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Wahoo KICKR CORE Trainer In-Depth Review

Wahoo-KICKR-CORE

This past July at Eurobike, Wahoo announced their two latest trainers – the near-annual update of their mainstay, the Wahoo KICKR (2018 Edition), as well as a new lower priced trainer – the KICKR CORE. Wahoo has always had an even lower priced option, the KICKR SNAP, but that trainer isn’t quite as powerful and requires your wheel be left on the bike. The KICKR CORE aimed to essentially sit in the middle-ground of those two trainers from a budget standpoint, as well as lower the price of Wahoo’s direct drive trainer option.

Except, a funny thing happened – Wahoo probably just gutted sales of its higher end KICKR 2018 trainer. After all, they essentially just took an existing KICKR 2017 trainer (that almost everyone loved), made it silent, slapped less fancy legs on it, and called it the KICKR CORE for $300 less. Donezo.

But is it really that simple? Well, that’s what I set to find out. It’s been about a month and a half since I started riding the KICKR CORE as my main trainer, so I’ve got plenty of miles on it. Structured workouts, free-form Zwifting, and just dorking around. All on plenty of apps too – Zwift, Fulgaz, TrainerRoad, and more.  I’ve been capturing all that data and have it here for you to dig into.

First though, the usual note that a loaner unit was sent to me, which I’ll shortly be packing up – along with the KICKR CLIMB and a few other gizmos from the summer Wahoo releases. I’ll summon the DHL man and he’ll hate me for the massive pile of heavy stuff. But ultimately, it’ll go back to Wahoo and that’s that.  Just the way I work. If you found this review useful – hit up the links at the bottom of the review – I appreciate it!

What’s in the box:

First up is getting this thing out of the box and built. Unlike past KICKR series products, this does actually require some assembly. Also, it’s in a really tall box compared to past KICKR products.

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Now in my case, I did an entire unboxing video which I’ve yet to edit and publish, so I’m taking some screen captures from said video. Once you manage to get the inside of the box detached from the outer shell, you’ll find the trainer sitting there. About 2 seconds later the power cords will fall from the foam and clunk down onto the trainer.

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Meanwhile, if you get rid of the foam you’ll find the two legs in there – each wrapped in plastic. You’ll also find a small tool for attaching the legs and some bolts. Along with the quick release skewer and thru-axle adapters

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Here’s both of those sets of small parts:

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Back on the installation front, you’ll study the manual 18 times over trying to figure out which leg is considered the front leg and which leg is considered the back leg. Eventually you’ll give up on the manual and simply look at the front of the box and try and match the two together.

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Then you can start building it. It’s really just a case of attaching those two legs. You’ve essentially got a 25% chance of getting it right. That’s because you could (try) attaching the leg to the wrong side. But you could also try attaching the leg in the wrong orientation on the right side. Again, just look at the outside of the box.

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A few minutes later you’ll be all set:

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And you’ll have your proud trainer looking back at you:

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The power cords are off to the side. However, you’ll notice you’re missing a cassette on it. Fear not, we’ll get to that in just a moment. After all, this is called the ‘What’s in the box’’ section, not the ‘Get it working’ section.

The Basics:

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The basic concept of the KICKR CORE is to follow what both Tacx and Elite did with their respective $899 trainers in the last two years. Both were huge successes for them, and in doing so they took away sales from Wahoo’s higher end and lower end units. Essentially, Wahoo had a gap in their lineup.

So to create the KICKR CORE they took what is essentially a 2017 KICKR, made it quiet, and gave it a different pair of legs. Roughly. It’s not quite that simple, but in a lot of ways it sorta is.

But before we get too far, let’s do a quick dive into the core (get it?) 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 Trainer Control, 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: 16% simulated grade
– Max Wattage: 1,800 watts resistance
– Stated Accuracy: +/- 2%
– Wahoo CLIMB Compatibility: Yes. Simply yes.

For comparison, here’s the price points of Wahoo’s trainer lineup (I dive into all the details in the comparison section down further below):

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

Oh, with that out of the way let’s get into the details of setup and configuration…which won’t take too long. Unlike similarly priced trainers from Tacx and Elite, there’s virtually no assembly required here. Minus adding in the cassette – which is the same for all trainers at this price point (Wahoo’s higher end full-KICKR includes a cassette).

You’re looking at about $65 for a Shimano Ultegra 11-speed cassette. Of course, you can go SRAM if you have SRAM.  You will need a lockring tool though to install the cassette, and ideally a chain whip. Those will set you back about $10-$25 for the tools.  The process is super simple though and shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.

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The legs fold-out in a manner fairly similar to that of the Gravat trainer.  It’s a bit wonky to close when lifting it up, kinda like the Gravat, though it has slightly more (barely) protection than the Gravat for closing your fingers in there.  Either way, it’s different than the full KICKR which allows you to adjust the height as well. Honestly, you won’t notice. There are times I’ve gotten a new KICKR and totally forgot to change the height for weeks – didn’t notice.

You’ll then plug it in using the included 110-240v power block/plug.  This cable connects via a small flexible quick-disconnect option on the back of the trainer, in case you trip over the cable (it won’t hurt anything then).

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Once powered up you’ll get status lights for power, as well as ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart control/connections on the back:

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Being a direct-drive trainer, that means you’ll remove your rear wheel and affix your bike to the trainer directly using the quick release (or thru-axle if your bike is of that variant):

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Of course, one of the biggest features of the KICKR CORE (as well as the new KICKR 2018) is the silence. Gone is the sound of the whining belt, and it’s replaced with…well…nothing. Basically just your drivetrain. You can hear it here in this video I’ve shot:

This change in volume comes from a change to the belt itself, going to a v-shaped belt. Of course, you can’t retrofit this back onto older trainers because the belt grooves would also be different on the parts under the covers as well.  A bit of a domino effect unfortunately.

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In the event you’re connecting up a KICKR CLIMB, that’s compatible too. Simply bring the CLIMB’s little cabled remote down next to the KICKR and hold it down for pairing mode. Quick and simple.

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Do ensure that you set the wheel size on the combination using the Wahoo App, that way it knows how much it can descend properly.  It only takes a second to do:

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Speaking of the Wahoo app, it’s here that you can turn on or off a handful of settings.  One most notable setting I like to turn off is ERG mode smoothing.  While this sounds great (and pretty, and it is), it essentially falsifies data from an accuracy standpoint and makes everything look perfect.  So I always turn it off.  But for most people (that aren’t doing accuracy testing), you can leave it on without any impact.

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Given the KICKR CORE is a smart trainer, it’ll change resistance automatically in a few different ways, primarily driven by different applications/methods.  But most of this all boils down to two core methods:

ERG Mode: Setting a specific power level – i.e. 225w.  In this mode, no matter what gearing you use, the trainer will simply stay at 225w (or whatever you set it to).
Simulation Mode: Simulating a specific outdoor grade – i.e. 5% incline.  In this mode, it’s just like outdoors in that you can change your gearing to make it easier or harder.  Wattage is not hard-set, only incline levels.

There is also a level mode (set levels 1-20ish), but frankly you are never going to use this.  In the case of simulation (aka slope) mode, the KICKR CORE can simulate from 0% to 16% incline – which is pretty darn high. Sure, some trainers can go over 20%, but realistically, if you’ve ever tried riding up 16% inclines on a road bike, you’ll either nearly fall over or just want to anyway.  Not to mention that by default Zwift halves the incline anyway (though, you can change that easily if you want).

The second mode the trainer has is ERG mode.  In that case, the company claims up to 1,800w of resistance at 40KPH. Although, realistically, you don’t care about that. I can only barely break 1,000w for a second or two, and even most front of the non-pro pack cyclists aren’t going to top 1,800w.  The pros would only be just a bit beyond that.  Said differently: Peak numbers don’t matter.  Instead, what matters is actually a harder metric to make clear – which is the ability to simulate high grades and lower speeds (especially if you’re a heavier cyclist).

And this is where the KICKR CORE has an advantage over the Elite Direto and Tacx Flux. First of all: being based on the 2017 full KICKR, it just doesn’t have those issues. I did some steep incline testing and didn’t see any issues.

Another area that does matter is whether there’s a delay or not in changes to resistance, and with the KICKR CORE I test that in my 30×30 test down below in the power accuracy section. So check that out.

