The Wahoo Kickr Bike has been a bit of a lifesaver for me. Granted, Wahoo's indoor trainer for cyclists isn't without its shortcomings, as I'll get into in this Kickr Bike V1 review, but nonetheless, it's an often incredible piece of kit on so many levels, especially if you're a Zwift user like me (it's not exclusively mated to that service, though, so you're open to many other options, including Wahoo X).
Having moved house from the city to the country during "that special time in 2020", I've been fortunate to ride in the English countryside multiple times a week in the years since. But with more rain, more cold, more ice, more work (and more undue stress), it's all meant I've had to cut back my on-the-road hours. With the Kickr Bike setup in my garage, however, an evening winter session in what would be full darkness outside is no bother and no risk at all. Indeed, it's a pleasure.
Prior to using the Wahoo Kickr Bike V1, hands down one of the best indoor trainers, for around three full months now, I'd invested a few thousand miles of pedalling via Zwift using Garmin's equivalent, the Tacx Neo Bike, so I'm more than familiar with the competition. The question, therefore, is whether the Wahoo is an out-and-out winner and, furthermore, whether the V1 Kickr Bike now makes more sense to buy following the announcement of the upgraded V2 model...
Wahoo Kickr Bike V1 review: Price & Availability
As I've just pointed out above: the Wahoo Kickr Bike is available in V1 and V2 versions, both of which are available to buy right now. The original (as reviewed here), while lacking a true 'Direct Connect' Wi-Fi connection (lag is therefore worse in apps such as Zwift) and Odometer (for mileage tracking, which you don't need with most apps anyway), is now a much better buy in my opinion, as its price differential is so significant.
At the time of writing the Wahoo Kickr Bike V1 costs £2,199 in the UK ($3,499 in the US, AUD$5999.95 in Australia). That's a price drop of around a third on the original price, partly brought on by the newer V2 version coming into existence. I think that's a necessary drop, as there's added pressure in the market, including from Zwift's own turbo trainer and significant price-drops in Garmin's range (the Tacx Neo Bike is now a similar of lower price). Especially as Wahoo's Kickr Bike V2 model is currently £3,499 – which is an awful lot of money.
Wahoo Kickr Bike V1 review: Key features
Before I get carried away with personal experience, however, I'll point out the key features of the Kickr Bike V1 – some of which separate it entirely from the competition – in the below table, following with some elaboration on why these features matter.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Row 0 - Cell 1|
|Dimensions & Weight:||1350 x 340 x 880mm; 42kg|
|Simulated Grade:||+20% / -15% (built-in hydraulic adjustment)|
|Crank arm:||165, 167.5, 170, 172.5, 175mm|
|Connectivity:||ANT+ & Bluetooth|
The main point to make here: the Wahoo Kickr Bike can simulate gradient, sure, by upping the resistance of its electromagnetic motor in response to input. But it can do far more than that: it's got a built-in hydraulic adjustment, so when you hit the 'unlock' button on its low-slung (and poorly positioned) control panel below the handlebars, the bike physically rises and falls related to your virtual terrain. So your climbs will feel more authentically positioned, and your muscle groups will, in theory, respond accordingly, thus making this a far more efficient out-of-season training machine than many.
Maximum power, at 2200W, is going to be a non-thing for most people, really. Many capable cyclists won't have an FTP (functional threshold power, i.e. a maintained maximum power over an hour-long period) over 300W. Many enthusiasts can maintain around the 400W mark for climbs of a given duration. I can max a four-figure output, but I'm talking about a peak figure – not an ongoing output. Considering most Olympic champions can max (and, admittedly, maintain for a given period) 2200W or thereabouts, the Kickr Bike is of a world-class level in terms of its resistance. The V2 model goes even higher, at 2500W, if you think that matters for you.
Adjusting for fit is also easy, thanks to five key mechanisms: there's stack, reach, setback, saddle height, and frame height. Annoyingly there's no saddle angle adjustment, and the seatpost is non-standard in size, so it's difficult to accommodate for that, which I find a bit frustrating (I've changed the seat itself, as the standard provided one is uncomfortable). Oh, and as the bike uses quick-release-style locks, if you've got multiple users adjusting for position this can be a total pain because they have to be firmly closed – it's not a gym bike, the likes of which are way easier to tweak.
There are also five crank length options, so you can match your road bike's equivalent and position yourself with ease. That, once you've set everything up correctly, including the above adjustments, means you'll have a doppelganger-like feel between indoor and outdoor bikes, which is ideal. It does take a lot of tweaking to get it right, but once you get there, it's great (seat angle aside).
Wahoo Kickr Bike V1 review: Assembly & Accessories
When you receive the Wahoo Kickr Bike, opening the box reveals it to be in a number of pieces, as you'd expect. The necessary Allen Keys for construction are included, and it's relatively easy to build by keying everything together as per the instruction manual – although you'll really need two people to help support certain components' weight during.
The free-floating nature of the Kickr Bike's design looks kind of outlandish, and I didn't initially entrust that its 42kg mass would accommodate my roughly-double-that weight. But, according to spec, it can handle pedallers of up to 113kgs (250lbs), and I've been banging out 500-800W sprints without fear of toppling over. It's started to squeak a bit, given the abuse I've given it, mind, but all seems fine otherwise.
The main thing that's absent in the build for me is readily apparent: you construct the Kickr Bike and, well, that's it. You've got a cool-looking indoor training bike. But there are no accessories in the box. Nothing extra. That means no fan. No phone holder. No, well, anything. Now, I get that Wahoo is trying to recreate the experience of cycling on the road in a product that is very much for indoors, and while that's largely achieved in vision, it's an oversight in practicality terms for actual indoor cycling.
