Wahoo Element Bolt review

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Tech reviews are rare here but having reviewed a Garmin 820 Edge GPS bike computer here partly out of disappointment here’s a follow-up with a comparable device from Wahoo that has become a reliable companion on recon rides.

The Garmin got a review here in part because it got plenty of excellent reviews elsewhere which jarred with my personal experience: the touch-screen was problematic and the battery life could be as little as five hours on a full charge. It lasts longer if you take steps to manage it like turning off the display but what good is a GPS bike computer that turns off the screen? It’s like having a map that shouldn’t be opened and it means that you can’t look down to see your speed or effort on a climb without first waking the display up. It was worth sharing the experience in case other readers ended up as disappointed. Partly thanks to reader comments in response to the review I went and bought the Wahoo Element Bolt and so here’s a review after more than six month’s use.

Out of the box it comes with an out-front mount, a mount for your stem or bars, some zip-ties and a micro-USB cable for charging. The out-front mount is touted as aerodynamic as it is profiled and fits flush with the device, more aesthetic than performance-enhancing and more importantly it feels secure and doesn’t flex or flap and comes with a screw to lock it to the mount but do that and you won’t be able to reach the charging pout. The unit itself is about the same size as a Garmin 820 or 520 and weighs 60 grams.

The display is black and white liquid crystal, retro like a Nokia only there’s no inbuilt snake game. It keeps things simpler and the contrast is good. The controls are via buttons, one on the upper left edge for power and to access some settings, two on the lower right edge which zoom in and out on the display and three below the display. Personally the buttons work better than the Garmin 820’s touch-screen: you press and the device responds whether you have gloves or the display is wet.

As well as the display the device beeps alerts if you want and there’s a row of LEDs across the top of the device and these can be configured to flash, eg to indicate a turn or to show whether you are above or below a pre-determined target average speed or power rate which could be a useful training aid although I didn’t use this much.

The battery life is the best thing. A four hour ride and it’s typically down to 70%. After an eight hour ride – to recon the upcoming Vercors stage of the Dauphiné and back via a scenic route – it was down to 38% and without any steps to save power, eg with the map screen open a lot, an open Bluetooth connection and the Wifi wasn’t turned off. If you’re only into short spins this is less of a deal-breaker but if you like long rides then the Wahoo dependable especially as the longer the ride the more you are likely to want the mapping and routing.

The companion app is good… if you have a smartphone

You can pair with sensors directly from the device but the rest of the set-up is done via an app on your phone. Download the “companion app” for Android or iOS and use it to configure the different pages on the display and the data fields you want from the obvious like speed and distance to the esoteric like blood oxygen saturation as long as you have a separate sensor to supply this. The app is clever because a touch-screen phone has a bigger display and is more user-friendly rather than having to poke around on the small device however it means you have to have a phone for the set-up and to make changes. If you want to change a data field on the display mid-ride, for example to get rid of, say, temperature and replace it with the time of day you need to use the app to push setting changes out to the device on your bike. Otherwise it’s intuitive. You can even set up the device to show alerts from your phone such as email and SMS. The device has a cavernous memory allowing you to upload any number of maps via the companion app, you chose country by country, eg France, Italy, even Grenada or Ecuador.

The device is rather dependent on a Wifi connection or your phone for uploads and downloads. If you’re travelling and want to put a new route map onto the device you’ll need to get online first with your phone and sync the Wahoo with a website where you’ve saved your routes like Strava or RideWithGps. As such the device feels like an intermediate link in a chain between your phone and these websites but you can equally upload plenty of routes if you’re not planning to go online with for an age.

Lastly there’s also what it doesn’t do: fail. Six months of use this year and it hasn’t crashed, frozen or stalled once whereas the Garmin 820 would crash from time to time. Not often so that it was out of the blue but just enough to make you curse “not again” as you tried to hold the power button down for ten seconds to reset it.

So far so good, any problems? You need a phone to set it up, you don’t need to bring your phone during a ride but will have to use the companion app from time to time. Also in a clumsy moment it fell to the road and was quickly scuffed, the plastic could be more resilient. A colour screen would be cute but isn’t necessary, the device is retro to look at in an age of vibrant phones but it works, a touch-screen is great on your phone but less good for a small screen bike computer. Having made this review largely in comparison to the Garmin 820 the “virtual partner” feature doesn’t exist on the Wahoo and it’s a fun feature for rides sometimes and Garmin has its Connect IQ ecosystem of third party apps, the Wahoo doesn’t.

