The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Wahoo Fitness Kickr Review

With no major drawbacks and top performance, this is one of our favorite trainers for any pain cave.
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Price:  $1,200 List | $1,199.99 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Good road feel, accurate power, easy to carry
Cons:  Heavy, expensive
Manufacturer:   Wahoo Fitness
By Curtis Smith ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 19, 2019
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 7
  • Connectivity and Power Accuracy - 30% 9
  • Road Feel - 30% 7
  • Design - 20% 8
  • Setup - 10% 8
  • Portability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Wahoo Fitness Kickr is a well-designed direct drive smart 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.

Product Updates

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

January 2019


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $1,199.99 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare at 2 sellers
$1,199.00 at Amazon
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$875.00 at Amazon$896.42 at Amazon
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$280.39 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Good road feel, accurate power, easy to carryEven quieter, L/R power and pedal analysis, greater compatibility, super responsive, real-likeHigh power accuracy, low noise, great road feel and overall designGreat price for direct drive, quiet, consistently accurate, relatively lightQuick setup, easy operation, durable, stable, communicates with training apps, low noise
Cons Heavy, expensiveBulky, premium price, pedal analysis doesn’t support Mac or antiquated mobile devices, weightCadence data can drop, Campy and 10-speed hubs are a pain to matchLimited gradient and power, difficult to get Campy componentsLimited 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 cave.An already excellent, life-like training machine somehow got even better.Updated firmware and functionality place this one back near the top of the market.All of the best smart trainer features without the premium price.This trainer sits at the crossroads of great value and high functionality.
Rating Categories Wahoo Fitness Kickr Tacx Neo 2 Smart CycleOps H2 Smart Elite Direto CycleOps Fluid 2
Connectivity And Power Accuracy (30%)
10
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9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
4
Road Feel (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
5
Design (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
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9
10
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7
10
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7
Setup (10%)
10
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8
10
0
8
10
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6
10
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6
10
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8
Portability (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
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9
Specs Wahoo Fitness Kickr Tacx Neo 2 Smart CycleOps H2 Smart Elite Direto CycleOps Fluid 2
Type Direct drive Direct drive Direct drive Direct drive Tire drive
Weight (lbs) 45 lbs 47 lbs 47 lbs 33 lbs 21 lbs
Compatible Platforms-TrainerRoad, Zwift Yes, Both. Also Wahoo Smartphone App, Rouvy, and The Sufferfest. Yes, Both. Also Tacx Desktop, Rouvy, and The Sufferfest. Yes, Both. Also Rouvy and The Sufferfest. Yes, Both. Also Kinomap, Rouvy, and The Sufferfest. Yes, Both. Also Rouvy and The Sufferfest.
Communication Protocol ANT+ FEC, Bluetooth Smart ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth Smart ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth Smart ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth Smart 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” 33" x 25.6" x 2.7" 28" x 21.5" x 15.7"
Storage Dimensions LxHxW (inches) 20.5" x 18.25" x 8.75" 24.4" x 10.2" x 17.3" 8.5” x 18.5” x 19.5” 11.8" x 25.6" x 21.7" 20.5" x 9" x 20.75"
Power Comparison 3 watts, 1% 1-3 watts, 1% 1-3 watts, 1% 3-5 watts, 2.5% 10 watts, 5%
Decibel @ 230 Watts 64.6 dB 65.8 dB 60.9 dB 74.8 dB 64.7 dB
Roll Out Time @ 200 watts 53 seconds 21 seconds 26 seconds 13 seconds 15 seconds
Flywheel 12.5 lbs Virtual 20 lbs 9.3 lbs 3 lbs
Additonal Cassette Sram 11spd included, Campy freehub option available No Cassette included No Cassette included No Cassette included Skewer
Axel compatibility 130mm and 135mm compatible only. 130mm, 135mm compatible || Adaptors for 142mm and 148mm available through Tacx. 130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle compatible for 142mm and 148mm. 130mm, 135mm compatible || 142mm thru-axle available, 148mm requires Boost adaptor from Elite. 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 this year. The latest version has a heavier flywheel which has been specially engineered to deliver cyclists the precise inertia necessary to emulate the feeling of riding outdoors, according to Wahoo Fitness. 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

Since we've yet to get training sessions in 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 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. The Kickr is supported by a vast pool of third-party applications, and it performed admirably in our comparative testing.

Performance Comparison


The Wahoo Kickr is an awesome direct drive smart trainer.
The Wahoo Kickr is an awesome direct drive smart trainer.

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.

The Wahoo Fitness mobile application was by far the most simple and intuitive native application we tested.
The Wahoo Fitness mobile application was by far the most simple and intuitive native application we tested.

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 of great importance to you, then you cannot go wrong with the Kickr.

The Wahoo Kickr proved to have impeccable power accuracy during testing.
The Wahoo Kickr proved to have impeccable power accuracy during testing.

Road Feel


The Kickr offers 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 both SIM mode and ERG mode. 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, with the Kickr being 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.

This knob allows the Kickr to be optimally positioned for the type of bike it is being used with.
This knob allows the Kickr to be optimally positioned for the type of bike it is being used with.

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 is 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.

The cheap Sram cassette that came with our Kickr had poor shifting performance.
The cheap Sram cassette that came with our Kickr had poor shifting performance.

Despite using a Sram drivetrain, we were unable to 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 having a cadence sensor is not a necessity, it is a nice feature.

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.

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 can quickly swap between 130mm hub spacing and 135mm spacing by reversing this quick release spacer.
The Kickr can quickly swap between 130mm hub spacing and 135mm spacing by reversing this quick release spacer.

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 simple, 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 snap 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 did have some difficulty dialing in shifting with the included cassette and ended up swapping to a higher quality Ultegra model, but this is not necessary. Initial calibration takes a few minutes, and then you are set to go.

The blue button is pressed to allow the leg to fold out. Quick and easy setup is a high point of the Kickr.
The blue button is pressed to allow the leg to fold out. Quick and easy setup is a high point of the Kickr.

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.

The Kickr only needs calibration on a monthly basis.
The Kickr only needs calibration on a monthly basis.

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.

The Kickr has a nice carrying handle and folds up for transport or storage.
The Kickr has a nice carrying handle and folds up for transport or storage.

Best Applications


The Kickr is best suited to cyclists looking to improve their performance with consistent, controlled off-season training. Ideally, this trainer would remain in the pain cave, as it is not well suited to a warmup where electrical power is not present. It's also a great trainer for the athlete who wishes to use their mountain or cyclocross bike on the trainer as it eliminates issues with knobby tires on a drum that you get with tire drive models.

Value


We feel that the Kickr represents a good value. It comes with a cassette, which can save you a bit of money if you don't have a spare laying around.

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.
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.

Conclusion


The Kickr is a solid direct drive trainer that blows away the majority of the competition. It is only rivaled by the best direct drive trainers on the market. Despite not winning our Editors' Choice Award, we would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend.

Accessories


Kickr 142x12 Thru Axle Adapter
-Adapter for 142x12 Axle

-$30

USB ANT+ Kit
-ANT+ Dongle kit connects Kickr and Kickr Snap devices to Mac or PC

-$40

Wahoo Fitness Bike Desk
-Adjustable desk for use while on the trainer to hold computer or tablet

-$250


Curtis Smith