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Wahoo’s New ROLLR: Exactly what is it?

Wahoo has non-announced a new product over the past few days. Part roller, part Either way, whatever it is, Wahoo decided that secretive spy-shots of a product quietly being tested by a low-level pro rider in a small European village would not be acceptable.

Thus, instead of actually launching a product, Wahoo simply put half a dozen of them or so in the official UCI World’s Time Trial warm-up area, in front of broadcast TV cameras beaming to a hundred countries. Then a few hundred riders over the course of 3+ days warmed up on them. All without any actual announcement from Wahoo. The equivalent of a mic-drop, without actually picking up the mic first prior to dropping it.

On paper, the only seemingly official thing is the name on the side: Wahoo ROLLR. Given it lacks the proper quantity of vowels, I’d have to assume it’s a correct and proper Wahoo name. Certainly they wouldn’t waste that on a codename for a product. And in 2021, nobody is gonna be wasting any manufacturing or shipping capacity on fake-products.

Now I reached out to Wahoo to see if they’d provide any sort of on-record answer to what we’ve seen. And indeed, Wahoo’s European head of Marketing, Louis Quinton, says “The Wahoo KICKR ROLLR is a new product we are developing and testing with the help of the UCI and the athletes participating in the Road World Championships this year in Flanders. We don’t currently have a set release date for the final product but expect it to be in the later part of 2022”.

Thus while that confirms its existence and naming, it doesn’t cover really any other details. So instead we’ll play a fun game of “What dis?’. For that, I’m using a combination of many hours of watching UCI coverage. Along with all the photos in this post taken by Léon van Bon, used with permission.

Let’s break it down:

Wahoo-ROLLR-4

To begin, this clearly doesn’t appear to be a normal trainer. It’s part front wheel stand, part roller looking trainer, with the riders all using their existing bikes/frames. Thus akin to rollers, compatibility isn’t limited like a typical rear-trainer frame. Thus unlike a wheel-on trainer or a direct-drive trainer, this one doesn’t appear to have the rear wheel locked to the trainer thingamajig (a proper technical term). It seems to be free-floating.

Wahoo-ROLLR-2

Yet, unlike traditional rollers, this appears to have a flywheel. Typically speaking, rollers don’t have a flywheel hanging off the side, though instead often have it effectively built-in to the inertia of the roller itself. However, with a smaller roller like this (in terms of width), that’s more challenging. Still, we’ve seen other companies pull it off. One only need to look at the Feedback Sports Omnium roller system, which has a roughly similar product profile (in terms of a static front-end):

Feedback Sports Omnium Over Drive Bike Trainer

Next, the rear roller situation is a two roller drum ‘system’. The rear wheel nestles into the middle of those two rollers, which you can more clearly see when I zoom in a crapton to one of the images:

Wahoo-ROLLR-1

You can also see the connecting beam towards the front has a clamp that I presume allows for lateral adjustability. Further, in Belgium, a beer can is apparently considered proper nutrition before a world championship. Obviously, I approve.

Wahoo-ROLLR-2

Back on the rear of the unit, there does appear to be power travelling to it. You can see the longer electrical cable that comes out from under the back wall, but that actually goes past the trainer to the Wahoo Headwind fans. In the below image with the orange-jersey rider you can see a power cable unplugged from this unit (yet obviously, they are still riding it).

Wahoo-ROLLR-1

However, if you look at one of the other images with a plugged in unit, you can see the power cable runs to the trainer itself (once again zooming well into this image). It’s at the far right edge, and is Wahoo’s typical quick-release/trip-friendly cord.

Wahoo-ROLLR-2

And in fact, on the flywheel side, you can relatively clearly see both a Bluetooth and ANT+ logo above in Wahoo’s typical configuration, with the red LED status light too.

Whether or not that’s full smart control, full broadcasting of power…or just some partial data set remains to be seen. Same goes for what occurs when unplugged. Obviously, the rider above is using it unplugged, but what does that mean for functionality? For example, the Tacx NEO can operate under its own power once pedaling, but does use the power cable for certain operations when connected.

Sliding towards the front, we’ve got the front wheel block piece that holds the two front wheel supports. It’s hard to tell whether or not this is horizontally adjustable, though I’m not sure it’d matter too much. The other question would be whether or not it’s big enough to handle a mountain bike tire.

