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Hands-on: Wahoo Fitness KICKR CORE Direct Drive Smart Trainer


Wahoo was busy today announcing a full slate of three new products, including the new full high-end Wahoo KICKR 2018 edition, Wahoo Headwind, and what this post is about, the Wahoo KICKR Core.  You can click on the Headwind post shortly, and later today you’ll find my complete In-Depth Review of the full KICKR 2018.  Until then though, here’s what’s new on the less expensive KICKR CORE trainer.

This new trainer from Wahoo is designed to sit in the ‘middle-ground’ of trainers from a price and features/functionality standpoint.  Here’s the quick version of the lineup:

Wahoo KICKR 2018: $1,199 direct drive trainer with larger flywheel, includes cassette
Wahoo KICKR CORE: $899 direct drive trainer with medium flywheel, no cassette included
Wahoo KICKR SNAP 2017: $599 wheel-on trainer with good but not great road-feel

The new KICKR Core is designed to compete directly with the Tacx Flux and the Elite Direto, both of which have done extremely well in the last two years at the $899 price point, easily undercutting Wahoo’s KICKR lineup (and likely costing them a lot of money).  Of course, in the last few weeks Tacx went ahead and applied the pressure again by cutting the price down of the Flux to $799 (while also announcing the new Tacx Flux 2 today at $899-$949 – exact price TBD).

Either way, this new option will definitely be appealing to those that were looking at the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB, which is finally shipping, but didn’t quite want to fork out as much as Wahoo was charging for their other direct drive trainer, the full KICKR (yes, the Wahoo SNAP 2017 was also compatible…but some folks just want a direct drive unit).

The Tech Specs:


Unlike the Wahoo KICKR 2018 and Wahoo Headwind, the KICKR CORE is a little bit behind the production curve.  Those two units start shipping this week, and as such, I’ve had them for a while and can have reviews ready to go.  Whereas with the KICKR CORE I just got my first hands-on look at it yesterday, and haven’t had the chance to put any riding time on it yet.  Hopefully at some point over the next few days I will (and then I’ll add a new ‘First Test Ride’ section down below once so – UPDATE: Added below.).

Still, let’s dive into the core tech specs in a bulleted fashion:

– Direct drive trainer: This means you remove your rear wheel just like a regular KICKR
– Flywheel: It has a 12lb flywheel, which is slightly less than the 12.5lb KICKR 2017 flywheel and the 16lb KICKR 2018 flywheel
– Legs: The unit can’t adjust height like a full KICKR can for different bike sizes, it is what it is
– Cassette: Unlike a regular KICKR, this unit doesn’t include a cassette, which will set you back $50-$60, plus $10-$20 in tools to install
– Sound: This uses the new KICKR 2018’s belt system, so it’s silent as well – a huge difference to competitors
– Handle: This unit lacks a handle compared to newer KICKR units, still, it’s not too bad to move around as I found out for taking photos
– Protocol Compatibility: ANT+ FE-C, ANT+ Power, Bluetooth Smart FTMS, Bluetooth Smart Power
– App Compatibility: Every app out there basically (Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, Road Grand Tours, SufferFest, Kinomap, etc…)
– Compatibility: 130/135 QR, 12×142 & 12×148 Thru-Axle
– Max Incline: 18% simulated grade
– Max Wattage: 1,800 watts resistance
– Stated Accuracy: +/- 2%
– Wahoo CLIMB Compatibility: Yes. Simply yes.

As you can see, this is more or less the KICKR that most people have been asking for at least the last year, if not two years, since the Tacx Flux came out.  In doing so Wahoo will likely end up cannibalizing their higher end KICKR sales, as this model will meet the requirements of the vast majority of people.  From a max incline/wattage/accuracy standpoint that’s more than true.  And then it really comes down to flywheel and trainer legs.  Given most people were quite happy with the ‘older’ KICKR (pre-2018), this has virtually the same flywheel weight.  And the legs? Hmm, shrug, like most other trainers anyway.


Of course, the legs in many ways look like the Magene Gravat/Gravat II trainer that I tested earlier this year.  And that trainer inversely looked like an exact replica of the upper portion of the KICKR.  So they kinda both probably borrowed from each other here.

