In much the same way I have an apparently unhealthy obsession with USB charging cables, I also potentially have such an obsession with finding the perfect trainer desk. This is of course all started with the Wahoo KICKR Desk years ago, but since then many better options have come onto the market. Either more/better featured, smaller ones for smaller spaces, or even just swanky ones.
However, almost all of these units have lacked any sort of integrated power into them. Sure, there is the Saris TD-1. But after I nearly lit that desk on fire out of frustration with assembling it (and the Instastories that followed). There’s been really nothing else in this category short of just zip-tying a USB hub to the side of one of the other desks. So last fall I noticed that Wiggle was selling the Lifeline Pro desk, which is just 103EUR (79GBP) or $104 + $38 shipping from Chain Reaction (note: For mainland Europe folks, using the Chain Reaction link appears to get free shipping). And obviously, when you append the word ‘Pro’ to something, it makes it premium grade. The crème de la crème of trainer desks. Or…something like that.
But not only that – in doing so, they inadvertently found my weak spot: USB charging cables and trainer desks all in one product. And thus, you’re getting stuck with the resultant of that. You’re welcome. Also, did I mention it has a dedicated long-form Haribo tray?
Note that Wiggle sent me a media loaner of this desk to review. At the end of which I’m probably just going to buy it for my collection. Because that’s what trainer desk connoisseurs do. Plus, I still need places to stack more unopened boxes, and right now I’ve found trainer desks are like the clothes hangers of stationary bikes around the DCR Cave.
Now that I have your attention, let’s begin!
It’s worthwhile noting that Lifeline is essentially Wiggle & Chain Reaction’s own house-line of OEM products (across multiple product segments). Previously, there was the basic Lifeline Trainer desk I bought, which is also rebranded like 98 other brands and companies depending on which country you’re in. However, in the case of this Lifeline Pro desk, I don’t seem to see any easily found rebrands. Thus, it appears this is a product they either licensed fully or were the only ones to pick it up.
Either way, here’s the box it comes in:
Once you dump out all the parts, this is what you’re left with:
In many ways, the base of this entire operation is the same as the original Lifeline (non-Pro) desk that I reviewed.
The main difference is of course the top, which now has power on it. However, the top also has new slots and is a wooden-ish material, versus the pure plastic top of the previous edition. We’ll dive into that more later. More notable though? They included two sets of tools and screws. I don’t know why.
In any case, let’s get this put together.
The setup process is silly easy. First, you attach the two legs to the base:
Then, you struggle to use the included wrench for the wheels installation.
See, the problem is that the wheels have two nuts on them (see above), which in theory means that it allows you to more easily micro-adjust height. In reality though, it’s a pain because the threading isn’t silky-smooth. So you have to use the aforementioned wrench to get them in. Except, it turns out these two nuts are 1mm different in size – and the little wrench they included only will tighten the smaller of the two nuts, and not the bigger one that you actually need to tighten to get the wheel into the darn hole.
Don’t worry, I have a simple solution. First, take off the extra nut. It’s useless. Then, grab that 14mm wrench sitting on your bench, and simply tighten it on. Problem solved.
With enough fuss you can undoubtedly make the other included wrench work, but it’s a PITA. The proper sized wrench makes this a 30-second job.
Anyways, from there, flip the lid over and then attach the two support braces to it. This takes 1 minute tops. These screws go in nice and easy.
Then simply flip this over and stick it onto the pole. It’ll automatically snap in place. You’ll then tighten two bolts using the also-included but correct-this-time hex wrench.
Now that I think about it, I wonder if perhaps the second extra bag of parts had a properly fitting wrench. Huh. Oh well, long gone.
In general, the reason to buy a trainer desk is to place things during a trainer ride. Of course, you don’t need a trainer desk. You can do as I’ve done in the past and stack boxes or such atop a chair, or have a workbench nearby, or even get one of those hospital desks (as someone will invariably suggest). And all that’s true.
But ultimately, the reason trainer desks have become so popular is that they’re designed for a purpose. They’ve got specific features that do specific things, notably:
A) Have grooves for holding tablets, iPads, or phones with training apps on them.
B) Have water bottle holders that don’t tip out/over when touched
C) A place to stash nutrition, like gummy bears
D) A place to put the TV remote
E) Enough surface area for a laptop to be stably placed
F) And in the case of the Lifeline Pro, USB and a universal outlet for plugging things in
You’ll also routinely find all manner of wonky stuff atop mine including a pile of bike computers, watches, or camera gear. Some people even do Zoom conference calls, with their laptop on them. And again, since the days of the original Wahoo KICKR Desk, people have been DIY’ing their own cool desk contraptions, and that’s cool. But I think with the KICKR Desk, the core argument there was price-avoidance. Whereas with less expensive options on the market now that are designed for cycling, there’s less interest in DIY.
