Wahoo KICKR: Is it worth the money? Over the next few months I hope to set out my experiences of triathlon-specific training on a KICKR: the good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s old news that indoor cycling is the friend of the triathlete. Many, including Brett Sutton, have written about the importance of the Turbo as a training tool. Living in London and having to set off super-early to beat any traffic on the roads, the Turbo should be a real friend.
But Turbos and I have never really got on. I’ve tried super-cheap, I’ve used Turbo-specific tyres, I’ve tried high end kit. Maybe it’s my complete lack of mechanical skills (how hard can it be to drop a bike onto a Turbo) but the inconsistency of the experience and the clunky controls mean we’ve just never got on. I’ve done the hours but we’ve just never clicked (unlike Graham Obree the Turbo definitely wouldn’t be the first thing that I saved when the house was on fire!)
I even tried Rollers. Old-school and a lot of fun but the scars took so long to heal.
Then in 2014 I was lucky enough to get hold of a Wattbike and for the first time I had an indoor trainer that just worked. There were some obvious upgrades (why can’t I spec it with a TT saddle and why are there no clear calibration marks to bring across my bike-set-up?) but with the Wattbike the riding was always so consistent. But as I got deeper into the TriSutto methods and Perry Agass’ coaching, I started to get frustrated again: over-gearing type efforts were very unpredictable and Mad / Easy reps just didn’t work – by the time I’d dialled up the resistance on both the fan and magnet it was time to dial it back again.
So … it was time to sell the Wattbike back (a great service) and join Chris Froome as a Wahoo KICKR user. Every friend who’d made the commitment had gone almost cultish. How good could it be? Time to find out.
To those of you who’ve not yet had their mates bore them stupid about the merits of the Wahoo KICKR, is a “wheel-off” indoor trainer. So you remove your wheel and fit it to the trainer. Through an App, connected via BlueTooth, you directly control the resistance and so the power output of your training.
The claim is that this makes for a more consistent experience and much more accurate training.
They’re not cheap – best price seems to be around £799! But I took a deep breath and ordered. It arrived pretty promptly from Wiggle as ever in a slick looking box.
Set-up was straight-forward (no more difficult than changing a rear wheel – although I never find that simple!). The pairing instructions were maybe just a little too simplified (see above re being a mechanical idiot!) but within a few minutes I was up and running.
The direct drive does mean that you’re using the same chain on different swapping cassettes. To date I’ve not experienced any issues but it’s something to watch out for (and check if you’re taking your racebike straight off the KICKR and on to your racing wheels)
It’s taken a while to work out the wrinkles, like that if you have to stop at any point (the doorbell rings) the best / only way to get restarted is to pedal backwards for a few seconds but for the first time I really do enjoy my indoor cycling. Not like the enjoyment of a long ride with your mates, or a competitive TT session on camp with your sun on your back of course. It’s still time in the pain cave. But as a bangs per buck training session I don’t think it can be beaten.
To me it has the best of everything:
The KICKR App was fine but I’d been using TrainerRoad with the Wattbike and their extensive workout library meant that I could normally find something to mimic the sessions that Perry gave me (and of course TrainerRoad gives the full Strava integration)
Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing with the Workout Editor and it feels like the final part of the jigsaw (if anyone wants a 10x Mad / Easy session workout then drop me a line).
So – to answer that question. Yes, I’d definitely recommend it. They’re a lot of money but it’s transformed my indoor cycling.
Over the next few months I’m going to document my training with the KICKR and hopefully share some of the more useful feedback and sessions. I’m also looking forward to riding with Zwift to see how that fit’s with some tri-specific training.
Note: unlike a Turbo where you’re thinking about the resistance, the Kickr manages the resistance to force you to deliver a consistent power level. So to make sense of a lot of the workouts you do need to do either do an FTP test or just put in some values. Of course that doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to your FTP or subsequently race with it.