Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT Review
Cons: No color screen, slower to startup
Bottom line: Wahoo Fitness' ELEMNT BOLT is a fully featured GPS cycling computer thats easy to use and setup, offering ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensor compatibility and seamless smartphone integration.
Cadence Sensor?: Yes, any ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart
Heart Rate Monitor?: Yes, any ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart
Manufacturer: Wahoo Fitness
The ELEMNT BOLT falls in the middle of Wahoo Fitness' range of GPS cycling computers and is packed with features for a reasonable price earning it our Top Pick for the Data Hungry Cyclist. The ELEMNT BOLT is incredibly easy to setup and use, pairs to your smartphone using the ELEMNT app, and automatically syncs to the fitness tracking apps of your choice. The user-friendly ELEMNT app makes it easy to customize your settings and link to ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart compatible sensors. It features a compact and aerodynamic design and comes with two mounting options to suit your preferences or use on different bikes. Unlike the Editor's Choice Award-winning Garmin Edge 820, the ELEMNT BOLT doesn't have touchscreen capability; instead, it uses a straightforward and intuitive system of buttons. The ELEMNT BOLT takes smartphone connectivity seriously with the capability for STRAVA Live segments, Turn By Turn and Take Me To navigation through the companion app, Live Tracking, and the ability to receive texts, emails, and phone alerts while out on the trail. The ELEMNT BOLT is indeed an impressive product from one of the lesser known brands in GPS computers.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Wahoo Fitness doesn't hold the market share of some of the more prominent players in the GPS cycling computer world, but we think that might change with the ELEMNT BOLT which falls in the middle of their range of three computers in the ELEMNT line. We put the ELEMNT BOLT through its paces on mountain bike rides and gravel grinds of various lengths, on everything from rough and rocky singletrack to smooth dirt fire roads in a variety of weather conditions. We tested it side by side with other GPS cycling computers to compare for accuracy and even fully submerged it in water to check for weather resistance. Through it all we were impressed with its performance, features, ease of use and setup, smartphone integration through the companion app, and compatibility with ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors. At $250, we also thought the ELEMNT BOLT was relatively affordable, especially when compared to some of its competition.
Ease of Use
We found the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT to be incredibly easy to use. We scored it an 8 in this rating metric, and to be honest, the only reason it scored lower than the Editor's Choice Award-winning Garmin Edge 820 was the lack of touchscreen capability.
Six tactile buttons control all of the functions on the ELEMNT BOLT, one for power on the left side, three on the face of the unit below the screen, and two on the side which controls the Perfect Zoom. Wahoo Fitness' ELEMNT app provides excellent smartphone integration for iOS and Android devices and allows you to customize setup, sync to fitness tracking apps, and pair with ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors. The ELEMNT BOLT lacks the color screen of models like the Garmin Edge 820 and Garmin Edge 520, but the two-tone display offers plenty of contrast, and we never missed color while we were using it. The 2.2-inch screen isn't huge, but it's not exactly small and we never had difficulty viewing the display.
We found the button layout of the ELEMNT BOLT to be simple to use right from the start, much like those of the Garmin Edge 520, whereas the button layouts like those on the Lezyne Super GPS Enhanced and Micro C GPS both share a less intuitive multi-function system. The button on the left side of the ELEMNT BOLT's housing is dedicated to controlling the power and is used only when turning the unit on or off. The two buttons on the right side of the housing are devoted to monitoring the Perfect Zoom feature which allows you to zoom in or out on display to your preferences. The three buttons on the face of the unit are the primary buttons used during a ride and are large and easily pressed with or without gloves on, while the little prompts at the bottom of the screen (above the buttons) tell you what each button does - depending on the page you're on.
The ELEMNT BOLT is a little sluggish to start up as compared to the almost instantaneous start-up of the Lezyne Super GPS Enhanced and Micro C GPS. By slow, we mean around 25 seconds, which probably won't ruin anyone's day but is noticeable if you're in a hurry. Once the unit is turned on, the use of GPS and GLONASS satellites, as well as BEIDOU Galileo and QZSS, mean that acquiring a signal is incredibly quick and you are likely never to lose it. You will need to ensure that any of your sensors are connected which is quickly done through the app. Unfortunately, the display of the ELEMNT BOLT doesn't automatically tell you what sensors are connected like the Lezyne Micro C GPS or the SUPER GPS Enhanced.