Wahoo-ROLLR-3

From there you’ve got two poles that jut upwards, and appear to clamp around the upper portion of the wheel. This seems purely to be a stability frame, rather than anything technical. There also appears to be some sort of rolling mechanism at the top of the frame, which perhaps tightens the clamp around the front wheel. Or maybe it’s just an aesthetic thing.

Wahoo-ROLLR-1-2

The one question things brings up is if the front is height-adjustable. For example, some of the bikes with certain style time-trial bars come awfully close to clipping the top frame. Whether a smaller rider on perhaps 650cc wheels would fit or not seems questionable (unless the front is height adjustable). In this photo here, you can see the aerobars seem to just *barely* clear the top of the system.

Wahoo-ROLLR-4

This then begs the question of whether or not a KICKR CLIMB could replace the front end somehow? And if so, is the ‘break point’ at the mid-point of that beam, or later on.  Either way, from a stability standpoint, things seem pretty darn stable. In this short video posted by the UCI, there doesn’t appear to be any major wobbles. Of course, she’s not doing anything crazy either, but still – looks stable enough.

However, in that video you can clearly (re-confirm) that the rear wheel is not locked in. It just floats on the roller (because of course it floats, there’s no wheel connector seen in the earlier pictures). Anyway, the reason that matters is that from an accuracy standpoint, it’s nearly impossible to get even half-accurate power data from such a system. Unlike a wheel-on trainer where you have a press-on force, with this scenario, you lack that known rolling resistance force. As a result, your power measurement estimates are…umm…typically finger in the wind.

I’ve demonstrated this on numerous trainers and rollers over the years, and nobody has found any method around that. Perhaps Wahoo has, we’ll have to see.  And thus with that, I think we’ve covered everything there is to cover based on these photos.

All the Questions:

Of course, there are many questions to be had here. The below is just a random starting point of some of the questions one might have based on what we’ve seen to date:

1) When will it be properly announced?
2) What will it cost?
3) Will it be compatible with the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB?
4) Is there any adjustability of the front wheel portion (for smaller bikes)?
5) Does it require power? If so, does it have an alternative battery option?
6) Is it resistant controllable? Or purely a basic roller?
7) Does it transmit power? Some like the Feedback Sports unit don’t or aren’t smart.
8) If it does do power, is it accurate? I’ve yet to see an accurate roller-based power ‘meter’.
9) Will the chevron stickers stay on the flywheel for harder sprints?
10) Does this mean we aren’t getting a ‘full’ KICKR 2021 this year?
11) Will it work with a mountain bike?
12) What’s the inertia feel-like?

I’m sure many of you will have more questions below. After all, that’s why the comments section exists.

Wrap-Up:

Wahoo-ROLLR-3

So, remember back 10 months ago when the UCI and Wahoo announced that Wahoo was their new ‘UCI Road’s Sponsor’? No? It’s alright, nobody else noticed either. Actually, to be fair, I did. I asked a boatload of questions at the time, had some long chats with the UCI about it, and then somehow 10 months later happened and I never posted about it. I was curious more about exactly how a trainer company was going to be the official supplier of trainers for all participants (as was worded). While I got clarification on many things, I never got clarification on that point.

10 months later, I finally get my answer: They’d do so by owning the World’s TT warm-up zone.

It’s a clever move, and one that has gathered a slew of attention across social media, albeit even if there’s no immediate place for that attention to manifest itself into sales of products. Undoubtedly though, even with social media’s notoriously short attention span, I’m sure once Wahoo does announce it, folks will come poking about again to see whether it’s worth picking up. And at that time, I’ll probably have a full in-depth review ready to roll.

With that – thanks for reading!

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47 Comments

  1. CK

    What’s the consumer market for this? All the inaccuracy of a wheel-on trainer with the high price of a direct drive?

    • Stephen Allport

      The other question is how small does it fold down? Have the predecessor to the Omnium which is compact but the legs aren’t great (and been replaced in the current one pictured above) and if I did more TT’s might upgrade and a bit of competition might impact prices

      Oh and did chuckle reading the article as I got an advert for a portable pizza oven

  2. It won’t be inaccurate if it requires an on-bike powermeter, like the InsideRide e-motion rollers.

  3. Chad McNeese

    Color me as surprised by the apparent timing for estimated release (late 2022). This is one heck of an early “introduction” for a product if we are talking about 1 year before we actually know about it from Wahoo.

