The Wahoo Kickr Bike is an interesting beast, incredibly well-engineered, beautifully presented, intelligently laid out (and more than a little over hyped…). It’s priced and marketed as a direct competitor to other higher end, at-home cardio machines like those offered by Peloton and Hydrow, comes with many of the same kinds of media and gadgety add-ons to give you a really decent user experience, and is built to be as comfortably personable as possible.
But is the hype worth it? And is the Kickr worth the eye-watering price tag attached to it? Let’s take a look.
First Impressions Of The Wahoo Kickr Bike
Even if such things are inherently subjective, I have no issue in claiming that the Kickr is objectively beautiful. It is at least striking and elegant, all clean lines and paired down, streamlined, spartan angles. It’s also pretty robust, at 42kg – though it is surprisingly easy to move around, thanks to the rear mounted wheels.
Other companies call this kind of thing EasyLift Technology or similar. Kickr seem content to just put a couple of wheels on and let you get on with it.
Set up can be a bit daunting when you’re trying to form your first impressions of the Kickr. At least, to a technophobe like me, they are – I have friends in IT who would probably get it all going in a couple of minutes, where it took me a little while.
It’s clever, if a bit involved, and should leave you itching to jump into the saddle.
Wahoo Kickr Bike Specs And Features
The Kickr is pretty unique in a number of ways. The first and foremost is its customisable nature, and the way in which it allows you to personalise it. You can either enter measurements from a bike fit, plug your body measurements into its computer, or take a photo of your road bike adjusted for you, and it will tell you exactly how to adjust the frame. With a little tinkering, you’ll have an absolutely perfect fit.
However you measure up, the Kickr is a small, compact, and dense machine. It manages to weigh 42 kg with only a 48 in x 30 in (121cm x 76cm) footprint and a stand over height range of 37 in to 47 in (95cm to 119cm). Everything is high quality aluminium and steel, so should last for years if you look after it properly. It’s very versatile in its framework, too, allowing for a very good user height range of 6 ft 4 in (192cm) to 5 ft (152cm). This stands testament to the fantastic hardware design on hand – their engineers and designers have excelled themselves, here. This, combined with the way in which you can fully, optimally customise the seat to match your measurements under superlative guidance, is very impressive.
The tech side of things is impressive, too. It is, of course, fully wireless, with ANT+®, BLUETOOTH®, and ANT+ FE-C. It can be controlled through iOS, Android, and PC (Mac and Windows). A lovely display gives you access to a whole range of media (see below) whilst giving you all the data you could ever want on your own training – speed, distance travelled, power output, cadence, grade, and so on.
The Kickr uses an electromagnetic and enhanced motor to give lovely, smooth, controlled resistance. This is backed up by a reassuringly weighty 13lb (5.8 kg) flywheel.
The Kickr has a feature I don’t often see in bikes – it has incline and decline options, which is fantastic for road cyclists looking for a touch of realism, or sprinters/mixed riders looking for a wider range of resistance styles. It can take you between +20% and -15%, which is pretty extraordinary.
You will be using a 100-240v power cord with a maximum power wattage of 2200W.
Using The Wahoo Kickr Bike
As above, set up took me a little while. Though the idea behind the customisation is very clever, it’s a bit fiddly and not perfectly executed.
Some of the adjustment levels are quite stiff, to begin with. I’m a pretty strong, athletic, full-grown man. If I struggled to get them moving, others will. However, a little heft can get them going, and brand new models in your own home will always be better than show room kit. Other than this, it’s simply a case of getting your head around their adjustment system. Though it’s designed to give you options, this can translate into a dizzying array of choices; though it’s designed to give you lots of information on how you should place everything, this too can be a bit overwhelming.
I really respect the range of heights these adjustments accommodate, however. Athletes from 5ft (152cm) to 6ft 4 (192cm) will be able to use it without bother. Of course, this won’t mean everyone – there are always outliers. But it’s still an impressive range, meaning that most of your family will be able to get on board if they want.
The Q-factor is 150mm, which is 10mm narrower than the Wattbike Atom, one of the Kickr’s main competitors. This makes it feel a bit more like a standard road bike.
Once you have the Kickr set up, it is good to go, entirely calibration free. It integrates into the Wahoo product ecosystem, allowing you to pair your Element GPS bike computer, smartphone, tablet, or PC, so you should have all the media and data needed to get going straight off. Again, this kind of talk often puts me off – I prefer gears and levers to apps and anything ‘Smart’ – but there’s no denying that it’s very clever and very effective.
Kickr’s Smart Trainers work with some of the leading fitness apps to give you a proper training experience, be it on-demand classes, near as makes no difference personal training, or live stream workouts. You will be able to view some of the most stunning trails going from your really good LCD monitor. I’m still a bit of a sucker for NordicTrack and their iFIT capabilities, but this plays second fiddle nicely, making the Kickr a direct competitor for other bespoke services like Peloton and Hydrow.
