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Wattbike ATOM 2020 Smart Bike In-Depth Review

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It’s been three years since Wattbike released their first true indoor smart bike (with app-controllable resistance), the Wattbike ATOM. This year, they’ve released the upgraded 2nd gen model – the ATOM 2020. While they look nearly identical from the outside, the internals are vastly different. It uses an entirely new resistance system, which is electromagnetic, and akin to that found on the Tacx NEO series and the Wahoo KICKR Bike. Such a system usually means far faster shifting and wattage changes.

But before we dive too deeply into this, it’s noteworthy that this is Wattbike’s second iteration, whereas all the other companies mostly just finished stabilizing their first generation smart bikes earlier this year. Now, in the case of Wattbike, what they’ve elected to do isn’t a major revamped new product. Sure, the resistance unit is a major change, but beyond that, it’s virtually identical. That has its pros and cons. In terms of features and such, the ATOM 2020 isn’t as advanced as the other offerings (either in software or hardware). And, for the most part, its price reflects that. Thus as always, not all smart bikes are created equally (nor priced equally), so you’ll want to dig into the nuances to decide what bike (if any) is good for you.

Note that throughout this review I’m going to constantly compare the ATOM 2020 ($2,599USD) to the three other major players in this market and their offerings. I think that’s important, because when you’re spending $2,000-$3,500 on a bike that doesn’t go anywhere, the nuances can often be a big deal. And it’s things you don’t see or know about when it comes to marketing or just comparing specs. Having used all these bikes, I can speak to those seemingly tiny differences that are actually a big deal. In some cases, this will favor Wattbike, and in others not so. That’s just life.

Wattbike sent over a media loaner ATOM 2020 earlier this summer, which I’ve been testing since through various firmware updates. They also sent over a second unit a few weeks ago, after the first one broke (it stopped shifting). They believe that was tied to an early production issue with a slipping sensor that they’ve long since changed/corrected. Once this is done I’ll get these two bikes back to them, plus the 1st gen ATOM they sent over this past spring to compare to the ATOM X they sent over (which has already gone back). Long story short, after this is done I’ll get back about a truckload’s worth of space in the DCR Cave. I don’t keep any of these products.

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Unboxing & Setup:

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When it comes to bike setup, Wattbike wins the smart bike game every…single…time. Seriously, nobody in the business is easier than Wattbike (I suppose Peloton with their setup service would be…but you pay $250 for that). Unlike setting up a Wahoo/Stages/Tacx bike where you get to relive your Lego youth, the Wattbike comes fully assembled. The only thing to do is install the optional aerobars (which doubles as the tablet holder), and/or aerobar resting pads. Installing said aerobars takes approximately 25 seconds. The pads about 2-3 mins.

To get it out of the box you’ll attach it to a large automatic hoist lift, and simply hoist it up out. Or, you can just cut the side off the box. Alternatively, you can work with a friend to tip the box on the side with the wheels, and roll it out. I’ve done all three – the last friend-roller option works best if you still want to use the box for a fort later.

Once you open the box up, you’ll find the bike fully assembled inside, strapped down tight enough to withstand being pushed out the back of a C-130 with a parachute. Atop the pre-assembled bike is the power cord, flat pedals you’ll likely never use, the top of the aerobars, and the aerobar pads. There’s also a few hex wrenches for causing trouble, and some paper manual stuffs.

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Here’s a close-up of the parts:

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Once you’ve got it to the final resting spot, go ahead and grab that aerobar/tablet holder and stick it in the two holes, then simply tighten up the single screw on either side.

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Next, attach the pedals of your choice. Unlike the Wahoo/Stages/Tacx bikes, the Wattbike ATOM doesn’t have changeable crank length pods/holes, so you’ll be at 170mm no matter what you want. And the pedal spindles are standard issue, so stick whatever type of pedals you want in there.

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Finally, go ahead and plug in the power. Remember to flick that little red power switch on, else, nothing will happen.

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One minor note for existing ATOM users, is that they’ve relocated the power switch/plug bits to under the bike from the previous location on the outside lower back portion, which, I assume better protects it from sweat.

The Basics:

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For this section I’m going to be covering basics of the hardware itself, before diving into aspects like gearing/shifting, or general usage with apps like Zwift/TrainerRoad/etc.  As such, there may be some slight overlap from section to section, but each section then dives more heavily into the nuances as titled.

To begin, we left off in the last section by plugging the bike in. Here’s a closer look at that power brick. I include this photo in all my reviews, but more for my own purposes than yours. Since virtually nobody in the indoor trainer industry actually puts their own company name on the power brick (except Wahoo’s latest KICKR V5/2020), this is helpful in case you need to figure out exactly which one goes with your bike after a move:

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The power adapter is required for resistance and transmission from the ATOM 2020. Without it, apps won’t work and resistance won’t apply. There are no true smart bikes on the market that fully work sans-power.

Once plugged in you’ll want to ensure the cable is double-wrapped through the trip protector pieces. Though, I suppose that really just protects the bike, and not the cable. One would assume this basically means you’ll near instantly decapitate the cable as opposed to damaging the bike port. Ideally we’d see Wattbike shift to a breakaway type cable like seen on the KICKR Bike. Also, as mentioned earlier don’t forget to press that button and make sure the power light comes on.

The Wattbike ATOM doesn’t have any USB ports to power your other devices unfortunately (the only bike without them), so all power in the ATOM 2020 is used for the operation of the bike.

Now, let’s step back and approach the bike from front to back. I usually go from back to front, but since we just talked about USB ports, the logical place for those in an ATOM 2020 would be near the front. So let’s start there. This is where you presumably plugged in the aerobars, which form a tablet holder.

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It’s here that you can slide a tablet in, or even an iPhone vertically. It’s not my favorite tablet holder (Stages wins that on the SB20), but it’s better than nothing (non-COVID cough…Wahoo KICKR Bike). The only thing I don’t really like about it is that it’s not spring loaded, so it doesn’t quite grasp the tablet automagically like some holders.

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Still, I’ve never had any tablet or phone fall off it, even despite running into it a few times walking past it. So that’s a win.

Of course, you don’t have to install the tablet holder/aerobars. You’re free to leave it without. Also, if you want, you can install the aerobar pads. On the first bike I left mine in place, and then the second bike I didn’t bother installing them.

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Next we’ve got the handlebars, which include built-in shifters. These shifters actually have small coin cell (CR2032) batteries pre-installed in them, and then wirelessly connect to the rest of the bike. Additional top-buttons will soon be enabled for shifting too. There isn’t any display of your shifting/gears anywhere on the bike, though there is on Zwift. But more on that all in the shifting & gearing section.

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Moving down the frame you’ve got two water bottle cages. Again, not all bikes include two spots – only Stages & Peloton have that. The rest only one spot.

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Also, since we’re looking at the frames side by side, here’s the two put next to each other. You can see some slight ‘tells’ of each one when viewed from a distance, in case you’re looking at imagery and want to creep spot which version someone has. Aside from the power panel being located on the underside of the 2020 edition (versus top-back of V1), there’s also minor trim differences such as on the junction near the front you’ll see a rubberized red material over the centerline of the frame. Or that the original Wattbike ATOM actually says ‘ATOM’ in a barely visible black font on the main portion of the bike (as well as up the lower portion of the seatpost area). And finally, the rear portion of the seatpost is wider on the 2020 ATOM to add extra textured bits.

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(Left – 2020 ATOM, Right – Old School ATOM)

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Both editions come with nice front wheels, among the better wheel setups out there, making it easy to roll around the studio. This is an area where the smaller wheels of the Tacx NEO Bike sometimes get stuck on things compared to the nicer larger wheels here of the Wattbike ATOM series.

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While the unit is heavy (97lbs/44KG), the reality is that once on the wheels it glides effortlessly around the studio. The only challenge you might have is if your bike front is super-close to a wall, since as you tip the bike forward to engage the wheels, it’ll extend the ‘reach’ of the bike. It’s the same problem on all the bikes really. And ultimately you can just shimmy it into place if you need to (as I do).

Behind the crank arms (which are 170mm) is the new electromagnetic drivetrain system, which is a step up from the stepper motor system of the original Wattbike ATOM. That will result in faster shifts, and faster response time of the system to large wattage shifts in ERG mode. However, as I found, it also means more variability on those steps. But more on that later.

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Next, Wattbike has their own app for configuration of a handful of settings, including the gearing (11-speed or 22-speed), firmware updates, as well as pairing the shifters if they have to be changed. This is called the Wattbike HUB. You can also use that app to complete training sessions and run through structured workouts. I’ll talk about the HUB app more down in the App Compatibility section:

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When it comes to flexibility/movement of the bike, there’s none. Like riding the Tacx NEO Bike, it’s basically like riding a brick, whereas the perhaps slightly concerning ‘give’ of the KICKR Bike means it almost feels a bit like riding a mini rocker plate, since it sways a bit. Assuming that ‘give’ doesn’t lead to ‘snap’ over time, it’s a nice feeling in comparison. But if you’re used to riding a static trainer, then for the most part it’s not much different here – there’s no lateral or forward/back movement. We’ll cover all the rider/bike fit aspects in the next section.

