

Both units can re-route you back to the start.  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.

The rerouting feature is a plus for the 530 and gives it the advantage in this navigation category.  Along with the wider range of maps provided by the 530, it wins the overall navigation comparison by a nose over the BOLT

RIDE RESULTS

Both the BOLT and 530 will upload your results to Strava, TrainingPeaks, Today’s Plan and your other apps that capture and analyze your results.  While the 520 required that you plug in the device to your computer using a Garmin-specific micro USB to USB cord, the 530 will now do this over WIFI.  The BOLT has always had this capability.

I don’t know about you, but I want to know my results as soon as I push the ride-over button and before I pull out my phone in a WiFi zone and get to those apps.

Here, the BOLT excels.  The completeness, organization, and presentation of the data are so much better on the BOLT than the 530.  It’s also better than the results displays you can get on your Strava and TrainingPeaks phone apps.

Here are a couple of 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

PRICE

In the US, the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT sells for $230 and the 530 for $70 more at $300. In the UK and EU, the Edge 530 sells for  £260/€270 and the BOLT is also considerably less at £184/€214.

Both of these devices are “geo-restricted” meaning you can only buy them from stores in the country or region where you live or have it shipped to.

You can find and order the BOLT using these links to my top-ranked store for US/CA residents Competitive Cyclist and to recommended store Wiggle for UK and European residents.

If you prefer the Edge 530, you can find and order it at these links to Competitive Cyclist and Tredz, Tweeks, Chain Reaction Cycles, and Wiggle.

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First published on July 10, 2017. Date of the most recent major update shown at the top of the post.

141 comments

  • Wahoo Element / Bolt
    Hello, I read the detailed instructions directly on the manufacturer’s site. Even though it is quite extensive, it is not quite detailed,
    as is customary in classic cyclocomputers or sporttesters.

    1. Functions – not all functions are decomposed. Four features are highlighted in the description – I’ve heard another 8 features.
    Certainly these meters are packed with a lot of features.
    2. The LAP function (peaks, split times). There is no indication of how many times it can handle (100, 200 ..) at all. I also do not know,
    what I will see when I open individual LAPs in history. What data will show me. And if I know these figures
    self-select and paste.
    3. Language-do not know whether it has Czech or Slovak language. When BORA is already there and there are both Slovak and Czech racers there.
    4. Even though I think yes, compatibility with Watt meters in cranks (SRM, Garmin, Rotor, Powertap …) is not written
    Also, it is not written whether it is possible to combine it with Watt meters in the chest belt, for use in other sports
    like cycling – running, cross-country, inline, swimming …
    5. Bracelets – I can not find out if bracelets are available for placing the meter on the wrist or on the shoulder.

    6. What I learned from the net: Navigation does not have street names when you get off the route – you can not get back.
    Very large differences in altitude, temperature, and percentages of climbing and falling.
    Inaccurate info about the power zone. Being in zone 3 is not exactly accurate. Others refer to 3.2 – 3.8

    • Kamil, With the usefulness of the Internet, I’ve noticed most product companies have put much less info in their “user manual” over the last 10-20 years. Electronics companies, and certainly cycling electronics companies are certainly doing this. Instead, they are a) making their products more intuitive and self-guided and b) using support pages on their websites or chat services available to answer their questions. Wahoo does a good job of both of these. Go to https://support.wahoofitness.com/hc/en-us to access them. I’d expect your detailed questions can all be answered there. From what I know/my experience, here are my answers to some of your questions
      1. Functions – All the features nearly all road cycling enthusiasts would need are available in the Bolt
      2. LAP – That’s a lot of laps! Don’t know the limit but I’d expect the Bolt will give you all the laps you need for a given workout. Not sure I understand your questions about self-select and paste. When I open my lap display, it shows me the laps by number in order of the laps starting from the first time I hit the lap button
      3. Languages – Don’t know about Czech or Slovak. Wahoo support would certainly know. You English is quite good though.
      4. Compatibility – Bolt is compatible with any ANT+ and Bluetooth sensor, regardless of what powermeter, speed, cadence, HR monitor or other devices as long it is communicating via ANT+ or Bluetooth
      5. Bracelets – I’ve not seen bracelets that hold the Bolt provided by Wahoo. Perhaps a 3rd party provider makes one. Perhaps a market opportunity for someone? Then again, I’ve never seen anyone wear a bike computer on their wrist.
      6. Navigation – Bolt shows the street name in the turn-by-turn directions. And yes, it will not navigate you back on course if you go off. It will tell you are off course. When this happens to me, I simply turn around and return to where I made the wrong turn. I haven’t had the experience the “very large differences” you describe about altitude, temp and pitch. I rode the BOLT side by side with the Garmin for several thousand miles. They each put out slightly different numbers because they operate slightly differently. Hard to know if one or either is exactly right but neither is very far off the other on a percentage basis. You may prefer a bit more precision than modern day head units/GPS units offer. And while zone 3 is accurate, knowing that you are at 3.2 or 3.8 is more precise and desirable. I’ve asked Wahoo about this myself and they currently have no plans to add a decimal place. But, if enough people ask for it, I’d expect they could/would provide it.

