Review: 2020 Wahoo Kickr smart trainer

Wahoo has rung the upgrades on its latest direct drive Kickr trainer. We spent a few weeks clocking up virtual miles and hours getting to know the new smart trainer as indoor riding and racing reaches all-time interest highs.

Wahoo Kick 5 2020-3.jpg
Photo credit: Ashley Oldfield.

 

Wahoo has made a name for itself both with outdoor products as well as indoor training tools. You get the perception it’s a cool brand with its marketing campaigns and its ‘Wahooligan’ squad of pain cave racers. That is no doubt why it now calls itself the ‘leader in workout apps and connected fitness’. I’m not sure how you substantiate those terms but if you talk to anyone about a smart trainer, the Wahoo Kickr is certainly the first name that springs to mind. The brand has just released its latest and greatest version of the Kickr direct-drive trainer, but rather than looking at this as a brand new Kickr, it’s probably better to think of it as an update or ‘facelift’ to use an automotive term. What you have here is essentially a Kickr 18 with a few physical updates and some software improvements, but that’s nothing to complain about as the price for the Kickr V5 2020 is exactly the same as the outgoing model.

 

Wahoo Kickr 5-7.jpg

 

What’s new?


Starting with the physical changes, the most notable are the new Axis feet. They allow for 5 degrees of lateral motion or sway providing a more natural feel to the ride. They are mounted on screws that allow you to adjust for uneven surfaces (like the wooden deck I was riding on) and spread the pressure so you don’t leave indents on wooden flooring if you don’t have a mat underneath.

 

Wahoo Kickr 5-1.jpg

Wahoo Kickr 5-5.jpg
Wahoo Kickr 5-9.jpg

 

Could I feel a difference with the new feet? Not instantly. I couldn’t feel a difference right away but after an hour of stationary riding, I’m usually very uncomfortable and fidgety from being stuck in the same position for so long. Here, the slight side-to-side movement aids in providing some relief to your undercarriage allowing you to spend longer periods on the trainer before it becomes unbearable. It doesn’t feel like you’re on one of those moving platforms, but provides improved long-term comfort.

 

Wahoo Kickr 5-8.jpg

 

Just above the power connector is a new input port. It looks a lot like a telephone jack. It’s an RJ25 connection, which after some Googling, tells me I can connect three landline telephones to the Kickr - Stoked! It’s more likely that this will serve as a way to connect the Kickr via a wired route rather than Bluetooth or ANT+, although why Wahoo didn’t go with a standard ethernet cable for this purpose is a little confusing. Apparently an adapter will become available later that will allow for ‘hardwiring’ the Kickr, no doubt something the hardcore racers will want considering Bluetooth’s tendency to intermittently drop connections. This may still take some time to implement as most apps (Zwift for example) don’t have the option to connect via cable currently.

 

Wahoo Kickr 5-3.jpg

 

That’s it for the physical changes but there are some notable software changes implemented for the Kickr 20. Accuracy has been improved from +-2% to +-1% and anyone who trains with power knows that it doesn’t matter what Watts the power meter reads out, it’s all about how accurate it is against itself. At 1% accuracy, it puts the Kickr on a level playing field with the best power meters and smart trainers in the world, something the Kickr has been missing from its spec sheet for some time.

 

It also has a built-in calibration that continuously calibrates the trainer and adjusts for temperature and the age of the trainer making sure it remains perfectly accurate over time. The Wahoo app still lets you perform a spin down and even asks you to do it the first time you connect the trainer to the app but it’s more just to let the user feel good about having done a manual calibration. The continuous calibration system is also said to make it more difficult for e-sports cheaters to tamper with the trainer calibration.

 

Set up and ease of use


The Kickr is one of the easiest direct drive trainers to set up. It requires zero tools, not even an Allan key. The legs swing out to the side and lock in position with ease while the height of the Kickr can be adjusted for the type of bike you have (24-inch road and MTB, 650C, 26-MTB, 700C, 650B and 29er). It comes with an 11-speed road cassette too, which can be either Sram or Shimano. Set up is as easy as plugging your bike on and commencing pedalling. Before you start pedalling, you might want to plug it in and that proved a bit of an issue. The plug options supplied with our model were a UK 3-pin or a round 2-pin that doesn’t seem to fit into any 2-pin plug I have. Thankfully, all my years of travelling turned up a UK plug adapter and I was good to go. Just make sure of your plug type before you walk out the shop.

 

Wahoo Kickr 5-10.jpg
Wahoo Kickr 5-11.jpg

 

The Kickr is a heavy piece of kit weighing close to 20kg but has a convenient handle to improve its mobility somewhat. Unlike some of the competitors, the Kickr’s moving parts are on display - you can see the belt and flywheel spinning. While this may look cool at 500 Watts, it also looks like something a small child would want to grab onto just as you’re lining up that finish line sprint.