The Verdict

Four out of five chainrings. This is a dependable device and recon rides for the stage previews here are made easier. There’s plenty to configure for device and display and it integrates with other services and to the point of feeling different, less a stand-alone unit and more part of chain of software and hardware which offers plenty but also means it is more reliant on the accompanying app and online access than you might be used to.

Note: The device retails for €240 / US$ 249 / £200. I paid for mine.

Mattgc May 31, 2018 at 9:12 am

Imagine if it did have Snake. Something to keep you occupied when waiting for mates at the start of a ride.

AK June 1, 2018 at 12:48 am

If you wanted to show off you could have said: ‘waiting for mates at the top of a climb’ 🙂

Des June 1, 2018 at 9:12 am

So happy I switched from my unreliable Garmin to the much more reliable Wahoo Bolt, even without a snake game. The better battery life is also a plus.

I don’t use the mapping very often so the only drawback I’ve found is that one can’t manually adjust the elevation reading before a ride. It’s often out by +/- 30metres, but that’s not a biggie.

It’s great to finally have a mass market rival taking on Garmin. Hopefully this will force Garmin to raise its game and make some better products now it finally faces some real competition.

And if anyone wants to know how to fit any Wahoo units to any of their old Garmin mounts, you just trim 2-3mm off one of the tab openings, like this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pP-Mdkiri0

MattF May 31, 2018 at 9:14 am

I’ve had one for a similar length of time. Battery life is a big plus but I’ve found the screen to be far too small for navigation purposes. I’ve uploaded routes from ridewithgps but found that the device struggles, particularly in cloudy weather or with tree cover. Sometimes it’s just given up completely and lost the route at the end of a 100km plus ride. I’ve alerted Wahoo, they’re aware of the issue and are apparently issuing a ‘fix’. Unlike most GPS, if you deviate from your mapped route, the device will not reroute you back on course and the map is too small to read street names etc. A bit disappointed actually.

Tintinbike May 31, 2018 at 9:37 am

Thanks for the great review.
Looks good if you want the bigger unit
I run a Lezyne Super GPS as I’m not a big fan of the size of these units on the front of the bike.

Good things about the Lezyne
It’s small bit display is clear
You can set it up from phone.
Battery lasts ages
Will do breadcrumb map good enough to guide you on preplanned routes
Will do turn by turn if you create route in Lezyne app
Will link to phone for texts etc

Not so good

Clunky ergonomics
Lots of button pressing to get where you want
Have to create route in Lezyne app for turn by turn

Overall I’ve grown to like it.

Dave B May 31, 2018 at 12:14 pm

Yeah, I like the Lezyne Super GPS a lot too. Very long battery life and plenty of options to turn brightness and contrast down to make it last even longer. As with the Bolt, a lot of the heavy processing is done by the phone app so the unit itself runs very smoothly on a simple operating system.

Only issue I have is that if there is moisture around it very easily gets into the holes on the bottom of the unit where the sensors for the barometric altimeter live. So you can end up with the altimeter barely registering any changes until it dries out again. Of course you can upload your ride to Strava after and use the correction elevation function – but its not much use for gauging how far up a mountain you are.

Ross May 31, 2018 at 10:34 am

Whilst I liked the device I sent my Bolt back after realising that the mount wasn’t compatible with any of the aero handlebars on my bikes. It will only work with aero-bars that have a traditional stem arrangement with enough tubular space on the bar before the clamp. Integrated bar/stem arrangements are not compatible due to the design of the aero underside of the device which requires a specific shape of mount to enable it to clip in correctly. I know it’s possible to turn mount inserts 90deg to enable Wahoo’s to use normal Garmin mounts but this doesn’t apply to the Bolt because of the aero underside that is designed to run flush to the bottom of the mount. It seems like a bit of an own-goal that an aero device can’t be used with the majority of aero handlebars…

Stu May 31, 2018 at 11:31 am

Thanks for the review, I have been looking at the Bolt too, and for a different reason am a little skeptical of having to set it up via the app because what happens when they just stop supporting the app? (Which is fine if it just doesn’t get updated, but sometimes it means the app doesn’t work at all)

Alastair S May 31, 2018 at 11:39 am

Thanks for that. It’s my prime contender for when my Garmin 510 dies. Presumably it easily connects to Garmin ANT+ sensors? Also assume it has bike profiles for switching between bikes & their sensors?

ocaz May 31, 2018 at 11:58 am

Connects to any ant+ or bluetooth sensors

It doesn’t have profiles as such but remembers sensors you’ve linked up.

