Why is the Wahoo Kickr Rollr voiding wheel warranties?
Is Wahoo’s new indoor trainer unsafe for your wheels? Zipp seems to think it has the potential to cause damage
The Wahoo Kickr Rollr is the latest system for indoor training from Wahoo. If you check out our list of the best turbo trainers available, you'll see that two-thirds of the list are wheel-off, direct-drive options. The rest are wheel-on trainers, but despite keeping the wheel on, the Wahoo Kickr Rollr doesn't truly fall into either category. Wahoo is doing something totally different. As the name suggests, it's meant to be similar to the rollers of days gone by, but with modern technology integrated.
For years, rollers were the preferred indoor training system for anyone with a road racing background; they were there in the warmup area of just about every race - from local to WorldTour - and they were suggested by a wide range of coaches. The riding experience was closer to outdoor riding than anything else available and at the same time, rollers added an element of core stability and bike handling skill to each session.
One of the things that made rollers great was that they required smooth input and conscious bike handling. Make a mistake and you'd find yourself on the floor, often having pulled your computer off the counter with the cord of your headphones. As good as rollers were to ride, they came with barriers to entry that were too great for a lot of people.
Turbo trainers that held the bike stable were an attractive alternative. The ride quality wasn't as good but you'd never fall off no matter how hard you sprinted.
Then, when wheel-off trainers hit the market - a charge led by Wahoo's original Kickr direct drive trainer - the death of rollers was all but written in stone. It's still possible to buy new rollers, even from the best-known brands, but it's only a small fraction of today's overall market, and those barriers to entry are still present.
The Wahoo Kickr Rollr offers a solution. With the Rollr, the rider leaves both wheels on their bike, making it convenient to switch from riding indoors to outdoors. At the rear of the bike is a pair of rollers with a space between them. This is very similar to classic rollers design but Wahoo has added resistance with an integrated electronic brake and a 10.5lb flywheel. There's ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity that allows a connection to the full range of indoor training apps. You can ride through virtual worlds in Zwift or tackle intervals in TrainerRoad and you can do it with the ride quality that makes rollers unique.
Then, at the front Wahoo does something different from other rollers systems. There's not another roller for the front wheel. Instead, there's a trough that keeps the front wheel from moving forwards or backwards. Heading from the floor up and over the front wheel is an A-frame, and at the top, there's a system described by Wahoo as a 'Safety Tire Gripper'.
Set the bike on the Kickr Rollr, bring the frame up over the wheel and turn the adjustment wheel at the top. The jaws of this gripper will move towards the centerline until your front wheel is secure, holding your bike upright. According to Wahoo: "The front safety tire gripper can accommodate tires up to 2.1" (53mm) to keep your bike upright and secure, making it easy to get on and off the bike while providing stability, even when sprinting."
In use, the system isn't quite the free-flowing dream ride that rollers are, but you also can't fall over. The rear wheel moves, and feels, just like rollers but the front wheel stays solid enough that you never experience instability. There is something else that makes the experience great though and that is the flex in the front of the bike. Some of it comes from the frame of the Kickr Rollr, some of it comes from the tyre sidewall flexing against the jaws of the holder, but there is also some that comes from the flex of the actual wheel.
It's that last detail that Zipp has an issue with. Specifically, the brand has said that it does not recommend using its wheels with the system, and has gone so far as to say the following:
"Zipp wheels are not intended to be used on trainers that attach to the front rim or tire of the bike while the rear of the bike remains unsecured. Any damage caused by such use will not be covered under Zipp’s warranty policy." It's not a statement with much wiggle room should you experience an issue.
For its part, Wahoo has said that “Wahoo has tested and analysed several wheels and found that the stresses imposed by the Rollr trainer are all within acceptable levels or lower than stresses observed during outdoor riding. We are confident that the Rollr will not damage wheels. We are also working with additional wheel manufacturers to certify their wheels with the Rollr since Zipp has taken this position and we plan to share our research with them.” Clearly, the two companies have a difference of opinion.
As a consumer, what's important to remember is that if you have Zipp wheels, you are going to want to swap them out for any trainer ride that involves the Wahoo Kickr Rollr. As mentioned, Zipp might not be naming Wahoo in its statement, but it is being very clear that the way the trainer secures the bike will void its warranty. The concern on Zipp's end is, given the many miles some of us cover on the trainer, how much each little micro-flex affects the integrity of the wheel. The interest for Zipp is in keeping its wheels solid and its interests align with being cautious. What if there's some combination of circumstances that causes an issue? Zipp would rather err on the side that keeps its wheels out of harm's way.
For Wahoo, the motivations are different. The situation has put the indoor cycling giant in the unenviable position of trying to disprove a negative. Is it possible to prove that no matter what, the system won't harm a set of wheels? That's a high bar to clear even though it would seem it did what it could to adequately test ahead of release.
As a consumer, you'll need to make your own choices about what risk you are willing to take. No other wheel brand has come out on either side of the debate so if you've got a different wheel brand, at this point, there's not an issue.
Just be aware that Zipp is unwavering, and there is no wiggle room in its statements and the effect of the Wahoo Kickr Rollr on your Zipp wheels warranty.
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Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutiae of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Weight: 140 lb.
Rides: Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Enve Melee, Look 795 Blade RS, Priority Continuum Onyx