Next, sound/volume. In short, the audible sound emitted from the Wattbike ATOM 2020 is basically identical to that from the original ATOM. Despite using a different resistance system, the overall internal drivetrain aspects haven’t changed. You can hear this in a video I’ll upload shortly. Or, you can just listen to my initial Smart Bike Shootout video and hear the differences there (since it sounds the same).

Now, to wrap up this section I’ve got a quick little summary of things I do and don’t like about the bike from a basics standpoint (I’ve done this on every smart bike review to date). I hesitate to call this a pros and cons list, though that’s more or less what it is. I’m sticking it here in the middle of the review so people that just skip to the end without reading will miss it (and thus hopefully read the whole review to make an informed decision – nuance matters). I’ll ignore any accuracy likes/dislikes in this section and keep it more on practical things, also ignoring spec-specific things too. Basically, this is more of a practical list of likes/dislikes:

Things I like:

– Unboxing experience is on-point, by far the best/easiest. You’re up and running in just a few minutes.
– No rubbing anywhere, easily fits me and my thighs (other bikes rub)
– Double water bottle cage holders
– Changing rider position is good for all positions except the seat height
– Power meter accuracy
– Wattbike Hub app includes free workouts and training plans
– No wires sticking out, meandering around to shifting

Things I dislike:

– The shifters aren’t great. Not horrible, but definitely not top-notch
– The lack of gear customization kinda sucks, everyone else has it except for Wattbike
– I find the seat height adjustment a bit finicky sometimes (prone to slippage if not super-tight)
– I’d normally put lack of gearing indicator here, but Wattbike is the only one that actually has Zwift gearing integration, so it’s not horrible
– No USB ports, so when I need to power a tablet, I’ve got a long USB cord dangling to an outlet
– ERG mode stability (as discussed in accuracy section)

You’ll see the same list formatting on all my indoor bike reviews. With that, onto the details of rider setup, and then shifting

Bike & Rider Fit Setup:

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Given that the bike arrives basically completely built, the hard part is actually figuring out how to get it to fit you – the rider. Of course, if you have your exact measurements that’s a lot easier. And in the context of this as a bike review, I’m not going to tell you how to fit your bike to you. There’s smart people for that. Instead, I’m going to focus on the ways the bike can be tweaked for fit purposes.

With the Wattbike ATOM, you can adjust the bike in the following ways:

1) Saddle height (up/down) – quick release lever
2) Saddle position (forward/back/tilt) – hex wrench
3) Handlebar height (up/down) – quick release lever
4) Handlebar position (forward/back) – hex wrench
5) Seat tilt – hex wrench (technically also an extra +/- 10mm of slide fore/aft there too)
6) Aerobar positioning (side to side, forward/back, tilt) – hex wrench

There is no adjustment however of the crank length within the Wattbike ATOM 2020, the crank length on all Wattbike ATOM units is 170.0mm.

Here’s a quick gallery of all of those measurement bits.  One nice touch that sets it apart from Stages/Tacx/Wahoo is that Wattbike puts markings on *both* sides of the bike, whereas the others only put it on one side. Sounds silly, but super practical. Also, these markings are laser etched versus just a sticker.

Wattbike has a sizing website here, which is OK. It’s not as advanced as Wahoo’s built-in-app sizer feature that allows you to take a picture of your existing outdoor bike and it figures it out (or, lets you put in exact fit coordinates from a specific bike fit system). But nonetheless the site will do the job to get you pretty darn close using measurements you take:

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Afterwards, once you’ve got your measurements, it’s time to adjust things. For the two height-related positions (saddle & handlebars), you’ll use quick-release levers. You simply twist left or right to tighten or loosen, and alternatively you can pull out to reset the angle to keep things nice and straight:

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These are OK in design, but less than awesome in execution. Like with my original Wattbike ATOM years ago, I’ve had some cases of seatpost slip, usually a handful of millimeters during a ride, but sometimes more. Wattbike has made some moderate changes here, you can see these side by side below – which include a crapton more grooving/texturing on the seatpost to prevent slip.

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At left the new 2020 seatpost, at right, the older ATOM seatpost. You can see the new seatpost is far wider, and has this gigantic grippy section.

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Still – despite the beast of the new grip bits, unless I crank down the handle crazy-tight, it’ll still slip. And I’m clearly not alone, it’s a frequent complaint of both new and old bikes on various Wattbike ATOM groups.  That said, while the front handlebar assembly height adjust post lacks the texturing, I haven’t really had much issue there, since it doesn’t really support the entirety of my ice-cream consuming body weight.

Now in each of my smart bike reviews I’ve noted an interesting challenge which is the ‘thigh gap’ problem. Basically, some of the bikes (namely Tacx and Wahoo) have seat posts or top-tubes that extend across where your thighs would rub. The Wattbike ATOM 2020 and Stages SB20 bike don’t have this issue.

If you look at this older photo I took of the previous ATOM (which is the exact same frame as the ATOM 2020, except the rear of the seatpost is wider on the 2020 to make the seat-post grittier against slippage), you can see that while it has a top-tube, that tube is substantially thinner.

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And then look at the measurements for those:

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Here’s the measurement for the Wattbike, coming in at 50.45mm, but also substantially lower down in the frame than the KICKR Bike.:

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Again, the exact same frame is used for both the Wattbike ATOM & ATOM 2020 (just like Peloton uses the exact same frame for the Peloton Bike & Bike+). It’s what helps speed development and lower costs.

Now, what about triathletes or time-trialists? Well, to begin Wattbike includes aerobars in the bike kit (the only company to do so). They’re what make up the tablet holder in fact. You can add the included aeropads to it, as well as adjust the exact fit. You can adjust tilt or position forward/back. However, because of the tablet holder design, you can’t adjust the width of the aerobars since it’s a single looped piece of metal.

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Of course, this particular style of aerobars might not be for everyone. As such, you can swap out and replace the aeorbars for your own. The Wattbike ATOM series uses standard 26mm bars. So putting on clip-on bars isn’t an issue. There isn’t any aerobar shifting with the stock or 3rd party bars anyway, so it’s sorta a non-issue in terms of swapping.

Lastly, what about multi-user scenarios in terms of software settings? Well, frankly, about the only thing you can change gearing/settings-wise as we discussed is just the 11-speed versus 22 speed. So that’s something that can be easily toggled in the Wattbike HUB app (prior to then pairing it to an app like Zwift). It’s not ideal, but I suspect most people will stay on 22 speed anyway, so there isn’t any other factors that are per-user beyond that.

As I’ve said in the past, I’d love to see apps like Zwift, FulGaz, etc, be able to send your smart-bike customizations straight to the bike from your account profile. That way it’s just there for whoever jumps on the bike. Still, it’s a general problem that hasn’t really been solved for the industry yet, but with Zwift looking to build their own bike – it’s something that’ll need to get solved sooner or later.

Overall though, flexibility on the Wattbike ATOM on a per user standpoint is pretty much the norm for smart bikes, with the added benefit of being the one bike that includes an aerobar/TT setup.

Shifting, Gearing, and Steering:

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The Wattbike ATOM (original) was really the first bike in this category to introduce shifting for apps like Zwift, and with that, somewhat had to pioneer how that should work. Given that was three years ago and with other competitors onboard, you’d expect some updates to things for the ATOM 2020 edition. Unfortunately, the updates are relatively minor, consisting entirely of speed improvements, but not button/feel or design improvements.

With the ATOM/ATOM 2020 you’ll shift by pressing up or down on two buttons on the right side, on the front of the handlebars.

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This either increases resistance or decreases resistance, by iterating through a drivetrain. There’s no concept of front chainrings/rear cassette, rather, it’s just one linear progression set of gears – either 1 to 11 gears, or 1-22 gears, depending on your preference. With 1-11, the jumps are bigger, whereas 1-22 the jumps are smaller. To begin, you’ll configure that preference within the Wattbike HUB app:

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In my case, I prefer 1-22, since it gives me a bit more control/nuance. It’s not perfect though, and I find I basically tend to just float between Gear 11 and Gear 15 for the vast majority of my ride on flat or rolling terrain. The lower the value (e.g. 1), the easier it is to pedal, the higher the value (e.g. 22), the harder it is to pedal. So for climbs you’ll be in the single digits.

For some apps, namely Zwift, the exact gearing is shown on the screen in the upper left corner each time you shift. It then disappears a second or two later. Keep in mind when in ERG mode (where a set wattage is selected), then there is no concept of shifting, as it just maintains the exact wattage the entire time. This is the same on all smart bikes.