I have a few heart rate straps (keep a few as I constantly mis-place them!) Remembers all 3 of them and picks them up. Also picks up sensors on my bikes without having to select a specific profile

Alastair S June 1, 2018 at 8:52 am

Thanks for that.

Kevin Smith May 31, 2018 at 11:43 am

Not quite on topic but I moved from a Garmin to the Bolt’s big brother (Wahoo Elemnt) about a year ago.

I also suffered with the Garmin’s unreliability and since moving to Wahoo I haven’t looked back.

I do use the routing a lot on the Elemnt and do find if you deviate from a course (say a road is closed) then it can be difficult to find the route again.

That is my only niggle though. Lots of data fields, great battery life and very reliable. Wahoo!!

The Inner Ring May 31, 2018 at 10:19 pm

Good point on the routing, if you go off the course you’ve got it beeps but won’t get you back on. And if you take a very long detour then you zoom out of the map and lose the detail of the roads when zooming out a lot.

Tommy B May 31, 2018 at 11:49 am

Thanks very much for this review. I’m considering one of these as a potential replacement for my venerable Garmin 500.

My queries are the same as Alastair’s above, re ANT+ sensors & profiles. Other than that, it looks to be good value for money.

Andrew G May 31, 2018 at 1:06 pm

I moved to the Bolt from an Edge500, and kinda think that the Bolt is the Edges’s spiritual successor: light, simple operation, but effective and with all the bells and whistles that you actually need.

Can’t see that I’ll move back to Garmin any time soon.

Adrian May 31, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Same here, I’ve been thinking about what to replace my Garmin 500 with but it may be just for fun. As far as I can tell my 500 is going to last forever.

Stuartare May 31, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Garmin 500 here still going, I can’t bring myself to replace it until it dies, but this is the one I’m keeping in mind for when it eventually pegs it. Have heard plenty of good words from fellow cyclists near to me too.
Trust Inrng for a considered and impartial review, thank you!

ocaz May 31, 2018 at 11:53 am

I’ve had one for a month or so and find it an excellent bit of kit. Particularly impressed with battery life considering mapping options. Not had one issue with it and love options and how clear display is even in bright sunlight. Also like how you can zoom in/out on screens.

My one (minor) gripe is the on the fly routing, so say for example you want to go to particular cafe on a whim mid ride but you’re not sure how to get there – you have to stop and use app on your phone then sync to your device which isn’t a big issue but search seems a bit rubbish and doesn’t work very well in app but normally it just as easy to pick a spot on the map.

Other than that it is great, heard some complaints that it doesn’t re-route you when you’ve synced a route but take wrong turn for example but I’ve used other devices with this and to be honest it is just as easy to look at map and get back on the highlighted route.

Larry T May 31, 2018 at 11:55 am

Thanks! I keep threatening to replace my hated Garmin 8-something, but now know this Wahoo thing is not for me. I thought so after speaking with a Wahoo rep at a trade show awhile back but your review has now convinced me not to fork over the $$. Thanks!

Reuben May 31, 2018 at 4:11 pm

I’d be interested in hearing why this review has put you off, for me it read as very positive but perhaps you have a different use case to me?

Dom May 31, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Thanks for this, at the beginning of my time with the Garmin 810 i had same crash issues on any course over 100km. I think i rolled back to a previous firmware version and since then it’s been flawless.

Theres an opportunity in the market for a device that is effectively a waterpoof screen synced to your phone. It’s rare that i ride without my phone and it can offer everything that the Garmin does. I assume it’s something Strava will offer at some point.

Paul Jakma June 1, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Wahoo’s older product, the RFLKT/RFLKT+ is essentially that – a screen for your phone. The problem with that is:

a) It’s a little bit laggy. Things like speed/watts have to first go to your phone, for it to process, and then send to the RFLKT. The extra delay is small, but noticeable compared to, say, an Edge 500.

b) Your phone is using a CPU/GPU SoC designed to play HD video and 3D games, it’s a powerful beast. It chews a lot more energy as a result, to do what a much lower-power device could do in less energy. I.e., you just won’t get the battery life with the phone (even with the phone having a much, much larger battery).

I.e., Wahoo have experience making the product you just described, and they’ve gone away from that model to a more independent on-bike device, but which can be /augmented/ by the phone, as a result of that experience, I think.