 

A final tip would be to get a riser block for the front wheel. I know some prefer to ride without one but having a wobbly front wheel feels unstable and odd indoors, especially when laying down monster Watts in a final sprint.

 

Ride and feel


Connecting the Kickr to your favourite riding application is simple via Bluetooth or ANT+ connections. The resistance change when faced with climbs and rolling hills is easily one of the best out there. The Kickr reacts quickly to the gradient changes, even over spiky terrain it felt accurate, adding and releasing resistance in a split second.

 

It’s also very quiet when pedalling, the belt drive system means the only sound you hear is the chain on the cassette and the familiar clunk when shifting. The freewheel ‘clicking’ is as loud as a standard road bike’s freehub sound but it does go on for quite some time after you’ve finished pedalling.

 

Wahoo Kick 5 2020-2.jpg
Photo credit: Ashley Oldfield.

 

Verdict


While the Kickr V5 2020 is just an updated version of the 2018 model, the price is identical to the outgoing model. You’re essentially getting these updates for free (or the same price depending on how you look at it) and they are useful updates. The improved power accuracy will attract those referred to as athletes and the ‘anti-cheating’ calibration system may make it the trainer of choice for the incoming wave of e-sports professionals.

 

The biggest pull factor behind the Wahoo Kickr has to be the ‘ecosystem’ you can upgrade. There are the Headwind fan and the Climb accessories that further enhance the indoor riding experience and with the new direct connection RJ25 jack available, it might allow for further accessories to be installed such as a steering system or simply a way to use your old landline telephone for Discord?

 

At R25k, the Kickr is an investment you need to be committed to, but if the national lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that the cost doesn’t matter that much if the need is there and a quick look at the classifieds for smart trainers will show you, there’s still a need.

 




26 Comments

Pure Savage, Aug 24 2020 08:31

Isn't 2020 over? Are we not in the 2021 models yet?

 

I do have a laugh though, amazing pics outside where it would have been more awesome to actually been riding the bike. 

Schnavel, Aug 24 2020 10:18

What's going on with that stem? 

Nick, Aug 24 2020 10:20

I do have a laugh though, amazing pics outside where it would have been more awesome to actually been riding the bike. 

 

Reviewing isn't always play, unfortunately. Sometimes you have to work to meet those deadlines.

Ashold, Aug 24 2020 10:51

What's going on with that stem? 

Frankenstein bike, frame quite small for tall rider hence the seatpost/saddle looks like a skyscraper. Inverted stem so it's more comfortable than being in the time trial position for 4hours.

Ashold, Aug 24 2020 10:56

Isn't 2020 over? Are we not in the 2021 models yet?

 

I do have a laugh though, amazing pics outside where it would have been more awesome to actually been riding the bike. 

Only about 30mins of sunlight left at this point. Strangely Knysna is not a great place for road rides unless you like the N2 or Simola hill repeats. Mountain bikes everywhere.

Pure Savage, Aug 24 2020 11:17

Only about 30mins of sunlight left at this point. Strangely Knysna is not a great place for road rides unless you like the N2 or Simola hill repeats. Mountain bikes everywhere.

With 30 minutes its tight! 

 

As a roadie, that N2 to Wilderness is lekker :P

Rocket-Boy, Aug 24 2020 12:07

Only about 30mins of sunlight left at this point. Strangely Knysna is not a great place for road rides unless you like the N2 or Simola hill repeats. Mountain bikes everywhere.

What I dont get is why the setup is facing the wrong direction?!?

I would absolutely flip that 180deg to take in that awesome view while suffering.

Schnavel, Aug 24 2020 12:10

What I dont get is why the setup is facing the wrong direction?!?

I would absolutely flip that 180deg to take in that awesome view while suffering.

 

You're doing it wrong - you shouldn't be able to look at the view during your suffering session...

Ashold, Aug 24 2020 12:29

What I dont get is why the setup is facing the wrong direction?!?

I would absolutely flip that 180deg to take in that awesome view while suffering.

Absolutely right, to be fair I can see the lagoon to the left and ahead is the view over Simola and the Outeniquas too. I mixed it up each day.

Muttley, Aug 24 2020 03:45

Is it just me or do those new Axis feet look like they were taken off the feet of a zimmer frame and chopped in half? 

 

zimmer.JPG

 

 

 

 

pedal menace, Aug 24 2020 04:39

So...I own a first generation Tacx Neo...and I may be in the market to replace...so far had a love/hate relationship with these trainers (I have owned many over the last 20+ years) and I have always been faithful to Tacx. Now..just a tad of doubt starting to creep in as my LBS no longer supports Tacx and I think (emphasis on think) it is dsitributed/owned by CWC/Cyclelab Cape Town (no longer Omnico)...and that has me worried (don't ask!). So it is either a Tacx Neo 2T or this..and I think THIS will win..any opinions?

