Wahoo KICKR V5 review TL;DR: a solid improvement on an already excellent smart trainer, the new Kickr provides a more realistic ride feel and improved precision without spin downs.
The best turbo trainers have always been in high demand, especially since early 2020, for obvious reasons. As people moved their cycling training efforts indoors, all of a sudden, a smart trainer felt less of a foolish luxury and more of an essential piece of indoor cycling kit.
The latest-gen Wahoo KICKR was released during this period and was well-received among cyclists. Wahoo made the right call and changed only the features that needed changing while leaving the overall riding experience similar to the V4.
The new Wahoo KICKR is more precise and realistic than ever, but thankfully, one thing stayed the same: it costs the same as the previous version. All things considered, we believe that the extended Wahoo ecosystem can effectively bring the sensation of cycling outdoors to your living room.
Wahoo KICKR V5 review: price and release date
The new Wahoo KICKR is available to buy at Wahoo for a recommended retail price of $1,200 / £999.99 / AU$1,800. Third-party retailers include REI and Backcountry in the US, Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle in the UK and Wildfire Sports and Pushys in Australia.
Wahoo KICKR V5 review: what's new?
The new Wahoo KICKR uses a proprietary auto-calibration process and has an accuracy of +/-1% (for comparison, the previous version had an accuracy of +/-2%). Granted, most indoor cyclists won't be able to tell the difference. Still, even they will appreciate that the new KICKR V5 provides this accuracy without the need for users to perform a spindown, which is impressive.
No need to dismiss the warning window in the Wahoo app anymore, prompting you to perform a spin down! It's like having a PS4 that doesn't need updating every single time you want to play God of War; remarkably, the new KICKR can maintain accuracy without constant calibration.
Another noteworthy new feature is the AXIS feet: these feet allow a bike installed onto the trainer to smoothly tilt up to 5 degrees from side to side with each pedal stroke, creating a more realistic ride feel.
Wahoo KICKR V5 review: other features
As well as the new and improved accuracy and the new AXIS feet, the new Wahoo KICKR has a range of other features to offer too. No need to worry about bothering the family or the neighbours riding the virtual hills in Watopia as the Wahoo KICKR still provides a near-silent operation.
Said virtual hills will be even more gruelling and realistic thanks to the climb function: the KICKR can simulate climbs up to a 20% incline. The new KICKR supports up to three Bluetooth connections simultaneously and is compatible with the KICKR HEADWIND Bluetooth fan, the ELEMNT bike computer and the CLIMB grade simulator.
When buying the new KICKR, you also get a bunch of free app trial periods, such as:
- 30 Days FREE of Zwift for new members
- 60 Days FREE of Strava Summit for new Strava members
- 30 Days FREE of TrainerRoad for new users
- 60 Days FREE of The Sufferfest Training Center for new Sufferfest members
- 30 Days FREE of Fulgaz for new subscribers
- 30 Days FREE of Rouvy for new premium subscribers
You probably have an account already in all these apps, but if you didn't, you wouldn't have to pay for trying them out.
Wahoo KICKR V5 review: setup
Setting up the couldn't be easier. Get it out of the box, set it down, open the two AXIS feet by pressing the blue button at the base of the legs down, adjust the unit's height – the wheel sizes are marked on the tube – and plug it in the mains socket.
Then, open the Wahoo app, make sure the Bluetooth is turned on on the phone, pair the KICKR with the app, and you are pretty much ready to go. I'd recommend getting the Wahoo TICKR X heart rate monitor and wearing it when you ride. It works seamlessly with the KICKR and the Wahoo App and also provides a broader spectrum of metrics to pore over.
Wahoo KICKR V5 review: the AXIS feet
The feature many riders will probably notice first is the AXIS feet. It allows for a 5% side-to-side incline, which might not sound an awful lot for an uneducated ear, but it will excite riders the KICKR was designed for.
The AXIS feet does an incredible job of making indoor cycling more realistic. Now, the bike mounted on the KICKR doesn't have to be upright all the time and can lean as you pedal harder, much like how it would behave on the road.
Combine this sensation with footage from apps like Sufferfest and Zwift on a big enough screen, and you have yourself a pretty decent recreation of outdoor cycling sessions.
The next step would be to add a VR headset to the mix, and maybe something similar to Tacx's Road Feel simulator, and no one would have to risk their lives on the roads anymore, trying to dodge cars left-right-centre.
Wahoo KICKR V5 review: accuracy and (the lack of) spindown
The Wahoo KICKR V5 is more accurate than its predecessor and doesn't require a spindown either. This saves a ton of time and takes the hassle out of turbo riding.
Just like how we sleep through one-third of our lives, we probably spend the same amount of time performing spindowns when we ride indoors. I might be exaggerating here slightly, but this is how it feels to me anyway.
As for accuracy, I couldn't tell the difference as I'm not the most hardcore cyclist myself (I do apologise for this), but if the Wahoo KICKR V5 is accurate enough for teams such as INEOS and BORA-Hansgrohe to train on, it's good enough for me.
Wahoo KICKR V5 review: the Wahoo ecosystem
It's pretty apparent that Wahoo encourages users of the new KICKR to utilise the whole Wahoo ecosystem: it's even advertised on the side of the Wahoo KICKR V5's box. And I must confess, it makes way more sense to push these peripherals in conjunction with the KICKR than with the KICKR SNAP.
This doesn't change the fact that some of these peripherals are vastly overpriced. As much as I think Wahoo made the right call marketing the new KICKR for the same price as the V4, asking £200 for the KICKR Indoor Desk – an adjustable table that merely provides a platform for a tablet or laptop – is pretty ballsy. It's kind of up there with Apple asking £949 for its Pro Stand.
Despite this, there is one accessory I'd recommend to cyclists: since the new KICKR also works well for MTB riders, they might appreciate the CLIMB grade simulator.
Wahoo KICKR V5 review: verdict
I appreciate that Wahoo only improved a few features of the KICKR and left others untouched: I don't think this makes the new model appealing to people who own a V4, and if anything, they might get annoyed that people who buy the V5 will get more for the same money they paid for their V4. At the same time, they have probably been using their V4s for several years, so really, everyone's a winner here, right?
One thing is for sure: the new KICKR is the most convenient turbo trainer from Wahoo to date. The fact that you don't need to perform a spin down yet the trainer can maintain a +/-1% accuracy is just astounding. You will save time and wouldn't have to worry about the data collected not being precise either.
The AXIS feet is a great new feature that will most likely please a lot of cyclists. Indoor cycling is becoming more realistic, and the AXIS feet are a step in the right direction for Wahoo (pun intended).
Should you buy the new Wahoo KICKR? If you are a keen cyclist and want to have the ability to ride/train on most days regardless of the weather, then the answer is yes. For the same price as the Wahoo KICKR V4, the new KICKR is an excellent buy and is highly recommended for serious cyclists.
Wahoo KICKR V5 review: also consider
Slightly more expensive than the Wahoo KICKR V5 but at the same time extremely capable is the Tacx Neo 2T smart trainer. It has the same power accuracy as the KICKR V5 (+/-1%) and has the aforementioned 'Real Road Feel' feature that mimics different road surfaces.
The Pinnacle HC Turbo Home Trainer is a high-performing own-brand smart trainer from Evans Cycles at an impressively low price. Barely audible noise output, smooth resistance matches the onscreen incline changes and seamlessly easy setup makes this a solid option for those looking to enter the smart trainer market for indoor cycle training.