My history of bike computers is as follows:
2012 – Garmin 705. State of the art, a little bit large, color screen. Pricey. $700 retail price I got mine for $500. Don’t buy version 1 of the newest technology. You will pay.
2013 – Garmin 500. Small compact unit. Ultimately, it died and Garmin gave me a $100 or $150 credit towards the purchase of my next one.
2014 – Garmin 510 – Small compact unit. Basically, it was the same as the 500 but could sync wirelessly.
2019 – Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt – Small compact unit, similar to Garmin. It had a black and white screen. There were some differences between Garmin and Wahoo.
First, Garmin was and is programmed using buttons on the unit.
Wahoo is programmed using your phone’s app.
Second Garmin displayed digits down to the hundredths and appeared to be very accurate when uploading to a website. In other words, if you rode 10.01 miles then your upload will show 10.01 miles.
Wahoo shows distances in tenths. Almost immediately Wahoo would display 0.1 miles. But if you wanted exactly 10 miles and waited until the odometer shows 10.0 miles, most likely the upload would be a little short, e.g., 9.96 miles. If one is anal-retentive or obsessive-compulsive about exact mileage figures then you will probably not like the Wahoo.
Third, Garmin had a return to start mapping feature which would presumably route you back to your start location using the shortest routes.
Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt had a return to start feature which would retrace your turns. If you did a 15-mile ride and were five miles from your start, Garmin would route you those five miles. Wahoo would send you back the 15 miles from where you came.
Fourth, the Garmin 510 had a “turn by turn” mapping feature which let you preload rides onto the unit. But it did not have maps. So 200 meters before a turn it would beep and display TURN RIGHT. The Bolt had maps and was far superior.
Mapping is important to me. I had multiple failures loading routes to the Garmin 510. I did not have confidence that my preloaded route would work. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. The Bolt always worked.
And fifth, and the reason I bought the Bolt, the Bolt had the capacity to display Strava Live Segments while my Garmin did not. In fairness, I could have bought the newer equivalent Garmin unit (which may be the Garmin 530) which would display Live Segments.
And a word about accuracy. In this high-tech world, we expect our units to find us with feet if not inches by bouncing a tracking signal to a satellite in space. They are not always that accurate. When I first got my Bolt I mounted it next to the Garmin and for about six weeks I ran both units simultaneously. And rarely did the two head units produce the same data. If I did a 50-mile ride one might display 50.04 and the other 49.86. And it wasn’t the case that the Bolt was always greater than the Garmin. Or the Garmin always showed more than the Bolt. It depends.
There seemed to be no rhyme nor reason as to which unit would display the greater number. Initially, I would choose to upload the unit that showed the greater distance (LOL) but eventually decided it really didn’t matter. And when I put the Trek Domane SL5 into service in last January 2020, I went with just the Wahoo Bolt.
I love my Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt. It is the low end of their units. The ROAM has more features.
But my Bolt was showing signs of wear and I purchased a new one. In the past 20 months, I discovered two major changes.
First, the newer Bolt now has a color screen. It is also sharper in its display.
And second, the map to start for lost cyclists now maps to start. I have not tried this feature to see how it really works.
Photo 1 – This is the base screen for the Bolt. The colors here define heart rate and traffic.
The Bolt pairs with the Garmin Varia radar/taillight unit to show traffic approaching from the rear. IMHO, the Bolt does a better job than Garmin’s own unit, in my case, the Garmin 510.
The Garmin 510 defaults to a full screen view when no traffic is present. When traffic is picked up by the Varia unit, the screen shrinks to about 7/8th size showing a “lane” as a strip on the far right of the unit with a dot moving up the lane so one can see how close the vehicle is.
The Bolt has a “lane” on the far left which is always visible. In my older unit, black and white, it was a darker lane. But it showed vehicle icons instead of dots Not big deal. But the reason the unit is superior is because the Bolt beeps at the presence of traffic and displays colored lights at the top from yellow to red (take cover) to green (all clear).
Photo 2 – The Bolt’s traffic lane has changed from green to yellow and displays a vehicle icon near the top (it’s close). The unit also beeped and displays yellow lights at the top of the unit.
Photo 3 – The heart rate zones can be set up by the user and on the basic screen colors will correspond with the zones.
Photo 4 – Hear rate zone is Zone 5. I am in the red. Except I really wasn’t. This was paired to the Wahoo TICKR which never was accurate for me. At first when I went into the red I would stop even though I was nose-breathing. I would take my heart rate manually it would be around 100-110 bpm. Ironically, I found the Bolt paired better with Garmin’s heart rate monitor than its own TICKR.
Photo 5 – Mapping works great in the Bolt. Not only does it display roads, major roads in yellow, but it also displays bike paths, in blue.
Photo 6 – Live Segments from Strava. This is the summary screen after completing some segments. Notice the neat crown for a KOM. Not shown is the progress screen. On a segment the displays shows your PR (but can toggle to race the KOM), total time, distance remaining, time relative to the segment (e.g., plus or minus 3-4 seconds) and a projected finish. When I got this unit it was not set up like my first Bolt and that would have been a game changer. But some fiddling with the phone app and I have it set up the way my first unit was set up. Everything is perfect.
Also not shown: I have the unit set up to show incoming phone calls and text messages. I could also choose emails but chose not to. Emails can wait.
Bottom line. I love this unit. At $280 maybe a little pricey but paired with Strava’s Live Segments, it has made riding so much more fun.