My Garmin 500 and 520 have gotten a lot of use. I have logged thousands of miles on them. However, I have to admit I was intrigued when Stages and Wahoo started coming out with new head units over the last few years.
I liked the promise of the newcomers and their monochrome displays; and I especially looked forward to an easy to use, "non-Garmin" interface. Personally, I just didn't understand why I couldn't simply use my PC or phone to create data fields that I want and then have them sync to my phone. I never wanted to create the various device profiles that one needs with the 520, I simply wanted to pair my sensors and maybe put them in a different order of priority from time to time. What I want to see on screen during a road race, a time trial, a CX race, and a training ride are completely different.
For example, in a road race I am interested in distance first and foremost. I don't focus on power as much as I used to because if anything it holds me back. Ride faster, close up the gaps, and shut up. Simple.
In a TT, I want to see my 3 second and maybe 30 second power so I can pace it well. I want to see distance again, so I know how long this hell is going to last. Simple.
In a CX race, I focus on time and to a lesser extent HR. I know how hard I can go and I need to know how long it is going to last. Simple.
On a training ride, I want to focus on IF, TSS, elevation (if it is a hilly ride), and time in the saddle. What zone am I in? Why am I in that zone? Simple.
Those fields are what I want out of the head unit. The Garmin units are not always easy to plug away at the device and create and modify screens. It is a real PITA. And multiple sensors always seem to be an issue. Overall, I feel like I waste a lot of time scrolling and inputting info one digit at a time.
I also wanted a device that could easily take a route and give me turn by turn directions. As a ride coordinator, we use cue sheets all the time. Being able to have turn by turn is a godsend. I can do it on my phone with RidewithGPS, but outside of the trainer room, I have to say I hate my phone being exposed to the elements and possibility of an accident. I also love going out and exploring other people's routes. After a short intro to gravel riding this spring, I would love to re-ride that route. The ability to follow that route again on the head unit will be awesome. The integration of software like RidewithGPS and the head unit is a great feature.
In the last two years, it appears that the Stages unit has fallen off the radar, and the Wahoo Elemnt and Bolt have really taken off. As more and more end users have adopted the Wahoo units, I thought it would be a good time to check one out. Friends and Internet pundits who have the Bolt say it is great for customizing screens and pairs quickly with both Ant+ and Bluetooth sensors. Recent firmware updates allow the units to provide the user with clear turn by turn directions. This was enough for me to order one up.
So how does it work in real life, and how does this turn by turn pan out. Stay tuned....
Watch DC Rainmaker's Bolt Deep Dive for now....