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Tech & Wearables

The Wahoo Kickr Rollr is a half-smart trainer on rollers – details and ride impressions

The supported roller system offers interactive resistance but requires a separate power meter for full functionality.

Pros

ease of use (no compatibility issues with various drivetrains or axle types); some freedom of rear-wheel and frame movement; easy to get bike on and off

Cons

no power measurement; ~1sec delay in initial power reading from meter to Zwift; no replicated coast function; relatively loud; standing up reduces resistance


Our Thoughts

While not good for virtual racing, the Rollr is easy to use, comfortable because of the free rear wheel, and could be a good solution for a household with multiple bikes where riders want to do workouts and virtual rides.


Price

$799

Brand

Wahoo


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The new Wahoo Kickr Rollr is an interactive home trainer that can take inputs from software like Zwift, TrainerRoad or Wahoo Systm to alter the resistance, but it does not measure power. When paired with an on-bike power meter, the Kickr Rollr can be used for interactive workouts and rides. When used without a power meter, it functions as a progressive trainer, ramping up resistance as you go faster.

The frame of the Wahoo Kickr Rollr slides to fit your bike’s wheelbase, then the gray lever under the bottom bracket locks it in place. (Photo: Ben Delaney)

Similar to traditional rollers, the big selling point on the Kickr Rollr is ease of use: you can plop most any 700c bike on it, and be riding within a couple of minutes. Very much unlike traditional rollers, though, the Kickr Rollr holds your front wheel steady, so no balancing is required. The rear wheel, and thus the frame, can move slightly while pedaling on the rear rollers, which have a 10.5lb flywheel. These two factors combine for a fairly natural feel.

Related:

Smart trainers have boomed in popularity recently for use with Zwift, and direct-mount trainers are the best option for interactive power measurement and stability. The popular Wahoo Kickr, for instance, is my favorite, as it’s quiet, smooth, and provides power measurement that lines up well with on-bike power meters. Direct-mount smart trainers, however, require that you mount the proper cassette (10-, 11-, or 12-speed), and install the correct axle hardware (quick release or thru axle) on the trainer. For households with different bikes — say the wife has a 12-speed thru axle but the husband has an 11-speed quick release — this can be an issue. The Kickr Rollr eliminates these compatibility issues.

No cassette or axle compatibility issues here. (Photo: Ben Delaney)

What you give up with the Kickr Rollr in comparison to a smart trainer, primarily, is power measurement and consistent resistance across sitting and standing positions. How the thing feels to use is subjective; more on that below.

How it works

The Kickr Rollr adjusts wheelbase with a simple clamp. First you set your front wheel in a two-piece tray, and clamp the top of it in place with plastic tongs actuated by a rubberized dial. Then, you slide the frame until your rear wheel sits evenly on the two rollers. That’s it for the physical set-up. Easy.

For digital set-up, the unit has Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, to pair with both a power meter and a computer or tablet for use with software like Zwift. The unit automatically connects to a power meter in range, and it can also be manually paired to a specific meter through Wahoo’s app.

Once connected to a power meter, Zwift or other software just pick up a single signal from the Rollr to read power and adjust resistance.

Solid blue means the trainer is paired to a computer or tablet or phone. Solid red means it is paired to a power meter, which is necessary for full function. (Photo: Ben Delaney)

A 10.5lb flywheel provides inertia, which helps replicate the outdoor force required to get up to speed, and maintain momentum once going.

What it’s like to ride

The Kickr Rollr is fully stable to ride, but neither the frame nor the rear wheel are rigidly fixed. The floating rear wheel allows the whole frame to move a bit as you pedal, which I appreciate for steady-state riding as it more closely replicates what you feel when riding outside than a direct-mount smart trainer.

The front wheel is clamped at the tire and rim, top and bottom, but there is a bit of give to the plastic apparatus — and quite likely in your tire/wheel/spokes/hub/fork chain. Again, for steady-state riding, I actually appreciate the small bit of movement; when you are riding outside, your bike moves under you as you pedal, right?

For short, hard efforts, however, the Rollr isn’t ideal. When you stand up, the resistance immediately drops as your weight on the rear wheel is a key part of the equation. So whether you are standing up to get back on terms with a group, smash a Vo2 interval, or sprint over the top of a virtual hill, the unweighting of your rear wheel will put your power backwards. (On the upside, standing up makes getting started from a stop easier, when the inertia can feel brutish when you are seated.)

The gray wheel operates the clamp, which holds your front wheel in place. (Photo: Ben Delaney)

Perhaps the most annoying thing about the Rollr’s interactivity is the ~1sec lag from when you first start pedaling to when Zwift reads the power coming from your meter via the Rollr. If you are riding by yourself or doing a steady workout, this isn’t an issue. If you are riding with a group, this can make it challenging to stay together on a rolling course, if you coast. For racing, well, you don’t really want to use the Rollr for virtual racing for this reason, plus the out-of-the-saddle resistance drop.

I tested the Kickr Rollr on a few Zwift rides, including a long, 3.5hr group ride session. Comfort-wise, the slight freedom of movement felt great for both my upper body and certainly my backside. Some credit is due to the new Pearl Izumi and Assos Superléger bibs I used, but the Rollr’s suppleness is a major positive and a stark contrast to fully rigid smart trainers or smart bikes.

The plastic tongs don’t render the front end of the bike completely immobile, but I think that’s a good thing, as a little movement feels natural. (Photo: Ben Delaney)

It’s loud. Particularly when you are riding hard, it seems twice as loud as a Kickr. I ride in my garage, so annoying housemates or downstairs neighbors isn’t an issue, but I often use Discord to chat with friends, and the whir isn’t ideal for easy conversation.

I appreciate that Wahoo isn’t pretending the rollers are a power meter. I’ve tested the Elite Nero smart rollers, which are interactive and fun to ride with fore and aft movement, but the power measurement there is garbage. So when using those $899 Elite smart rollers, I’d connect a power meter to Zwift as the power source, and connect Zwift to the rollers for resistance. The Elite Nero is more like traditional rollers in that you have to balance on the three plastic drums.

As is, the Kickr Rollr is in a category of its own as a semi-smart, semi-fixed set of rollers. It costs $799, and can also be bought as a package with the new Wahoo Powrlink Zero single-sided power-meter pedals for $1,399.

The Wahoo Kickr Rollr is unique in the world of indoor training tools. (Photo: Ben Delaney)