Wahoo KICKR turbo trainer review (2020): Wahoo's best smart trainer offers a more realistic ride and increased precision without spin down

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): the best Wahoo turbo trainer to date is ready to take on the virtual roads

Wahoo KICKR review (2020)
(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020) TL;DR: Wahoo managed to improve on its already excellent KICKR smart trainer and not only made it more precise but also more realistic to ride thanks to the new AXIS feet. 

Good as smart trainers from rivals such as Garmin spin-off TacX are, the new KICKR is likely to dominate the turbo trainer market in the coming months/years, and deservedly so. Wahoo really stepped its game up with the new KICKR, which is in an achievement in itself as the previous iteration was already an extremely capable piece of home gym equipment already.

• Buy the new Wahoo KICKR Smart Trainer for £999.99 at Wahoo

• Or buy it from third party retailers, such as Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle in the UK and REI and Backcountry in the US.

The new Wahoo KICKR is more precise and realistic than it has ever been but thankfully, one thing stayed the same: it costs exactly the same as the previous version. All things considered, we are expecting the new KICKR to sell out pretty quickly, especially considering that many of us are used to indoor cycling training by now and also taking into account that the extended Wahoo ecosystem can effectively bring the sensation of cycling outdoors to your living room.

Wahoo KICKR review (2020)

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): what's new?

The new Wahoo KICKR uses proprietary auto-calibration process and has an improved accuracy of +/-1%. The previous version had an accuracy of +/-2%, for comparison. Granted, most indoor cyclists won't be able to tell the difference but what even they will appreciate is that the new KICKR V5 provides this accuracy without the need for users to perform a spin down, which is amazing.

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; it's remarkable that 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 review (2020)

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): 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 also supports up to three Bluetooth connections simultaneously and 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

Granted, you probably have an account already in all these apps but in case you didn't you won't have to pay for trying them out. 

Wahoo KICKR review (2020)

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): price and release date

The new Wahoo KICKR is available to buy at Wahoo for a recommended retail price of £999.99/$1,200. Third party retailers include Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle in the UK and REI and Backcountry in the US.

Wahoo also offers the only complete indoor riding ecosystem; KICKR is compatible with the KICKR CLIMB Indoor Grade Simulator, KICKR HEADWIND Smart Fan, and KICKR DESK. KICKR is also fully compatible with indoor workouts from Wahoo’s The Sufferfest virtual training app.

In my Wahoo Kickr Snap Bike Trainer review I mentioned that the whole Wahoo ecosystem is pretty costly and might only appeal to the most hard-core riders. However, taking into account that the KICKR is the top of the range offering, combining it with the HEADWIND and maybe even the CLIMB makes more sense and if you have a couple of thousand pounds to spend on indoor cycling, by all means, you should buy the KICKR with all the trimmings.

Wahoo KICKR review (2020)

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): 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 height of the unit – the wheel sizes are clearly marked on the tube – and plug it in the mains socket.

Then, open the Wahoo app, making 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 will not only work seamlessly with the KICKR and the Wahoo App, but it will also provide a broader spectrum of metrics to pore over later too.

Wahoo KICKR review (2020)

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): the AXIS feet

The feature many riders will probably notice the most is the AXIS feet and the incline it lets you lean into. 5% side-to-side incline might not sound an awful lot for an uneducated ear but it will definitely excite riders the KICKR was designed for.

The AXIS feet does an incredible job 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 review (2020)

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): accuracy and (the lack of) spin down

The Wahoo KICKR V5 is more accurate than its predecessor and provides this accuracy without the need for you to perform a spin down. This is not only way more convenient but it will most likely save time too. Much like we sleep through 1/3 of our lives, we probably spend the same amount of time performing spin downs when we cycle indoors. This might be a slight exaggeration but this is how it feels to me anyway.

As for accuracy, I couldn't really tell the difference as I'm not the most hardcore cyclist myself (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 review (2020)

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): the Wahoo ecosystem

It's quite 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 it is 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 which merely provides a platform for a tablet or laptop, is pretty ballsy. It kind of up there with Apple asking £949 for the Pro Stand.

Despite this, one of the accessories I'd actually recommend to some cyclists: since the new KICKR works well for MTB riders, they might appreciate the CLIMB grade simulator more. Better still, it's actually discounted off at Wahoo at them moment, might as well buy one of that as well as the new KICKR.

Wahoo KICKR review (2020)

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): verdict

Unlike a lot of fitness wearables nowadays, the new Wahoo KICKR was announced at the right time when most turbo trainers are sold out so people are more inclined to buy a precier model. Better still, the new KICKR costs exactly the same as the previous iteration and offers more functionality as well as being more precise than its predecessor, making it all the more appealing to potential buyers.

I also appreciate that Wahoo only improved a few features and left others untouched: I wouldn't think this makes the new Wahoo KICKR 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 but at the same time, they have probably been using their V4s for a number of years so really, everyone's a winner here, right?

• Buy the new Wahoo KICKR V5 for £999.99 at Wahoo

• Or buy it from third party retailers, such as Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle in the UK and REI and Backcountry in the US.

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. Not only you will save time but you also wouldn't have to worry about the data collected not being precise.

The AXIS feet is a great new feature that will most likely please a lot of cyclists. Indoor cycling is getting more and more realistic and the AXIS feet is a step in the right direction (pun intended).

As for completing the Wahoo ecosystem, if you have an extra £64.99 to burn, I would most definitely recommend getting the Wahoo Tickr X heart rate monitor (if it's in stock) and maybe the CLIMB, the rest of the peripherals can be replaced with cheaper alternatives that work almost as well.

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 review (2020): also consider

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo KICKR review (2020): also consider

If you are after an even more convenient smart trainer, have a look at the Wahoo KICKR SNAP. From our Wahoo Kickr Snap Bike Trainer review: "You have to love the Wahoo Kickr Snap Bike Trainer. It takes the hassle out of indoor cycling training and makes good use of the road bike you've already got. Unlike indoor training bikes, it takes up very little space since you can fold it up and store behind your wardrobe or out of the way, leaned against the wall."

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. No idea why would anyone like to recreate the feeling of rattling bones on cobbles indoors but if that's what you want, you'll love the Neo 2T. As well as that, the Neo 2T offers a range of pro features and metrics for serious cyclists.