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Now one of the best features of both the Tacx and Wahoo bikes is small vibrations that occur each time you shift. This helps you to confirm that your button press was actually registered. In the case of Wahoo, their shifters are real-world bike shifters, so, it’s a mechanical click as well as a tiny vibration stutter from the electromagnetic drivetrain to simulate the load shifting between gears. Whereas with Tacx, the shifters are like those on the Wattbike ATOM and basically rubber buttons.  Unfortunately, Wattbike doesn’t have any shift feedback in the form of vibrations, which is ironic because the  ATOM X actually does.

While the handlebars might look the same from the outside, the Wattbike ATOM X (that’s the commercial model) has wired shifters that deliver power to it internally, and thus, is able to supply power for vibrations in the shifter. Wattbike says that doing that with the coin cell battery powered ATOM 2020 shifters would mean you’d burn through batteries like crazy.

And that is probably true. But what’s also true is that home users on Zwift are far more likely to use/want shift confirmation than commercial users in a gym using some random app (or the Wattbike Hub app on the Android display). And this is all because without the Zwift gear indicator, you wouldn’t be able to confirm if a shift occurred or not.

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So one of the main complaints of shifting with the original Wattbike ATOM was speed. Much of that was actually solved through software in the first 3-6 months of the original ATOM being out. With then another bike update to the 22-gear shift range a year or so ago. However, all of that still depended on the stepper-motor design of the original ATOM, which required a physical part in the bike move to a new position each time a new virtual gearing or wattage step occurred.

With the new electromagnetic design of the ATOM 2020, would that be faster? The simple answer is yes, but demonstrating that is really darn tricky actually. See, there’s three parts to this:

A) Pressing the shift buttons.
B) You feeling said shift actually occur, and it reaching the proper level.
C) Zwift (in this case) receiving the commands and display the new gearing (indicating the shift registered)

With data, I can easily demonstrate A & C and the timing of that via video. That’s trivial. What’s far more challenging is layering in Step B, to show exactly how long until a given shift registers and resistance is applied accordingly. That’s really tough because I have to then cross the invisible line between a video production with a few cameras into video + data overlay and synced within a split-second realm. Maybe I’ll get bored and do that some day.

Or, I’ll just time it with my head. And the easiest way to do that is just iterate through the entire virtual drivetrain cassette super quick on the flats of Watopia at a constant cadence with bikes back to back. Here’s how long each took in a 22-gear drivetrain configuration:

Shifting through from 0 to 22 gearing maintaining 90RPM:

Wattbike ATOM original: 4-6 seconds seconds
Wattbike ATOM 2020: About .75 seconds

And now, from something a bit more normal, gear 10 to gear 14 (maintaining 90RPM):

Wattbike ATOM original: 4 Seconds
Wattbike ATOM 2020: About .75 seconds

I also did this test in reverse (22 to 0, and 14 to 10), and found the results were the same. What was interesting though in doing this test a few times back to back for each unit, is that it was always Zwift showing the gears that’s most delayed. So for my timings above I was using the stabilization/attainment level of the resistance from the ATOM as the primary driver. And unquestionably the ATOM 2020 is far faster.

But why it’s faster is actually just as interesting. What I realized was that the original ATOM has a clickier feel to the buttons. Which, sounds and feels better. However, it rebounds far slower than the newer (less clicky) ATOM 2020 buttons. As such, I simply couldn’t get (in terms of pushing buttons super fast) through the full range anywhere near as fast as I could on the ATOM 2020. But even setting that aside, the reaction level of the Wattbike ATOM 2020 is crazy fast in comparison. Every time.

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Now just to be clear in case it wasn’t by now, there’s no shift/gearing customization beyond the 11/22 speed option. Meaning, while all the other bikes allow you to setup unique gearing combinations to replicate your own real bikes (including virtual front chainrings and rear cassettes), the Wattbike ATOM series doesn’t have that. Wattbike has said for a long time that it’s been on their planned features list, but that statement has, as noted, been that way for a long time. I’m sure they’ll eventually add it (they’ll have to), but I don’t see any near-term timeframe for that.

Additionally, while you can see the gear display in Zwift (and FulGaz), there’s nothing on the bike itself to indicate what gearing you’re in (since you can’t simply know or feel it otherwise). Since I predominantly use Zwift, this hasn’t been a major issue as it’s shown on the screen. But still, having an always-present gear indicator like on the Tacx or Wahoo bikes would be handy. Note however that gearing only displays in Zwift over Bluetooth Smart, and not via ANT+.

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While we’re talking about shifting, note that as mentioned somewhere else in this wall of text, there’s no auxiliary shift ports, or secondary shifters possible here. Meaning, the Stages bike has aux ports to add shifters to TT bars (or anywhere else), but that’s not an option here.

Next, there’s road feel.  By road feel, I’m specifically referring to how the bike accelerates and decelerates, and whether that feels realistic or not. In general, the road feel of the ATOM 2020 is OK – and it doesn’t really feel that much different than the existing ATOM, despite being a different drivechain system. So it’s not as good as the other bikes, but those bikes all cost more. That said, with an electromagnetic system that Wattbike has, that’s definitely something they can tune over time.

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Finally, note that at this time neither steering nor braking is available from the ATOM 2020 in Zwift. You may remember that Zwift rolled out steering via the Elite Sterzo this past summer, and with that, promised that steering would come to smart bikes at some point too (using buttons, as all smart bike companies have long since planned for). However, that hasn’t happened yet.

On the bright side, it does sound like that’s near-term. Wattbike is saying likely within the next month or so, and they would likely be one of the few companies (if only company) rolling it out. From talking to various people around the industry, at present Zwift is requiring that smart bike companies commit to exclusivity to only enable steering for Zwift (meaning, they don’t want these bike companies to also implement steering in other apps, such as Rouvy or RGT). Of course, that’s not really a good thing for consumers (or competition). But, it might at least get steering up and working for existing smart bike buyers in Zwift now. We’ll see.

In any case – it’s not here today, so I can’t test that bit to see how using buttons to steer compares to twisting the handlebars like with the Sterzo Smart.

App Compatibility:

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The Wattbike ATOM 2020 follows all of the industry norms as you’d expect from most trainers/smart bikes these days.  As you probably know, apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, SufferFest, Rouvy, FulGaz, 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.

The ATOM 2020 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.

To be specific, the ATOM 2020 supports the following protocol transmission standards:

ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control): This is for controlling the trainer via ANT+ from apps and head units. Read tons about it here. This also includes speed.
ANT+ Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard ANT+ power meter, with cadence data as well
Bluetooth Smart FTMS (Trainer Control): This allows apps to control the ATOM 2020 over Bluetooth Smart (with cadence/power data)
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard BLE power meter with cadence

Between all these standards you can basically connect to anything and everything you’d ever want to. Be it a bike computer or watch, or an app – it’ll be supported. This is actually notable because the Wahoo KICKR Bike & Tacx Bike don’t actually do proper Bluetooth Smart FTMS. Practically speaking, it doesn’t matter a ton since most apps support their proprietary variants.

The ATOM 2020 also bakes in the cadence data (like everyone else). This is handy if you’re connecting to Zwift on an Apple TV, due to Apple TV’s two concurrent Bluetooth Smart sensor limitation (plus the Apple TV remote).  While you can use the Zwift mobile companion app for additional sensors, I find that can be sometimes a bit flaky.

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It’s these same standards that also allow you to connect via head units too. For example the Garmin Edge, Stages Dash L50/M50, Hammerhead Karoo, and Wahoo units, all 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 830 & 1030 Plus, as well as the trainer apps.  From there I’m able to save the file and upload it to whatever platform I like.

The ATOM 2020 also transmits left/right balance, as seen below after a workout paired to the Garmin Edge:

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It does not however transmit torque effectiveness or pedal smoothness…but you’ll probably never use those anyways.

However, when using the Wattbike Hub app, you’ll get additional pedal smoothness related data in the form of the so-called ‘peanut’ chart, which shows your pedal stroke:

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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, aka SIM 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’s an example of Zwift paired on an Apple TV, you can see it shows the sensors as a controllable trainer, a regular power meter, and a cadence sensor:

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I had zero issues when it came to using the ATOM 2020 in Zwift in terms of connectivity or such. Everything worked as expected, including gradient responsiveness. You’ll notice in the screenshot below you can see the gear indicator, which is shown anytime I switch gears, for about a second or so, and then disappears.

2020-09-04 14.46.34

And here paired up in TrainerRoad using Bluetooth Smart on an iPad:

2020-10-22 16.39.38 2020-10-22 16.39.57

And it’s here that I spent considerable time since summer, trying to understand the ERG mode functionality, which I’ll cover (inclusive of issues) in the accuracy section. But from a functional/technology standpoint, the ATOM 2020 and TrainerRoad worked just fine in terms of controlling power and changing resistance levels.

