Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT GPS bike computer – first ride review
Feature-rich, simple-to-use, aerodynamically-designed follow-up to the ELEMNT ticks the right boxes among Mallorca's orange groves
Wahoo have added to their smart-phone-integrated product range with the new ELEMNT BOLT GPS bike computer. It claims to be the ultimate combination of power, simplicity and performance; a marriage between the feature-rich software of its predecessor, the ELEMNT, and CFD-tested, aerodynamic design.
The ELEMNT BOLT is designed to harness the power of the smart phone in your pocket, making it something of a coach, training partner, and performance-enhancing unit all rolled into one.
The provision of a simple and intuitive interface is a key objective for Wahoo, and it was something they managed to accomplish with the ELEMNT GPS computer, launched last year. In the new BOLT, their perpetually-developing software has now been enhanced by a streamlined design that promises to cut through the air with greater efficiency than its competitors.
We set off on a complicated route through Mallorca to test it out.
On the morning of our ride, the heavy winds of the night before had mercifully died down to little more than a stiff breeze, and the clear sky was just the start of a beautiful day.
As if I needed any more reason to get going, a Pinarello Dogma F8 sat at the foot of my bed, equipped with all the Wahoo sensors and mount ready to ride. With Mavic carbon clinchers, my typically aggressive position, and the pointed Wahoo head unit nosing out in front of the handlebars, the bike couldn’t have looked much more aerodynamic if it tried.
The setup via the app was a doddle. We had paired our phones with the units the night before, which is done by scanning a unique QR code on the device, then with the route pre-loaded on the RideWithGps phone app, we just had to sync it to the BOLT through the ELEMNT app. With a tinny trumpeting fanfare, we were ready to go.
The route the Wahoo team had planned took us from Alcudia on the north coast, cutting down the middle of the island and through the complicated maze of orange groves. At the half way point we reached the only climb of the day on the Puig de Randa before taking a slightly different route home.
I knew from the briefing the day before I should expect a few things to happen when a turn approached: there would be a beep drawing my attention to the BOLT, the LEDs would point in the direction of the turn, and a graphic would flash up on the screen with clear arrows and a countdown to the corner.
The beep was far less obnoxious than on a Garmin but no less clear, however I did find the LEDs difficult to see under the powerful Spanish sun. I didn’t lose anything from their invisibility though, and I can imagine their presence would be valued more in inclement weather or low light.
I almost certainly didn’t get full use out of the navigation given the size and pace of the group led by one of the Wahoo riders. However, every time I heard a beep in the labyrinthine grid of narrow gravelly roads, I benefited from the gradual countdown to the otherwise invisible corners.
While I certainly felt fast riding along in a twenty-strong group on board a fleet of Dogma F8s, I couldn’t speak for the aerodynamic advantage of the ELEMNT BOLT. Although, that said, progress has certainly been made in comparison with its predecessor where the difference in size, weight and form are dramatic.
The same can be said for some of its competitors in the bike computer market whose designs are perhaps more reminiscent of the sleek design trends of today than a conscious effort in aerodynamic engineering.
Other features include PERFECTVIEW Zoom – the opportunity to cut down on the myriad of data the computer throws at you by honing in on just a select few data fields.
Having been a little sceptical as to the real merits of the zoom function of which Wahoo are so proud, I did find it useful on the climb in cutting the nine data fields down to just two: cadence and heart rate.
While I steadily wound my way up the spaghetti-curved road catching glimpses of the sun-blushed eastern coastline, I valued the clarity of the numbers filling the screen when I glanced down at my handlebars.
One downside encountered, however, came after I turned the unit off at lunchtime out of habit (the unit should have had more than ten hours’ battery remaining). When I turned it back on, the elevation data had been wiped when we resumed the ride.
All other data appeared to be present and correct, but after climbing the 554m Puig de Randa, the loss of elevation gain could have been disastrous – even if just for my own personal pride.
When I synced the ride back at the hotel, the profile was there but it still reckoned I had only gained 207m of elevation. My heart plummeted towards the sand-blasted patio.
Luckily Strava was there to rescue my pride and restore the elevation to something close to accurate, and I was reassured by the sincere and enthusiastic efforts of the Wahoo team to get to the bottom of the issue.
In fact, credit to Wahoo, the team have already dissected the issue and promise that, thanks to the latest production update, none of the units hitting the shelves will suffer the same data blip.
Lightning Fast Sync
Data issues aside, upon ending the ride and turning mobile data back on, the sync from device to app was almost instantaneous. The automatic upload to Strava took a little longer but that is to be expected from a 135km file so no problem there.
And that was it. All done. Simple. I hadn’t even had a chance to catch my breath.
I enjoyed my ride with the Wahoo team and their new ELEMNT BOLT. My favourite thing about the unit is the simplicity of the interface controlled through the app.
For a long-time user of smart phones, the menus in the app are intuitive, and the interface inspires confidence and even thoughts of, “is that it?"
The BOLT was a great unit that was so easy to use I might have had it for months
Sure, there were slight teething problems, but Wahoo’s rolling updates and continuous software developments promise to solve these as they arise.
Only time will tell how the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT stands up to its competition and there are plenty of features I didn’t get a chance to use on the test (look out for a full review in future). But for a first ride, the BOLT was a great unit that was so easy to use I might have had it for months.