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Verdict: 
Impressive power trainer with exciting app connectivity, but it comes at a high price
Weight: 
21,000g
Wahoo Kickr trainer
8 10

Wahoo's Kickr power trainer offers a very smooth and realistic road feel, is simple to use and is compatible with an increasing number of apps that give you access to a huge virtual training world. But at £999 it's scarily expensive, an investment of serious proportions.

Pros & cons

Pros Cons
Easy to set up and use
Very smooth and realistic road feel
Large number of compatible third-party apps
Accurate power training
Direct-drive saves tyre wear
Solid and stable

Requires mains power connection
Need a Bluetooth device and compatible smartphone/tablet to control it
Limited ANT+ control
Heavy

Getting started

The Kickr is a direct-drive style trainer, which means you remove the wheel from the bicycle and mount the frame directly onto the trainer. The trainer comes fitted with a 10-speed Shimano cassette, and it's compatible with 10 and 11-speed cassettes and a Campagnolo freehub is available. That makes getting going a cinch.

An obvious benefit of the direct-drive approach is that there is no wear to the rear tyre. There's no more delay setting the bike up for a session than a regular turbo trainer.

The Kickr is a hefty lump, 21kg, which ensures that it is impressively stable. You can lunge and flail about as much as you like, the Kickr ain't budging. There's a useful handle to facilitate moving the trainer, and two legs fold away for storage.

It's easily adjustable to accommodate different wheel sizes. The feet are height adjustable too.

At its heart, the Kickr utilises an electromagnetic resistance unit with a built-in power meter, and Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+ connectivity. It needs power, so you need to set up the Kickr near a power source. That provides some limitations; I couldn't set it up in my garage for lack of power so had to commandeer the spare room. Another is the inability to use it for warming up before races and time trials, unless you could bodge together a portable battery supply - rumour has it Team Sky use such a custom battery device for warming up and cooling down after races.

In use

A big appeal of the Kickr is its ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, and the fact Wahoo have allowed third-party developers to produce compatible apps. There is a growing list of compatible apps such as Zwift and TrainerRoad, a feature which no other trainer can rival.

Wahoo's free Fitness app provides quite advanced control over the Kickr. You do need a compatible Bluetooth device (you can't control it from a Garmin at present) and my Samsung Note worked just fine. The app will pair any other devices, like a cadence or heart rate sensor, and track all your data on various screens.

The adjustable resistance is a big appeal of the Kickr. The Wahoo Fitness app gives you a choice of four modes for controlling the resistance - level, resistance, erg and sim - depending on the sort of training you want to do.

By far and away the most useful, and it's really the jewel in the gem of the Kickr, is the erg setting. Quite simply, you enter a power number, and all you have to do is pedal, the trainer provides the required resistance. Whack it up to 500 watts and see how long you can maintain the effort until you collapse.

This erg setting transformed my training sessions, providing a level of accuracy and consistency I had never achieved before. It's a mode that will appeal to anyone wanting to really maximise power training and ensures you can hit the desired power figures, providing you have the legs, every time you get on the thing.

The transition through the resistance levels is smooth and progressive giving you enough time to adapt to the change in tempo, and takes a couple of seconds to adjust after you change the power setting. One small blip I found is if you stop pedalling for whatever reason, that it then takes a huge effort to get going again, and the only solution is to reduce the resistance level right down.

Once a session is completed you can share it to a number of training websites to track and monitor your progress, including of course Strava. There's nothing to stop you using a Garmin or similar computer on your bike, using ANT+, to record all the data if you want from the Kickr and other sensors, but the app does it all anyway.

Wahoo have smartly made the Kickr open to third-party developers, and there's a growing number of compatible apps if the Wahoo Fitness app doesn't do enough. I personally found Fitness more than adequate for the largely interval based training I undertake on an indoor trainer, with more than enough control over resistance.

There's Wahoo's own Segments app (£22.99), allowing a simulated Strava segment to be ridden which, does sound interesting. After that, the list is pretty extensive, with the likes of TrainerRoad, Zwift, Kinomap, VeloTrainer, iMobile Intervals and more.

The Kickr provides a very realistic road feel, and the transition through the power levels is very smooth. It's also acceptably quiet, certainly enough that I could use it in the spare room and other people downstairs or in the next room weren't disturbed excessively by the racket. With a decibel meter on my smartphone and used during a regular training session, the highest recording was 78 dB with the phone on the desk a couple of feet away from the Kickr. Wahoo claim 70 dB, measured at 3ft and riding 250 watts at 10mph.