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Next, a lot of folks will ask about road-like feel, and I always say pretty much the same thing:

When it comes to road-like feel, I put the KICKR CORE in roughly the same category as the other high-end trainers I mentioned.  Much of that is driven by the flywheel, and be it physical or virtual, flywheel sizes tend to be measured in weight.  This impacts inertia and how it feels – primarily when you accelerate or otherwise change acceleration (such as briefly coasting). It’s got a 12lb/5.45kg flywheel, which is almost exactly the same as the KICKR 2017 (and all previous KICKR’s), as well as the high-end Elite Drivo II.

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The exact flywheel weight isn’t everything though, because companies can use differing methods to significantly enhance the effective flywheel weight (or simulated weight in other lingo).  For example, Elite’s Drivo has two listed sizes, one is the actual flywheel size (6KG/13.2LBS), while the second is the replicated flywheel size.  This is because with its two-belt system, it actually doubles-down on that replicated feeling in the same way pulleys or levers make it easier to move a heavier load.  Other companies use similar methods, and it’s not about smoke and mirrors, but rather very simple physics here.

Either way, for me personally, it’s hard to separate the fact that I’m riding indoors from outdoors. It’s still a trainer, and I’m still looking at a wall in front of me.  My brain can only turn off so much of that.  Overall I think the unit’s got a pretty good road-like feel.  I’m not sure if it’s the absolute best out there (trying to compare them all over time is near impossible), but it’s pretty solid.  When it comes to that feel, I find the road-like feel of the KICKR CORE and the KICKR 2018 indistinguishable. That’s despite the fact that the KICKR 2018 has a 16lb flywheel versus the 12lb one on the KICKR CORE. Others that have ridden both say the same – you just can’t tell.

Finally, when it comes to calibration (roll-down) you can do so via both the Wahoo Fitness app or most 3rd party apps like Zwift or TrainerRoad.  You’ll spin up to about 23MPH and then stop pedaling. The trainer will slowly coast down and it’ll measure the time it takes to determine any required offset.

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Generally speaking, you’ll want to do this anytime there’s significant temperature shifts, or if you move the trainer. I found that as long as things remained stable there was no impact on not doing so week to week.

App Compatibility:

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The Wahoo KICKR CORE follows the industry norms as you’d expect from most trainers these days.  As you probably know, apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, SufferFest, Rouvy, Kinomap and many more all support most of these industry standards, making it easy to use whatever app you’d like.  If trainers or apps don’t support these standards, then it makes it far more difficult for you as the end user. Given the KICKR CORE is essentially of the same firmware lineage as the full-blown KICKR trainers, it’s no surprise everything here is as expected.

The KICKR CORE transmits data on both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart as well, allowing interactive resistance control across both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart.  By applying resistance control apps can simulate climbs as well as set specific wattage targets.

In any case, the Wahoo KICKR 2018 supports the following protocol transmission standards:

ANT+ FE-C Control: This is for controlling the trainer via ANT+ from apps and head units. Read tons about it here.
ANT+ Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard ANT+ power meter, with speed baked in as well.
ANT+ Legacy Wahoo Trainer Control: Some older apps might still use this to control the Wahoo KICKR CORE, it’s what Wahoo first started out on, but today most apps would use the FE-C variant.
Bluetooth Smart Wahoo Trainer Control: This is Wahoo’s private method of controlling trainers
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard BLE power meter with speed as well.

It DOES NOT, however, support these protocols (which trainers from Tacx, Magene, and Elite do support to varying degrees):

ANT+ Speed/Cadence Profile: This broadcasts your speed and cadence as a standard ANT+ Speed/Cadence combo sensor.  Wahoo doesn’t do this for any trainers.
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Profile: This broadcasts your speed and cadence as a standard BLE combo Speed/Cadence sensor.  Wahoo doesn’t do this for any trainers.
Bluetooth Smart FTMS: This follows the industry standard Bluetooth Smart FTMS control, which is basically the Bluetooth variant of ANT+ FE-C for controlling trainers.  Wahoo doesn’t do this yet.

So basically, the only meaningful takeaway of the above is that you don’t get cadence data from the trainer itself. Which honestly frustrated the hell out of me this review round. That’s because I was specifically using Zwift on Apple TV for much of my testing, and that’s limited to two concurrent sensor connections (+ the remote control). So I would have to choose between heart rate data or cadence data. Whereas other trainers broadcast cadence over the same single channel, so I get that data too. Sure, in Zwift one can, in theory, use the companion app to get in more sensors – but I find that flakey and inconsistent.

Finally, It’s these same standards that also allow you to connect via head units too. For example the Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT as well as Garmin Edge series support ANT+ FE-C for trainer control, so you can re-ride outdoor rides straight from your bike head unit to your trainer. For example, for my accuracy testing section, I recorded the data on a Garmin Edge 520 as well as the trainer apps.  From there I’m able to save the file and upload it to whatever platform I like.

For me, in my testing, I used Zwift and TrainerRoad as my two main apps (which are the two main apps I use personally).  In the case of Zwift, I used it in regular riding mode (non-workout mode) and workout mode, whereas in the case of TrainerRoad I used it in a structured workout mode.  I dig into the nuances of these both within the power accuracy section. Here you can see TrainerRoad paired as an ANT+ FE-C trainer with Windows:

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And one last time, here’s said trainer in both Zwift and TrainerRoad, this time on my iPad via Bluetooth Smart:

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All of this worked without issues for me.  Oh, and Apple TV worked too – where I actually spent the majority of my time with the trainer.  Again, this is really no surprise here.  The only issue is that Wahoo has yet to implement FTMS. While that annoys me from the ‘Wahoo just can’t follow standards’ standpoint, practically speaking it has almost no impact on you. Because Wahoo is a giant in this space, all apps support their legacy/private Bluetooth Smart control protocol anyway.  I suspect we’ll see Wahoo add it at some point, but I don’t expect that point to be near-term.

Power Accuracy Analysis:

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As usual, I put the trainer up against a number of power meters to see how well it handled everything from resistance control accuracy, to speed of change, to any other weird quirks along the way.

In my case I used three different bike setups, though the majority of time was spent on setups #1 and #2 below:

Canyon Bike Setup #1: Garmin Vector 3 (Dual), Stages R (Single), Avio Power Meter (Left-only)
Canyon Bike Setup #2: SRM EXAKT (Dual), Stages LR (Dual)
Canyon Bike Setup #3: PowerTap P1 (Dual), Stages LR (Dual)

This is all in addition to the trainer itself.  Note that because you remove the rear wheel I can’t use something like a PowerTap hub to compare as well (which I would use in power meter testing normally).  Also, I did some brief testing with a pair of Favero Assioma pedals too – but I didn’t collect a meaningful amount of data on that configuration.

In my case, I was looking to see how it reacted in two core apps: Zwift and TrainerRoad.  The actual apps don’t typically much matter, but rather the use cases are different.  In Zwift you get variability by having the road incline change and by being able to instantly sprint.  This reaction time and accuracy are both tested here.  Whereas in TrainerRoad I’m looking at its ability to hold a specific wattage very precisely, and to then change wattages instantly in a repeatable way.  There’s no better test of that than 30×30 repeats (30-seconds at a high resistance, followed by 30-seconds at an easy resistance).

There’s two ways to look at this.  First is how quickly it responds to the commands of the application.  So for that, we need to actually look at the overlay from TrainerRoad showing when it sent the command followed by when the KICKR CORE achieved that level.  Here’s the levels being sent by TrainerRoad (in this case via ANT+ FE-C on Windows) and how quickly the KICKR CORE responded to it:

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In general this is pretty good. Not the best ever (an award Elite with their Drivo 1 still hold), but solid. You’ll notice slight variations from interval to interval, which is mostly based on me getting into a better gear. In fact, TrainerRoad gives you a little warning before a workout that putting the bike into the small ring up front will produce better results for most trainers. And that’s true. You can see the middle intervals were much more smooth than the first few, as I shifted for those. The last two I was just simply getting tired as this was the second workout in a row I had done.

But what about accuracy within that? After all – the above is just showing how quickly it responds, not actually whether or not it’s accurate. For that, we’ll compare it against the Stages LR and SRM EXAKT. Here’s that data set:

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As you can see, these are pretty darn close – at least to the Stages LR (which is the dual-sided Stages that’s been proven pretty reliable compared to many other power meters I’ve tested). The SRM EXAKT seems oddly a bit low (usually if/when I see it err, it goes high).

Still, what you’ll notice is that the power shifts from approximately 150w to 440w pretty equally among all three. There’s no delay from the KICKR CORE (occasionally an issue on trainers), nor any weirdness coming back to the recovery bits. It really nails it in line with the power meters.  Again, the slight variability on the first couple were mostly me having it in too ‘fast’ a gear (which is why TrainerRoad recommends a smaller ring up front).