DSC_2131 DSC_7943

When it comes to sound, I can’t realistically test that on the show-floor, there’s just too much ambient noise.  But perhaps I can steal the CORE for the evening one night and put together a nice video showing how quiet it is in a room somewhere onsite.  The company went with a new silent belt system just like the higher end KICKR 2018 that was also introduced today.


And that’s ultimately what this comes down to – testing it. I simply haven’t had the opportunity to put it through its paces yet.  This is merely a quick trade-show first look post.  Once it’s ready, likely in August, I’ll definitely be doing that – no doubt about it!

After the show closes I’ll try and put together a bit of an interim roundup of trainers, especially in this mid-range pricing bucket.  Though, I’d caution that some trainers didn’t make the cut for announcement here at Eurobike (including a few that were last minute pulls from the show).  So the story won’t quite be as complete as we typically like it post-Eurobike.

First Ride Details:

(Added in later)

I got a chance to steal a Wahoo KICKR CORE for the evening here at Eurobike and put it through its paces.  This included both Zwift (workout and simulation modes) and TrainerRoad (ERG mode for 30×30).  It also includes noise/volume testing as well as digging into accuracy too.  All of which I’ve wrapped up into a single video.  I’ll put more text around this in the morning, but it’s 3:03AM and the video covers everything super cleanly.

How it compares:

I’ve added the Wahoo KICKR CORE into the product comparison database so you can see how it compares against other units on the market. For the purpose of this particular comparison, I’ve decided to rank it up against the similarly priced Elite Direto and Tacx Flux. However, if you want to see how it ranks against the less expensive $599 trainers or the more expensive $1000+ trainers, you can do so in the full product comparison tool here.

In any event, here’s the details:

Function/FeatureWahoo Fitness KICKR COREElite DiretoTacx Flux
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated July 7th, 2018 @ 4:16 pmNew Window
Price for trainer$899$899 USD/€849/£749$899USD/€799
Attachment TypeDirect Drive (No Wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)
Available today (for sale)Shipping August 2018YesYEs
Availability regionsGlobalGlobalGlobal
Connects to computerYesYesYes
Uses mouse/keyboard as control unitYEs (with apps)Yes (with apps)Yes (with apps)
Uses phone/tablet as control unit (handlebar)YEs (with apps)Yes (with apps)Yes (with apps)
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYesYes (no control w/o)Yes
Flywheel weight12.0lbs/5.44kgs4.2KG/9.2LBS6.7kg (simulated 25kg)
ResistanceWahoo Fitness KICKR COREElite DiretoTacx Flux
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNoNo
Maximum wattage capability1800w1,400w @ 40KPH / 2,200w @ 60KPH1,500w @ 40KPH
Maximum simulated hill incline18%14%10%
FeaturesWahoo Fitness KICKR COREElite DiretoTacx Flux
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoYEsNo
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)No (But can use KICKR CLIMB for incline)NoNo
AccuracyWahoo Fitness KICKR COREElite DiretoTacx Flux
Includes temperature compensationYesN/AYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesN/AYes
Supported accuracy level+/- 2%+/- 2.5%+/-3%
Trainer ControlWahoo Fitness KICKR COREElite DiretoTacx Flux
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YEsYesYes
Supports Bluetooth Smart control for 3rd partiesYEsYesYes
Data BroadcastWahoo Fitness KICKR COREElite DiretoTacx Flux
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYesYes
PurchaseWahoo Fitness KICKR COREElite DiretoTacx Flux
Amazon LinkN/ALinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerWahoo Fitness KICKR COREElite DiretoTacx Flux
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

Remember, you can mix and match the products within the product comparison tool here, comparing whichever trainers you want.



As I noted above, the Wahoo KICKR CORE is essentially what’s been missing from Wahoo’s lineup the last two years.  And to add more essentiality to it, it’s basically just a Wahoo KICKR 2017 without its lower base. Instead, it got gifted inexpensive trainer legs and had its cassette removed.  But in doing so they shaved off $300 on the price. Probably a fair trade-off for the vast majority of people.

