Wahoo KICKR ROLLR review: Part bike roller, part smart trainer – the KICKR ROLLR can reinvent and gamify your indoor workouts…
See how it compares to the best exercise bikes
Wahoo KICKR ROLLR Smart Bike Roller Trainer
Best for real riding indoors
|Weight:||50lb / 23kg|
|Max rider weight:||250lb / 113kg|
|Features:||Dual roller system; Ant+ & Bluetooth connectivity; 1,500 Watts max power output; 14-day Wahoo X free trial; 10% max grade simulation; quick adjust wheelbase clamp|
- Real ride feel
- Easy adjust bike fit system
- Power meter compatible
- Only basic ride stats without subscription
- Nowhere to mount a small screen
Smart features: 4/5
It turns out you might not need to buy a brand new exercise bike to get your cardio fix during the winter months. Because with the Wahoo KICKR ROLLR, the best bike is the one you already own.
The Wahoo KICKR ROLLR Smart Bike Roller Trainer is a hybrid between a traditional bike roller and smart trainer. Rather than removing the rear wheel, like most smart trainers, with the KICKR ROLLR your entire bike slots in. The rear wheel sits on dual rollers while the front wheel is clamped still.
If you’ve ever used a set of traditional rollers you’ll know how difficult they are to get the hang of. Once you’ve mastered them, though, they’re great for developing balance and handling skills. But it’s best to set up next to something around hip height to hold onto to aid mounting and dismounting. With the Wahoo KICKR ROLLR, there’s no such issue, as the bike is held firm, but you still get the roller ‘feel’ from the rear wheel.
You also get the additional benefits of smart training insights through Bluetooth connectivity to Wahoo’s suite of apps. And if you have a power meter you can enjoy variable resistance levels up to 10%.
Setting up the Wahoo KICKR ROLLR
Wahoo’s roller trainer arrived in a substantial box about 1m x 1m x 30cm. It comes in two main parts and assembly is surprisingly straightforward. The front portion is a hinged stand that unfolds almost to a right-angle. From there the rear portion with the roller slots into the tube that runs perpendicular to the front stand. All you need to do is slot the bike’s front wheel into the clamp, tighten it, then move the rear roller section so the rear wheel touches both rollers. Then just secure the clamp and you’re good to go.
For basic operation you don’t need to connect to any app – you can just jump on for warm-up and cool-down efforts. But for speed, distance and time (as well as heart rate if you want to connect a chest strap) you’ll need the Wahoo Fitness app. It took a couple of attempts to pair my android phone with the unit’s sensor. But once you have, starting a workout is easy – just hit ‘start’ and start pedalling!
As there’s little data on display the numbers are big and bold – which is just as well as you’ll probably have your phone or tablet on a table next to you. That’s because there’s nowhere to mount a screen on the unit. Wahoo is obviously hoping that you’ll opt for the additional KICKR Desk Stand. But for an extra $299 / £229, that seems a bit steep for what is essentially an adjustable laptop stand.
I tended to use this standard mode for warm-up and cool-down sessions – it came in handy as a trackside roller at a few recent cyclo-cross races too. In fact I’d seen this exact model used as standard for all riders warming up for the recent World Time Trial Championships in Glasgow, so it’s good to know it’s used by elite-level riders.
There’s no real engagement with the Wahoo Fitness app, though. You’ve just got the basics: speed, distance and time. Where things get really interesting is using the free 14-day trial subscription to Wahoo X to access the SYSTM and RGT apps. I’m not sure why these apps can’t be combined into one, but they give you access to much more engaging content.
Apps for the Wahoo KICKR ROLLR
Wahoo’s tendency to drop consonants from its product names aside, the Wahoo X suite of apps turn the KICKR ROLLR into a completely different beast. SYSTM gives you a comprehensive collection of structured workouts and training plans, which you can tailor towards your own fitness objectives. RGT, meanwhile, is Wahoo’s immersive virtual gaming platform, which allows you to cycle in various locations with fellow cyclists.
Annual membership is reasonable at £135, marginally less that Zwift’s £12 a month. That said, Zwift is one of a number of third-party apps you can also use with the KICKR ROLLR, so the choice is yours.
As I already own Wahoo’s ELEMNT RIVAL multisport watch, I was already using the subscription-free ELEMNT app. I was pleasantly surprised to see that ELEMNT and Wahoo Fitness integrate seemlessly. Whenever I recorded a KICKR ROLLR workout in Wahoo Fitness, it would automatically update the weekly cycling target’s I’d set on my RIVAL watch – without me having to set it up. It was simple to post workouts to my Stava account too.
I don’t have a power meter yet so couldn’t test the KICKR ROLLR’s controlled resistance option. However, when I do that will open up an even more realistic ride experience. As it was, the KICKR ROLLR proved a useful exercise machine and provided an ideal compromise between the feel of a bike roller and access to smart training insights and gamification.
Wahoo KICKR ROLLR weaknesses
The only issue I had with the KICKR ROLLR was the sturdiness of the front wheel clasp. Unlike fixed exercise bikes, this mechanism can’t help but create a degree of flex. It’s not a criticism of the KICKR ROLLR per se – with a carbon forked road bike I think this would happen with any similar unit. It just means that it’s not the kind of set-up where you can confidently get out of the saddle and put the power down. If you stay seated, however, it’s barely noticeable.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the rear of the unit is pretty heavy. Although this is a great warm-up option for races and cycle events, you’ll need to be careful lugging it out of the car.
Bear in mind too that if you’re using it outdoors, you’ll have no power so won’t be able to broadcast any speed metrics. There are no adjustable feet either, so you’ll need to find a level surface. (Make sure you don’t use it during wet weather either.)
Again, as the unit is primarily designed for indoor use, these things shouldn’t really be seen as negatives. The only other real negative during my two-month test was not being able to mount a screen directly to the unit.
Should you buy the Wahoo KICKR ROLLR
If you’re looking for a simple solution for indoor riding that’s easy to set up and put away, you can’t go wrong with the Wahoo KICKR ROLLR. It’s much less a permanent set-up than the likes of the Zwift Hub.
Likewise, if you’re looking for a roller substitute for races, the ROLLR ticks that box too. And if you’re looking to enter the world of virtual racing and gamification, Wahoo’s roller trainer’s got you covered there as well. With current prices at $599 / £549, its variety of uses and unique ride experience makes the Wahoo KICKR ROLLR great value for money and a worthwhile fitness investment.