Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 Review: Is It Still Worth It in 2022?

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 Review: Turned-on BOLT v1 with a blurred background

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This is my Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 review.

Although it has already been discontinued because of the introduction of the second generation BOLT, BOLT v1 offers most features you may need.

It’s suitable for all types of cyclists who want to record their rides and use it as navigation from time to time. You will appreciate its ease of use and customizability via a smartphone app.

Continue reading to learn why I like it and how it differs from ROAM and the updated BOLT v2.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 Pros & Cons

These are the main pros & cons of ELEMNT BOLT v1 I found during its use.

Pros

  • One strip of LEDs that can indicate your speed, power, or HR
  • Easy-to-read display in direct sunlight (but with low resolution)
  • Aero mount included
  • Long battery life (around 11 hours)*
  • Reliable connectivity
  • Setup via an ELEMNT mobile app
  • Easy to use (the app and bike computer are intuitive) and customizable
  • Relatively easy to press buttons (easier than on ROAM, but not as easy as on BOLT v2)

*Mixed rides with and without navigation. Connected power meter, HR monitor, smartphone, and RTL515 radar. Please note my unit is about 3 years old (I bought it second-hand).

Cons

  • It can’t re-route when you go off-track
  • Setup via an ELEMNT mobile app (you need to have a smartphone at hand to set the BOLT v1)
  • micro-USB charging (USB-C would be better)
  • Relatively slow start-up time (about 35 seconds)
  • Colorless display

The same I wrote when reviewing the ELEMNT ROAM also applies to BOLT v1. It’s easy to use and intuitive, you can customize it via the ELEMNT app, and it also offers a display with good readability in direct sunlight.

However, this display is much smaller than ROAM (2.2in vs. 2.7in) and is colorless. Additionally, BOLT v1 can’t re-calculate your route when you go off track.

Unboxing & Setup

Here are the contents of the BOLT v1 box:

  • Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1
  • Aero + stem mount
  • micro-USB charging cable
  • Manual

The aero mount got a lot of compliments from cyclists. Although you won’t notice its aero gains on average speed, it looks better integrated and sleeker than the mounts of competitors.

Its disadvantage is the attachment suitable for rounded handlebars only. Riders with integrated, nonproprietary cockpits will need to buy an ELEMNT BOLT Spoon mount.

To set BOLT, I only had to scan its QR code in the ELEMNT app, allow pairing using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and pair the sensors. Then I could start using it right out of the box.

However, I always prefer to tweak the settings, so I adjusted the data fields and pages on my smartphone.

This is what I love about Wahoo. I can set everything via the mobile app, so it’s quicker and more convenient than doing this on the device itself.

My Experience

Below, I share my experience with Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1.

Display

BOLT v1 uses a 240x320px (2.2in) black-white monochromatic display. For comparison, ROAM’s display resolution is 240x400px and uses 8 colors. The newer version of BOLT (v2) offers the same resolution as v1 but 64 colors.

TIP: Check out my entire comparison of BOLT v1 vs. v2.

It has no ambient light sensor to adjust the brightness (you can adjust it in the mobile app). However, the readability in direct sunlight is great.

Wahoo displays are between glossy and matt, reducing reflections and improving readability. Here is a comparison with ELEMNT ROAM.

Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM vs ELEMNT BOLT v1: Direct sunlight readability comparison
Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM vs. ELEMNT BOLT v1: Direct sunlight readability comparison

Due to the smaller form factor, BOLT v1 can fit only 9 data fields at once (ROAM can fit 11). You can zoom them in and out to show fewer or more fields by clicking the right-side buttons.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 zoomed data fields
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 zoomed data fields

Naturally, ELEMNT bike computers have multiple pages, for example, your default (workout) page, training page, climbing page, map, etc.

You can create or customize the current pages in the ELEMNT app. Everything is butterfly smooth and intuitive.

Wahoo ELEMNT app customize pages
Wahoo ELEMNT – app customize pages
Wahoo ELEMNT app customize data fields
Wahoo ELEMNT – app customize data fields

LED Lights

BOLT v1 (unlike BOLT) offers only one strip of LEDs—on the top. It can indicate your speed, power, or HR. So, if you push hard, it will turn red. If you go easy, it will be blue.

The colors depend on the values you set in the ELEMNT app.

Wahoo ELEMNT app BOLT v1 LEDs settings
Wahoo ELEMNT app – BOLT v1 LEDs settings

The LEDs will also flash when you receive a notification on your smartphone, during navigation, or if your Garmin Varia radar detects an object.

I like the LEDs, but I only sense them subconsciously. I am more interested in exact numbers.

Battery Life

The claimed battery life of BOLT v1 is 15 hours. The real battery life is similar, depending on what sensors and features I currently use.

My BOLT is pretty old (about 3 years) because I bought it second-hand. Its battery lasts between 10 to 12 hours, depending on the number of sensors and features I use. New devices have a claimed battery life of 15 hours.

This capacity allows me to recharge it only once a week or two, depending on the volume I do the given week.

During its introduction, BOLT v1 had a battery life in a league of its own. The Garmin Edge 520 Plus from 2018 had a claimed battery life of up to 15 hrs, but many reviewers found out they can’t even go close to it, especially with turned-on navigation.

