Wahoo KICKR, 3.5 Years and 6K+ Miles Later

Hello Everyone,

screenshot-2016-11-02-20-41-54I wanted to take some time to recognize a product that has done a lot for me.  In this day and age where we buy expensive things, we expect them to last.  Over the last 10 years, it seems that is rarely the case anymore.  I can’t buy an appliance for my house without having it break within a couple of years.  The days of not needing warranties has become the days of “warranties mandatory.”  So, it is refreshing to review my Wahoo KICKR, the indoor training (maybe torture) device that has gotten me through 3 cold winters.  It will be there for many more.  I have 6,268 miles on this indoor bike trainer.  It’s taken me nowhere in my basement, yet it has taken me everywhere.  I was excited to be a person on the waiting list and even more excited when I received the 169th one they made.  Do you know the ANT+ ID of your KICKR correlates to the Serial Number of the device, and that might correlates to how many they have sold?  My ANT+ ID is 169.  I like that.   So, without further ado, let me tell you about the long term reliability of the Wahoo KICKR I bought in 2016.  You can see a short video I did earlier in the week Wahoo KICKR 3.5 Year Review.

Has this video convinced you to buy a Wahoo KICKR?  Think about supporting the site by clicking on this link to Purchase Your Wahoo KICKR.  

Changes over the Years

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Control with an ANT+ Power Meter was a brilliant addition.

The one thing we have to recognize is the way WahooFitness has continued to support and improve this trainer over time.  We have gone through multiple software updates and increases in capabilities over time.  I believe one of the best capabilities that Wahoo created with this trainer is the ability to Power Match with power meters in the Wahoo Utility App.  Not only can you use your power meter to drive your resistance, but you can pull cadence from your power meter as a solo option if you like.  The other improvements they have made over time is the adjustments to power reporting.  When I initially had my KICKR it reported probably 5 watts above what a power meter would be reporting at.  I can go back and verify this with my Quarq data, but other people were seeing numbers up to 20 watts higher than I was.  Wahoo always addressed their customers concerns and made many adjustments to power reporting over the years.

 

Current and past reporting for me has always been within the margin of error advertised with the original KICKR.  Maybe a bit more, but I don’t think I was over the +/- 3% during the whole time i’ve owned this KICKR.  The Power Meter control option kind of gets rid of all this nonsense anyways.  Talking to Wahoo, the KICKR receives the signal from the Power Meter which is used to change resistance, and your Power Meter data is what is recorded to your Training Application.  Which makes sense and is pretty cool.

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As advertised on the Wahoo Refurb Site for the original KICKR.

Now, if you are still having issues with your KIKCR calibration.  I’ve heard some rumors from people that Wahoo is working on a Beta to do a more complete spin down.  I didn’t have time to talk to them about that new piece of firmware.

For a quick look over, I took my belt cover off of my KICKR and did a quick inspection.  I wondered what it would look like after all of these miles.  I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.  The belt still looks new.  See the picture below.

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Not a single crack could be found.

Okay, I’m still trying to figure out my rating system.  I want a way to rate things in different categories.  You know, something that is easy to understand for everyone and generates some discussion.  These categories may change in the future, but this is my start.  I will be rating on Style, Design, Clydesdale, Accuracy, and Longevity/Forecasted Longevity.

Style Rating:  How does it look, Pleasing, Boxy, Interesting, Groundbreaking, Cheap?

For what Wahoo did at the time, they defined what indoor trainers could look like.  There was nice use of badging and color.  You have those arrows that whir around when the large flywheel rotates.  They also coordinated colors well with the shiny blue bar you can see in the center of the picture.

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Picture from cycletechreview.com

Here is a better picture of that shiny blue bar you adjust for wheel size differences on your bike.

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Picture cycletechreview.com

For style points, the original KICKR receives 5 out of 5 cowbells! It’s awesome.

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Design:  Form and Function.  How well does it all work together.