    Perhaps it’s a blend of dealing with the terrible state of the world and industry WRT the limited availability of products, and the marketing desire to show “something” in an otherwise empty space assuming Wahoo has nothing else new on the near horizon?

    Maybe they are using the exposure and related comments as field research to get some feedback from the pros (via use) and public (via commentary) and maybe refine the design? This sure looks refined to a point it could be released, but it’s possible they are still open to refinement based on feedback too.

    It’s an interesting product, but I am struggling a bit to find a place between the Feedback Omnium and more traditional trainers (wheel-on specifically). If this really falls short on power level and data accuracy, it could be a hard sale against even their own Snap option that is still quite simple despite the axle standard issues that do exist. The Rollr may well introduce enough losses to negatively offset the positive of the quick on/off option that seems to be it’s primary selling point.

    • Kurt Kuckein

      This really seems worst of all worlds to me… None of the benefits of rollers (balance and “technique” gained through balance), none of the benefits of a wheel off trainer (inaccurate power data), none of the portability of the Omnium or even fold up rollers, so I don’t get it. I wouldn’t mind having another resistance roller option out there, especially with an ability to run some type of ERG mode, but I don’t see many comments here about the Elite Nero leading me to believe folks out there aren’t running it. The only thought I have is if they can make it portable enough but add the ability to run it as a “true” roller at home, and then this front end contraption at races, so you don’t have the mental challenge pre-race of staying upright – that might be feature enough to make it intriguing – but for what I assume would be a $1100 price point, I just don’t see the draw.

    • KenZ

      Agree. I love my rollers. Not because they are the greatest strength training tool, but because they are just more fun than a stationary. Like, I PERSONALLY have less resistance to get on it and watch a movie for a few hours.

  4. Colin C

    Seems like a smart move to ensure almost universal compatibility with bikes with Shimano/Campag/SRAM drivechains and QR/Thru axle wheelsets, not to mention the weird shapes of time trial rigs. If it’s got two wheels (and conforms to UCI regulations) it should fit. So, seems perfect for the intended use case of a race warm up zone. Added benefit of not needing to refit the rear wheel after warm up.

    I’d have thought power accuracy would be less of an issue as any bike based power meter would work as expected, so the unit just needs to provide some resistance.

    Intriguing, no doubt!

    • Chad McNeese

      Acceptability of accuracy (or lack thereof) will rest a fair bit on pricing, IMO. If they get this much above the Snap, it seems a bit counter-intuitive to charge much more to get less reliable power data.

      All remains to be seen of course, but I agree that there is little hope this will solve the problems we have seen with the smart rollers like the InsideRide and Elite models. As such, the apparent key feature of this being instant on/off will have to matter more to people OR, they need to accept that a power meter is the ultimate add-on requirement for use in things like Zwift racing.

      Considering the recent swing where Zwift pulled racing support from some trainers, I even wonder if this one will get approval for racing power data in the first place? It could even be questionable as a secondary source for the higher level races. Maybe no one would get this for those purposes, but it’s hard to say.

  5. Bradley Tipp

    Yep, that was my take. Assume on bike power meter. Many road cyclists prefer to use rollers as well as a trainer + you can use your regular bike, without taking the wheel off each time. There is a market for this i think.

  6. Andrew

    Am I missing something – the bike is fixed at the front end by clamping your expensive carbon wheels. Whilst there isn’t a lot of wobbling in that video two things spring to mind:

    1. Do I really want to be using my expensive carbon wheels as a fixed point for bracing against to eliminate bike oscillations – maybe I’m overreacting to this but I think I’d need some convincing; and

    2. Even if you aren’t damaging the rims, I feel like that oscillation risks creating or exacerbating play in the bearings / generally making them less happy no?

    Some people might query how my concerns is different compared to a wheel off trainer and a climb, but both are specifically designed to a) be clamped in a similar way with a quick release, and b) take loads through cornering – for sure, I don’t know any carbon wheels that are designed to be clamped onto and yanked around!

    • JD

      That was my thought too.
      Do you really want to clamp down on an expensive front wheel like that especially before an event?
      Of course if that causes any problems they can always change the name to SNAPR. 🙂

    • Chris

      The loads are likely less, but I use an auto hitch rack that clamps the wheels of my bike without issue. Its a pretty common attachment method for bicycles, Andrew.

