The Kickr Snap is a very good tire drive trainer. This smart bike trainer uses your rear tire to turn a highly evolved controllable electromagnetic resistance unit. Tire drive trainers have advantages and disadvantages when compared to the more expensive direct drive trainers. The primary advantage of a tire drive trainer is a more affordable price, and the Snap is less expensive than direct drive models while also being one of the more expensive tire drive models in our test bunch. It does have the best road feel in its class, bringing something special to your home training routine.Editor's Note: An update to include new sections on what products we would buy was performed on January 15, 2022.
Wahoo Fitness Kickr Snap Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Durable, less expensive than direct drive models
Cons: Heavy, needs electric power for use, lacks versatility with boost hub spacing, expensive for a tire drive trainer
Manufacturer: Wahoo Fitness
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Wahoo Fitness Kickr Snap
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|Pros||Durable, less expensive than direct drive models||Lower price range for a premium trainer, good responsiveness, smooth, high power accuracy||Quick setup, easy operation, durable, stable, communicates with training apps, low noise||Quick setup, easy to move around, light, simple design||Very affordable, light, easy to carry, store, and move around|
|Cons||Heavy, needs electric power for use, lacks versatility with boost hub spacing, expensive for a tire drive trainer||Still relatively expensive, requires calibration, heavy, slightly aggressive in ERG mode||Limited max resistance, roller can heat up and accelerate tire wear, no power data, no control||Louder, unrealistic road feel, low max power, no controllable features, not supported by many popular training apps||Limited resistance, cable shifter, durability and quality issues|
|Bottom Line||When it comes to tire drive trainers, this is a top model with impressive road feel for its design||A more affordable premium direct drive trainer to get you through winter, rain, and turbo-charged training sessions||A simple, affordable, and highly functional tire drive trainer with the option to use it with training apps||This is the trainer you get when you’re just trying to get your legs spinning without paying a ton||If you can't possibly spend more, this trainer works to get the legs spinning|
|Rating Categories||Wahoo Fitness Kickr...||Saris H3 Direct Drive||Saris Fluid 2||BalanceFrom Bike Tr...||FDW Bike Trainer|
|Connectivity and Power Accuracy (25%)|
|Road Feel (25%)|
|Specs||Wahoo Fitness Kickr...||Saris H3 Direct Drive||Saris Fluid 2||BalanceFrom Bike Tr...||FDW Bike Trainer|
|Type||Tire drive||Direct drive||Tire drive||Tire drive||Tire drive|
|Weight (lbs)||38 lbs||47 lbs||21 lbs||19 lbs||19 lbs|
|Compatible Platforms||TrainerRoad, Zwift, Wahoo Smartphone App, Rouvy, Wahoo SYSTM||TrainerRoad, Zwift, Rouvy, BKOOL, Kinomap, RGT, and more||TrainerRoad, Zwift, Rouvy, Wahoo SYSTM||None.||None.|
|Communication Protocol||ANT+ FEC, Bluetooth Smart||ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth FTMS||ANT+ BlueGiga USB||None||None|
|Dimensions L-H-W (inches)||26" x 18.25" x 28.75"||31” x 18.5” x 19.5”||28" x 21.5" x 15.7"||23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6||23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6|
|Storage Dimensions LxHxW (inches)||20.75" x 7.5" x 20.5"||8.5” x 18.5” x 19.5”||20.5" x 9" x 20.75"||23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6||23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6|
|Power Comparison||10-15 watts, 5%||1-3 watts, 1%||10 watts, 5%||N/A||N/A|
|Decibel @ 230 Watts||54.5 dB||55.3 dB||64.7 dB||65.2 dB||65.2 dB|
|Roll Out Time @ 200 watts||45 seconds||58 seconds||15 seconds||5 seconds||5 seconds|
|Flywheel||10.5 lbs||20 lbs||3 lbs||5 lbs||5 lbs|
|Additonal||Skewer included||No Cassette included||Skewer||Skewer||Skewer|
|Axle compatibility||130mm, 135mm compatible || 142mm adaptor available through Wahoo.||130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle available for 142mm and 148mm through CycleOps.||120mm, 130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle available for 142mm and 148mm through CycleOps.||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 Snap is a solid product that brings Apple-computer-like ease of use and intuitive design to the trainer and related applications. The electromagnetic resistance unit can create up to 1500 watts of resistance and simulate a grade of up to 12 percent, more than enough for most non-super human athletes.
