James Dixon brings you an in-depth look at this special data-rich exercise bike in our comprehensive Wattbike Pro review. Read on to find out how it stacks up…
There are few indoor upright cycles as exciting as the Wattbike Pro – it is incredibly robust and versatile, setting the standard for all other bikes of its type. In fact, some of the world’s strongest, most explosive athletes use it – including New Zealand’s All Blacks!
The big deal with the Wattbike Pro is its data use. It gives just about the most in-depth workout data I’ve ever seen from a piece of cardiovascular training equipment, all incredibly scientifically accurate, all completely embedded in Wattbike’s years of painstaking research, analysis and constant striving for improvement. In fact, it has been carefully engineered and independently tested to deliver ±2% accuracy across the full power range of 0-3760W.
It’s not just for data lovers, either. As I’ll show, there are some serious performance gains to be had from this unique piece of equipment so let’s dive straight in with our Wattbike Pro review.
Wattbike Pro Overview
Wattbike make large claims about the Pro, saying that it ‘redefines the very notion of indoor cycling.’
It doesn’t. However, this is more to the detriment of their PR and advertising teams than the Pro’s design. Though it isn’t quite as revolutionary as they claim, it is still an amazingly good, practical upright bike. It is robust, able to take a pounding from some of the toughest professional athletes in the world, and versatile, as above. You can really open the taps on it without worrying – it can stand up to any HIIT, burst, or sprint training you can throw at it – and you can get a good, solid, steady state session going in comfort.
I like the display. It’s kind of retro, looking a little 1980s style, as though fished straight from the set of ‘Stranger Things’. This belies its functionality. It gives you all the training data you need to make the most of your session – speed, time spent, distance travelled, energy used, pace, and so on.
In fact, this is where it is strongest. The Pro benefits from years of painstaking research, data analysis, and revolutionary improvements. It is something of a precision tool built to look like a hard, weighty jackhammer. It is one of the best pieces of cardio equipment in the world for giving you ultra-reliable feedback.
It measures the power generated by each stroke of the pedal incredibly precisely. Because of this, it is able to very accurately show you exactly what is going on with each ounce of energy you expend. This is valuable to athletes, who can get a clear picture of how they are doing. It’s incredibly useful to trainers, who can modify their athletes’ technique and training regimes with a wealth of information at their fingertips.
It will, in short, make anyone a better cyclist.
The Pro isn’t overly engineered, however, which I really like. It doesn’t try to be clever for the sake of it. It isn’t complex just for the sake of it. Where it can be simple, it is – stripped back, elegant and useful, without fuss. It won’t dictate the power you’re laying down, which is odd to most electric bike users, but is fantastic for growth and progress. It is factory-calibrated for optimum performance, so doesn’t need much maintenance or playing around with. The real time data is clearly shown.
This allows them to keep costs down. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t cheap. However, at around two and a half grand, it really isn’t priced at the top of the market. This is surprising, given how well it performs. But this is what clever design can do for you.
First Impressions Of The Wattbike Pro
With something like the Wattbike Pro, the first impression doesn’t come when you get it out of the box, as is the case with many pieces of kit that I review. Its reputation precedes it, and it was actually kind of intimidating.
However, as intimidated as I was, I also had high expectations. This is partly down to Wattbike themselves, who make no bones about the quality of their products and the scientific zeal with which they approach their design process. I was expecting one of the best cycles going.
Unpacking it, this is exactly what I seemed to have on my hands. It really is a precision engineered, incredibly well balanced, really quite beautiful machine.
Wattbike Pro Specs & Features
This is where the magic happens – the quality of the specs and features, and the precision of their feedback and adjustment, is crucial to the Pro’s success.
Firstly, the Pro includes Wattbike’s patented analysis tool, Polar View, which helps you to improve your pedalling efficiency and power output. You will learn how to deliver every little bit of strength and stamina you bring to bear in your cycle in its most efficient format.
This may well be needed, too, as the Pro is no slouch in the resistance it gives. It uses an innovative combination of air and magnetic resistance, which gives you incredibly smooth, incremental increases. A maximum of 3,760W for the Wattbike Pro gives more than enough resistance for even the toughest athletes – hence its elite clientele.
The unique technology they feature in their frame gives the Pro what Wattbike call its ‘real ride feel.’ It works. You really do feel like you’re riding on the road, which is a rare find in an indoor upright cycle. This makes the Pro perfect for road cyclists looking to get some time in, in the studio, but who want it to translate into real life.