Recording a ride is as simple as hitting the button that says start. There are three main pages, which display a variety of ride data. The first page was our most used page, and the factory settings show current speed, distance, present time, ride time, average speed, max speed, elevation gain, grade, and current elevation. Those nine data fields sound like a lot to take in, but you can zoom in and out on the screen at the touch of a button using the Perfect Zoom feature, and customize the arrangement of the data to your liking through the companion app. The second page displays even more ride data, and again you can customize this data through the ELEMNT app. The third page is the map which shows a surprising level of detail with main roads, dirt roads, and most trails. You can also zoom in and out of the plan for less or more detail. All the pages are fully customizable, and you can even create your own custom pages to display whatever other data is most important to you.
Almost all of the customization of pages, setup of sensors, control of LED's and sounds, enabling of Live Track and Strava Live segments, as well as notifications for phone, text, and e-mails, is done through the very well designed and thoughtfully laid out ELEMNT app. The app also automatically uploads your rides and auto syncs to your favorite fitness tracking apps. Routes are easily created and can be done from your ride history, synced from the web, or imported.
The claimed battery life of 15 hours seems pretty spot on and is outdone only by the Garmin Edge 820 and the Lezyne Super GPS Enhanced. You'd be hard-pressed to run the battery out in a single ride, and you can make it several consecutive days on long trips before you need to charge it. The ELEMNT app will also send you a notification when the battery is getting low to remind you to charge the device. The ELEMNT BOLT's rechargeable Lithium Ion battery is charged using the included Micro USB cable and the unit fully charges in a couple of hours after being fully depleted. Data is transferred wirelessly from the ELEMNT BOLT to your smartphone on the ELEMNT app where it is then shared with third-party fitness tracking apps and websites.
Ease of Set-up
The ELEMNT BOLT comes with two different mounting options so you can choose which you like best or use them to swap the unit between different bikes.
Both mounts feature a quarter-turn style attachment which secures the unit in place quickly and easily. The two styles are a direct handlebar or stem mount that is held on with included zip ties, and an out-front mount which clamps the handlebar and holds the unit just slightly in front of the stem.
The out-front mount is explicitly designed to integrate with the aerodynamic shape of the ELEMNT BOLT. Both mounts were very easy to install and adjust, and both held the unit securely throughout our testing, regardless of how rough the trail or road became. The out-front mount also comes with an optional set screw to further secure the unit, although we didn't find it was necessary to keep it in place.
Initial setup of the ELEMNT BOLT is impressively simple. You start by downloading the ELEMNT app for free to your iOS or Android phone. Then you turn on the ELEMNT BOLT and the Bluetooth on your phone. The ELEMNT BOLT will display a modern square barcode and prompt you to scan it with your phone using the app. Then you just follow instructions until the setup is complete. Once paired to your phone, you are ready to ride, and your phone will remain paired until you decide to un-pair it via the app.
Most people will choose to do at least some basic programming before they ride, and that is almost entirely done through the ELEMNT app. It is incredibly easy to use the companion app, and that is where you'll customize your pages and data fields, set up your ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors, control LED's and Sounds, enable Live Tracking and Strava Live segments, and manage alerts for texts, calls, and emails.
You can customize the number of pages and arrange the data each page displays however you like. There are so many options for each data field that it's almost a bit much to wrap your head around, so if you aren't a complete data nerd, you can easily just stick to the factory settings and be plenty happy. Those who are very focused on data will have a virtually endless supply of it should they so choose with the ELEMNT BOLT. Every single bit of information you've ever wanted to gather is available on this device, from heart rate zone training, power meters and torque, to muscle oxygen, the people at Wahoo Fitness have seemingly thought of everything. It's up to you to choose the information and data you want, but it's all there at your fingertips with the ELEMNT app.
