Got WiFi? Wahoo unveils its latest Kickr trainer and Kickr Bike

Wahoo's latest trainers focus on improving the user experience with WiFi connectivity, ERG mode made easier, and more.

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Wahoo has today announced two new (read: updated) indoor trainers in the form of the V6 Kickr Trainer and second generation Kickr Bike. The announcements come as Wahoo Fitness marks the 10th anniversary of the original Kickr direct mount trainer and further updates Wahoo’s already comprehensive indoor training ecosystem.

Both new trainers are evolutions of existing devices rather than complete overhauls, with Wahoo focusing heavily on improving the rider’s indoor training experience with improved connectivity and easier ERG mode restarts. In fact, visually, the new trainers are barely distinguishable from their older counterparts, but it’s these beneath-the-hood updates that might provide major benefits for users of either device and are a sign of things to come from other manufacturers.

WiFi connect

Chief among the updates is the inclusion of WiFi connectivity for improved connection stability and faster data transfer in both trainers.

Despite recent advancements in trainers, power meters, and online training software, connection dropouts still plague many indoor rides and races. Wahoo first addressed the issue with its Kickr Direct Connect wired solution last year. The Direct Connect certainly improved connection stability, but also brought a hefty dose of additional cable clutter to the indoor mix. Now, with WiFi connectivity baked into the new trainers, Wahoo claims to have incorporated the same connection stability as the wired Direct Connect, with all the convenience of a wireless setup.

The benefits extend beyond invisible connections. Wahoo claims the new WiFi connection results in 65% faster data transfer, meaning your watts get to your avatar faster. That might sound silly, but think how much quicker you can get into the super tuck if your avatar knows you’ve stopped pedalling a split second earlier.

Furthermore, both trainers will now update seamlessly in the background, meaning riders will always get the latest firmware updates without having to remember – or be bothered – to open the Wahoo App and manually update the trainer. The WiFi connection also allows for real-time troubleshooting with the Wahoo customer support team, should you run into difficulties with either of the new devices.

Wahoo has retained the RJ11 port on the Kickr trainer, meaning riders can still opt for the Direct Connect wired connection if they so wish. A redesigned “power pigtail” brings Direct Connect to the Kickr Bike for the first time, and means the Direct Connect links directly into the new bike without the extension cable required with the Kickr trainer. All that said, Wahoo suggests the WiFi connection is actually slightly faster than the wired Direct Connect and, as such, it seems unlikely riders will revert to Direct Connect if WiFi connectivity proves as successful as Wahoo hopes it will.

One slight cause for concern is Wahoo’s decision to opt for the 2.4 GHz WiFi frequency. Sure, 2.4 GHz has its benefits, such as much greater range than its 5 GHz counterpart, but it’s also much more susceptible to interference from other devices and frequencies. As such, it remains to be seen whether 2.4 GHz WiFi will truly offer improved connection stability in busy environments and homes.

Wahoo Cycling product manager Tyler Harris did explain Wahoo “explored several different types of WiFi chipsets ranging from 2.4 GHz to 5. Through our testing, we found the 2.4 GHz chip used in the new devices to be most reliable with multiple configurations”. They also found that “not all networks support 5 GHz yet, and so including a 5 GHz chip would still require an additional 2.4 GHz chip, which could potentially complicate the setup process.”

We have both the V6 Kickr trainer and V2 Kickr Bike inbound for review, so we will get a feel for the new connectivity ourselves in the coming weeks.

Easier ERG

The latest iteration of both trainers also introduces Wahoo’s new ERG Easy Ramp. As many riders will know, in ERG mode the trainer automatically adjusts resistance to help the rider maintain a steady wattage. Many riders love ERG’s simplicity as it lets the trainer do all the concentrating, while the athlete can simply focus on turning the pedals over. So long as the rider keeps pedalling, the trainer will ensure they are hitting the target wattage.

Where this becomes a problem is when the rider stops pedalling or gets bogged down in too big a gear. Anyone who has used ERG can attest to how difficult it is to get going again if your interval gets interrupted. Wahoo’s new ERG Easy Ramp gradually returns the rider to their target power over a 10-second period after an interruption, meaning the rider has time to get up to their preferred cadence.

Previous Kickrs and other smart trainers typically provide a much more sudden reapplication of resistance and make it almost impossible to recommence an interval smoothly.

In further good news, Wahoo will roll out ERG Easy Ramp to Kickr V5.4, and 3, Kickr Bike V1, and other compatible trainers through a firmware update in the coming months.

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We’re on the road to nowhere

Lastly, both new trainers also now include an odometer for tracking trainer mileage. Of course, pretty much any online training platform will provide some measure of accumulative time or distance on the platform, which may or may not correlate to time spent on a specific trainer, depending on how many devices a rider has used in that time. By including an odometer in the new trainers, Wahoo now offers riders the option to track mileage, and as such, service intervals for the trainer.