From a timing standpoint, it seemed to take about 2-4 seconds to stabilize between those two wattages, which is what I’d expect/want. If something only takes under a second to shift between those two it’ll feel like hitting a brick wall.  Inversely, if something takes 8-10 seconds, that’s a third of the interval itself.  But this timing was good:

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And the power curve between the Stages LR and Wahoo KICKR CORE was very close as well:

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Next, let’s look at a structured workout over on Zwift. Like TrainerRoad, this too is in ERG mode. So same made on the CORE from a technology standpoint, but just different app. Also, in this case I changed it up and used Bluetooth Smart to control it from the Apple TV. The specific workout is called ‘Jon’s Mix’ in Zwift, and it’s what Zwift uses for development testing – and also what I tend to use as well as it’s a great blend of differing wattages and responsiveness. Here’s the set details:

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As you can see, overall things are very close – at least for most of the steady-state sections.  The three big spikes you see in the middle there are supposed to be 800w efforts held for 10-seconds per the workout. I failed to achieve that, so I ended up around 700w.  I know full well I can’t hold 800w for 10-seconds except on the bestest of awesome days. This was not one of those days.

To make it a bit easier to read I’ll add a 5-second smoothing and zoom in for the first 9 minutes or so:image

You can see that the Stages LR and CORE match very well, with the SRM pedals tracking a bit below it. The SRM briefly drops out at the 5-minute marker – that could just be some transient signal thing or a Garmin Edge 1030 thing or magic pickles. I have no idea, I’m not concerned with it for this particular chart (instead I’d be concerned that from one interval to the next a mere 30 seconds later the power is different on the SRM).

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Oh, and here’s the unsmoothed variant:

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There’s a couple of things of note in there. First is the part where I peak upwards of about 700w. For that, the KICKR CORE and Stages LR agree nicely. As I noted, I can’t hold 800w steady for that long, but I can hold about 700w.  So the nearly 900w of the EXAKT simply isn’t real.  So the unit does a nice job of responding to my attempt to hold that wattage.

However, one thing you’ll notice across all three sets is that purple line as I spin back down. That’s a tell-tale sign that I out-spun the trainer (it’s also a tell-tale sign that my legs couldn’t pull it off). This happens when you sprint really hard, and then soft-pedal briefly. Lots of trainers show this symptom, including Wahoo’s own KICKR SNAP.  Though I don’t typically see it on the full-sized KICKR models, nor on others of that price range.  In this case, it only lasts a few seconds – but it doesn’t quite capture the recovery as accurately as it should.

Finally, the last third of the workout which is essentially two steady-state sections. Again you can see some transient droppages occurring here for both the SRM and Stages power meters for a second or two each. That’s actually a first for me in the new DCR Cave, but I’ve also got a pretty funky temporary mobile hotspot and cellular signal thingy close by that may be impacting stuff.  Either way, doesn’t matter here.  Instead, focus on the closeness of the Stages LR and KICKR CORE here.

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Now one could make the argument that once you account for drivetrain losses that either the KICKR CORE should be about 1-2% lower or the Stages LR about 1-2% higher. And that’s probably true. But, it would also be true within the accuracy ranges of both.  Note that the KICKR CORE had a calibration done prior to this workout after about 10 minutes of pedaling on it, and then the SRM and Stages both had zero offsets done too.

Next, let’s go into regular Zwift mode for a non-ERG workout.  In other words, where the trainer is set on a specific grade (i.e. 4%) and then you change gears however you see fit to accomplish riding that profile.  Here’s a look at a ride around Zwift’s Innsbruck course (data files here):

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In general, things look pretty darn close between the units for the vast majority of the workout. So let’s zoom in on the two sprints in there. Note, I’ve smoothed the above at 3-seconds, but the below has zero seconds of smoothing on it (showing original data). Here’s the first of those two sprints. This one is sorta a two-parter. I went up to about 700w, and then backed off slightly, and then went back up again.

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You can see on the first sprint that the KICKR CORE seems to be the same as the others. The Stages LR undercuts slightly, but SRM and the CORE match.  However, on the second half of that, the KICKR CORE overshoots a fair bit – about 80w or so for one second, and then backs down to just barely 40w or so overages. It’s super subtle, but is notable.

If we go to the next sprint at about the 28-minute marker, you can see this happen again – also looking at about a 75-80w gap. Once again, only for about 1 second before getting back a bit closer.  If I were to smooth this, it’d look like it was lasting slightly longer than it is.

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I’m not the only one to see this – Shane Miller also noticed the same thing, but in his case he’s able to output more power.  And the problem appears to happen the most at much higher outputs – like 1,000w+.  For me, I can’t attain those wattages, so it’s somewhat of a moot point.

In my case, if we look at the mean/max graph of this ride, it becomes more clear:

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You can see the peak 1-second power here about 75w over the next nearest value from the SRM pedals.  Now differences at peak sprint power are normal amongst any power meter or trainer test – you’ll usually see say 10-40w differences for 1-second recording. Some of that is really just timing aspects, in terms of transmission and head unit recording. Just the way it is.  But 100w? Well, that’s a wee bit much.

For fun, here’s another quick graph showing the same thing from another ride:

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And zoomed into the sprint:

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You can ignore the lower Stages LR value on the sprint, as I was using it in a single-sided Stages-R configuration for an unrelated test (though, it does show you the impact of left/right balance differences in sprints).  As you can see, the KICKR CORE rises about 60-80w above Vector 3. Also, secondary fun tidbit about those last two graphs: You can see the normal differences when it comes to recording the same source on two devices. One of the two upper CORE lines was recorded on an Edge 520, while the other by Zwift. Very similar, but not exactly the same.

Now whether this sprint overage is a big deal probably depends on a lot of factors. For most people (myself included), I just don’t sprint enough and at high enough intensities for this to matter significantly. Especially as I am more of a triathlete than a roadie.  For example, a sprint at 600w just manifests itself as anything.  It takes about 700-800w for you to start seeing it.

Of course, some people may even like this ‘feature’ – it’s free wattage.  Though, most days I try to at least pretend not to like it.  And then there’s the simple reality that it’s something Wahoo can probably fix in a firmware update. There’s a long line of trainers that in early firmware versions will overshoot sprints. A really long line of trainers – even some of Wahoo’s past trainers did initially. So put this in the camp of we’ll see. And again, for me this doesn’t show up in workout/ERG modes, only in non-workout modes for me.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Trainer Comparisons:

I’ve added the Wahoo KICKR CORE 2018 into the product comparison database.  This allows you to compare it against other trainers I’ve reviewed.  In a rare move for this section, I’m actually going to show two comparison tables. The first is Wahoo specific, showing you the differences between the three Wahoo price points (KICKR, KICKR CORE, KICKR SNAP), along with the 2017 KICKR (since that’ basically what this trainer is).  Then after that I’ll show you the differences for trainers in this price range from other companies.

Function/FeatureCycleOps HammerElite Drivo IITacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR COREWahoo KICKR 2018
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated September 18th, 2018 @ 1:55 amNew Window
Price for trainer$1,199USD$1,199$1,599USD/€1,399$899$1,199
Attachment TypeDirect Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)
Available today (for sale)YesYesYesYesYes
Availability regionsGlobalGlobalGlobalGlobalGlobal
Connects to computerYesYesYesYesYes
Uses mouse/keyboard as control unitYes (with apps)Yes (with apps)Yes (with apps)YEs (with apps)YEs (with apps)
Uses phone/tablet as control unit (handlebar)Yes (with apps)Yes (with apps)Yes (with apps)YEs (with apps)YEs (with apps)
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWirelessWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYesYes for broadcast, no for general useNoYesYes
Flywheel weight20lb/9kg13.2lbs/6kgSimulated/Virtual12.0lbs/5.44kgs16lbs/7.25kgs
ResistanceCycleOps HammerElite Drivo IITacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR COREWahoo KICKR 2018
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNoYesNoNo
Maximum wattage capability2,000w2,296w @ 40KPH / 3,600w @ 60KPH2,200w @ 40KPH1800w2200w
Maximum simulated hill incline20%24%25%16%20%
FeaturesCycleOps HammerElite Drivo IITacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR COREWahoo KICKR 2018
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoPaid optionNoNoNo
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNoWith accessoryNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoNoYesNo (But can use KICKR CLIMB for incline)No (But can use KICKR CLIMB for incline)
AccuracyCycleOps HammerElite Drivo IITacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR COREWahoo KICKR 2018
Includes temperature compensationYesN/AN/AYesYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesYesN/AYesYes
Supported accuracy level+/- 3%+/- 0.5%+/- 1%+/- 2%+/- 2%
Trainer ControlCycleOps HammerElite Drivo IITacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR COREWahoo KICKR 2018
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YesYesYesYEsYEs
Supports Bluetooth Smart control for 3rd partiesYesYesYesYEsYEs
Data BroadcastCycleOps HammerElite Drivo IITacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR COREWahoo KICKR 2018
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYesYesYesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYesYesYesYes
PurchaseCycleOps HammerElite Drivo IITacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR COREWahoo KICKR 2018
Amazon LinkLinkN/ALinkN/AN/A
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkN/ALinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkN/ALinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerCycleOps HammerElite Drivo IITacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR COREWahoo KICKR 2018
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Next, here’s a look at the competitors in this price point.  The KICKR CORE is at $899, which is at the same price point that the Elite Direto was at. It’s currently down to $799, where it matches the Tacx Flux 1. Those are basically what you’re competing against. Personally, I’d spend the extra $100 to get a silent trainer with a bigger flywheel (even ignoring the flywheel, I’d spend that for silence).  But one has to balance that with the fact that once you add in a fan, most of these trainers would produce the same ‘training room’ net sound anyway.

