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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
This knob allows the Kickr to be optimally positioned for the type of bike it is being used with.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
Kickr 142x12 Thru Axle Adapter
-Adapter for 142x12 Axle
USB ANT+ Kit
-ANT+ Dongle kit connects Kickr and Kickr Snap devices to Mac or PC
Wahoo Fitness Bike Desk
-Adjustable desk for use while on the trainer to hold computer or tablet