      This looks like another great product option from Wahoo. Especially for people looking for an easy to use trainer and don’t need / want a direct drive. Much more interesting than the Tacx or Elite rollers. It’s cool to see “the big three” duke it out for trainer supremacy.

  7. dkrenik

    Re: “Yet, unlike traditional rollers, this appears to have a flywheel. Typically speaking, rollers don’t have a flywheel hanging off the side, though instead often have it effectively built-in to the inertia of the roller itself.”

    Kreitler has offered external flywheels for decades. Inside Ride has had them since 2005 as well.

    • Fair enough, I was more referring to it directly connected to the side of the unit than anything at all. In the case of Kreitler, it hangs off the back. Though, InsideRide’s is a bit more concealed within the frame.

  8. Eric

    when I saw this I immediately was wondering if I could somehow fit the resistance unit to insideride rollers. I love the rollers, but don’t love the smart resistant unit and the small flywheel.

  9. Gary P

    There’s no way they call it a “Kickr” if it doesn’t have variable resistance.

    I’m guessing they are targeting riders who have frames that aren’t “certified” by the manufacturer for use on a conventional trainer which hard-mounts to the rear axle.

    I suppose you’ll get around the inherent power accuracy issues by using your on-bike PM as the primary data source.

  10. Andras

    It looks like some amalgamation of Feedback Omnium and Bkool Smart Pro. Even if the wattage data coming FROM the… Thing under the rear wheel is far cry from accurate wattage, a resistance unit maybe in action. So if I have a power meter, and this thing, I can get proper power data, and some resistance, like with Bkool Smart Pro, while stays portable like the Omnium.

  11. David E.

    Oh, interesting. Last night, while riding the trainer, I was watching Lionel Sanders’ latest YouTube video. In the middle of it, he’s on rollers, and I was like, “That’s weird. Lionel’s a Wahoo athlete. They won’t be very happy seeing him riding somebody else’s rollers.” I guess that they’re not somebody else’s rollers.

    • Chad McNeese

      He is clearly riding the InsideRide E-Motion rollers in that video (like others before it IIRC) no some Wahoo model or prototype. At some point, it’s feasible that Wahoo will get him on the new ROLLR, but who knows when that will happen?

      Could be soon since they have some units in existence and seem willing to let them be seen, but there is no way to know when he would get some to use. Not to mention, that if he really likes the rollers for any aspect of the freedom and motion, the new ROLLR appears to completely lack any of that, which might mean it’s not his preference to switch. Lots of questions and no answers at the moment.

    • David E.

      Ah, got it. I was in the middle of a hard interval, so I just noticed out of the corner of my eye that he was on rollers. Wasn’t able to focus on details. 😉

  12. Sebastien SPIESER

    Just wondering… how to jump on the bike ??

  13. GLT

    Training with power is certainly a thing, but not the only thing.

    For casual riders being able to insert their bike into something for a spin session may be worth more than conventional rollers.

  14. Robert

    “11) Will work with a mountain bike?”
    The front wheel channels look quite narrow, which could pose a problem with larger tires; the two sections, if not adjustable, appear sized for a 700c wheel and would increase the fit problem; the front clamp appears to have a limited width capability, and be sized height-wise for a 700c wheel; and the clamp would only hold on to the tire, which (unless using narrow slicks) would not be a very solid mechanical connection.

    I’d say: without some design changes, no.

  15. JonD

    I wonder if that skate wheel is for portability. It looks huge, and when folded up maybe you move it on that skate wheel?

    • Chad McNeese

      What do you mean by “skate wheel”? Precisely which part are you talking about?

      “Wheels” I see:
      2x rollers supporting the rear tire of the bike.
      1x flywheel in the same section of the trainer.
      1x gray wheel near the top center of the fork mount. As far as I can tell, this is the adjusting wheel that closes the jaws against the front wheel/tire at the top for support.

      If that is what you are calling the skate wheel, I think it is not for that purpose.

  16. John

    Lol, this must be killing your ego, a product that hasn’t been shared with you or you knew anything about.