Function/FeatureWahoo Fitness KICKR COREElite DiretoTacx Flux
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated September 18th, 2018 @ 1:55 amNew Window
Price for trainer$899$849 ($799 for 2017 models)$799USD/€799
Attachment TypeDirect Drive (No Wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)
Available today (for sale)YesYesYEs
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 incline16%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% (Sept 2018 models, +/- 2.5% for earlier models)+/-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

Again, you can mix and match the products in the comparison database as you see fit here.

Summary:

Wahoo-KICKR-CORE-Closeup

I suspect it won’t take long for the KICKR CORE to become Wahoo’s most popular trainer, and for largely good reason. You can save $300 with almost negligible ‘loss’ compared to the full KICKR 2018. Plus, you could ‘re-invest’ that $300 into the cost of a KICKR CLIMB. At least, that’s the proposition I’d make if I was trying to justify the purchase of both devices.

From an overall ease of use and durability standpoint, it’s just like any other Wahoo product: It just works, and works well. It’s clearly well built, just like the beastly KICKR was before it. Probably overbuilt really for the price point – but I suppose that’s Wahoo’s problem to own.

The only downside is the very slight over-shooting that both Shane Miller and I are seeing on some sprints (not all sprints in my case). For me and my power output, the impact is very minor (only a few dozen watts in the most extreme cases, at sprints of 800w).  Whereas for Shane he’s a bit more of a powerful cyclist and can get upwards of 1,200+ watts, so the gap is slightly more for him.  Of course, some people might actually like this ‘bug’, which in software parlance would then be a ‘design feature’.  I suspect Wahoo will be able to reign this in, as this type of overshooting on early firmware of trainers is actually fairly common (from many companies).  Either way, for my riding it doesn’t bother me, and for most people I’d easily recommend this over the full KICKR based primarily on the cost savings.

With that – thanks for reading and feel free to drop any questions down below!

Found this review useful? Or just wanna save a bundle? Here’s how:

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (a labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take the time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP Program, you will earn 10% points on this item and 10% off (instantly) on thousands of other fitness products and accessories.  Points can be used on your very next purchase at Clever Training for anything site-wide.  You can read more about the details here.  By joining, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers.  And, since this item is more than $49, you get free 3-day (or less) US shipping as well.

Wahoo KICKR CORE (EU/UK link here)
Wahoo CLIMB
Wahoo KICKR DESK
Wahoo Headwind Fan

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit (though, no discount/points). Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.

Thanks for reading!

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140 Comments

  1. Guillermo

    Hi DCR

    Thanks for another nice review.

    How stable did you feel the Kickr CORE? As the legs are static, I don’t see floor adjusters like the other Kickrs, and this is kind of important for me as the laminate floor of my cave is not completely flat.
    Also Shane mentioned the bike weight is more on the right size instead of being in the center.

    • No problems with stability for me. Heck, I even put it on a rocker plate (without tying it down) the last few weeks. I’m still standing (and no issues for The Girl in the same config).

      As far as center of balance goes, I didn’t pickup on that directly, but indirectly I likely adjusted for it on the rocker plate in terms of positioning.

    • Kevin

      Ray, would love to see some rocker plate reviews. My butt hurts a lot more after an hour on the trainer than 3 hours on the bike, so a good rocker is probably worth it.

  2. steve

    Damn.. they just keep making this stuff more and more tempting… Thanks again for the insanely in-depth and awesome review. Just the best!

  3. Bob C.

    Kinda saying what I said on Shane’s video. Definitely worth bringing up the sprint power issues, especially for those who don’t have another power meter to pair with Zwift or what have you. As for me, I’ve got a power2max Eco that I’ve adored this year so I see it as a minor inconvenience (and one that is likely to be fixed with firmware as you mentioned).

    For an interactive direct drive trainer at this price point that is also quiet? I had to pull the trigger on it. I had been saving all summer long to grab one of these middle range ones (Direto was on the shortlist, too), and this just sounds like the best option for what I’m looking for: simulated hills on Zwift for a U.S. Illinois plainslander who just wants some long steady hills to ride.

    I should also note that it has already shipped for me and will arrive later this week (if UPS is to believed). I know that fulfillment was something you had mentioned in previous posts as being weird with Wahoo, but in this case, it seems to have worked out for me. I’ll attribute that to purchasing it the same day it was made available. In any case, I’ll update in the comments on my experience once I have it in hand, especially if I notice anything really wonky.

    Thanks for all your content, Ray! Looking forward to the hi-jinks you and Shane are likely to get up to at Interbike. 🙂

  4. David

    Ok. Honest, silly question: why don’t you just pay Wahoo the retail price for the Core and keep it? I assume you’re likely going to buy one to have it around (or maybe not?), so why not save yourself the shipping hassle?

    • I did that with the Wahoo desk actually. They just sent me an invoice and I paid it and it was easier for everyone.

      With the trainers, they have a shipping distribution center in the Netherlands – so basically around the corner. And then Clever Training carries them out of the UK/EU operation. So that’s a bit better option for me there.

    • Michael Coyne

      It’s kinda a rule and tradition for him, and I suspect he keeps that rule to help maintain journalistic integrity for himself.

      If he didn’t do that and they had manufacturing/quality assurance problems, a company could try to guarantee that he got a “good” one while most of the rest of us got “bad” ones.

      If he buys one as a normal customer instead, then suddenly even a “celebrity” like Ray is in the same pool as the rest of us, throwing the same dice and (hopefully) seeing the same problems (or lack thereof) so he can speak on that more genuine experience.

      Would Wahoo have done that? I think not. But Ray doing it this way encourages companies to not START doing that in the first place.

    • Ryan

      Hi Ray,

      I’ve just noticed Wiggle have released a Wahoo clone table under their lifeline brand for £89.99 – not sure if it has been mentioned in the comments before.
      Very tempted to pull the trigger as the official Wahoo table always struck me as grossly overpriced.

    • runninmatt

      Thanks for the top tip on the wiggle desk. Ordered 2 for the price of the Wahoo one!

    • Ryan

      Ha ha! Good work!
      Still waiting to pull the trigger myself – might consider it as an early christmas present! 🙂

    • Yeah, I think it’s the same Amazon clone that’s been out there for a while as well. Some minor nuances in differences, but I can’t imagine most people will care.

      Ultimately, I think Wahoo could spend like 7 minutes of time on adding a power strip and USB ports to the thing along with wheel locks and a water bottle holder and I’d buy another. I don’t even care if it’s ziptied to it.

  5. $10-$25 for the tools? Well if we don’t use Park, those three combines seem to be ~$67 on Amazon. They look nice though. You just need a cheap adjustable wrench (the main limitation is how wide it gets) and a cheap $10 chain whip. Ok, being picky….

    • The chain whip actually isn’t needed. You can use an old rag. However, the lockring is – which is the first one I linked to for $10….on Amazon. An adjustable wrench is handy, but again, you can also get away with all sorts of random tools to hold that in place.

      I’ve got both Park and non-Park ones in my collection. No difference. Just whatever I happened to pull out of the box first that day.

