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As good as indoor riding hardware has gotten in recent years, one longstanding hiccup has been the occasionally shaky connection reliability. If you live in a suburban or rural environment that isn’t terribly crowded with multiple wireless signals, you’re usually ok. However, if you’re an apartment dweller with potentially dozens of nearby routers and devices cluttering up the airspace, even brief signal disruptions between your trainer and computer can be a major buzzkill.
The indoor riding industry has been quietly discussing the potential for wired connections to address those issues for well over a year now, and Wahoo Fitness is now offering a solution for its own products in the form of the new Kickr Direct Connect. As the name suggests, the Kickr Direct Connect physically connects your Wahoo Fitness trainer directly to your internet router with an ethernet cable for a much more reliable signal that won’t cut out when you’re halfway through a workout or battling it out in the sprint during an online race.
Retail price is US$100 (pricing in other currencies is to be confirmed).
As enticing a prospect as it is to guarantee a reliable connection for indoor cycling with the Kickr Direct Connect, there are some major caveats, at least initially.
Currently, the Kickr Direct Connect only works with the latest version (v5) of Wahoo’s Kickr stationary trainer, and not the Kickr Core, Kickr Snap, or even the Kickr Bike — not to mention older versions of any of the above. On the one hand, given that this sort of device will most certainly appeal to users that are hyper-concerned about maintaining connectivity (such as online racers), it makes sense that Wahoo would limit the Direct Connect compatibility to the trainer model in its catalog that is most popular with that subset of users. However, signal dropouts are incredibly annoying even if you’re a casual user just trying to get a workout in, so it’s disappointing that the use of the Direct Connect is so limited, and especially so in the case of the Kickr Bike given that it’s Wahoo’s flagship indoor riding product.
Given that the Kickr Direct Connect is supposed to be plugged into your internet router, the two also have to be situated some reasonable distance to each other (or you need a really long ethernet cable). Alternatively, Wahoo says the Direct Connect will also work if you connect your Kickr to the ethernet port on your computer. That obviously still leaves a wireless connection between your computer and your router, but that pairing is apparently less of a concern.
The biggest downside pertains to software compatibility. At launch, Wahoo says the Kickr Direct Connect will work with Wahoo’s SUF Training System (formerly known as The Sufferfest), TrainerRoad, FulGaz, and RGT Cycling. One conspicuous omission? That would be Zwift, where not only the vast majority of online racing is happening right now, but also what the majority of people who would be most interested in a product like this are using.
Thankfully, Wahoo’s press release suggests that’s set to change in the near future, although exactly when is still to be determined.
“Other platforms are expected to become compatible in the coming months, including Zwift.”
In other words, the Wahoo Fitness Kickr Direct Connect is, on the one hand, a big step forward in terms of improving the connection reliability for indoor cycling. But on the other hand, and at least in its current form, it’s also surprisingly limited.
Nevertheless, expect more to come on the wired front from Wahoo Fitness, and for other companies to follow suit sooner than later.
For more information, visit www.wahoofitness.com.