Review: Wahoo KICKR indoor bike trainer

Beyond 2000 was a documentary TV Show that aired from 1985 to 1999 and featured technological innovations that were meant to improve our lives and be widely available to the mass market soon after the year 2000. Most inventions and ideas were outstanding and, for the time it was aired, quite out there. Flying cars, jetpacks as daily transport - next level stuff.

Wahoo Kickr 5.jpg

 

Using the Wahoo KICKR reminded me of Beyond 2000 and made me realize just how far technology has come to be able to ride on an indoor trainer, controlled by my cellphone using an online training program loaded with algorithms that not so long ago were spared for the very clever.

 

Specifications


Wireless Technology: ANT+ & Bluetooth 4.0
Devices: iOS / Android / PC (Mac and Windows)
Resistance Type: Electromagnetic
Accuracy: + / - 3%
Wireless Software Updates: Yes
3rd Party Power Meter Support: Yes
Metrics: Speed / Distance / Power / Cadence
Flywheel Weight: 12.5 lbs
Inertia (indexed to 100): 175
Max Wattage (@ 20 mph): 1550 W
Max Incline (75 kg rider @10 mph): 15.0"

 

Initial Impressions


"It's not light." Weighing in at just under 21kg, it sure is a solid piece of tech. This will only be an issue issue if you travel with your IDT or move it around quite a bit. For most, it won't be an issue as it will most likely have a permanent spot somewhere in your house where you train. The plus side of the extra weight is it feels very solid. At no time did I feel like it wouldn't hold up to years and years of abuse.

 

Design and fit is well thought out adding to it's ease of use. Swapping out bikes takes a minute or two, provided you can use the same cassette on both.

 

Wahoo Kickr 4.jpg

 

Mounting a bike


The Wahoo KICKR can accommodate just about any bike with 24", 650c, 700c, 26", 27.5", 29" wheel sizes are all catered for. 130mm, 135mm, 142 (with adapter) axle widths and 8,9,10 and 11 speed road ensures your investment in bike and trainer will not cause headaches down the line.

 

Wahoo Kickr 1.jpg

 

Making the required adjustments is a quick and easy task and will you see you up and running in no time. The trainer needs an external device to control it and an electrical power source, although it can be pedaled if you'd really like or need to when power isn't an option.

 

When you mount a bike for the first time, and every so often, you need to perform a spin-down test to recalibrate.

 

Accessories


Wahoo has a full range of accessories available to use with the KICKR or any other compatible devices. For the review, I chose to keep things simple and only used their RFLKT+ bike computer and TICKR X workout tracker / heart rate monitor.

 

Wahoo Kickr 8.jpg

 

Wahoo TICKR X

 


The TICKR X offers advanced motion analytics like cycling cadence and also includes memory for all the workouts that don’t allow you to keep a smartphone on hand. It works seamlessly with over 50 iPhone and Android Apps including Runkeeper, Strava, MapMyfitness, and Runmeter. Sharing and uploading your data is easy. Either email it to yourself or upload it to any of your favourite training platforms.

 

Wahoo Kickr 9.jpg

 

I will be doing a separate review on the TICKR X, as it justifies it's own time in the spotlight.

 

Wahoo RFLKT+

 


The app powered Wahoo RFLKT bike computer lets you control cycling app data from your handlebars and display in real-time. With the customizable screen, you can view speed, distance, time, heart rate, and more. After your ride, you are able to save and share your results with friends or a coach. I used it with both Wahoo's and Today's Plan's APPS and didn't experience any issues. Make a setup change on your phone or edit the page view and it immediately updates the display on the RFLKT+.

 


Wahoo Kickr 10.jpg

Wahoo Kickr 11.jpg


The biggest advantage here is that you don't have to mount your phone on the bike and, should you use a tablet or laptop for your training, there's no need to have it around or even within sight. It also works for rides where you'd like to keep your phone out of site or harm's way, but still need to see the vitals of your ride. I used two different screens when on the trainer and when out on the tar.

