The Kickr Snap is a very good tire drive trainer. This smart 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 most expensive tire drive models in our test bunch. It does have the best road feel in its class, though.
Wahoo Fitness Kickr Snap Review
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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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, but also for the near-instant pickup and pairing when used with both IOS phones and Android devices.
The Wahoo fitness application is limited to user-controlled target power setting in ERG mode, resistance changes, and a SIM mode that will 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%. During initial testing, we had quite variable power numbers ranging in the +/- 15% range 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 one of the most accurate options.
When compared to other tire drive smart trainers, the Kickr Snap offers 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 10.5lb 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 changes in grade 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 230watts. Despite registering the lowest noise level, many of our testers felt that the Snap was loud. 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 just 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 when using the Snap we felt an almost brake-like increase in resistance, 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 increases to be more jarring than what we experienced 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, it is possible to 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 all of the 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, but 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 personal bike. A wheel block is also included and should be used to stabilize the front wheel and to 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 Axel 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 need to 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 still 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 to occur. These calibration steps are a significant consumer of time when you are 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, but 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 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 of the 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 take into account is the ability to use the trainer without a power connection. This comes into play for those that plan to use their trainer as a tool for warmups prior to races or events. The Snap does not offer much in the way of resistance when not connected to electrical power. You won't hurt the Snap by spinning on it with no power, but you also 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.
The Kickr Snap is best suited to those unwilling to spend the additional money for a direct drive model. We also recommend it primarily to riders who intend to use a road bike on the trainer. Tire drive trainers, in general, are not well suited to use with knobby cyclocross or mountain bike tires as the tires tend to slip on the drum, cause excessive wear, and make a lot of noise.
While the Kickr Snap is pretty awesome, it's fairly expensive for a tire drive trainer. Granted, it's one of the best tire drive trainers on the market, but we tested other models that rival the performance here at lower prices.
Tire drive trainers do not offer the power accuracy or versatility of direct drive trainers, but the price is hard to beat. The Wahoo Fitness Kickr Snap is one of the best in its class. While its performance makes it easy to recommend to anyone seeking a tire drive model, we also would recommend checking out a few other models that offer similar performance at a lower price.
— Curtis Smith