My Wahoo Kickr arrived today, and I couldn’t be more excited. I have had a, erm, lower end trainer for the last handful of years (okay, really, I purchased it in 2003, and it’s rock solid, but it needed to be upgraded). I was fortunate enough to win a competitive fluid based trainer in a raffle earlier this year, but I have developed something of a love-hate relationship with it. More than anything, I have noticed that my perception, and that’s an important word, is that the power curve on the fluid trainer penalizes the way I ride. The reported watts I can produce inside (as reported by my Quarq Elsa unit) is always lower inside. Sure this could have something to do with fresh air, road feel, whatever. The bottom line is that I wanted to update my training tools, and started looking. The most important thing for me was the road feel of the device, followed very closely by the ability to utilize software+files to simulate-ride any course in the world. I have had the pleasure of riding on both a CompuTrainer and a Wahoo Kickr in studios in Seattle and here in Boulder. I always feel that I have a more balanced ride when on one of those two systems, when comparing the ride/workout to my fluid trainer.
After a good bit of research, the obligatory stop by DCRainmaker and his review of the available trainers on the market, I opted to secure a Wahoo Kickr for my go-forward plan.
The nice folks at UPS brought my new unit by on try number two, as apparently the Wahoo Fitness people wanted a signature for the unit. I did not know this. Further, it’s not the leave-your-signature-on-the-notice that UPS leaves you kind of deal. The requirement was for a signature from a real person. Again, I did not know this. I put this in here so that in the event that anyone reading this decides to purchase a unit, they know this ahead of time and can make the appropriate adjustments. For me, I had to wait through the weekend to get my device. I was a bit bummed, to be sure.
I was fairly impressed with the density of this box. I had read that the device was heavy, weighing in at 46 lbs. The UPS manifest said 54lbs. So…it’s heavy. So heavy, in fact, that I couldn’t quite figure out how to get the Kickr out of the box.
Sometimes you have to get creative to solve these little problems. I just rolled the box over, while holding the packaging in, and then lifted the box off.
Getting the packing materials off was fairly straightforward, though there are some bits and bobs inside that you will want to make sure they don’t get lost. For example, the power adapter is in that box which is jutting out of the packing materials on the left hand side.
When comparing this to my other trainer, it feels smaller. I didn’t get a side by side photo, but the collapsible legs give the Kickr a nice narrow profile.
I especially like the little bits of character which shine through on the device. As a product guy, I am always looking for the little bits of care that go into a product, whether it be a piece of software, or a hard good. The “crank it up” on the back of the device lends a bit of personality. Further, the blue lock-out knobs on the bottom right and left were effortless to push down (nice touch), and the use of the blue color is a welcome aesthetic choice.
Once place where it feels like the attention to detail failed is with the slider for the ride height. This adjustment lever allows the customer to raise and lower the unit to suit the needs of the type of bike they would like to put on the trainer.
You simply unscrew that silver knob, slide the blue arm back, and re-insert/re-screw the silver knob. Sounds great in principle, but in reality, I was frustrated at how difficult it seemed to be to get that knob back into it’s threaded hole. Very frustrating. The kind of frustrating that would give me pause before thinking about pulling one bike off (triathlon) and putting on another bike (29er mountain bike). Of course I will do it, but the frustration was annoying. I hope it gets easier with practice.
The power cable was cleverly tucked away underneath the device, and it’s an easy connection to the power brick which is supplied.
So here’s everything in the box. The getting started guide is not as complete as I would have liked. Here are a few questions I wanted answers for when I pulled the unit out of the box:
- Where do I get the app to control the device?
- What apps do I need?
- What other software works with this device?
- How do I get started?
The getting started guide directs you to the Wahoo Fitness app, and makes a mention of the utility app. The language is a little confusing, in that it’s not super clear that these are two separate apps. More to the point, why are these two separate apps? As an software guy, this annoyed me.
The utility app was pretty self explanatory as to what to do. I’ll give credit where it’s due in with regard to this app. It takes care to mention that as a customer, you should ride a 10 minute warm-up before doing the spin down. The spin down, if you don’t know what it’s for, is a requirement to calibrate the system to account for the friction in the bearings and on the chain.
The very first thing I noticed is that my shifting was off. The Kickr ships with a cassette, and my bike has a larger range on it, as I generally err on the side of having that wider gearing range. For the time being, I can deal with the misaligned shifting. I don’t want to have to make adjustments from riding on the road to riding on the trainer. One solve will be to get a new cassette for my wheel, which I was going to do in a month or so ahead of my first race, and put the old one on the Kickr. At that point, I worry about chain wear, but, grumble, that feels like such a first world problem.
The Fitness app, on the other hand, is not on my list of beautiful apps. There are so many non-discoverable features in this app. Since I am a software guy, who has designed some well regarded apps, I don’t feel out of line in stating this criticism. It wasn’t clear what I was supposed to, how I was supposed to get started, or how I could see more data on the screen. Worse, even though I had connected the Utility app to my Kickr, the Fitness device was not. I finally found the place where I could connect to the Kickr, but somehow exited out without actually saving the setting. More groans.
So far I am not an early fan of the Fitness software app (this is the Android version), but I will reserve judgement until I do a full session with it. That is, if I ever do. I am investigating the CycleOps Virtual Training software, as well as Trainer Road. I have already started playing with the CycleOps software, and that’s a post for another day. Wow, do they have some UX issues with that software. The good news is that I was able to upload my GPX files from previous races right into CycleOps Virtual Trainer, and look forward to seeing how the Honu Half Ironman course feels without heat and humidity.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go straight to ERG mode, set a ridiculous wattage, and see if I could hit it, and also get the screen capture on my phone. I don’t want to have to produce 600w for any period of time. It’s hard. 🙂
So that’s the un-boxing. I don’t have another trainer session until this coming Wednesday. I am sure I will have more updates over the next few weeks, specifically related to what it’s like to do full sessions on the unit, what additional items I have added to make the workouts easier (i.e. a phone holder is already appearing to be a necessary item). I also need to sort out how to actually connect the Kickr to the CycleOps Virtual Trainer software running on my PC, and see how it feels to free ride on one of the courses I have downloaded.
I am also want to get my mountain bike on this thing. I race triathlons for Team VO2MultiSport, out of Seattle, but am also part of the Project 529 racing team, which has a focus on mountain bike racing (downhill, enduro, and XC). My dirt riding focus is mostly on endurance length XC mountain bike races, so it will be interesting to see how well the oh-so-fun climbing of mountain bike races (for example, Stottlemeyer) feels like when I put my mountain bike on the Kickr. More on that in the coming weeks.