 

Wahoo Apps.JPG
Just some of the apps that are Wahoo Kickr compatible.

 

On the Trainer


The KICKR can be controlled by a variety of external sources - iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC and most Android devices (running 4.3 or newer).

 

We tested the KICKR with Bluetooth on a range of Apple as well as Android devices and with ANT+ on laptops with an ANT+ USB stick. On all of them connecting the device to the trainer was easy and took very little time. The connection was never dropped, readouts and any changes made were almost immediate with the only exception being when making a drastic change in resistance. Even then it only took a couple seconds for the KICKR to up the ante. I see that as a good thing though as it gives you some time to up your effort

 

The Wahoo KICKR has a built-in power meter that allows you to accurately measure your effort. We tested the KICKR's wattage readings against power meters from other manufacturers and found the data to be accurate and (arguably) more important consistent.

 

Wahoo Kickr 2.jpg

 

Most of my training on it I used it with Today's Plan which saved me the time to have to select a specific mode or set up a training plan. If you're not planning to use one of those you can opt for one of 4 settings: level (10 power curves), resistance (set in percentage), erg (specific wattage) and sim (a calculation of outdoor riding based on programmable slope, wind speed and your physical measurements taken from your profile). All of these work as advertised, but I found it easiest to follow my training plan.

 

Doing that allows you full access to all of it's settings and measurements without the need to fiddle around. The Today's Plan APP connects to the KICKR in seconds and adding Wahoo's other devices was just as simple. What you have now is a trainer that will take you through your training leaving you to focus on cranking the pedals. Warm-up, cool down, resistance, wattage, specific zones are all included. In Today's Plan, you can select a training program for a specific race which will then (based on the amount of weeks you selected) work out a training program for you. All you have to do is get on your bike on the pre-selected days (these can be moved if you missed a training session) and the KICKR will do the rest.

 

For the Strava fans among us there is another option: Segments by Wahoo Fitness. Downloading this app to a compatible device will allow you to link it to your Strava profile enabling you to ride and train certain segments. It adds a level of fun to your training and helps you quickly forget that you are working up a sweat.

 

Verdict


Think of Blu-Ray vs VHS when comparing the Wahoo KICKR to a standard trainer. Yes, there are mechanics involved, but the experience is more digital and online than anything else I've tried. I've never been able to survive longer than 30 minutes on a trainer mainly because I get bored unless I'm engaged. With the amount of info available while training with the KICKR it is impossible to get bored.

 

An even bigger positive is the fact that there's very little you need to do to stay engaged - or entertained in my case. Wahoo have embraced APPS and open source fully with the KICKR and have managed to do it in such a way to make it easy for the electronically-illiterate to get up and running.

 

Wahoo Kickr 6.jpg

 

The Kickr provides a very realistic feel, the transition through the power levels is very smooth and it's fairly quiet - certainly a lot quieter than anything else I've experienced. I would so far as to say that a KICKR and a subscription online training program like Today's Plan needs to form part of every serious cyclists training arsenal.

 

Pricing


Wahoo Fitness KICKR - RRP R16,999.00

 

Wahoo Fitness RFLKT+ - RRP R1,999.00

 

Wahoo Fitness TICKR X - RRP R1,499.00

 

Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Ability to mount just about any bicycle
  • Integration with APPS
  • APP tray is big and growing
  • set up is quick, easy and painless
  • In my mind represents good value for money for the semi to serious rider
  • Sturdy and well-made
  • No need for external blocks or levellers to get the perfect riding position
  • Connection to devices are rock-solid
  • Realistic feel
  • Quiet
  • Build in power meter, cadence and speed increase it's value for money

Cons

  • Price?
  • On the heavy side (See Pros).






19 Comments

raptor-22, Oct 06 2015 10:30

I like

Balkan_Rider, Oct 06 2015 10:43

Tacx just released a "kickr" derivative. I wonder what its like.
All I know is that it costs more, and its blue.



