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Next generation Wattbike Atom review

18 Feb 2020
Verdict:

Not perfect, but an improvement on smart turbo trainers if you have space

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,899
For 
Ease of setup • Plug and play simplicity • Looks
Against 
Gear shifting • Still not completely silent operation • Some variation in wattage from target watts

Wattbike Atom review

Sam Challis – 2018

Verdict: An ideal trainer for households of more than one cyclist, the Wattbike Atom is an effective tool with some interesting features  
Pros: Position is easily adjustable • Accurate • Realistic ride feel • Good level of analysis  
Cons: Requires dedicated space . • Not particularly portable • Expensive  
Rating: 4/5  
Price: £1,599

 

Wattbike staked a claim in this brave new world with its Atom trainer. Wattbike’s previous products found provenance in gyms and fitness classes but this latest trainer is aimed at the home cyclist. As such it incorporates a number of upgrades over the previous design to make it legitimately competitive in the hotly-contested premium home trainer market.

The dual 4.5kg flywheels of the Atom are electronically controllable in terms of resistance via its Bluetooth shifters and an ERG mode, so the magnetic resistance can be manually or automatically controlled.

Buy now from Wattbike for £1,599

Connectivity 

The Atom’s connectivity is vastly improved too. It uses both ANT+ and Bluetooth to connect with and broadcast to any third-party app (like Zwift, Trainerroad, The Sufferfest etc) or anthropometric accessories like heart rate straps.

Its cost comes down from around £2250 to £1599. While that may seem pricey compared to other premium smart trainers considering you also have to supply a smart device in order to use the Atom, remember there’s no need to bolt on a bike here - the trainer is the complete product which is rideable straight out of the box.

Riders wary of shifting from a favoured bike set-up will find the Atom very easy to adjust in order to recreate the same fit of their road bike. The saddle and even the bars can be swapped out for other models if the generally easy-to-get-along-with components the Atom comes with are not to your liking.

Saddle and bar height and fore/aft position are clearly marked and quickly adjusted via either an Allen bolt or lever. It makes the trainer ideal for those households where more than rider uses the Atom - a few pre-determined changes to stack, reach and saddle position are far easier to do than laboriously switching bikes between the same trainer.

Largely the system was easy to readjust, but I did find I had issues with the seatpost occasionally sliding over the course of a session. That was remedied with an extra bit of muscle when tightening lever but is something the rider needs to be aware of before starting a session.

There is another reason why the Atom is best for households of multiple cyclists - as it can’t be packed down, the trainer requires a dedicated space and while it has wheels to make moving it not impossible, shifting the thing it isn’t really all that easy and not something anyone would want to do regularly. Therefore the inability to tuck it out of the way may be an issue if all parties can’t see the value in dedicating real estate to the Atom.

Wattbike Hub

While the Atom offers compatibility with third-party apps its own Hub app is a worthy training guide in its own right. It offers several training plans and a host of individual workouts that cover all components of cycling performance. The workouts are based off your FTP and use the Atom’s ERG mode to automatically adjust the required power output with respect to the demands of the session.

Ride feel is adequate (I can never psychologically get over the fact that I’m stationary in my shed for a trainer to ever feel like it accurately replicates road-feel) and the Atom does a nicely reactive job of keeping output close to that defined by the Hub app.

In terms of accuracy, Wattbike claims the Atom remains +/-2% across its entire 2000 watt range. During my time with the machine I didn’t have the ability to verify the bike with additional power devices but anecdotally the power seemed bang on with what I’d expect to achieve for a given effort.

Buy now from Wattbike for £1,599

Another big update over Wattbike’s previous trainers is the Atom’s functional electronic hoods, which can play a significant part in any workout. The buttons on the right can be used to increase or decrease the intensity of the ERG mode (shift power output slightly higher or lower than the original plan), while the left cycles through metrics on the Wattbike Hub’s workout screens.

Wattbike’s famous pedalling efficiency graph occupies one of those screens, which has now been colour coded to better show how and where you apply power in each pedal revolution. Wattbike classes the ‘kick and pull’ pedal action as most efficient and rates your technique, stroke by stroke, with a ‘Pedalling Efficiency Score’.

75 is the optimum figure to achieve, which provides an interesting extra dimension to your training - technique is not usually considered in any session, yet the Atom gives it to you live without detracting from the quality of the session in terms of a ‘work done’ perspective.

It is a nice point to illustrate Wattbike’s rationale that the Atom offers something slightly different to other products for those looking into advanced home training. By offering a complete product instead of a supplementary one, the Atom negates common issues like sweat damage or frame damage through high-torque sprint efforts on a bike not designed to be fixed in position.

Obviously, this brings with it the inherent disadvantages of bulk and lack of portability, but at least the Atom is visually palatable in an aero-bike-from-Tron sort of way.

Wattbike’s competitors like Tacx and Bkool have smart bikes on the way so the Atom will soon face stiff competition, but until then there is a lot to be said for its originality if you are looking to build on your cycling performance away from the elements this winter.

Rating: 4/5

Watch our 3-minute video explaining the FTP test

• For information on how the Wattbike Atom can help you achieve your training goals, visit wattbike.com/gb

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