If you’ve got a multi-bike home and you want the ultimate ease of use for indoor riding, then the Wahoo Kickr Rollr really does feel more natural than your standard turbo trainer. The downside is that it’s essentially impossible to hold specific power in ERG mode, and it might void your wheel warranty.
Ultrafast bike installation
Natural road feel
No challenge changing between drivetrains
ERG is functionally unusable as expected
No ability to fully release resistance for descents
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We've actually covered the Wahoo Kickr Rollr Smart trainer a couple of times. We first discussed it in the form of a first ride review upon its launch, and we also covered a potential issue with Zipp wheels. This time we are coming back and ready to discuss it in the context of how it compares to the best turbo trainers available on the market.
Putting it through its paces and spending more time with it has meant hours on Zwift. We raced, we did group rides, and we even spent some time in both Zwift and TrainerRoad seeing how the unit handles intervals in ERG mode. What we found is that this unit from Wahoo is unlike anything else on the market. Now that we've got a handle on what the strengths and weaknesses are, we want to share what we've found.
Depending on where in the world you are, you'll either be at the height of summer and considering winter options or you might be in the depths of winter looking for something new. Either way, keep reading to see if the Wahoo Kickr Rollr smart trainer is going to be the right option for you.
Design and aesthetics
It's going to come up quite a few times in this review, but there's no better time to say it than now, there is nothing on the market that's quite like the Wahoo Kickr Rollr smart trainer. From a purely aesthetic point of view, there is no way you will mistake the Kickr Rollr for anything but a Wahoo product. It's a balance of sleek and industrial with a black and grey colour scheme. The 4.7kg / 10.5lb flywheel sits off to the left and you'll notice the same black and grey arrow pattern from other Wahoo smart trainer products.
What is the Kickr Rollr though? That's a bit less clear. It's a wheel-on smart trainer like the Kickr Snap but the experience of riding it is entirely different. It's also not like any wheel-off smart trainer. Instead, what Wahoo is attempting is to provide the feeling of traditional rollers without any chance of falling over.
There are two pieces that make up the construction. At the rear is a pair of two drums. The drums are roughly 36-46cm apart, depending on where you measure them from, and roughly 13cm wide. Made out of metal, they feel just like drums on something like a traditional style Kreitler roller. Given their small size though, they wouldn't have much mass to them except they are also connected to the flywheel hanging off the side of the rear unit.
Underneath everything is a very solid bar that makes a type of spine. It heads out in one direction towards what will eventually be the front of the bike. The bar is where the front and the rear of the unit join and there's a lock in the centre that allows for adjustment to match the length of a bike. Keep moving forward and instead of a drum for the front wheel you'll find a wheel cradle.
Supporting the trainer is a bar that extends out from each side of the central spine. It's 80cm in length and it sits just in front of the wheel with a larger central area, then smaller, flat, floor support pieces at either end.
To support the bike on the trainer, you'll find an A-frame that comes up over the top of the front wheel. The wheel and tyre slot in between a pair of vertical paddles that sit at the apex. The two support paddles have a max-width of roughly 50mm, so most gravel bikes should fit, though treaded tyres won't be well suited to the smooth rollers. There's no doubt that this is a product aimed at road users.
When it comes to mounting your bike, nestle the front tyre between the paddles and there's a large grey wheel at the top for adjustment. Turn the wheel and the paddles will move until they are in contact with the wheel, holding the bike so it balances upright.
The system lets the rear end of the bike float free like rollers but you've got a solid system to hold the bike from falling as you ride. Instead of removing a wheel or even attaching a bike at the axle, the Wahoo Kickr Rollr asks that you place the front wheel between the paddles and tighten them. Putting the bike on the trainer takes about as long as placing it on a quality indoor bike stand and drivetrain is unimportant. Out of the box the setup consists of putting the two pieces together and adjusting the length to match your bike then plugging it in.
