(Pocket-lint) - We have to start by addressing the most obvious point here: many people will look at the cost of the Headwind and think that the world has gone just a little more crazy than it already was; it's a lot of money for a fan, whichever way you look at it.
However, it's proved to be a popular product for cyclists, so we were keen to test it out and find out why. Here's what the Headwind is all about and why it matters for an indoor setup.
Design and build
- Designed to work with Kickr Desk
- Adjustable rear legs
The Headwind feels solid, if a little plasticky, weighing in at about 5.5kg. Its curves and vents, all finished in black, make for an attractive look. A gloss black control panel also allows you to turn on and manually control speeds.
The Headwind is predominantly designed to sit on the floor, about 50-100cm in front of your bike. The Headwind's front legs are designed to hook over the bottom of your Kickr Desk, if you have one, so they move backwards and forwards as one unit when you adjust the desk.
On that note, we found the Desk and the Headwind didn't work together quite as well as we had hoped. The Desk itself blocks and redirects the airflow from the fan away from your face, where you would really appreciate a cooling breeze, and into your body. It's fairly simple to fix: you either move the Desk to the side or behind the fan, but given that they have been designed to work together, this is a little disappointing.
It is also possible to position the Headwind on a Desk and to alter the direction of the airflow by extending the rear legs. This is the only adjustment that can be made to the air direction and we can't help but think that there is a missed opportunity here, given that taller or shorter riders may have slightly different needs when they are sitting up on the bike, or people training in more cramped conditions may not be able to position the Headwind far enough out front. The inelegant solution is to stick a couple of books under the front legs to raise the airflow direction, but for this price it shouldn't have to come to that.
Getting techy - with a fan
- Wind speeds up to 30mph
- Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity
- Controllable by sensors, smart trainer, Wahoo
- Compatible with Zwift, Sufferfest, Trainer Road
The first thing you need to do once the Headwind is plugged in and switched on is to pair it with the Wahoo app and check the firmware. Once you've done that you can pair it to your heart rate or speed sensor/trainer depending on how you want to control it.
The two different smart control options offer quite different experiences. The speed sensor option gives you the most realistic experience, giving you minimal headwind as you slowly climb up steeper inclines, then blasting you on full power as you race down the descent. This is great in theory, but anyone who has ridden inside will tell you the importance of having a fan to keep you from overheating, so having barely any breeze as you grind your way up the Alp de Zwift for an hour makes for an unnecessarily uncomfortable experience.
Controlling the Headwind through your heart rate monitor gives you pretty much the inverse experience: blasting you as you climb, then easing back off as you descend. Although it's the opposite of how things should work, we found that your brain doesn't really register this and it adds a pleasing layer of realism to the ride.
The fan itself is certainly powerful, if a little noisy given its price point. It delivers a narrow jet of air over your legs, torso and your face, meaning there's no need for the two or three normal fans that many of us have setup to try and cool all those areas. To really feel the wind in your hair we found you need to be down over your handlebars or on the drops. When we sat up tall, a habit that many of us have when on the trainer, we found that it felt as though our head was missing out a little bit.
On the face of it the Headwind is just a fan, and a rather expensive one. There is no doubting that this is a luxury item and that you could buy a couple of cheaper fans that will cool you when you're riding inside. On that point we think you can liken it to other luxury items; sure heated leather car seats certainly aren't essential, but no-one can deny how good they feel.
However, this isn't just about luxury. Over the past few years indoor riding has changed beyond recognition. Smart trainers, combined with apps such as Zwift, have morphed indoor cycling from a necessary evil that you would complete alone, to a social and enjoyable experience.
In these virtual worlds realism is key. What the Headwind does is add to that realism just a little more, making the whole experience just a little better, which in turn makes your training, indoor racing, or staying in for a quick spin, more pleasurable.
Meaco 1056P Pedestal Air Circulator
While the Headwind is a unique product, if it's serious cooling you're after - and not cycling specific - you might want to consider the MeacoFan. It's not budget, but it's quiet, powerful, offers horizontal/vertical oscillation, and there's even a remote control. Plus, when you're done riding, it's a great cooler for the home during the summer months.