Cat & Fiddle June 1, 2018 at 4:39 pm

Presumably much of the above can be done with the Wahoo Fitness app attached to the relevant ANT+ or Bluetooth sensors. It’s just the battery performance will be a bit iffy? I use the Fitness app when I use the gym bike because it gathers the data from the HRM and Power Meter and gives me something I can use and analyse later through Strava or its own data views (which are pretty good I think).

The worst thing about Garmins for me is the absolute age it takes to find a satellite. Rules them out for everyday use.

Bern May 31, 2018 at 12:29 pm

“you won’t be able to reach the charging pout”
This is such a delightful typo that, were it mine, I’d be hesitant to fix it…

Thanks for the review. I had an Avocet something-or-other for a week (a genuine semaine sans) back in the 80’s…I gave it away with a visceral sigh of relief…

Anonymous May 31, 2018 at 1:08 pm

quite simply it’s great. i got mine a couple of months after it came out – a few people i ride with were using the larger Element. Now it seems everyone is switching to the Bolt. Word of mouth counts for a lot. How many strava rides do you see with the title ‘Garmin fail…’

user friendly, intuitive, long battery, world maps pre-loaded. You can text a route to someone and PING, start loading it onto the wahoo. You can *star* someone else’s route on strava (you don’t need premium) and PING, it appears in your routes on the wahoo.

I did have a power issue after multiple rides in torrential rain on holiday – contacted wahoo and PING, free replacement came within a week.

Johnny May 31, 2018 at 1:26 pm

My Bolt replaced an aging Garmin 510.
Never looked back. Going to take a major step forward from Garmin to ever get me back now.
App is such a brilliant step rather than the on device setup with Garmin.
And had never crashed in 6 months.

Mike A May 31, 2018 at 1:26 pm

I have nothing bad to say against the Bolt. I have been using mine for at least 12 months now with no issue. I wholeheartedly recommend it for its ease of set-up an simplicity. You do not need the bells and whistles and colour screens this does the job.

Having read the comments above, I can say that it does drop the GPS under heavy tree cover, but then so did my Garmin and personally it has not caused me an issue (but I can understand how it would be very annoying if it dropped out for any length of time).

As someone said above, if you go off route, then it doesn’t get you back on to the route. If they fixed this then that would be amazing but not a dealbreaker for me.

Won’t ever go back to Garmin. 5 stars.

Sidamo May 31, 2018 at 2:21 pm

Must have read my mind. Literally in the process of replacing my Garmin 510 and looking for reviews of the Element Bolt and find you’ve posted one today. Perfect timing 🙂

RonDe May 31, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Powermeters? Head units? GPS devices? As cyclists do we want to be obsessed with numbers and calculation devices because whenever any actual race is mentioned those riders perceived as making any reference to them on their ride seem to get slaughtered in comment sections like this one.

Its an interesting contradiction in the cycling conversation.

Reuben May 31, 2018 at 4:13 pm

A fine point, though I could do without most of the stats and simply use a watch to remind myself to eat and drink, the real value for me is in navigation. These days I tend to track data via my watch (which records everything, but is inconvenient to look at for real time data) and leave the bike computer at home if I know my way.

Larry T May 31, 2018 at 6:27 pm

The only thing I care about is the navigation and these things seem to promise a lot more than they deliver. We provide old-fashioned printed cue-sheets called RideGuides which have been updated and honed for decades. We also have GPX files for most of our routes but to be honest we find those who depend on gizmos (other than an accurately calibrated cycling computer, which all of our rental bikes have) end up lost and frustrated much more often than those who ride with our old-fashioned cue-sheet.
I’m beginning to wonder if the use of all the navigation gizmos in cars + these Garmin things have somehow degraded the human ability to read road sign directions and have some idea of north, south, etc.?
For RACING, I’m with RonDe…all of this crap should be banned, including race radios.

Nick May 31, 2018 at 6:43 pm

It’s not a contradiction. Something can improve a bike ride without improving a bike race.

Larry T May 31, 2018 at 9:02 pm

I understand this, but I don’t think this gizmo is the answer to my question. Lots of marketing mojo, but what they’re actually selling seems less than the promise.

The Inner Ring May 31, 2018 at 10:24 pm

In this case it’s been useful to have a device where you can see this data if you want it but up to each user to look at the scenery / wheel in front / traffic / screen as much or as little as they want. I’ve found having the route to be useful and being able to have the map available to look at while riding instead of waking up the display from sleep is useful, it’s more if you want a unit and plan on long rides then this one might be of interest too.