(The above $7 Apple TV remote case is amazeballs for trainers, it’s a non-slippery silicone that goes around it, while including a strap. It also often hangs on my handlebars. Here’s my full review on it. Yes…Seriously, I wrote an entire review about an $8 silicone case – it’s that awesome. That remote case is technically for the older remote, but you can also buy it for the new Apple TV 2021 edition too. I just haven’t bothered to swap out all my Apple TV units yet for the newer 2021 Apple TV units.)
So, anyways, first up is positioning the desk. You can do that with the roller wheels. These work just fine for their thing in life – which is to casually move the desk around your trainer cave. There’s locks on the front two rollers, and all four rollers rotate 360°.
The main benefit here over the KICKR Desk is the fact that these wheels rotate in all directions. Inversely, the KICKR desk has bigger and fancier wheels, like what you’d find on a pair of rollerblades or something. But frankly, it’s both overkill and not as useful as the fully rotating wheels here. In my case, I have to get the trainer desk out of this tight spot, so rotating it around my bike is the only method. With the KICKR Desk, I have to simply lift the whole thing out of there because it can’t rotate (ideally without hitting my TV).
The wheel locks are also useful here too if you don’t have a perfectly flat surface. As readers may remember, my previous DCR Cave in Paris was underground in a building with not-flat-floors, and the Wahoo KICKR desk would literally roll away unless I blocked it with a heavy object.
Next up there’s the height adjustability, you do this by pressing the two black buttons on the top of the desk:
At its highest setting, the underside of the desk goes to 113cm, as seen here:
However, I use it a bit lower most of the time This clears my handlebars, even with an extra wheel block up front (such as this one here, or a Sterzo Smart). And it will clear even with the handlebars turning on a Sterzo/Sterzo Smart.
Many people don’t use a front wheel block, but I like my wheel staying put. And of course, there’s no reason why you need to have it overlap your handlebars, that’s just my personal preference. Inversely on the height side, the lowest setting you can go to is 84cm (underside clearance). I’d say in general, adjusting the height with the buttons is semi-fiddly. But aside from measuring the heights now, I’ve never re-adjusted the heights on my desks once set.
Since we’re down here, the bar for the front is too high to fit an official Wahoo KICKR fan or Laska over cleanly (whereas the Wahoo KICKR Desk is low enough to fit). I don’t think this matters too much, since you can always place it off to the side. Or, just leave it like the below – if you prefer crotch fanning. Also, for lack of anywhere else to mention it, the interior dimensions of the base are 66.5cm wide (in case you were trying to fit a rocker plate in there).
Note, that there is interestingly no towel holder on the Lifeline Pro desk, whereas the base unit did have two (on the edges), as well as the KICKR Desk. While the towel holders were nice from a photographic standpoint, I found I never used them during an actual ride – instead, I just placed the towel over/around my handlebars. Whereas, weaving it through the little hole on the desk just seemed like unnecessary calorie burn.
Ok, so looking at the top now, we’ve got one water bottle holder slot on the right side, two tablet grooves (front and back), a grippy surface across the middle, then the power hub at the back. That power hub includes a 100-240v outlet (international style), as well as two USB ports.
The grippy surface keeps things from sliding off. It’s not quite as grippy as the original Lifeline desk (or the Wahoo KICKR Desk or KOM Cycling Desk), but that’s actually not a bad thing. Those desks were a @#$@# to clean if you got some sort of sticky situation on there (like gel), because they’d catch all the threads of any towel/paper used. Versus this material won’t deconstruct a wet paper towel when wiped. Obviously, on my KICKR Desk below, it’s like 6-7 years old, so, it’s not quite as crispy-clean looking these days.
There are two grooves, each measuring 33.5cm in length. The max width of a device you can place in here is 11mm. You can put your device either front or rear aligned, and it’ll tilt slightly, as the wavey-part is only at the top ridge, so it basically slides under the wavey ridge bit to sit nicely on-angle.
My only concern/complaint here is that if you look under it, they didn’t just seal the entire channel, so it exposes the composite wood within it. I could see a scenario where if you spilled a cup of water or something in there, it might eventually cause some expansion. So in the event you do flood the channel, at least clean it up relatively soon.