I also like that, thanks to the updated firmware released in 2021, BOLT shows me its battery status when I turn it off. So, I know when to recharge it even if I don’t open its menu.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT powering off - battery indicator
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT powering off – battery indicator

Control

I already mentioned it above, and I have to highlight it again. BOLT v1 is intuitive and super easy to use.

I admit that the bottom three buttons are not perfect. They are better than the ROAM buttons, but the BOLT v2 buttons are easier to press.

However, the entire hardware + software package is user-friendly. I have experience with Garmin Edge 520, and I can’t say its use was so pleasant (luckily, the newer Garmin head units are easier to use).

Wahoo vs. Garmin reminds me of iOS vs. Android. Wahoo prioritizes user experience and simplicity and has a closed ecosystem. Garmin prefers features, a wide offer of its hardware, and is open to 3rd party apps.

Maps & Navigation

Look, I am one of those riders who turn on navigation only when on vacation in a destination they don’t know. So, I don’t rely on it often.

You should look elsewhere if you want a bike computer with advanced navigation features (e.g., Wahoo ROAM, BOLT v2, Garmin Edge 530, and above). This is because ELEMNT BOLT v1 can’t do full on-device navigation.

Once you load a route, it will convert it to a set of waypoints on a map. So, if you deviate from the route, BOLT won’t recalculate and find a new way. For example, it also can’t take you to the point you select on the map (Take Me To feature) as ROAM.

Luckily, the BOLT v2 offers these features and full onboard navigation.

The internal memory of BOLT v1 is the same as ROAM’s. However, it’s not a big issue due to the smaller size of maps*.

*The map of Italy for BOLT v1 has about 180 MB, while for ROAM about 660 MB.

Wahoo ELEMNT app maps (Europe)
Wahoo ELEMNT – app maps
Wahoo ELEMNT app maps (Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, UK)
Wahoo ELEMNT – app maps

Custom Alerts

The ability to set custom alerts is available to all ELEMNT bike computers. You can set them up using the ELEMNT app.

It’s a clever feature. Here are some examples of these notifications and reminders.

  • Eat, drink
  • Clean and lube your chain
  • Recharge your power meter, shifters, etc.
  • Increase cadence, reduce power

It’s up to you and your creativity.

Connectivity

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 will connect with other devices via ANT+, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.

This means it can automatically upload your activities to Strava or other compatible 3rd party apps.

It will allow you to control your smart trainer. So, for example, you can increase/decrease the wattage of your intervals in an ERG mode.

And it will pair with sensors and devices like power meters, HR monitors, cadence and speed sensors, Garmin Varia Radar, etc.

Unfortunately, ELEMNT BOLT v1 can’t wake up Varia radar from the standby mode like Garmin Edge bike computers. So, you have to turn it on (and off) manually.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 Alternatives

Here are some of the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 alternatives worth considering.

Bike ComputerBuyClaimed Battery LifeScreen SizeDisplayTouchscreenOn-Device Navigation*Live SegmentsConnectivityWaterproofingWeightMemory
Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM v2Check Price
Check Price (wiggle.co.uk)
17 hrs2.7in64 colorsNoYesYesANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-FiIPX793g32GB
Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM v1Check Price
Check Price (wiggle.co.uk)
17 hrs2.7in8 colorsNoYesYesANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-FiIPX793g4GB
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v2Check Price
Check Price (wiggle.co.uk)
15 hrs2.2in64 colorsNoYesYesANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-FiIPX770g16GB
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1Discontinued15 hrs2.2in2 colorsNoNoYesANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-FiIPX762g2.78GB
Wahoo ELEMNTDiscontinued17 hrs2.7in2 colorsNoNoYesANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-FiIPX7104g2.78GB
This table compares Wahoo ELEMNT bike computers and their features like the battery life, screen size, and more.
*On-Device Navigation means that the device can recalculate the route when you are off-course.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 FAQ

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 Technical Specifications

Here is the summary of the main features and the technical specification of the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1.

Technical Specifications

  • Battery life: 15 hours (micro-USB charging)
  • Screen size: 2.2in / 55.9mm
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Weight: 62g
  • Strava live segments: Yes
  • Smart trainers control: Yes
  • Smart navigation (rerouting): No
  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Internal memory: 2.78GB

My Verdict

Although released in 2017, Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1 is still useful in 2022.

I like its small form factor, long battery life, easy-to-read display, and intuitiveness.

It’s a shame that it doesn’t include full-on-device navigation and a colored display. But that’s where its successor, BOLT v2, steps in.

The BOLT v1 was already discontinued, so you will have to check out online marketplaces to see if somebody sells it.

Recommended Accessories

Below, I include a few accessories worth using with the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT v1.

Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B0881B1H5S&Format= SL300 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US
… for measuring your HR

Wahoo Speed and Cadence Sensor

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B01E0YRQIA&Format= SL300 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US
… for measuring your cadence & speed

Garmin Varia RTL515 Radar

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B086TVFX1D&Format= SL300 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US
… for your safety (read my Garmin Varia radar review)

ELEMNT BOLT Two Bolt Out Front Mount

ONECOL
… for integrated cockpits | Source: competitivecyclist.com

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