IMG_1756 3

Note that like all other smart bikes, you cannot switch to manual gear changing in ERG mode with TrainerRoad.

The issue I ran into though with TrainerRoad is more specific to ERG mode in general. Specifically, the ATOM 2020 has a really big engine and they haven’t figured out how to control it yet. So, it overcommits and under-commits constantly. You can see this quite visibly below in a more recent workout on the most recent firmware version:

image

Here, let me zoom in a bit – notice how the target for this interval is 319w, yet it’s at 394w.

image

I’ve been trying beta/pre-production (as well as production) firmware versions for months, as Wattbike tries to address it, but ultimately, as of today they haven’t been able to do that yet. It’s still far more wobbly than any smart bike or trainer on the market. But again, I’ll dive deep into that in the accuracy section.

From a practicality standpoint though, the main issue is that you end up working harder, since while the overall average is very close to the target for that interval, you’re still having to put out significantly more power for a second or three at a time. The secondary power meters I use clearly show that. So it’s effectively a never-ending micro-interval workout rather than a single consistent one. It’s more noticeable on longer workouts, or workouts where you’re at the edge of your capabilities, than easier workouts.

image

Shifting topics slightly, the ATOM 2020 requires no calibration, nor has any provision for calibration. This is akin to other electromagnetic trainers and smart bikes (like the Tacx NEO series, or Wahoo KICKR Bike). So these options won’t show up (or if they do, they won’t function) in trainer apps, since calibration doesn’t exist.

For example, within TrainerRoad when you go into the settings, there is no option to trigger a calibration for the Bluetooth Smart FTMS connection of the bike. That’s fine – it’s something you won’t likely have to do often in my experience:

IMG_1749

Now there are still some things to dork with for geeks in the Wattbike Hub app, which you can install on a smartphone/tablet of your iOS or Android choice. For example, you can validate firmware level and exact usage stats:

2020-10-22 16.18.43 2020-10-22 16.19.27 2020-10-22 16.19.33

And then within the advanced settings you can pair/de-pair the left/right shifters if you needed to, as well as reset all the settings. Plus change the earlier mentioned 11 or 22 gear option. You can’t modify/customize the gears, just choose which one to use.

2020-10-22 16.19.41 2020-10-22 16.19.44 2020-10-22 16.18.36

Ok, with that I think we’ve covered all the app aspects, let’s dive a bit deeper into the power accuracy bits.

Power Accuracy Analysis:

DSC_0892

As usual, I put the bike 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 the case of indoor bikes it’s a bit more tricky to have 2-3 other power meters, since you typically can’t swap out the crankset or rear hubs. So you have to rely upon other power meter pedals.

No problem, I’ve got plenty of those. I’ve had the bike set up with two main configs over the past month:

Config 1: With Favero Assioma Duo pedals
Config 2: With another different set of Favero Assioma Duo pedals
Config 3: With Garmin Vector 3 pedals

Within this timeframe I’ve also seen multiple firmware versions. I include rides on the most recent production firmware version. The only changes related to accuracy over the last few months have been specific to ERG mode responsiveness/targets (not blanket power accuracy). I cover both topics here. Point being, I’ve literally tried just about every Wattbike ATOM 2020 beta and production firmware since July, but it actually doesn’t impact any of the results here –and I show the most recent versions as well.

Now when evaluating accuracy there’s really two things I’m looking at:

1) Overall power accuracy: If the unit says it’s doing 250w, is it actually doing that?
2) ERG target power stability/accuracy: If a structured workout has a section that goes from 150w to 250w, how long does it take to get to 250w, and does it stabilize properly?

These are different things, but I group them here because sometimes they’re related.

Now, to spoil some of this section, the TLDR here is:

1) Overall power accuracy: Great, zero issues on the ATOM 2020.
2) ERG target power stability/accuracy: Not great, many issues on the ATOM 2020

So, let me explain. First, let’s look at overall power accuracy. For that we’ll start with one of many Zwift sessions, which use SIM mode whereby the grade goes up and down dependent on the terrain (if in a structured workout then it uses ERG mode, just like TrainerRoad). You can see it here:

image

Frankly, this looks great. I had put the pedals on at the start of this ride, so there’s a tiny bit of settling in the first chunk, and then we see it nails it nicely. This despite the fact that I’m all over creation in terms of power, since this was a Zwift Race.

You can see the constant surges within the pack here every 30-40 seconds, and the power is spot-on with Vector 3:

image

And the cadence looks super close, within 1RPM.

image

And here’s the mean-max graph – virtually identical.

image

Next, another more recent ride. This one with Favero Assioma pedals. Now in this case, I had just installed these pedals as well (this was a replacement bike), and you can see that over the course of the ride there’s clearly some separation. However, as we get to the end it gets closer.

image

I’m starting to wonder if Favero Assiomas need more settling time than they used to after installation on a new bike. Either due to newer firmware changes, or perhaps just my pairs getting older. I could historically count on a few strong sprints before the ride, another calibration, and then I’m good. At worst 5-15 minutes of riding before they settled. Now, it’s a bit longer.

And maybe it’s just my left pedal. We see it lower throughout, way beyond my usual left/right balance differences:

image

However, as the ride goes on, it settles in more and more.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there for the moment. There’s nothing that I’ve seen that indicates power accuracy is an issue on the Wattbike ATOM 2020’s new drivetrain, which is exactly what I saw on the same drivetrain installed in the also new WattBike ATOM X – accuracy is solid, especially on Zwift.

Oh, and before I forget for this ride – cadence is beautiful.

image

But, let’s step back and look at ERG mode. It’s here that there’s unresolved trouble (something which Wattbike agrees with). Here’s a simple workout from last month. It’s a 45-minute TrainerRoad session that’s relatively stable:

image

But let’s zoom in on one of the sets. It doesn’t much matter which one, every interval I’ve done over the last few months shows roughly the same thing.

image

What you notice is that it’s constantly oscillating. It can never settle down, like a hyperactive child. Typically we see most trainers maybe have a blip the first 2-4 seconds of a major interval shift in power (e.g. 150w to 300w+). but in this case, no matter the wattage level, it just can’t settle.

And we’re talking substantial differences here. In some cases, upwards of 70w over. But most of the time it was ‘only’ 40-50w high (or low).

image

Mind you, my usual tolerance for the initial bump is max 15-20w, and then I expect a smart bike/trainer to hold within a few watts – assuming your cadence is steady. My cadence (as seen in the white line), is crazy steady. This wasn’t a hard workout for me, and thus, I had no issues holding perfectly steady cadence.

Here, just for comparison – the KICKR 2020/V5, a workout I did. The ‘biggest’ difference I can find is 13w, and that’s on a workout that’s actually more challenging for me because the wattage floor is 365 for these intervals.

image

And again, for comparison a Tacx NEO 2, max difference about 8-10w.

image

But back on the Wattbike ATOM 2020, here’s the same workout as I started this section with, but a month earlier. Sure, most of these are ‘only’ 20-30w off, but that’s just crazy high given how much you’re paying here:

image

Now, for some good news – I am seeing good power accuracy in ERG mode in terms of how it compares to both the Vector 3 & Favero Assioma pedals. For example, take a look at this set:

image

The two are basically identical the entire time, off by a few watts at most. Even when it can’t nail the correct target resistance/power as specified by an app – it does at least know what its power is correctly. Think of it like a runner that’s trying to hit a target pace for a marathon. The runner knows half way into the marathon their own pace, and they know it accurately. But…they also know it’s nowhere near where they need to be to hit their goal.

It’s the same thing here. The power values broadcast by the Wattbike ATOM 2020 are accurate. What isn’t is its understanding of where it needs to be when it’s to be at a given level.

image

Oh, and cadence is fine too – all within 1RPM:

image

This matches all the other data sets I have. Over and over. Except a few data sets on both Favero Assioma and Vector 3 where my left leg is reading oddly low for a bit. In fact, I actually assumed one of the pedals was wrong, so swapped it out for the other brand to find the same. Except, I’m actually confident enough that I think both sets of pedals are wrong there or something else is up that isn’t the fault of the Wattbike ATOM 2020, as I’ve seen it a few times on one set of Favero Assioma I have.

In any case, as far as power accuracy goes for the Wattbike ATOM 2020  – overall the actual accuracy of both power and cadence is great. What’s not great is its ability to correctly maintain a given wattage in ERG mode for structured workouts. In other words, if you’re using it for Zwift and not in a structured workout – life will be perfectly fine. But if you plan to use it for TrainerRoad (or Zwift Structured workouts), I’d wait until they get it to settle down.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections 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.)