The Pro has decent connectivity, too – it supports apps that are ANT+ compatible and connects via ANT+ and BLE. This is far from exhaustive – there are smarter bikes out there – but it’s decent and kind of beside the point. You don’t need any connectivity to use the bike after initial set up, which requires Wi-Fi.
The main thing is the metric measurements. Where most bikes will give you half a dozen or so measurements, the Pro measures over 37 metrics about your riding, and displays them in the Wattbike Hub. They work with third party apps to deliver power, speed and cadence. It’s astonishing – a superfluous amount of data for me, and for most casual athletes, but much of it will be vital to many.
The chain is made of industrial-grade steel and measures in at 0.5 inch by 1/8 inch. The pedals are integrated with adapters for toe clips use on one side, designed like an MTB SPD. The other is a smoother pedal for use with conventional trainers.
The handlebar is completely, fully adjustable, though it favours far lower positions, as befits its use by top-class cyclists and other athletes.
Using The WattBike Pro
There are a few things I love about using the Wattbike Pro, and a few things I’m not too keen on.
As a brief overview, it has a great spin scan feature, is easy to use, has a sophisticated handlebar-mounted computer and approach to data and analysis, plus ANT+ data transmission. I also like the dual ride system. I’m less keen on the lack of an electronic brake, its inability to perform high-cadence work, some of its more simplistic elements, and the fact that it is genuinely massive. It also costs quite a lot, though this is kind of fair enough for everything it does right.
Take the dual resistance systems. Most bikes plump for either an air or magnetic brake, choosing between the former’s unsurpassed exercise efficiency and the latter’s precision tuning. The Wattbike Pro combines them admirably, giving you the best of both. The result is an incredibly intuitive, smooth yet rigorous ride. It also stands up really well to HIIT and sprints, which magnetic systems alone can often struggle with.
This is underpinned by five sprint and five endurance levels. This will ensure that you can push your lungs and legs to the limit, no matter how fit and strong you are. At the upper limit of the endurance range, you will be working the ancillary cardiac muscles and accessory muscles of respiration to their maximum. The higher sprint range will burn your legs out, eliciting hypertrophy and fast-twitch muscular strength.
I have rarely found such a good bike for switching between sprint and rest periods. It really is top notch for HIIT.
I mentioned the real bike ride-feel technology that Wattbike have used in the Pro. This also comes from the dual resistance types. It works, too – the craftsmanship is such that it really does feel like you’re out on a road race or track. The Pro replicates almost perfectly the sensation of road riding and the air resistance that entails. As above, any cyclists using the Pro to up their game, wanting it to translate into real life, will be more than happy.
Then there is the data and its presentation. I personally like the display, but that’s mostly because I’m a child of the nineties and it makes me feel nostalgic… which a state-of-the-art piece of gym equipment should not do. The Pro has some of the best, most accurate, most responsive data gathering technology in any commercially available piece of fitness kit. Then, where even cheap, bog-standard bikes give you a decent LED backlit screen, it comes with a standard monochrome display with no backlighting at all.
The data gathering is good, though – I know I’m going on about it, but it’s one of the main reasons anyone would want to invest in a Wattbike Pro. Many conventional bikes don’t give you the kind of real time feedback you need to really alter your technique or push yourself to adapt. The Pro comes with a wide range of techy, digital analysis tools that are incredibly advanced for this kind of bike. You can connect it to data capture and digital analysis apps that run on NT+ and FE-C platforms, and it’s fully compatible with Apple devices running on iOS 10 and upwards, alongside Android platforms running on at least Kitkat 4.4.4 version.
Independent trials have placed the Pro’s data capture accuracy at a maximum of 2% off any metric it measures, which is astounding. This kind of accuracy may mean the difference between winning and losing higher level races and competitions.
The Polar View digital analysis platform provides high quality feedback on your pedal performance. It is easy to navigate and make use of, allowing you to easily improve power output and learn where you need to put your training attention.
Wattbike also use a Polar Cadence feature, which can be incredibly useful, and which has few, if any, direct competitors in any commercially available bikes. This cadence feature has a 100-time-per-second sampling rate, which is astonishing. Combine this with the power meter built into the bike and you have a collection of highly accurate cadence and power data. This accuracy has been confirmed in several peer-reviewed studies.
