The simplest way to explain the new Elite RIZER is that they merged a Wahoo CLIMB with an Elite Sterzo Smart, marrying both the steering aspects of the Sterzo Smart with the up and down functionality of the Wahoo CLIMB. Except, that’d probably ignore perhaps the most interesting piece here: It’s not tied to one brand’s hardware.
Anyone with a smart trainer that allows the rear axle to move can use the RIZER to simulate grades as well as steering. Sure, there’s some added bits in the Elite trainer’s firmware that provides a slightly better experience today, but ultimately, it technologically it works with any ANT+ FE-C trainer on the market (which, is all of them). But we’ll get into that later on. Just like I’ll talk about some interesting little configuration bits they’ve got in there to address things that annoyed Zwift users on the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB.
Now, I’ve been using the RIZER on and off since earlier this spring. First on a prototype unit, then a near-final production unit, and now a final-final production unit. Once I’m done with this ever-growing pile of poles I’ll have two options: The first to glue them all together and consider a career in exotic dancing, or the second, to send them back to Elite. Given nobody wants to see me pole dance, I’ll get them all re-boxed and have them pick them up. That’s just the way I roll.
If you found this post useful, consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome.
What’s in the Box:
The Elite RIZER box is..shall we say, well constructed. This thing is clearly designed so that your RIZER doesn’t arrive broken. Roughly the size of a small university fridge, you can easily repurpose it later as a fort.
Inside, you’re basically gonna find three things: The fully assembled RIZER itself, a massive power brick, a box of power adapters and axle adapters. Oh, and some paper stuff – including one bright orange piece when opened that’s cleverly glued to the top in a way that clearly says “For the love of @#$# just read me, I’m only 2.5 pages of 120pt font”:
Here’s the parts laid out:
I know I’ve said it in both the Elite Direto XR review last summer and the Suito review prior to that – but I appreciate Elite’s focus on having things pre-built rather than playing technician. Granted, the Elite Tuo was a strong outlier there.
Here’s a close look at the axle adapters:
And the power brick:
And also the various country cables up there too (EU/US/UK):
Technically it’s a three part cable, with the portion that’s attached to the RIZER permanently, then the middle beast-brick, then the part that connects to the wall:
Ok, with that all set, we’ll jump right into setting it up.
This section will be quick. Unlike the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB which is just limited to Wahoo trainers, the Elite RIZER technically supports any trainer out there that supports ANT+ FE-C. But in reality, there’s essentially two parts to the word ‘Support’, which are:
A) Does it support the ANT+ FE-C specification: This is common on virtually every trainer you could have bought for the last number of years, and is used behind the scenes (even when using Bluetooth) to monitor what the trainer is being told gradient-wise, and then mirror it. There are some further nuances to this, but by and large this isn’t the line-item you need to worry about.
B) Does the trainer support rotation at the rear axle: Next, in order to enable the RIZER to go up and down, it needs to be able to rotate your bike. Now if you look at your bike on your trainer you’ll notice that in most cases you can generally pick up the front of the bike without problem, likely quite far. However, going ‘down’ can often be an issue, as some trainers (such as the older KICKR’s) have portions of the case that bump out and would cause damage to your frame on the rear chainstay. You don’t want that. Further, on the going up piece, you’ll want to ensure it’s buttery smooth, and not herky-jerky and actually clamped down.
For Elite smart trainers, Elite has confirmed complete and full compatibility (including updated firmware for better performance) with the:
– Elite Direto XR
– Elite Direto XR-T (simply the cassette not included version)
– Elite Suito
– Elite Suito-T (again, no cassette included)
– Elite Tuo
They’ve also confirmed that the older Direto & Direto X are *NOT COMPATIBLE*, as they don’t have the rear rotation clearance.