Anyone who owns a KICKR, knows there were some shin issues when you went and picked up that beast.  The handlebar was unbalanced and really felt awkward when you picked it up.  However, the thing is built with Steel!  It is literally a Tank!  The flywheel alone is 12.5lbs to help with the “Road” feel.  Also, it can be quite noisy. When you mount it, and get to riding, you wonder if you are going to wake up the kids (parent joke!).  The original KICKR is fairly loud.  However, due to the pure sturdiness and longevity of this unit, it makes up for the few shortfalls.

For design, because they were ahead of their time, but not discounting the other things… 4 out of 5 cowbells.

4cowbelltrans

screenshot-2016-11-02-22-40-07Clydesdale: The forgotten rating in cycling.  No? All cyclists weigh 155lbs or less.  Yeah, not correct. Some of us like to bench 225 and still ride our bikes.  I’m adding this category because it is going to be important with the mid-range trainers.  Any of the high end trainers we know can handle some serious power, but what about those mid-range trainers.  Can they take a bigger person standing up, smashing, crushing, and overall hammering down on the pedals while running up an incline in Zwift?

Obviously, if it’s a Tank, it can handle the biggest of riders.  5 of 5 for all these high end trainers.

5-cowbellstrans2

Accuracy:  I would like to gauge accuracy on the long term.  I know the KICKR get’s mixed reviews, but I haven’t had any accuracy issues over the long term, nor would I know how to gather all that data and analyze it. I have a hard enough time plotting stuff in excel or google sheets to graph out.  Like I said before, I’ve been within the +/- 3% range all these years just by looking at power bests, NP, and Average power comparisons.  However, a nod here that Power has been a problem for some.  Otherwise, Wahoo wouldn’t have been working so hard to fix it.

Overall, their weakest category for the series… 3.5 Cowbells.

3-5cowbelltrans

Longevity: Do I believe this piece of equipment will last a very long time?  A very subjective thing to assess with new equipment.  For the original KICKR it is easy, I’ve had it for 3.5 years and I guarantee it will last 3.5 more years.  I have no doubt in my mind.

Overall, 5 out of 5 cowbells (it deserves 6 out of 5) and I don’t think I’m going to be handing this out much when I’m reviewing products in this category.  I am very skeptical these days with product engineering.  Also, I am unsure how to validate this besides taking some things apart.

5-cowbellstrans2

Overall Summary:  4.7 out of 5!

I love this trainer.  That is as simple as I can say it.  This day and age, I admire a company that makes a product that will last.  I believe that is the reason WahooFitness has been so successful.  They build things that are solid and work well.  Most of the original shortfalls were addressed and fixed in the Generation 2 KICKR that was recently brought to the market this year.  I am sure this will also be another very capable trainer.  I heard it is a bit more quiet and they fixed the balance on the handle.

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Yes, yes I would buy a used KICKR for that price.  It’s going to last a long time and is a decent deal at that price.

In the end, I would have no issues recommending a purchase of a used Wahoo KICKR.  They are sturdy and the belt is probably good for 12 to 15 thousand miles of indoor use.  I checked my belt, and it doesn’t even look like it’s worn.  There was some residue in the casing that covered the belt area, but it wasn’t much to be concerned about.  I’ll probably have to change my bottom bracket bearings on my bike before I have to replace the belt on my KICKR.

My Next Review

screenshot-2016-11-02-22-55-28Coming up for my next review is the Wahoo KICKR Snap.  What is it going to be like going from the robust KICKR to the KICKR Snap?  I’m going to push the limits of their 10% grade rating riding in Zwift.  I will also do video reviews in 3 stages so it’s easier to digest.  I want to see how it works and feels in ERG mode with a Sufferfest video, how it does in standard mode with some high powered sprints, and how it holds up in Zwift as I’m climbing the Mountain and smashing down on the pedals.  It’s winter, so I’ll probably be getting close to 200lbs (I grow tired of dieting).  I’m going to test that thing out for us heavier riders who squat for watts.

Has this video convinced you to buy a Wahoo KICKR?  Think about supporting the site by clicking on this link to Purchase Your Wahoo KICKR.  

