(Pocket-lint) - Wahoo is now one of the established manufacturers of cycling computers and has built a loyal following of satisfied customers. Its brand reputation is based on creating products that are robust, reliable and easy to setup through the Wahoo app.
With the original Elemnt Bolt being such a success when it was launched in early 2017, Wahoo decided to upgrade it with, um, the Elemnt Bolt. Much like Apple with its iPhone SE - which launched in 2016 and then four years later in 2020 - Wahoo decided that it just couldn't find a different or better name. So to avoid confusion we'll be referring to it as the Bolt v2 in this review.
The Bolt v2 was released to a buzz of anticipation, but the reaction soured in online comments and some pre-release/first look reviews. Cue some frantic work by Wahoo and behind the scenes software updates - there have been 12 updates in the four months that we have been testing the Bolt v2 - and do we now have a cycling computer that's as reliable as we would expect?
Design and display
- Dimensions: 77.5mm x 47.2mm x 21.3mm / Weight: 68g
- USB-C rechargeable battery (15 hours life per charge)
- 2.2-inch colour LCD display, 320 x 240 resolution
- Out front and stem mounts provided
- IPX7 water protection
The Bolt v2 is just slightly larger and heavier than its predecessor, and considerably sleeker than its bigger brother, the Roam. It's sleek looking with a toughened Gorilla Glass screen, housed in a robust-looking graphite grey polycarbonate body that will protect it from any accidental drops and spills that will inevitably happen from time to time.
It's fully waterproof and is the first Wahoo bike computer to have a USB-C connection type - it's both waterproof, so no cover needed, and it speeds up charging compared to older fitting types - hurrah! The great British summer - during which we have been testing the Bolt v2 - has offered up some truly biblical storms and it has stood up to these and the subsequent road spray without a hint of trouble.
Three large buttons sit below the screen, allowing you to easily start and stop recording and to navigate between data pages when on the move. A further button for powering on/off sits on the left edge, while two buttons on the right edge allow you to zoom in and out of either the map or data screens to show more or fewer fields/increase the font size.
We found the LCD colour screen to be pin-sharp and the font easy to read in all lights, thanks to the ambient light detector that automatically adjusts the screen's brightness according to the conditions. There's no touchscreen technology here and on a screen this size when many users will be wearing gloves for part of the year, we think that's the right call - as everything is easily controlled via those physical buttons.
The colour screen is somewhat useful in supporting the mapping, although colours are used fairly sparsely here. It's more useful in indicating the power or heart rate zone that you are in by block-colouring the field on the screen. This means a quick glance will give you an indication of your current zone, while the precise number remains clearly visible if you wish to look in more detail.
This is further supported by customisable LED lights which sit at the top edge of the casing and can be programmed to light up and show your performance, such as heart rate or the power zone you are in, or to aid navigation. We found that both of these features were useful in races and time trials when a quick glance was all you could afford.
Wahoo claims a battery life of 15 hours, which is a little less than some of the competition and the larger Roam. We tested it with a power meter, heart rate monitor and speed sensor connected and had 62 per cent battery left after a six-hour ride (while using turn-by-turn route mapping) and including an hour's café stop, taking the total 'on time' to just over seven hours. In fact, we found that we were always able to squeeze a little more than 15 hours out of a charge, which in reality is going to be plenty for most people's needs.
As you would expect, an out-front mount is provided in the box, which we always think is the best option for reading the screen. The mount joins seamlessly to the Bolt v2 to ensure it's as aerodynamic as possible. You can put this computer on the old Bolt or Roam out-front mount, but it won't fit as snugly, leaving a small gap as the casing sizes are slightly different. There's also a stem mount option in the box, which is handy if you have a second bike that you want to use it on.
Connectivity, setup and the Wahoo App
- ANT+, ANT+ FE-C
- BLE/Bluetooth low energy
The Bolt v2's pages and data fields are customisable, allowing you to see everything as you want. Setup is all achieved via the easy-to-use Wahoo app - it is not possible to customise pages on the Bolt v2 itself - where you can do all of this as well as downloading new maps and updates.
Pairing your phone and the Bolt v2 is as simple as downloading the app and then scanning a barcode on the screen. We always carry a phone with us when out riding, not that the Bolt v2 needs this to operate, though it does open up further functionality.
The screen will display text, WhatsApp, incoming calls and emails if you want it to, which can be a useful feature, though generally we like to ride without these distractions - and so turned it off. Via your phone's data connection the Bolt v2 also provides a Livetrack feature, which allows anyone you invite to see where you are at any point on your ride.