Conclusion

The Wahoo Fitness Kickr is a seriously impressive power trainer that is easy to use and offers exciting compatibility with a growing number of third-party apps like TrainerRoad and Zwift, and opens up the potential of the Kickr enormously.

If you want to train with power and think you do enough indoor training to justify the high outlay of the Kickr, you won't be disappointed with the level of performance it provides. While it's one of the most expensive trainers on the market, it is at least half the price of the Wattbike, and the Kickr is vastly more flexible.

If you can get past the price, you'll find a seriously feature-packed power trainer that has the potential to transform your training, and fitness.

Verdict

Impressive power trainer with exciting app connectivity, but it comes at a high price

road.cc test report

Make and model: Wahoo Kickr trainer

Size tested: 700c

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

The Wahoo KICKR Power Trainer connects to Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT devices for unmatched indoor training.

Whether you are riding a virtual course or performing a structured wattage workout, the KICKR will deliver a unique training experience unmatched by any trainer on the market. The KICKR Power Trainer is can be controlled via an iOS or Android device with Bluetooth 4.0 enabled, Bluetooth 4.0 Mac Book, or a Windows PC with ANT dongle. Whether you are coasting down a hill or hammering up a steep col, the KICKR will make you feel like you are outside on the road.

Team Sky, winner of the 2012 and 2013 Tour de France, has chosen the Wahoo KICKR as its official indoor bike trainer for the 2014 season. After many years of development, Wahoo is excited to have pro caliber riders depending on the KICKR for their training needs.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Features

Accurate power measurement - Wheel off design for direct, lab accurate power measurement at the hub- consistent and calibrated throughout every grueling mile

Phone/iPad/MacBook controlled resistance - Connected to your device, the KICKR sets your resistance via your favorite app

Ultra-realistic road feel - Super flywheel engineered to replicate the inertia of an actual rider on the road

Wireless control and data transfer - Bluetooth 4.0 (aka Bluetooth Smart) and ANT enabled

Quiet As Can Be - Quiet as your favorite fluid trainer; no shouting required!

iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac and Android Controlled Resistance - control the KICKRs resistance wirelessly via Bluetooth Smart (4.0) or ANT and a variety of Apps and computer-based software programs

Virtual Training - Works with popular training software such as the Wahoo Fitness App for iPhone and Android, TrainerRoad for PC or Mac, Virtual Training, Kinomap, and several more

Supported Devices:

Android phones and tablets with Bluetooth 4.0 and the Android 4.3 operating system or newer

iPhone 4S and newer

iPad (3rd gen)

iPad (4th gen)

iPad Mini

MAC BOOK with Bluetooth 4.0

iPod Touch (5th gen and newer)

WINDOWS PC - When paired with ANT dongle

This trainer comes with an UK Plug only

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
6/10
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
9/10
Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

Yes it's hugely expensive, but if you want one of the best trainers, and the only one with Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, the Kickr is pretty much without rival. Yes you could buy a bike for the same money, or a new set of wheels, but power training is the best way to improving your fitness and performance.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Impressive performance. There's no getting away from the price, but ignoring that for a moment, the Kickr packs a punch and offers a great realistic feel and fantastic power resistance control, making it as easy to train consistently and precisely, avoiding wasted sessions.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Easy to setup, loads of apps that are compatible with it, very solid and stable, feels very realistic.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The price tag. Needs a power source.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

If you can get past the price, you'll find a seriously feature-packed power trainer that has the potential to transform your training and fitness. If it was the choice of a pair of wheels or the Kickr, I know which one would make me faster

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180  Weight: 67

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,

 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

21 comments

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SamSkjord [39 posts] 2 years ago
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It very much does have ANT+ control, just because Garmin haven't implemented it doesn't mean it doesn't exist, works fine on TrainerRoad.

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charlierevell [38 posts] 2 years ago
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Put it with one of these and you have a portable solution for race warm ups... (cheaper than a second turbo or rollers)
Or buy a car inverter and that will do the same again but ties you to the car!

http://www.halfords.com/motoring/garage-equipment/portable-power-packs/h...

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Mathelo [21 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't understand the con, "No ANT+ control." Has both Bluetooth and ANT+.

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Pippo [9 posts] 2 years ago
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Not that astronomically expensive when you compare it to, say, a Rapha jersey at £130. And this will actually make you go faster if you use it.

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olic [72 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't understand the 'Limited Ant+ control' either?