Indoor Smart Bike Comparisons:

DSC_7653

Above you see the full ATOM series lineup, from left to right: Wattbike ATOM X (with the tablet), Wattbike ATOM original, Wattbike ATOM 2020. They’re all incredibly similar, but realistically, as a consumer – you’re only gonna buy one: The Wattbike ATOM 2020. Here’s the quick high-level differences:

– ATOM X: This is the commercial/gym version. It’s got a bit beefier frame/structure, and has a different locking mechanism for the seatpost/handlebar assembly. Most notable though, it has a tablet built in, using Android. It’s not super powerful though, and wouldn’t be capable of running Zwift. Also, it’s tiny – about the size of a normal paperback book (with a gigantic bezel). It does though have vibration for the shifters, which is great. Finally, it has the same electromagnetic drivetrain of the ATOM 2020.

– ATOM 2020: This improves upon the original ATOM by beefing up the traction on the seatpost, and re-designs the drivetrain to be electromagnetic. They also swapped the power panel to the underside of the frame. Beyond that, it’s basically the same as the original.

– ATOM (original): This is the baseline for all the brothers above. While it’s shifting isn’t as fast as its newer siblings, it’s ERG mode is super consistent – far better than the X/2020 with the new drivetrain. I’m sure eventually they’ll sort that out, but for now that’s the one advantage it has.

Stepping back to the larger landscape of smart bikes, here’s a blow by blow spec comparison between them. In this case for this table, I’m focused on the bikes capable of 3rd party app integration. For example, you can’t pair a Peloton bike directly to Zwift or TrainerRoad, so that’s not here.

Function/FeatureWattbike ATOM 2020Stages Bike (SB20)Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 23rd, 2020 @ 5:31 pm New Window
Price for trainer$2,599$2899$3,199$3,499
Trainer TypeIndoor BikeIndoor BikeIndoor BikeIndoor Bike
Available today (for sale)YesYesYesYes
Availability regionsUK/South Africa/Australia/Scandinavia/USAGlobalGlobalLimited Initially
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYesYesNoYes
Flywheel weight9.28KG/20.4lbs50lbsSimulated/Virtual 125KG13bs/5.9kgs
ResistanceWattbike ATOM 2020Stages Bike (SB20)Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNo (but kinda)YesYes
Maximum wattage capability2,500w3,000w2,200w @ 40KPH2,200w @ 40KPH
Maximum simulated hill incline25%25%20% (and -15% downhill)
FeaturesWattbike ATOM 2020Stages Bike (SB20)Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerYesYes (actually measured independently)YesNo
Can rise/lower bike or portion thereofNoNoNoYes
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)Planned late 2020Yes (with compatible apps)YES (WITH COMPATIBLE APPS)Yes (with compatible apps)
Can rock side to side (significantly)NoNoNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoNoYesNo
AccuracyWattbike ATOM 2020Stages Bike (SB20)Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Includes temperature compensationYesYesN/AYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)NoCross-references power meter dataN/AN/A
Supported accuracy level+/- 2%+/- 1.5%+/- 1%+/- 1%
Trainer ControlWattbike ATOM 2020Stages Bike (SB20)Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YesYesYesYes
Supports Bluetooth Smart FTMS (Trainer Control Standard)YesYEsYesYes
Data BroadcastWattbike ATOM 2020Stages Bike (SB20)Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Transmits power via ANT+YesYEsYesYes (added Sept 30th, 2020)
Transmits power via Bluetooth SmartYesYEsYesYes
Supports Multiple Concurrent Bluetooth connectionsNoNo, just oneYes, 3 Concurrent
Transmits cadence dataYesYesYesYes
Indoor Bike FeaturesWattbike ATOM 2020Stages Bike (SB20)Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Brake levers or buttonsNoYesBrake LeversYes
Shifting typeButtonsButtonsButton BasedNormal bike levers
Can customize shifting (Shimano/SRAM/Campagnolo)NoYes (not yet SRAM)In future updateYes (Shimano/SRAM/Campagnolo)
Can customize gearing11-speed or 22-speedYesYesYes (both cassette and chainrings)
Supported Crank Lengths170mm165/170/172.5/175mm170/172.5/175mm165/167.5/170/172.5/175mm
DisplayNoNoYesSmall display near top-tube
USB PortsNoTwo Ports (Fast Charging)2 USB Ports (2AMP)1 USB port
PurchaseWattbike ATOM 2020Stages Bike (SB20)Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
AmazonLink
Backcountry.comLinkLink
Competitive CyclistLinkLink
REILinkLink
WiggleLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerWattbike ATOM 2020Stages Bike (SB20)Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Oh, and before you ask why I haven’t included some products into the above – here’s the quick and dirty answers:

Peloton Bike: It’s not a ‘smart’ bike in the sense of the above, it doesn’t allow you to set a specific power level (it does tell you the current power level). But nonetheless, look for my review very shortly! It’s actually written in text, but I’m waiting on a calibration kit from Peloton to see if I can get things just a bit closer accuracy-wise.

Peloton Bike+: Now this could legitimately be added above. However, it has no 3rd party app compatibility, so it seems odd to add it above for now.

SRM Bike: I just don’t see this as a competitor in this space. At $5,000, it’s mostly for various research purposes and is designed in that realm.

True Kinetix Bike: I’ve had this bike for a bit, then returned it while they sorted out technical issues. It’s currently only shipping mostly in the Netherlands, so that’s probably less appealing from a widespread standpoint.

VirtuPro: At present this bike isn’t compatible with any 3rd party apps, and in nearly a year since I last chatted with them, I haven’t seen any concrete evidence that’s changed.

Again, I’m more than happy to add products into the database. In general, my rule of thumb is I want hands-on time (or butts-on in this case), and I want some realistic level of clarity on delivery time frames.

Summary:

DSC_0893

The ATOM 2020 is both an incremental and major upgrade from the original ATOM 2020. But figuring out which is which can be tricky. Under the hood is a major upgrade, with a sweeping change to how they handle resistance. That’s a change that long term will pay dividends for the company, and is ultimately the direction all smart trainers and smart bikes will end up. There’s little debate in the industry on that. So Wattbike being ahead of the curve there is good news. And aspects of that are already paying dividends, the gear shifting is vastly faster side by side than the original ATOM. The other tiny changes, such as swapping the power panel to the underside of the bike, are good as well. Even if minor.

The challenge though for Wattbike is that while the resistance is already paying dividends for those racing in Zwift, it’s a concurrent setback for those using ERG mode for structured workouts. Simply put – it’s far worse than before. The stability just isn’t acceptable for a product of this price point. Just like it wasn’t acceptable to me on the Stages Bike (SB20) when it came out, nor the spikes we saw on the Tacx Bike when it came out. Unfortunately, all of these bikes have bumpier roads than I’d prefer.

Now – will Wattbike be able to address this? Probably, eventually. But I don’t expect a major breakthrough tomorrow. After all, I’ve had this bike three months now, and they’ve been hard at work trying to tweak the firmware to address this issue specifically. And yes, compared to July there have been some improvements. Mostly in the realm of overshoots/undershoots on huge jumps in power (it used to be off by 130w!), now the initial surge is much more tapered, but we’re still left with the constant oscillations. So while I think they’ll get there, I’m hesitant to say it’s soon.

Ultimately though, the Wattbike ATOM 2020 is the least expensive of the smart bike options, and so to some extent there’s a tradeoff for what you pay, and what you get. Like any other product for the most part. That’s mostly seen in features, but occasionally we see it elsewhere.

Which doesn’t mean it’s a bad product – far from it. The changes to shifting are very real, and very responsive. And overall, Wattbike has put together a solid smart bike offering to consider. And that ignores the benefits of their free app with training plans and workouts, which the other companies don’t offer.

With that – thanks for reading!

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77 Comments

  1. Mike G

    Looking forward to this review for awhile as I am an owner of the original Atom. Sounds like it’s not worth upgrading…. yet. I find the slower ERG mode resistance changes are actually helpful for structured workouts….although also likely the reason I lose every sprint in Zwift 🤣

  2. Peter McClure

    Did you try a workout in erg mode on Zwift that has a “freeride” interval while using apple tv?. Users have complained that the wattage stays at the previous interval wattage (it stays in erg mode) Wattbike and Zwift have been aware of the problem for a very long time but don’t/can’t sort it out.

  3. Daz Automatic

    I got the Atom 2020 delivered a few weeks ago and for the price point in the UK (£1899), I think it’s really great value compared to the TACX or Wahoo smart bike offerings. So I’m relaxed about it not having all of the bells and whistles. I think Ray’s review is really fair and on the nose here.

    The current implementation of ERG mode is very disappointing however and it makes it impossible to take part in the Zwift Academy workout rides, well at least if you want to get any stars! So for the time being I’m exclusively using SIM mode for everything, which is a shame.

    I raised the ERG mode issue with Wattbike support and unfortunately they act like it’s not an issue, rather blaming it on my bluetooth signal. So it’s nice that Ray has got to the bottom of that one, so they can stop fobbing their customers off.