      Steve

  • Hi, Steve. Your info is valuable to us. I have answers from Wahoo. It has a maximum of 65 LAPS. No more needed. A 32 start or sprint can be done. (64 LAPS). Functions can choose anyone they want from 172 options. Other manufacturers do not offer it for LAPS.

    Accordingly, a hand strap can be attached to the stem holder.
    I’m doing biking and racing in-line speed skating. Winter run and skiing.
    Now I have the Garmin Forerunner 310 XT HR. I need something new. Bolt has somewhat larger dimensions. But still on wrist. The options they provide me are incomparable.

  • ECKHARD HINRICHSEN

    Hi Steve, great article and I couldn´t agree more. I am riding the Bolt since August and am fully satisfied with how it performs. As I am quite new to cycling, this is only my second head unit, after a Polar 450, which was ok, but of course a lot less complete (and a lot less expensive). So I cannot comment much on Garmin, but observing the hiccups my riding buddies have with their products (dead batteries, just refusing to come on again after a break mid-ride, ..) I am very happy with the unit and so far it never let me down. Cheers, Eckhard

  • I am new to cycle computers but not to Garmin and not to activity tracking. Garmins UI has been garbage for at least 5 years and it did not improve with the 520. I had already decided to switch to the Bolt after reading your article and used Competitive Cyclist through this blog, please collect your reward.
    I wanted to add an experience that I had today. I am comparing efforts between a bike I am borrowing and a bike I own to determine if it is worth upgrading my equipment. Mid ride I stopped to clear mud from my bike and shoes, we have sticky mud here. The 520 turned itself off and when I resumed my ride it had no information from the first half of the ride.
    Good bye Garmin and hello Wahoo.

  • Having just bought a bolt, I am very disappointed to find planned workouts can only be loaded via two other websites, must be loaded within one day of ride unless you pay fees to training peaks, will auto delete anything less than one or more than 5 days out, so you can’t keep a workout library on the device unless you pay training peaks, or do it daily and hope training peaks benevolence for this free account feature lasts the life of your bolt. It is absurd. Workout files are a few lines of text of time and intensity target. What I’ve learned is that wahoo completely cut off option for you to load and store what you want just prior to last fall rollout. They preload it with three total workouts and thats it. No access via usb and unless they integrate you into the phone app, no path to load. My understanding is Garmin does not have these limitations so as much as I like many things about BOLT, it’s likely going back at end of return period unless they enable direct user access.

  • Any guidance one power meter compatibility with the Wahoo? (I own the original elemnt) – I’m looking at the assioma and garmin 3s pedal systems and I’m wondering if the garmin won’t function to its full potential since I don’t use a garmin head unit.

    • David, Garmin Vector does some unique pedal analytics you can only see on a Garmin head unit. Not sure if those analytics are of any value for most road cycling enthusiasts but I value the Bolt benefits over the Garmin analytics. You might want to look at my power meter review for more on the analytics offered and whether you think you need them. Both the Bolt and Edge see all the data the Assioma offers. Steve

      • Matthew Towpik

        @Steve Both the Bolt and Edge see all the data the Assioma offers.