Had mine for over a year now - it's brilliant with TrainerRoad, even better when you add Sufferfest videos into the mix. Only downside is if you're having a bad day doing a Sufferfest video, it really starts to punish you if your cadence drops as the resistance jumps to keep the power in line

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emil [38 posts] 2 years ago
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For those out there running 11sp Campagnolo drive trains I can verify that it works just fine with an 11 speed Shimano cassette (such as the CS5800) on the stock freehub.
A whole lot cheaper than getting a new freehub body for the Kickr along with a Chorus cassette.

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bobinski [264 posts] 2 years ago
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I know some people who are using this with the bkool software and having great fun with online races etc. Have a look at the bkool forum on cyclechat.

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jaredholdcroft [15 posts] 2 years ago
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As several people have already pointed out it actually has great ANT+ control via Trainerroad.

I'd also put heavy in the Pros column too. This thing is rock solid and is better for it.

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don simon [990 posts] 2 years ago
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Christ!! You could buy a bike for that...

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fustuarium [212 posts] 2 years ago
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How does it compare to other trainers? Is it the only one that can be controlled by software such as Trainer Road?

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fukawitribe [1928 posts] 2 years ago
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fustuarium wrote:

How does it compare to other trainers? Is it the only one that can be controlled by software such as Trainer Road?

Currently TrainerRoad only supports the Kickr, Computrainer and Cycleops Powerbeam Pro (+ older 300/400).

They hope to support Bkool, and anyone else who implements the ANT+ trainer profile (part of a more general fitness profile), at some point - it all depends as/when anyone does. Bkool still had ANT+ trainer profile support on their roadmap at the end of last year apparently, not heard anything since. Tacx seem more off than on at the moment, although there are murmurs they'd consider it if anyone else releases true open standards support - chicken and egg and seemingly worried about revenue erosion with TTS (in reality, I don't see the conflict myself as a TTS and TR user).

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paulrbarnard [182 posts] 2 years ago
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Had mine for a while now. Kickr, TrainerRoad and the Sufferfest videos are an absolute winning combination. I'm also spending time on Zwift Island.

Once you have done a FTT riding a Sufferfest video managed through TrainerRoad really hits the sweet spot in training.

I was using an Elite before this and while it performed well the extra dimension of having everything controlled if amazing. Riding on Zwift is pretty close to the real thing. I just need to get my fan linked in to adjust the amount of blow based on speed and it will feel very real  1

I bought mine as a refurb and saved a couple hundred. It was just like new, not a mark on it.

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matttheaudit [75 posts] 2 years ago
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Competition to win one on Cycling Weekly
http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/competitions/win-a-wahoo-kickr

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flobble [115 posts] 2 years ago
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I have one. It's brilliant in concept, but a number of recent Kickrs have a MAJOR PROBLEM with "accurate power measurement". I would go as far as alleging that they're knowingly lying about this.

Wahoo make no public claims about power accuracy beyond this vague statement, because they can't. SRM, Powertap, Garmin etc by contrast publicly state the accuracy of their products.

My Kickr reads about 10% too high, and others have had 20% too high compared to their existing power meters. This has been ongoing for several months and Wahoo are doing a lousy job of either acknowledging the problem, or fixing it. At this price, that's a serious problem.

There's a huge thread over on Slowtwitch about this: http://forum.slowtwitch.com/gforum.cgi?do=post_view_flat;post=5396505;pa...

If you're only using power for indoor training, this doesn't matter much. But if you expect to replicate your indoor power on the road with (e.g.) a Vector, SRM or Powertap, you're going to go off too hard and blow up mid race. There are solutions which allow you to control the resistance using your external power meter, but they're additional cost and hassle that shouldn't be required.

Be warned before you buy...

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jaredholdcroft [15 posts] 2 years ago
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Wahoo updated their (free) iOS app recently so you can now link your KICKR to your external power meter. Once it's done then it will always track your other power meter, regardless of the software you use.

My KICKR always read about 20-30 watts higher than my Vectors but I've had to knock my FTP down in trainerroad as they match up now.

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ThumbTack [5 posts] 2 years ago
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There are other forums and sites about these issues. Not just the power drift/accuracy, but things like freehubs, faulty sensors and belt breakage on some units. The belt is a automotive grade Gates. They break because of the tension and high speed not designed for it in this application. This thing looks like it would last a lifetime. But it only has a 1 year warranty for a reason.

There are 5 direct drive trainers currently on the market. Two of them being smart trainers, the Elite Real Turbo Muin and the Wahoo Kickr. I would not buy a Kickr...

More links...

http://weightweenies.starbike.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=125327&start=30

Kickr reviews (accuracy and drift issues reported)...

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=no&u=http://www.sykkeleri...
http://bikeboard.cc/wahoo-kickr-ber5640

Power drifting....