Larry T June 1, 2018 at 7:32 am

I find the screen so tiny that when you try to expand the map view enough to get an idea of where you are, all the details go away..and then you have to shrink it down again to get the details. That’s the same with automotive units. Then there’s the times we have an automotive unit set up for audio directions and it says over and over, “Turn around and go back” as you go up a switchback climb! Now I know how “smart bombs” end up killing so many innocent civilians – this stuff’s not as smart as the marketing-mavens imply.
We’ll pass on this one, but continue to create GPX files with the hated Garmin for those who wish to use them with the gizmo of their choice. At least that seems to be a standard that can be shared across brands.

savas May 31, 2018 at 2:44 pm

I have been using mine for over 12 months.I am more than happy with the unit.Only problem I am having now is, out front bracket..Bolt is not sitting tightly on it and makes rattling sound while I am riding.But good thing is,after I’ve contacted Wahoo they sending me a new one.Happy days

Andrew B May 31, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Also replaced a Garmin 510 after one too many crashes (not the physical type), so pleased with the Elemnt Bolt – ultra reliable thus far (13 months), clear screen, super easy to customize, great battery life, recognises sensors quickly and remembers them, issues reminders about charging…..all good. Don’t really use mapping function, but can understand the criticism as it basic. However, the pros far outweigh the cons, bye bye Garmin!

Andrew B May 31, 2018 at 3:09 pm

*physical*

Joe G May 31, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Been my go to bike computer since it hit the market. I’ve not had a single issue.
Thanks for the review.

Matt May 31, 2018 at 5:14 pm

I thought the point of wahoo was that the screen size doesn’t matter because the interface was your phone not the device, great product so much better than Garmin, I’ve had no issues

noel May 31, 2018 at 5:26 pm

so in a nutshell…?
numbers and battery – go for Wahoo
navigation – go for Garmin

The Inner Ring May 31, 2018 at 10:26 pm

Just about but I had navigation problems with the Garmin sometimes too but if you can put up with the odd reset/crash then the Garmin will do more routing for you during a ride, eg go off a course and it will recalculate etc.

Kevin Smith June 1, 2018 at 12:21 am

I would add

Reliability – Wahoo

Morten Reippuert June 1, 2018 at 8:06 am

numbers, battery, user interface, never crashes, no sw bugs: Polar V650

Polar disadvantage: will only hold a 550×550 km map at a time and u cant install new ones from phone.

…got tired of garmin’s crashing, altitude meter could cope when riding through a cloud, inferieor battery, un-userfridendly interface. bottons giving up, device crashing in long rainy days.

GeorgeY June 1, 2018 at 2:13 pm

@Morten Reippuert

Also Polar= no ANT protocol only Bluetooth and Polar proprietary devices. I must say that despite what I wrote I am a huge fan of Polar because they make very robust and problem-free devices.

ocaz June 4, 2018 at 10:22 am

I have to agree with that, had a couple of polar watches replaced because of my fault not the units. Currently using the V800 (which I used on the bike before the bolt) it is a great bit of kit and gives me all the info I need. Doesn’t look as fancy or colourful as it’s competitors but does everything well and extremely reliable.

Christian Palmer May 31, 2018 at 8:00 pm

Best thing about the Bolt is that my eyesight isn’t good enough to read maps on any small device, but having the LEDs do the Knight Rider thing for left and right is perfect. Not so great on a massive roundabout of course.

Andrew Folpe May 31, 2018 at 8:41 pm

I have to say, I haven’t been that bothered by problems with my Garmin 1000. It has died a couple times, but Garmin sent me new ones, basically no questions asked. This is over 4 years or so. I don’t have trouble with the battery for rides up to 8 hours- longer than that I bring an external battery, one of those tiny lipstick things.

Anyway- since the current Garmin has a screen crack, I have been considering switching to another brand, just to try something new. Where I live we have terribly cellphone service in a lot of places- is the navigation on the Wahoo totally dependent on the cellphone, or is it a built in GPS? Some of these newer units seem to be little more than on-bar mirrors of your phone.

Maybe my biggest issue with switching is that I have 3 nice K-Edge mounts, and it pains me to have to use an ugly insert with them..

Travis June 1, 2018 at 12:08 am

The GPS is in the unit. You do not need your phone at all. In fact once set up i go months without using the app. All my club rides use routes on ridewithgps, you simply login through the app and all your routes and any body elses that you star will sync over wifi to the unit. Rides automatically upload via wifi when finished. Mine upload to strava and dropbox (for golden cheetah) but you can set it to upload to training peaks and many other sites as well. If you have cellular data you can use the app to program a route when on the go. Thus the main shortcoming is when you don’t have phone signal or are diverted off your route (in which case i have found the map good enough for detours when the work crew hasn’t put out signs, looking at you europe as this is always done in australia).

