Wahoo have updated the KICKR for the coming season, giving it rubber feet to allow for movement and a more natural indoor experience. Read on to find out what else the redesigned KICKR is capable of.
The Wahoo KICKR is the American brand’s flagship trainer and, with a maximum output of 2,200 W, it’s 20% more powerful than the Wahoo KICKR CORE, which we reviewed last year. Compared to the previous, 2018 KICKR, the 2021 model has received three minor updates while the basic trainer itself has remained the same.
What’s new on the 2021 Wahoo KICKR v5?
The first update is most relevant to those who travel a lot and take their trainer along to the races: the 2021 Wahoo KICKR features a new and improved circuit board which saves you the time and effort of having to recalibrate the trainer every time you set it up. According to Wahoo, a positive side effect of this feature is that the trainer has become more accurate too with a tolerance of about 1% instead of 2% as before. The feet of the fifth generation KICKR have also been improved. The new, so-called AXIS feet are equipped with elastomers to allow for lateral movement. According to Wahoo, there has been a significant increase in the number of indoor training sessions exceeding the usual 30–60 minute mark. To provide the rider with a more comfortable and natural riding experience on long sessions, the flexibility of the elastomers should better mimic the natural movements of an actual ride in the outdoors. You can adjust the amount of movement to suit your preference via three different sized plastic discs that you bolt onto the elastomers. If you’ve got one of the previous 2017 and 2018 KICKR models, Wahoo haven’t forgotten about you either and will be making a reverse compatible version of the new feet available separately from September. Brilliant!
In times of quarantine, with indoor training and E-sports becoming increasingly popular, one of Wahoo’s main priorities was making the trainer ready for future E-sports events. Up until now, trainers could only be connected to your computer via Bluetooth or other wireless connections. At an E-racing event, which usually takes place in a large hall, this system could technically allow anyone to hack into the transmission and manipulate the values. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously, E-doping ultimately isn’t any different from regular doping. The only way to put a stop to this new type of cheating is to stop wireless transmissions and reintroduce cables. Even if there is currently no software that can process these wireless signals, there will be no way around using cables at future E-races that are officially sanctioned by the UCI. Wahoo are responding to this trend early on by revising the junction box to the KICKR to allow both wireless and wired connections.
2021 Wahoo KICKR first ride review
Like its little brother the KICKR CORE, the 2021 KICKR will accommodate almost any bike. Whether 130/135 mm quick release, regular 142 mm thru-axles or 148 mm Boost thru-axles, the KICKR takes them all and the appropriate adapters are included. You can also use a bike with SRAM’s 12-speed drivetrain, you’ll simply have to buy the appropriate XD or XDR freewheel. However, there is currently no MICRO SPLINE freewheel available for Shimano drivetrains. If you’re unsure whether your bike will fit, Wahoo offer a practical online compatibility guide.
There’s an 11-speed cassette already fitted as standard, so you can get started right away if you’ve got one of the more common drivetrains. Unfolding the KICKR and adjusting it to suit your wheel size only takes a few seconds. The Wahoo roller is super quiet in use and the only noise you hear is the chain of your drivetrain. After spending countless hours on the Wahoo KICKR CORE, which we found lacking flexibility with a somewhat unnatural ride feel, we were very excited about the new elastomers on the big brother. Will the added flexibility make the trainer feel more natural? After the first test we can confirm that it’s a great idea, well executed! With the large plastic disc, the KICKR barely moves as the elastomer has little way of deforming. However, if you switch from the large to the small disc, you’ll immediately feel the difference. In the softest setting, the KICKR easily gives way to lateral movements, making it feel almost too wobbly. For us, the middle disc turned out to be the perfect compromise and made the ride feel significantly more natural. However, like all direct drive trainers from our previous group test, the trainer begins to wobble when you sprint, at which point it starts shifting around on the floor.
Our conclusion on the 2021 Wahoo KICKR
Wahoo have given the KICKR small but very useful updates. In addition to the wireless connection, you can now also use a cable for future E-racing events. Thanks to the addition of elastomers at the feet, the KICKR now also offers lateral movement to give you a more natural feel which you can adjust depending on your preference. However, the whole trainer wobbles and shifts around when you sprint.
- natural ride feel thanks to the adjustable elastomers
- compatible with most bikes and drivetrains
- E-racing compliant
- no more calibration necessary
- not stable enough for all-out sprints
For more information on the Wahoo KICKR, visit wahoofitness.com
Need more information about the accessories available for the Wahoo KICKR? Then check out our review of the Wahoo KICKR CORE, where we also reviewed the CLIMB, HEADWIND and BIKE DESK add-ons. For an overview of other trainers, click here to see our big group test.
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Words: Photos: Jonas Müssig