Even with the general easing of lockdown, the popularity of indoor cycling is set to stay thanks to stimulating apps such as Sufferfest and Zwift, and incredibly smart trainers from Tacx, Wahoo and WattBike. And it’s Brit brand WattBike who are immediately looking to capitalise on this growing audience with the launch of its next-gen Atom – first released in 2017. It’s a refinement rather than overhaul of the original.
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“This isn’t an Atom 2.0 but it’s also not a stopgap. It was always the plan to launch in 2020 and wasn’t driven by lockdown,” WattBike tell us. “Following the 2017 launch, we identified some enhancements and improvements and integrated them into the new model.”
Atom chapter 1 was generally lauded for its performance insights, seamless connectivity and accurate data, but experienced criticism for the crispness and slight delay of its shifting compared to a real bike, especially when chasing that flashy new clubmate up Alpe de Zwift.
So, what’s changed? First up, the magnetic resistance unit has been upgraded to electromagnetic for swifter resistance changes that successfully produce a more precise and swift movement through the gears. That sharpness was reflected on Zwift, where we did the majority of our testing, and created a more authentic racing experience. You’ll still need a third-party app of choice to tell you what gear you’re in (and we’d want to see shifters on the aerobar extensions on the Atom 2.0, not just on the hoods), but Ant+ connectivity is again impressive.
The flywheel and crank-angle sensors now generate data 1,000 times per second for a +/-1 accuracy – twice that of the original – and power range is extended from 2,000 to 2,500 watts, which may appeal to the most powerful sprint-distance triathletes out there.
For those new to WattBike, the 44kg weight means it’s not especially portable but it’s certainly sturdy.Adding to the cost is that you’ll need your own tablet to utilise the training data (although it’s a grand cheaper than the Wahoo Kickr Bike – tested in a couple of issues), but it comes with its own tri-friendly saddle and tri bar pads – yet the tri-bars can sadly only move fore-aft, not sideways. At 70 decibels, it’s not as quiet as a Peloton or Echelon but our kids didn’t stir.
The 50 x 100cm dimensions make it less intrusive (and aesthetically cleaner) than a standard turbo trainer setup. And, as someone without a pain cave, it’s here that the benefits of having a permanent bike setup stood out, as our Zwift numbers plummeted the week after the Atom was wheeled away. Whether that’s worth £1.8K will depend on your budget, but there’s much to celebrate in the slicker and more productive Atom of 2020.
Verdict: refined rather than overhauled, but the improvements are telling 87%