This isn’t meant to be an in-depth, unboxing review of the Wahoo Kickr Bike. There are much better cycling equipment and cycling technology reviewers out there that go deeper into the vortex of what is possible in the world of Wahoo, TACX, Saris, and other smart trainers and indoor cycling bikes. The best, of course, is DC Rainmaker, and I have no problem at all point you there right away.
Instead, this review is about using the Wahoo Kickr Bike, a smart trainer that costs as much or more than most very nice mountain bikes or road bikes. Is it worth the $3,000 price tag? Well, like any bike, it comes down to you; are you going to ride it enough to get your money’s worth? In my opinion, the ride quality will at least have you riding more often than you normally would.
Why I Bought A Wahoo Kickr Bike
I had a kid and got a real job. But let’s go back a little further.
I bought one of the first Wahoo Kickr smart trainers back in 2013-2014. That winter, I had mono, and my doctor said I should avoid the cold and the chance of crashing until I was completely better. In a mixture of panic and self-pity, I bought a Wahoo Kickr. I never looked back.
Since then, I’ll tell anyone who will listen that buying a smart trainer was the best money I’ve ever spent. I put over 20,000 miles on that Kickr in 6 years before it had its first problem. I broke a belt, Wahoo sent me a replacement, and I was back in action.
Starting with this is about making it clear that my smart trainer was plenty good. Instead, my motivation for buying a $3,000 indoor cycling bike (and yeah, I paid full price, Wahoo is not sponsoring the site…but think about it, Wahoo) came down to three things.
- Silence. The Kickr trainer isn’t loud at all, but your bike is. Shifting, the hum or rattle of the chain, and the changes in pitches at different speeds were loud enough in my home that 5 am was risky. It was early 50/50 if I would wake up either my wife or the baby, with equally disastrous results. We were considering building a dividing wall in our basement/lower level to further reduce noise, but that would have cost more than $3K.
- The repair bill. Adding up 2 chains a winter and a full drivetrain replacement, I was spending about $450 a winter to maintain the bike that I used on the Kickr. While it would take a while to make back that $450 per year out of $3,000, a Kickr bike is at least a fixed cost. At some point, I’ll have saved more than that I would have spent fixing my trainer bike.
- Flexibility. Having the adjustability of a true indoor cycling bike has made it much easier for my wife to adjust the seat and hop on. Adjusting the other bike with a tool, while it might seem silly, was just one step too many for her to take on to ride consistently.
Wahoo Kickr Bike Review
After getting the Wahoo Kickr Bike from City Bike Shop in August, I just hit the 2,000-mile mark. After starting a new job in June, my flexibility went from limited to laughably fixed. I also had a pretty wild experience exercising early in the dark (I was nearly hit while running on the sidewalk by a woman trying to drive with withdrawal symptoms from heroin), I didn’t want to risk riding in the dark every day.
Buying a Wahoo Kickr
In Traverse City and other parts of the country, Wahoo has actually done a really good job of meeting orders and getting bikes to shops, so consider giving a local bike shop a shot. If you do buy it in person, borrow a truck or a minivan (I recommend Dan Madion’s) because it wouldn’t fit in most smaller cars.
While the big heavy box might look intimidating, once you have the two support legs bolted on and the bars in place, you’re almost ready to ride.
What I Like About the Kickr Bike
- Road Feel. It really does feel the most realistic of any trainer I’ve ridden. With buttery smooth resistance adjustments and the ability to simulate just about any drivetrain on the market, the Wahoo Kickr Bike really does get as close as it’s possible to riding your own bike outside without actually opening the garage and riding outside.
- It really is quiet. The first morning I rode the Wahoo Kickr Bike, my wife thought I’d gone out running because she didn’t think it was possible for the bike to be so quiet. There is a sort of futuristic humming or ringing sound as you move through certain gears or speeds, but even at its loudest, that noise is quieter than the normal “chatter” or sound of a chain under pressure going over a cassette.The setup is painless. While the bike doesn’t come 100% assembled, it will take even the worst mechanics (like me) less than 20 minutes to set it up. Even cooler, in my opinion, is how well the app walks you through the pairing process. Wahoo also guides you through a process to take the measurements and dimensions of your real bike and replicate them on the trainer. While it wasn’t perfect for me, it put my bike fit within just a couple of millimeters.
If you have more than one person who rides consistently indoors, getting a trainer bike makes it so much easier to offer different fits and accommodate several riders under one roof.
What I Don’t Like About the Kickr Bike
Shifting Issues. Within about three weeks, my right shifter stopped working. Wahoo Fitness offers excellent customer service and I had a set of replacement handlebars (the shifters come installed and wires with the handlebars) but I was disappointed that the shifters would fail so quickly.
I was very disappointed, then, when I had the same problem just another two weeks later. This time, they sent handlebars right away, but I found a way to use the Shimano Di2 option in the app which allowed me to shift up and down with just the left shifter. I’m holding the replacement handlebars in reserve in case of emergency.
I should note that this isn’t a common issue and even the problems I had never caused me to miss a ride.
Climb Function. Maybe I’m just no fun, but the climb function isn’t really worth it. It does work; the bikes can simulate grades up to +20%, which feel very steep when climbing in the saddle. But it doesn’t add as much to the experience as you might think and, during races, it can be downright distracting.
If you’re looking at other options and think this feature is what justifies the larger price tag compared to other options, the ride quality and customer service are worth more than what wife called the “uppy-downy” thing.
Is a Wahoo Kickr Bike Worth It?
A Wahoo Kickr probably isn’t for everyone, but it’s for a lot of people. Every time I hear someone say they hate riding inside, they turn out to have a $100 trainer and are watching Netflix. If you live in Michigan or another place that turns into a frozen hellscape for 8 months a year, invest in your trainer with the same budget as you invest in your outdoor bikes, because you’ll probably ride it just as much…or more.
And if you are busy, having a great indoor trainer experience year-round adds intensity and competition with Zwift races and training plans to squeeze in a 60-minute ride in the morning instead of spending more time getting ready to outside and only getting 40 minutes in the saddle as a result.
The Wahoo Kickr Bike is the best fit for:
- Households with more than one dedicated indoor cyclist
- Small households or homes where noise travels
Riders who have to train very early or very late while others are sleeping
- Riders who don’t have time to drive to the trails to fat bike consistently
Riders who put in more than 1,000 miles per winter riding indoors
At the end of the day, Wahoo Kickr Bike is worth it if you ride it, but that’s no different than any bike or product you spend money on.
Yes, it’s quieter than a bike on a smart trainer.
Yes, it feels realistic.
And yes, the Wahoo Kickr Bike is accurate to within 1% of actual power output (even if that bruises your ego). But if you’re only going to ride once a week indoors, no, $3,000 isn’t worth it. Three, four, or five days a week? Absolutely.
We also recommend checking out this review on bikeradar.com which offers another great look at the Wahoo Kickr Bike.
Are you getting one? Let know!