    • Fred2

      I think you will probably want that chain whip if you torque to the recommended 40 Nm marked on the lockring (as I recall). And I would recommend using a torque wrench.

    • Fred2

      It is also good to have the lockring tool with the pin in the middle like the Park FR-5.2G (quick-release) or the Park FR-5.2GT (12mm thru-axle). Without the pin the tool may lose alignment and damage the ring. Don’t ask me how I know.

      Yeah, the torque wrench is kinda pricey. Maybe your local bike shop can torque it for you, especially if you buy the cassette from them. 🙂

    • Michael Hamilton

      Does anyone know if there’s clearance in the kickr core to use the thru axle lock ring tool?

    • John

      I don’t think I’ve ever used a chainwhip to tighten the lockring. the pawls in the freehub will naturally stop the cassette from turning when you hold the rim.

      In fact I don’t think I’ve ever used a torque wrench to tighten the lockring either. Once you’ve been shown how tight to tighten the lockring — firm but not gorilla tight — it’s not really necessary. (Carbon seatposts and handlebars are another matter entirely.)

    • Stuart

      The Kickr is a slightly different beast to a wheel, though. There isn’t an obvious rim to grab and hold; I used the flywheel, but that’s not immediately obvious. So I can understand why someone might grab the chainwhip to get the job done.

  6. MAGNUS

    I have the Kickr18 and quite happy with it… I purchased/preordered the Climb a year ago so no considered the Core/Climb combo for roughly same costs. I am however intrigued by the Wind and thinking perhaps I should return the Kickr18 and go for the Core/Wind combo.

    I was worried at first about the road feel/inertia of the smaller flywheel but that appears to be a moot point.

    Decisions, decisions.

  7. Robert Marcus

    As a track racer the sprint element does factor into my decision, but am hoping as you suggested this can be corrected with a firmware correction. I am excited about the price point and ability to use this when I need some rain/snow/freezing training. Most of my real training is indoors but need something to keep me focussed when not doing specific interval efforts.
    Does the Kicker also have a sprinting lag or just the Core?
    I decided that the Snap and similar would not work for me as there are too many pre-effort syncing to be done and wheel slippage or low max wattage limits the product for me.

  8. Keith

    In the sound comparison video you’re using the Kickr Climb with all 3 trainers. Does the Neo now allow the bike to pivot at the rear dropouts, or was that for wheel block continuity?

  9. Stuart

    “so they took away sales from Wahoo’s higher end and lower rend units…”

    So Wahoo now has units that will tear cyclists into pieces? Whilst I’m sure there are some people that would approve of such devices, I rather doubt that this is the case… 😉

    As for the question of incline, there are a few climbs in my general area (Victoria, Australia) that reach 20% at points. Baw Baw is a lovely little ride, hitting and holding an 11+% average for a good 6km, reaching 20% at the notorious Winch Corner; and Inverness Road is another nice short ride, hitting a 20% grade near the top. So I guess this won’t simulate those rides all that well. But then, let’s be honest… you’re not going to be riding grades like that very often…

    The burning question for me: the original Kickr (which I have) has a nice ability to adjust the height of the thing to match the standard height of the axle on your bike. Means I can set up the bike just by putting it on the trainer. Boom. Done. This obviously doesn’t have that… so I’m guessing I’d need to get a block for the wheel, unless I decide to get the Climb (not bloody likely, I don’t have that much money to burn)?

  10. Eugene C

    I see exactly this kind of power separation on my CycleOps Hammer too at high flywheel speeds. At 1200W on my Vector 2s and Stages, my Hammer will read 1350W.

  11. alibi

    hi Ray, thanks for review ^^

    we have a half a year winter here (and i mean real winter, with meters of snow -_-)
    so i really need a home trainer.
    I thought about core (or direto+), but find tacx flux1 for 200eur less (-250 vs direto+).
    as i seen in your comment to another article if i don’t care for some more noise, i can go for flux1.
    this opinion still valid? 🙂

    so i checked review of flux1 and find that there was some accuracy and manufacturing issues.
    i suppose 2018 models free from manufacturing problems, but how about accuracy?

    lastly. you don’t check this of course, so it’s more question to community:
    flux1 have a problem with long cage rear derailleur. and i only own a 29 mtb with definitely long xt derailleur.
    can i resolve it by use a road 11-28 cassette?

  12. Joao Cravo

    Hi Ray,

    How is the behavior of the Core simulating higher grades in lower speed? I remember reading that the Flux 2 will have that in account.

    Is that aspect is the core comparable more to the elite directo or to that “new feature” of Flux 2?

    Thanks

  13. Richard Mercer

    But the real question is, when will the darn thing show up on retailer websites and start shipping? It’s been on one or two in the UK for a little while, but nothing on the retailers I shop with since the “release date” yesterday. #shutupandtakemymoney

    • Michael Hamilton

      I had the same problem in Canada. So, I bought it direct from Wahoo (Clever Training wouldn’t ship it here). It shipped yesterday and should arrive Tuesday.

    • Richard Mercer

      I get a 10% discount with a particular retailer so I’m (not to patiently) waiting for them to stock it. 🙁

    • Retailers got units to start shipping as of yesterday (Sept 12th). Of course, demand is more than supply, so, I know for example the massive pile of units Clever got already sold out by midnight or so yesterday (and shipped yesterday as well).

    • Andrew

      Any idea how accurate the restock time are? I ordered from clever training yesterday, but I’m not enthused about waiting a month and Wahoo says they have it in stock directly

    • I’ve got a chat with them here in a few hours, so will let you know on that one.

      Generally/historically speaking CT is incredibly conservative when it comes to stock dates. If there’s even an ounce of uncertainty that a manuf can’t hit a date – then they’ll push the availability date quite a ways out.

      Hang tight, and appreciate the supprt!

    • Andrew

      I’ve been a freeloader on the blog long enough, I feel like I owe. The weather here doesn’t turn until after the ship date they’re giving now, I just don’t want to get into a situation where the date inches back as time goes on. If the October date they gave is conservative the arrival time would be perfect

    • Richard Mercer

      But even CT don’t allow you to order one as it just says pre order begins September. It’s a case of checking daily right now until they allow you to add it to the cart and pay. I expected them to open up to orders again yesterday and start to build a queue.

    • You can actually place a backorder now: link to clevertraining.com

      I just added one to the cart without issue.

    • Richard Mercer

      Sorry, I should have stated I’m looking at the EU/UK site as I’m in the UK.

  14. AB

    I like to store my trainer inside to avoid humidity, but use it outside on the porch where it is cooler and I sweat less. I wonder when/if the calibration should take place, since (i) you mention it should only be calibrated at temperature changes, and (ii) in the table you mention that it does have temperature compensation.

    • Richard Mercer

      Personally I’d calibrate it each time once it’s had time to acclimatise to the outdoor temperature. The temperature indoors will rarely fluctuate more than a few degrees, but outside it could of course change significantly over the course of a couple of days. I would imagine the greater the temperature fluctuation, the less effective the temperature compensation will be.

  15. BunnyTerminator

    Hi,

    Thanks for that review. I’m currently making my decision regarding buying new trainer and was decided for Elite Direto. What I can see new Wahoo Kickr Core is something to consider. Can you compare those two regarding the sound and volume? That is most critical in my case so if you can add any comment to this I would be grateful.

    Regards,
    Cris

  16. Tim Grose

    Interesting review as ever. I have a Neo which am pleased with and don’t really need two trainers (unlike bikes)! When I was choosing between the two last year the fact that the Neo did not need calibration and had inbuilt cadence was largely the reason I went that way. Nothing has changed here it seems with any Wahoo offering. Is it just me but is the ability to just get on and ride not actually that important to most people?

    • I think it’s becoming more and more important. I don’t think at this point most people need to recalibrate their KICKR trainers every ride. I can’t say that was the case a few years ago.

      I think these days as long as the environment isn’t changing, it’s pretty stable.

      But yeah – I love my Neo for that reason.

    • Bob C.

      Well, here is my take. Cadence is irrelevant for me on the trainer as I’ve already got those sensors on my bike. Same with power. For me, all I need is the trainer with interactivity, pop on the bike, pair sensors to my PC and away I go. That’s “get on and ride” when talking interactive trainers as far as I’m concerned.

  17. Steve W

    I see that you’re sending the climb back…. Are you going to purchase one (the ultimate DCR review)?

    • Yeah, I kinda like it. Sigh…toys!

    • Chader

      Funny, it only took this simple comment to push me over the edge and click the “Place Order” button.

