KICKR a Superior Trainer that Kicks the Rear Wheel to the Curb
Perhaps the best reason to get and use an indoor trainer, like the exciting new Wahoo Fitness KICKR, is because only on a trainer can you exactly gauge how hard you are riding. With no hills or wind influencing your effort, and with a built-in power meter showing your wattage, you can keep it to a no-sweat recovery spin, or put yourself in the pain locker to build your strength or warm-up before the big ride.
For these same reasons, it’s a great tool for getting fit since you won’t overtrain if you have a solid plan and can discipline yourself to stick with the program and build up the time and intensity consistently and carefully. That approach also works for injury recovery because you won’t mistakenly go too hard and reinjure yourself.
Trainer with a trick
Wahoo Fitness’s KICKR provides all the aforementioned benefits, plus it’s unlike most other indoor trainers on the market. Instead of putting your road bike onto the trainer and tightening a roller against your rear wheel, you remove your rear wheel.
This isn’t a new idea, and there’s at least one other trainer available today with a similar design (the CycleOps Silencer). However, the KICKR is exceptionally well-built, fully featured and includes a power meter. Plus, what really sets it apart is it’s both ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible, allowing it to connect to both smartphones and GPS devices simultaneously or separately.
Benefits of training without your rear wheel
The first thing you notice using the KICKR is its tiny size. Folded, it’ll easily fit beneath a desk or in a closet or in the back of a pickup that’s already full of your friends’ bikes. That’s because it doesn’t need to have a large sturdy frame since it’s not holding the bike upright and keeping the rear wheel from moving away from the roller.
Instead of that, the KICKR, which has a cassette and Gates carbon belt driven drivetrain, takes the place of your rear wheel. It’s actually a lot easier to put your bike on the KICKR than it is to put a rear wheel on a bike. But if you’re challenged by rear wheel removal and installation, it’s something you’ll need to be good at to use this trainer.
In case you’re wondering why you’d want the hassle of removing a rear wheel to use a trainer, consider these advantages:
- No rear tire wear (trainer rollers wear tires rapidly)
- No cassette wear on your bike
- No need to use a leveling block for your front wheel
- Works with knobby-tired bikes without having to change tires
- Rear tire can’t rub and damage carpet as can happen on some trainers
- No chance of a flat tire ruining your workout
Super stable and smooth
The KICKR is made of heavy-duty materials, features a 12-pound flywheel and an adjustable base with 3 legs and leveling feet. It also easily adjusts for bicycles with wheel sizes from 24- to 29-inch.
This all results in a total weight of 47 pounds, which is like attaching an anchor to your bicycle, providing a supremely stable platform you won’t budge under even the most intense efforts. Equally impressive is the Gates carbon belt drive. Yes, you’re driving the KICKR’s belt drivetrain with your bicycle chain on the KICKR’s cassette, but, because there’s no roller rubbing on a tire, the KICKR has a silky-smooth spin superior to roller trainers.
Multi-device workout display/tracking
Along with removing your rear wheel to mount your bike to the KICKR, you also need to plug the trainer’s cord in. This powers it so it can talk to your preferred device, either ANT+ or Bluetooth. I used an Apple iPhone 6 and downloaded the free Wahoo Fitness app. You’ll want a waterproof case for whatever device you use (phone, tablet, etc.) to protect it from the sweat.
Note that, because the KICKR relies on electricity to create resistance, if you ride it unplugged, you won’t have the option of adjusting the resistance. Wahoo Fitness recommends carrying a cigarette lighter adapter for your vehicle so that you can plug in the KICKR if you’re using it at cycling events.
I haven’t upgraded to ANT+ compatibility. So, I’m used to staring at the basic 3-line display on my 2008 CycleOps PowerTap computer during indoor workouts. Turning on the Wahoo Fitness app was a new experience. It quickly sensed the KICKR trainer and allowed me to choose the resistance setting from effortless to so difficult I couldn’t pedal any more. Yikes!
It’s nice being able to change the resistance so easily and to so many levels. And you can’t beat the big, bright display and many available screens showing more data. Plus, using a smartphone, tablet or PC allows the KICKR to work with popular training apps, such as Kinomap, Virtual Training and TrainerRoad.
Even better, with the way virtual training like this is gaining in popularity, it means more and more features should become available for the KICKR as technology marches forward.
Why I didn’t rate the KICKR Higher
I’m highly impressed with the KICKR and enjoyed every minute I rode it. If you’re looking for a super high quality indoor trainer with all the advantages of no rear wheel and roller, plus having a power meter and advanced training options, it’s a fabulous choice.
So, I need to explain why I didn’t give it 4.5 stars, typically our highest rating. It’s because the unit’s watt readings were approximately 15% high for me (compared to similar rides on a roller trainer using my PowerTap watt meter).
Understand that if you’re only using the KICKR’s power readings for training, it works perfectly because it gives you consistent numbers, which is all you need for planning your workouts to achieve your goals. Where the issue can come in, is with someone like me who has trained for a long time with one watt meter. If I rely on the KICKR’s numbers, I would be de-training because it consistently read higher than my PowerTap. While good for my ego, it would be better if it was at least close to matching.
I didn’t want to put this in writing without checking with some watt gurus, so I asked our Spokesman Team Coach Mark Edwards, and he referred me to the Google group “Wattage.” There I read that others have experienced what I did with the KICKR.
Note, though, that there was also news of Wahoo Fitness working on a feature to sync your KICKR with the watt readings on your outdoor watt meter. So, they’re already working on it, which is actually a wonderful example of the advantages I was talking about of combining indoor trainers with smartphones and computers, and what makes the KICKR so promising.