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New Wahoo Kickr trainers aim for better usability with some subtle tweaks

Wahoo Kickr Bike v2
(Image credit: Wahoo)

Ten years ago the first Wahoo Kickr turbo trainer came on the market. A decade later and we're now being treated to the new Wahoo Kickr direct drive turbo trainer and version two of the Kickr Bike too. That first Wahoo Kickr was not the first to bring some kind of computer-controlled system to indoor riding but it was the first to do it in a way that worked for most people. Before the Kickr, the few options that you could pick from used proprietary systems operating in a tiny market space; the first-generation Wahoo Kickr changed all that by being open and available for any company as a platform. Every list of the best turbo trainers since 2012 has included a Wahoo Kickr in some form, but Wahoo continues to innovate. 

One the biggest changes for the Wahoo Kickr world has been the expansion of the ecosystem, primarily as a result of greater competition. Wahoo has brought options in pricing with the Wahoo Kickr Core, and Kickr Rollrs, and realism-enhancing ad-ons with the Wahoo Kickr Climb. Since 2019 there's been the option to combine everything with the Wahoo Kickr Bike and they've even considered useability with a desk, and a fan. More recently there's been a bigger push into the software side of things as well with the Wahoo X streaming service. 

Now, as we head into the 2022 / 2023 winter riding season in the Northern hemisphere, the brand is once again revisiting the products on which its reputation is built. The question is, what's left to improve on with the current state of refinement in the industry?  The answer, at least from Wahoo, is usability. 

Wahoo Kickr v6 with ecosystem

The Wahoo indoor training has grown considerably over the previous years (Image credit: josh Ross)

Connectivity

The changes that the Kickr turbo and smart bike have coming in the latest generation are not going to change the industry again. Rather, they represent a smoothing of the sharp edges that still exist in day-to-day useability of smart trainers and that starts with connectivity. Dropped connections are a continued issue with Bluetooth and solving that issue is both a necessity and unnecessarily complicated. Previously, Wahoo brought the Kickr Direct Connect accessory to market as solution but there are a number of limitations as well as no Kickr Bike support.  

With the new Kickr turbo trainer and new Kickr Bike, Wahoo has built in Wifi connectivity. Any software that has Kickr Direct connect support will now have the option of working wirelessly via WiFi protocols. Dropouts should be a thing of the past but there's also other advantages. Wifi provides significant increases in data transfer speeds making it possible to deliver on-screen stats 65% faster than before and firmware updates are going to get easier. Instead of asking users to connect and update via Bluetooth, automatic firmware updates keep you ready to ride.

ERG Easy Ramp

The next point of improvement that Wahoo has identified has to do with the transition from low power to high power. The magic of ERG mode is always about the software tuning and how it works to hold you to the power requested. On the hardware side it's possible for a smart turbo trainer to hold you to the requested power perfectly, without waiver, and to instantly require that power, but that's not how humans ride in the real world. There's an art to how each brand allows the rider to move between high cadence/low power and high power/low cadence with the realism we've all come to expect.

As you begin an interval the power requested will jump, and the hardware has to make the switch gracefully. That same transition also has to happen when a rider fails an interval. Your power will go to zero and the hardware has to figure out how to gracefully ramp you up again. This also comes into play if you stop on a hill in Zwift. Wahoo is adding ERG Easy Ramp to the Wahoo Kickr v6 and the Wahoo Kickr Bike as a way to allow you to get your cadence up before requiring full power.

TrainerRoad workout with Wahoo Kickr Core

If you fail an interval, it will now be easier to get started again (Image credit: Josh Ross)

The same great features from years past

The greater narrative of these updated units is that of incremental upgrades that build on past successes. According to Chris Fischer, Chief Commercial Officer of Subscription Services at Wahoo, “the addition of these new KICKR devices with WiFi creates a more unified, connected fitness experience so our athletes can spend more time riding and less time connecting.” 

Within that there are the already discussed updates, but there is also an increase in resistance for the Kickr Bike from 2200 watts up to 2500 watts and an odometer feature for both units. There are also all the existing features that have seen continued improvement through the years. 

That means the new Kickr and Kickr Bike will continue to feature the same ride feel that Wahoo has made their name on. For the Kickr that also means the same 5-degree side-to-side movement that comes from the AXIS feet and for the Kickr Bike the same TruFit Adjustability. Both devices continue to use an auto calibration system with a +/-1% accuracy and the companion app remains unchanged. If there's a feature that you've come to appreciate about the Wahoo trainer offerings, it’s still there

Wahoo Kickr v6 AXIS feet

Features like the AXIS feet stay the same from the previous generation design (Image credit: Josh Ross)

Price and availability

The new KICKR Smart Trainer and Kickr Bike are available immediately at retailers worldwide and through Wahoo Fitness directly. 

Price: Wahoo Kickr is £1,099.99 / $1,299.99 / €1,299.99 / AUD $1,799.95 | Wahoo Kickr Bike £3,499.99 / $3,999.99 / €3,999.99 / AUD $6,299.95

Tech Specs: Wahoo Kickr

  • Max power: 2200 watts
  • Accuracy: +/-1%
  • Max grade: 20%
  • Connectivity: Wifi, bluetooth, ant+, fe-c
  • Compatibility: Apple, android, windows
  • Rear wheel size: Road: 24”, 650c, 700c mtb: 24”, 26”, 650b, 29”
  • Cassette (included): 11-speed 11-28t, compatible with Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo 11

Tech Specs: Wahoo Kickr Bike

  • Max power: 2500 watts
  • Accuracy: +/-1%
  • Simulated grade: + 20% / -15%
  • Connectivity: Wifi, bluetooth, ant+, fe-c
  • Compatibility: Apple, Android, Windows

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