Does the Wahoo KICKR live up to expectations? See how it fared in our comprehensive review…
The Wahoo KICKR, winner of the 2014 Eurobike Gold Award for Best Accessory, is described as the ultimate Smartphone/Tablet powered trainer, giving you accurate power measurement and controlled resistance. I’ve used a number of turbo trainers and this is certainly by far the most realistic. The 12lb flywheel results in an extremely lifelike feeling of momentum when riding.
The buttons that need to be pressed to unlock and move the legs feel incredibly well-made and the frame is sturdier than any other trainer I’ve seen. Each leg has individual adjustment for height, which results in an extremely stable platform to mount your bike.
Unlike many turbo trainers, the bike is mounted directly – without the rear wheel.
Having the chain directly drive the trainer has a number of benefits. The KICKR does not require a special tyre, doesn’t slip under high power, doesn’t chew through your tyres and leave a black trail of destruction behind you. The fact that the wheel is removed also means the bike not having to be raised higher than standard, so there is no need for a separate front tyre raise – the trainer will comfortably accommodate wheel sizes from 24” to 29”. Perfect for girls’ small bikes running 650c wheels.
The KICKR comes complete with an 11-25 Shimano 10 or 11 speed cassette that is also compatible with SRAM drivetrains. If the supplied cassette is incompatible, Wahoo has an adapter so that other cassettes such as campagnolo can be fitted.
On the downside, mounting the bike to the trainer typically results in oily fingers.
Once the bike is mounted, the next stage is to connect the trainer to a control device and this is where the Wahoo KICKR really differentiates itself from other trainers on the market. The KICKR works with both ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0 making it connect instantly to all new Apple devices without the need for a separate dongle. The dual compatibility means that technically you shouldn’t need to replace any existing sensors such as ANT+ heart rate or cadence sensors. In practice it’s a little more difficult as in order to use ANT+ on an Apple device you need an ANT+ dongle. And you can’t buy an ANT+ dongle with Apples new lightning connector, so even though I found the free Wahoo App very capable of controlling the KICKR, I typically used the KICKR linked to my PC using the ANT+ dongle supplied with my Garmin watch.
The greatest difference between the KICKR and other trainers is that Wahoo have allowed any developer to access and control the KICKR; this has resulted in a huge number of compatible apps and programs. In the past, I have found that the big drawback of ‘smart trainers’ that need to be linked to computers is the generally poor and buggy software. By allowing expert developers to do this for them, Wahoo have successfully sidestepped the issue. When using other ‘smart trainers’ half of my available training time often ended up being used to connect the trainer and work through the associated bugs. With the KICKR it just worked and the only issue I experienced was the occasional power drop out, but this always reconnected itself within seconds.
For the purpose of this test, I used both TrainerRoad and VeloReality, both bought separately and very capable. My favourite of these apps is TrainerRoad, particularly when used with Sufferfest videos. I found that with the multitude of tools, spending time on the trainer is far more enjoyable – even fun – I even recently completed the entire 56 miles of the Ironman Mallorca 70.3 bike course!
In use, the trainer is no noisier or quieter than other high-end trainers I have used coming in at around 70Db, or just louder than a person speaking.
This trainer with its multitude of apps and programs will ensure that you never get bored of training indoors, and due to the nature of our climate I think that this more than justifies the hefty £948.99 price tag. Would I buy one? Absolutely! In fact, I already have…
Words: Jon Dundee
Jon, 36, has been a keen age group triathlete for the past three years and qualified for the ETU sprint distance European Championships in 2014. His favourite discipline is cycling and he has just completed the Ironman 70.3 in Majorca.
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