I bought pucks for my k-edge mounts and you don’t notice the blue whe the unit is in.

My only gripe is that in the new workouts function for the kickr is that you cannot make your own workouts except on training peaks which is limited if you don’t subscribe. Hurtsergo ios app is a good workaround and the feature is coming. Which is an important point. Wahoo has shown they are willing to fix bugs and actively implement new features unlike garmin.

KevinR May 31, 2018 at 9:45 pm

I’m going to go against the flow here and say my Garmin 520 is an excellent bit of kit and I’d absolutely buy it again over the Bolt if I lost it or broke it in a clumsy moment a la INRNG. I can’t recall it dropping GPS, great screen, all the fields you’d ever need and very reliable. And it can do maps, although if navigation is your top priority it wouldn’t be the right choice.

Chris June 1, 2018 at 7:25 am

I had a Garmin 520 for a couple of years after my 500 for a few years. No real problems or issues at all, and was very happy.
Changed to a Bolt after the 520 started to lose contact with my Stages power meter (or vice versa) and I won’t be going back unless something major happens. It’s just been so much more user friendly and therefore useful.
I’ve used the maps on the Bolt, too, after never using them on the 520. The display is a lot better to read as they’ve stuck with old school black and white and focused on high contrast readability.
Each to their own, though. I love the Bolt.

Alan Mc June 1, 2018 at 11:59 am

Have to agree – the 520 just works, really well.

There is a trick to get a reasonable area of OpenStreetMaps maps onto the device (I have almost all of Scotland). The maps are pretty readable at a useable zoom level. The main drwaback is zooming in and out on the map page is a pain, involving much traversing of menus (hence I use a fixed zoom level 😉 )

Navigation wise, it will follow a TCX course (I use RidewithGPS), with turn-by-turn directions – again, just works really well. Won’t redirect you if you go off course, but will alert you to being off course in the first place.

Valium May 31, 2018 at 9:59 pm

Thanks for this. I’m SOOOOOO frustrated with Garmin. Every update (my 820 or their app) results in headaches/problems. I’ve had to wipe device clean multiple times after updates. Now the battery life is cr@p and it keeps beeping-beeping-beeping inside my house telling me it found some sensor. And it apparently added a compass screen, which I am having a devil of a time removing.

If the Wahoo devices have decent navi, I’m outta here Garmin. They are the ultimate feature-creep company. So much garbage that takes away from core product.

Steven Down May 31, 2018 at 11:15 pm

Been running an Edge 800 with full UK 1:50K OS mapping for a long time very happy with long battery life and good results. Supplemented this with an Edge 520 recently for when navigation is secondary and convenience is more important. Very happy so far. Integration with my Vivosmart 3 is a big plus for me.

Russell May 31, 2018 at 11:34 pm

Have had one for over a year. Super reliable. No freezes or drop outs. Have used to navigate pre-planned routes with great success. Pairs well with accessories. Easy to customise. Battery life good. GARMIN EAT YOUR HEART OUT.

brent June 1, 2018 at 12:11 am

Thanks for the review. When my 510 I looked at getting a different brand as that unit had many software bugs. Often new bugs or old bugs would reappear after software updates. The programming at Garmin was obviously deficient in quality control. I ended up getting a 520 because another brand would have meant up to a dozen new mounts.
The 520 has actually been pretty much bug free (there was one bug on garmin connect app which kept resetting my distance to miles instead of km). As long as the back light is off I have gotten over 10 hours of use. Although not as good as my 510 was. Getting rid of the touch screen was good I prefer the buttons.

Its not all an improvement though. I seemed to have more useful navigation fields on the 510. Although I have downloaded better maps for the 520 which is an improvement.

CGradeCyclist June 1, 2018 at 6:09 am

Recently bought a Bryton 530 and have been very pleasantly surprised.

30+ hours battery life (have ridden with it for two weeks and still showing 50% charge left!), up to 10 fields of data (all programmable), great GPS tracking, quick uploads via wifi or bluetooth, mapping, yada yada yada. And purchased for less than AUD$200.