Sure, it doesn’t have the bigger flywheel weight of the KICKR 2018, but I’d mostly shrug at that.  After all, it did gain the quiet trainer aspects, which is likely more important to most as it does away with the infamous KICKR whine.

The question is how it’ll compete with the likes of the Elite Direto and the Tacx Flux.  With the original Flux now dropped in price to $799, and the new Flux 2 coming in with at the same price (perhaps $50 more, that’s TBD) but with a dramatically bigger flywheel (32KG simulated), that’s a huge difference in feel. Unfortunately, the Flux 2 wasn’t ridable yet either (soon…soon).  Thus, it’s hard to know for absolute certain.  Other specs on those two trainers are pretty similar, but the Wahoo has the edge on noise, as the Flux/Flux 2 isn’t silent.

In any event, it’s clear that more companies are paying attention to this sweet-spot of trainer pricing.  The $799-$899 price point now represents what the $1,199 trainers had a mere couple years ago (if not last season for that matter).  This year will, without question, be the best year ever in terms of trainer choice and value for your money.  The only real question will be figuring out exactly which one to buy.

With that – thanks for reading!

Note: You can pre-order the Wahoo KICKR CORE with Clever Training now (with free US/Europe shipping), and in doing so via CT you help support the site. Not only that but you’ll get 10% back in points with the DCR VIP program. Current estimates are for it to ship in August sometime. Oh, and here’s the Europe-specific link.

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  1. Stuart

    “It has a 12lb flywheel, which is slightly less than the 12.5lb KICKR 2017 flywheel and the 16lb KICKR 2017 flywheel”.

    So… um… was the 2017 KICKR a 12.5 pound or 16 pound flywheel? (Not that it really matters to me; I have the original KICKR, and unless my neighbours start complaining about the noise, I don’t see myself forking out the cash to replace it any time soon.)

    • Stuart

      Oh, and the comparison table doesn’t actually have the Kickr (of any type) in it – oversight?

    • Sorry, should say ‘2018’ is a 16LB. I see the CORE up in the table, odd. Is it showing now by chance?

    • Stuart

      Yeah, it’s showing now. I must’ve seen the article REALLY early. 🙂


    • Ped Antic

      Of course it’s effective moment of inertia that matters, not flywheel weight. Mass arranged close to the axis of rotation will be much less effective than that same weight further from the axis. And if there’s any gearing ratio between the drive and flywheel that can have a “massive” effect too.

    • Urs

      Thank you Ped Antic, I was going to write this!!! Would be interesting to also include the gearing ratios in the reviews. While the Direto has almost the same Flighwheel weight, it lacks in any gearing so the rotational energy stored in the Flighwheel will be much lower since the rotational velocity has a square impact to it

    • Yeah, it’s not really even ratios, because that’ll vary a lot too depending on design and is too difficult for most consumers to understand.

      Rather, it’s a different metric altogether. In talking with both Tacx and Wahoo, they’re liking the idea of doing a total ‘simulated inertia’ value, which is a much better proxy. We’ve got some ideas…for after Eurobike.

    • The simple thing would be to state that trainer X simulates inertia of rider that weighs Y kilos.

  2. Bill Brannon

    What is the possibility that there will be a belt drive upgrade available for the 17 Kickr?

    • Barry D

      Would be nice to see. My wife bought me the 2017 Kickr (already had the original Kickr) and preordered the Climb this past Christmas.

    • John

      None. The internals of new Kickr ‘18 (and Kickr Core) are a redesign from the earlier models.

  3. scott

    I got rid of my Kickr I had used for over 3 years because the noise it made caused irreparable hearing loss–permanent tinnitus. Love my Tacx Neo.

  4. Andy CS

    Can’t find the Flux 2 announcement anywhere. Does anyone have a link?

  5. Chris S

    Silent as in… really? Quieter than a direto?

    Regarding thru axle compatibility, do you have to use a hokey adapter skewer or can you use your bikes original thru axle?

    • Definitely. As in…silent.

      Just in time, mere seconds ago I just published a video with my first rides details and sound and more: link to youtube.com

      You can use your original bike skewer – same adapter as the regular KICKR (versus how Tacx does it with a weird adapter thingy).

