Today Wahoo announced a more affordable version of their high-end KICKR BIKE, the new KICKR BIKE SHIFT. This slices $ 1,500 off the price in exchange for a few trade-offs, notably removing the built-in CLIMB-like up and down incline simulation, as well as a more traditional smart trainer drive train system and a few other minor removals. However, it’s not all cuts here either – there are also some moderate improvements over the high-end KICKR Bike, aimed at addressing common requests/issues. In fact as you’ll see, I’d argue that for most people, the KICKR Bike SHIFT makes more sense – but more on that later.
The new KICKR BIKE SHIFT will retail for $ 2,999 (compared to the $ 4,499 of the full KICKR BIKE). Obviously, we’re not talking cheap things here. Virtually none of the smart bikes are, especially not Wahoo’s premium brand. But the new price makes brings it more in-line with some of the other mid-range smart bike competitors like the Stages SB20 and Wattbike ATOM 2020.
In any case, I’ve been riding the KICKR SHIFT for the past few weeks or so, putting it through its paces. This isn’t a full review, largely because I’m just inundated with products right now and only so many hours in the day. And partly to work out some technical challenges (more on that down below). So consider this a first look until I can come up for air, ideally soonish.
With that, let’s dig into it.
How it Differs & Initial Thoughts:
While the Wahoo KICKR BIKE SHIFT shares the name with the existing KICKR BIKE, technologically, they’re almost entirely different. In fact, even structurally they’re almost entirely different. Everything from the frame design/size/materials is changed, to the entire flywheel/drivetrain system, to how the electronics in the shifters attach. about the only thing that’s the same is the saddle itself (even how it attaches is different), as well as the handlebars (and how those attach/connect is different).
Let’s start out structurally first. You’ll immediately notice the KICKR BIKE SHIFT (aka KICKR Bike Jr) has much thinner components. While a chunk of this is weight savings and those cost for shipping and material savings), another very real component is that it increases rider compatibility. A very common complaint about the existing KICKR BIKE V1/V2 is that the top-tube is really wide, and would often rub on thighs (mine included), depending on your exact fit. This new frame is much thinner, and I experienced no thigh-rub:
You’ll also notice new styled handles everywhere for this thinner design. On the whole, I don’t think the new handles are better or worse, just…different. Perfectly fine either way.
An example of that is the new seatpost clamp. At first, I was moderately annoyed with it, as I kept getting slippage. Way more slippage than the already slippage-prone KICKR Bike V1/V2. Then I realized this new seatpost clamp has a hex-compatible nut in it, so you can actually crank it down with a hex wrench. Once I did that, then it was rock-solid staying put. I could have had a goat atop a cow style circus act up there, and it’d have stayed exactly in place.
I asked whether or not the various markings on the KICKR Bike V1/V2 were identical to the BIKE SHIFT markings (from a fit/sizing standpoint), and said while they are very similar, things are slightly different by a few millimeters. However, if you use the Wahoo app to input your fit coordinates (such as from a bike fitting system), it’ll spit out the correct markings for whichever version of the bike you’re using.
Meanwhile, transitioning towards some of the electronics pieces, towards the front you’ll notice a lack of messy wiring. Gone are all the silly cables running everywhere, replaced instead by a kinda-sorta-Di2/AXS junction box style situation. This is where the shifter cables come into, but also where the powers through, as well as status lights for wireless communications. This is actually magnetically attached:
Now, these magnets are not-so-awesome/strong. I haven’t had any issues yet with them falling off or anything, as rather it’s more about being bonked by towels over the handlebars. If you do bonk it and it disconnects, you’re mostly hosed – all communications drop. Wahoo says they’re already looking at stronger magnets to ensure it doesn’t go anywhere. And I suppose in the meantime you could just put a rubber band or ZipTie around it. Like I said, I haven’t’ had any problems in the 8 or so rides yet.
Meanwhile, on the backside of the of the KICKR JR we’ve got the entirely new drivetrain/flywheel system. This is not the same motor-driven electromagnetic drivetrain that you have on the KICKR BIKE V1/V2, thus, it can’t simulate downhill/forward speeds (e.g. coasting down a hill). It’s more inline with the Wahoo KICKR trainers in terms of how it works. Visually (externally), I kinda like it actually. In any shots where you see ‘white’ or reflecting looks to it, that’s just a crapton of studio lights reflecting off-angle. In person, it’s just black. Albeit, very shiny black.
This new drivetrain system is dead-silent. It makes zero sound whatsoever. Not pedaling, not coasting, nothing.