Fantastic alternative to Garmin and others at a significantly cheaper price… 🙂

Adam June 1, 2018 at 11:40 am

Almost bought one of these before I got my Garmin Edge 520. The Garmin was slightly cheaper, which swayed me a little. Think I made the right decision though. Mapping on the 520 is pretty good IMO, and the color screen helps. A lot of button pressing to get into some of the features, courses and zoom function especially but I too am wary of apps that no longer work on older phones.

DJS June 1, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Unfortunately your review of the Edge 820 came out shortly after I bought one – I completely agree with you and others on this site that complain about the functionality of this device. Whereas my old 705 had buttons for the most important functions that worked no matter what, the touchscreen is a pain on cold or wet rides and has me looking down more than I like to see whether a touch has actually registered. Also bluetooth connectivity is developing bugs. And battery life is a nightmare – especially when riding a long course in a place you’re not familiar with – I nowadays occassionally pack an external battery to make sure I won’t get lost. As soon as I can justify purchasing a novel device (the Garmin is not that old yet) it will be one of these.

ave June 1, 2018 at 1:15 pm

The newer the stuff, more problems.
I’m still using my 10 years old Edge 705, zero problems. I’m on the 3rd battery, but 10 hours is no problem.
If you want a really long battery life get a Bryton. But better stay away from them, as they are ****.

David Rosenthal June 1, 2018 at 7:38 pm

Moved to the Bolt from an ancient Edge 800 2 weeks ago and absolutely love it. I was so reluctant to buy a new head unit because of how damn unreliable all my friend’s Garmin’s had become. Its almost as though they add complexity but didn’t really increase the processing power or software design to handle new demands. This unit has been great! I will say I wish the routing was able to be done directly through Google Maps (bicycle specific directions) and they really need a way to save workouts to the device . I have to manually copy my warmup into every day in training peaks for it to load onto my bolt.

Gabriel June 2, 2018 at 1:04 am

After reading all this I’m so happy with my aged edge 705… It has buttons, no touch, a joystick even. No touch screen but a colored one (basic, but helpful). It can route pretty good. I use it with Openstreet maps and Komoot routes. Works a charm. I moved to a new country and this is wonderful to have. GPS signal is good. It lacks modern connectivity and is slow at actually calculating the route and struggles with lots of details. The battery life is very good, to the extend that I don’t actually know how long it lasts. I don’t think I’ll ever upgrade. I just hope something better will be on the market when this dies. I also forgot the number of years it’s been in service.

Gabriel Constantin June 2, 2018 at 1:15 am

10 full years. 15h battery. But even after all these years it still holds enough juice to not worry about it. Oh, and it’s built like a tank. The mount it the one that needs replacing every 3-4 years or so.

Txzen June 2, 2018 at 5:06 am

Love my Elemnt Bolt. Came from a bricked Garmin and I’m not going back.

Having the phone app to set up the thing is awesome – no scolding through a million menus.

Love the +\- buttons that increase or decrease the amount of information (and size of the text) on the fly.

It doesn’t seem to be as quick displaying the gradient changes as my Garmin, but I’ve got over it.

So simple. It works.

Txzen June 2, 2018 at 5:06 am

*Scrolling not scolding. Darn autocorrect.

Txzen June 2, 2018 at 5:08 am

Also, the display of incoming text messages is great – nice to know if it’s an emergency or can be ignored.

I’ll stop now.

Stefan June 2, 2018 at 3:44 pm

Nice review, perhaps you can help. I’m hugely disappointed with my 820, as well. Garmin has really lost me with that. At that price point a real shame.

However, one feature that I appreciate a lot are workouts and intervals. It seems that on the Wahoo you can only upload one via Trainingpeaks and so. And this does not persist on the device? Is this correct?

I often change/set up my intervals/workouts during a ride. Depending on how I feel. I also have a set of workouts stored on my 820. With the Wahoo I would have to reload all my workouts all the time or do they remain on the device as well? Or are only those Team Sky workouts persistant?

Thanks for any info.

Niklas June 2, 2018 at 10:13 pm

I think the biggest positive compared to a Garmin is that the software experience just works. Configuring fields on a phone and picking a location to go to mid-ride is just so much simpler to do via the phone than a Edge’s touch screen. With the Edge 810 I pretty much never routed myself mid-ride somewhere because using the touch screen to type a location was just not working.

Larz June 3, 2018 at 9:46 am

Exactly.

It’s all the small things that just works and makes sense in the Wahoo Element Bolt compared to a Garmin Edge.

In terms of features the Garmin Edge clearly wins. In terms of implementation of features the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt wins just about every time.

