- MSRP: $1,200
It’s the easiest to set up, the easiest to handle, the easiest to connect, and the most fun to ride. The Kickr is undisputedly the best smart trainer on the market.
The newest version of the Kickr got even better from the last. It’s definitely the quietest smart trainer we’ve used, for starters. That’s ideal for those of us with kiddos at home who go to bed early. And it’s the most compact smart trainer we’ve tried, so tucking it behind the couch when you’re not using it is actually a feasible option. The well-positioned handle makes it easy to carry this 47-pound unit, too. It’s built like a tank, and while it’s not exactly a sleek looker, it’s unobtrusive enough to tuck in the corner when you’re not using it. The updated version features a rotating axle system so you can use the unit with the Kickr Climb. There’s also improved clearance for disc brakes.
Those are all nice features, but let’s get down to the meat. Like just about any respectable smart trainer out there, the Kickr claims +/-2% accuracy. (Elite’s Drivo II claims a +/- 0.5% accuracy, which would make it the best on the market.) You can simulate a climb up to 20%, and the max power is 2,200 watts.
A cadence sensor is included in the box. You’ll need to install it on your bike to get the full range of benefits of the Kickr. Installation only takes a minute or two. It’s easy to skip this step, since it’s definitely not necessary to enjoy the Kickr and most of its features, but do yourself a favor and strap on this sensor. When it comes to indoor cycling, more data is better.
The unit itself feels planted solidly once the feet are adjusted to level it out. Even with the front wheel off and the fork connected to the Kickr Climb, the whole system feels exceptionally stable. An overlooked benefit of the Climb: The movement of your handlebars feels more natural, so you do get a little bit of side-to-side play. Yet the Kickr never lets you feel as though you’re about to fall off. It’s a subtle feeling, but one that became more natural and enjoyable the more we rode.
We did have some ANT+ connectivity issues with the Kickr on at two occasions, but it’s unclear whether this was a trainer issue or a computer hardware/software issue. After some troubleshooting, we’re inclined to pin the blame on the latter. The Bluetooth connection worked flawlessly. After contacting Wahoo about the issue, we were told to update the trainer’s firmware and to be sure to use the FE-C ANT+ connection on Zwift. That seemed to do the trick; we had no more connectivity issues after that.
Perhaps the biggest advantage to the Kickr is its ability to integrate with other Wahoo periphery devices like the Kickr Climb and Headwind. Wahoo has made the first attempt at creating an integrated “suite” of products to make your indoor ride as close to the outdoor experience as possible. It’s not the same as the real thing of course, but it sure is entertaining and closer than any other trainer system’s attempt to recreate a real ride outdoors.
Here’s the thing about all this Wahoo stuff: You don’t need any of it. But riding indoors isn’t about need, is it? The idea is to make trainer sessions as bearable as possible. I would certainly say the Kickr Climb and the Headwind do exactly that but at a cost. Can you survive without the Climb and Headwind? Of course. Do you need them to enjoy indoor cycling? No. Can you just spend $20 on a box fan and stick it in front of you? Certainly.
But that shouldn’t diminish the quality and function of these products. If you’re not interested in spending that much money on your indoor cycling setup, you won’t. But if you’re looking for the most realistic experience possible, here it is.
Back to the trainer itself: If you’re after the best of the best and don’t mind spending top dollar, The Kickr is the obvious choice. They will have company at the top before long (CycleOps’s H2 is on its way toward becoming a notable competitor), but for now, The Kickr remains king.