        So you’re saying that the wahoo bolt can for sure display Left/Right Balance & Pedal Smoothness (PS) from the assioma DUO? i’m getting used to the dual leg metrics of the pioneer power meter that the bolt has support for displaying as I ride. I’m looking to upgrade to pedal power for easy swapping between bike and really leaning heavy toward to assioma DUO 😉

        • Matthew. Yes, the Bolt provides L/R metrics for Assioma. BTW, you can see my review of the Assioma and how it compares to other pedal and non-pedal power meters here. I do like it. Steve

  • My Elemnt has poor altitude detection, usually very delayed and sometimes even backwards, can’t seem to tell the direction of grade. Wahoo first offered to replace it then told me that I bought it from “unauthorized” retailer despite it being new and registered with them. Will NEVER buy another wahoo product again. Too many bugs, and it’s plain UGLY.

  • I’m really annoyed that Wahoo does not count laps , really annoying in 12 hour events . I see my fellow riders all have auto lap count on there units . If I had realised this earlier , this would have been a deal breaker for me .

    • Stan, The ELEMNT Bolt does have an auto-lap feature, it can mark laps either by distance or time. This can be configured on the settings page of the ELEMNT companion app in the ‘Ride’ section. Steve

      • Yes but the garmins count laps by gps also so when you pass the same location it triggers a new lap. I really miss it in kermesse races. Its nearly enough to push me back to garmin.

  • Just used a Bolt for the first time after long time Garmin users. Some observations:
    1) It doesnt offer an auto calibrate for power meters and doesn’t ask about crank length? Does it matter?
    2) I’d like to see the lap screen before having to click lap
    3) You cant remove the climbing graph even if you dont like it
    4) The Di2 integration is very limited, only offer standard pre determined use of buttons and no battery field (can find in menu)
    5) Lose the lap button when a strava segment comes up (like to start a lap on a climd), and lose use of the page switch buttons on Di2 as it mimics what changed on screen/device with strava segments
    6) Can move new pages (custom) closer to the front, have to skip strava segments screen etc

    • Alex, The Bolt is not a Garmin so it does do things a little differently. Kind of like switching from a PC to an Apple or iPhone to a Samsung. The operating systems aren’t the same. I’m not a techie so you may want to consult Wahoo tech support on some of these things. Here’s what I do know
      1) It doesn’t pop up auto calibrate. You should set crank length in your power meter app (e.g. Stages).
      2) The lap screen comes up when you start your first lap. You can then toggle between that screen and any others you’ve preset.
      3) Not sure what you are referring to as “the climbing graph”
      4),5),6) Don’t use it for Di2 integration or Strava segments. Check with tech support on these things. I’d expect you aren’t to first to ask about these things.

      Steve

  • My Gamin Edge 510 has shut off mid-ride twice in the last month so it’s going to go into a drawer. Like what I’m reading about the Bolt, but my handle bars are not round. Is this going to be a problem with a mount for it? I’ve used a couple of mounts with the Garmin with no issues. Thank you.

    • Nick,
      Welcome. Thanks for reading and supporting the site.
      Wahoo supplies a Bolt specific mount that is attached with elastic bands similar to the way the Garmins attach. Shouldn’t be an issue.
      Steve

      • Appreciate the quick response Steve and thanks. I’m guessing that the out front mount will work just fine anyway. I’ve been looking for an excuse to get off the Garmin train, so many bugs through the years and it appears the Bolt is certainly worth giving a try.

  • Steve may I ask for a bit of help? I think about getting the Bolt but I have an aero bar that has a very short part that is round in cross section and allows me to fix a mount.

    Could you check the width of the mount that wraps around the bar? (I tried the customer service, but the best number I got was 19mm which is a nonsense).

    Przemek

    • Przemek,
      The mount that comes with the Bolt has a 12mm max width. If you can fit a Garmin out-front mount on your bars, you can fit a Bolt.
      Thanks for reading and supporting In The Know Cycling.
      Steve

      • Steve, thanks for the quick reply. My Garmin mount (Barfly) had to be ground to fit the profile 🙁

        Going from 12mm to approx 5 will be tricky, especially since the mount is not a solid construction and the hinge is in the back….