At the end of your ride the Bolt v2 will sync its data to the app via your phone or through its own Wi-Fi connection. You can choose which third-party apps you'd like it to automatically push this to, such as Strava or Training Peaks. Connectivity between the Bolt v2 and the app has been trouble-free throughout testing.
Connecting the Bolt v2 to external sensors and accessories is an intuitive and easy process, utilising its built-in ANT+, Bluetooth or ANT+ FE-C. As you would expect, we had no difficulty in pairing up Wahoo's own speed, cadence or heart-rate monitors - and it was just as simple with a third-party monitor and meter as well.
We didn't experience any dropouts during testing. Owners of Wahoo's Rival watch will probably already know about its ability to broadcast to the Bolt v2 in multisport mode, an excellent feature for duathletes and triathletes. We found this worked well when we tested, transitioning from a run to a ride seamlessly.
For those who want to take their training indoors, the Bolt v2 can be linked to your smart trainer and used to control it. We hooked it up to our Wahoo Kickr and were able to setup our own interval training by adjusting the power levels. Nowadays most people will use third-party software such as Zwift, Trainer Road or Wahoo's own offering, Sufferfest, but it's a handy function nonetheless and may appeal to more racers looking to warm up before hitting the start line.
Mapping and navigation
- On board maps
- Route syncing, rerouting
The Bolt v2 follows in the footsteps of the Elemnt Roam by featuring fully on-board mapping and routing capability. This is a big step up from the original Bolt's mapping, which basically relied on your phone to download and send it a map each time you selected a route.
The big drawback of this was that the original Bolt couldn't re-route you back on track if you made a wrong turn or discovered a road was closed on your route. Also, there were usually no turn-by-turn instructions, just a line to follow on the map.
The developments that Wahoo have now made mean that the Bolt v2 can now do both of these things, making following a route, and deviating from it, a much simpler thing to navigate. Because it has its own maps loaded it has functions such as 'Route to start', which takes you from your current location to the beginning of the route you've chosen, or 'Take me to', where you can choose a point on the Bolt v2's screen or enter an address and it will find the quickest route there for you - perfect if you get lost or want to head for home sooner than you'd planned.
We found that the re-routing was pretty good when we tried it out. On our first test ride a closed road meant we had to change direction and the Bolt v2 automatically took us around this. On another occasion it was a little less successful, trying to take us back on to the route sooner than we wanted. This is a tricky thing to get absolutely right, no computer is ever going to know exactly what you have in mind when it chooses a detour, but Wahoo is getting closer with this effort and we look forward to it improving through further updates.
One particularly noticeable improvement over the previous Bolt and Roam is that the Bolt v2 has 16GB of internal memory, which means it can store a lot more maps and routes as well as having onboard digital elevation data. There is little lag when switching between pages, indicating that Wahoo has upgraded the internal processor, and this provides a far better user experience.
Wahoo's app doesn't allow you to customise or create a detailed route, for that you'll need to use a third-party one such as Ride with GPS or Strava. These apps will then sync with Wahoo's, showing your created route within it and on the Bolt v2.
All in all, the mapping on the Bolt v2 is on another level compared the original. GPS lock on remains fast and we found everything to be easy to setup and follow.
Advanced features and functions
- Training and workouts
- Strava Segment support
While some manufacturers offer data by the bucket load, Wahoo has set its stall out to concentrate on what it sees as the most important elements for training and cut out some of the lesser ones.
Strava integration is fully supported, meaning that you can highlight segments on your route and map how you're doing against your PB or the QOM/KOM. Apps such as Trainer Road can export structured workouts to the Bolt v2, though you'll need a power meter to be able to follow those.
However, we still think that Wahoo needs to improve its elevation page, which is fiddly and not as readable as the excellent Garmin Climb page or the Hammerhead Karoo 2's latest offering.
The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt v2 is a truly excellent bike computer. Its intuitive control makes it very easy to pick up and get riding with, while great mapping and a well curated dataset add to the experience.
Now that the initial software reliability issues have been ironed out Wahoo has a product that offers a compelling upgrade to existing Bolt users and one that will win many converts too.
Hammerhead Karoo 2
A Google Android-based computer, working on the principle of regular updates to add new features and squash bugs, with updates every couple of weeks.
Garmin Edge 830
Garmin dominates the cycling computer market, offering loads of data and integration into a wide ecosystem through Garmin Connect that will offer to monitor your entire lifestyle, not just your ride.
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