Now for 3rd party trainers, it gets tricky. At this point Elite isn’t going to speak on behalf of any trainer companies here, because they’re not stupid. Instead, it’ll be up to 3rd party companies to confirm hardware clearance compatibility – so that if that company misspeaks, it doesn’t hurt your bike. That said, we ‘know’ some trainers are compatible, given they already support the up and down of the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB, those being:
– Wahoo KICKR 2017/V3
– Wahoo KICKR 2018/V4
– Wahoo KICKR 2020/V5
– Wahoo KICKR CORE
– Wahoo KICKR SNAP V2
From a usability standpoint I’ve only tested the KICKR 2020/V5 though, which mostly worked OK. Physically speaking, zero problems in terms of the pieces all tying together and pairing up. Steering also worked flawlessly. The incline pieces though while roughly following the terrain with the KICKR V5 weren’t as exact, which Elite says is because they have to calculate the gradient based on the speed broadcast from the trainer (and your weight). It largely works, with it only becoming a bit wobbly when you change your speed while on an incline. Elite says that other trainers could add the gradient to their data stream, which they’ll be making available, to make that just as clean/responsive as the Elite trainers. I show this in the video a bit as well.
If we look at other trainers, I haven’t fully tried them. Folks might remember the now infamous chat thread between Wahoo & TACX years ago where Wahoo’s CEO agreed to providing compatibility with the lead Tacx engineer, only to step back away from that for competitive reasons. Thus presumably, some editions of the NEO’s are probably compatible too. But again, that’d really be up to individual companies to validate.
Setting it up:
As you’ll see, setup is silly easy. First up, go ahead and figure out which axle adapter you’ll need. There’s four sets of them included in the box, for both quick release and thru-axle:
A) Quick release adapter
Here’s the stack of them:
Next, simply stick one adapter on each side of the RIZER front-axle adapter thingy. That’s the rubber chunk sticking off the front of the RIZER itself:
Then, go ahead and stick your skewer through it (if quick release). Easy peasy:
Now, go ahead and plug it in. Simply find the right cord adapter for your country in the box and plug it in.
Before we go any further, if you’ve got multiple smart trainers in the room right now, unplug them. Otherwise, it might inadvertently pair to the wrong one. You can fix it later, but this will save you a few seconds.
At this point it’ll turn on and move up and down (it does this every time you add power). For the first time it does this, I’d recommend not having your bike on it. While in theory it won’t touch your bike, it’s best to simply ensure you’re in control of that inaugural flag raising rather than it. You’ll see the lights powered on.
Now, go ahead and attach your bike to it and your smart trainer. I presume you’re fully capable of sorting that by yourself:
At this point, you can plug in your smart trainer if you haven’t already, and it’ll actually automatically pair to it. If it doesn’t though, simply hold down the lock icon for a few seconds until it starts blinking, then wait a bit longer till it stops blinking. The right light at the base will turn green, indicating it’s successfully paired up.
With pairing complete, you’re ready to roll. Err…rise.
Using the RIZER is frankly a fairly simple affair. You get on your bike and pedal, and it goes up and down. If you turn the handlebars, then in Zwift it’ll turn left or right, the same way steering normally works on the Elite Sterzo (or, semi-similar to how it works on smart bikes). But let’s dive into each piece separately – first up, the up and down part.
There’s actually two elements at play here. The first is the vertical column, which your front fork is connected to. This column allows you to simulate grades upwards to 20% and downwards to -10%. Your front fork connects via the various adapters we talked about earlier. The connection is super stable. If the ascent is quick/sharp (like a brief steep hill), you’ll hear the relatively quiet motor moving you up. If it’s a more casual ramp, you’ll never hear it. smoothness wise seems pretty good too – nothing crazy or jerky.
From a max loading standpoint, it’s 120KG, or 265LBS, which should cover the majority of riders. Internally, the system is a screw, which is different than the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB, which uses a belt system. We’ve seen belt snaps on the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB over the last few years (albeit very rarely). In those cases, the cyclist got to practice their mountain biking skills momentarily, which nobody said felt great – but nobody was injured to my knowledge either.
The outside of the case is aluminum, and then the base is a beastly stainless steel. Seriously, this thing is not at all light. Speaking of which, at the base are two LED lights. Using a combination of blue and green lights, you’ve got a wide assortment of confirmation and status messages:
Realistically, you’ll need to have the manual nearby to decode all these though, but at least the manual is actually pretty helpful here:
And then atop the pole you’ve got three buttons and another LED. The two arrows allow you to manually control the RIZER (up and down), while the middle lock button lets apps take control of it. Inversely, you can press it again to disallow app control. That’s useful if a small child or pet wanders nearby, so it doesn’t get squished underneath.