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/wattage/kLkDQ_eVpGk

DC Rainmaker's review, goto the comments below...

http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/03/fitness-trainer-review.html

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flobble [115 posts] 2 years ago
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ThumbTack wrote:

There are other forums and sites about these issues. Not just the power drift/accuracy, but things like freehubs, faulty sensors and belt breakage on some units. The belt is a automotive grade Gates. They break because of the tension and high speed not designed for it in this application.

Thanks ThumbTack. Interesting, but puzzling.

It's a Gates 850m5-15 PowergripGT belt I believe. They're specified up to 8hp (6,000W) at 3000rpm+ More speed for the same power = less force/tension. If there's a strength problem, I'd anticipate it appears at low speed, accelerating from a standstill when belt tension is at its highest. And the Kickr operating environment is way less challenging than an automotive one.

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ThumbTack [5 posts] 2 years ago
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The Kickr's ratio is 8:1 I believe. That little 18 tooth gear spins fast and the belt being at a small radius is under a bit of tension against the idler wheel. To hit 3000rpm, one would need to be in Bkool's simulator going down a -12% Col in a 53x11!  26 3

One guy broke a belt with the tension adjusted higher to fix the accuracy issue. Now, it make me think that maybe Wahoo is setting the belt tension less, thus the 20-30 watt offset in some recent units. Maybe to lenghten the life of the belt? One wonders...

I found it strange that posts from a guy on another site referencing the Kickr's belt noise were deleted. That guy builds engines...  39

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dbs1 [1 post] 1 year ago
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I realize that the review is from a year or so ago but I'd like to add a few comments based on my recent personal experience with Wahoo and Kickr:

1. The author says the Kickr is 'quiet as your favourite fluid trainer'. My 'favourite fluid trainer is a Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll and the Kickr is MUCH louder than the Kinetic. And the character of the noise is different, too: the Kickr noise is high pitched and extremely annoying.

2. Many owners have reported that they cannot use some gears (large cogs) when their otherwise perfectly shifting bike is mounted on the Kickr. For many the rear derailleur hits the trainer before a shift can be completed. So the "11-speed" Kickr is only 10-speed in practical use. Wahoo is aware of the issue but will only acknowledge it if pushed; they do not have a solution.

I'm sending my Kickr back in exchange for a Wahoo Kickr Snap (with some money back, too!). Most reviews say the Snap is much quieter than the Kickr. The electronics are, presumably, the same so the "smart" features will be there, minus the mechanical design problem of the Kickr -- the derailleur won't hit the trainer.

Moral of the story is: before you buy a Kickr, make sure it works with your specific bike(s). For some it does not work fully and there is no fix.

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TimFaust [1 post] 1 year ago
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If you are lucky enough to get one of these that works they are great. However, I have been going back and forth with Wahoo for months because the trainer is defective. They keep sending parts or having me return it to them so they can spend a month fixing it before sending back the same unit that still doesn't work.

I have spent the last six months with a $1,200 bike stand.

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CXR94Di2 [1630 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
dbs1 wrote:

I realize that the review is from a year or so ago but I'd like to add a few comments based on my recent personal experience with Wahoo and Kickr:

1. The author says the Kickr is 'quiet as your favourite fluid trainer'. My 'favourite fluid trainer is a Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll and the Kickr is MUCH louder than the Kinetic. And the character of the noise is different, too: the Kickr noise is high pitched and extremely annoying.

2. Many owners have reported that they cannot use some gears (large cogs) when their otherwise perfectly shifting bike is mounted on the Kickr. For many the rear derailleur hits the trainer before a shift can be completed. So the "11-speed" Kickr is only 10-speed in practical use. Wahoo is aware of the issue but will only acknowledge it if pushed; they do not have a solution.

I'm sending my Kickr back in exchange for a Wahoo Kickr Snap (with some money back, too!). Most reviews say the Snap is much quieter than the Kickr. The electronics are, presumably, the same so the "smart" features will be there, minus the mechanical design problem of the Kickr -- the derailleur won't hit the trainer.

Moral of the story is: before you buy a Kickr, make sure it works with your specific bike(s). For some it does not work fully and there is no fix.

I have used a kickr for a year, yes you're right about the derailleur touching the plastic cowel. It is easily sorted by trimming a little bit of plastic from the cover. Re noise, it is different and slightly quieter than for say a bkool Pro trainer., both are noisy when using high cadence. The kicker is extremely solid in design, a useful tool for those who train for many hours( there is no tyre wear). I have used it on bkool simulator, where it has been a joy to use.