With the Garmin Tacx Neo Bike, for example, you get a built-in phone holder, built-in fans, even an optional tablet holder if you're not using a laptop. The Wahoo? You can buy a fan (Kickr Headwind) for a few hundred quid that's overpriced and difficult to position effectively. You need a separate stand for a laptop/tablet (Kickr Desk), also at extra cost. And the lack of a phone holder, including no accessories I can find, is really at odds with companion apps – the lifeblood of long Zwift sessions for many. This is a major area in which the Kickr bike could and should improve in my view. I know it's not an 'exercise bike', per se, but it could be a more practical indoor trainer when it comes to accessories.
Wahoo Kickr Bike V1 review: Performance
There are some obvious irks to get out of the way: the provided saddle is uncomfortable; the seatpost is a non-standard diameter, and therefore you can't really replace it with a normal road bike's equivalent (you can fit your own saddle of course, as I have, but it then lacks the rise/fall adjustment); and the bottle holder is so low down for me that it's next to useless – instead I have a separate side table for this.
Get beyond those foibles, however, and the Wahoo Kickr Bike is largely smooth sailing. It feels really good when you're in flow, the 'road feel' (known as 'difficulty' in Zwift) is thorough, and the vast availability of gearsets available is exceptional (whether you use Campagnolo or SRAM or Shimano, it can all be mapped), and there are even features like steering in Zwift (the interior thumb buttons aren't amazingly well placed for this unless you have Campagnolo hand dexterity (but then you'll probably be wondering why the gears aren't changing anyway)).
This kind of detailed adjustment isn't remotely rivalled by Garmin, so you will get a better like-for-like road-to-indoor match with the Wahoo. But, on the other foot, you'll be sweating buckets on the Kickr Bike without a well-positioned fan (Garmin has that for free) or logical accommodation for a sweat-catch (Garmin doesn't include that, but you do get a branded Tacx towel in that product's box!). The Kickr Bike's gearing display is also woefully out of sight, below the handlebars, and if you sweat as much as I do, then your mop-down cloth will always hide that visual cue.
One of my biggest excitements about the Kickr Bike was its inclusion of built-in rise/fall adjustment. Seeing and feeling the bike adjust its pitch is at first almost concerning as you get pushed up by (up to) 20 degrees, but then you get used to it and realise what a benefit it is for more realistic climbing training. With caveats, of course: the Bluetooth connection's latency is lacking, so physical motion is behind the on-screen visuals to excess (in theory, the V2 model's Direct Connect Wi-Fi could fix this, but it's another grand or so more to buy); and in Zwift you also have to up the 'trainer difficulty' to permit more significant physical adjustments, which also means the greater burden of 'road feel' and the two can't be segregated at present (I hope this changes in the future – not a Wahoo issue though).
As with any indoor bike, there's no real 'sway' when riding either; indeed, a dedicated turbo trainer that you use with your own bike frame will give you the greater impact of that and probably less saddle soreness too. However, I'm not an advocate of constantly fitting my outdoor bike for indoor use on a trainer – the on-and-off peril of that rear derailleur just puts things out of whack too easily. That's why I'm so much happier with a dedicated indoor trainer, such as the Kickr Bike. You could always put it on a rocker plate to get some enhanced natural 'road feel' if you want to (although I'm not sure I could vouch for the stability of this in combination).
Wahoo Kickr Bike V1 review: Verdict
As I said up top: the Wahoo Kickr Bike has been a lifesaver for me. It's a superb dedicated indoor cycling trainer that's catered for several hundred miles (thus far) for myself and my significant other, easily being adjusted between rides to accommodate our needs.
And I've not had to take my actual road bike's rear wheel off and muck about with getting it on an indoor trainer, either. Without the time, headspace or capacity to deal with that prospect, that's what makes the Kickr Bike hugely worthwhile for someone like me. It's pricey, sure, but it's less than a gym membership or your mechanic's fees.
However, the Kickr Bike is not quite perfect. It might read like it should be, as I'd assumed it to be way better than the Garmin Tacx Neo Bike, by comparison, thanks to Wahoo's rise/fall hydraulic system, but in reality, I've missed the built-in fan cooling and phone holder of the Tacx setup, which I think Wahoo needs to consider in the future. Latency, too, is a bother – but that Kickr Bike V2 ought to fix that issue if you can afford the extra (I've not tested it, as I don't have one to compare).
I haven't missed the Tacx's restrictive gearsets or poor shifter positions, though, which is where the Kickr Bike really comes into its own: in feeling closer to a road bike proper than the competition. The lack of side-to-side movement means it's not wholly realistic, of course, but it's a step above its peers – and that's massively appealing. Overall, as dedicated indoor trainers go, the Wahoo Kickr Bike (V1) makes for a sensational ride.
Wahoo Kickr Bike V1 review: Also consider
The Wahoo Kickr Bike V1's key competition is the Tacx Neo Bike: the former has hydraulic adjustment whereas the latter does not, but the latter features built-in fans and accessory holders that help it be an easier-to-use indoor trainer in many ways. Both are priced around the same; the Wahoo is pricier if you add the accessories (Kickr Fan, Kickr Mat, etc.) into the package.
If you fear the latency issue of the Kickr Bike V1's Bluetooth connectivity, then Wahoo has solved that in theory: it's called the Kickr Bike V2, complete with Direct Connect Wi-Fi... and an extra £1000+ on its asking price. It's also more resistant (2500W) and has an Odometer to track your total mileage. Clearly an upgrade, but clearly a price 'upgrade' too!