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Wahoo Kickr Bike smart trainer review

13 May 2020
Verdict:

It's very advanced and effective piece of kit but it's also expensive, heavy and massive

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Incredibly realistic • Quiet • Easy to use/great compatibility
Against 
Huge • Heavy • Expensive

The release of the Wahoo Kickr Bike could not have happened at a more opportune time. Because of coronavirus, sales of turbo trainers have skyrocketed to a point where it’s practically impossible to buy one in Europe, Zwift has become a true behemoth of a training app used by pros and amateurs religiously, while sharing pictures of your ‘pain cave’ has replaced pictures of coffee stops.

Truth is, current circumstances have forced a lot of road cyclists, both new and old, into riding indoors and we are all trying to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

With the Wahoo Kickr Bike, the American company that has been long in the development of a new product to sit at the peak of indoor training performance giving you an option that negates the need to use your road bike indoors and provides a completely separate entity to train on.

‘We saw the need to create an all-in-one solution as this really removes some pain points with a typical trainer where you have to mount your bike,’ explained product manager Tyler Harris.

‘There is certainly overlap with the clientele of the Kickr turbo trainer but the Kickr Climb really expands our market even further by allowing users to share the Kickr Bike.’

The Kickr Bike now sits in a niche market of indoor smart training bikes alongside the also-new Tacx Neo smart bike and WattBike Atom and the question is, is it really necessary?

 

Fit and adjustability

From the get-go, Wahoo wanted to design a product that could match the customisability of the traditional turbo trainer setup. After all, if there’s one underlying problem with exercise and smart bikes it is that they have never been able to fully nail feeling like your own bike and that is something Wahoo seemed desperate to address.

‘An important part of training indoors is getting the rider going with minimal effort. You can set the Kickr Bike up for individual riders in minutes thanks to our quick-release levers at five adjustment points,’ explains Harris.

Harris added that Wahoo further developed its companion app so it can ‘guide you through the bike’s adjustments’ with there even being the option of taking a photo of your current bike setup to help guide you through replicating the geometry of the Kickr bike.

When I came to setting up the Kickr Bike, I ignored the modern technological aids and opted for the old fashion method of using a tape measure and trial and error. Using the five quick-release points of adjustments - stack, reach, setback, saddle height and frame height - I had the Kickr bike setup to my exact position in about five minutes.

As I’m also living with the folks during lockdown, I thought I’d then put Harris’s claims that the Kickr Bike could be setup for ‘individual riders in minutes’ to the test by getting my old man to have a go. Again, it took him all of five minutes to make the adjustments he needed to replicate his age-old riding position and just a few minutes more for me to change them back once he had finished.

And then there are the smaller touches.

Wahoo has designed the crankarms to be adjustable with provisions for five crank arm lengths from 165mm to 175mm. If you choose you can also swap out the saddle, stem and handlebars to your preferred option too.

And while I stopped shy of doing this on test (I didn’t have the bike for long enough to completely replicate my entire setup), I appreciate that all the work Wahoo has done on the Kickr Bike makes it among the, if not the, most customisable and adjustable smart bikes on the market at the moment.

The Wahoo Kickr Bike is back in stock at Evans Cycles from 16th May. Buy it here now

Ride feel

Where the Kickr Bike really excelled for me was in ride feel. The 5.8kg flywheel is smooth, quiet and lacks that lag and unrealistic feeling some smart trainer competitors suffer from when shifting through the resistance settings. It also offers up a hearty 2,200w of resistance, too, which is more than the Wattbike Atom.

You change gear at the levers, just like you would on the road, and you can also adjust gradient from here to allow you to maintain a riding position while increasing how hard or easy the gradient/resistance setting is. You can even slow down the flywheel by pulling on the brakes, too.

But above all, the most impressive feature is the Kickr Bike’s hydraulic gradient simulator.

Using a similar concept to the Wahoo Kickr Climb, a hydraulic piston at the rear of the bike automatically adjusts the bike’s angle to replicate gradients from +20% to -15% and, by shifting the bike’s moving point to the rear of the bike, Harris believes it has increased the realism of the ride.

Harris explained, ‘while developing the Kickr Bike, we realised that moving the pivot point directly underneath the rider pushes the realism even further and allows for a smoother grade change.'

You can adjust the gradient yourself by using buttons atop the left shifter or you can have the gradient change automatically according to a third-party app like Zwift or Trainer Roads.