Connectivity and Power Accuracy
The Wahoo Fitness mobile application proved to be a favorite amongst our testers for its extremely simple operation and navigation features and the near-instant pickup and pairing when used with both IOS phones and Android devices. It works with ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth to connect to apps like Wahoo SYSTM, Zwift, and Trainer Road.
The Wahoo fitness application is limited to user-controlled target power settings in ERG mode, resistance changes, and a SIM mode to simulate grade or wind resistance. It does keep track of time, speed, cadence, and heart rate. We did not find the simple nature of the application to be a great detriment to the Snap, as most of our testers preferred to use third-party applications such as Zwift and TrainerRoad anyway. When it comes to ease of use, the Wahoo Fitness application is great.
Regarding power accuracy, Wahoo claims power accuracy to be +/- 5%. We had pretty variable power numbers ranging in the +/- 15% range during initial testing despite following the recommended calibration procedures. Further testing and after performing multiple advanced spin down tests, we began to see power accuracy fall within the +/- 5% range. We found that the Snap, even if it was reading high or low compared to our Quarq crank-based power meter, would hold the percentage of discrepancy at a steady level throughout the training session. The bottom line is that tire drive trainers, in general, lack the accuracy of a direct drive unit, but if you are going to go with a tire drive unit, the Kickr Snap is among the most accurate options.
Compared to other tire drive smart trainers, the Kickr Snap offers a superior road feel. Our wind down test results were an impressive 45 seconds from 200 watts in the lowest resistance setting that allowed us to achieve the required wattage. The Snap has a 10.5 lb flywheel, not the heaviest in the tire drive field, but more than enough to give it a really good sense of inertia.
The rollout test we performed during testing gives us a good baseline, but how the trainer software interprets grade changes when using applications like Zwift and Trainer Road in ERG mode also has a huge impact on the sensation at the pedals. The noise level of the Snap was surprisingly low — 54.5 decibels at 230 watts. Many of our testers felt that the Snap was loud despite registering the lowest noise level. Following lots of side-by-side testing and retesting, we still found the Snap to register the lowest decibels of any trainer in the test. But what we discovered is that despite decibel levels, some trainers emit a more annoying sound than others, and the whine of the Snap was not well-liked.Resistance Changes
The changes in resistance initiated during ERG and SIM mode when using applications are very different. SIM mode is designed to increase resistance or decrease resistance in response to changes in grade. When using the Snap in SIM mode, we found the ramp-up in resistance to be relatively smooth. Occasionally, we felt an almost brake-like increase in resistance when using the Snap, but this was only on the steepest of hills using Zwift.
In ERG mode, resistance increases are by design more abrupt as the software is trying to force you into higher power output. We found the gains to be more jarring than we experienced in direct drive models. We also found ourselves trying to increase cadence before the interval change to smooth the transition, a tactic we did not find necessary with other models. Overall, we would rank the Snap above average and believe that most users will adapt to its minor nuances with experience.
Rider Power Output Changes
When you stand up out of the saddle and accelerate on a steep climb with the Snap, you can slip the rear tire. This is not an issue experienced on the direct drive trainers we tested but is not a unique issue to the Snap; we experienced this with virtually all tire drive smart trainers. There is a fine line between too much and too little tension between the tire and the drum. Too much and power accuracy suffers while too little leads to tire slipping. Spending the time to get a good calibration before each session on the trainer is the best way to avoid this issue. Still, even a good initial calibration cannot account for changes in tire pressure due to a slow air leak or increases in pressure due to heat buildup. Unfortunately, this is just one of the inherent issues with the tire drive design.
The overall design of the Snap is solid and well thought out. We appreciate the durability and sturdiness provided by the all-steel frame and gladly accept the increased weight of the unit for the benefits of a burly frame. The Snap is amongst the most stable tire drive trainers we tested, with notably little flex and wobble. We would like to see an adjustable leg option to accommodate floors that are a bit out of level, as many of us are banished to the garage for our suffer sessions.
