(Pocket-lint) - The Wahoo Kickr Climb is a simple yet innovative product - but one that's likely to split opinion. While some people will see it as an expensive gimmick with appeal that will soon wear off, others will view it as the next step along the road to making indoor riding even more immersive and, well, just a bit more fun.
The Climb is essentially an accessory for owners of a Wahoo trainer - it is compatible with all Wahoo's turbos from 2017 onward: Snap, Core, Kickr - but, unfortunately for owners of other branded trainers, you don't get to join in the fun this time. Yes, it's strictly for those in the Wahoo club.
The Kickr Climb allows you to simulate climbing a gradient of up to 20 per cent or descending down to 10 per cent on your bike by attaching your front forks to it, where your front wheel would normally sit. It then lifts or drops the front end, pitching you forwards or backwards in the saddle as you roll up and down the virtual open road.
So does it the Climb take indoor training up a level?
Out of the box
The Climb is a cinch to get set up. It comes ready with adaptors for quick release or thru-axles, so it is simply a case of choosing the correct ones for your bike, removing your front wheel and attaching your frame to it. You then have to link the Climb to your Wahoo trainer by using the Climb's remote control, then register via the app.
As we said, it only works with Wahoo trainers and that's because those are designed to pivot. Many other turbos aren't designed to pivot and that could lead to bike damage - hence the reason it's for Wahoo users only.
As per all Wahoo products, the Climb looks good, featuring slender lines and two-tone graphite and black colouring. Although it feels solid, it's also a little top-heavy and it doesn't take too much to knock it over if it isn't attached to your bike - so you'll need to take care if you leave it standing alone, particularly if you have pets or young children around.
In the saddle
There are two ways you can use the Climb. The first is via the remote control, which sits neatly in a recess on the top of the Climb. From this rubberised unit - which is hardwired to the Climb and includes a handy strap to attach it to your handlebars - you can manually increase or decrease the height of the front of your bike, simulating a climb or decent.
We found this to be a nice feature when we were first testing out exactly what the Climb could do, and of course some people might want to set a particular degree of slope for a workout, but that's not how most people will use it.
The Climb truly comes to life when it's being used with apps such as Zwift or Sufferfest. Within these environments the front of your bike rises and falls with the road as you see it on screen, increasing your feeling of immersion in the virtual landscape; we found it really does add another dimension to your workouts and virtual rides.
We also found it helped to reduce the feeling of fatigue you can get from sitting in the same position while using the trainer, and it encourages you to transition between a seated and standing position as you hit the slopes, adding a further element to your training. For people who are specifically preparing for outdoor events that involve a significant amount of climbing, it means you can train your body in the correct position, fine tuning your posture and muscular adaptation.
That's not to say it's perfect though. The way that Zwift's landscape is designed, detailed as it is, does not have the same natural undulations as a real world road, so there is a noticeable "lift" as you hit a ramp, then the reverse as you crest the hill, or begin to descend, with little in the way of variation in between.
This is all quite noticeable at first, as you begin to get used to the Climb, as is the nagging worry that the Climb doesn't quite feel as stable as your front wheel. Rather than have a flat-bottomed base, the Climb is slightly curved, to allow it to rock backwards a small amount as it climbs, then forwards as you descend.
Wahoo advises that you should lift and reset the Climb after every ride, to ensure it is positioned correctly, which at first can leave you questioning whether you've set it perfectly.
Added altogether this made for a few slightly uneasy rides at first, with maybe just a slight feeling of motion sickness added in too. Once we learned to trust that it wasn't going to slip or give way, we soon forgot all about it and were perfectly happy getting out of the saddle and sprinting full gas in intervals or for the finish line in races.
All in all, we think that the Kickr Climb is an appealing upgrade for Wahoo trainer owners looking to further enhance and add realism to their indoor riding in environments such as Zwift. It offers another level of engagement for riders who enjoy training and racing in the virtual world.
However, its inability to connect to other brand trainers, the high asking price and relatively limited function mean it's certainly not going to appeal to everyone.
Alternatives to consider
Elite Sterzo Smart
The Climb is a unique product at the moment, but if it's added realism you're after you could try the Elite Sterzo Smart. The ANT+ connection can directly link to Zwift to allow realistic steering in the app.
Wahoo Kickr Bike
If you're in the market for a new trainer plusscor the Climb, why not go the whole hog and buy the KickrBike? You can save yourself the faff of ever having to set your outside bike up on the trainer ever again, though it's certainly not a budget option.