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Wahoo Elemnt Bolt vs Garmin Edge 530 - which is best?

Two of the most popular cycling computers go head-to-head... which one is the best computer you can buy at the £250 price point in 2021?

If you’ve got about 250 quid to spend on a new cycling computer then we have two very, very good options here in the form of Wahoo’s latest Elemnt Bolt and Garmin’s Edge 530. But which one is worthy of your money? 

What you get

2021 Garmin Edge 530 GPS Computer-1

Out of the box, the story is pretty similar. With both, you get the computer itself, an out-front mount, a stem or bar mount, a charging cable and some instructions that most of you will never read.

2021 Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS computer - 1 (1)

That all sounds pretty similar but each does something a little better than the other. Wahoo’s mount is aero, apparently, and it does look very nice compared to the chunky Garmin mount. But the Garmin mount allows you to attach an external battery pack to the underside which is handy if you’re off on a multi-day ride. Out of the box, it's a dead heat and a good start for both.

The unit

2021 Garmin Edge 530 GPS Computer-6

In terms of physical features, the Garmin has a 2.6-inch display with a 246 x 322-pixel resolution. The battery is up to a claimed 20 hours, you get IPX7 water resistance and the unit weighs 75g. The charging cable is a rather dated micro USB.

The Wahoo loses out in terms of screen size slightly with a 2.2-inch display and it also just loses out on resolution with 240 x 320 pixels – although the difference is tiny. It’s a 64-colour screen rather than full colour, but you’re not going to be browsing photos on it so you should be okay there. The battery is also down at a claimed 15 hours but it matches the Garmin’s IPX7 rating.

2021 Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS computer - 3 (1)

Where the Bolt V2 wins is in weight. This thing is just 68g. You also get a more robust USB C system for charging.

So in terms of the headunit, the Garmin just edges this one. It’s a bit bigger, the screen is a bit posher and the battery life longer.

Setup

Setup needs very little discussion. Wahoo has been better at this for years and that remains the case. The smartphone app is simple to use and, along with making initial setup a breeze, you can customise the data fields from the app.

Garmin’s Connect app isn’t awful, but it isn’t the most user-friendly app and beyond initial setup and syncing, there’s little that you can use it for. All of your customisation needs to be done on the Edge 530 headunit which does take a little bit of time. So the points go to Wahoo here.

Looks

This one is going to come down to personal preference a bit and we’d say that both look pretty good. The Garmin’s screen is quite reflective so in bright sunlight, you do get times where the screen is a bit tricky to read but generally it is perfectly clear.

They’re fine. Whether you like the sleeker Garmin or the chunkier aesthetic of the wahoo is down to you.

Features

2021 Wahoo Elemnt Bolt_WFCC5_RIVAL - BOLT (25).jpeg

While the setup process and smartphone integration is dominated by Wahoo, Garmin easily takes the win when we look at features. Both get Strava Live for all of you keen KoM hunters and you’ll get a host of compatibility with indoor training apps.

Both will connect up to electronic gears from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo and you can pull in training sessions from a selection of sites such as Today’s Plan and Training Peaks. 

Garmin, however, just keeps the features going and really, you could just about replace your cycling coach with the built-in suggested workouts, dynamic performance monitoring and training status. This isn’t perfect, but it does give you a decent idea of what you should be doing day to day.

Garmin Edge 530 ClimbPro copy 2

If you plan a route to follow using the Edge 530, you’ll also activate the climb pro feature. While this might sound like a bit of a gimmick, it is actually one of the most useful features that we’ve used on the newer generation Garmins and Climb Pro gets better as the hill that it's guiding you up gets longer or steeper. It’s a great tool to help you pace your effort and it is especially helpful when you’re riding a route that you don’t really know as you can also see how far from home the climbs are. You can also see how far you have to go until each of the listed climbs which is great for timing your energy-giving Mars, Snickers or, for the older rider, Marathon bar so that you’re fuelled optimally for each effort.

Away from going uphill quickly, there’s a host of off-road features too. Grit rates the difficulty of your ride and then Flow is great for trail riding as it gives you a score based on how smoothly you carved your way down the singletrack. Brake too much and mess up your cornering as we do and your flow score won’t be very good. As you get better, the flow score will improve and it has certainly helped us to stay away from the brakes like good mountain bikers do.

Navigation

2021 Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS computer - 3.jpeg

The new Elemnt Bolt features what Wahoo calls Smart Navigation which was previously available only on the Elemnt Roam. This means that if you stray from a route that you’re following, the Elemnt Bolt will automatically re-route you. This is a pretty big step forward and that bit is working well.

Garmin’s Edge 530 does much the same thing. It also has a colour screen and the map is equally easy to read. Like the Wahoo, if you go off course the Garmin will get you back onto the right track and our testing has shown both devices to be great for this.

While the routing on Wahoo’s Elemnt Roam is very good, there have been some issues experienced by reviewers such as DC Rainmaker and our Tech Editor Mat Brett has reported some of the same issues. The Bolt has been slightly late on the turn notifications. Thankfully, Wahoo seems to have fixed the issue with some updates.

2021 Garmin Edge 530 GPS Computer-3

Getting pre-made routes from the likes of Strava and Komoot is really simple for both devices these days with proper syncing enabled so there’s no difference here.

Where we’d suggest that the devices differ is in, again, that smartphone app. The Wahoo is able to, mid-ride, take a location pin that you’ve dropped on the app and navigate to it. 

The Garmin Edge 830 does solve this problem somewhat. There you get a touchscreen which is actually really good. It’s the same one found on the stupidly expensive Edge 1030 Plus that we reviewed and it allows you to pinch to zoom, rotate the map and drag it around until you find where you want to drop your pin. It’s very much like a smartphone. You can do this with the Edge 530, but the buttons make it a bit of a pain.

Summary

So, which one should you hand over your money for? Well, our non-scientific scoring has given us a dead heat and we think that it comes down to the classic divide between Garmin and Wahoo which is features vs functionality. 

The Wahoo is easier to set up and customise and you do get a better app to support the headunit. The small details such as dropping a pin to navigate to from the app work better than Garmin’s system for the Edge 530.

If you’re buying for navigation then you’ll be happy with either device. The mapping is extensive and the colour screens make things very easy to read on both. We would, however, say that If you’re after a huge range of features, then the Garmin should take your money. Things like the Climbpro and coaching features are really good.

Still want to know more? Read the full reviews here...

Garmin Edge 530

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt

Well, there are our thoughts but which one would you go for? Have you already bought one of these cycling computers? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below. 

Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.

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