The New Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT: First Ride
Just announced, the all-new Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT gets a color screen, more navigation features, nearly six times the storage capacity, and more. We had the chance to test drive one prior to today’s launch. Find our first ride review and impressions here…
Many of us here are longtime fans of the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM GPS unit. It was at the helm during a lot of scouting missions for the Eastern Divide Trail and loads of other routes on the site. The ROAM’s easy-to-read color screen and excellent route sync integration with RideWithGPS make it hard to beat, although many competitors are trying as of late. The unavoidable downside is the price tag—we’re well aware that the $380 MSRP for a GPS head unit is a little much for some people to swallow. Today, Wahoo unveiled the new ELEMNT BOLT, which comes in $100 under the ROAM and gets many of the same features. We had the opportunity to try it for this first ride review.
The most obvious upgrade is that the new ELEMNT BOLT gets a 2.2” 64-color, high-contrast, scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass screen, bringing it visually up to snuff with the ROAM, and maybe even a little better, which I’ll get to later in the review. In my opinion, this is a big improvement from the former monotone screen, and according to Wahoo, it keeps the same 15-hour battery life. To complement this, it also gets an Ambient Light Sensor, which helps with visibility and can aid in maintaining better battery life. Under the hood, the new BOLT boasts a massive 16GB of internal storage, compared to the 2.78GB hard drive in its predecessor. It also comes with a USB-C port, which may solve a rare port failure issue reported by a handful of users. Another major change—which isn’t a big deal to me as I didn’t use it on the ROAM—is the Smart Navigation integration (previously available only on the ROAM). In addition to several other intelligent navigation options, the BOLT can automatically reroute riders who stray off course when this feature is turned on. It also sports an updated user interface with customizable, color-highlighted fields, similar to the ROAM. Here’s the list of features that were upgraded or added:
- 64-Color Screen (formerly black and white)
- On Device Smart Navigation
- Updated UI and Data Fields
- 16GB of Memory (formerly 4GB)
- USB-C Charging Port (formerly USB)
- Ambient Light Sensor
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT vs. ROAM
As you can see in the photo above, the biggest difference between the BOLT and the ROAM is the size. At 95 grams, the ROAM weighs about 26 gramg more than the new BOLT. And the ROAM is quite a bit larger too, measuring 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.7″ (89 x 54.4 x 17.8 mm), whereas the new BOLT is about 3.0 x 1.85 x 0.8″ (77 x 47 x 20mm). However, the actual screen isn’t markedly different. The ROAM has much more bezel and space for flashers and alerts, particularly a vertically oriented LED alert strip, something I honestly don’t miss. The BOLT’s only LED strip is on top and is plenty bright and readable in my opinion. The screens on the two units are almost the same width. Based on my measurements, the ROAM is about 3.5cm (1.38”) wide where the BOLT is 3.4cm (1.34”). However, the ROAM has a significantly taller screen at 5.9cm (2.32”) compared to the 4.4cm (1.73”) screen on the BOLT.
As mentioned, the new BOLT has far more storage space (16GB vs. 4GB on the ROAM). And they both have roughly the same capabilities now, too. Aside from a little bit of screen real estate, the only real benefit of the ROAM now is a slightly longer-lasting battery. I haven’t tested this, but the new BOLT offers a claimed 15 hours, whereas the ROAM’s is 17. Generally, on several scouting missions where I was riding close to 100-mile days and pedaling from morning to dusk, I would either have to charge my ROAM unit at night or plug it into the dynamo during the day. I would expect the same for the BOLT, but I’ll be sure to report back once I know more regarding the battery situation.
As mentioned, the BOLT now has a 64-color screen. It’s much more colorful than the Roam, which makes sense since the later has just an 8-color screen. The BOLT’s screen also seems brighter and clearer than the ROAM, though that may be due in part to the fact that it’s brand new and hasn’t yet been smudged and scuffed up.
Another physical difference are the buttons. The buttons on the ROAM—as well as BOLT v1—are recessed (concave) and I find them slightly hard to press. The BOLT’s buttons are convex in shape and much easier to press. I found that to be a nice touch while riding as it’s a little easier to toggle between screens. That will also make it much easier to toggle with full-finger gloves, and even winter gloves.
This is a true first ride review, as I’ve used the new Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT exactly once so far. Setup was as easy as the ROAM. You simply scan the barcode and it pairs to the app. Then, you can sync a route directly from RideWithGPS, which is hands down one of my favorite features. Once the route loads, it’s on the unit and can be followed or ridden anytime. Also, like the ROAM, you can change menus and settings. I always turn auto-pause and auto-reroute off as I like to stay in control and not hear incessant alerts beeps. After tweaking the settings to my liking, I loaded up a route and rode off. The dotted arrows for the route immediately showed up and I was off.
Unfortunately, I ran into a bit of a SNAFU on my first ride with the BOLT yesterday. Once I hit the trailhead, the unit stopped registering speed and mileage data. The ride clock was still counting, and as far as I could tell, the map was still tracking, but in the end, the BOLT was displaying data for a little less than half of my ride. Ultimately, once I got back home, it appeared that the tracks were all recorded, but it still wasn’t showing accurate mileage or average MPH on the unit—hence the “3.5-mile” 46-minute ride. Then I remembered when I initially powered up the unit, it displayed a message about prototype firmware and prompted me for an upgrade, which I ignored. So, I upgraded the firmware and I’m hoping that solved the issue. I’ve never had any problems pairing or recording on the ROAM, and I’ve used it a lot, so I suspect this was just a glitch. Either way, I plan on using the BOLT over the next few days and reporting back.
To be continued…
- Physical Dimensions: 3.0 x 1.85 x 0.8″ (77 x 47 x 20mm)
- Actual Weight: 69 grams
- Place of Manufacture: China
- Price: $279.99
- Manufacturer’s Details: WahooFitness.com
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