Wahoo Fitness at CES: Update on the KICKR CLIMB Timelines

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Like many fitness tech companies at CES this year, Wahoo Fitness decided against being on the show-floor with a large booth.  Joining Fitbit and others, Wahoo went with off show-floor arrangements, in this case a suite some 31 floors above the craziness of the exhibition halls.

It’s here that I found myself a pile of Wahoo BOLT computers and two Wahoo CLIMB units.  One was paired to Zwift, while the other was paired to FulGaz.  Both though were totally functional and gave me a chance to see where the hardware readiness currently sat.

To do that, there’s no better way than to jump on the bike and get rollin’.  Obviously since this was effectively just another meeting in non-stop meetings, I was just in street clothes and not cycling gear.  But for what I was looking to validate, it would only take a few seconds.  And what was that specifically? Smoothness.

You’ll remember from my preview at Eurobike this past summer, I thought that overall the concept was pretty cool, and fairly engaging.  But I was concerned about the smoothing as you hit various climbs/descents, as it felt choppy.  That was mostly an artifact of the unit being too fast in terms of changing incline levels.  It was so efficient and quick that it just felt awkward, like a fancy automotive assembly machine versus the smoothness of the road.

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So given that, I simply jumped on the two CLIMB units (which had the most recent firmware) to see where things stood.

From my short tests, things seem much improved here.  Obviously, I’d want to see a slew of conditions, but on both FulGaz and Zwift things felt a million times better.  About the only outstanding question left is whether or not there’s any edge cases where it doesn’t work as well.  For example certain types of gradient changes, or any quirks in certain apps.

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And of course, I’d want to see how things stood up to longer-term use too in my own pain cave.

Speaking of longer-term use, that’s actually what’s currently held stuff up a bit.  Wahoo has previously noted that the engineering of the CLIMB is a pretty complex affair, especially from a safety and load standpoint.  Ensuring that little fingers can’t easily get caught in the up-down portion (which slats protect), or that a heavier cyclist can use the product just the same as a lightweight.

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But what’s caused some of the delays (remember, the goal was to ship by November 2017) is the manufacturing pieces, and ensuring that the parts meet their testing levels.  The previous test pass of 20,000 cycles (automated test) caused an issue with one part that had to be investigated to determine if it was a one-off or a more systemic item.  It sounds like that’s behind them now, and the goal is to do another small pre-production run over the next week or so, followed by another set of automated cycle tests.  If that passes, then they’ll start full-scale production.

All of which puts them into February sometime for delivery.  Initially, some units will go by air from their factory facilities in Asia, and then they’ll transition to more economical shipping via ocean-going cargo ships.

This is actually one reason Wahoo never took preorders (nor authorized any retailers to do so either), in that they didn’t want a situation like the ELEMNT years prior whereby things were delayed for those that had put money down.  None of which of course changes the fact that many of us want our gadgets now, but at least we don’t have money stuck somewhere waiting for it.

As for a full in-depth review, I wasn’t able to steal one of the suite ones, so things will have to wait one of the more final production runs occurs.  But once that does and they give the green light on shipping, then I’ll definitely post a more in-depth review of the unit.

With that – thanks for reading!

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24 Comments

  1. Michael Coyne

    Awesome, thanks for the update Ray!
    Two questions:
    1) Have you found out whether it can be adjusted in the Wahoo app or something for different wheelbase sizes? As noted before, if it was used by a couple in my local tri club and was adjusted for guy’s (6’6″ tall guy) wheelbase but the girl (5’0″) was using it, it’d go all the way to 24% gradient, and if vice versa then it’d only go to 16% gradient. Not that I think many people would mind a 16% gradient cap, and of course it would probably be adjusted for somebody in the middle. But you know how us cyclists are about accuracy – especially the crowd willing to drop $600 on something like this.
    2) I’m not sure if it was a glitch, but I actually was able to add the Climb to my cart during clevertraining’s pre-Black Friday sale week, and checked out with it. On the one hand I want to contact them to ask/make sure it went through and would ship with the first of them, but on the other I don’t want to risk losing the 20% off it gave me since I guess I wasn’t supposed to be able to add it to my cart in the first place? What would you recommend in a situation like that?

    Thanks again!

  2. Alberto Anzola

    Hi Ray, astounding good coverage as usual! One question, if you don’t mind: Was I wrong into thinking that the Climb would only work with the Kickr as a trainer? That’s what I understood in your preview of some weeks ago. But in the image of the Wahoo booth/flat, it seems like the foremost Climb isn’t connected to a Kickr, but to a wheel-on trainer…
    The reason for this question is: would you think that it will be ( somehow, sometime, somewhere…) possible to use the Climb with a non-Wahoo trainer?? ( see, I happen to own a Drivo….)

    thanks and keep up the good work!
    Alberto.

    • Andrew

      Its connected to a Kickr snap – so I wouldn’t get your hopes up. My understanding is that the issue is ensuring that the rotation about the rear axis required to change the gradients (and potentially the slight differences in loading of the frame/ rear axel/ trainer) don’t cause damage to bike and/or trainer. I therefore suspect that whilst in theory it might work with other trainers it is probably “at the users peril” in the same way that Wahoo couldn’t make it work with Gen 1 or Gen 2 Kickr’s because of the additional (potential) wear/ strain on the frame that could not be circumvented on the older models but they have designed around for the latest Kickr models.