    So all in all, the hardware seems really solid. It’s just the software that needs some more work. Fingers crossed that we get it sorted before Xmas 🙂

  4. Runninmatt

    Oh no. I ride 99.9% of the time TrainerRoad ERG. My. Atom 2020 is due next week. Trying to decide now to cancel or get it and then see if anyone wants one with out the 16 week delay. So disappointed and if they can’t fix ERG in the 3 months Ray has had the bike and it sounds like the same issue with the AtomX then I’m not thinking a fix is coming soon 🙁

    • Ellis McCoy

      I think it’s important to note that the old ATOM also had issues with ERG to start with and it was simply a case of a few software updates later and it was totally fine.

      As long as it is just a case of software needing improving then I’ve no doubt it will get sorted. Hopefully For everyone who bought one this is the case..!

  5. Will

    Ray, thanks for posting your review. You put a lot of effort into your work and I really appreciate that.
    I have an Atom Next Generation due in early February 2021, hopefully the majority of the issues you note will be cleared up by then🤞
    Will

  6. Garry

    Great write up, thanks Ray – been waiting for ages to see the results of this. Am undecided as to which Smart Bike to get. Currently have a Wattbike Pro, so an Atom 2020 sort of feels logical step but the Tacx Neo bike and Kickr Bike seem to be that bit better but still have flaws like belts breaking on Neo and rocking on some of the Kickr bikes. No doubt V2 of the Tacx and Kickr ( whenever that is ) will iron out some of the issues with those but could be years away.
    Here in Australia the local distributor is only selling V1 Atom’s and not stocking V2 until all those are sold.
    Lastly – is there any update on the Zwift Smart bike?

    • I think we’re mostly getting to stabilization on the newer Tacx/Wahoo bikes in terms of hardware failures – just my rough guess.

      I think the rocking on the KICKR Bike is actually a feature the more I use it. Now, whether or not said feature long-term is a support issue we’re all going to find out. Wahoo says they’ve designed it correctly, but given it’s a bit of the first generation devices, it’s just far too early to say (though, we haven’t seen any issues come out of that specifically that I’m aware of).

      I wouldn’t expect any Zwift bike until 2022. There’s just no way they’re going to make something in the next 12 months unless they acquire someone. Almost no amount of money thrown at it will get them to that finish line any faster than 14-16 months. The iterative cycle and realities of developing a big heavy/bulky object with complex internals simply drive that out. Lengthened by the fact that they’ve got no experience either developing trainer/bike hardware, or with manufacturing (as Zwift, sure, you can hire other people with experience, but that only gets you so far…).

  7. redRover

    What is your threshold for buying your own copy of an item? In your older reviews, you usually had a line about buying it to keep it, because that’s how you roll, while more of the newer items seem to be loaner items that go back.

    Obviously there are logistical and financial constraints, but is there any more rhyme or reason to it? Or just what you pick?

    • Generally my threshold around re-purchasing something (meaning, after the unit has gone back, whether I go out and buy my own) is:

      A) If I’ll re-use it for years for updates, or comparison posts
      B) If I’ll actually use it myself frequently enough as a product in my normal training life

      So for many watches I’ll use for years and years as comparison points, or for update posts/videos, etc… Thus in that case, the ROI on that is viable, either directly for update posts/videos, or indirectly through comparisons/etc…for future products. Plus, they tend to be cheaper than trainers, and only take up a little bit of space. Also, there are watches I just use as my daily driver.

      For trainers, realistically the updates are few and far between, so I try and basically stage them all into a bucket time period and then ship them all back around now. I’ll go out and buy the most popular models for comparison/historical purposes, but ultimately I just end up with a big pile of trainers that I never use. Kinda a waste (wish I could operate a loaner program scheme or something here out of the Cave for locals).

      So a few weeks ago I did all the photos I’ll need for the Trainer Recommendations Guide 2020. I took a few variations, for example one with the Elite Tuo and one without (since I haven’t decided yet as I’m still testing that). But since then I’ve been working to get all the other things packed up and out.

    • Sean in NY

      Is that a spoiler-alert that your 2020 trainer guide is coming soon? Perhaps before the holidays? I love reading the gear recommendations / gear you use posts. Thanks Ray.

    • Definitely. Probably about 10 days out for the full guide.

    • Tynan Scope

      Its definitely been 11 whole days now 😱😂🙏🙏

  8. Pavel Vishnyakov

    I wonder why it doesn’t work without power like a trainer does (I mean, this is essentially a trainer in a different casing).

    Second thing I wonder is why are the shifters battery-powered? The unit itself requires power to operate, shifters exist in a single version (that is shipped with the bike) – what stopped Wattbike from powering those directly from the bike except “aesthetics”?

    • It doesn’t self-power from your output, so you can’t get anything broadcast.

      I agree that self-powering shifters, and thus having the vibration shifters of the ATOM X would have made more sense. It also eliminates any potential interference/lag source too (albeit very slightly).

  9. Neale Garner

    Hi Ray,

    Great review. Can I ask, when free riding on Zwift did the gears work immediately?

    The reason I ask is, I’ve owned the original atom – which I would describe as flawless, and the atom 2020 which I’m having no end of issues with, including the gears not responding in free ride mode for around 20 seconds until I have really high rpm.

    I’m also experiencing frequent connection loss (like almost every ride) which seems to be related in changes to gradient – particularly downhills.

    It’s so frustrating as the original worked perfectly with all the same kit/connections -the only change is the bike.

    • Lou

      Bear in mind that the zwift software will have changed a few times during that time, so you can’t really say it’s the same kit, bugs will come and go.

    • Definitely, they work immediately. I include exact sub-second timings up above in the gearing section.

      The only time they didn’t work immediately is when the bike up and broke (as noted), but in that case, all shifting went away. There wasn’t a grey area though of it getting slower or such and then dying. It was a black/white switch.

      I’d say you probably want to reach out to Wattbike support. Something might be wrong. Also, one other thing to try is if you’ve got another device to run Zwift on (even just temporarily) – like another phone/tablet/computer, just validate the behavior happens there too.

      But the way it works, the gear changing happens internal to the Wattbike before it shows up on Zwift, o my guess is something is upset within your bike.

    • Neale Garner

      Hi Lou,

      Yes I take your point but I’d argue if it was a Zwift/software related bug then I would imagine it would be affecting more people, so the community etc would be talking about it.

      Both myself and my girlfriend used both the old model and the new model – me on windows/Bluetooth companion, her on Ipad… both have the same issues. law of averages would say its the bike…

    • Neale Garner

      Thanks Ray, I’ve had a few chats with them, and had an engineer out but ultimately its boiled down to them saying “use the beta” firmware… I’d say the stability has improved slightly but its still happening far too frequently considering the cost of the bike. Such a shame as I absolutely loved the v1.

      Think its time to drop support another email…

    • Lou

      I agree, it’s likely the bike.

      But I work writing software and when people say nothing has changed, but you’ve got a piece of kit with auto-updating software, alarm bells can ring!

      Hopefully it’ll get fixed under warranty, as a recent purchaser of the new Atom, is this kind of thing that worries me. My Tacx Neo was near half the price and has been faultless.

    • Neale Garner

      To update, Wattbike sent me a replacement bike, and it seems to have resolved the majority of my issues.

      I still have the strangest thing with the gears/resistance actually kicking in though – just the same as the first 2020 version I had.

      I either have to get on and pedal while I’m waiting for Zwift to log me in, then when it all connects there’s a noticeable “kick” in the bike, where I assume the resistance/magnets/whatever wakes up.

      Alternatively I wait until I’m placed in Zwift, then start pedalling, then get the “kick” after a few seconds.

      Its a small thing in comparison to my earlier issues, it just seems odd if its actually designed that way…

  10. Lou O.

    I have Tacx Neo (series 1) and have decided to get this so that my wife and fast growing kids can train without swapping out 3 bikes, having 35cm difference between us makes finding a single ‘real’ bike to fit is impossible!

    It’s due in a couple of weeks but reading this makes me nervous as I mostly do structured workouts.

    Mr experience with Wattbike support so far has also been less than exemplary.

    • Tim Parker

      I’m waiting for the day when all the smart bikes have linear actuators in the seat post, stem and bars, and everybody has their own bike fit set-up and preferences on the app. Click on your profile, and whoosh – bike adjusts to you, setups the display and what-not with nary a Allen key or wrench in sight.

      Obviously it should allow you to do this when someone else is riding it because the world probably needs a few more laughs….

  11. Guy Marshall

    Hi,
    Of note Fulgaz gives a constant view of gear selection on the Wattbike Atom V1. Without it it would be impossible to ride in Fulgaz’s video created world.
    Guy

    • Nice! I thought it did, but couldn’t find any reference anywhere on it and thus figured I must be just dreaming. Will update!

      The FulGaz guys are great on gearing, always pushing the boundaries there.

