The Wahoo KICKR is a direct drive trainer, which means that it works differently from other models found in our guide to the best bike trainers (opens in new tab). Essentially, you connect the chain of your bike directly to the direct drive unit, so all of the energy you create while pedaling goes straight into your workout and doesn't get lost in the friction between a tire and a cylinder.
Another benefit to the Wahoo KICKR's direct drive unit is that it won't wear on your rear tire because you actually remove your tire to use the trainer. Clever, right? Let's take a better look at Wahoo's indoor bike trainer now to see if it's right for off-season training.
Wahoo KICKR review: Design
The Wahoo KICKR can broadcast data to your smartphone (opens in new tab) via Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+, making it compatible with most training apps. However, you’ll need to plug it in with the included power cord in order to access its smart capabilities. So, while it is portable, you are a little limited with where and when you can use it.
It's compatible with both the KICKR app, just like the KICKR Bike, Wahoo's take on the world's best exercise bikes (opens in new tab), and with a bunch of third-party apps like Zwift, so you can track your progress and take part in challenges. It's compatible with most major devices, including Apple and Android powered systems. That makes it similar to the Tacx Vortex Smart (opens in new tab).
It measures 23.62 x 15.75 x 31.5 inches and weighs 47lbs, making this the heaviest cycling trainer on our list. The legs of the machine do fold up for storage. The Wahoo KICKR is compatible with 24 inch, 650c, 700c, 26 inch, 27.5 inch and 29 inch wheels. The KICKR's weight limit is 250 pounds, and keep in mind this is the combined weight of you and your bike.
Wahoo KICKR review: Features
It comes with an 11-speed cassette as standard, so if your bike isn't compatible with this and you prefer to use a smaller-numbered cassette, you'll need to spend extra to get this part. That's additional expense on an already pricey bike trainer. It also comes with a 10-speed spacer, which is a nice bonus.
This is a relatively quiet bike trainer, but it definitely still creates noise. If you want a quiet trainer even at top speed, take a look at our Bike Lane Pro review (opens in new tab). It has been measured up to 70 dB. It comes with a quick-release skewer and a reversible axle spacer so that it can be used with most mountain bikes and road bikes.
Since the frame of the tire isn't lifted up in the back there is no need for a front wheel riser block to steady your bike. Wahoo backs this trainer with a one-year limited warranty. For trainers with a lifetime warranty, read our CycleOps Wind review (opens in new tab).
Should you buy the Wahoo KICKR?
In the end, the Wahoo KICKR is a great choice of bike trainer. While it's very expensive compared to other bike trainers, it's durable, reliable and compatible with a wide range of training apps. It also has an authentic road-like feel, which is super-important for high quality indoor cycle training.
Perhaps the most important factor is that the energy you create in your workout doesn't get lost in the friction between a wheel and a tire, but instead goes directly into the direct drive unit for an efficient training experience. It's a real joy to use during training, and will help you break a sweat and then some.
To see how hard you're working during your training, also consider wearing one of the best fitness trackers (opens in new tab) to keep tabs on your heart rate, distance covered, elevation and more.