    • Stuart

      That’s a change from the original Kickr, then – when I bought the thru axle adapter for mine, it ended up being a longer-than-normal skewer, a changed thingy for the non-drivetrain side of the frame to sit on, a small washer type thing to screw onto the cassette, and some adapters that sit in the space that the normal thru axle sits.

      It works well enough, mind. But it sounds like there’ve been a few changes over the past few years in the design of the Kickr. (Refinement and improvement? That NEVER happens… 🙂 )

    • Yeah, in my brain those changed a few KICKRs ago. 🙂

  6. Jason

    At what point does it become worthwhile to consider upgrading to one of these new trainers.

    I have a 2016 era KICKR that I bought refurbished. I’m not seeing where the market or apps are making an upgrade a necessity or advantageous yet.

    • Stuart

      For me, it’s one of two things.

      Noise, or when the cost to repair is more than it’s worth to me, relative to the cost of getting a new one.

      Noise: right now, I live on my own, and the only way it could be a problem is if my neighbour (we share a common wall between our living rooms) has issues when I do early morning/late night sets. Hasn’t happened yet…

      Repair: it’s still going strong, and I’d be surprised if I have major issues down the road, although the feel of it was a little choppy last night.

      The other things – like the Climb, the Headwind, and other similar frills and whistles – are “nice to have”s, but not sufficient to warrant the money to me. That said, I very much doubt that the market for smart trainers is anywhere near saturated yet, and that’s probably where the R&D is going: keeping the offering for a given company competitive with everything else on the market. Or bringing something new to the market that’s competitive with what’s already out there (and if you’re a new entrant, you need to be either better with the price, or better with the feature set, if you want to make inroads against established brands.)

  7. MikeS

    No announcement for the Wahoo watch?

  8. Darren H

    Difficult to tell from the pictures, but does that front leg fold back in any way for storage?

  9. Dean Dunn

    Just tried to pre-order this from Clever Training UK, but it wont allow me to use the 10% code?

  10. Will you a review of the new KICKR 2018 “full” trainer?

    • Yup! I had hoped to have it written up for Sunday morning. Then for this afternoon. Now I’m just aiming for the universal ‘Coming soon!’. 🙂

      Data collection, photos, video, everything is all done. Just a case of writing the text around it.

      Super short version: Accuracy is solid, new flywheel is shrug, quietness is awesome.

      But ultimately, if I look at the Core (now having ridden it), I’d say: Accuracy is solid, flywheel is same great flywheel, and quietness is just as awesome. P.S – You save $300.

    • Looking forward to it.
      I’ve a Gen 1 Kickr (2014 version, bought end 2015) and was looking to replace it, not because it doesn’t work, just because I want to take advantage of latest advancement, and get a more quiet environment. So you are just saying that the Core is good enough?
      When would you recommend the “full” over the core? if not here, pls answer this question in the review 🙂
      Keep up the good work!

    • Core is totally good. At this juncture, I see virtually no reason to recommend the KICKR over the CORE, unless someone really really really like adjustable height.

    • Awesome.. thx.. so Climb + Core for the price of the “full” KICKR 🙂

    • PeterF

      As I just sold my Tacx Genius, so I’m in the market (short term) for a new trainer. I had intended to get the Neo, but now I’m torn…

      From what I’ve read:

      Tacx Neo – 1030 euro, available now
      * no calibration necessary
      * some report problems fitting their bike (notably: disc brakes)
      * reports actual (“spikey”) wattage back to TrainerRoad
      * big and cumbersome to handle

      Wahoo Kickr 2018 – 1200 euro, end of july
      * includes cassette and thru axle adapters
      * calibration rarely necessary (?)
      * reports calculated (“smoothed”) wattage back to TrainerRoad
      * Climbr compatible (far too expensive though)

      Wahoo Core 2018 – 800 euro, end of September
      * includes thru axle adapters
      * calibration rarely necessary (?)
      * Climbr compatible (far too expensive though)

      For the Neo BikeRadar reports “produces up to 450 watts of resistance when pedaling slowly at 6km/h (3.7mph) to simulate incredibly steep climbs”, and you had a similar remark about the Flux 2 (“10km/h at 15% gradient”).