      The economy thanks you, Ray 😉

    • Haha…sorry!

      Yeah, I think I even convinced The Girl too. It’s funny, back a few weeks ago she was like ‘Don’t even think of putting my bike on that’, and then I did it anyway. Now she’s transitioned to ‘Well…my bike can stay on it.’

    • Chader

      That’s awesome. 😛 Way to be sneaky and not giving the choice.

      I was most likely going to get the Climb anyway, but yours and other recent comments just made it easier to pull the trigger. It seems to be worthwhile and also working working pretty much flawlessly (compared to some of the Kickr ’18 issues), so there’s no time like the present 🙂

      Adding that to my rocker plate and other gear should just about complete the training toys.

    • The only thing to think of on the rocker-plate is simply finding a way to attach climb so that when you take off your bike you don’t tip it off the plate if the plate tilts too much and also you happen to knock it with the front fork.. I think I’ve done it about 2-3 times at least now. Tower of power goes down.

      On the bright side, it’s still alive. 🙂

  18. Charlie Parker

    Hi Ray, thanks for the if you could get for a similar price, would you go for the Kickr Core or Cycleops Hammer?

    Cheers

  19. Guillermo Guerini

    Hello Ray, thanks for the review. I’ve been using the Tacx Vortex Smart for 2 years now (it was a really good deal!). I can say I’m very content with it so far and I use Trainer Road 99% of the time. Two questions. 1) In regards of noise levels, is the Kickr Core with its direct drive quieter, much quieter or not quieter at all compared to the Tacx Vortex Smart? 2) In terms of “feeling”, is the upgrade totally worth it? I’m mainly a triathlete and my current FTP is around 263 (up from 220 when I first measured). Thanks.

    • Guillermo Guerini

      I just saw your comment above about “CORE/KICKR18 are quieter than anything from Elite. And they’re quieter than anything from Tacx except the Neo.”. That answers my first question.

      The second question still lingers. If I could sell my current Vortex Smart for $500 (Brazil!!), I’d still have to put another $400. I don’t know if I can justify spending an extra $400. What are your thoughts?

    • 1) Much quieter
      2) Yes, definitely much better feeling than the Vortex Smart. Essentially you’re looking at the feel of a full/real KICKR, so in that context it’s huge
      3) That’s tough to justify. Of course, keep in mind that Interbike is next week, and some companies couldn’t get quite their products ready for Eurobike, but are now ready to talk at Interbike. But, I don’t know if those brands are more readily available in Brazil, I know that’s a tough market price-wise for gadgets for you and others living there.

    • Guillermo

      Nice! Thanks! I will think about it. 😉

  20. Jonathan

    Does the CORE’s freehub work with a Campagnolo cassette?

    • Richard Mercer

      The support site says:

      Drivetrain: Cassette not included. Requires Purchase and Installation of New 8/9/10/11 Speed SRAM/Shimano Cassette

      Still unsure or have a Campagnolo drivetrain? Contact support to further check compatibility for your bike.

    • Richard Mercer

      That said, I’m sure I read that the 11-speed Campagnolo has the exact same spacing as Shimano/SRAM so you can simply use a Shimano/SRAM cassette.

    • Jonathan

      Wahoo support says that you can’t put a Campagnolo cassette on the CORE’s freehub, but an 11-speed Shimano/SRAM cassette should work fine with the rest of the Campagnolo drivetrain. Some Googling says the same for that second part.

    • AB

      Yes, a shimano/sram 11-speed cassette works fine with an 11speed campagnolo drivetrain although the spacing is not 100% identical. I use it like that on my road bike. But if you have/want to upgrade to a 12-speed campagnolo then you are out of luck.

    • Zac

      How about Campy 10? I’ve tried Shimano 10 cassette/wheel on a Campy 10 bike and it sorta/kinda worked, but I wouldn’t want to ride outside with it for long. I guess indoors it won’t be as much an issue, especially in ERG mode? Just find a quiet gear and stay in it?

  21. james p dugan

    what has been your experience with any risk of frame damage with indoor trainers?
    I rode the computrainer for years and no problem. Now I have my race bike (TM01) mounted on the wahoo and I get a bit nervous. Just interested in your thoughts.
    thanks

  22. nalc

    For what it’s worth, Shimano 11 speed cassettes are completely interchangeable. I believe a 105 5800 cassette is the cheapest that’s currently available. I find it a little ironic that you mention the price of an Ultegra cassette that’s $20 more expensive and a few dozen grams lighter than a 105, then go on to talk about flywheel weight. I figured it’s probably just a holdover from maybe 2013-2014 when Dura Ace and Ultegra were 11-speed and 105 was 10-speed?

  23. Rob

    Ray, would you mind throwing your Zwift log.txt into the Zwiftalizer tool ? I keep losing 10% on my Elite Direto ANT+ signal. Would like to know if this a general issue with all trainers ?

    Thanks.

    • I don’t tend to use the laptop I’m travelling with right now for Zwift, so the last ride on Zwift I have on this laptop was from early August (I tend to use iOS and Apple TV the most, with my 5K Mac for recording stuff in higher detail).

      In any event, I can’t seem to find a way to share a link to my uploaded file, but here’s the important bits. This was on CORE along with Stages for cadence. It’s from a Windows PC using whatever ANT+ stick I found first that day.

  24. Tyler

    Question about how the Clever Training discount works for this.

    I tried both the regular DCRay discount code, and also signing up for the VIP discount, but in neither case did it reflect a 10% discount.
    The VIP option seems to offer ‘points’ toward a future purchase, but not on this order.

    Is that correct?
    I’m not a frequent big ticket purchaser, so the points is less appealing to me.

    • Steve Wreschnig

      Clever Training can’t give discounts on Wahoo stuff. I had the same questions when I ordered my Snap. The points, however, work really well in getting the Wahoo mat.

    • Correct, unfortunately it’s a Wahoo-specific limitation that they impose on CT. 🙁

      In this case you could get the VIP for the $5 (using the DCR link), get 10% back in points on $899 (so $89 worth of points), which is enough for about 1.5 Wahoo sensors free (you get the points immediately after purchase). I think Wahoo even has a small sensor bundle too that might be under that threshold.

      Or, a mat as Steve noted. Thanks for the support!

    • Tyler

      Thanks for the clarification.

    • Its a limit on all US retailers. Can’t give any discount except for a set small number of sales during the year. The country that loves to proclaim capitalism and free market loves to allow companies to be able to enforce minimum resale price link to ftc.gov

  25. Kyle Morgan

    How certain are you that the sprint overshoot is going to be addressed? Have you heard anything from Wahoo on this front?

    I have a Gen1 Kickr that I want to upgrade to a Core for the silence and climb compatibility. I just can’t justify spending for the full blown Kickr. My only hold out is accuracy in sprints as I do like Zwift racing and don’t want a power overshoot.

    Any insight? I know Wahoo has made good on firmware for older Kickr’s and their GPS’, but it’s a lot of faith to pre-invest.

    Oh yeah, any idea why they stopped allowing Kickr’s to rebroadcast Cadence from ANT+ like the Gen1 did?

    • Kyle Morgan

      FYI – I reached out to Wahoo and answered my own question. Here was their reply:

      “Thank you for writing in to us! We were actually just discussing this with the project manager yesterday. The firmware engineers are currently working on a solution for the overstatement of power in high power intervals. This means a firmware update with a fix will indeed be released but I don’t have the ETA on when it’ll be complete. I can say it’s high priority so it won’t be rolled out in a long timeframe like 6 months! We appreciate you reaching out to us about this. Hope this information helps!”

    • Nice, that’s good to hear!

      I don’t remember it re-broadcasting cadence from ANT+, hmm…it’s been a while. I know they oft talked about doing it, but I don’t remember them ever doing it.

    • Kyle Morgan

      Yeah, the Gen1 has the option. It’s in firmware 1.5.68. I have a screenshot of it from the App before I sold my Gen1.

      It wasn’t great – it would often under report by 5-10 RPM vs the cadence from my P2Max. I guess I’ll just get a CABLE to make this all play nice with the ATV.

  26. Jackson Cheng

    What’s the name of the song at the end of the noise comparison video?

    Thanks for the review!

  27. Stepan

    Hi Ray, can you please add a photo of trainer with closed legs? Possibly with dimensions?

    I have no mancave and my daily routine is to bring the bike from cabinet, get the trainer (vortex smart) from another cabinet, set it up in the living room, connect to tv, notebook and ride. And decompose everything after ride.