Micky D June 3, 2018 at 5:03 am

Glad to hear you are enjoying you are enjoying the Bolt INRNG. I’ve had mine for about a year with zero problems which is more than I can say for the five Garmins that failed on me in recent years. I find the screen contrast excellent and am able to see more data fields on this device than the similar sized Garmins with my ageing eyesight. As you mentioned battery life is very good for a device this size and I have done a number of 300km plus rides on a single charge.

Eric Hancock June 4, 2018 at 12:03 am

I made the same switch earlier this year (Garmin 820 -> Bolt). Too many crashes, too many warranty replacement units, too many sensors disappearing from the unit. I was just fed up with Garmin.

I would put Wahoo’s phone-based configuration mostly in the “plus” column. I like to have multiple screens set up for specific scenarios (JRA, climbing, riding the trainer, riding rollers); setting up / tweaking in the app seems far easier to me. I have had one situation where I was off the grid and wanted to load a new map, but I think that is an outlier.

As mentioned, battery life is much better and the buttons are better placed (for me, at least). I really like the zoom in / out paradigm in the UI. Most of the time I just want to see power, cadence and heart rate. But I can zoom out to see less critical data like L/R balance, distance, etc… Unlike on multiple Garmins, the text notifications seem to work reliably.

I’ve you’ve invested in multiple K-Edge mounts for your Garmin, K-edge sells replacement inserts to convert the mount to a Wahoo. I really appreciated this, as the combo GoPro mounts aren’t cheap.

Navigation is OK, but not great. This is one of the things I hope continues to improve over time. Where the 820 actively navigates and re-routes, the Bolt is only able to follow a route. So missing turns (as I do), means more careful backtracking. Loading routes to the unit, though, is much nicer on the bolt (sync from RideWithGPS) versus the 820 (get it to mount a computer as mass storage and find the “new files” folder).

The Bolt’s screen is good and contrasty and easy to read outdoors, but I think the 820’s color screen looks a bit nicer.

If you are a heavy user of workouts on the head unit to control an FE-C trainer, take a close look at the differences between Garmin and Wahoo. There are subtle differences between building workouts in Garmin Connect vs Training Peaks or Today’s Plan. Some things are possible in one software package that aren’t in others, though I’m happy not to be using Garmin’s kludgy software to sync workouts anymore.

I’m a moderately sophisticated head unit user with multiple bikes, lots of sensors, riding outdoors, indoors on a smart trainer and rollers. The transition from an 820 has been relatively seamless. Time will tell if the reliability is there, but it would be hard to fare worse than Garmin. (do I sound bitter?)

Lord Flash June 4, 2018 at 10:14 am

Have had the Bolt for about 9 months now.
Absolutely great piece of kit: it just works.

Set up via phone is extremely easy and you can set up several types of screens for specific scenarios.
Good integration with Strava too.

Best thing about it, is that it doesn’t have a touch screen.
The set up with buttons is simple, effective and just works in all kinds of circumstances.

Would highly recommend the Bolt to anyone looking for a new device.

Andrew June 4, 2018 at 11:51 am

Interesting comments here. A couple of my friends use Wahoos – they work as ride guides abroad so routing is important – and love them. I’ve seen first hand that they seem easy to use, with the caveat that deviating from the planned route can be troublesome. Being able to display the course profile is also handy: no nasty surprises when the road suddenly goes up round a blind bend!

I have a Garmin Edge 500 that’s six years old and, barring one dodgy software upgrade, still going strong. The battery life seems to be 12 hours or so and although the navigation is clunky, I rarely have cause to use that. A friend put his through a wash cycle and it still worked afterwards!

I’ve seen no reason to “upgrade” to a fancier, glitchier Garmin. And my basic smartphone has so little spare memory that I can’t even update installed apps let alone add Wahoo’s. That said, I fully expect that when the 500 dies, I will go for a Bolt instead.

Wayne June 4, 2018 at 7:39 pm

Finally lost my patience with my Garmin Edge 800, Its only been recording part of my rides for the past few weeks and Garmin’s advice so far has been, “do a master reset” and “check its not full” and I had to wait several days for each of those pearls of wisdom. So I’ve bought the Elemnt, it arrived today and first impressions are very good, super simple to set up, nice big screen and picked up all my sensors easily, Quark power meter, Garmin HR monitor and speed sensor (which my Edge stopped picking up about a month ago). First impression of the map screen is that the Garmin one looks better but how often do you really use the map anyway??

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