Garmin Edge 520 vs Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt – Review

I’ve used a Garmin Edge 520 for a while now and having recently purchased a Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt in limited edition fluro yellow, I thought it an opportunity to pit them head to head in a Bolt vs Edge review

Garmin Edge 520 vs Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt

Does it have the Edge?

The Garmin Edge 520 has been my go-to head unit for a couple of years and its never really let me down. Other than some questionable ‘Total Gradient’ estimations and issues with phone syncing, the Edge did the intended job. It looks neat and clean with its black/white design and colour screen, the buttons were easy to operate and the battery life lasted me well over 8 hours, using navigation.

I could link my HR sensors, speed/cadence with no issues whatsoever and the recently updated phone app meant that it was easier than ever to upload my rides to third party apps like Strava. However, I’ve never particularly enjoyed setting up routes I’ve created on my Garmin. Having to plug it into a laptop, download the file and then pull it into a folder was easy enough to do, but seemed a bit archaic.

A Bolt from the… Yellow

Despite the outdated setting up of routes, I was more than happy with the Edge and if it wasn’t for the limited edition fluro yellow Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt, that seemed to match my bike perfectly, I would have kept it as my No. 1 bike computer for many years. Wahoo had me in suckered in and having parted with £200 I got my hands on a very similar but in many ways different bike computer.

Spot the difference

The screen size is the same (more or less) with the Edge 520’s colour screen ever-so-slightly bigger than that of the Wahoo. They both use buttons which I prefer over a touchscreen for those sweaty or wet rides, although I did find the buttons ergonomically easier to operate on the Wahoo over the Garmin. The main buttons for cycling through screens and starting/stopping are on the face of ELEMNT Bolt as opposed to the side and although a small detail, they just seemed easier to press. Turn by turn navigation is possible on both units and both are easy enough to follow, without getting lost or missing a turn. If I was picky, I’d say the Garmin Edge 520 does navigation a little better, although downloading my routes to the Wahoo was far easier.

Both head units come with a Strava Segments feature, that pop up when out riding, and they both sync perfectly fine with Power Meters, HRM’s, Turbo Trainers using ant+ or BlueTooth.

I did find the ELEMNT Bolt so much easier to setup. The Wahoo phone app was night and day compared to Garmin Connect. I could setup my Bolt, sort out the information I want on my screen and sync all my routes from Strava within minutes. I was amazed at the ease of it, instead of digging into and scrolling through various menus on my Garmin.

Wahoo ELMENT Bolt vs Garmin Edge 520

Zoom in

I find the Zoom in/out feature on the Bolt handy too. On my Garmin I had a few pages setup with various information displaying on them. For example, most of the time I ran with HRM and Cadence. But occasionally I didn’t want all that information and I found myself having to cycle through my created profiles. It was especially irritating when I was using navigation and I’d have to continuously cycle through various pages, back and forth to my map. The Wahoo however has a Zoom feature in which you prioritize information and Zooming in means that unwanted data can be removed from the page making a less cluttered screen depending on your ride. I think this is a great feature.

The crux

It’s very difficult to sepearte the two. They both do their job well.

Am I happy with my purchase of the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt? Absolutely, but I was also happy with my purchase of the Garmin Edge 520. If I had to pick one, I’d go with the Wahoo. The app is better, I find it easier to use and in my opinion it looks better with its aerodynamic dock integration. You’ve got yourself a bloody good head unit if you own any of them though.

Zwift vs Sufferfest – Which is better for delivering results?

Zwift vs Sufferfest, which one came out on top for me? Which platform kept me motivated longer and delivered results faster?

The days when toiling away on a turbo trainer was comparable to medieval torture are long gone. In the new age of smart trainers like the Wahoo Kickr or the Tacx Vortex, riding your bike indoors can actually be quite fun (other Turbo Trainers are avaliable). Riding on a turbo won’t be improving your bike handling skills and I don’t think it could ever truly replace the feeling of being outside in the elements on your bicycle, however using platforms like Zwift and The Sufferfest mean that you don’t have to stick on the Corrie Omnibus to grind away those hours spent training indoors.

Zwift vs Sufferfest
Zwift vs Sufferfest

Turbo training increases your fitness… fact. A major advantage of the turbo is the consistency it provides. I don’t know of many roads where you can pedal constantly for an hour, just focussing on the effort without worrying about vehicles, traffic lights and junctions. In terms of the work you can do in a given time it beats the road hands down. According to some, 60 minutes on the turbo can equate to about a 90 minute outdoor ride, plus its quick and easy. With no need to put on any cycling specific apparel, you could just jump on the bike in your pants if it takes your fancy. How you ride your bike in the pain cave is your business though!