We also have to give Wahoo a nod of approval on the power cord design. Unlike most smart trainers, the female end of the power cord is exposed on a short pigtail of wire, which prevents the plug from being damaged by a torsional pull that could occur if you were to trip over the cord. Not a huge deal, but it is a nice touch on a well-thought-out product. Our only other gripe is the exposed nature of the resistance unit, which is prone to get splashed with sweat and sports drinks when you are getting after it.
Accessories and Compatibility
The Snap comes with a steel quick-release skewer to replace the stock one on your bike. It is necessary to use this to prevent damage to the aluminum quick release skewer that is likely on your bike. A wheel block is also included and should be used to stabilize the front wheel and put your bike in a level position for training. The Snap is compatible with 130mm/135mm quick-release axle systems and 142x12mm through-axle systems with an adapter that must be purchased separately.
The main factor of note here is that the trainer is not compatible with 148x12mm Boost Axle systems. So if you plan to use the trainer with a mountain bike, check your rear hub spacing before purchase. As far as wheel size goes, you should have no problems with 650c, 700c, 26", 27.5", or 29". The drivetrain is not an issue as the trainer will work with any drivetrain design.
We separate setup into the initial portion, getting it out of the box, application setup and pairing, and bike setup. The second portion and arguably the more important of the two is the ongoing day-to-day setup procedures that must be undertaken before a ride.Initial Setup
The Snap comes out of the box fully assembled. Awesome. The included quick-release skewer must be used in place of the skewer on your bike; it is designed to mate with the cups on the ends of the clamping arms. The bike is attached to the trainer by clamping the quick release in the clamps and securing with the blue-colored clamp handle. When installed correctly, there should be no play in the rear of the bike when you attempt to rock it from side to side. Wahoo recommends following your tire manufacturer's pressure recommendation. We did all testing with 100psi in the rear tire for consistency. The blue knob is then tightened until the tire does not slip on the drum when holding the flywheel and trying to turn the tire by hand.
The first time you use the trainer, you will want to download the Wahoo Fitness application on your smartphone and pair the trainer. The application will prompt you to perform firmware updates to the trainer if necessary. Follow the instructions for the "advanced spin down test," and you are ready to ride.
Each time you use the trainer, you should ensure that your tire pressure is adequate. Also, you will need to set the drum tension after adjusting tire pressure or whenever you remove your bike from the trainer. For accurate power measurement, it is critical that a spindown test is performed before every training session. It is best to do this following 10 minutes of pedaling to allow the increase in tire pressure and changes in rubber rolling resistance due to temperature. These calibration steps are a significant consumer of time when using the trainer multiple times a week.
At 38 lbs, the Snap is not exactly what you would call lightweight. Weight is certainly a factor in overall portability. Still, our testers found that the awkward nature of carrying a trainer with no discernable balance point was more of a detriment than weight. We found the Snap to be the most awkward tire drive model to carry, along with being almost as heavy as the direct drive trainers. To be fair, we found all tire drive trainers to be relatively awkward to carry due to the unbalanced nature of having the majority of the weight sitting on the side of the resistance unit.
Another factor that we consider is the ability to use the trainer without a power connection. This comes into play if you plan to use the trainer as a tool for warmups before races or events. The Snap does not offer much resistance when not connected to electrical power. You won't hurt the Snap by spinning on it with no power, but you will not get much out of it. The Snap is best suited to your home or office training sessions with easy access to 110v power.
Should You Buy the Snap?
For a tire drive bike trainer, it might be one of the best we've tested. However, the price is steep for this kind of trainer, and we think it might be enough of a reason not to buy this option. There are cheaper tire drive options and smart drive products in a similar price range we think you'll like better. While we don't think you'll be disappointed if you can find it on sale or are given one as a gift, we do believe the list price is high for what you get.
What Other Bike Trainer Should You Consider?
The Saris Fluid 2 came in higher in performance for a similarly scoring tire drive trainer and saves you a couple of hundred dollars. Depending on your usage plans or wallet, these savings could be a big deal. Alternatively, you can get a smart trainer like the Kinetic Road Machine Control with a similar price tag and more features. This smart trainer is easy to use and set up and could be a good addition to any at-home gym plan.
— Curtis Smith
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