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(Pocket-lint) - Wahoo has established itself as a premium brand in the turbo trainer, cycle computer and accessory market. It now offers three levels of turbo trainer: the entry-level Kickr Snap; mid-level Kickr Core; and this, the top-of-the-range Kickr, after which the others are named.

This is the fifth version of the Kickr, and very much a case of evolution rather than revolution over the previous versions. It offers a handful of minor improvements - most notably better power accuracy, active feedback that allows a small amount of side-to-side movement, and removing the need to calibrate it for power accuracy.

The 2020 Kickr is the choice of turbo for Team Ineos and this version will continue to provide a top-of-the-range experience for both amateurs and pros alike.

Design and setup

  • Fits just about any bike 
  • Height adjustable
  • Bluetooth connection
  • Axis Feet in three sizes

If you're already familiar with the Kickr then you will instantly recognise this iteration. In fact, we'd challenge anyone to spot the difference between this and the previous version from 10 paces.

Pocket-lintWahoo Kickr review photo 3

From the box, the Kickr is as quick and easy to setup as you could hope, particularly if the bike you are hooking it up to has a 130mm quick release. The Kickr also comes with an 11-speed cassette compatible with SRAM/Shimano pre-installed, unlike many of its competitors and cheaper direct drive turbos.

There are also a selection of adapters and spacers in the box, allowing for pretty much any road, mountain, or gravel bike to be installed onto the Kickr, whether you have a thru-axle, disc brakes, or need to install an 8/9/10-speed cassette.

Once you've established this, you can turn your attention to the new Axis Feet. There are three different sizes of feet and you need to choose the correct size depending on your weight. It's a simple task to unscrew and mount the correct feet if the already selected mid weight option is not right for you.

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The final adjustment is to raise or lower the Kickr's height, depending on your wheel size, meaning you don't need a front wheel block to level your bike - which gives a little more freedom of movement at the front end when riding, which we find preferable, but some people will prefer their front wheel locked in place.

With the bike installed, Wahoo asks you to download and register using its fitness app. This allows you to access some basic workouts, but it's hard to imagine anyone buying a top-level turbo like this will not be linking it straight up to one of the big training apps such as Zwift. On that note, when you purchase the Kickr you are able to try out all the big name apps for 30 days - or 60 days in the case of Wahoo's newly owned Sufferfest - so if you don't already have a favourite or want to try out a new system, you get the chance.

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We had no difficulty in linking the Kickr to any of the apps, it was automatically discovered via Bluetooth and then simply a case of choosing the Kickr from within the software. It also supports ANT+ so you can connect to a range of different heart-rate monitors, for example.

In the Wahoo app you can control the Kickr in a number of different ways, simulating a climb, or targeting a specific power, to structure your training how you want it.

In the saddle

The first thing you'll really notice about the Kickr compared to cheaper turbos is the lack of noise. It really is next to silent as you turn the pedals and, no matter what we tried, we could barely get anything more than the most reassuring of hums from it, whatever the gearing or power we put down. The only real noise will be from your bike's drivetrain, though the hub does tick away quietly as you coast to a halt at the end of a ride.

Pocket-lintWahoo Kickr review photo 2

All in all you would be able to ride this without disturbing your housemates, let alone your neighbours, which is certainly not something you would have been able to say about many turbos a few years ago. There would be no problem in using the Kickr in an open-plan room while others were watching TV; the only thing that would disturb them would be your puffing and panting.

Then there is the ride feel. This is truly superb and where you will really notice a difference if upgrading from a wheel-on or cheaper direct drive trainer. It feels as though you are cruising over the smoothest of Tarmac, with no buzz or bumps interrupting the power that you are pushing through the pedals. When a change in power is demanded by your workout it's a silky smooth transition rather than feeling as though someone has suddenly hauled the brakes on.

It's these small differences that make using the Kickr more enjoyable than lesser turbos and give the belief that you can take on even harder training intervals. All this can be credited to the large, weighty flywheel. It is the same as the one used in the previous Kickr V4, and the ability it gives to effortlessly simulate a 20 per cent grade and give a maximum power output of 2,200 watts. To put these numbers into context, we've never managed to quite hit a power output of 1,000 watts and even the pros aren't going to get too close to 2,000 watts, so there is plenty of capacity that isn't going to be used there.