The Sufferfest

So how about the platforms that I’ve had the pleasure of using? The Sufferfest and Zwift have their highlights and both offer very different experiences.  The Sufferfest is slightly less impressive and unlike Zwift where you are put into a virtual world where you can ride with other people, you are instead following a video and expected to match certain cadence and power values based on your FTP. It sounds super straightforward and simple compared to Zwift and it is, but thats not say its bad. The videos are designed to be highly motivating and in most cases I find that the Sufferfest videos hold my interest much more than the comparable Workout Mode in Zwift. Time seems to pass quicker and at no point did I find myself desperately waiting for it to be over. As you toil away, The Sufferfest will place you in a famous race or in some cases a solo ride up an epic climb. Motivating and often humorous messages will flash up across the screen to help break up the monotony of turbo training and overall the package helps provide an immersive and entertaining experience.

Also The Sufferfest now taps into the mental and recovery aspects of improving your fitness and performance with cycling specific Yoga and Mind training videos as part of the software’s catalogue. I certainly consider both of these invaluable factors in improving your cycling fitness and conditioning. Especially the mental training which I wrote about recently on my blog.

The Sufferfest - Revolver

Zwift

Like The Sufferfest, Zwift has more than just workouts. In fact Workouts are really only a subsidiary of Zwift and a recent addition to the platform. Thats not to say that the Workout mode is inferior in any way. If fact quite the opposite, with an extensive catalogue of different Workouts and also the ability to import your own that you or possibly your coach has created and tailored specifically for you, Zwift pretty has everything you need. No, it doesn’t have the motivational on screen text or music that comes with The Sufferfest, but what it does have is other real life cyclists riding with you. Cyclist you may want to ride with or maybe even beat to the top of Box Hill?  As I ventured out around the fictional island of Watopia or Richmond and London, I often found myself joining group rides for recovery sessions or even just jumping on for an hour with my friends, competing against each other in sprints, trying to hit the summits first etc. But where Zwift really came into its own for me though was the community led racing events. I was addicted to it. Not only that, the racing on Zwift is pretty much full gas out of the blocks and stays at that level right up to the finish, meaning you get an extremely good workout.

Zwift is effectively a video game that keeps you fit. You earn XP for riding, finishing workouts, completing sprints and KOM’s. The more XP you earn the more gear you unlock or different bikes you can ride. This sort of stuff makes you get back in the saddle. You start to want those better wheels so you can be faster on those virtual races, and the only way to get them is to ride more.

So which is better?

Firstly, whatever training platform you choose to use, if you put the time in, you will get fitter on the bike and you will enjoy your time on the Turbo Trainer ten fold compared to slogging away looking at your garage wall. I found that both platforms delivered results, improving my FTP, increasing my performance an ultimately providing me with the motivation to get on the bike. In the end the only thing that matters is that you get a good training session instead of becoming a couchlandrian!

If I’m honest, I find Zwift slightly more up my street as its not as one dimensional as The Sufferfest is. I think what The Sufferfest does, it does brilliantly. Workouts are enjoyable (as enjoyable as absolutely killing yourself can be anyway) and they are effective. Another thing worth mentioning is that I have never had a problem with The Sufferfest software. It has never crashed, disconnected or lagged out in any way, where as I’ve had very few, but still some connection issues with Zwift. Having said that, Zwift as a package I think is unparalleled in what it can offer right now. Workouts, social rides, racing, even just bumming around London on your own! The world is incredibly immersive and although not quite as good as getting out in the real world, its definitely as close as it gets right now.

If you only want to use the Turbo trainer for workouts and improving your FTP for the Summer season then subscribe to The Sufferfest. You will get plenty of good hard quality sessions to keep you occupied throughout the winter and in prime condition for the summer season. However if like me, you want more that just workouts, then Zwift is for you. Join a social ride, sit in a group, race in a Crit. Do all the things you want to do in real life but in relative discomfort of your home! And when the sun comes out and you get back on actual tarmac, you will be stronger and faster than ever!

 

Just to note, I’m yet to use TrainerRoad hence the reason I’ve not mentioned it. However I am lead to believe that it really stands out if you want a structured training plan. Perhaps I will try it for a future blog post!