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Wahoo announces KICKR Studio platform for local bike shops/studios

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Today at Interbike, Wahoo is taking the next logical step in the indoor training realm: Offering a cycling studio package.

This offering, aimed initially at the North American market, is targeted at bike shops and indoor trainer studios that want to have a turnkey solution for selling indoor training classes.  Wahoo’s offering is a combination of hardware, controller software, and a backend web platform.  It covers everything from registration to class/rider management and then even the running of the class/session itself.

How it works:

Wahoo’s goal was to create an end to end platform that any bike shop could easily pick up, implement, and get on the road.  The first piece of that is getting a potential customer to sign up.  To do so, folks can go to KICKRStudio.com and then find local bike shops that offer the platform.

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Right now you won’t find much.  But Wahoo says within a few weeks they’ll start onboarding the first studios.  Once you select a studio you’ll be able to create an account on Wahoo’s cloud platform, which allows you to sign-up for classes. The platform can manage payment for the local bike shop.  More than that though, as a user it becomes your one-stop shop for getting your data after the class.

You’ll be able to review your workout there, download the original .FIT files, and sync it to other 3rd parties – like Strava.

But first, you need to complete your session.  To do that you’d head down to your local studio.  Or in my case, the hectic still-under-construction show floor at Interbike.

It’s here the instructor will check you in for the classes being offered.  The system supports numerous classes per day, as well as concurrent classes in multiple rooms. Each room can have up to 20 KICKR’s.

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Next, you’ll hop on your bike.  The instructor will then pass around what looks to be a TV remote (though the worst TV remote ever, since it has no buttons to control your TV), but it’s actually a remote pairing device for sensors.

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The device uses proximity pairing to figure out what your ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart sensors are.  This way you can easily pair your HR sensor or cadence sensor to a known person. You basically just tap it to the sensor you want to pair and it confirms via an LED light.

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The remote pairing device is made by North Pole Engineering (NPE), which also makes the more well-known WASP devices used in fitness studios and gyms.  It’s used to pickup numerous sensor connections concurrently and stream them in real-time to a backend platform.  Wahoo uses it within the KICKR Studio package, with their wall-mounted version:

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Now when it comes to that backend platform, there’s two pieces.  One is an instructor iOS device (iPad in this case) that the instructor uses for managing the class before and during the workout.  The second piece is another iOS device that’s used for sending all the commands to the trainers and acting as a central hub for data, it also connects to the TV.  This secondary unit in turn integrates with the Wahoo cloud platform for data transmission; though, it can also sustain loss of WiFi just fine during the class and still keep ticking.

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Below is the instructor tablet while checking in the riders.  Riders can update profile pictures, and the instructor can see whether a rider has paid or not by the credit card icon.  Same goes for if the person’s sensors are paired.

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The instructor can also tap any given rider to take a closer look at paired sensors and make any changes if required. They can adjust intensity level for that rider as well.

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When it comes to workouts, Wahoo is including some pre-canned workouts in the suite.

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But studios can also make their own workouts using Wahoo’s new workout creator. It’s pretty straightforward and has the ability to quickly create workouts/segments, and reminds me of TrainerRoad’s workout creator.

After everyone is settled, you’ll get started on the session.  The main display is controlled by that backend iPad, and will display rider stats on the screen as well as the workout along the bottom.  Instead of showing exact watts, it’ll show your % of FTP.  The workouts are ‘leveled’ for varying rider abilities by using % of FTP, as opposed to straight wattage values. The rider should simply aim to keep intensity in the green target zone, which adjusts as the workout goes along.

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In the event someone doesn’t know their FTP, the instructor can put in an estimated value and then easily change it on the fly as the situation warrants.  More than that though, the rider can actually use their own shifting to make it harder or easier in the workout (effectively adjusting the overall workout intensity).  Meaning that since it’s in ERG mode, it would normally ignore your gear shifts. But in this case, it’ll now consider speed as a factor for intensity.  So to allow a student to reduce intensity, you simply reduce your speed.