You can use the Wahoo Kickr Rollr with or without power. With power programs like Zwift, you can take advantage of the electromagnetic resistance to manage up to 1500 watts and a 10 per cent maximum incline simulation. Without power, you won't get variable resistance but you'd have a system similar to traditional rollers. If you are considering using it for warmups at races, that would technically be possible. Keep in mind though that it weighs 50lbs and has only a minimal ability to fold.
I started out testing the Wahoo Kickr Rollr smart trainer just like any other smart trainer I spend time testing. That means I started with simply free riding in Zwift. Actually, in this case, it's worth reiterating what it's like to get ready to ride a bike on the Wahoo Kickr Rollr. All you have to do is walk up with your bike and place it on top of the trainer. Slot your front wheel under the A frame support and tighten it up. You are now done and ready to ride.
It doesn't matter if you've got one bike in the house with a SRAM 12-speed drivetrain and one bike with a Shimano 11-speed drivetrain. It doesn't matter if you've got a trainer bike with 3x9 and quick releases but feel like riding your nice outdoor bike with 2x12 and thru-axles. As long as the bike has 700c wheels and a wheelbase length that works, you are good to go.
There is one big drawback to this though and that's the fact that it doesn't measure power. Although the system is controllable through software, Wahoo says there's too much variability for power measurement to be consistent. For our time with this trainer, we've been riding with the Wahoo Powrlink Zero Pedals in the dual-sided variant. We've included them on our list of the best power meters and they are definitely among the best out there. They are also available as a discounted package deal although only in the single-sided variant. You can also use any power meter you want so don't feel like you have to stick with Wahoo exclusively.
Once you start riding, the road feel is among the best out there. The rear end of the bike moves around in a way that feels completely natural. Not only is there a bit of movement side to side but there's also a very natural up and down flex from the tyre and changes in the contact patch. It is of course part of why you'll need a separate power meter but it feels a lot like the experience of rollers.
As the back of the bike floats freely, the front wheel is being held. However, what makes the whole system work, and why Zipp has concerns, is that there's a fair bit movement from the front of the bike as well. It's tough to tell if the flex is coming from the paddles touching the tyre, or the wheel being held so tightly such that it is being forced to flex itself, but you can definitely feel it and from a riding perspective it's a very good thing. Zipp has said that using its wheels in this way will void their warranty, although Wahoo says it has performed extensive testing without issue.
The controllable nature of the resistance is also a highlight in free-ride mode. Head up a hill and it feels like you are riding up a hill, the resistance ramps up naturally and you rely on your gears to adjust cadence. The feedback loop of the power meter into the computer and that computer then adjusting resistance is imperceptible and everything just works.
The problem is that what goes up must come down and the experience of descending in with the Kickr Rollr exposes a real challenge. There's a heaviness to the rollers that puts a floor on the resistance. Something like the Tacx Neo 2T has the ability to actually power the flywheel when you descend on screen. It's the most natural feeling system in that regard but that's unusual. What's more typical with a wheel-off smart trainer is the ability to almost completely release resistance while you coast. With the Kickr Rollr, you don't get all that close to the feeling of descending. The experience isn’t completely different from a typical wheel-on trainer but the Kickr Rollr often transcends the experience of a wheel-on trainer and this feels like a miss.
All of the ride feel you find in free riding generally translates to the racing experience. At the beginning of a Zwift race, when you've got to hold anaerobic power levels for far longer than seems reasonable, The Kickr Rollr is a credible partner. Once that settles down, you'll have more times where you'll need to pour on the power smoothly. Again, you'll find a capable partner that's able to handle plenty of power. When it's time to sprint for the finish, you may find you want to add a bit of weight to the front feet. There's not much weight there in the design and I found I would have loved a bit more stability. Never so much that I felt like it was a big issue but at the same time, I'm not much of a sprinter. Bigger sprinters will likely feel better with extra stability up front.
