Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT: Navigation and final thoughts

In a mildly amusing turn of events, while I was still in the middle of reviewing my own unit, Wahoo finally realized their ELEMNT BOLT was getting long in the tooth, and finally released its spiffy full-color second-generation successor in May 2021. That perhaps should render any further progress I make on the original ELEMNT BOLT obsolete…but I might as well finish up with one final summary for completeness’ sake.

A relatively zoomed-out map view. Note the routing chevrons.

As mentioned in an earlier post, route calculation and creation isn’t done on the ELEMNT BOLT itself; instead you use your mapping app or service of choice (Ride With GPS, in my case) and upload your maps onto the device. To use that route for actual navigation, you select it on the device and it will illustrate the route with a trail of chevrons. The scroll buttons on the side can be used to zoom the map display in and out. The top row of LEDs also works as a turn indicator, flowing left or right in tandem with the turn prompts on the display.

Alternatively you can press the “Route” face button and it will display the route as a dynamic list of cue cards instead. Very audax-like.

As easy and straightforward as it is to use the ELEMNT BOLT for navigation, it has some limitations and downsides. As nice as the display is, the monochrome nature won’t help much in highlighting additional information you might want to know, and without using the zoom-in feature some map detail can get overshadowed or lost in the shuffle. It doesn’t support on-the-fly route recalculation; if you stray from the cues it gives you, it won’t be much help. The device also has a memory cap of around 2.5 GB, so map and route storage may be restrictive. Most of these weaknesses have been addressed in its successor.


In conclusion – would I still recommend the first-generation Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT?

I would, yes.

Wahoo have done a great job in the functional design of the original ELEMNT BOLT and making it cater to the peculiar needs of cycling. By leveraging a smartphone for most of the setup, that step is incredibly easy to do and leaves the ELEMNT BOLT to focus on what it needs to do. To this day, I do not understand Garmin’s folly in using capacitive touch screens for its competing Edge devices; a single wayward drop of sweat on a cellphone screen is all that’s needed to illustrate just how easy it is to confuse such an interface. Sticking with physical buttons is a must in my opinion, and Wahoo have nailed the basic layout and UI so well that they stuck with it for generation two.

Garmin perhaps still has a leg up in ultimate navigational capability if we compare devices like-for-like. Then again, the ELEMNT BOLT is no slouch and what it does have is sufficient. It’s impressive how Wahoo can extract so much functionality from such a small unit (the LEDs in particular are a favorite) and make it not-atrocious to use. It just works, and does so reliably. That alone is enough for me to forego spiffier, fancier features.

If you can rustle up the extra cash for the second-generation ELEMNT BOLT, you’re getting a refined version of the same concept. Wahoo have demonstrated they know how to use new features (such as the color screen) smartly without cluttering the interface or confusing the user, and the new model basically addresses the few chinks in the original’s armor.

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