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Wahoo Fitness Kickr Core Review

A high-performing direct drive trainer with premium features that doesn't break the bank
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Wahoo Fitness Kickr Core Review (The Kickr Core is a great option to get in your indoor miles.)
The Kickr Core is a great option to get in your indoor miles.
Price:  $500 List
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Manufacturer:   Wahoo Fitness
By Nathaniel Bailey ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 20, 2024
73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 12
  • Connectivity and Power Accuracy - 25% 8.0
  • Road Feel - 25% 7.0
  • Design - 20% 7.0
  • Setup - 20% 7.0
  • Portability - 10% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Kickr Core is a reliable direct-drive trainer with an approachable price point. It has performance that can compete with some models that cost twice its price. We love the solid accuracy, decent road feel and silent drive. This is the perfect trainer to choose if you're looking for an entry into virtual training and riding, and will serve both casual and serious riders well. If you're looking for a top-tier trainer with all of the latest bells and whistles, you'll want to read our bike trainer review.
REASONS TO BUY
Accurate
Quiet
Good road feel
Price
One year of free Zwift included
REASONS TO AVOID
Lacks a handle
Resistance isn't quite as smooth as premium options

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Bottom Line This trainer brings premium performance to a more affordable price pointEverything you want in a premium direct drive trainer for less than the high-end competitionOne of the best tire drive trainers, but still not as good as a direct-drive unitA super affordable but unrefined trainer for infrequent usersA very affordable trainer for the most basic of indoor cycling workouts
Rating Categories Wahoo Fitness Kickr... Saris H3 Direct Drive Wahoo Fitness Kickr... BalanceFrom Bike Tr... FDW Bike Trainer
Connectivity and Power Accuracy (25%)
8.0
8.0
6.0
1
1
Road Feel (25%)
7.0
7.0
6.0
2.0
2.0
Design (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
4.0
Setup (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Portability (10%)
7.0
8.0
5.0
9.0
9.0
Specs Wahoo Fitness Kickr... Saris H3 Direct Drive Wahoo Fitness Kickr... BalanceFrom Bike Tr... FDW Bike Trainer
Drive Type Direct drive Direct drive Tire drive Tire drive Tire drive
Measured Weight 40 lbs 47 lbs 38 lbs 19 lbs 17 lbs
Roll Out Time @ 200 watts 44 seconds 58 seconds 45 seconds 5 seconds 5 seconds
Power Comparison 3-5 watts, 2% 1-3 watts, 1% 10-15 watts, 5% N/A N/A
Communication Protocol ANT + FE-C, Bluetooth ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth FTMS ANT+ FEC, Bluetooth Smart None None
Dimensions L-H-W 31” x 18.5” x 19.5” 26" x 18.25" x 28.75" 22"x22"x15" 23.9" x 20.1" x 7.6"
Storage Dimensions LxHxW 8.5” x 18.5” x 19.5” 20.75" x 7.5" x 20.5" 22"x22"x15" 23.9" x 20.1" x 7.6"
Type of Trainer Smart Smart Smart Standard Standard
Flywheel 12 lbs 20 lbs 10.5 lbs 5 lbs, Magnetic 5 lbs
Axle compatibility 130mm and 135mm skewer, 142mm and 148mm thru axle 130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle available for 142mm and 148mm through CycleOps 130mm, 135mm compatible || 142mm adaptor available through Wahoo 130mm and 135mm || May need 3rd party adaptors for 142mm and 148mm 130mm and 135mm || May need 3rd party adaptors for 142mm and 148mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Kickr Core is reliable, powerful, simple to get set up. With a maximum power output of 1800 watts, it's more than enough for serious training at a more wallet-friendly price point.

Performance Comparison


The only untis that genuinely outperform the Kickr Core cost twice as much or more. We think the Core's versatility and ease of use make it a good option for most riders.

wahoo fitness kickr core - we tested the wahoo fitness kickr core thoroughly, across a range of...
We tested the Wahoo Fitness Kickr Core thoroughly, across a range of bikes and use cases.
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

Connectivity and Power Accuracy


The Kickr Core uses the usual bike trainer protocols: ANT+, ANT + FE-C, and Bluetooth. It is equipped to handle three Bluetooth connections. Setup and firmware updates work through the Wahoo Fitness app, which is easy to use. We also tested the trainer on Wahoo SYSTM, Wahoo's training app that offers training plans, virtual rides and workouts. We had a good experience on the app, but still prefer other options like Zwift. We found the Core was very easy to use and integrate with Zwift, with no connectivity issues across the various protocols we tested.


Wahoo claims power accuracy to be +/- 2%, and that's about what we experienced when compared to our Favero Assimoa Duo power meter pedals. While that isn't as accurate as higher-end models, it's more than enough for casual Zwifting and serious training. We did note some more significant variations during short, high-output sprints. That isn't unusual for most trainers, although we found it happened more with the Core than more expensive direct-drive units. Similarly, we noticed a slight increase in power variation on longer rides as the unit got hotter. We're nit-picking and comparing this unit to ones with a higher stated accuracy and price point. Compared to similarly priced trainers, the Core is excellent.

wahoo fitness kickr core - the kickr core shares many features with the more premium kickr...
The Kickr Core shares many features with the more premium Kickr, shown on the right. We didn't experience any of the minor accuracy issues we experienced with the Core in the Kickr.
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

Finally, Wahoo has released a firmware that allows the Core to be used with Zwift Play controllers. That means the Core can be used for virtual shifting in Zwift. To do so, connect the Zwift Play controllers and put your chain in the middle of the cassette. You'll then be able to use the Play controllers to shift in the game virtually. The trainer changes resistance rather than you changing gears.

