Now in its third generation, the Wahoo Kickr continues to be one of the best direct-mount smart trainers on the market, providing easy resistance control, superb realism, rock-solid stability, massive 2,000 watt capacity, and easy connectivity to a range of apps from Zwift to TrainerRoad. Yes, it's expensive, but as an investment for serious winter indoor training, it doesn't get much better than this.
The changes to the latest 2017 Kickr are minor, and for the most part it's identical to the second generation version of the Kickr that was launched last year. The main differences are that it's compatible with the new Climb accessory, which the previous two versions are not, increased disc brake clearance, and new thru-axle adapters for both 142x12mm and 148x12mm axles. Compared with the original Kickr, the new model is quieter, more responsive and more realistic.
Wahoo was one of the first companies to get its foot in the direct-mount smart trainer market, and its Kickr has been hugely popular. It's a category that has exploded over the past couple of winters and we're seeing a staggering growth in indoor training enthusiasts, especially with a wide range of apps that make indoor training more appealing than the dull old days of turbo sessions.
I tested the original Kickr back in 2015 and was highly impressed by its smooth feel, rock-solid stability, and easy connectivity with a variety of apps and training packages. In fact, I liked it so much that I still have it; it's become a regular fixture in my house for winter (and spring and autumn) training sessions when I want to do a targeted workout. You can really get a good hit of exercise inside an hour which makes it great for time-crunched cyclists and is sometimes preferable to riding in the rain/dark/cold if you want a worthwhile training effect.
The Kickr is a direct-mount trainer. That means you have to remove the rear wheel and fit the bike frame directly to the trainer. Apart from having to remove the wheel, direct-mount trainers offer many pros, including: no worn out tyres, smoother pedalling feel because of the large flywheel, great stability, and no need to calibrate the trainer as often as wheel-on trainers. It's easily adjustable to different wheel sizes, too, so there's nothing to stop you fitting a mountain bike or adventure bike, it doesn't have to be a road bike.
Out of the box, the Kickr comes set up for a quick release rear axle, and an 11-speed cassette is already fitted. It's a doddle to configure the trainer for a disc road bike with a thru-axle. Simply remove the quick release axle, pull out the end caps and replace with the thru-axle compatible endcaps, and use the bike's axle to fix the disc road bike to the trainer. You even get a disc pad spacer to prevent the pads pushing out if you inadvertently pull the rear brake lever during a ride. I mainly used a disc road bike with a 12mm thru-axle during my testing and had no problems whatsoever.
It's no lightweight trainer. The 21kg weight does mean it's a bit of a brute to move around, but the new handle makes it much easier to manhandle than the original. The foldaway feet mean it takes up little space when it's not needed. I pack mine away after every training session but it's only two minutes' work to fold out the legs, whip the rear wheel out of the bike and get it all set up.
That weight also means it's rock solid when you're doing big efforts, and it's stable enough for riding out of the saddle. Adjustable feet ensure you can level it on uneven floors.
Wahoo claims a +/- 2% accuracy for the Kickr. My testing against a set of Powertap P1 pedals, which have a claimed +/- 1.5% accuracy, reveals the power data for each device tracks extremely close to each other with no discrepancy to note, during a wide range of power zones. The Kickr has a maximum power output of 2,000W and it can simulate a 20% gradient, which I think is more than enough for most cyclists this side of Sir Chris Hoy.
It's also said to be quieter than the original, by a claimed 14%. And it is to a certain degree. Testing the new Kickr alongside the original, it makes noticeably less noise; it's not the same high pitched whine as the original. It's still not the quietest trainer by any measure, but it's perfectly possible to maintain a conversation over the new Kickr, and someone in the next room can easily watch television without being disturbed and you won't have your neighbours banging on the wall. Once you've got the fan on, and some music playing, both essentials for my indoor training sessions, the sound the Kickr makes really isn't an issue at all.
Wahoo has refined the second and third generation trainers and the result is a noticeably smoother pedalling feel to the original. It's also now more responsive to differing resistance levels. That's especially handy if doing interval sessions and increasing and decreasing the power from extreme highs and lows. I noticed this during Zwift workouts: there's a smoother and easy transition from contrasting power zones, and it feels more realistic.
Control the resistance
The heart of the Kickr is an electromagnetic resistance unit with a built-in power meter, and Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+ connectivity. There are status lights for the connection protocols so you know when it's on and connected. It needs power, so you're limited to setting up the Kickr near a power source. That can have the potential to limit where you can use the trainer. I, for example, can't use it in the garage because there's no electricity, so instead it takes up residence in my conservatory. You can ride it without power but you obviously can't control the resistance or connect it to your favourite app.
While the Kickr transmits power via Bluetooth or ANT+, it does not transmit cadence. For that data, you'll need to use the supplied Wahoo RPM2 pod that is easily attached to the cranks of your bike. That's fine if you're using the same bike all the time, but it's a shame it doesn't take cadence from the trainer itself like other products do.
What makes the Kickr such a good trainer is that it is simple to use – watch our unboxing video to see how quickly you can go from box to training – with a solid and professional build quality. It syncs with a phone, tablet or computer really easily, using either an ANT+ dongle or Bluetooth if your phone or computer has it (most do nowadays), and with the cassette already fitted to the trainer, there's no extra expense required.