The last part of testing any smart trainer is ERG mode. It's here that things take a turn, not so much for the worse but definitely for the unexpected. ERG mode should work by allowing some system to set a desired power level then forcing you to hit those numbers. The magic of how that works is the software balance of dealing with changing cadence as well as how quickly the system takes you to the power target and how tightly it holds you there. I found the Wahoo Kickr Rollr to be completely unworkable from that perspective.
The resistance will ramp up to match the desired power number but I wasn't able to balance cadence. In my normal 30-second test to see how quickly it could respond, the power was all over the place. It would overshoot and never really find its footing before the interval was over. I didn't share a screenshot because it's just not useable like this.
That sounds pretty bad, but it sort of gets worse. Remember the resistance floor I talked about earlier, that's back as an issue. It's difficult to achieve the low numbers asked for in warmups or between intervals. If you leave your gearing set somewhere in the middle of the cassette, it's just not possible to ride with a reasonable cadence. I tested both of these issues in both TrainerRoad and Zwift because I thought maybe the issue was software related. Alas, it was not but there is a silver lining.
When I stopped treating ERG mode like a traditional ERG, I found a way to make it all work. Typically, it's important you don't shift with ERG mode but I found as soon as I started shifting things started working. It ends up being a lot like doing intervals outside. You can use your bike's gearing to adjust cadence in relation to the power you are looking to hit and the trainer will still ramp resistance. It becomes kind of a two-step dance with the trainer and it's very natural and workable. It still does not allow you to precisely hit exact interval targets for short intervals. That's not a capability of this trainer but it's probably not as big of an issue as it might seem.
There is a lot of competition in the smart trainer space. So much so that it ends up being difficult to tell some of the options apart. Wahoo already has some of the best options available and they cover a wide pricing spectrum. The Wahoo Rollr Kickr is something different and it's not directly comparable. Particularly if your goal is to do intervals and you want to hit exact power numbers, this is not going to be a good choice.
There are a few use cases where it is going to make a lot of sense though. Namely how easy it is to transition a bike between indoor and outdoor use. It's actually a great place to store a bike, and if you want to ride it indoors, it's ready to go. If you want to ride it outdoors then pick it up and head outside. That same ease of transition also means it's easy to use different bikes when you feel like it.
However, if you only own one bike and you're looking for an indoor cycling solution, then unless you place enormous value in the roller feel, this won't be the solution for you, since wheel-on smart trainers can be found for less money than the Kickr Rollr alone.
There's a lot to love about the Wahoo Kickr Rollr but it's very different. There are people who are going to love it and there are also those for whom it won't work. If the advantages are the right features for you then we can confirm you'll be getting a capable system.
|Ease of Use||There is no easier trainer option on the market||10/10|
|ERG Mode||You can make this work but if judged against what’s expected, it doesn’t work.||0/10|
|Ride Feel||It feels like riding your bike outside.||10/10|
|Noise||Tires against rollers are louder than a wheel off trainer.||5/10|
|Stability||Needs more weight in the front.||7/10|
|Storability||It does get smaller but not by much.||5/10|
|Overall rating||Row 6 - Cell 1||62%|
Tech Specs: Wahoo Kickr Rollr smart bike trainer
- Price: £699.99 / $799.99 / €799.99 / AU$1199.95
- Dimensions: 31.5"(80 cm) wide on the front end, 12"(30.5 cm) wide on the rear end, 58"(147.5 cm) long in the shortest wheelbase configuration, 67"(170 cm) long in the longest wheelbase configuration
- Weight (unboxed): 50 lb
- Resistance Type: Electromagnetic
- Wireless Software Updates: Yes
- Connectivity: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, and Bluetooth
- Devices: iOS, Android, PC (Mac and Windows)
- Max User Weight: 250 lb
- Flywheel Weight: 10.5 lb
- Maximum Simulated Grade: 10%
- Maximum Power Output: 1500W
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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
By Will Jones