Although I’ve never had any real complaints with Garmin head units, I can see why folks like the Wahoo devices. Being firmly entrenched in the Garmin ecosystem, there were several reasons I had avoided the temptation to try a Wahoo head unit. Probably the biggest being the mount. Why a mounting system could be so similar and yet incompatible makes no sense to me. The lack of integration with Garmin Connect, although not a show-stopper, was also an issue. And finally, the lack of support for the ANT+ Radar profile, and therefore the Garmin Varia RTL510 was the final straw.
Well, the latest firmware update for the Wahoo ELEMNT, Bolt, and Roam with its addition of the ANT+ Radar profile unchecked one of those issues and that was just enough to get me to bite the bullet and add a Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt head-unit to the gear closet.
As mentioned above, I’ve never had any serious complaints with the numerous Garmin head units I’ve had over the years. They’re certainly not perfect and there’s always going to be the odd bug and/or annoyance–but nothing of any real consequence. However, it didn’t take long with the Bolt to understand why the Wahoo devices have such a loyal following. I wouldn’t call the setup process simple, but it’s definitely easier, more intuitive, and quicker via the Wahoo smartphone app than when having to navigate the numerous on-device menus found on a Garmin device. With only the initial setup and a single ride, I’m certainly no Wahoo head unit expert, but at this point, I’d have no problem recommending one if you’re in the market for a new device. As usual, the most complete reviews can be found over at DC Rainmaker and GPLama. Check ’em out.
New Firmware with ANT+ Radar Support
As noted, it was the addition of the ANT+ Radar profile and therefore support for the Garmin Varia RTL510 that brought the Bolt back onto my radar (no pun intended). Having used the Varia for quite a while, somewhat based on GPLama’s glowing review, I wasn’t surprised to find that he quickly released an updated video when Wahoo announced the new firmware with ANT+ Radar support.
In general, the Varia works almost identically on the Wahoo as it does on a Garmin device. A small band to the side of the display shows one or more cars progressively moving up the track as they get closer. The two things that I immediately noticed about the Wahoo, however, was the volume of the alert tones and the visibility of the LEDs across the top of the unit. Like a lot of folks my age, I probably suffer from some amount of high frequency hearing loss, but in all the the quietest of settings, I rarely hear any tones emanating from a Garmin head unit. The Wahoo, even with nearby traffic, was definitely audible. Likewise, the band of LEDs across the top of the unit provide an additional visual cue when new traffic is detected and again when the coast is clear. This basically eliminates the need for the “Radar display unit” sold as part of the Varia bundle.
All in all, the ANT+ Radar profile integration seems to be a nice addition to an already very capable device. And depending on the type of roads you frequent, the Varia Radar could well be one of the best investments you can make in your cycling safety.
As long as we’re out there, we might as well see how the GPS tracking stacks up. Not sure why I didn’t think to toss another Garmin unit in the available holder but I guess I was just too anxious to get out on the road and see the Bolt in action. I was, however, wearing my new Forerunner 945 so there’s at least one other device in the comparison. As you can see from the number of data points collected, the FR945’s GPS mode was still set to “Smart”. I generally set my Garmin devices to record every second but it didn’t seem to affect the accuracy. I might just leave it that way. In any case, both devices performed very well with the FR945 having a slightly smaller standard deviation.
There’s not much else to offer after just one ride, so with that, thanks for reading!