As a bonus, Wahoo throws in free trials for Sufferfest, Kinomap, Rouvy and TrainerRoad so you can try out some of the best apps to see which one works for your requirements. There's also a free 60-day Strava Premium membership as well. Wahoo's own Fitness app is a free download and if you just want to control and set the resistance for your training, it's more than adequate.
The best thing about a smart trainer compared to traditional turbo trainers is the integration of a power meter and being able to easily control the resistance level. Training with power (as well as heart rate) is the gold standard; you don't need to be a pro to harness the benefits of power, it's well suited to time-crunched cyclists because it basically avoids wasting time by ensuring each training session is productive. You'll need to know your FTP (functional threshold power) before you start on a training plan, but most apps make that easy to do, or you can simply bang out a 20-minute hard-as-you-can-pedal session to determine what your FTP is. From this number, all your power zones can be worked out and most training apps will figure out training sessions based on what your FTP is.
Being able to set the level of resistance of the Kickr via an app is a great appeal of the smart trainer revolution. Want to ride at 200 watts? Set the resistance to 200 watts and pedal away. The free Wahoo Fitness app makes it really easy to do this via the fantastic ERG mode, which lets you punch in any power you want and the trainer will provide the required resistance, leaving you to concentrate on the pedalling.
Has the latest Kickr done enough to deserve your cash? Well, there's a growing choice of smart trainers on the market now, some cheaper and some more pricey, so it's a buyer's market these days compared to when the Kickr first launched. But despite the growing competition, I feel the Kickr is still one of the best smart trainers currently available.
It's solidly built and really stable, is very accurate and reasonably quiet, works seamlessly with a host of apps (and the free Wahoo app is a great place to start), it's accurate and consistent and feels smoother and more realistic than the original, and the 2,000W output is more than enough for most people. The Kickr does it all extremely well.
There's no doubting it's a big investment – you could buy a bike for the same price etc... but the thousands of kilometres I've ridden on the original, and the 500+km I've clocked up on this new one, and the improvement in my fitness as a result of targeted and focused training sessions with fewer junk miles help to ensure it's a justifiable expense.
If you own a V1 Kickr there are many good reasons to upgrade to this V3. If you have the V2 release it's going to be harder to justify upgrading, unless you really want to get your hands on the new Climb accessory, or want better disc brake road bike compatibility.
If you're buying your first smart trainer, be sure to check out the Kickr before you part with your hard-earned.
Accurate, solid and highly capable and compatible smart trainer
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Wahoo Kickr 2017
Size tested: Out of Box: Standard 11 Speed Spacing
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?
Wahoo says: "Updated in 2017, the Wahoo KICKR indoor bike trainer is more compatible than ever! The KICKR now fully supports 12x142 and 12x148 thru axle spacing making it even easier to fit all of your bikes onto the KICKR. Simply take the rear wheel off your bike and connect to the Wahoo KICKR for accurate power measurement, controlled resistance, open third-party software options, and the smoothest indoor riding on the market. Pain cave, meet your new best friend.
"KICKR indoor trainer's large flywheel uses new algorithms to improve responsiveness and better replicate the sensation of riding on the road. So, whether free-riding or using online platforms like Zwift and Trainer Road, you will have the same experience you feel on your favorite outdoor rides.
"The new KICKR features 12x142 and 12x148 thru axle compatibility in addition to standard 130/135mm quick release. An update to the main mast also ensures clearance for flat mount and disk brake equipped bikes. The KICKR is ready to take on your gravel, mountain, or road bike to make sure you meet your training needs.
"With over 2,000 watts of resistance and impressive durability, you are guaranteed to get the most out of your indoor training. You will never need to worry about pushing the KICKR's limits, only yours.
"A more reliable and accurate power measurement system (+/- 2%) provides a true workout experience, from free-riding to using online platforms like Zwift and TrainerRoad."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
NEW! ENHANCED THRU AXLE COMPATIBILITY
NEW! INCREASED DISC BRAKE CLEARANCE
NEW! COMPATIBLE WITH THE KICKR CLIMB (COMING SOON!)
+/- 2% POWER ACCURACY
20% MAXIMUM GRADE
LED INDICATOR LIGHTS
ANT+, BLUETOOTH SMART, AND ANT+ FE-C CONNECTIVITY
PROFESSIONAL GRADE DURABILITY
REALISTIC RIDE FEEL
MEASURES SPEED, DISTANCE, POWER, AND CADENCE
THIRD PARTY APP COMPATIBILITY
THIRD PARTY POWER METER SUPPORT
INCLUDES FREE 60 DAY STRAVA PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP
INCLUDES FREE 30 DAY TRAINERROAD MEMBERSHIP
INCLUDES FREE 60 DAY SUFFERFEST TRAINING CENTRE MEMBERSHIP
INCLUDES FREE 60 DAY KINOMAP TRAINER MEMBERSHIP
INCLUDES FREE 30 DAY ROUVY PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP
There's no denying it's expensive, but I would look at it as an alternative to a dedicated winter bike.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Works perfectly every time.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Just works really well, very simple to use and operate, easy connection to a wide host of apps, solid build quality and works well with disc brake road bikes now.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
If you want a super-silent trainer the Kickr isn't the quietest.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The smart trainer market has exploded since Wahoo launched the original Kickr in 2015, and the updates to the latest 2017 model are small but worthwhile changes that help to ensure it's still one of the best choices.
About the tester
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, mountain biking
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.