Perhaps more interestingly, riders shopping in the used trainer market can now objectively measure how used a trainer is with a simple check of how many miles it has clocked up, going absolutely nowhere.

No word yet on whether the new Wahoo odometers can be clocked à la suspect used cars.

As you were

Otherwise, it’s pretty much as you were for the new trainer and bike. As mentioned earlier, visually, the new trainers are almost identical to the existing trainers and the extended features list is also more or less identical for the new devices.

For the Kickr Bike that means claimed +/- 1% power meter accuracy, a 13 lb (5.9 kg) flywheel with enhanced motor, integrated gradient simulator capable of inclines up to +20% and all the way down to -15%, True Fit adjustable geometry with quick release levers for quick setup changes, and programmable shift controls to match your outdoor groupsets. One upgrade of note to the bike is a new 2,500 watts of maximum resistance, for the lucky few who might get close to those numbers.

Wahoo expects the new Kickr Bike to be available within the coming weeks, priced at US$4,000 / £3,500 / AU$6,300 / €4,000.

The Kickr trainer has undoubtedly proved one of the most popular trainers on the market in the 10 years since it was first unveiled, and other than the updates already mentioned, Wahoo has wisely stuck with that winning formula. The V6 Kickr Trainer carries over the same Kickr ride feel, Kickr Axis feet, auto-calibration, and 2,200 watts of resistance as were found on Kickr V5. V6 now adds that WiFi connectivity and Easy ERG mode to further improve the indoor riding experience.

Wahoo says the new Kickr V6 is available now, priced at US$1,300 / £1,100 / AU1,800 / €1,300.

Wahoo wants to create the world’s most complete training app with Systm and the most comprehensive indoor training ecosystem with its hardware range. Its hardware range is arguably already the most comprehensive.

Heating up

The new Wahoo trainers come exactly a week after Zwift unveiled its first foray into the hardware market with the new Zwift Hub direct drive trainer. While the Zwift Hub and Wahoo’s new trainers are arguably targeting opposite ends of the indoor trainer market, much was made of Zwift’s long-awaited move into the hardware space and how existing manufacturers such as Wahoo might react. Until now, Zwift and Wahoo (and every other trainer manufacturer) have largely relied on and benefitted from each other’s existence. That seems to be changing.

You could argue it was Wahoo who fired the first official public shot in the battle for the indoor training market, first with its Systm training app and more recently with the acquisition of the RGT virtual world platform. Wahoo has the stated aim of creating the “world’s most complete training app” and combined the two apps to create its Wahoo Systm X subscription platform, which is quickly becoming arguably Zwift’s biggest competitor.

Now, the two experts in their respective hardware and software fields, Wahoo and Zwift, are converging on the same all-encompassing middle ground. Wahoo has a comprehensive ecosystem with a variety of trainers and trainer accessories, not to mention its variety of Elemnt head units and Speedplay Powrlink Zero powermeter pedals, potentially giving it the edge in the combined indoor and outdoor solution.

On the other hand, Zwift currently has just one hardware offering, but arguably the most complete and popular virtual world platform. Which of the manufacturers will win out in the long term is far from clear, but as the market heats up in the short term, it could well be us users who benefit the most.

Zwift seems intent on shaking up the market with a new lower-priced direct drive trainer, which will hopefully drive down prices in general … even if this is 2022, the year of spiralling prices and a cost-of-living crisis. Meanwhile, if Wahoo’s new updates to the new Kickr trainers prove as good as they sound on paper, they are exactly the kind of updates we want to see in a new trainer.

Arguably, we shouldn’t have had to wait until 2022 for the introduction of WiFi connectivity, but bet your bottom dollar, now that Wahoo has finally introduced it, many other manufacturers will follow suit. To Wahoo’s credit, they are seemingly trying to make it easy for other manufacturers to do so, openly offering its trainer WiFi protocol to other manufacturers.

Equally, ERG Easy Ramp, which sounds straightforward to implement. The “ERG spiral of death” has killed many a training session over the past decade, so fixing it is long overdue. Kudos to Wahoo for finally addressing the issue, but again, it seems reasonable to ask why we have had to wait so long.

That very first Wahoo Kickr 10 years ago kicked off the indoor training and direct drive trainer revolution. Today’s WiFi and Easy ERG updates are hardly earth-shattering news, and arguably long overdue, but again, kudos to Wahoo and hopefully these updates are sign of things to come.

Let’s hope 10 years from now we can look back on today’s news as the beginning of a new revolution. A revolution bringing us from a time when brands simply pumped out more and more direct drive trainer options to a time when brands settle on what they have and truly refine their existing options with meaningful, rider-centric, experience-enhancing updates.

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