Men’s Fitness’ editor Isaac Williams spent a few months testing out the latest version of the Wattbike Atom from home – here’s his verdict…
BUT IT NOW:
$3,399 / £2,399, wattbike.com
- Easy set-up
- Genuine ‘real-ride’ feel
- ‘Smart Resistance’ mode means you don’t need to think about changing gears if you don’t want to
- A wealth of useful insights available on the Wattbike Hub
- The Hub also features a range of tough training plans that will definitely make you fitter
- Beginners may find the seat uncomfortable to begin with
- Feels geared towards more experienced cyclists than complete beginners
Smart features: 5/5
How big is the Wattbike Atom?
Max H 150cm x Frame L 100cm x Frame W 50cm
Setting up the Wattbike Atom
Unlike some other exercise bikes, the Atom comes pre-built and practically ready to ride out of the box, with a wonderfully simple set-up.
All you need to do is add the pedals, tri bars and saddle. You don’t need any of your own DIY tools, either; the included 4mm Allen key is all you need to fix everything in place.
Tweaking the cycling position is easy, with only a little wielding of the aforementioned Allen key: the seat and handlebars can move forward and back, up and down. You can also add your own pedals and handlebars to customise the ride.
There are easy instructions to follow in the accompanying Wattbike Atom User Guide, but for more of a visual demonstration you can watch this video.
As a useful bonus, two wheels positioned towards the bottom front of the main frame mean you can tilt the bike up and move it around easily, without having to do your back in by lifting it off the ground.
Using the Wattbike Hub app
Once your bike is ready to ride, it’s time to get the software in place. At this point, I should say that the Atom does not come with its own monitor. The device holder at the front is adjustable, though, so you can use whatever device is at your disposal. I used an iPad, because (obvious point alert) the larger screen is easier to read and tap when you’re gasping and sweating mid-ride.
Bluetooth and ANT+ F-EC mean there’s wide connectivity with your favourite accessories and fitness apps, so you can lose yourself in the routes and training sessions in virtual platforms, such as Zwift and Trainer Road.
But even if you’re not a Zwifter, you can access a whole host of training plans in the Wattbike Hub app. (£7.99 per month or £79.99 annually.)
From the Hub, you can access a whole host of training plans and one-off workouts – many of which are surprisingly tough. While some people might use the gym’s exercise bike as an easy alternative for when they can’t really bothered to do anything too strenuous, Wattbike positions itself at the sharper end of the effort scale. If, like me, your cycling fitness is at a base level of roughly zero, the Hub workouts are a bit of a wake-up call.
For my first ride on the Atom was the pre-programmed ’20-minute warm-up’. Sounds easy enough, but for someone uninitiated to the Hub’s pedal efficiency score (PES), power output and other real-time metrics, it was a lesson in how much there is to learn. Just trying to even out the ever-changing pedal graph – the aim being to balance out the figure of eight shape (see above screenshot) so you’re pedalling with equal force through each foot – requires a lot of focus. And to be honest, in the three months I tested the Atom, I never managed to get my pedal score above 50.
Clearly, I won’t be taking on the Tour any time soon, but it does feel like the granular detail of the stats and general feel of the Atom are aimed more towards seasoned cyclists than complete rookies. That’s not to say there aren’t plans and workouts for beginners. And the Hub interface is intuitive and easy to use. But you’re probably going to be more interested in your power to weight ratio, or functional threshold power, if you’re really dialling in to cycling performance, rather than simply hopping onto a bike for a quick calorie burn.
That’s reflected in the various hill climbs available, most of which replicate the exact distances and gradients of famous real-world routes. With blissful ignorance, I used my third ride on the Atom to attempt ‘Alpe di Mera from Scopello’ – a notoriously tough climb in the Italian Alps – and managed 30 sweat-soaked minutes before collapsing onto the sofa.
Using the Wattbike Atom
When it comes to the bike itself, the ride feels close to real, supported by the inclusion of integrated gear shifts like you’d find on your regular road bike. On the right handlebar, you simply click the bottom button to go to a harder gear; top button to reduce resistance. It couldn’t be easier, which is particularly important when it comes to moving up and down the 22 gears mid-ride – all courtesy of crank-angle sensors that read data 1,000 times per second for pinpoint accuracy.
But that’s just the manual ‘Gear’ mode. To simplify things further, you can switch to automatic ‘Ergo’ mode, which matches the resistance to your workout, changing gears as you hit different gradients or power requirements. Swapping between the two modes can be done with a tap at the top of the right shifter.
When it comes to simulating hills, automated resistance in climb mode (over a 0.25% gradient) serves up the full ride experience – complete with burning lungs.
The Atom’s magnetic resistance, with a 0–2000W power range and ±2 per cent data accuracy, makes for a quieter experience than previous models. However, it’s still not what I would call quiet. In fact, on an otherwise outstanding product, the noise factor is perhaps my biggest gripe. The magnetic whirring isn’t an unpleasant sound – it can even be quite medidative when you’re trying to focus on anything but the searing pain in your quads – but any insomnia-fuelled late-night cycles pose a risk of waking the neighbours.
Is the Wattbike Atom worth buying?
The latest incarnation of the Atom is closer to a future where the indoor training experience really does mimic grinding the high gears on your nearest climbs.
Granted, the price tag represents a chunky investment, but if cycling is your go-to and you’re not a fan of turbo trainers, this is one of the best bikes you can get.
‘Get 10% Fitter’
Wattbike is currently offering a ‘get 10% fitter’ or your money back incentive for all Wattbike purchases. To learn more, visit wattbike.com/pages/wattbike-guarantee