But what does this mean? In essence, the Wattbike is able to display a real-time spin scan. This includes left-right balance, so that you will know where your dominant force is coming from and compensate by putting more stress into your non-dominant side. It also shows your angle of peak force and gives you a graphic representation of your pedalling technique – all incredibly useful for serious cyclists and their trainers.
I’ve only ever seen this kind of equipment in specialist physiotherapy centres and pro-cyclist studios before.
I do have a bit of a gripe with the Wattbike’s saddle. Given how long you should be able to train on the Pro for in any one go, the saddle is a let down. It’s just not comfortable enough to keep you going for a longer time. Though they say it is a standard racing seat, it may leave your bum a little numb!
Other than this, the Pro is a joy to use in any setting. It is incredibly useful, very clever, and deceptively simple – all things I value a great deal in any piece of kit.
Alternative To The Wattbike Pro
If reams of data aren’t your thing, and you prefer a few gadgets and access to online, on-demand training sessions and group classes, the Wattbike Pro may not be the best choice for you. I would urge you to check out NordicTrack’s range.
The NordicTrack Commercial S15i Studio Cycle is a great starting point.
It isn’t the top of their range – far from it! – but it’s still NordicTrack: it’s still high-end. Without any deals, it will set you back a little over a grand. However, this still represents fantastic value for money, giving you a plethora of gadgets and training options, and an incredibly smooth, well planted, comfortable ride.
A large part of the NordicTrack Commercial S15i Studio Cycle’s appeal is in its gadgetry and tech.
First things first, you get a 30-day iFIT membership included with your purchase (you have to subscribe for a monthly payment thereafter). This is the main reason I would go with NordicTrack – it will reinvent your training regime, especially if you’re relatively new to any facet of cycling.
With iFIT, you get access to essentially limitless personal training and group classes at home, on demand, with a choice of either live or pre-recorded workouts available. The trails on offer are also quite beautiful, with breath taking landscapes from around the world delivered via their fantastic HD touchscreen.
Your iFIT Trainers automatically adjust your resistance, incline, and decline, so you really don’t need to worry about anything bar pedalling. These incline and decline capabilities are also some of the best I’ve ever come across. They are continuous and smooth, delivered with the help of an improved incline and decline motor for speed and softness.
The 14-inch Smart HD Touchscreen is also top of the range, upgraded from NordicTrack’s previous (and also impressive) design.
It has an enhanced graphics card and faster WIFI connectivity, so everything really is seamless. Added processor cooling enables improved graphics performance, so you really do get a first-hand, crisp view of the vistas and scenes through which iFit will be taking you. The touch screen works incredibly well, allowing NordicTrack to deliver those iFit classes perfectly.
It isn’t just about the software, however. It can more than back itself up in the hardware department, too, with some fantastic elements at this price point.
As above, Trainer will automatically adjust your resistance, incline, and decline, thus optimizing your training. You can also manually control everything. Incline and decline run between a -10 to 20 percent grade, and 22 digital QuickResistance levels offer a great range of workout control, with decent resistance at the upper end.
This upright cycle also uses SMR technology (Silent Magnetic Resistance) to give you a smooth, quiet workout. Your feet will be stable and at a perfect Q-angle thanks to adjustable levelling.
The S15i Studio Cycle has a generous 159kg user weight capacity, making it suitable for even larger athletes.
It really does represent good value for money and a fantastic way to jazz up your training.
The Wattbike Pro has two things going for it that set it apart from its competition, such as it is.
Firstly, the Wattbike Pro is incredibly, deceptively simple, especially when you consider the thoughtfulness and ingenuity that has gone into some of its elements. This is a good thing. The simplicity doesn’t rob it of any effectiveness. It doesn’t diminish the user experience at all. However, it does allow Wattbike to keep costs down, putting their attention into what matters and not over-engineering and over-charging for what doesn’t.
This simplicity also make the Pro easy to use. There is no faffing about learning how interfaces work, no need to log in to any networks, register with anyone, navigate any home pages. Simply jump on, start pedalling, and you’re good to go.
Secondly, we have the phenomenal data capture. Learning more about your cadence and rhythms will be invaluable to improving your abilities as a cyclist and training yourself to be the best you can be. I cannot emphasis how important this is. That a company has made this kind of data readily accessible in a commercially available piece of kit, at such a reasonable price point, is to their enduring credit.
Hats off to Wattbike – they have made something truly special, here.