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Speaking of changes – probably the most important piece of the KICKR studio is actually the technical changes that Wahoo had to make to have everything work. While other platforms work by controlling the trainers using ANT+ FE-C or Wahoo’s earlier ANT control options, those sometimes had delays of a few seconds between all the class participants.  That was fine for longer multi-minute intervals, but didn’t work if you had a 5 second delay to start a 15 or 30sec interval. This was especially important in larger studios – such as those with 15-20 people.

So Wahoo ended up creating a specific studio mode that allows the KICKR (both new and old versions, plus KICKR SNAP) to cache upcoming commands.  This way the KICKR knows the commands (levels) ahead of time, and is essentially just acting out a script on demand based on a time-code.  So once it gets its initial starting command from the instructor, all KICKR’s are operating exactly in sync on this preplanned flight. Of course, that can still be adjusted in realtime from the instructor.

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All of this is controlled over private-ANT (they noted that if ANT+ FE-C gets its long discussed group mode, then they’d look at that as well).  However, Wahoo still allows you as a rider to pair to the trainer via Bluetooth Smart during this, so you can view your data right on your phone using the usual Wahoo app if you’d like.  It just will disallow control of the trainer during the session.

Upon completion of the workout it’ll show a summary screen, as well as then e-mail each participant a data summary and then a link to download their file.  If they’ve configured auto sync, it’ll also send it off to partner accounts (i.e. Strava).

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For now Wahoo is rolling out just the structured workout mode, but says they’ll likely look to add in video partner integration shortly as well.

From a studio ownership standpoint, you’ll be able to ‘buy’ the KICKR studio as either a straight-up purchase of the package, or you can also do short-term leases of the entire platform and the KICKR’s, to test whether you can make the platform work in your specific bike shop/studio.  All of which will be available over the next two weeks.

With that – thanks for reading!  Stay tuned to Twitter for all the latest news, analysis and sarcastic observations from Interbike this week!  Fear not – there’s plenty more!

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15 Comments

  1. Husain

    I’d love to be in the same cycling studio as Chris Froome.

    • Laurens Bloem

      You could, he’d be pushing x% of his FTP and you’d be pushing the same percentage of your slightly lower FTP (just guessing).

  2. Federico

    Very interesting!!
    Do they have an idea on if and when this platform will be available in Europe?

  3. Karl Marsh

    Looks like a blast. Cant wait to try one out! It would be a great way to survive the winter

  4. This is an interesting idea, and I am one who enjoys biking and spin classes, but I am not sure who the market/distributor (vendor?) is for this.

    From a spin studio perspective, you want dedicated spin bikes for adjustability to multiple riders, multiple riding positions, shoe compatibility, etc.. You don’t want to lose a potential client because your equipment isn’t right for them. Also, one of the studio’s big selling points is the energy, expertise, and enthusiasm of the leader/trainer who is working with you (although I suppose someone could monitor the class and still bark at everyone to pick up their cadence for the next 30 seconds). It is also adding more complexity to the spin class; instead of one spin bike (which hopefully has speed/cadence/power), now they need kickrs, sensors, and either numerous bikes to match ride preference, size, etc., or people will need to bring their own bike (more on that below). All in, with everything a Kickr studio needs, it doesn’t seem like a simple way for someone to create a bike/spin class.

    From a user perspective, if I wanted the experience of a spin or group bike class, I would expect energy and enthusiasm (a leader/trainer). Otherwise, I can do the workout in my own house, on my own trainer. I would also, want to bring with me as little equipment as possible; perhaps just shoes, definitely not a bike. If I have to bring my bike to the studio in my car, remove my wheel, and mount the bike onto a kickr, that is a major turn off. If the studio provides the bikes, will they have my size, have my pedals, and adjust it to my liking (most bikes don’t have the instant adjustability of a dedicated spin bike).

    Ultimately, it looks like a TrainerRoad-esque workout. I feel like it is the type of thing I would (and do) on my own, while being able to follow a workout from a plan that is geared at improving MY riding (instead of whatever workout the studio selects for the day). Maybe I just live in a great, year-round cycling location (Florida), but if I wanted to bike with others, I would just go outside!