        Back to the drawing board for me then 🙂

  • Anyone know if there’s a new model of the bolt coming out any time soon? I’m about ready to switch from my 510 but am happy to wait if there will be a new one in the next year. Especially if it will involve a color screen. Thanks!

  • Steve, there are quite a few reports from BOLT users claiming they have issues with ANT+ and BLE sensors dropping mid ride, and not reconnecting back unless head unit is restarted.
    Do you experience anything like that?

    • Vitaliy, I read about an issue recently with an interoperability issue between BOLT and Assioma power meter pedals causing dropped readings. A recent firmware update appears to have fixed the problem. Coincidentally, I used that combination for about a year and never had an issue.

      There’s like to be compatibility issues between newer power meters or others sensors with Wahoo and Garmin units from time to time. Typically, both Wahoo and Garmin are keen to resolve them. The best approach is to regularly update your firmware and take everything you read on forums with a grain of dated salt. Grain of salt because it could be a lot of things that cause a drop-out issue from low battery to inoperability to who knows what or no issue at all. Dated because if it is a real, identified, non-isolated issue, developers will likely resolve it in time. Steve

  • Thank you for quick response Steve!!! Highly appreciate your reviews and advises.
    I have one question about data fields on ELEMNT… is it possible to show current and average speed/HR/cadence/power in same field? I use third party apps on Garmin EDGE for that, and found it very useful

    • Yes. You can select up to 9 fields to show on one page including all that you mentioned.

      • I meant current and average in same data field, not two different fields on one page. Something like that
        https://apps.garmin.com/en-US/apps/c2ce408c-c620-44bf-ac6a-424373b49560

        • I don’t see a difference in a “within field” vs. side by side field display, but no, the Wahoo doesn’t display it the way your link shows.

          Frankly, your questions suggest you are a committed Garmin user looking for reasons to rule out the BOLT in the same way an iPhone user has a hard time switching to a Samsung of vice-versa especially if they’ve developed a comfort level with the operating system or an affinity for the third-party apps.

          While they do most of the same things, the Garmin and Wahoo devices do them differently. I gave you the reasons why I find Wahoo does the mainstream things that most road cycling enthusiasts would want from a GPS better. If those things don’t matter to you or matter as much as the things you prefer or have built a comfort level with Garmin, then by all means, stay with Garmin.

          • I wouldn’t call myself committed Garmin user, but I used different EDGEs from 500 to 1030 over the years and did get used to some of the features. I was curios to see if I can configure BOLT similar to Garmin, if not – not a deal breaker. Functionality and reliability means more to me than custom data field. Very exited to try it out, and hope BOLT has less issues than Garmin does. My elemnt should be delivered today 😉
            Thanks again Steve for all your work and time to answer questions!

  • Hey Steve, I’m also hopping of Garmin Train. I just cant decide between bolt and the regular Elemnt. I undertsand the only differences are screen size, a bit of battery life, and the extra row of LEDs. What do I do???

    • Adam, It’s a personal thing really. I find the full sized Elemnt a bit large and distracting for my tastes. It’s kind of like putting a full-size smartphone on your handlebars. If you are into a lot of navigation and are coming from an Edge 1000 or older Edge 800 series, then you’ll be comfortable with it. On the other hand, if you are coming from an Edge 500 or lesser series, the BOLT will be more similar except the display is better and the fonts are larger so it is much more visible. Steve

  • I’m a long time Garmin user (most recently 1000) but last fall switched to a Bolt on my new Emonda. Overall I’ve been really happy with it and especially like how easy it is to adjust menus and integrate RideWithGPS routes. I’ve had no issues with my Quarq DZero powermeter connecting but initially had problems with Wahoo Tickr. I ended up using my Mio wrist HR strap for a while before trying the Tickr again several months later. It may have been due to a firmware update, but the Tickr issued were resolved.