Before using your traditional smart turbo turbos, I have found gradient changes to lag slightly or feel a bit jumpy, like you are rising a series of steps, failing to replicate the natural transition you experience on the road.

From my experiences, the Kickr Bike has done the best job yet of repeating the feel of gradient transition.

Take using this bike on Zwift, which I did a lot. I found that when I’d hit a virtual climb, the gradient didn’t hit you in chunks so much as smoothly rolled as it would on an actual road and that when there was a sudden change, the Kickr Bike was completely up to the test of adjusting immediately.

It’s also just a nice feeling to have the bike move beneath you. I’ve used smart trainers and bikes before and while all technically good, the fact they remain static meant there was no kidding the fact you were riding indoors. With the Kickr Bike constantly rocking and rolling to replicate gradients, I could fool my mind that I was actually out on the road which, was certainly welcome.

Size and weight

There was no escaping the elephant in the room when I tested the Wahoo Kickr Bike. Mainly because that elephant was so massive it took up half of whatever room I put it in.

The Kickr Bike is a big piece of kit. To be precise, it is 121cm long by 76cm wide which to be put into perspective, is about the same length as your standard four-person dining room table but around 20cm narrower.

Those dimensions also see the Kickr Bike measure 21cm longer and 26cm wider than the Wattbike Atom while coming in 18cm shorter than the Tacx Neo Smart bike, albeit the same width.

And while that’s a similar kind of footprint to your standard smart turbo trainer with a bike attached, there is no folding down and stowing away process post-workout here. While a smart turbo will only temporarily be in the way, the Kickr Bike is a permanent fixture at that size.

It means that to own a Wahoo Kickr Bike, you need to have a dedicated space in mind for it like a car-less garage or entirely spare bedroom void of any other substantial furniture.

Luckily, when I tested the bike I was still at my parents' home and with the dining room table pushed up against the wall (much to my poor mum’s dismay), I just about made room for the Kickr Bike.

If I was to have tested this bike in my two-bedroom flat, well I wouldn’t have been able to do much testing as it simply wouldn’t have been the space for it.

I mean, the fact that Wahoo Kickr Bike costs £2,999.99 very much suggests to me that your average buyer will probably have some spare space in his or her house, but it’s very much worth the consideration of all looking at this investment.

It is also worth noting that the Kickr Bike weighs 42kg, exactly twice the weight of the Kickr smart turbo trainer and only 16kg lighter than former WorldTour cyclist Julian Arredondo.

Now, there are two wheels on the rear legs that make manoeuvring the bike easier but its size and weight combined mean that you’re not getting this off the ground alone, a potential problem for any solo indoor cyclists looking to move it around their flat.
 

The Wahoo Kickr Bike is back in stock at Evans Cycles from 16th May. Buy it here now  

Price

Above, I reference the cost of the Kickr Bike which will be coming in at a recommended retail price of £2,999.99. That’s a lot of money for almost anyone.

Place that against its direct competitors: the WattBike Atom is £1,400 cheaper at £1,599, while the Wahoo is £700 more expensive than the Tacx Neo Smart bike, which retails at £2,229. It’s also over a grand more than if you were to buy Wahoo’s regular Kickr smart trainer, Kickr Climb gradient simulator and Kickr Headwind fan as a package.

So why is the Wahoo Kickr Bike so expensive? Well, developing and manufacturing new products doesn’t come cheap, especially something as effective and efficient as the new gradient simulator. Plus one piece of kit is a lot simpler of a purchase and to set up than three pieces of gear.

The argument will also be that the Kickr Bike offers a level of instant personalisation to multiple users unlike its WattBike or Tacx rivals, however, whether these things justify the overall cost we are yet to be convinced.

Realistically, if I were the consumer coming at this purchase with cost being one of the deciding factors, I’m going to be looking at the cheaper alternatives. If money was no object, then I would be tempted to go for the Kickr Bike.

Conclusion

Weighing up the pros and cons of the Wahoo Kickr Bike is an interesting one because, performance-wise, I really found little fault. My issues fell with the size, weight and price of the product.

Ultimately, with it being so expensive and big, the Wahoo Kickr Bike is realistically only going to be suitable for a very small clientele with deep wallets and big houses who will be paying a price for what is actually a very good product.

Price: 
£2,999.99