This is all well and good. However, we are talking about a bike, here – ride quality has to match up to the price tag. Happily, it does. The Kickr uses a 5.9kg electromagnetic flywheel, which gives a really realistic ride feel. Everything is smooth, losing a lot of the jankiness that lesser models can bring, especially through level transitions.
The transitions are also instantaneous, where bikes user more rudimentary, physically moving magnets can suffer quite a bit of lag. This immediacy is crucial in faster paced training systems, making the Kickr a great option for HIIT and sprint training, and making it truer to real life when tackling hill climbs.
This being said, there is still a bit of a clunk involved when you change gears. Don’t be fooled, though – this is a good thing. Wahoo built it in on purpose, again to mimic that healthy clunk you feel on your road bike as you shift gears. It’s a crucial bit of feedback that feels lovely. This kind of attention to detail takes the Kickr to the next level.
Wahoo have also built a ‘Climb’ feature into the Kickr, which forces you to work as you would on a real bike going up a real, steep hill. I even stood in the saddle, which was a lot of fun as well as being demonstrative of the forces at play!
Overall, the Kickr was an immensely satisfying piece of training kit. It was fun to use, incredibly hard work where it needed to be, smooth as anything, with great feedback and a lot of real life cross over.
Living with the Wahoo Kickr
Though first and foremost, the Kickr needs to function well as a piece of cardio equipment – which it does, superlatively – it is also designed for home use. As such, it needs to work well at home. You need to be able to live with it. This means satisfying certain criteria.
Firstly, it needs to be easy to store and move. As above, the Kickr is actually quite compact. It should fit into a spare bit of cupboard space or a corner of your garage without too much drama. It’s also easy to move around despite its weight. The rear mounted wheels mean that anybody should be able to trundle it around, taking it out and putting it away again (as long as there are no stairs involved – you may need help in this case!).
Then it needs to be quiet. If it isn’t, it doesn’t matter how good it is. The daggers that your family, housemates and neighbours will be glaring at you will be enough to ensure you never use it. Trust me – I’m a martial artist who gave up on keeping a punch bag at home a long time ago for this very reason.
The Kickr’s motor itself is near silent. All you get is a quiet hum that most people won’t notice – a little TV or radio will cover it up nicely, meaning you won’t be disturbing anyone’s peace and the neighbours definitely won’t notice you using it. Some of the fixtures can be a little creaky, but this just means they need readjusting.
Value for money
There is no getting around the steep price tag attached to the Kickr – at just under three grand, it’s roughly three times the amount of some well-respected, decent NordicTrack models. Even the Wattbike Atom puts it to shame, at only a couple of grand. Many of these use similar electromagnetic resistance systems, are fully customisable (if not as intelligently so) and come with enough media and on-demand training options to keep you going indefinitely.
There are a few reasons I would argue in favour of spending on the Kickr, however. Of course, you need to be pretty flush. If three grand makes sense to you, you won’t be wasting it. If it doesn’t, you can get good results elsewhere. However, the range of heights the Kickr takes, and the ease and precision of adjustment, really do make it appropriate for the whole family. Three grand split a few ways makes a lot more sense. Then there is the sheer quality – you are paying over the odds, in my opinion, but you still get an awful lot, one of the best at-home bikes on the market.
It isn’t quite value for money, therefore – not like some of its competitors, who manage to compete at half the price or less. However, the Kickr is better than them (if not a grand’s worth of better) and will give you one of the best training experiences going.
Alternative – The NordicTrack Commercial S15i Studio Cycle
So, if three grand is hard to justify, what can you do?
I keep talking about NordicTrack. I do so for a reason. Their bikes are superb, as is the iFIT capability they come with.
The NordicTrack Commercial S15i Studio Cycle isn’t the top of their range, but it’s still high-end. Without any deals, it will set you back a little over a grand. However, though it’s pricey, it’s by no means expensive – it represents fantastic value for money, giving you a plethora of gadgets and training options, and an incredibly smooth, well planted, comfortable ride.
You get a 30-day iFIT membership included with your purchase, after which you will have to pay a monthly subscription of around thirty quid. iFIT is one of the best fitness apps going, giving you all the on-demand training you could want, all fully automated, giving you a proper, real-road feel.
So, where do we land on the Kickr Bike?
- The Climb feature is great
- It is intuitively, intelligently customisable
- The build quality is superlative
- It is very pretty
- The ride feel is about the best I’ve ever experienced
- It is quiet and stable
- Connectivity and app features are superb
- That price tag is a little steep
- The adjustments are a bit involved
I do really like Wahoo’s Kickr Bike. It is incredibly well crafted and intelligently designed. You will get one of the best ride experiences of your life using it, and the on-demand classes available through its connectivity will keep everything new, pushing you and changing things up.
I’m not sure that it can justify its price tag. The price isn’t overblown, per se, and it’s a one-off payment, where Peloton and iFIT items require subscriptions. If you can afford it without sweating, go for it – you will love the Kickr. However, there are other options out there that will give you nearly the same experience for a lot less money.