The ELEMNT BOLT is a dedicated cycling computer, so it doesn't provide the option for multiple activities aside from indoor and outdoor cycling. The ELEMNT BOLT is designed to pair with Wahoo Fitness' indoor cycling trainer, the KICKR, and allows you to record and control the workout. The unit comes pre-loaded with some planned workouts, and you can create routes from your ride history, syncing from the web, or importing gpx and tcx files. Courses are easily loaded and synchronized to memory, and then directions are displayed on the device with the corresponding map.
As a cycling computer, the ELEMNT BOLT is about as feature-packed as they come. It loses ground to the Garmin Edge 820 due to its lack of color display and touchscreen capability, but if you can get past that there is almost no limit to the useful features this device does have.
Of course the ELEMNT BOLT handles all the basics which include speed (current, average, max), distance, and elevation (gain, loss, current), all calculated from GPS data or bike mounted sensors. Other basic features include a thermometer, a clock that tells you the current and elapsed time, as well as a Lap timer that records lap time, speed, and distance. With the ability to pair to both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors you can also view and record data on Cadence (current, average), Power (current, balance), and Heart Rate (current, average) to really dial in your training and performance. In addition to the basic information listed above, the ELEMNT BOLT will display numerous other options, including zone training with your heart rate monitor, cadence sensor or power meter. If you can think of the data, rest assured that the people at Wahoo Fitness have too…
According to Wahoo Fitness, the ELEMNT BOLT was designed to have the most aerodynamic shape possible and seamlessly integrate with the out-front mount to reduce wind resistance. They claim a 50% reduction in wind resistance resulting in a power savings of up to 1.5 watts. Is that something you'll ever notice? Probably not, but it's nice to know that they are designing this product with that in mind.
GPS and Mapping
The ELEMNT BOLT uses the relatively standard GPS and GLONASS satellites, as well as the less frequent BEIDOU Galileo and QZSS satellites, so once the unit starts up the signal is acquired almost instantly and losing it is highly unlikely and something we never experienced. The other top performing GPS enabled devices in this test all use GPS and GLONASS satellites, and to be honest its hard to tell if using the additional BEIDOU Galileo and QZSS satellites makes any difference at all, but more is typically better right?
The ELEMNT BOLT includes global maps, and the plans are more detailed than we expected them to be. When zoomed in the diagrams show paved roads, dirt roads, and most trails, as well as your location on the map and your route up to that point. Maps are managed through the ELEMNT app. Courses can also be synced to the device through your ride history, from the web, or imported in the form of a gpx or tcx file through the ELEMNT app.
The ELEMNT BOLT also shares a unique point to point feature with the Lezyne Micro C GPS and the Super GPS Enhanced. The "Take Me To" feature of the ELEMNT BOLT allows you to enter a destination in the search bar on the Routes page, then it provides you with a route to get there and provides turn by turn directions through the device to reach the destination. The ELEMNT BOLT also provides turn by turn navigation through the KOMOOT and Ride With GPS routes.
Smartphone Integration, Live Tracking, and Strava Segments
Wahoo Fitness' ELEMNT app is arguably the most user-friendly application for any GPS cycling computer. The incredibly well designed and easy to use app is the primary interface for virtually everything to do with your ELEMNT BOLT. That being said, the ELEMNT BOLT is completely wireless, and all data is transferred through a wireless connection, your smartphone. The ELEMNT app is very well laid out and familiarizing yourself with it takes only a few minutes. Customizing all of your settings, pairing with ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors, syncing ride data, it all happens on the app, and it's easy to figure out and use. The app itself displays and stores your ride data, even analyzes it, and you can choose to automatically sync your ride data to Strava, as well as most other fitness tracking apps.
The Bluetooth Smart connection also allows for text, call, and e-mail notifications through the app to your device. You can control this feature through the app. The ELEMNT BOLT also boasts WiFi connectivity, making for even more wireless data transfer options. Live Tracking is a feature that you enable from the ELEMNT app that allows others to track the progress of your ride in real time. When you choose to do so, the ELEMNT app will send a link to whomever you want, so that they can keep tabs on you for the duration of your ride. This feature provides loved ones with peace of mind, and provides you with a safety net should things go awry.