    • Chad McNeese

      I sure hope that’s a joke, but just in case… here is an overly serious response from a DCR fan:

      The only way I way that I can picture “Ray Maker” and ego” in the same sentence is along the lines of:

      “Ray Maker is unburdened by ego when it comes to his place in the industry and the work he does reviewing products for end users.”

      Seriously, the man clearly has his hands pretty well full with a massive range of products and I imagine he could easily survive without touching every conceivable product. He is totally down to Earth IMO, and lacking of what you seem to imply.

  17. kaz

    Kickr Rollr is a replacement for all the windmills that is not moving a lot at the moment.

    To participate in a race – now you have to generate 10kWh electricity before you can go to the start line.

    Electricity… the new bitcoin!

    🙂

  18. Kirby Krieger

    Is it possible for it get power data from a meter on the bike and use that data to maintain a program of resistance? In essence, a Smart Trainer with a wireless PM. You could even use it on Zwift. (But not for sprinting.)

    • Chad McNeese

      Yes, it is possible with any of the other Wahoo Kickr, Core & Snap trainers. There is a built-in “Power Match” feature via the Wahoo app, that connects the trainer to your external power meter. It then sets controls for resistance in workouts (assuming ERG mode workout in particular) via that data from your power meter, not the trainer. It may also apply that connection in Simulation mode for things like Zwift, but I am not sure on that aspect.

      It would seem that this ROLLR is likely to get a similar feature since they already offer it on the other ones. It may be even more desired in this instance since the data is likely to be more unreliable than any of their other trainer options.

  19. Barry

    Previous comments regarding power accuracy not withstanding, this is a big YES from me.

    Between me and Mrs C, we have a number of different road bikes (summer/winter) and a mix of old/new Campag setups and frame-sizes, so the traditional rear-wheel/wheel-off trainers have been an absolute ball-ache to play with over the years.

    This ROLLR – this does away with all that. For our needs, this would be a very big plus.

  20. Lech

    if I still have to use another powermeter (pedals or crank) for accurate power readings, I might as well get cheap and compact ‘dumb’ rollers with adjustable resistance.

  21. Isaac

    Would having some kind of scale built into the rear help at all with power accuracy, since they could measure the press-down force? Or would that not actually solve that problem? Or maybe such a scale isn’t even feasible?

    • I think that’d be super tough. While weight is one aspect of it, so is rolling resistance. So one would also have to benchmark that too (and I presume, do it at different pressures/applied weights).

  22. Tom

    Are you going to be doing a full review on the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt V2 anytime soon? Is it past the teething problems?

  23. Thomas

    “So, remember back 10 months ago when the UCI and Wahoo announced that Wahoo was their new ‘UCI Road’s Sponsor’? No?”
    Seriously… how would we have heard about that when you never wrote about it? 😀

  24. jww

    Sure does seem like Wahoo should occasionally say no to a pet project.

    Clear leader in trainers. The 3 year old Core remains the easy pound for pound champ. Trainer development is late innings, so Wahoo’s slower product iteration seems smart.

    Developing Kickr bike and buying SUF — both logical bets.

    But now rollers that don’t appear to solve anything, the pointless watch, and Speedplay where jury is out. All while head units are languishing — ROAM was underwhelming at launch 2.5 years ago….BOLT 2 launched despite being a mess.

    I’d get the head units right before adding yet another side bet — that’s the big TAM.

    Who is writing all these checks??!

    • GLT

      If they view Garmin+Tacx as their most direct competitor then it would be natural to compete with their product line up at multiple points. Whether it makes sense at this moment in global history for anyone to spin up a new product is something else.

      Exactly WTH is up with this new thing would be nice to fully understand. I suspect we need to be patient. They absolutely can just say the UCI rider feedback was negative and make the whole thing go away without hurting their reputation.

  25. Chico Hercules

    Totally makes sense.

  26. Chico Hercules

    Kinda scary.

  27. Brad

    Haven’t read every comment below but, seems to be a question around how to get accurate power readings on a set of wahoo rollers.

    If only Wahoo had another product, also perhaps not fully released, which some how linked power to the smart roller… they could call it PowerLink Pro or something.

    Seems like a pretty logical addition to the line up. If you care about power on rollers, you probably have power meter pedals or cranks. Pop your bike on your rollers, nothing to change, take off, swap. Sprinting probably is an issue, but I don’t know if you would full on sprint on a normal set of rollers?