For you visual stimulation, you can take a look at the video review I did below:

 

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

athletictechreview has 55 posts and counting.See all posts by athletictechreview

10 thoughts on “Wahoo KICKR, 3.5 Years and 6K+ Miles Later

  • Pingback: Wahoo KICKR Snap Review Part 1; Build and Setup | kidsandcowbells

  • January 24, 2017 at 5:15 pm
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    just ordered a reconditioned unit. Arrives tomorrow. Feels like a good choice for only twice the price of a (discounted) tacx vortex

    Reply
    • January 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm
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      It is probably one of the most overlooked purchases available. It is a really good deal. It also has two ways to measure power, through the strain gauge built in, or they can use a virtual base map. Either one is perfectly fine.

      Reply
  • March 4, 2017 at 9:23 am
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    great review – and I think the Kickr is about the only trainer we may pass onto the next generation, while the others have been recycled..
    How does the virtual base map power estimation replace the strain guage based one?
    I would be great if the old Kickr can now use the same power estimation as new Kickr and not use the strain guage at all – is that what’s happening?
    Do all the firmware updates for New Kickr also apply to old Kickr?

    Reply
    • March 4, 2017 at 9:35 am
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      Hello Ian, if you have recently upgraded your KICKR firmware, then you are probably no longer using your strain gauge. Wahoo has actually found out that they can measure the load on the tire/roller and the load on the electromagnets much better than using a small and sensitive strain gauge. The problem with the 1stGen KICKRs is they had to use a very delicate strain gauge which was prone to breaking. If you never move your KICKR around much, then you were fine. However, people who were banging their KICKR’s around tended to break that strain gauge. The Firmware eliminates the strain gauge and I have found it to be within 5 watts of my power meter. I am really surprised how accurate Wahoo’s calculations are and how well they can measure everything. The 2nd Gen KICKR has no strain gauge at all and only measure temperature. I haven’t had a chance to test that out, but I’m hearing that they are pretty darn accurate. Chip and his engineers have gotten this down to a science now. For the Firmware updates they are seperate. I think 1st Gen KICKR’s have a firmware number that starts with 1, KICKR Snap starts with a 2, and the 2nd Gen KICKR Firmware starts with a 3. So, the firmware will be slightly different for each trainer. The main difference between 1st Gen and 2nd Gen KICKR’s is no strain gauge on the 2nd Gen KICKR and a few temperature sensors to fine tune the power calculation. The most important part of the KICKR Firmware upgrades now is making sure you do the advanced spin down after updating firmware. I found the numbers to be wildly inaccurate when I skipped the advanced spin down.

      Reply
  • March 6, 2017 at 1:41 pm
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    Thanks for the comments, much appreciated, would love to see someone test a Kickr 1 with and without strain gauge to see the difference.

    Reply
    • March 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm
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      I can tell you from personal experience the new firmware is better. Since they eliminate the strain gauge, my KICKR1 has been much more responsive to resistance changes. Before it would take about 2 to 3 seconds to put on power, now it happens in about 1 second. My KICKR1 was actually pretty good. I was reporting about 10 to 15 watts lower than my power meter. Then I updated my firmware and I’m probably within 5 watts of my Stages. I haven’t done a full test, but I have all the data in my workouts somewhere.

      Reply
      • March 9, 2017 at 2:50 am
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        Thanks Aaron – good to know.
        Presumably you can always revert to old firmware as well? I saw somewhere that it was described as permanently switching off.
        The new Kickr(2) has temperature sensors which presumably help with the accuracy of the braking algorithm calculation for power, but otherwise it seems that the Kickr1 will be pretty close to it.

        Reply
        • March 9, 2017 at 10:31 am
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          Yes, if you go into the Wahoo Fitness App and tap the KICKR icon 5 times, it will pull all the previous firmware versions you can load up.

          Reply
          • March 9, 2017 at 4:21 pm
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            Thanks – have ordered a refurb Kickr1 today! – Time to start training for TOS 2018…..

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