The Wahoo Fitness Kickr is a well-designed direct drive smart bike trainer that came close to claiming our Editors' Choice Award. It scored high in nearly every area of our comparative testing. A maximum resistance level of 2000 watts combined with the ability to simulate grades of up to 20 percent hint at the intended target audience of this trainer. This is a tool for the serious athlete who puts a premium on accuracy and control and wants to workout at home when they can't ride outside.
REASONS TO BUY
Good road feel
Easy to carry
REASONS TO AVOID
The Kickr received some small updates since we had our hands on it. Check out the details and comparison below. January 2023
Editor's Note: On January 15, 2022, we added additional information to this gear review to provide more insight on the products we would choose.
Cassette Sram 11spd included, Campy freehub option available
No Cassette included
No Cassette included
130mm and 135mm compatible only.
130mm, 135mm || Adaptors for 142mm and 148mm available through Tacx.
130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle available for 142mm and 148mm through CycleOps.
130mm, 135mm || 142mm and 148mm adaptors available through Kinetic.
120mm, 130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle available for 142mm and 148mm through CycleOps.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Updates to the Kickr
Wahoo made some updates to the Kickr with the latest version known as the V6. According to Wahoo Fitness, the latest version has a heavier, 16-pound flywheel specially engineered to deliver cyclists the precise inertia necessary to emulate the feeling of riding outdoors. It now comes with hub adapters to work with 12 x 142 and 12 x 148 axles. It looks nearly identical, but you can see the newest version in the photo on the left and the version we tested in the photo on the right.
Since we've yet to get training sessions on the updated Kickr, the following review pertains only to the version we initially tested.
Wahoo has cemented itself in the top tier of smart bike trainer brands, with quality products and an intuitive proprietary application that makes using their complex trainers manageable even for the technologically averse athlete. The Kickr sits at the top of their product range and has proven to be one of the most popular smart trainers on the market. A vast pool of third-party applications supports the Kickr, and it performed admirably in our comparative testing.
Connectivity and Power Accuracy
The Wahoo fitness application is by far the easiest to use of any of the proprietary applications included with the trainers we tested. We had no problems connecting to the mobile application on IOS or Android devices, and the automatic firmware updates are awesome. Connectivity with both Trainer Road and Zwift is seamless and sets the standard for our expectations from the other trainer brands.
Power accuracy is also excellent, with continuous steady readings within one percent of our Quarq crank-based power meter used during testing. Tire drive trainers showed more variability in power readings and had more drift from baseline accuracy during long sessions on the trainer. Our only complaint with the Kickr is that it seems to lag a bit behind the instantaneous changes in power displayed by a few other models during sprint-like efforts. We feel that this is not necessarily a measure of decreased accuracy on the part of the Kickr, but more likely a difference in the way the trainer smooths data for display. If power accuracy is important to you, you cannot go wrong with the Kickr.
The Kickr offers a standout road feel. In our roll-out test, the Kickr took 53 seconds to slow to a stop from 200 watts. Flywheel weight likely plays a role in this, as the Kickr flywheel weighs 12.5 pounds.
A few other direct drive trainers have smoother, more life-like resistance changes in SIM and ERG modes. The difference is much more pronounced in SIM mode when transitioning onto a steep slope, but even in ERG mode, the Kickr can't quite match the smooth transitional feel of a few other premium models. There is, however, a noticeable difference between the Kickr and all the tire drive trainers, as it is much smoother.
Rider Power Output Changes
Sharp increases in rider power output tend to send smart trainers into catch-up mode as they try to increase resistance to balance the incoming load. The Kickr does a good job of mitigating the "slam on the brakes" feel but isn't perfect.
The all-steel frame of the Kickr looks solid and durable. While aesthetically we like the look of the Kickr, a fully encased machine seems better suited to protecting the electronic components and resistance unit than the Kickr. The Kickr does have the unique ability to lower the height of the cassette to better match the height of various wheel sizes, which provides a level ride regardless of wheel size.
Accessories and Compatibility
The Kickr does not come with a front-wheel block. It does come with a Sram 11-speed cassette. We initially liked that the cassette was included, but after using the included cassette, we ended up removing it and replacing it with a higher quality Ultegra cassette that provided much better shifting performance.
Despite using a Sram drivetrain, we could not get the cassette to provide reliable shifting. One unique accessory to the Kickr is a cadence sensor that attaches to your shoe. We initially had trouble getting it to pair but discovered it had shipped with a dead battery, and a new battery resolved the issue. While a cadence sensor is not necessary, it is a nice feature.
The Kickr is compatible with 130mm and 135mm quick-release rear hub bikes, and it will also work with 142mm through axle frames. However, you will need to purchase the 142mm axle separately for the Kickr. The Kickr is not compatible with 148mm(Boost).
The Kickr is one of the highest-scoring smart trainers we tested for setup.
The trainer comes out of the box, essentially ready to ride. The application setup is fast and straightforward compared to all other smart trainers tested. With the cassette pre-installed, you will not have the additional step of adding a cassette, assuming you have an 11-speed drivetrain. The Kickr does need to be set for wheel size to provide a level setup, but this is a fast process and one you will only need to repeat if you are switching types of bikes on the trainer. The legs easily fold out by pulling up on the blue lock pins and snapping into the open position. All that is required to get onto riding is placing your bike on the trainer, which is essentially the same process as putting a wheel on your bike. We had some difficulty dialing in shifting with the included cassette and ended up swapping to a higher quality Ultegra model, but this is unnecessary. Initial calibration takes a few minutes, and then you are set to go.
Once the initial setup is complete, there is not much ongoing maintenance other than a monthly recalibration. Compared to tire drive models that require daily calibration, the Kickr is almost as simple as it gets.
The Kickr is not a lightweight piece of equipment. It is one of the heavier trainers we tested. The legs fold up, making for a relatively small package that's easy to store or transport in a car. Our testers found it easier to carry than other heavy trainers given its well-placed carrying handle and slightly less obtrusive shape when folded. The main downside to the Kickr is its lack of resistance when not connected to power. You can spin on it, but the resistance tops out in the 120-watt range.
Should You Buy the Kickr?
Depending on your goals, the Kickr could be a good option for you. It performed well in most of our tests, and users liked the road feel and its portability. While this is one of our favorite trainers, and one we'd recommend to a friend, we can see how some would balk at the price, especially if they don't require this "much" from a trainer. It is also somewhat heavy compared to the competition, which could be a problem if you hope to travel with it or need to move it frequently. However, despite these minor hiccups, we think it is a trainer sure to please.
What Other Bike Trainer Should You Consider?
While we adore this trainer, it could be more than you want to spend or more than you need to meet your at-home fitness goals. The Wahoo Fitness Kickr Snap is similar and cost less than half the price, making it a shoo-in option for most folks no matter what their goals. It also earned one of the highest overall scores, making it a better value overall, in our opinion.
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