Wahoo's new ELEMNT BOLT is essentially an ELEMNT in a smaller, sleeker, and less expensive package. Photo by Kevin Scott Batchelor
If there was one overriding complaint about the Wahoo's first foray into the world of cycling computers, it was that its ELEMNT GPS device was a bit of a hockey puck. At 105 grams and with a shape similar to your grandfather's overstuffed wallet, the ELEMNT literally felt a little chunky.
Well, if you happened to be bothered by this, but otherwise loved the ELEMNT's ease of set-up and use (like we did), put the new Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT on the top of your summer cycling season shopping list. This trimmed-down version of the standard ELEMNT is 43 grams lighter, shares nearly all the same functionality but with a smaller screen, and is more aerodynamic because the new device and its included out-front mount were designed to fit together seamlessly.
Device and out-front mount were designed as one to enhance aerodynamics. Photo by Kevin Scott Batchelor
Wahoo says that using computational fluid dynamics for testing, the BOLT created 50% less drag compared to competitor models (think Garmin 520). That, says Wahoo, results in a savings of 1.5 watts or 12.6 seconds over a 40km TT with an average speed of 21mph. The key here is that the GPS unit and mount are truly a system that conspire to create a smooth surface for air to flow cleanly past.
Read the RoadBikeReview review of the Wahoo ELEMNT cycling computer.
Wahoo even went so far as to hire aerodynamics guru Dimitris Katsanis, who has worked with the likes of Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins on their TT positions and bike set-ups. Katsanis came up with the initial profiles of unit and mount, which now have patents pending for the notion of using computer and mount as one. The BOLT also has a slight taper front to back, further enhancing its aero properties.
The ELEMNT BOLT utilizes a high-contrast display and the QuickLook LEDs introduced on the ELEMNT to allow riders at-a-glance access to pertinent ride data as well as call, text and email notifications. ELEMNT BOLT is also equipped with WiFi for over the air updates and both ANT+ and Bluetooth, allowing it to connect to sensors of all kinds, as well as most electronic shifting systems.
If you don't mind a slightly smaller display and a few less data fields, the BOLT (left) will be the choice.
Of course downsizing does come with some sacrifices. The BOLT's screen is 2.2" versus 2.7" for the ELEMNT. This in turn reduces the maximum number of data fields you can display from 11 to 9, though you still have the choice of some 170 data fields. Battery life also drops from a claimed 17 hours to a claimed 15 hours. And at 25 grams, the BOLT's "aero" mount is actually 6 grams heavier than the comparable out-front ELEMNT attachment device.
On the upside, price also dropped. The ELEMNT BOLT sells for $250 or about $80 less than the ELEMNT. And like the ELEMNT, the BOLT is waterproof to 5 feet, which means as long as you don't take it scuba diving or run it through the washing machine, water damage will never be an issue.
Just like the ELEMNT, the BOLT is primarily controlled via a smartphone app, so you don't have to be a Russian hacker to figure out how to set it up. Simply pair the unit with the free companion app, then set up data fields and custom profiles. Once done, mount the BOLT and use it for everything from tracking power output, speed, and distance, to following pre-determined routes, or even tracking nearby (Wahoo using) friends.
Once data fields are set, you can choose how much or how little you see thanks to the easy-to-actuate zoom-in and zoom-out buttons on the unit's right side. The BOLT can also be used to control any of Wahoo's smart trainers. And once your ride is done, it's easy to wirelessly upload your workout to Strava, RideWithGPS, and other similar third party activity trackers. You can see all the unit's various features in the slide below.
Just like the ELEMNT, the BOLT lacks the color screen of newer Garmin devices. But honestly I'm not looking for pretty pictures on my GPS device. I just want to be able to see the metrics, and the BOLT's display avails this even in bright sunlight. It also has a great "Take Me Anywhere" function. Simply open the companion app, go to the Ride screen, and type in a location or address. The app will then generate a cycling optimized turn-by-turn route in the BOLT to help you get where you want to go. Of course you can also load in pre-set routes via gpx files, which is what I did for last weekend's Land Run 100 gravel race in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
I mention this ride because it presented a solid test for the ELEMNT BOLT on several fronts. No. 1, on a rain and mud-marred day, the BOLT saved me from going off course numerous times by chirping and flashing at me when I'd missed turns of the pre-loaded 104-mile route. It also stood up to a mudslide's worth of gunk, much of it in the form of peanut butter-like red clay that eventually snapped my bike's rear derailleur, which ended my day 25 miles from the finish line. Battery life was also impressive. After about 8 hours of run time on a cool day with temps in the mid 40s, the BOLT still had 53% battery left when I finally shut it down and climbed inside the race's sag vehicle.
Bottom line, while many cyclists likely won't be particularly concerned about the aero performance of a cycling computer, the ELEMNT BOLT's smaller size, ease of set-up and use, and durability make it an attractive alternative for keeping track of were you've been or where you're going.
The new Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT is available now. For more information, visit www.wahoofitness.com and check out this video.