Road Feel


The Core stands out among entry-level direct drive trainers for its realistic road feel. Only a few trainers outperformed it in this category, and they were all premium models. The 12-pound flywheel does an impressive job of simulating road feel in Sim mode, where changes to resistance are smooth while riding in Zwift, although not as imperceptible as higher-end units.


Power ramping in ERG mode intervals is smooth and well-timed. Accuracy was on par with competitors, although we did notice a slight overshoot at the beginning of some intervals, particularly when we were fatigued. The Core has a max power of 1800 watts and can simulate 16% grades. Both are more than enough for most riders. However, we found that the pedal stroke became very choppy at grades over roughly 14%, with uneven resistance. Other users have reported similar issues, typically when using maximum resistance settings. If we're being honest, it's not something we're concerned about. You should consider a premium option if you're strong enough to ride grades that steep or push 1800 watts regularly. The rest of us rarely approach that output, so it's not an issue we have to deal with regularly.

The Kickr Core stands out for its road feel, especially considering its price point. Only premium trainers costing significantly more can compete in this area.

The Core has a road feel that is only surpassed by trainers that cost twice as much.
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

Design


The Kickr Core scored high marks for design. It is simple, sturdy, and fairly compact. While the legs double as a handle, they are also cumbersome when moving the trainer around.

Moving the Core is simple enough, but it would really benefit from a handle.
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

With the simple addition of a well-placed handle, this could be a much more portable trainer. Like most direct-drive trainers, the Core doesn't collapse for easy storage. While it is easier to slide out of the way and is much lighter than some other competitors, a handle would be nice.


Wahoo ships the trainer with your option of 8 through 12 speed cassettes (or no cassette at all). It fits 130/135mm quick release and 12x142/148 thru-axle. However, it's worth noting that the Kickr Core (or any Kickr) is incompatible with Trek's Thru-skew standard.

wahoo fitness kickr core - the contents of the core's box.
The contents of the Core's box.
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

The Wahoo Kickr Core is a practical and robust trainer that prioritizes functionality over portability. This, combined with its quiet operation, user-friendly design, and attractive price tag, makes it a compelling choice for cyclists looking for a high-value indoor trainer.

Setup


Setting up the Kickr Core is relatively simple, made easier for first-time users by the clear instructions on the box's QR code.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr Core
Wahoo Fitness Kickr Core
If you follow the QR code on the box, Wahoo has clear and easy to...
If you follow the QR code on the box, Wahoo has clear and easy to follow instructions to get you rolling.

Since the Kickr Core shipped came with a pre-mounted cassette that you chose, you'll only need to mount the legs (just a few bolts) and ensure you have the right axle adapter before you mount your bike, plug in the trainer, and ride. We did note that the adapters fell out more easily in this trainer than in others and that their labeling was poor.

Fitting adapters is a standard procedure when changing the type of axle you'll be using. We found the labeling on the adapters to be poor and also found that they fell out easier than most competitors. This doesn't matter if you assemble your axle with the adapters on it and install them together, but many beginners won't know that trick.
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

As mentioned earlier, the Wahoo app is simple and easy to use. Connecting to a phone or tablet is easy, and you can push firmware updates as soon as the trainer is plugged in.

wahoo fitness kickr core - it's easy to push firmware updates to your trainer from the wahoo...
It's easy to push firmware updates to your trainer from the Wahoo app via Bluetooth connection.

Portability


To assess a trainer's portability, we focus on its ease of transport and storage. This includes factors like foldability, weight, ease of transport, and ease of storing.


The Core isn't the best choice for a portable trainer. That's for two reasons: first, it lacks a handle, and second, it doesn't collapse to make a smaller footprint. At 40 pounds, it isn't the lightest premium trainer either. You can't fit this trainer into a backpack, and it's not ideal for toting around to races, although you could if you had to.

wahoo fitness kickr core - compared to the premium kickr, the core is missing two valuable...
Compared to the premium Kickr, the Core is missing two valuable things for portability. First, collapsible legs. The footprint of the Core never changes. Second, a handle.
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

Should You Buy the Kickr Core?


The Kickr Core is an excellent, affordable direct-drive option. It packs many premium features into a well-made, dependable, and high-performing package. As long as you're not concerned about portability or perfect accuracy, this is the trainer we recommend to most people buying a smart trainer for the first time.

wahoo fitness kickr core - the kickr core is a great option to get in your indoor miles.
The Kickr Core is a great option to get in your indoor miles.

What Other Bike Trainer Should You Consider?


While costing dramatically more, the Wahoo Fitness Kickr scored higher overall due to improved accuracy, road feel, performance, connectivity, and setup. If these aspects are crucial for your indoor cycling experience, the Kickr might be worth the additional investment. At that higher price, also consider the Tacx Neo 2T Smart, which scored just a little higher.

Nathaniel Bailey