    One big drawback is if you like the Garmin Varia rear light/radar. I recently picked this up and find it super useful. However because I have a Bolt, I had to mount the separate Garmin display for the Varia on my stem. Wahoo could add support for the Varia, but given that it a Garmin product it seems they are not wanting to.

    Agree with the comments regarding Di2 functionality, it’s really limited on the Bolt. I think there are a lot more options with Di2 and Garmin.

    I have a LG V20 phone. I have to reboot it before it will connect the Bolt. I suspect this is an issue with my phone and not the Bolt, but it is a bit of a weird glitch.

    • Kuttermax, Thanks for your report. Surprised to hear about issues with the Tickr and Bolt connecting as they are both Wahoo products. I’ve got two Tickrs and switch back and forth between them on my BOLT without issue. That’s something a call to Wahoo support should resolve pretty quickly.

      As to the Garmin Varia, my guess would be Garmin sees the Varia as something that provides Garmin’s GPS units an advantage over Wahoo and doesn’t want to share the technology or license it to them more so than Wahoo not wanting to support it. Garmin is in a battle on multiple fronts with firms like Wahoo and Strava so comes up with products and technology like the Varia or Garmin Connect which don’t integrate with other GPS units. Garmin also didn’t work with Strava for a long time and even came up with their own segments system as a way to try to compete with them.

      Agree with you on the Di2 functionality. Wahoo is still catching up on that one. Steve

    • Hey Kuttermax, I’m also coming off the Edge 1000. Do you prefer the more compact size of the bolt. I’m haveing a tough time deciding between the BOLT and regular ELEMNT.

      • Hey Adam,

        I have had no issues with the smaller size of the Bolt as compared to the Garmin 1000. If you like a ton of data fields displayed at once though, then things can start to get pretty small. Typically on a road ride I like to focus on 3s power, HR, speed, distance, and time. I set the zoom so that I can see those easy. I keep some of the other data fields hidden and then “zoom out” if I want to set them, or flip to another page.

        In the post below Vitaliy has some really great points comparing the Edge 1030 to the Bolt. They are very different computers and have big differences in capabilities.

        I still use my Garmin 1000 for mountain biking. There are some users of the Bolt who have found the GPS accuracy is poor under tree cover and is much better on the Garmin when GPS+Glonass is used, so for mountain biking a Garmin might be the better option. I have never compared the two in this regard and have kept the Bolt on my Emonda road bike. Another reason I like the Garmin for mountain bike is that I’ve started using some of the apps like Trailforks. I use dynamicWatch to be able to wireless sync rides to the Garmin, so I don’t have to go through the hassle of connecting it to my PC directly. For mountain bike I also like a little more data displayed, like IF, % grade, etc, so the larger screen on the 1000 is nice.

        Ultimately if you want a streamlined computer that works really well and it pretty budget friendly, the Bolt is a great option. However if you really want all the bells and whistles, then the Garmin 1030 is likely still the king of the hill.

  • For what it worth.. My latest Garmin is 1030, out of curiosity I purchased Bolt and used it for about two weeks. I do acknowledge 1030 and Bolt are in two different categories, but want to share my thoughts anyway… Bolt is much easier and faster to set up via phone app, but once Garmin all set I didn’t really have to change data fields WIFi seems to be more reliable on Bolt, connecting sensors was no problem on either one. Bolt is much smaller and more aero, if it’s your thing. Both screens are very easy to read in the dark and bright sunlight. LEDs on bolt are nice, but almost unusable on sunny days. I just couldn’t see them. Bigger screen and font on Edge make it easier to read data, if your vision is decreasing as mine take a note. It is possible to zoom in on Wahoo, but it means you will loose some of data fields. Third party apps on Edge are very nice addition! The biggest thing I was missing on Bolt is Varia radar compatibility, and probably because of that Edge would be still my device of choice on longer weekends rides. I might keep bolt for MTB rides, I think I more likely to crash on dirt and Bolt is less than half price of 1030 when I bought it Bottom line if you have Garmin and it works without issues – keep it. If your Garmin giving you a hard time, go ahead and switch. Bolt is great device! I think it better than 520 if you don’t mind to adjust to new interface and don’t use Varia devices

  • I’m a Garmin 520 user and agree that it’s not perfect. That said, there is one feature that it has that, as far as I know, the others do not which captures my loyalty. The integration it offers with my smartphone is terrific. I don’t have to stop and check the phone when I hear it ring or feel it buzz in my pocket because the Garmin is paired with it and shows me who is calling or texting right on the screen. It won’t perform any other phone-like functions but just seeing whether or not a call or text is important enough to stop and respond to is an enormous help on those weekday rides when I bolt out of the office for a quick loop.