Tacx just released a "kickr" derivative. I wonder what its like.
All I know is that it costs more, and its blue. Here's the link https://www.tacx.com...iners/neo-smart

Kom, Oct 06 2015 10:51

The Tacx Bushido costs R11,450, a much cheaper entry to virtual training.

 

I dont have experience with either, but somehow the static cassette on the Kickr looks like a blocker for those that want to interchange bikes, where on the tacx you keep your rear wheel on.

 

What is also arguable is how real the power delivery is on the Kickr having removed the rotating mass of the rim and tire etc probably compensated on the devices algorithm but never true to the wheel you actually ride with. I would prefer to train on my exact setup.

 

The RFLKT+ is an iphone battery killer, as it still relies on the phone to be the brain for the collation of data, be careful when using on long rides.

Christian van Zyl, Oct 06 2015 11:20

The Tacx Bushido costs R11,450, a much cheaper entry to virtual training.

 

I dont have experience with either, but somehow the static cassette on the Kickr looks like a blocker for those that want to interchange bikes, where on the tacx you keep your rear wheel on.

 

What is also arguable is how real the power delivery is on the Kickr having removed the rotating mass of the rim and tire etc probably compensated on the devices algorithm but never true to the wheel you actually ride with. I would prefer to train on my exact setup.

 

The RFLKT+ is an iphone battery killer, as it still relies on the phone to be the brain for the collation of data, be careful when using on long rides.

Hi Kom, 

 

To answer you on some of your comments. 

 

- The electromagnetic flywheel on the KICKR solves the "rotating mass" issue that you're referring to. The weight on the flywheel is made to simulate this very accurately. 

Your setup on the KICKR is more natural than most trainers where you require a block to compensate for height. When setting up your KICKR you can choose your frame size. 

 

- The RFLKT+ battery in the unit lasts up to two years due to the fact that it uses Bluetooth LE. This has the same effect on your phone and hardly uses any power. When using apps like Strava, the RFLKT+ simply reflects the data from the application.

The power hungry part is you phone using GPS, but with your phone's home screen "locked" your phone should outlive you on a ride. 

 

Cheers!

Iwan Kemp, Oct 06 2015 11:41

Some thoughts on your comments

 

 

The Tacx Bushido costs R11,450, a much cheaper entry to virtual training.

 

Not apples with apples

 

I dont have experience with either...

 

Maybe try them both first

 

but somehow the static cassette on the Kickr looks like a blocker for those that want to interchange bikes, where on the tacx you keep your rear wheel on.

 

I don't know anyone who uses different bikes on their trainer unless one is in for repairs. Can't see any use or benefit in swapping bikes out.

 

TO ME it's a huge benfit to have 1) a quiet trainer and 2) not waste your tire away. So no need for an extra training wheel, cassette and tire which only add cost and get in the way when not in use. Factor those in and you're a lot closer to the KICKR's asking price.

 

What is also arguable is how real the power delivery is on the Kickr having removed the rotating mass of the rim and tire etc probably compensated on the devices algorithm but never true to the wheel you actually ride with. I would prefer to train on my exact setup.

 

Don't know of any power meter that measures power on the tire or outside of the wheel. The KICKR's flywheel compensates for the rotating mass effect.

 

I used other power meters on the trainer and as the review says I found the KICKR to be accurate and, more importantly (to me), consistent. Unless you're training for bragging rights I feel it's more important to have a baseline to work from and improve from there. 

 

The RFLKT+ is an iphone battery killer, as it still relies on the phone to be the brain for the collation of data, be careful when using on long rides.

 

Wasn't an issue on any of the devices used. No more than usual using my phone as my training GPS using Endomondo or Today's Plan. Just lock your phone's screen when using the RFLKT+.

raptor-22, Oct 06 2015 12:19

Tacx Neo is the competitive offering to the Kickr and it costs more

raptor-22, Oct 06 2015 02:38

All power meters take rolling resistance into account. The Kickr simulates the rolling resistance.