      How do both Wahoo’s compare?

      That’s one of the reasons I got rid of the Genius, I want to ride VR trips but with my lowish FTP riding the Großglockner was impossible on the Genius whereas I had no problems in real life…

  11. RobertBB

    Dumb question, but I’m still on a Kurt Kinetic…..!

    Does this unit support Campagnolo cassettes out of the box, or do I need a different cassette body?

    (PS: Nothing wrong with the KK and my Assioma pedals, but the g/f has decided she wants to get into indoor training too – !!WOOT!! – so I’ll be giving her my KK)

  12. Herman

    Im curious what different between Gravat2

    Gravat2 about $700 in Taiwan
    also quiet like Tacx Neo
    the accuracy seems good.

    Any reason should I make choice
    between gravat2 and kickr core?

    • I think it really depends on where you are. If you’re living in China or Taiwan, then the support structure is there for Gravat (and probably better than Wahoo). Whereas if you’re living most elsewhere, the support structure isn’t as good for Magene as Wahoo.

    • Herman

      Thanks for your reply

      but really want to see

      Gravat2 depth review 😀

    • Patrick

      I am still looking forward to Ray’s review of the Gravat2 since he tried one a couple of months back.

  13. Alan Taylor Farnes

    Your chart says that the Core doesn’t measure L/R power figures but only a total power figure. Is this true? Can you tell us more about how it is measured? L/R is pretty important to me having torn my ACL. I know this is being touted as a Direto killer but this one feature may sway me back over to the Direto if the core really doesn’t do L/R.

  14. Christian C

    Is the default, non-adjustable height of this trainer for 700c wheels? I didn’t see a trainer block in the video. I’d assume my wife will need one for her 650c bike.

  15. vicent

    Thanks Ray for the post!
    I think i will replace my kinetic with this one…but I have one question.

    I have an 11 speed bike and my wife has a 10 speed. Can she use the trainer on a 11 speed cassete?

    • Sorta, but not in an ideal world.

      In the video above you can see what happens when you do (first, it doesn’t sound good – but more importantly there will be gears you can’t shift into).

      It’s less of an issue in ERG mode, but it’s really workable in apps like Zwift where you need to shift.

  16. Henk

    I’m interested to see how the updated CycleOps trainers turn out, but right now I think the Kickr Core will be top of my list to replace my Vortex Smart. Wahoo and CycleOps have excellent support in South Africa, the rest not so much.
    With how quiet this one is, and with up to 18% gradient, the more expensive ones suddenly seem pointless to me.

  17. MAGNUS

    Ray – how big of a difference does the flywheel size make? (e.g. Kickr18’s 16lb vs Core’s 12lb)

    From all of your comments I see you don’t feel it’s worth the $300 difference, which I get, but what impact or difference does it make?

  18. Bruce

    Hi, first time commenter, DCR. Big fan. After viewing and reading your reviews, I’m going to go for the Core. Can you offer any contact/advice on how to pre-order one? Dread having to manually check website to see when they go live, then get on the line.
    Thanks, and keep it up. You attention to detail is appreciated.

    • Hi Bruce-

      You can actually use either of the links on the left sidebar to pre-order the Core. Both support the site, and historically speaking Clever Training gets pretty much some of the first shipments of Wahoo products. Plus, you can use the DCR/CT VIP program as well (link to dcrainmaker.com) to get 10% back in points, or in this case roughly enough to pickup another sensor with a pair of socks to boot.


    • Bruce

      Fantastic! I will do exactly that. Thank you for just the answer I was looking for, Ray.

    • bruce

      I did it! crossing fingers it comes in before end of August. thanks again

  19. dbsmith1

    “Kickr Snap…with good but not great road-feel”


    When I “traded down” from a Kickr to a Snap two years ago I commented here that the Snap had far better road feel than either the Kickr or the Tacx Neo.

    DCR replied that “I’m not much of a “road feel” guy when it comes to evaluating trainers (or something very similar).