    I am stoked about the Kickr Core, but not sure if it will fit to the cabinet. According to my wife having it elsewhere is a big no-no.

    • Yeah, I meant to take one before I left for Interbike. I’ll either grab a photo at Interibke, or when I return next week grab one. Had a ‘Awww crap’ moment on the plane when I went to find the photo.

  28. guest

    As silent, louder or more silent than Stac Zero Halcyon ?

    • guest

      Answering my own question, as I had missed Ray’s Stac Zero comments from above. Real world levels seem to be the same, when considering the external fan noise.

  29. Matt

    Assuming the core has the same guts as the normal 2018 kickr, it suffers from two very annoying problems:

    1) it’ll happily let you Bluetooth pair the trainer with multiple devices, but if you do spindowns won’t work (they’ll time out). The wahoo explanation is that the trainer then gets “confused” as to which device it’s talking to. Which is bizarre, because they write the firmware, they’re talking to the Bluetooth radio, and should easily be able to keep the devices straight. Or if not, to at least be able to detect the problem and tell you about it.

    2) the trainer comes with a shoddy power supply brick that shouldn’t be left connected to the wall 24×7. With most power bricks, you can get away without using a surge protector, but I guess not with this one. Either it died on its own, or saw some surge that it couldn’t handle (but somehow every other device in my home could handle). Anyway, $70 for a replacement from wahoo. Or just write off their power bricks as crap and buy a quality replacement from Amazon for half the price (or less).

  30. Jim Peyton

    Hiya: Great review and it’s now #1 on the hit parade for a new trainer. I see the trainer doesn’t have the dual speed/cadence signal. Will a separate cadence sensor (e.g. the Wahoo wireless I have on my bikes) be able to pair with 3rd party apps like Zwift, Trainer Road, etc.? I’m using a simple PC/External monitor setup currently, so the 2 sensor limit doesn’t apply….I think.

    Keep’em coming Rain Man…

    (BTW — are you still planning on a review of the two new Lezyne Mega computers?)

    • Yup, you can use seperate sensors, no problem there at all!

      And yup, Lezyne is finally handing over units on Tuesday at Interbike that I can start the review on. They didn’t want to give them over due to the whole Strava debacle, but it sounds like they’ve reached an agreement there with Strava and are moving forward.

  31. Nate

    Was surprised to see you’ve had issues with the companion app with the ATV. I’ve been using it for almost two years and it was a little flaky at first but it’s been solid for a long time. One trick that may help is to use an older iphone for this. I dedicated my iphone 6 to this when i got my 7. Did a reset on it, cleaned off all but podcast app basically so that there is nothing that can cause interruptions. Works great.

  32. Wahoo Megan

    Wahoo Megan here! After looking into the reports of power overshoots our engineers we able to get to the root of the issue. We are still doing some additional testing but will be releasing a firmware update soon.

  33. DaveG

    Ray, can your comment on whether the Core can really simulate 16% under realistic conditions? I have a Magnus that claims it can simulate 15% but at my 190lbs and say 80rpm it caps out at maybe 9.5% which I find very frustrating. I’d consider the Core but it it can’t really handle 16% I’d reconsider

  34. Don

    Hey DCR,

    Thanks for another great review, but I have a question as to the noise. They say silent, but what about the vibrations? I currently have the 2016 Kickr Snap and my downstairs neighbors say that when I’m on it, it sounds like a helicopter is outside their window. Any chance you tested this unit in an upstairs environment and people downstairs being able to comment on how loud the vibrations are?

  35. Steve S

    Does the STAC-ZERO HALCYON at $799 compare to any of these sub-$900 direct drives, or is just a gimmick?

  36. Dustin

    Thanks for this, Ray!

    Do you foresee cadence ever being added with a firmware update? I have the same frustration. Why no cadence?!?!

    • I’m not sure – but it’s stop of my list to ask tomorrow at Interbike.

    • Richard

      Interested in the outcome of this. I would like to use the KICKR Core with iOS and mirror on a large screen. Am I correct in thinking that all this data would need to be transmitted over Bluetooth, therefore my Garmin cadence sensor will not work on this platform with out purchasing an adaptor for my iOS device.
      I currently Zwift with my laptop and a ANT+ USB.

      Thanks

  37. Hi
    Thanks for an in-depth review.
    They are a trusted source of information.

    In the video you are in something rather than the turbo being on the floor. What is it and why are you using it? Does it have an a impact on absorbing noise / vibration? We live in a semi next door to someone who is highly sound sensitive

    Thanks

  38. Gordon

    First off, I appreciate the geek quality of your reviews. And that brings me to my question, admittedly having done no homework, so I may be way off base, in which case, smack me down, BUT it strikes me that weight is only part of the equation when it comes to flywheels–it’s moment of inertia that is the true point of a flywheel. Have you seen the flywheels on an old 2-stroke John Deere, or a steam driven sewer pumping station? In those, the weight is maybe 10feet away from the center of rotation, because that keeps things running smoothly–for a long time. Now if everyone uses the same flywheel geometry and varies only the amount of weight they place at the same distance from the center of rotation, then weight is all that matters. However, it seems unlikely that every flywheel has exactly the same geometry, in which case, it is the moment of inertia that will matter to the user. If Maker 1 located all of their weight 6″ from the center of rotation, and Maker 2 located the same amount of weight 12″ from the axis, you would probably write two very different reviews, because the difference in the moment of inertia (spin-up effort) would be a factor of 4.

    • Steve S.

      That’s why a STAC zero can get away with lighter weights. The rear wheel becomes the flywheel and the rear wheel has a greater radius.

  39. Tim

    Following…I currently use Zwift via Bluetooth with speed, cadence and heart rate on my MacBook Pro. I am guessing the lack of the new BT protocol will me no factor for me. This is looking like the perfect upgrade from my JetFluid Pro.

    Thanks!!

  40. Peter

    Coming from a Tacx Flow Smart I’m impressed with mine. Only a minor point, but has any one else had half their chevron stickers fly off with the first use? i guess as the fly wheel warms up it also warms up the glue on the stickers.

  41. Matthias

    Hi!
    Yesterday I received my Kickr Core and immediately was dissapointed.
    It’s not working with my Canyon Ultimate.
    The housing of the Kickr is touching the chainstay (incl. chipping the paint – thanks..)

    Don’t know if it’s only a problem of this certain bike model or more bikes are affected, but that’s really not cool and should be mentioned.

    • Which Canyon model do you have? CF SL/ SLX, with discs or rim brakes?

    • AS

      Looks like the same issue exists on the Kickr2 (and later models?),
      link to dcrainmaker.com

    • Peter

      I have just checked and have the same problem with a Cervelo R2. Swapping the adaptor around to give 135 spacing fixes the issue. Virtually no force was required to splay the dropouts to fit the 135 dimensions, so I hope this will be ok.

    • Peter

      I wasn’t very happy with reversing the adaptor to 135 spacing, so have made a 1.5mm thick washer to give just enough clearance. Looking at the design Wahoo could have easily allowed for a better clearance, and once out of warranty I may grind down the offending area to give clearance without using a spacer.

  42. Steve J

    Hi, considering this or an Elite Direto as an upgrade to my Tacx Vortex Smart.

    I don’t have much space for storage. It has dimensions on the Wahoo website for the Kickr Core with legs folded down and I can see it mentioned in the review. How easy is it to fold down though – is it a case of unscrewing the legs each time? I’ve combed the interweb for this but can’t find the answer and thought you might be able to help!

    I echo the thanks of others on here for your brilliant reviews.

    • Jari

      I’m interested in this info as well – in a small apartment and need to store trainer in closet. Looks like the Kickr 2018 legs fold inward, not sure if there is any foldability of the Core? DCR could you do a folding comparison?

      I wrote wahoo re the Core foldability and they sent this response: “The tool is included so this means you could remove the feet for storage. This means you’ll be left with just that center support arm with the flywheel and pulley, which means it’ll actually be more compact for storage than the standard KICKR! ”

      Not sure if they misunderstood my response or that is in fact the only means of folding the Core?

    • Mike G

      What they should have said is “It doesn’t fold – the simplified frame design is the main reason it is cheaper than the standard Kickr. The only way to make it smaller for storage is to unscrew the base bars it sits on. This is not a big job, but probably a bit of a pain if you need to do it every time”.

    • Steve J

      OK thanks. I thought the same, as it needs to be less convenient than the normal Kickr, yet their website has dimensions for it with legs folded and unfolded.