Note that unlike the KICKR CLIMB, there’s no tethered remote here to control this, you’d have to reach down to the buttons. That’s not a big deal, but it’s worth mentioning. Alternatively, you can use the Elite RIZER app, which allows control as well:
Also in the app are controls to configure individual rider profiles, including max and min incline/decline, as well as toggle the trainer difficulty and safety settings. If I switch back to Zwift, you’ll find that the RIZER properly matches the gradient in Zwift going up, assuming your trainer difficulty is set to 100%:
Remember in Zwift that the default trainer difficulty level is 50%, which means that it’ll half any climb grades. Such that 12% becomes 6%. That doesn’t affect your speed at all, but it does affect how the trainer feels – and in turn, how high up you’ll go. I always prefer to set mine to 100%. After all, why buy a fancy trainer or grade simulation device to wimp out on the realistic feel?
However, Elite has an alternative solution for this (that the KICKR CLIMB doesn’t). Within the app there’s a setting that allows you to set the difficulty level. This way your trainer still replicates the 50% difficulty, but the RIZER goes full mast at 100% range of motion:
Switching over to descents, it’s a bit trickier. Zwift will *ALWAYS* half your decline value, even if you’ve set Zwift to 100% trainer difficulty. They’ve done this forever, no matter how annoying it is. However, with the Elite setting toggled here, it’ll override that and have the RIZER actually go to 10% down when you’re at 10% down. Boom!
Finally, swapping back to the hardware for a second, there’s one little detail that’s worth pointing out: The entire thing actually slides forwards and backwards. As you might have realized by now, when your fork goes up and down, it’s not only changing positions vertically, but also laterally (forward/back). Thus, it has to move to account for that. To do so they’ve got these two rails, and the unit quietly slides back and forth on these as you both go up/down, as well as steer (since that changes the position slightly of the fork).
You can see this in the video more clearly as well, if you take a look there. It’s notable that these rails aren’t loose and sliding around like a slip and slide though. It takes a fair bit of force to move it, thus, you might not even notice unless you were paying attention to the gap sizes on either side.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the RIZER from a grade simulation standpoint. It basically feels like a KICKR CLIMB to me. When I go up ascents, it goes up as it should, and down again like it should – good stuff.
Next up, we’ve go the steering simulation. Simply put – this is virtually identical in core functionality to that of the Elite Sterzo Smart they released last summer.
At present the only app that supports steering in the smart trainer world is Zwift. Previously, Zwift had an exclusive on the Sterzo Smart, but that isn’t the case with the RIZER – so perhaps we’ll see some other apps support it. To pair up the RIZER with Zwift, you’ll go into the pairing menu and select the steering icon on the left side (which should only show up when a steering device is sensed). This works over both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart. Then, select RIZER (or, STERZO in my case because it’s prior to August and Zwift won’t show the name RIZER till August):
At this point it’ll pair it up. Normally it’ll also show a small number, indicating any offset there to the left or right (so you can adjust the unit to make it straight). But the current Zwift production builds won’t show that for the RIZER, but will later in August.
Note that for Apple TV users, you’ll still be limited to two concurrent connections though, so just like with the Sterzo Smart if you want to also pair a heart rate sensor, you’ll have to either use the phone app or not use Apple TV (since the trainer is one connection, RIZER is another, and then the heart rate sensor would be the 3rd).
Once you select a route and start riding, you’ll get an overview screen on how steering works:
After you dismiss that screen, you’ll notice at the top the steering icon in your display bar, indicating it’s paired and active:
As you ride, you can control your position on the road between the centerline and the edge of the road. In other words, you can place your person anywhere in the red section I’ve highlighted like a toddler below. Like bumper bowling, you can’t leave the roadway.
See, Zwift effectively has a default line that riders (without steering) stay on. Sure, you move around the road for various minor changes in position, by that’s all under Zwift’s control, and usually doesn’t adhere to the best line for a route. With steering, you gain an advantage. However, since launch, Zwift has sorta knee-capped steering by not enabling it for races and really not promoting its use in any way/shape/form. Thus, only a handful of races use it, and otherwise you’re just riding around by yourself steering tighter corners.
All of this is identical to how steering works on the Sterzo smart.
From a hardware standpoint, the steering simply uses your front fork rotation on the small rubber thingy that sticks out the RIZER, detecting which direction you want to go. I know there’s been more than enough discussion about the fact that on a real bike you ‘lean’ as opposed to steering (which is both correct and incorrect), but honestly, a year later, that entire discussion is well worn. Nobody that has a Sterzo Smart has had any issue with intuitively turning their handlebars to steer – because we as modern humans in the last 30 years have all played enough video games and car driving to know how to turn a device to change our direction.
