Wahoo Fitness are a growing player in the fitness market, and the compatibility of their devices and apps with third-party hardware and software suggests their profile will continue to grow.
They’ve just launched themselves into the turbo trainer market with the release of the Kickr, a direct-drive trainer that packs in more features than anything else currently available. But, we ask, can it possibly live up to its £949 price tag?
With LeMond, Cycleops and now Elite all getting in on the action, direct-drive turbos are on the rise again. With them, you get an extremely realistic ride, there’s no chance of rear-wheel slip and there’s a massive level of resistance. The Kickr goes up to over 2,000 watts – more than even Andre Greipel can muster in a sprint!
Looking at the spec, the most exciting thing about the Kickr is its compatibility with a large number of third-party devices. It can connect via both Bluetooth Smart (found on iPhone 4S, 5 and 5S, and the iPad 3) and ANT+, so you can control it from your iPhone, iPad or laptop.
Unfortunately, it’s only compatible with Apple’s mobile devices, but you can control it from a Windows PC if you have an ANT+ dongle.
But the best part is that it’s compatible with a growing number of third-party apps, like KinoMap Trainer and TrainerRoad.
And because it’s open source, developers can continue to make apps for the Kickr without having to pay anything, so more and more should become available.
Packed with features
Structurally, it’s a pretty impressive beast. And beast really is the word. It’s a hefty 21kg, fantastic for stability, but a real pain when it comes to getting it out of the box.
The freehub is Shimano/SRAM 11-speed compatible and comes with both the required spacer for 10-speed and a Shimano 10-speed cassette, so you don’t have to keep moving yours from wheel to trainer. You can also order a Campagnolo 10/11-speed freehub adapter.
Changing cassettes is as simple as on a rear wheel; a lockring remover, wrench and chain whip are all you need. Next you need to move the slide adjuster to make the trainer the correct height for your wheel size (no riser is needed for the front wheel as the adjuster moves the Kickr to the correct height).
Manoeuvre your frame onto the trainer, tighten the supplied quick release, plug in the trainer and all that’s left is to pair it with your phone. To do this, just download the free Wahoo Utilities app that finds and pairs the Kickr and any other accessories, like the HR belt or the speed/cadence sensor.
For a free app, Wahoo Fitness has some great features. One of the best is on the screen that lets you control the trainer directly, where you can set wattage for the trainer to stick to and it’ll keep you riding there, no matter the cadence.
For example, if you choose 200w, you’ll be pushing 200w whether pedalling at 65rpm or 110rpm, making it extremely useful if you’re planning on riding intervals – and making it far more difficult to slack off. It measures power, too, and tracked consistently and accurately when tested in conjunction with both the Quarq Riken and Garmin’s Vectors.
You can also upload training data direct from the Kickr to online training software like Training Peaks, and other websites such as Strava or Garmin Connect. In fact, you can set up the app to auto-upload to your chosen website when your ride finishes.
Make no mistake about it, even though the Kickr is offered through the Apple store as an iPhone/iPad accessory, there’s nothing gimmicky about this trainer.
The ride quality is exceptional, resistance is smooth and changes in riding style are compensated for extremely well. By this, we mean that if you’ve got the resistance set to a certain level, you can go from spinning in the saddle to climbing out of the saddle and the resistance adjusts quickly and seamlessly.
Noise-wise it’s excellent too. Although not dead quiet, it’s low enough that you won’t have that old turbo problem of not being able to hear yourself think above the din.
There are no stability issues either; the trainer’s weight keeps it rooted to the floor, even when you’re out of the saddle sprinting as hard as you can. That’s very reassuring, meaning you’re never reluctant to ramp up the resistance without fear of not staying upright.
There is, however, one big issue – the price. At £949, it’s exorbitant to say the least and, for many triathletes, probably costs well over half that of their actual bike.
Plus, when you consider that all the accessories are extra, and you need a computer or iPhone to operate it, it looks less like a training tool and more like a luxury.
If you’re lucky enough to have a spare grand to spend on a turbo, the Kickr is a no-brainer. But if, like most of us, you have a more realistic budget, it’ll remain a pipe dream.