    • Edward Ng

      It specifically works with:
      V3 KICKR
      V2 (2017) KICKR SNAP

      -Ed

    • ekutter

      The problem with non-compatible trainers is the rear attachment point needs to be able to freely swivel up/down. Otherwise you are going to brake your frame sooner rather than later. Pretty much every wheel-off trainer locks in to your rear dropouts pretty firmly. Many wheel on trainers have some rotation as that’s how they attach the bike, but not free movement if you have them tight enough, so would still negatively impact your frame.

    • Brian Jacobson

      It only works with the latest version of the Kickr and Kickr Snap because it communicates with the trainers as opposed to communicating with whatever gadget you are using to control the trainer. So if the app you are using tells the trainer to simulate the resistance of a 8% grade then the trainer tells the Climb to raise the front wheel to 8%.

  3. Peter Copeland

    I’m not sure how well it would work on non certified trainers. Some might flex more than others (not to mention the designed flex of the Neo), and you wouldn’t want the front able to flex more, or less that the rear.

    Still, it looks like a neat idea. If Tacx developed something similar to partner with the Neo, then I guess they could include some sort of road patterns on the front wheel too. Even more immersion for Zwift goodness. :)

    • DrPete

      My understanding is that it wouldn’t work at all because it only works with proprietary electronics in Wahoo’s trainers rather than ANT+ or BLE.

  4. Chader

    Thanks for the update. Excited to see a full review.

  5. Przemek

    Ray, do you think Wahoo will ever develop something like Tacx Magnum treadmill ? I am sure they would get it right (considering the Magnum’s issue with changing gears..) – I know it might not be the best place to post this question, but it would be the ultimate cycling experience (indoors, at least). Thanks for the great work.

    Przemek

    • Chader

      “…would be the ultimate cycling experience…”

      I don’t know if I agree. Any “ultimate cycling device” must be able to cover the wide variety of uses seen. the Tacx Magnum has a very limited use range with it’s low top speed and general inability to handle sprinting efforts. It is an expensive novelty IMHO that lacks full function.

      Smart motion rollers seem like they have the most potential for ultimate cycling experience title since you can do nearly everything on them (regular, sprints, slow work, etc.) and still have most of the freedom that comes with a treadmill design.

    • Not like the Magnum, no. The cost of delivery/etc I think would be challenging for Wahoo (just as I think it is for Tacx right now).

      I could eventually see Wahoo getting into the smaller treadmill game, depending on how Zwift Running shapes up.

    • Przemek

      Chader,

      Right – I forgot about the smart rollers ! I had one before (before they became ‘smart’) and did not like it. Maybe because I was not proficient enough in keeping a straight line. What is the latest option nowadays – can anyone recommend what to look for ?

    • Chader

      I think the two main options for smart rollers are the:

      1) Inside Ride, E-Motion Rollers with the Elite Smart Resistance unit add-on

      2) Elite Arion Digital Smart B+ Rollers

      Both have a lower max resistance when compared to a smart trainer, but they seem to work well based on the comments I have seen.

      Perhaps someone improving those will make the “best” option?

  6. Whitesahara

    Can’t wait for the full review. One odd question, what kind of ceiling clearance would be required for the Climb at fill climb… my pain cave is only 7′ Seems like an odd concern, but I’m concerned It won’t work without more clearance!

    • The DCR Cave is roughly in the same boat actually. I haven’t ridden in there, but I’d say that in general the rear of the bike doesn’t shift too much, as it’s more the front. And in that case, you’re usually lowering your body because of the handlebars.

      Perhaps a Wahoo person can find some creative way of measuring it though – but I think you’d likely be fine in most cases.

    • Chader

      Some quick math leads me to believe that the max height at the axle will be 8″-10″ higher than level.

      Because that is the max on an angle the rough middle where you ride will be about half that increase.

      So probably around 5″ higher at the rider position.

  7. David Morris

    In the UK, Evans and SigmaSports had these available to pre-order from the beginning of Jan. Originally they were showing as available form the 10th Jan from Evans, this then slipped to the 2nd Feb, then March and now it is showing as 2nd May.
    Both Sigma and Evans are still currently allowing pre-orders.

  8. Lukman Nurhakim

    Hey Ray,

    A friend of mine allegedly said that you refused to review a smart trainer manufactured by a Chinese company brushing them off as inaacurate. Is that true?

    If it is, it may affect your impartiality beacon. I mean, why not review them? 🤔

    • Nope, not true.

      As far as smart trainers go I’ve reviewed (or at least previewed) everything anyone has asked me to, that companies send or have asked to send.

      One Japanese trainer (Minoura Kagura) I previewed at Interbike but noted it had significant accuracy issues at the time in that post (it was beta then), and that I wasn’t going to spend time doing a review until they released firmware fixing it (which the company also agreed with). It still hasn’t been fixed…so…shrug. Which is too bad, it has a lot going for it actually.

      There’s also a Chinese power meter (XCadey), I haven’t bothered reviewing, because their own website comparison data shows it as horribly inaccurate. Thus again, with so many products to review I’m not going to spend time (or money) on something that I can plainly see is crap.

  9. Pat Codd

    Do we have any solid info on availability date? I am in the market for a new trainer and this may be reaching but on the Zwiftmas page with the kickr and climb as a prize it listed $1500 USD as the MSRP. That would put it at only an extra $300 if part of a package deal which is half the price of the Climb by itself. If that is indeed the case then I would pull the trigger and get one.

  10. David Beever

    Hi Ray – The clever training coupon code on their .co.uk site does not work for wahoo products! Have wahoo products been excluded over here (or indeed everywhere)? Cheers. David