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Wahoo Fitness Kickr Review

With no major drawbacks and top performance, this is one of our favorite trainers for any pain cave
Wahoo Fitness Kickr
Credit: Wahoo
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Price:  $1,200 List | $999.99 at Backcountry
Pros:  Good road feel, accurate power, easy to carry
Cons:  Heavy, expensive
Manufacturer:   Wahoo Fitness
By Curtis Smith ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 13, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
83
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 10
  • Connectivity and Power Accuracy - 25% 9.0
  • Road Feel - 25% 8.0
  • Design - 20% 9.0
  • Setup - 20% 8.0
  • Portability - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

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.

Product Updates
The Kickr received some small updates since we had our hands on it. Check out the details and comparison below.
January 2019

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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Wahoo Fitness Kickr
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $1,200 List
$1,000 at Backcountry
Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$549.00 at Amazon
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$550 List
$409.51 at Amazon
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Pros Good road feel, accurate power, easy to carryDoes not require calibration, realistic road-feel, broad compatibility, wider support for 3rd party appsLower price range for a premium trainer, good responsiveness, smooth, high power accuracyAffordable, simple to set up, easy to take on the road, great control for a tire drive trainerQuick setup, easy operation, durable, stable, communicates with training apps, low noise
Cons Heavy, expensivePower output/response can lag, pricey, heavy, somewhat of a pain to move around and set upStill relatively expensive, requires calibration, heavy, slightly aggressive in ERG modeResistance unit is just a bit bulky and heavy, manual drum adjustment, lower responsivenessLimited max resistance, roller can heat up and accelerate tire wear, no power data, no control
Bottom Line With no major drawbacks and top performance, this is one of our favorite trainers for any pain caveEasily the best bike trainer on the market for supercharged workouts in-season and off-season conditioningA more affordable premium direct drive trainer to get you through winter, rain, and turbo-charged training sessionsA tire-drive model with all the awesome performance of a smart trainer at a fraction of the priceA simple, affordable, and highly functional tire drive trainer with the option to use it with training apps
Rating Categories Wahoo Fitness Kickr Tacx Neo 2T Smart Saris H3 Direct Drive Kinetic Road Machin... Saris Fluid 2
Connectivity and Power Accuracy (25%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Road Feel (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Design (20%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Setup (20%)
8.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Portability (10%)
6.0
6.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Specs Wahoo Fitness Kickr Tacx Neo 2T Smart Saris H3 Direct Drive Kinetic Road Machin... Saris Fluid 2
Type Direct drive Direct drive Direct drive Tire drive Tire drive
Weight (lbs) 45 lbs 47 lbs 47 lbs 28 lbs 21 lbs
Compatible Platforms TrainerRoad, Zwift, Wahoo Smartphone App, Rouvy, and Wahoo SYSTM TrainerRoad, Zwift, Tacx Films, Rouvy, Wahoo SYSTM, Kinomap, FulGaz, BKool, and Road Grand Tours. TrainerRoad, Zwift, Rouvy, BKOOL, Kinomap, RGT, and more TrainerRoad, Zwift, Kinetic Fit, Rouvy, Kinomap, Wahoo SYSTM, FulGaz. TrainerRoad, Zwift, Rouvy, Wahoo SYSTM
Communication Protocol ANT+ FEC, Bluetooth Smart ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth FTMS ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth FTMS ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth FTMS ANT+ BlueGiga USB
Dimensions L-H-W (inches) 20.25" x 18" x 28.25" 22.6" x 29.5" x 21.7" 31” x 18.5” x 19.5” 32"x22.4"x16" 28" x 21.5" x 15.7"
Storage Dimensions LxHxW (inches) 20.5" x 18.25" x 8.75" 24.4" × 10.2" × 17.3" 8.5” x 18.5” x 19.5” 20.75"x8.25"x21.5" 20.5" x 9" x 20.75"
Power Comparison 3 watts, 1% 1-3 watts, 1% 1-3 watts, 1% 10 watts, 5% 10 watts, 5%
Decibel @ 230 Watts 64.6 dB 57.8 dB 55.3 dB 55.9 dB 64.7 dB
Roll Out Time @ 200 watts 53 seconds 26 seconds 58 seconds 17 seconds 15 seconds
Flywheel 12.5 lbs Virtual 20 lbs 12 lbs 3 lbs
Additonal Cassette Sram 11spd included, Campy freehub option available No Cassette included No Cassette included Skewer included Skewer
Axle compatibility 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.

Our Analysis and Test Results

Updates to the Kickr


Wahoo made some updates to the Kickr. According to Wahoo Fitness, the latest version has a heavier flywheel specially engineered to deliver cyclists the precise inertia necessary to emulate the feeling of riding outdoors. They also claim that it's significantly quieter than its predecessor. See the newest version in the photo on the left and the version we tested in the photo on the right.

Wahoo Fitness KICKR 11-Speed
Wahoo Fitness KICKR 11-Speed

Since we've yet to get training sessions on the updated Kickr, the following review pertains only to the version we initially tested.

Hands-On Review of the Kickr


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.

Performance Comparison


Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the wahoo kickr is an awesome direct drive smart trainer.
The Wahoo Kickr is an awesome direct drive smart trainer.
Credit: Curtis Smith

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.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the wahoo fitness mobile application was by far the most simple and...
The Wahoo Fitness mobile application was by far the most simple and intuitive native application we tested.
Credit: Curtis Smith

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.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the wahoo kickr proved to have impeccable power accuracy during...
The Wahoo Kickr proved to have impeccable power accuracy during testing.
Credit: Curtis Smith

Road Feel


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.

Resistance Changes

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.

Design


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.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - this knob allows the kickr to be optimally positioned for the type...
This knob allows the Kickr to be optimally positioned for the type of bike it is being used with.
Credit: Curtis Smith

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.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the cheap sram cassette that came with our kickr had poor shifting...
The cheap Sram cassette that came with our Kickr had poor shifting performance.
Credit: Curtis Smith

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.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the kickr comes with a nice cadence sensor that straps to your shoe.
The Kickr comes with a nice cadence sensor that straps to your shoe.
Credit: Curtis Smith

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).

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the kickr can quickly swap between 130mm hub spacing and 135mm...
The Kickr can quickly swap between 130mm hub spacing and 135mm spacing by reversing this quick release spacer.
Credit: Curtis Smith

Setup


The Kickr is one of the highest-scoring smart trainers we tested for setup.

Initial 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.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the blue button is pressed to allow the leg to fold out. quick and...
The blue button is pressed to allow the leg to fold out. Quick and easy setup is a high point of the Kickr.
Credit: Curtis Smith

Ongoing Setup

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.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the kickr only needs calibration on a monthly basis.
The Kickr only needs calibration on a monthly basis.
Credit: Curtis Smith

Portability


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.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the wahoo kickr was a favorite among testers. if you had to pick one...
The Wahoo Kickr was a favorite among testers. If you had to pick one on aesthetics, it doesn't look half bad in the middle of the living room.
Credit: Curtis Smith

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.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer - the kickr has a nice carrying handle and folds up for transport or...
The Kickr has a nice carrying handle and folds up for transport or storage.
Credit: Curtis Smith

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.

Curtis Smith
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