Tacx models takes into account the friction of the tyre at the drum hence the constant need to calibrate these at every opportunity.

 

When using an IDT its never going to give you exactly the same numbers as if you were on the road. Even then your PM is not going to give you exactly the same readings on two rides on the same route on different days. Since the Kickr strips out the tyre drum interface it is always going to be more consistent than any PM that includes  tyre to surface friction in the direct measurement

madbradd, Oct 06 2015 05:33

Add Zwift to the supported apps.

As far as I know the tacx vortex smart is the cheapest option for a smart trainer. Again not apples with apples.

Banged out a 3h40 ride on my kickr last Sunday on Zwift. Never managed a ride longer than 40 mins on my "Jet Black" also I can hear the TV.

Great thing about these smart trainers is you can put them in erg mode and watch 2 episodes of your favourite series for an "easy", convenient, and really importantly safe 100TSS session without really noticing that you're putting the hours in.

Balkan_Rider, Oct 06 2015 06:13

I was referring earlier to the Tacx Neo Smart - looks just like the kickr https://www.tacx.com...iners/neo-smart

Goblin, Oct 06 2015 07:10

Been using my kickr for over a year. It's awsome but don't kid yourself out it being entertaining. Effective yes, entertaining no.

sliktrik, Oct 06 2015 07:39

Got to agree, the Kickr is brilliant and has done as much as anything else to get me riding again on a regular basis - no two rides have to be the same, I have ridden 60Km+ on it, paired with a fan, dstv and the ipad app from cycleops virtual training it just works (so much so that I am trying to find a 2nd hand one for the other rider in the family)

arendoog, Oct 06 2015 08:42

Have used mine during winter and now with the very hot weather in Gauteng i can ride alp dheuz on my cool balcony and listen to music at the same time .Rode a 2hour french col on kinomap between 8 and 10pm last night .I find it great to train hard using the powermeter to keep wattage constant .I use an ipad and a Galaxy 5 with wahoo fitness and kinomap

Kom, Oct 07 2015 09:22

Been using my kickr for over a year. It's awsome but don't kid yourself out it being entertaining. Effective yes, entertaining no.

You seem to be the exception. I live on table mountain, i go straight from my garage onto the trail with no tar between, convenience. I could not imagine, even when raining in the middle of winter, choosing a IDT over a morning ride up TM. I feel sorry for people who rely on bike carriers to enjoy the sport, perhaps the same for you leading to your comment?

madbradd, Oct 07 2015 10:17

Look, if you only use wahoo fitness app (in whatever mode) and just ride its not going to be entertaining. The various different apps make it entertaining (imo).

 

It's not as fun as riding on a mountain. It's not at fun as riding in a group on the road. But I think the comparison here is not that.... the comparison is that it is infinitely more entertaining than a standard trainer.

Mr X, Oct 07 2015 11:50

Another minor con is using a separate cassette to the 1 on your bike but the same chain. If wear is not even between bike and trainer then it will wear out the entire drivetrain quicker.

raptor-22, Oct 08 2015 06:57

Not if you replace the chain often enough.

MTB TG, Oct 08 2015 09:24

I thinks...the next MTB race should consist of two groups, 1 all the Kickr fans and a Tacx group fans...keep the race clean, no hair pulling or biting allowed :-)

Kom, Oct 08 2015 09:31

I thinks...the next MTB race should consist of two groups, 1 all the Kickr fans and a Tacx group fans...keep the race clean, no hair pulling or biting allowed :-)

Only a matter of time before race organizers allow virtual entries, in which case there would be no actual interaction for hair pulling. Virtual simulation reality additions for South Africa will include thieves for knife point bike jackings, and ignorant vehicle drivers for road events. Should you encounter either, your ride is abruptly ended :-(

WrightJnr, Oct 08 2015 03:56

Love my Wahoo KICKR. Comes a close second to actually being out on the bike.