  12. JB

    Hey All,

    I have the original Atom and have put thousands of KM on it. I use it at least 5 times a week.

    So this isn’t for a want of experience on the thing. I understand all too well it’s limitations for changing gear quickly and the sprinting elements of this years Zwift academy have been tricky to score the points with.

    I also know in Sim mode that the slow response makes racing much harder than it should be and that it’s much harder to remain at a more constant wattage…

    So why have I included all of this in here when we’re talking about the next generation… well… because I would have thought that with the above well known about and truly understood not only by Wattbike but also by the field engineers that come out to fix them… that when they finally get the technology to deliver an upgrade here… that they actually get it right…

    I will be switching my smart bike out in the next few months… and it almost certainly won’t be for another Wattbike.

    I also find it peculiar that for what appears to be a very similar chassis, their up grade path is to buy an entirely new bike… rather than upgraded internals. That seems incredibly short sighted to me. And I think it says enough about Wattbike for me to avoid moving forward… I just don’t believe they’ll get it right, I don’t think they know how to.

    Clearly conflicted by virtue of my continual use of the bike that I have… I’m just not quite in a position to swap it out yet… and I haven’t had as much quality time to get back to the racing (it’s also been summer and my preference is always to get out rather than ride in) etc

    Cheers.

    • Mike

      I contacted Wattbike to see if an upgrade was possible from the Atom Mk1 as the lag in gear change is my biggest beef. Not surprised, but slightly disappointed that this wasn’t a possibility when they came back to me. From this, I can see why – there have been some structural changes (power port location) – so thanks – great review.

  13. JimC

    > From talking to various people around the industry, at present Zwift is requiring that smart bike companies commit to exclusivity to only enable steering for Zwift

    Pretty sure a dominant industry player using its weight to stifle competition is illegal. Certainly not good for consumers.

    • While I very much don’t like the practice, especially since Zwift isn’t the one who came up with the idea of steering, or even how to implement it technically – what they’re doing isn’t illegal.

      They’re basically requesting exclusivity in exchange for functionality being lit up. Unfortunately, exclusivity is a common business practice.

    • JimC

      I’m no lawyer, but I’m not 100% convinced exclusivity is compatible with being a dominant player.

      (Wether they’re “dominant” or not depends on whether you include Peloton in your calculations, I suppose…)

  14. Tom Gurden

    Hi Ray, thanks for getting the review out. I’ve had a V2 for about 6 weeks so have been looking forward to your thoughts which pretty much match mine. As I mainly use TR in erg I’m feeling pretty deflated that this is going to take a while to get sorted, If at all. Thus I’m going to have to move away from erg training on TR until it is fixed as I just cannot complete the workouts anymore. It might be worth noting 2 things in your review, one is that wattbike don’t allow us to turnoff erg in TR so we can’t even use it manually if we want to. The other is that I think gears are only viewable on zwift when connected via Bluetooth, they don’t appear when using ant+.

    Finally, if you’ve gotten this far I like to know that if currently would you recommend using their latest official firmware or the beta firmware?

    Thanks again

    • Thanks – two good items to add. Added!

      I’d use the official firmware at this point. My understanding is there’s no differences with respect to ERG mode in the current beta.

  15. Martijn vS

    Thank you for your review. From all the smart bikes the Atom is by far the nicest design in terms of aesthetics. However, I do not understand why the shifters are not powered and wired to the rest of the bike.

    I do wonder how it would stack up to my current ‘smart bike’, the ICG IC7 with the 2020 computer. Okay, it does not have trainer smart control, but the 1% accurate power meter and super sturdy and adjustable frame are maybe better than on some of the real smart bikes. With the new computer, (BT5, Ant+) connectivity is no longer an issue either.

    P.s. Looking forward to your experiences with the TrueKinetix bike should you receive one again!

    • Lou

      >However, I do not understand why the shifters are not powered and wired to the rest of the bike.

      My guess is that it makes it cheaper to design and build the unit without running wires up to the bars. Also you can’t damage wires that aren’t there, so makes the bike more durable in long term.

  16. Rako

    I’m actually disappointed to read this – I have Atom v1 and recently got the Stages SB20

    I’m not sure I buy the cop out that other bikes are more significantly expensive; in essence Peloton, Wattbike, Stages and Tacx float in the same price tier and Whoo above it (due to motion motors) and Peloton set the price point in essence

    Now…Wattbike historically have great bikes (mag and wind trainer) but the Atom v Stages is just very sub par in shifting and road feel – I constantly find myself overgeared on FulGaz – there’s frankly no reason for this bike to be this bad for this price given the company history

    I had high hopes for the upgrade and seeing if I could do a trade in – this seems to say don’t even bother

  17. Seth

    “Note: If you’re trying this at home, be sure you’ve turned off TrainerRoad’s display smoothing, else you’re basically covering up the results. Your legs still do the hard time/crime, but you just don’t realize it otherwise.” I read somwhere on TR forum that smoothing does not affect graph, only digital number.

    BTW this power (in)stability in ERG is completely unacceptable.

  18. Neil Jones

    I note your comments about slipping seatposts, but how easy is it to adjust the geometry when you do want to? One of the disappointments with my Tacx bike has been just how difficult it is, even with the QR levers completely released; there’s so much friction in the seat post and the two handlebar adjustments that makes them a total PITA to adjust. It’s not that the tolerances are too tight, it just seems to be there’s no internal sleeve or guide to keep them aligned, so it ends up like trying to open an old set of drawers; unless you’re pulling dead straight then they just wedge. I’ve tried silicon spray on them, but that doesn’t seem to help.

    I upgraded from a Neo trainer to the Neo bike so me and my (much smaller) wife could use it, but it’s that much of an effort to adjust that she doesn’t go on it. I’d say it would have actually been less of an effort to swap bikes on a Neo rather than adjust the Neo Bike.

    • It’s pretty easy to adjust up/down, but the other dimensions request a wrench. Whereas the Tacx bike doesn’t require a wrench for as many dimensions.

      That said, I agree that the Tacx bike handles are annoying.

  19. Azure

    Hi Ray, thanks so much for the review!
    Will you have a 2020-2021 Trainer Recommendation Guide coming soon?

  20. Daniel Cattle

    Thanks Ray, great review. I have a 2020 Atom on order which is due early January 2021. I currently had a V2 KICKR that I have enjoyed using very much and importantly has been very reliable. I’m hoping Wattbike can sort out the firmware as I use TR and it sounds like at the moment it’s pretty hopeless in erg.

    I was quoted 15-17 weeks for delivery, is this an accurate estimate or shall I expect some slippage?

  21. Critmark

    Is the Bowflex Velocore a player in this space or just a new gimmick with no other real value?

    • Unfortunately the Velocore doesn’t broadcast power/cadence/etc for apps like Zwift or anyone else to pickup. So, kinda off by itself (similiar to Peloton).

    • Critmark

      Got it thanks. I am planning on buying a bike in this category in January. Just trying to figure out which one.

    • Rako

      I really like the Stages and customer support is very good (there was a wrong piece sent and I had an agent on the phone and a replacement part overnighted – contrasted w 72h email response from others)

      I own the Wattbike and the Stages (2 locations) and if I could I’d unload the Wattbike

      Ride quality on Stages is good and shifting is good too
      They make a lot of gym bikes already so it sets them apart

  22. Danke für den umfangreichen Test und die sehr ausführlichen Beschreibungen.
    WATTBIKE in Weil am Rhein teilte mir vor einiger Zeit mit, dass dieses Atom 2020 leider nicht in Deutschland vertrieben wird.
    Gibt es eine Bezugsquelle oder einen Kontakt, den Sie mir weitergeben können.

    Es wäre ein tolles Gerät für mein Wintertraining auf dem Weg zur Paralympics in Tokyo 2021.

    Mit herzlichen Dank und sportlichen Gruß

    Ihr

    Hans-Peter Durst

  23. Paul

    “Note however that gearing only displays in Zwift over Bluetooth Smart, and not via ANT+.”

    This review is a masterpiece!

    I’m about to press the trigger on the Atom 2020 exclusively for use in Zwift sims mode on my 50″ telly.
    1. Does an Apple 4k Tv Box support bluetooth smart, gear display on screen is essential.
    2. Is there a better device to run Zwift with bluetooth smart?
    3. Will the Watbike Atom 2020 put me at a disadvantage in Zwift sims mode against other users, if we are all putting out 300w say, would the Atom be slower?

    • Dan G

      Apple TV has Bluetooth Smart.

    • Indeed, as Dan G points out Apple TV has Bluetooth Smart support.

      1) And in fact, all but one or two sessions of the Wattbike 2020 of mine with Zwift were done on Apple TV.

      2) There’s pros and cons to BLE vs ANT+. In the context of Zwift however, there’s not too many differences (whereas when paired to something like a Garmin/Wahoo/etc, there are substantial differences in terms of features you get – so you’ll almost always want to use ANT+).