Pocket-lintWahoo Kickr review photo 5

Despite the fact that some turbos can simulate up to a 25 per cent grade, if you're not satisfied with the challenge of 20 per cent then you either have some highly-specific training needs, or you just really enjoy hurting yourself for no discernible reason.

There is one slightly confusing element to Wahoo's description of the Kickr: the claim of it being an electromagnetic resistance type. While we can't deny that there must be some internal wizardry going on within the Kickr, it is not what most people would recognise as electromagnetic resistance, such as that used for the Kickr Bike, or the Tacx Neo.

The upgrade we were most looking forward to testing out was the new Axis Feet, which allow up to 5-degrees of side-to-side motion while riding. Wahoo claims this gives a more realistic ride feel and reduces the feeling of fatigue, while also reducing any vibrational noise. They are basically rubberised feet, which allow a certain amount of compression as you move on the turbo, allowing a slight rock as you ride.

Pocket-lintWahoo Kickr review photo 4

Compared to a turbo such as the Kickr Snap there is a noticeable movement which does indeed make for a better ride, though it is relatively subtle. When compared to the feel to the Kickr V4 we couldn't honestly detect any difference when it was placed on a trainer mat, as this offered enough give to basically do the same job as the Axis Feet. On a hard floor, with nothing under the Kickr you'll notice a difference, but that's not how most people will set it up. If you did want to, Wahoo is selling the Axis Feet as an upgrade for all previous Kickr models (not the Snap or Core, which have a different footing). All in all we're left feeling that the Axis Feet don't quite deliver the difference to ride feel we had hoped for, but it will be of benefit for some people.

The other elements of note are the improved power accuracy and auto-calibration, meaning you no longer have to complete a spindown to ensure accurate power measurements. Most of us won't notice the power accuracy element, but as indoor racing becomes more popular, so too will power accuracy as no one would want to lose two per cent of their power to inaccurate measurements.

However, it won't solve the problem that the person you are racing against may not have such an accurate setup and so may be benefitting from plus percentage points. On a similar note, the auto-calibration ensures that power readings are accurate, but more noticeable for most people will be that you can just get on with your ride straight away, rather than having to spend a few minutes performing a spindown before you start.

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The final new part is the slightly perplexing wired port. This is designed to allow you to hardwire the Kickr into your modem and connect directly to training apps, ensuring there are no drop outs. However, it appears that you will need to buy an additional adapter from Wahoo to be able to do this, which will be released at some point later in 2020 - and there are currently no apps that actually allow you to directly connect in this way, so it's... slightly confusing.

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It's possible that, combined with the auto-calibration and power accuracy, Wahoo may be looking to the future of online racing and ensuring that the Kickr is as stable and accurate a turbo as is possible for this format. Perhaps we will see Wahoo developing its own Sufferfest app or developing a new platform to take advantage of these features fully, but we'll have to wait and see on that front.

Verdict

Wahoo, once the young pretender in the cycling market, has well and truly established itself as a market leader that develops and innovates high quality products such as the Kickr V5 turbo trainer.

If you choose to buy into the Wahoo turbo ecosystem you can also link the Kickr to complementary products such as the Kickr Climb, which you attach to your front fork to simulate climbing gradients; and Kickr Headwind, a powerful Bluetooth fan that can respond to your speed, power or heart rate, if you wish.  

If you currently have a wheel-on or cheaper direct drive turbo then the Kickr V5 would provide a noticeably quieter, smoother and more pleasurable ride if you chose to upgrade. If you're already lucky enough to own a Kickr then there probably isn't enough to warrant upgrading to this model as the differences are more subtle evolution than revolution.

If you're in the market for a top-level turbo trainer then the Wahoo Kickr V5 is undoubtedly the top-level choice.

Also consider

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Tacx Neo 2T

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The Tacx Neo is the biggest direct rival to the Kickr, which also offers an interesting Road Feel function.

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Elite Direto XR 

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The Elite Directo XR provides a slightly more budget-friendly option, but also offers full smart functionality.

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Writing by Jon Hicks. Editing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on 8 October 2020.