About a month ago I took delivery of the ELEMNT Bolt bike computer; this is Wahoo's answer to the Garmin 520. They sell it as being an aerodynamic GPS computer that's supposed to be simplistic and easy to use; charging aside, their devices are supposed to be wireless, so everything from setup to upload is done via your phone. Having used the device for a good 1,000 miles now I thought I'd take a look at how it's been going.
When the box arrives you get the usual; Bolt computer, out-front bar mount and a stem mount and charger cable. There is a little easy start guide to get you going. First things first, you download the ELEMNT app from the App Store (or Android equivalent), turn both devices on and pair them via your phones Bluetooth. Once you've done this everything else is done via your phone.
The app gets you to create an account so that you can then begin to setup things like your heart rate or power zones, age and weight. You can then go through to the settings part of the app and change the screens you want to see on the Bolt. As soon as you make a change on your phone it makes the change on the device. One of the other cool things you can do it set up the LED's which line the top of the device, but more on those in a moment. In a nutshell, setup is slick doesn't involve trying to work out a sequence of on-device buttons.
On a Ride:
Out on the road I found the device just as easy to use. The screen is black and white which to start with I was apprehensive about but actually it doesn't affect anything and probably helps keep the battery going as long as it does. I've just about squeezed a full week out of a full charge so far, which is around 15hrs a week, which is more than enough for most normal people on any given single days riding.
Each screen allows up to nine fields so you can really soak up all the data. The best part about all of this though is that unlike on a Garmin, you can zoom in and out of each page. So you might start wanting to see nine fields but using the size. buttons during the ride can zoom all the way into just one field and back out without a problem; quite handy in the rain when I really don't need to see the time, but want to know how fast i'm going without squinting. Equally, if you want a different data field, you merely open the app on your phone and choose something new and it appears.
The other thing to mention are the buttons; these sit on the top of the device below the screen. They're purposely massive so that when you're out in winter with your gloves on you're not faffing around or tapping the wrong button. Even my massive clumsy thumbs were able to use them without ending up hitting the wrong button.
The Wahoo comes with maps pre-installed. I don't just mean a simple breadcrumb either, but some pretty detailed maps showing the roads and local tracks. It's a bit like having an OS map on your device. The bonus of this is you've really no excuse for every getting lost because you have so much information but it can feel like too much when you're trying to work out a route. Zooming out helps in resolving this issue though and I'd rather have too much for when I need it than not enough at all.
Routes can be created on Strava and then synced automatically with the ELEMNT App where you can push them to your device whenever you fancy on a ride. The turn by turn instructions are pretty good too; I tested out the routing whilst out on a hard 70 mile ride when I didn't have much time to be looking down at the device. It can give a little sound to prompt you to look down and then flags you're next cue so you can see what to do.
The other really cool feature is the "Take me anywhere"; simply open your ELEMNT app, type in where you want to go (I chose a coop in the next village) and it creates a route, sends it to your device and directs you there. It's a bit like google maps for Bolt and worked really well for the trip to the shops; I do still need to try it over a long distance though.
Finish your ride, press save and it's saved straight to the ELEMNT App. In the app you can pair up the device with Apple Health or the all important Strava so that as soon as your ride saves it's seamlessly transferred to Strava. I've had no problems with this so far and found every ride waiting on Strava as soon as I'm ready to geek out over my stats.
Speaking of Strava, if you're as much of a geek as me then you'll love the Strava sufferscore option which allows you to see your suffer score as you create the pain. This sort of thing is again setup via your phone to keep it easy.
The BOLT has ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity so you can use a wide range of heart rate monitors and power meters with it. I am still using my Garmin HR currently with the BOLT. I don't own a turbo so can't currently comment on the connectivity to the smart turbo but maybe one day I'll move indoors.
I said I'd come back to the LEDs because it's a pretty cool little feature. Along the top of the device are a row of LEDs that can be used for things like power, heart rate or speed. I opted for heart rate so the LED colour depends on my heart rate zone. If it's green I'm chilling out and not really going for it, amber and I'm trying hard and then red for those serious all out efforts. They proved especially useful when I needed to have the map on the screen bur wanted to know how hard I was working. It's a great visual guide when you don't really want to take your eye off the ball.
In summary, the Wahoo is what I would call a simplistic device to use. Given how much people use their phones it makes sense for a lot of the setup and control to be from a device we're all intuitive with already. Once it is setup you don't have to have your phone on you either until it comes to upload. The black and white isn't for everyone but you can't satisfy everyone. I'm pretty sold and won't be switching away anytime soon. I might even have to give their turbo a go...