    • Hi Scott, Thanks for your comment and contribution to the site. Actually, the BOLT delivers text messages and tells you who is calling from your address book too. These GPS devices are really amazing, especially when you consider how far they’ve come in such a short period of time. Steve

  • Just curious – if you go off track, I see you said you would return to where you went off & resume again. However, if a road is closed, or I know how to get back on — will the Elemnt resume the course, or because I’ve not been on the course, will it continue to tell me that I’m off track (even once I’m back on)? The turn-by-turn & stored route for offline mode is what I’m missing most – if you could talk to that a bit more.

    I’m considering my first (serious) bike computer and between this, the 820 (I was holding out for the hammerhead to make a decision – but after many delays, still haven’t seen many reviews and don’t want to “hang on” another x months!)

    • Jay, once you get back to any part of the course, however you get there, the Elemnt will resume giving you directions. And in the same way it beeps at you when you go off course, it will beep when you get near the course again. Kind of like a Labrador whose owner has gone out and then returned from his ride. Steve

  • Great review, Steve – thank you for all of the detail.
    Have you had any issues with the Bolt displaying inaccurate temperature and elevation readings?
    I’ve tried three now, and each one of them displays the ambient temperature 3°C (close to 5°F) too low; like, it’ll be 22°C outside, but the Bolt is showing 19°C. It moves up/down as temp increases/decreases accurately, but it seems the set point is just plain wrong.

    (I checked against five other temperature gauges – one bike computer that has always been accurate, two cars, two home weather stations- not to mention “what it feels like”, to confirm the inaccuracy of the temp readings on the units I tried.)

    • Mike, I haven’t had this issue with my Bolt but I can’t say that I have compared it the way you have. The temperature always seemed reasonable to me. Perhaps give Yahoo a call and ask them if they’ve heard similar things or if there is a way to calibrate your computer. Steve

  • A-freakin-men to this review and the decision to adopt the BOLT!! After my maiden voyage today w/it today, I was immediately: “Garmin who?? Oh yeah. Buh bye.” I still need to figure out TBT navigation – I didn’t get prompted early enough (or even correctly) on some turns, but I chalk that up to user error right now. Out of the box, it was 20 minutes to full set-up INCLUDING links and syncs to all my other 3rd party apps (Strava, RwGPS, Apple Health, etc.) Another joy? Never having to go back into Garmin Connect!

  • Long time Garmin user and mine old 510 just died in a rain storm. My initial take on your review is that Bolt is better but not by much considering I do not use many more complicated features. What I do like about the Garmin is that I sweat a lot and it is much easier to clean off. I didn’t see a whole lot about the touch screen feature on the Garmin as that eliminates some of the need for the buttons?

  • Steve,
    As usual, great review. Thanks. Any speculation or knowledge about potential new Bolt model? Are they on a theee year cycle or longer?

    • Ahmed, Don’t know about the future. All I know is that in the present, the BOLT is the one I’d choose against the 520 or 520 plus. Steve

  • Steve- I realize there have been a bunch of product update since you authored this review. Do you still recommend the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt today or is there something else to consider? Thanks

    • I’ve been on the BOLT since Mar 2017 and loved it, however I switched to the ROAM about 8 months ago. I personally recommend the ROAM a bit more. All the lovely features and identical interface of the BOLT but it will auto-route you back to your course if you deviate. If you like to roam around a bit while you’re out (or are travelling in completely unknown areas that may include detours), this unit is a must. It is larger and more expensive though. Both are really great and intuitive though, I also highly recommend either one.

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