In fact, that’s not the only quiet thing here – also, the lack of built-in KICKR CLIMB gradient simulation means that it’s mechanically much simpler. No crazy up/down systems, or pivot points. It’s…well…simple. And as such, everything about it is quiet. That’s notable when compared to the KICKR Bike V1 and V2, which have a long history of slowly getting louder over their individual lifespans. My KICKR Bike V1 seems to groan and make noises even when I look at it And when I get on and start pedaling? It’s debatably akin to an adult film production set happening down below.
Whereas the KICKR Bike SHIFT is just so effin quiet. It’s insane how quiet by comparison – akin to a silent Peloton Bike. Here’s a tiny little snippet from a video I haven’t got around to making yet, showing some sprints and how quiet it is:
In terms of ride feel, it feels good. It feels like a KICKR does. I haven’t had any road-feel type concerns here, all of my rides in that realm are good. Likewise, from a structure/feel/movement standpoint, that’s all good too. Obviously, it doesn’t go up/down physically like the KICKR BIKE V1/V2 does, but here’s the dirty little secret: I almost never use that feature our BIKE V1 (or the BIKE V2 I have). The reason? It seems like every time I get on, it’s default back to the electronic locking position, and then I forget to re-enable. By brain simply doesn’t realize the lack of ups/downs.
However, the one thing that I did immediately notice is the lack of physical gearing display. On the KICKR BIKE SHIFT there is no gear indicator/display like there is on the KICKR BIKE V1/V2. That’s particularly challenging in Zwift, since Zwift doesn’t display which gear you’re in for the KICKR Bike (it does for the Tacx NEO BIke, Wattbike, and probably some others) – but not Wahoo.
I asked about this to both Zwift/Wahoo last week upon announcement they’ve started seeing each other on Tinder again, and it sounds like this particular item is top of mind for both of them. I can’t imagine this is a hard software thing to add – so hopefully it gets added quickly, not just on Zwift, but other platforms as well.
Finally, here’s some tech spec stuffs, because, everyone likes tech specs:
– Power Accuracy claim of +/- 1%
– Max 20% simulated incline (of resistance unit)
– Max 2,200w supported resistance
– Zero-calibration software algorithm
– Dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart support, including ANT+ FE-C, plus power/speed/cadence broadcasting
– Built-in always-on WiFi (2.4 GHz)
– Retains existing KICKR Direct Connect wired port option for connectivity (requires adapter)
– Bike weight: 100lbs/40kgs, max rider weight 250lbs/113.4kgs
– Requires power cable/be plugged in
Now, the singular area I’m having some initial problems with is accuracy. Except, I can’t figure out yet (despite 8 rides later), if this is a me problem, a Wahoo problem, or just some combination thereof. I’ve gone through three sets of power meter pedals from different brands and can’t get any of them to agree with the unit, despite those same pedals agreeing with other bikes/trainers immediately before/after. The quirky thing is everything is super variable. I’m working together with Wahoo to try and narrow down what’s going on. I do know that both GPLAMA (Shane Miller) and DesFit have been getting spot-on accuracy results with their units, and Wahoo even sent me a test data set from the factory showing the pre-ship accuracy test of this exact unit, with it being spot on. They said they haven’t seen anything like what I’m seeing, and thus once I return back home on Friday, we’ll keep troubleshooting what’s going on, and what the source is. Power meter pedals can sometimes be finicky with smart bikes, though usually not three-sets and 8 rides finicky.
Ok, let’s get into some initial, umm, final thoughts.
Thus far, from a design and ride feel/usage standpoint, I’m liking it more than I thought I would. In fact, I’d argue I like it more than the KICKR BIKE V1 I have (which can go up/down). I’d say the two reasons for this are that the V1 doesn’t have WiFi, which this KICKR BIKE SHIFT has, and secondarily, this thing is just so silent, whereas I need to acquire a noise permit for each ride on my KICKR BIKE V1 from the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the KICKR Bike V2 I have does behave and is quiet.
Still, if I had to go out today and buy another bike, I’d almost certainly buy the KICKR BIKE SHIFT over the KICKR BIKE V2, and save the $ 1,500. First off, that $ 1,500 buys a lot of ice cream, and secondarily, it reduces a lot of potential breakage points. Further, it increases the fit compatibility for those that have thigh rubbing issues (mainly, those of us with huge wattage bazooka legs). I do wish they had kept the small gearing indicator display, and of course I’d like to see some stronger magnets in that junction box – but neither are deal-breakers at this point.
Additionally, since I tend to do more structured (ERG) workouts than straight world-simulation style workouts, I don’t tend to miss the downhill/forward-drive-simulation aspects as much, since I don’t tend to go down a lot of big hills. But again, to each their own.
In any event – stay tuned for a full in-depth review, which will basically be these same opinions with fully accuracy testing results alongside probably a few thoughts from my wife riding it, as she’s mostly been riding the new KICKR MOVE smart trainer lately instead.
With that – thanks for reading!