  43. Damian

    It’s not actually fair to call it a $899 trainer though, is it?

    It doesn’t come with a cassette, without which it’s really just a giant big paperweight, and a $10 tool is needed too. In addition I see it no longer comes with a cadence sensor (which the previous versions came with) so that’s another outlay if one wants to get a cadence reading (and doing any proper training requires cadence awareness).

    Seems to me Wahoo are pulling a fast one by advertising at this price point.

    • Chader

      At present, the only trainer that includes a cassette is the top line Kickr. Nothing included with Tacx, Elite, CycleOps or upcoming Kinetic R1 trainers. So you have the same “additional” cost on all of them EXCEPT the Kickr.

      Point being that the Kickr including one is the exception, not the rule. Therefore, you can just about ignore it in the grand scheme of things. Yup, you gotta install one, and that requires the cassette and tools (or getting a friend or bike shop to do the install).

      A parallel is that most mid to high level bike come without pedals (except possibly cheap plastic test ride pedals) and you have to add them to use it. But how many people actually include the price for a good set of road pedals or a pedal wrench in the “budgeting” when they look at bike?

      As to cadence, your claim “…it no longer comes with a cadence sensor…” is really untrue since the Core never existed until right now. You are comparing that cadence sensor to the higher level Kickr that still includes a cadence sensor. So I feel that is false to claim that it was removed.

      It is very true that the Core does not include cadence despite other trainers in that price range including cadence via an internal measurement of the trainer or a separate sensor. This may not be a problem as it is fairly common for riders to already have a cadence sensor installed.

      Either way, we are talking about small percentages of cost involved when compared to the trainer price.

    • Richard Mercer

      Yeah, I would bet most people buying a trainer in this price bracket are the kind of person that already has one (or several) cadence sensors. Those same people are getting cadence out on the road most likely.

  44. Evren

    Ray, what is the rocking platform you were using to put trainers on, in the video?

  45. Rich S

    Really great and detailed review and convinced me to order this as my first ever smart trainer.
    Wondering if there is a way to have it mimic a GPX file or such like. So, can you download a file from Strava, for example, and upload it to some free software that can control the smart trainer and mimic the route?
    Can you do this with the Wahoo software?
    Or do you pretty much have to subscribe to something like Zwift or TrainingRoad to get the most out of these smart trainers?

    • Marko

      Hi Rich,

      Have not tested it myself so how/if it works I cannot say.

      Hopfully I don’t break any rules here by posting links?

      Check this out:
      link to whatsonzwift.com

    • Rich S

      Hi Marko

      Thanks for the reply.

      Seems like it might do the job. Although still relies on paying a subscription to Zwift, presumably?

      I was wondering if there was anything free out there or maybe the Wahoo app itself allows this. Seems like you can set it to do a very simple ride (fixed power etc.) but nothing to mimic a real-life ride.

      Just wondered if anyone had a easy, cheap way of doing it.

    • Chader

      Search and find Shane Miller (GP Lama) on YouTube. He has a video on just this topic. You can do it for free by using a Garmin or Wahoo head unit. He did a separate video for each one.

      1) Re-Riding a Route Indoors on a Smart Trainer – Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt

      2) Re-Riding a Route Indoors on a Smart Trainer – Garmin Edge 520

    • Rich S

      Hi Chader

      Ahh, OK. Thanks. I’ve seen a couple of his videos.

      Unfortunately, I use a different head unit to those (Sigma Sport Rox 11). Although that does have Ant+ & Bluetooth connectivity, I don’t think it has the function to control a trainer.

      I’ll have a look at the videos though as that might give me an idea. Either that or I write a “simple” app that can do it! 🙂

      Looks like I’ll probably have to bite the bullet and subscribe to one of the training portals though.

      Thanks for the input.

    • Rich S

      Actually, searching on Youtube for those videos provided one on Skuga, which apparently lets you re-ride your Strava rides and is free to premium Strava account holders.

      Now Strava have changed their premium offering, I’m guessing you’d just need the Training pack.

      I might give that a try and see how it goes. If not I can just sign up for a Zwift or TrainerRoad account.

    • Chader

      Very cool. I think I heard about Skuga, but didn’t realize it could possibly work too.

      Glad it sounds like you have a solution either way. Enjoy 😀

    • Rich S

      Yeah, I’ll give it a go once the unit turns up and see how I get on….

      Hopefully it’ll do what I want…

  46. Drew

    Interesting but once you have the Tacx Neo you wouldn’t change it for anything else IMHO

    • Chader

      I would certainly hope so since the Neo costs nearly double the price for the Core.

      That is really an incorrect comparison since the Neo is closer to the full Kickr 2018 in price and specs.
      (But the Kickr is still notably less expensive in many areas, including the US.)

      The Kickr Core (discussed in this review) is a closer match to the Tacx Flux (pending Flux 2) in price and specs.

    • Drew

      For you guys looking at software to re ride routes but dont want to have that monthly subscription then i can highly recommend PerfPro. An absolutely brilliant piece of software that you purchase once and can pretty much do anything with it

    • Drew

      yes Chader. Very true. They are in different leagues. I find DC reviews interesting but everything is always good so at the end of any review you think you are buying the best piece of kit. It would be good to have reviews that actually say this is the best for this or this is the best for that rather than this is a great piece of kit and so are the other 10 i reviewed. Along the lines of money no object you cant go past a Neo or for the budget conscious a bkool or whatever. For us consumers we want to really know what is the best at certain price points rather than read a huge review just to be left still scratching your head. I now have 10 watches, 6 trainers lol,,,nt really but you get my drift

    • Stuart

      The problem with the idea of “the best” is that what “the best” is will depend, very heavily, upon the end use case.

      If you’re living in a small apartment, you might favour something that folds up and packs away into a small space, and which is quiet. If you’re on a budget, maybe you’ll accept something that’s a bit more cumbersome to set up to shave a few dollars off the purchase price. Maybe you’re running Campagnolo, and you need/want something that will take a Campie cassette rather than having to accept a Shimano cassette.

      There will always be compromises inherent in the design and construction of a trainer. Weight, cost, portability, compactness, noise, etc. That means that, once you get past certain fundamentals, what’s “best” is going to depend upon where and how the trainer will be used, and that’s getting into matters that Ray can’t really speculate on. I think it’s more honest for Ray to put the information out there so that the end user can decide, based on that, what’s going to work for them, rather than dictating. (not to mention that doing it this way also means he’s not inherently putting a manufacturer offside for no particularly good reason…)

    • Drew

      i hear you Stuart and what you say makes full sense but somewhere amongst all reviews there is bias and not wanting to put a manufacturer offside can be misleading to the audience (not that i am saying this is how Ray operates). For my thinking i would rather say dont buy this heap of &^&^% than have 500 people knock on your door saying you said this was a good piece of kit. But i fully agree with what you say and i suppose its up to the consumer at the end of the day to make our own decisions, There are a lot of products but in reality only a few really do the job properly

    • I guess I’m confused Drew. I actually put together a very specific buyers guide at each price point every year. I’m close to releasing the 2018 variant, but here’s the trainer one for 2017: link to dcrainmaker.com

      I’m pretty clear in trainer reviews that suck as to why they suck. For example, read this from this spring: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Many years ago I used to give ratings, but I quickly found that ratings weren’t really appropriate for these types of products. As Stuart noted – everyone values features at different price points. For example, if you don’t care about silence and are less interested in the nuances of road feel, you can basically pickup the Tacx Flux S for $749 instead of the CORE for $899. And heck, at present it’ll even be more accurate. Rating those two on a 1-10 or x to y scale of anything would be misleading at best.

      I’d rather gives folks clear information about what works and doesn’t work, and let them decide.

    • Jim in White Plains

      Ray, I prefer you approach which is based on good testing procedures and provides information I can use to make my own decision based on factors important to me. For tainers separating by type and price point is about right (for me). Your testing techniques usually surpass those ratings-based reviews. My only quibble with your product tests is that you return the sample to the manufacturer instead of me.

    • João Cravo

      Hi Ray, do you have any date estimation for the release of the 2018 Trainer guide?

      Thanks

  47. Michael Prytherch

    16% Hills !!! you need to come to Yorkshire in the UK for a few rides, 20% are common…. very common…. in fact too common…. man I hate those hills 🙂

  48. Kevin

    Thanks Ray as always for your reviews!

    I just the kickr core, and absolutely love it! For me, soud was very important, living in an appartment. Build up is easy, and also I dont have the clearance issue described above by other users. Anyway, keep up the good work!