    I guess, in the intervening two years, DCR has figured out what “road feel” means when talking about bike trainers?!

    For my money the 2016 Kickr Snap has GREAT road feel and it’s a heck of a lot more convenient to use than a wheel-on trainer.

    • I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone saying the SNAP has better road feel than the main KICKR. Also, the SNAP is a wheel-on trainer (not wheel-off).

      Ultimately, I don’t put a ton of value in road-feel for most of the trainers out there, but I also can give you rough ballparks as I always have done in terms of whether something sucks or not – which is usually my barometer.

      Most people argue between whether the KICKR or NEO has the better road feel – and my bet is that if you blind-folded most they’d not know which is which.

    • dbsmith1

      Heh, heh, DCR.

      Well I recall what I wrote (that the Snap had better road feel than either Kickr or Neo) and, as I posted earlier, I recall what you replied — basically what you said today i.e. ‘I don’t pay much attention to ‘road feel”. That’s why I posted today — to call you out on trashing the Snap’s road feel.

      I had a Kickr for 3-4 weeks and also a Neo (both purchased and returned later) and I’d take the bet about telling the difference blindfolded. The Neo’s ‘virtual flywheel’ doesn’t spin up/down like a real flywheel.

      And, as far as road feel goes, I’m not sure what ‘wheel-on’ or ‘wheel-off’ has to do with anything? Is road feel a function of trainer type? Or, more likely IMO, a function of flywheel weight (all else equal — which of course it never is!).

    • Actually to be very specific I pointed out to you back then that the accuracy of the Snap was the most problematic, and that I didn’t think the road feel was as good as the KICKR or NEO, which, I still don’t.

      As for the wheel-off vs wheel-on comment, it was in reference to the last line of your comment. The SNAP is a wheel-on trainer, not a wheel-off trainer as you noted. Generally speaking though, you’ll get better ‘road feel’ with wheel-off trainers simply because you could get wheel-slip on a wheel-off trainer that’s almost impossible to get on a wheel-on trainer.

    • dbsmith1

      Far be it from me to face off with the Guru. BUT IMHO you’re conflating road feel with power accuracy and wheel slippage.

      Certainly wheel slippage is related to power accuracy. In the real world (i.e. not the realm of elite athletes) I wonder how big an issue wheel slippage really is? A properly-adjusted wheel-on trainer using a properly-inflated, trainer-appropriate tire will not slip at the kind of power outputs 99% of us generate. YMMV.

      ‘road feel’ means, to me, the way the trainer feels when spinning up, holding a steady pace and rolling out. It has little/nothing to do with power output or accuracy. Again YMMV.

      IMO the 2016 Kickr Snap has better road feel than either the similar vintage Kickr or Neo. In a rank-ordering, the Neo would come last — the ‘virtual flywheel’ is an interesting concept but the algorithm used to emulate a real flywheel is imperfect (as, honestly, you’d expect).

    • Lawrence

      The reason wheel-off is so much more popular than wheel-on has to do with all that friction required to keep the tire from slipping. It drags down the overall feel and makes wattage accuracy suffer too.

    • dbsmith1

      Interesting comment:

      1. What evidence do you have that “wheel-off is so much more popular than wheel-on”?

      2. “All that friction required to keep the tire from slipping” (wheel-on) is just a design factor to be taken into account — no different than figuring out how much magnetic resistance (or air/fluid/etc) resistance to design into a wheel-on trainer.

      I’ve owned both the Kickr and the Neo; I returned/sold both in favor of a Snap. That decision had little/nothing to do with cost.

      I just prefer the road feel of the Snap and the ease of use — I often work out indoors even in Spring/Summer because of rain or heat. I can easily change from outdoor-to- indoor-to-outdoor on the same bike, without having to readjust anything.

    • dbsmith1

      And, not to be too clever: “all that friction required to keep the tire from slipping” is something that happens naturally, courtesy of gravity, when riding outdoors!

      All that friction is at the core of any concept of “road feel”.

  20. Benoit Rochon

    Is the Core disc brakes compatible? I see it mentioned in the specs for the Kickr, but not the Kickr Core. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work but you never know…