Nick, Aug 24 2020 05:00

I think (emphasis on think) it is dsitributed/owned by CWC/Cyclelab Cape Town (no longer Omnico)...and that has me worried (don't ask!).

 

Garmin South Africa are the current (official) distributor of Tacx.

Pure Savage, Aug 24 2020 05:01

So...I own a first generation Tacx Neo...and I may be in the market to replace...so far had a love/hate relationship with these trainers (I have owned many over the last 20+ years) and I have always been faithful to Tacx. Now..just a tad of doubt starting to creep in as my LBS no longer supports Tacx and I think (emphasis on think) it is dsitributed/owned by CWC/Cyclelab Cape Town (no longer Omnico)...and that has me worried (don't ask!). So it is either a Tacx Neo 2T or this..and I think THIS will win..any opinions?

Well if you looking for support, I think the distributor of this one even comments on the hub now and then and is very open about his product. 

 

If someone put a gun to my head, moved me to the Scotland and told me I had to buy an indoor trainer, it would probably by this one.

pedal menace, Aug 24 2020 05:06

Garmin South Africa are the current distributors of Tacx.

I know..don't think they sell directly to the public right? Need a reseller (hence me thinking it now is CWC)..but hey I could be VERY wrong. Just that in most bikshops see very few Tacx's nowadays and way more Wahoo's (oh..and my LBS says he will sell and support Wahoo but no longer Tacx).

pedal menace, Aug 24 2020 05:07

Well if you looking for support, I think the distributor of this one even comments on the hub now and then and is very open about his product. 

 

If someone put a gun to my head, moved me to the Scotland and told me I had to buy an indoor trainer, it would probably by this one.

Good to know you love Scotland :P

Christian van Zyl, Aug 25 2020 12:31

Well if you looking for support, I think the distributor of this one even comments on the hub now and then and is very open about his product. 

 

If someone put a gun to my head, moved me to the Scotland and told me I had to buy an indoor trainer, it would probably by this one.

Hey Pure Savage, 

We are here and respond to compliments and criticism :)

Scotland a bit dramatic, but in SA the gun part is very possible... We'd be here if you decide to make a decision :)

Your local Wahooligan 

Christian 

SCD, Aug 25 2020 01:53

Hi, I am curious if you tested power accuracy against your powermeter?

I tried a Snap and Kv4, and both of them under-reported power to the extend of 30-60W, which turned (test) Zwift racing into a frustrating slog. I first thought it is just me being slower than I thought (;-)) before I rigged my XC bike with my Quarq onto the trainer (with training wheel onto the Snap) for comparison. No spin downs or advanced spin-downs offered a notable improvement. When I was ready to doubt my Quarq I realized that  my mate had the same issue with his KCore. We did some test rides together and could calibrate our personal power against each other (almost the same, he is a bit stronger, at same weight). If I am zwifting with my Quarq power he has no chance.

So there is something wrong. There should be maybe a 5% drive train loss and not more.

Then I got my hand onto an Elite Direto et voila, this thing is trailing my power meter by 3-6%. So it can work.

At the end it doesn't matter to much to me since I am not really racing in Zwift. But it is noteworthy for somebody who does.

Just out of curiosity: How do the pro Zwift racers make sure their trainers are neither over- nor under-reporting? That must be a hot topic in the Zwift racing scene?

dave303e, Aug 25 2020 02:29

I must say the only reason I am not going out to buy a new one, is that the current gen 1 kickr I have is just to solid and does all and more than I need. I am excited about the potential to wire it straight into a pc with a lan connection instead of worrying about wireless. With permanent indoor set ups I will far rather set a cable up neatly once than fuss with bluetooth/ANT+.

 

Well if you looking for support, I think the distributor of this one even comments on the hub now and then and is very open about his product. 

 

If someone put a gun to my head, moved me to the Scotland and told me I had to buy an indoor trainer, it would probably by this one.

 

If you were sent to Sotland you would be far to busy cycling outdoors...

 

Applcrosss / Bealach na Ba pass, from fort William to Inverness along the lochs and canal roads, isle of sky, ullapool, torriden, man there is so much epic road biking to do there and cars that are far more courteous than you will believe. Then if you take a mtb and jump on all the great ways there is even more to keep you busy. Scotland wouldn't be the issue if you have the correct gear.

Ashold, Aug 26 2020 12:51

Hi, I am curious if you tested power accuracy against your powermeter?

