The Wahoo Kickr first came to market 10 years ago and, with its then innovative direct drive system (where the rear wheel is removed and your bike attaches to the trainer), it immediately started to win over a legion of fans. Following that revolution, evolution has been the name of the game over the years, with Wahoo concentrating on improving the user experience by reducing the noise levels and increasing the accuracy.
Now we are here, testing the 6th generation – which does all of that and introduces a handful of new features too. Keep reading for our full review.
Design and setup
Fits just about any bike – Thru-Axle and Disc Brake compatibleMaximum Power Output: 2200WMeasures speed, distance, power and cadence dataWi-Fi connectivity for faster, stable data transfer
At first glance this most recent Kickr is indistinguishable from earlier models. Even on closer inspection, the Axis feet introduced with the 2020 V5 model, and the addition of a Wi-Fi indicator light are the only clues that give away that anything has changed. The newly added Wi-Fi connectivity ensures no drop outs when using third party apps like Zwift, and allows automatic firmware updates, plus there’s an Easy Ramp feature in Erg mode that allows you to get back up to a higher wattage more easily during a workout if you’ve had to pause. Finally, an inbuilt odometer keeping track of your Kickr’s ‘mileage’ is also now added to the Kickr package.
Unboxing the Kickr is a satisfyingly quick and easy affair, particularly as it has a very useful carrying handle that makes unpacking and moving it far a less awkward job than is usually the case for trainers. It comes with an 11-speed SRAM/Shimano compatible cassette pre-installed, again setting it aside from most cheaper competitors, and can accommodate a 12-speed Shimano cassette (though if you want to run a 12-speed SRAM or Campagnola one you’ll need to purchase and install a new freehub to do this).
There’s a 130mm quick-release axle already in place and an array of adapters for QR and Thru-Axles that should cover pretty much every combination. The supporting legs are already installed, they just need to be folded out until they lock into place and then an adjustment can be made to the Kickr’s height based on your bike’s wheel size. Finally, the Axis feet, which allow a little (5% is claimed) side-to-side motion while riding can be changed out depending on the rider’s weight.
To complete the set up you need to register the Kickr with Wahoo’s fitness app. This establishes the Bluetooth connection, allows you to set up the Wi-Fi, checks for any firmware updates and lets you adjust any non-standard settings you may have (such as your wheel size). With the introduction of the Kickr’s inbuilt Wi-Fi this could easily be your one and only visit to the Wahoo app as the Kickr will automatically update its firmware itself from this point on.
For those who really want to, the Wahoo app can be used to control the Kickr’s resistance in a variety of ways, but in reality riders will be firing up their favourite 3rd party apps to use with it, so we won’t dwell on this. All in all, the setup took us about 10 mins before we were on our bike and pedalling our way to nowhere.
Connect via Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi or direct connect cable (additional cost)’Easy Ramp’ featureWi-Fi ensures fewer drop outs for more realistic experience
Our first test ride was on Zwift, where the Kickr was immediately discovered and we had the option to connect via either Bluetooth, ANT+ or Wi-Fi. It’s true that there is also a wired connection option, if you buy the Kickr’s direct connect cable for an additional £80, but with the new Wi-Fi connectivity on board we can’t see many people choosing this.
Given that Bluetooth and ANT+ are clearly so last year in Wahoo’s book, we hit up the Wi-Fi connection option, though slightly confusingly this actually appeared on our screen as a ‘direct connect’ icon. It seems that Zwift and a few others haven’t created a new Wi-Fi icon yet, even though they support Wi-Fi connectivity, but the important thing is that it makes no difference to the functionality.
We guess it’s a good thing, but there really isn’t too much else to say about the Wi-Fi connection – it just works. We didn’t notice that Zwift was more responsive to our input or anything along those lines but, and this is the point that Wahoo was addressing with its addition, at no point did we find ourselves pedalling hard to stay in the bunch or mid sprint and see our avatar inexplicably sit up as if they were on the most leisurely of club rides, because the Bluetooth connection dropped out for a few seconds.