      3) No disadvantage/advantage in terms of wattage at all in Zwift, all watts are equal there, and the Wattbike is accurate in all my testing. With the ATOM 2020, the shifting speed is pretty darn quick. The only slight temporary disadvantage you might have would be as you get used to shifting compared to a normal bike.

    • Paul

      Thanks for the replies 🙂

      In fact i’m overlooking the obvious, i’ve got a high end gaming PC in the room next door with an RTX 2070 Super. If I get :

      Bluetooth 4 Dongle
      Microsoft Miracast
      Wattbike Atom

      Am I all set?

    • That’ll all work, however, if the distance is far or well blocked, you might get drop-outs on the Wattbike/HR strap. That could be solved by a simple USB extender cable to get the dongle closer to the room.

      Also, Miracast is generally OK, but I’ve seen some issues with latency there. But you could give it a whirl and then go to some other screen tech as well.

      Or, the Apple TV 4K is $150 and ‘just works’. 😉

      Cheers!

  24. JonD

    Thanks as always for another detailed review.
    It’s fascinating to see the accurate power data but stability problems. It’s almost identical to the issues I’ve seen consistently with my Elite Drivo II. It seems like these very high power units don’t have the control bandwidth to work well in erg mode for normal humans.

  25. Horst Rieschick

    Hi Ray

    Thanks for the great test, which I can largely use for my new AtomX. The very interesting reference to the ERG mode reassures me insofar as Wattbike will probably come up with a solution in the future.

    However, since I move my AtomX almost exclusively with FulGaz, the ERG mode is largely irrelevant for me.
    However, I have not yet discovered the AtomX gear indicator in FulgGaz that you mentioned; currently only appears in the FulGaz – Beta versions to be available. However, this problem should remain with the upcoming FulGaz 4 version.

    But now I notice when comparing the distance displays between the Garmin Fit file and the FulGaz Fit file
    regularly that there are considerable differences in distance between the two fit files; e.g. Fulgaz 26.53 km and
    Garmin 21.25 km. With a change in the wheel circumference at the corresponding The Wattbike sensor in the Forerunner 945 didn’t change either (automatically and manually). At least I hope that these differences do not affect the assessment of my training status at Garmin (fistbeat calculations).

    So my question would be:
    Have you ever noticed this difference in distance?

    Greetings Horst

    • Dan G

      I think all companies have their own algorithms for converting power to speed and thus distance. It won’t be identical — it depends on assumptions about aerodynamics, most significantly.

      Firstbeat only uses HR and for VO2max and iirc, Training Status, power. Training Load, Training Effect, Load Focus etc. all use only HR. So the differing distances won’t be a problem.

  26. Tom

    With regard to ERG…couldn’t the Wattbike just offer a separate simulated power meter data stream and then you could use that as power source for Trainerroad combined with power match? So Wattbike would „outsource“ their bad ERG implementation and swap it with a (better?) implementation of the other app…?

  27. David Thomas

    I used to really rate the wattbike app for doing structured workouts using their classic trainer in the gym. Is the ERG mode hopeless with their own app as well, or is it just with other apps?

    • Daniel Sparkes

      ERG mode is no better using the Wattbike Hub, even more of an issue with the Wattbike Hub is it tends to end itself mid workout. So you will be half way through a workout and it will just flash up “workout ended”

      I am very close to selling my V2 on Ebay to replace it with either a Stages or Wahoo bike.

  28. Johnny in AZ

    I always use a silver Sharpie to write the device name on the power brick or wall wart. When you are under the desk, looking at the power strip, it makes it easy to know which cord is for what device.

  29. Jeff

    Does anyone know if/when/how this ATOM 2020 is available in the United States? Maybe I’m completely missing it, but all I see that’s available in the U.S. is the original ATOM with no mention of the 2020 version.

    Thanks ahead of time.

    • Rako

      I was told months out as they still have V1 models inbound
      I was recently in the market and asked

    • Jeff

      As a follow up to my original comment here, I actually called Wattbike in Nottingham, UK to ask them about availability of the ATOM 2020 in the United States. The very nice gentleman said “We are looking to have availability in the US on the back end of the year.” For anyone else out there in the States who wants one, hopefully we are looking at being able to order one by the end of 2020.

      I can’t wait.

  30. Mark McKillop

    Watt bike atom 2020 is not available in Australia. Local distributor says they have v1 stock to sell and won’t bring it in until next year. I have tried to order a 2020 no been told that by the distributor via email.

  31. Pat

    Would this work to do a spin type workout? My wife wants to get a spin style bike for at home spin classes and my on trainer doesn’t work for her.

  32. Tynan Scope

    Hi Ray, great review. Like many of us I’ve been waiting to read it even though I’ve already ordered the Atom 2020. Slightly (read as very) concerned about the ERG issues. I’m only planning on structured workouts and not overly interested in racing etc. As such I’ve re-read you reviews of smart turbos. I think I’ve settled on the idea of cancelling my Wattbike order and getting a smart turbo. In terms of the turbo I think I’d settled on either the Elite Suito or the Saris H3 based on your reviews. I can actually get the H3 for £799 with a cassette. I’m thinking this is the way I’ll go.

    So my questions to you for advice and a steer are:

    a) Should I cancel my Wattbike and just go for a smart turbo?
    b) Should I wait for your 2020 smart turbo buyers guide or am I heading in the right direction getting the H3?
    c) What date will the 2020 buyers guide be out?
    d) Have the cadence issues with the H3 been fixed?
    e) Random question…. with the AtomX experiencing the same ERG issues as the Atom 2020 how has this gone down in the commercial gym/studio world?

    Many thanks

    Tynan

  33. Jim Robertson

    Early on in your Atom 2020 review, you comment on how easy it is in contrast to set up a Peloton Bike (because their contracted drivers will do it for you). However, that’s not much of an advantage, when (a family member’s experience):

    Bike #1 comes with a cracked flywheel, but they want you to keep it.

    The lag time to get another is measured in MONTHS, and when IT arrives, its pedals wobble just enough to be obnoxious.

    The second replacement requires even longer, yet when they finally show up to reclaim bike #2, they don’t even HAVE bike #3 on their truck, nor any accurate estimates of how long it would take for it to arrive (they sent the driver away with our anger barely concealed).

    All iin all, one of the worst customer service experiences I’ve ever seen for a “premium” product.

    (just about to enter my second Montana winter-fire emigre from Sonoma County wine country, where “winter” just meant waiting for the next string of sunny days, whereas here my road bike has been confined to the garage now for 2 weeks, and where I fear that after a few dodge-the-residual-ice-on-the-road cruises it will be confined until April).

    My buried question is whether you have a favorite for a guy who’s never been concerned with watts the way he has with waistline, actually LIKED his first Peloton (which disappeared along with its and my home in one of those California wildfires), but DIDN’T like the Peloton “scenic ride” videos because I think they were all shot from drones with narrow telephoto lenses so that I could ride along the shore on the Pacific Coast Highway and never know there was ocean on my left! I’d love to spend 30-90 minutes as a rider on gorgeous virtual roads and changing elevations that require shifting, my video displayed via my Apple TV 4K on an OLED in front of my smart bike. Does that point me directly towards the Wahoo Bike (or one of its predecessors?)

    • Horst Rieschick

      My AtomX is connected to a 40 inch 4k TV via an iPad Mini 5 and the AppleTV.
      And because I primarily want to drive through beautiful landscapes and interesting cities, I ended up at FulGaz. Their videos are of a really great quality and didn’t disappoint.

      Regardless of this, FulGaz also offers me sufficient training support as a recreational athlete. Even the FTP calculation is accompanied by a nice video.

  34. kristian schwartz

    I bought the Wahoo Kickr bike and returned it. I rode the Stages at my gym and it was solid, yet the Wahoo bike was all over the place. When out of the saddle, it felt like it was going to split in two. Have been eying the Atom and am on the fence. I think it’s a matter of first-generation kinks that need to be worked out.

  35. Taffy Rees

    One detail I am surprised you missed……
    If you cut down on both edges at one end of the box and wheel out the bike…. you are left with a fort WITH A DRAWBRIDGE !!

  36. Shey Lings

    Strong write-up – thanks Ray!

    I do have one question… what is the BB height off the floor? I ask as my cave/ dungeon has a low ceiling (2m), and I am not quite able to sit up straight on a taco neo and would be loathed to buy a trainer that was any higher. I have trawled the internet but have not been able to find the measurement – grateful for any help from current owners. Thank you!

  37. william

    I am thinking of swapping my stages bike to an atom x. The stages bike has given me so much trouble from day one. The gears are awful and the phone drops out so I have to repair it, which is so annoying when racing on swift. Or would you recommend the tacx. I have the kickr bike which I love. What do you think?