    Perhaps I am missing the point. Am I alone in these thoughts? What do others think?

    • Tom

      Group trainer classes are a bit different than a traditional “spin class.” I’ve only done a computrainer class at one studio – the gym that sponsors my bike team – so YMMV, but you bring your own bike (which is nice because then there’s nothing to adjust), and there is no instructor. You’re right that it is basically a trainer road erg workout (or a course). The difference, though, is that you’re doing that TR workout with a giant group of cyclists and you all push each other / socialize while you’re at it. Now, I’ve done these sessions with my team – we usually have an off-season training program where we do weekly sessions – but I found the time passed way faster when chatting with my friends, and the competitive aspect of the group was very motivating, especially when we did a course and raced – computrainer can even simulate drafting effect. When I do trainer workouts solo, doing more than an hour is like pulling teeth, but I easily did 1:30-1:45 sessions with the group.

    • Happy Runner

      Excellent points. It does seem that the hassle exceeds the benefit. People can take shoes/clothes to work for a lunch or after work class. A bike not so much.

      OTOH, it does seem like Wahoo has done a good job of thinking this through and making it turnkey for store/studio owners.

      If the demand is there, looks like a good platform. If the demand is not there, a great platform doesn’t matter.

  5. I have a wahoo studio currently in Toronto and those that trained with us last year saw lots of improvement in their biking / fitness. We have 8 kickrs & people bring their own bikes. It’s been great and hoping to try out wahoo’s new platform in my studio. currently using perf pro studio which has been great.

  6. Andrew M

    Hi Ray

    Do you envisage Wahoo rolling out command caching similar to studio mode to help resolve the ANT+ lag when doing workouts on other platforms, i.e. Zwift – lets be honest its pretty dispiriting when the resistance takes 5s to slacken off at the end of an 10s interval at 15+ W/kg…

  7. portemat

    There is a bike studio near my office (link to athlete-lab.co.uk) offering this exact thing. I go regularly – it means I get a structure workout at a time that works for me (an hour of intervals on a turbo can be pretty punishing!)

    It is not like a spin class, it is a cycling class. Not so much chat as a group ride, mainly because the sessions are much harder so talking is not so easy. But, by being with others, there is enough of a social / competitive element to push yourself that bit harder – and since the workouts are FTP based, the monster with the 380w FTP sitting next to you is working just as hard as you.

  8. Jason

    Due to my weak engine, it’s good to see that my paltry wattage won’t be on display for the world to see – unlike Peloton’s studio. Even with the new and quieter Kickr2 can you imagine the cacophony of 20 Kickrs in a small enclosed space?

  9. I have 8 in my studio and noise is not an issue – my clients can easily socialize (although difficult to talk & ride on the interval sets). It’s a great workout and helps increase you fitness in a fun environment.

  10. Jeff

    Any chance the workout creator will be released so current owners can create and run their own interval sessions outside of say TR?

  11. Mark Alderdice

    Awesome. I used to have a studio in Aspen, CO where we did a similar thing using KICKRs and PerfPro software. It worked pretty well and I was under the impression that Wahoo was working on a complete studio system, it just didn’t happen in time for me. Now I’m back in Australia. It’s a really good idea. It’s not meant as a replacement for spin classes. It’s more for people who want to train efficiently, on their own bike, in a group setting. There are some drawbacks (you need to either bring a bike, or ideally store it at the studio; you need sensors etc). But for a serious cyclist or triathlete there is no substitute for indoor interval workouts on your own bike. We would watch bike races, triathlons, movies, do Sufferfest workouts, FTP tests every so often. We did some absolutely killer brick workouts. In the mountains in Colorado indoor workouts are a no-brainer, but even in the summer months we had a good following. Most people won’t do outdoor interval workouts on their own, so it’s a really good way of getting people fit who would otherwise just ride along with no plan or structure. I really miss it.