Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT cycle computer: Intro and first look

(L-R) Micro Wireless, Velo Wireless+, Padrone Digital.

For many years, I managed to resist the charms of GPS-enabled bike computers. I soldiered on with various Cat Eye units of ever increasing capability – the Commuter, the Velo Wireless+, the Micro Wireless, and the Padrone Digital – while watching the development of various Garmin Edge units. While impressively feature-packed, they were all a little too rich for my blood. A big part of it was its first-mover advantage and monopoly on the premium bike computer market.

As time went by, more players – Lezyne, Xplova, Bryton, even Garmin’s car GPS rival Magellan – threw their hats into the ring with their own offerings, and I had my fingers crossed that this added competition would drive prices down. While each competitor introduced variety, none of them offered a complete enough package to rival Garmin at this particular game.

That was when Wahoo Fitness came along and started exposing the chinks in Garmin’s armor. Granted, they did not get this right first time around; they certainly took their time and a couple device generations to get to competitive parity. By 2017, Wahoo seemed to have gotten it right with their ELEMNT BOLT, a smaller, more refined version of their ELEMNT bike computer, and I knew I wanted one at some point.

Four years later…

Yes, I am thoroughly late to this particular party, with the ELEMNT BOLT having gone on discount and eventually out of stock from local retailers (I had to source mine from Amazon). Four years is a long time for consumer electronics. Indeed, Wahoo has had the newer, bigger, more expensive ELEMNT ROAM unit for some time now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they announced a true BOLT successor soon.

There are dozens upon dozens of reviews online, in print or in video, about this particular bike computer, so you can seek those out if you want a more comprehensive look. Instead, I’ll be approaching this from the perspective of someone upgrading from Cat Eye units.

The Padrone Digital served me well, hooking up with speed, cadence, and heart rate sensors via Bluetooth to display all this data in one place. I did think it was the upper limit of what a bike computer could do without resorting to smart features or GPS. What does the extra outlay for the ELEMNT BOLT get you, then?

Inside the box are the ELEMNT BOLT itself, a quick start guide, an out-front mount, a stem mount, four zip ties, and a USB-type-A-to-micro-USB charging cable. The box photo makes a big deal about the ELEMNT BOLT being the “world’s most aerodynamic bike computer” because of how flush it clicks into the out-front mount. While it’s nice, I doubt it makes a big enough aero dent.

On to the other box, which has the sensor bits and pieces needed to make the ELEMNT BOLT work. Wahoo’s speed and cadence sensors are cute, oval tabs of plastic about 4 mm thick that connect via Bluetooth. Unlike the Cat Eye sensors I’ve been using, neither of these requires an external magnet to work, and they wake up with a flashing LED when moved. The box has them with the quick start guides and a selection of mounting hardware.

The speed sensor comes in a rubber band caddy which is meant to wrap around one of your wheels’ hub shells before hooking onto itself. The cadence sensor, on the other hand, can mount in a variety of ways. Wahoo throws in a 3M VHB adhesive patch, as well as a silicone caddy with holes for zip ties – both for mounting on the crank arm. The final mounting method is a hard plastic brace, meant to install the cadence sensor on your shoe. Wild, but that’ll work, I guess.

The Wahoo cadence sensor just about fits.
And yes, that’s the old Cat Eye ISC-12 speed and cadence sensor on the chainstay – along with the cadence magnet.

Unfortunately, on Hyro, my Giant TCX, space between chainstay and crank arm is at a premium and just too tight for the zip-tie method. I decided to just stick the naked cadence sensor on the crank arm instead, where it sneaks in with the smallest of tolerances.

I actually got a second, different mount, because having different mounting options is good for adaptability.

Unintentional Engrish: Where have you seen an “align” key before?

Unlike the stock mount, KOM Cycling’s “aero” computer mount for Wahoo devices is a blockier affair. It’s not even a flush fit, with a yawning big gap between the quarter-turn mounting tabs and the forward edge of the computer.

KOM Cycling mount: Not flush at all
Supplied mount: Very flush

What it does is relocate the arm and provide a little more space between handlebar and computer. I find this is enough to allow potential mid-ride charging of the ELEMNT BOLT from a power bank, which would be convenient on long-distance audax rides, for example.

The KOM Cycling unit even has plastic reducer shims so you can fit it to a narrower 22.2 mm or 25.4 mm diameter handlebar.

I guess part of the “aero” claims for the ELEMNT BOLT’s mount came from how close it sat to your handlebars.
The KOM Cycling mount puts the ELEMNT BOLT forward about 2 cm.
Enough room to jimmy a micro-USB cable into the charging jack at the bottom.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my look into the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT, where I will talk more about how to use and live with it.


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