Winters here in the Chicago area can be pretty brutal … so riding outside from mid-December through mid-March is often not an option.
The only real option, other than going to a gym, is to use an indoor trainer.
There are many trainers available … from dumb, resistance based, trainers to sophisticated smart trainers, to rollers.
I used to use a Kinetic Road Machine resistance trainer … it was OK, but not great. It had a ‘power meter’, that was supposed to report power to trainer apps … but I had no confidence in it (it has no idea how hard you were pedaling, just how fast your wheel was turning).
A few years ago I decided to upgrade to rollers … but could not get the hang of them. There was no resistance … it was like riding on ice.
I decided to get a Wahoo Kickr smart trainer. Wahoo pretty much defined the consumer bike trainer market.
Being into technology, I’ve accumulated a fair bit of bike tech also. As such, I’m going to try doing thumbnail reviews of some of the bike tech that I current, or used to, use.
These aren’t going to be super technical reviews. For that kind of thing I suggest you head over to DCRainmaker‘s blog or GPLama‘s YouTube channel.
These are going to be my impressions of the product … what I like, what I don’t like, what could be better, and some things that should be left just the way they are.
All the items I’m going to review have been purchased outright by me and I don’t get any compensation for the reviews (unless I provide an Amazon link, in which case I get a small commission).
The Kickr line is a ‘smart’ trainer … smart because it has built in sensors and can vary the resistance to suit the training needs.
Wahoo offers 3 different Kickr models.
- Kickr Snap, which is a wheel on smart trainer. Wheel on means that your bike needs to have a real wheel & tire.
- Kickr Core, which is a wheel off … but lower priced trainer. Wheel off means that the wheel & tire are removed from the bike and the chain is attached to a cassette on the trainer. Sometimes this is called a direct drive trainer.
- Kickr, their flagship trainer. Also wheel off, but allows for more adjustment.s and simulates more power. It also includes a ANT+ / BTLE cadence sensor.
All Kickr models offer the same basic features … varying resistance and power measurement.
I purchased my first Kickr 2016 and have since upgraded to the latest model (2018). More on why I upgraded later.
In general, I’m really pleased with the Kickr. It suits my purposes quite nicely and is easy to deal with.
Things that I like about the Kickr…
- Built in power measurement.
- Variable resistance
- Infrequent calibration requirements.
- Can be used by most training software.
- No need for a special training wheel, since the bike mounts directly on the trainer.
Things that I don’t particularly like about the Kickr…
- It’s heavy (about 50 lbs).
- Older models were somewhat noisy.
- Kind of expensive. The model I have is their flagship trainer. Wahoo also offers a wheel on model (Kickr Snap) and a less expensive wheel off model (Kickr Core).
- Although they provide a cassette with the unit, it’s not necessarily the right one for your bike. When I got my first Kickr, I used it with my Specialized Allez and the drive train was pretty noisy and didn’t mesh well. I replaced the cassette on the kickr with the same one that was on the Allez’s wheel and it’s much better. I think they should offer the Kickr without a cassette and have their bike shop dealers provide an appropriate cassette. Obviously this doesn’t help people who buy mail order.
- There was a bit of a quality control issue on the Kickr 2018 that Wahoo acknowledged. They provided a free repair kit with instructions. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to apply the fix myself. I had to take the Kickr to a local Wahoo dealer to get the repair done.
Why did I upgrade my Kickr?
Two main reasons…
- The Kickr 2016 isn’t compatible with the Wahoo Climb. The Climb replaces your front wheel and raises & lowers the front of the bike based on what incline the training software is calling for. I’m planning on getting a climb later this year, and wanted to make sure the Kickr would be compatible.
- The Kickr 2018 is quieter than previous models. While it wasn’t super noisy, it did make a noticeable noise. The new model is pretty close to silent. The only real noise is made by by bike’s drive train.
My Kickr 2016 was originally going to be sold … they tend to have good resale value … but Ginny expressed an interest in using it.
Do I recommend the Kickr?
Yes, I absolutely do recommend it. If you can’t ride consistently year round, and want to stay in some cycling form, a good trainer is invaluable.
The Wahoo Kickr (all models) are very solidly built, have very good technical support, and very broad software support.
Couple the Kickr with a good training program (Zwift, Trainer Road, SufferFest, etc), and you’ve got a really good setup.