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Trend watch: At Eurobike, indoor cycling takes center stage

Indoor cycling innovations from Wahoo, Zwift, and Stages Cycling caught our attention at the opening day of Eurobike.

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (VN) — German skies were blue and local temperatures hit a balmy 74 degrees Fahrenheit for the opening day of Eurobike.

Yep, it was perfect outdoor riding weather.

Yet, the big story from Eurobike’s opening day concerned indoor cycling. Specifically, brands rolled out new gear and innovative tech that will help get you fast while darkness and inclement weather descends upon the Northern Hemisphere in the months ahead.

From virtual riding company Zwift, to power meter manufacturer Stages Cycling, multiple players in the indoor cycling space rolled out new products and features for the upcoming season. The biggest waves were made by Wahoo, which entered the indoor training bike market with their KICKR Bike stationary bike.

WAHOO

Wahoo’s new KICKR Bike will be available in October. It retails for $3,499. Photo: James Jung

Lifting a set of boxes marked “top secret” to a huge crowd, the Atlanta-based fitness/tech company’s latest innovation, the KICKR Bike, was surely the show-stopper of the day, and will perhaps prove the biggest product launch of this year’s show. The bike incorporates a suite of integrated Wahoo products, notably the KICKR Climb, which allows users to simulate changes in grade, all controlled via buttons on the shifters or apps like Zwift, as well as real-life road features like brakes and even a proprietary algorithm that provides a genuine shifting feel on this chain-less bike.

But the real story here is the ability to customize your KICKR Bike. Proprietary gear shifters—which are incredibly ergonomic, we might add—allow users to replicate up to seven different gear configurations from the three major groupset makers (Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo), while you’re also able to customize your gear ratios. Nobody will judge you for throwing it in the 32×28.

Setup is equally tailored, and surprisingly easy, with the company claiming that photo and video guides enable users to build the bike within 10 minutes. Using the Wahoo App, you can take a photo of your bike, input your measurements (or even those from a professional fit system like RETUL or GURU), and — boom! — it generates the exact settings so that you can manually apply them to the bike’s six-point adjustment system.

Also worth noting is the bike’s quietness, especially for those of us who’ve risked waking the neighbors with noisy trainer rides at 6 a.m. First generation KICKR’s were loud, but thanks to the maintenance-free Gates Carbon Drive, the KICKR Bike purrs with a white noise.

While the KICKR Bike is a huge leap in indoor training, it’s also a pricey one, retailing at $3,499.99. But, hey, can you really put a price on that Cat 1 upgrade? The bike will be available in the U.S. by October.

ZWIFT

Zwift debuted its steering functionality, which works on a singletrack trail on Watopia Island. Photo: James Jung

Under the glow of a massive curved screen, Zwift debuted two new courses and one new feature to the crowds at Friedrichshafen. First up was their latest “real-life” road world championships course. Beginning with the 2015 worlds course in Richmond, Virginia, Zwift has rolled out a new course for each year’s UCI road world championships, and this year is no different. Zwift has added the punchy Yorkshire circuit to its ever-growing fiefdom of virtual terrain. Yes, we do hope to get the jump on Mathieu van der Poel, should we see his avatar spinning around the hilly course.

The more exciting news, however, is Zwift’s new steering capability, which is a feature users can experience in the upcoming weeks on the platform’s latest trail: Titan’s Grove. Found on Watopia, the technical and twisty two-mile long mountain bike trail prompts users to test steering. Enabling this new feature is simple: mount your smartphone on the handlebars, and Zwift’s companion app will sense movement through the device’s accelerometers.

Titan’s Grove is both timed and scored by your ability to navigate the terrain. Don’t be fooled by the gimmicky premise — like all things Zwift it’s surprisingly fun and frighteningly addictive. This new innovation might just be the answer to your indoor cycling blues, once you tire of staring at your watts, or the keister of that rival who keeps crushing you.

Steering is the latest development from FutureWorks, a division of Zwift dedicated to developing new, innovative features and then releasing them to users for testing purposes. Meaning we can expect more exciting products in the future.

STAGES

The StagesBike uses a carbon belt drive. It will be available in 2020. Photo: James Jung.

Speaking of steering, Stages has you covered with its StagesBike, which features built-in steering (and braking!) to fully integrate with the Zwift experience. Best known among the cycling community for its affordable slate of power meters, the Boulder-based fitness brand also has deep experience in the indoor bike market. In fact, Stages is the fastest growing provider in this sector, with none other than indoor cycling behemoth SoulCycle as a client.

Like Wahoo’s KICKR Bike, the StagesBike provides an indoor alternative for folks who want to replicate the outdoor riding experience without beating up their bikes on an indoor trainer. Micro-adjustments are easy to make, thanks to an array of customization options (saddle height, reach, stack, crank length), while bars and saddle can easily be swapped out with whatever brands/models you prefer.

We love the Gates Carbon belt drive, which replicates the rolling resistance of the road, the two high-speed UBS ports for device charging, as well as little details like an integrated tablet holder. Like most indoor bikes, this one isn’t winning any beauty competitions, but the beefy frame, and the fact that it features an electronic resistance up to 3,000 watts at 120 rpm (that’s your FTP, right?), means this tank can take miles upon miles of indoor abuse.

And, at $2,600-$2,800, it’s considerably cheaper than Wahoo’s KICKR Bike. The StagesBike will be available for purchase in early 2020.

That’s it for day one at Eurobike. The weather might still feel summery, but we’re already ready to retool our indoor pain cave and get a head start on next season.