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So you’re ready to get serious about training — like riding-indoors-all-winter serious — like spending $1,200 on a stationary trainer serious? Yes, like many direct-drive smart trainers, Wahoo’s Kickr is expensive. If you can stomach the price and want the best experience riding indoors during snow season, it may be just what you need.
We loved how easy the Kickr was to set up. It probably took us longer to open the box and glance at the quick-start guide, than it did to unfold the stabilizer legs, plug in, and get the bike mounted. Wahoo recommends that you calibrate the Kickr by spinning the trainer up to 22mph and then coasting down to 10mph (using its simple mobile app) before you start riding. This process is quite easy, once you’ve got the app.
Unlike old-school tire-mounted trainers, the Kickr is a direct-drive, so you remove your rear wheel and clamp your dropouts onto the unit. An 11-speed cassette is included, so no need to worry about swapping parts to set up for a ride. The Kickr has simple reversible axle ends that allow you to easily fit a 130mm or 135mm dropout. If you’ve got a thru-axle bike, you’ll need an adaptor, which Wahoo sells for $30. The direct-drive affords a few advantages. Obviously, it eliminates concerns about tire wear. Without a wheel on the back, the Kickr’s dropout height eliminates the need for a front wheel block to level the bike. It is also quieter than a tire-mounted trainer, clocking about 61 decibels, according to Wahoo.
If you want the advantages of direct-drive, but don’t need the smart-trainer capabilities, CycleOps sells its Silencer trainer for $660.
But as we mentioned, the Wahoo Kickr is a spare-no-expenses kind of trainer. So it has the Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity that allows you to guide your indoor rides with apps like TrainerRoad or Zwift. Naturally, it also works with Wahoo’s own app.
On spirited laps around Zwift Island, the Kickr’s 12.5 flywheel delivers smooth road feel, certainly improving the virtual reality experience.
The Kickr can also handle a massive 2,000 max wattage (if you fear this is not high enough, consider pursuing an Olympic campaign on the track), and can simulate gradients up to 20 percent. Compare this to the Tacx Flux trainer, which maxes out at 1,500 watts and 10 percent gradient.
With such a steep price tag, we’d hope that the Kickr is near perfect, and overall it’s hard to find fault in this trainer, which is the point of reference for nearly any competitor. One key thing we cannot do in this review is determine whether you, dear reader, are the type of person who needs a trainer that costs as much as an entry-level cyclocross bike, one you could presumably ride through the winter. Is your hometown a frozen hellscape from October to April? Are your local roads pummeled by driving rain all winter? Do you just hate wearing leg warmers or really — for some odd reason — have an affinity for Zwift Island? Maybe you need this trainer. We can confirm that it offers an experience commensurate with the price.