About the only tiny complaint I have about the RIZER and steering is that it’ll take a minute or so the first time you set it up to ensure that your bike/trainer/RIZER are all properly in a nice perfectly straight line. With the Sterzo Smart it seemed a little bit easier to just throw it down and it’ll all be straight. But with you attaching the RIZER to the front fork, it’s a tiny bit trickier for whatever reason to get all perfectly lined up. But again, that’s a minor nit that you rarely have to do once the RIZER is down on its spot (since it’s so darn heavy it won’t move anywhere).
RIZER vs CLIMB:
No review would be complete without a comparison to the KICKR CLIMB. After all, the RIZER is clearly modeled after it. And in many ways they’re very similar devices. For the most part, the RIZER has more features than the CLIMB, but there are a handful of things that the CLIMB does differently.
As such, there’s no better way to illustrate differences than a table. While I’d prefer food be on the table, I’ll take one like the below instead:
Essentially the four big differences are:
A) RIZER does steering, CLIMB doesn’t
B) RIZER works with any trainer, CLIMB only Wahoo
C) CLIMB has a handlebar remote for manual override mode, RIZER only via app
D) The price, obviously.
There are then more nuanced changes beyond that:
A) RIZER is best if you’ve got an Elite trainer
B) CLIMB is probably best if you’ve got a Wahoo trainer
C) RIZER is more expensive than the CLIMB, but it’s also got steering that the CLIMB doesn’t
D) RIZER can be adjusted to override Zwift’s Trainer Difficulty setting (specific to gradient simulation)
E) RIZER can be adjusted to compensate for Zwift’s 50% downhill gradient quirk
My recommendation here would mostly be based on how much you like steering, and then if that doesn’t matter to you it’d be based on what brand your trainer is. If you’ve got a KICKR trainer, I’d probably stick with Wahoo for more seamless integration. Whereas if you’ve got anything else, then frankly RIZER is your only choice – but now you’ve at least got an option (and a good one at that).
The Elite RIZER appears to be a very solidly built piece of hardware, with some pretty cool tricks up its sleeve for incline simulation. Some of those tricks might seem minor, but these minor software tweaks easily address some of the pain points people have had with the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB and Zwift. Beyond that of course, there’s the steering and open compatibility nature of the RIZER, both of which are ideal if you’re not in the Wahoo ecosystem.
In terms of the feeling of the incline simulation, it’s spot on with the Elite Direto XR that I did most of my testing with. I’m pretty happy with the smoothness and matching aspects there, pretty much on par with what Wahoo has with the KICKR+ KICKR CLIMB. On the steering side, it too was basically on-par with what we see with the Elite Sterzo Smart – the only slight difference is that it doesn’t ‘snap-back’ to the center line like the Sterzo Smart does when you let go. It didn’t have any impact though on my usage, though certainly some people may prefer one or the other.
As far as 3rd party trainers go, as I said above, it’s not a perfect solution in terms of responsiveness of the gradient simulation, at least until other companies implement the transmitted gradient in the data stream. Elite says they’re more than willing to share that with any trainer company that asks for it. Whether or not others take them up on that, I’ve got no idea. I could see the business case for and against. There was opportunity to cooperate years ago, before it got squashed. Perhaps that’ll happen again. After all, that’s the entire point of protocols and ecosystems – to allow consumer choice and increase competitiveness on the merits of their own products, rather than just ecosystem lock-in.
Finally, there’s the price aspect. The USD pricing on the Elite RIZER is tough, and Elite admits that. They’ve noted that the cargo container shipping cost from Europe to the US has increased for them by 400% since last August – and ultimately, is the singular reason the price of the RIZER isn’t closer to parity. They said they don’t like it any more than anyone else, but that’s the card they (and virtually every other company on this planet) have been dealt. They said once those costs come down, they’d love to reduce the USD price of RIZER, as they acknowledge it’s hard to be competitive there. Nonetheless, for Europeans – the pricing is more competitive once you consider the added features (or the fact that it’s available for any trainer).
Elite has started production of the RIZER, and you should see these arrive later in August in Europe, and then into September or early October for North America markets. That timeline is basically how Elite does production each year for new products.
With that – thanks for reading!