Riders have been asking for a solution to this kind of problem for a while now and the introduction of a Wi-Fi connection is a real ace in the Kickr’s pack as far as selling points go. When we tested the Kickr across a range of apps we found the connection to be just as solid; the rolling roads of Wahoo’s own RGT were flawless, their Systm app worked perfectly and Trainer Road was just as assured.
Another new feature that Wahoo have added in this updated version is ‘Easy Ramp’ which is designed to make it easier for you to get back up to the required watts if you have to stop a ride or interval while using Erg mode. Those who’ve had to do this before on a trainer will recognise the sensation similar to having stopped on the road and having to get going again while stuck in your highest gear – grinding and pushing forward to try and build enough momentum to get your legs spinning up to speed.
To test it out we deliberately stopped riding in each of the apps we were trying and the Kickr, once we’d managed to push the pedals a quarter turn, eased up the resistance as if we’d changed to an easier gear and then as our cadence increased it ramped smoothly back up to the required watts. It’s no game changer on its own, but it’s a nice little feature that irons out an indoor riding wrinkle that everyone will recognise.
Simulate up to 20% gradientAxis feet for some side-to-side movementCan extend experience with Kickr Climb
With its big 7.2kg flywheel, the same one that has worked so well across the Kickr generations, this new version feels just as good as it ever has. Acceleration is smooth, it holds speed when you crank it up and when an increase in power is required it feels as though you can glide there rather than hitting a sudden ramp. However, the Kickr misses a trick in our book by not using the same electromagnetic resistance as the Tacx NEO 2T, which can simulate cobbled and gravel surfaces, as well as driving the flywheel forward on downhill sections to add another level of realism.
The Kickr can simulate up to a 20% gradient, which is less than the 25% offered by many smart trainers nowadays, but in reality is easily as much as anyone genuinely needs. It’s also worth noting that the stability of the Kickr is, as it always has been, second to none. Full gas out of the seat sprints felt well and truly rooted; never for a moment did we worry that we might overbalance, causing us to hesitate for a split second at a crucial time as we had on some trainers. The maximum 2,200 watts of resistance, again whilst being less than the 2,500 watts that some other trainers can offer, is in practice more than enough.
The Axis feet, as covered in our review of Kickr V5, don’t make a huge amount of difference to ride feel, especially if you have a trainer mat under the bike which already allows a little side-to-side motion. Used directly on a hard floor surface there may be some benefit to be had that keeps your behind from numbing as quickly as it would without.
Finally, the added advantage of the Kickr (and the Kickr Core and Kickr Snap) is that you can expand the ecosystem to add the Kickr Climb, which replaces your front wheel and raises or lowers the front end to simulate ascending and descending on virtual roads and can add a real dimension to your training if you are specifically planning a hill climb or mountain ascent.
Impressively, the Kickr manages to do all of this in virtual silence. The sound of your drivetrain and the gentlest clicks of a spinning freehub were the only sounds that we could hear when using the Kickr, even when we cranked the effort right up to the max.
Auto-calibration to +/- 1% accuracyOdometer for checking mileage on Wahoo appAutomatic firmware updates
There are a few things that the Kickr just gets on quietly with in the background that are also worth picking up on here. We’ve already mentioned the Wi-Fi connection that automatically updates firmware, meaning there’s no more having to log into the Wahoo app or waiting around for a download when you’re ready to hop on the bike.
There’s also auto-calibration that ensures Kickr’s power recording is always accurate +/-1% without you having to perform a spindown before you get going too. In fact, the Kickr will quietly override any attempts of riders to calibrate it themselves to remove the possibility of any over enthusiastic attempts to tinker with it to, ahem, make marginal gains before a virtual race.
New for 2022, an odometer has now been added to the Kickr and you can check your mileage on the Wahoo app. One use for this would be to keep a track on how much use your components, such as your chain, have had so you can change it and don’t end up wearing your cassette out. Less immediately apparent, but perhaps more importantly, could be its use in supporting the second hand market for the Kickr. Wahoo has long had reconditioned trainers for sale on their website, so for this and the private sales market there would now be the possibility of demonstrating the amount of use it has had, beyond its age alone – a bit like you might with a car.