I tried a Snap and Kv4, and both of them under-reported power to the extend of 30-60W, which turned (test) Zwift racing into a frustrating slog. I first thought it is just me being slower than I thought (;-)) before I rigged my XC bike with my Quarq onto the trainer (with training wheel onto the Snap) for comparison. No spin downs or advanced spin-downs offered a notable improvement. When I was ready to doubt my Quarq I realized that  my mate had the same issue with his KCore. We did some test rides together and could calibrate our personal power against each other (almost the same, he is a bit stronger, at same weight). If I am zwifting with my Quarq power he has no chance.

So there is something wrong. There should be maybe a 5% drive train loss and not more.

Then I got my hand onto an Elite Direto et voila, this thing is trailing my power meter by 3-6%. So it can work.

At the end it doesn't matter to much to me since I am not really racing in Zwift. But it is noteworthy for somebody who does.

Just out of curiosity: How do the pro Zwift racers make sure their trainers are neither over- nor under-reporting? That must be a hot topic in the Zwift racing scene?

So I think every power meter appears to be different, even ones from the same brand and even the same model can vary. It's the accuracy against itself that's important for training. But, I did test the Kickr against my Specialized Power Crank and they actually read fairly similarly, the problem with that is that I have a 48/52 pedal stroke offset in favour of the leg that isn't pushing out power data. And when comparing my usual trainer (Elite Direto) against the Power Crank, the Direto reads about 5% above the power crank which makes sense considering my rubbish pedal stroke. 

 

Whether this will be the same for all the Kickr20s is very debatable, and the Kickr20 can't be 'tuned' as it self calibrates every 20 minutes.

 

As for Zwift racing, some of the serious series make you do outdoor power testing over 15s, 5min and 20min to see how accurate your indoor power is. There is also the option in Zwiftpower to upload secondary power data for further proof.

Robrider, Aug 26 2020 12:56

I'm not sure I understand the difference in value between this and the Core... For a difference of R7k you are getting adjustable feet and a bigger flywheel?

There was a R5k difference between the core and the kickr 4 a year ago when I bought the core, and at the time I couldn't figure out the difference...

Maybe I'm missing something?

I'm just glad I got the Core a year ago at R13k

I suppose the accuracy improvement is valid, but +-2% isn't something I'm too stressed about

Schnavel, Aug 26 2020 01:02

Just out of curiosity: How do the pro Zwift racers make sure their trainers are neither over- nor under-reporting? That must be a hot topic in the Zwift racing scene?

 

Pro racers are required to ride with two powers meters (the trainer and an additional unit) to make sure that the numbers are similar.

daniemare, Aug 26 2020 01:55

I'm not sure I understand the difference in value between this and the Core... For a difference of R7k you are getting adjustable feet and a bigger flywheel?
There was a R5k difference between the core and the kickr 4 a year ago when I bought the core, and at the time I couldn't figure out the difference...
Maybe I'm missing something?
I'm just glad I got the Core a year ago at R13k
I suppose the accuracy improvement is valid, but +-2% isn't something I'm too stressed about


For mortals like MOST us, really only 1 difference, the price.
But for mortals like SOME of us, the difference lies in the fact that I spend more than you, and that can be important. 😜

Muttley, Aug 26 2020 02:01

I'm not sure I understand the difference in value between this and the Core... For a difference of R7k you are getting adjustable feet and a bigger flywheel?

There was a R5k difference between the core and the kickr 4 a year ago when I bought the core, and at the time I couldn't figure out the difference...

Maybe I'm missing something?

I'm just glad I got the Core a year ago at R13k

I suppose the accuracy improvement is valid, but +-2% isn't something I'm too stressed about

Plus a cassette on the kickr

SCD, Aug 27 2020 07:52

So I think every power meter appears to be different, even ones from the same brand and even the same model can vary. It's the accuracy against itself that's important for training. But, I did test the Kickr against my Specialized Power Crank and they actually read fairly similarly, the problem with that is that I have a 48/52 pedal stroke offset in favour of the leg that isn't pushing out power data. And when comparing my usual trainer (Elite Direto) against the Power Crank, the Direto reads about 5% above the power crank which makes sense considering my rubbish pedal stroke. 

 

Whether this will be the same for all the Kickr20s is very debatable, and the Kickr20 can't be 'tuned' as it self calibrates every 20 minutes.

 

As for Zwift racing, some of the serious series make you do outdoor power testing over 15s, 5min and 20min to see how accurate your indoor power is. There is also the option in Zwiftpower to upload secondary power data for further proof.

I know all powermeters are slightly different. But not to this extent. 

SCD, Aug 27 2020 07:53

Pro racers are required to ride with two powers meters (the trainer and an additional unit) to make sure that the numbers are similar.

Aha, I didn't know that. Makes a lot of sense. Thanks.