Strava Live Segments can also be enabled through the ELEMNT app assuming you are a Strava Premium member. The beauty of using the ELEMNT BOLT for Strava Live Segments is that it only shows your starred segments, just like the Lezyne Micro C GPS and the Super GPS Enhanced, as opposed to showing all sections like the Garmin Edge 820 or Garmin Edge 520. This allows you to focus on the segments you like and ignore the ones you don't for total passive aggressive Strava domination.
ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart
The ELEMNT BOLT pairs with both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors, and can pair with both at the same time. Heart rate monitors, speed and cadence sensors, even electronic shifters are all compatible with the ELEMNT BOLT. The Lezyne Micro C GPS and Super GPS Enhanced also offer this feature, although the Garmin Edge 820 and Edge 520 only pair with ANT+ sensors. The ELEMNT BOLT also has a strip of LED lights above the screen on the face of the unit. These LED's are programmable and can provide you with quick look information about speed, power, and heart rate.
We found the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT to be an incredibly versatile GPS cycling computer. Other than the lack of different activity profiles, like the Garmin Edge 820 and Edge 520, the ELEMNT BOLT provides every bit of data you could ever need, and more. We didn't know just how many different data metrics there were until we started scrolling through all of the options on this thing. Of course, you can casually use this device to provide you with the basics, or you can take your training to a whole new level with the ELEMNT BOLT.
The data-hungry cyclist will have their cravings satisfied for sure.
We also enjoyed the maps and excellent and easy to use navigation features available on the ELEMNT BOLT through the ELEMNT app. We were impressed with the smartphone integration, ability to do Live Tracking, Strava Live segments, and pair with all of your ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors. When it comes to cycling, there's pretty much nothing this thing can't do.
The ELEMNT BOLT is IPX7 rated for waterproofness up to 5ft, assuming that the Micro-USB charging port is covered securely with the attached rubber closure.
We experienced no issues with splashing water or foul weather while testing in the field. In fact, we went so far as to submerge the ELEMNT BOLT in a glass of water while it was turned on with no negative impacts to the unit. Its safe to say that it passes our water resistance test with flying colors.
We feel that the ELEMNT BOLT is well suited to any cycling, but especially for cyclists who want to make the most of their training through data. Of course, this thing works just fine for the casual cyclist who wants to know the basics or see how they did on Strava, but it is capable of so much more. People who take their training seriously both indoors and out will thrive with the nearly endless features and data this device can provide. When paired with ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can participate in zone training and analyze every bit of data imaginable. In the colder months you can take the training indoors and the ELEMNT BOLT pairs with the Wahoo Fitness KICKR and KICKR SNAP indoor cycling trainers for year round riding no matter the weather. Maps, routes and the ability to follow turn by turn directions only sweeten the deal.
At a retail value of $250, we feel that the ELEMNT BOLT is an incredible value. This powerful device is packed with so many features, has great smartphone integration, pairs with ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors, and it costs less than both the Garmin models which are the other most highly rated GPS cycling computers in our test.
The ELEMNT BOLT earned our Top Pick for the Data Hungry Cyclist. This device may lack touchscreen capability or color display of the Editor's Choice award-winning Garmin Edge 820, but the ease of use and seemingly endless features make this reasonably priced unit pretty hard to beat. Maps, navigation, excellent smartphone integration and a great companion app make the ELEMNT BOLT our second highest scoring computer that is definitely worthy of your attention.
Other Versions and Accessories
Wahoo Fitness offers a range of ELEMNT GPS cycling computers. The ELEMNT is the top of the line model and is available for $330. The ELEMNT MINI is a small and more basic sensor based device that can pair with the companion app for ride tracking and data sharing and is available for $100. Wahoo fitness also makes a line of heart rate monitors, speed and cadence sensors, and smart bike trainers, all of which can pair with their cycling computers. Wahoo Fitness also offers bundled packages of their cycling computers, heart rate monitors, and cycling sensors, as well as a full line of accessories.
— Jeremy Benson
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