Note that unlike the KOM/Wahoo (and original Lifeline/RAD) desks, the channels here don’t have any holes for USB charging cables to sneak through. Again, this is one of those things that, like the towel holders, sounds good, but in theory is more of a pain in the butt in real-riding conditions than you realize. So I usually just let cables hang off the back instead.
In my case, I realized that this channel is far better suited for storing Haribo. This way I can measure it out properly for the ride. I think one-half-channel per hour is reasonable.
Finally, we get to the pinnacle of this trainer desk – the power hub!
This hub has a universal outlet on it, meaning you can plug just about any type of plug into it and it’ll work just fine. As an American living in Europe, and travelling often, I feel like it should be a global requirement for any new structure or thing built to always include universal outlets. This runs at 100-240v, so it’ll accept anything from anywhere, no problem.
Meanwhile, there are two USB outlets. These are standard USB 2.0 outlets. While I strongly argue for USB-C all the time in devices, on this side of the equation I actually don’t mind the standard USB-A types, since most of my charging cables for all the devices I’ll use are USB type A on the ‘wall’ side.
In case you’re wondering, this is one of my favorite cables, as it’s got USB-C, Micro-USB, and Apple Lightning on it. Perfect to cover all my bases.
Oh, and yes, I tested the throughput here, and it seems to stabilize/hover at about 1.5-1.6 amps, based on trying to charge a few different things that can pull 2A+ (like an iPad). Also, I was able to charge both my phone and iPad concurrently, and it seemed to stabilize at 1.2-1.4 amps each. As a charging cable aficionado, ideally for tablets, we’d have seen 2 amps+, but this is fine for the purpose.
On the cable to wall side, this includes a 3-meter long cable, which is great. The unit ships with a UK plug on the other end, which is less than ideal for me living in the Netherlands with standard EU plugs. But a 2EUR adapter fixes that right up.
Somewhat interesting/oddly, they spend the time/money to add a cable holder for the cable on the underside of the desk. So you can Velcro it all there. Which is fine I guess, but kinda pointless if it’s plugged in.
The only other minor nit I’d say is that instead of sending me two sets of tools/screws, it’d have been ideal to send a few cable ties to make the cord pretty down the side of the desk. Sure, internal routing would have been better, but complexity wise that’s potentially messy with the up/down height adjustment. Even the Saris TD1 desk (more than triple the price), doesn’t do internal cable routing.
Instead, I just grabbed a pack of Velcro cable ties and did the job myself:
With that, my work here is complete
Compared to KICKR Desk:
At basically 100EUR, it’s less than half the price of the KICKR Desk (250EUR), so, let’s dig into all the differences.
– Lifeline Pro desk has a water bottle holder (Wahoo doesn’t)
– Lifeline Pro desk has wheel locks for uneven surfaces so it doesn’t roll away (Wahoo doesn’t)
– Lifeline Pro desk wheels can rotate for corning out of tight spaces (Wahoo doesn’t)
– Lifeline Pro desk has a universal outlet for plugging in a laptop or such (Wahoo has none)
– Lifeline Pro desk has two USB ports for charging your Instagram machine (Wahoo has none)
– Lifeline Pro desk is larger, with a width of 78cm vs 72cm for Wahoo, and a depth of 40cm vs 36cm for wahoo.
– Wahoo Desk has two towel holders (Lifeline Pro doesn’t)
– Wahoo Desk has better and silkier wheels than RAD/Lifeline, which a professional rollerblader might notice. Didn’t matter to me.
– Wahoo Desk fits the Wahoo Headwind Fan perfectly (by design), so you can stick it over the front bar. The RAD/Lifeline desk is raised slightly too high. You can make it work, it’s just not pretty. That said, the fan works better when it’s not pointed at your crotch anyway, so I usually place it off to the side (for either desk)
– Wahoo Desk base is definitely prettier, being rounded surfaces versus the squared look of the RAD/Lifeline. Not sure if anyone would notice unless I said something.
– Both desks have non-slip textured surfaces, the Wahoo is grippier, but also shreds wet paper towels if you try and clean it
– Both desks have 11mm wide grooves (max thickness of device)
– Both desks have basically same max/min adjustable height (113cm for Lifeline, 114cm for Wahoo)
– Both can withstand my entire body weight (see the photo!)
The biggest advantage for me is really the water bottle holders…but as noted, not actually for water bottles. Instead, I put my remotes in there most of the time.
If there’s nothing else this entire review, plus the slate of new products on the market demonstrates, is that Wahoo desperately needs a KICKR Desk V2. It needs to have power, water bottle and Haribo holders, larger slots for today’s devices, rotating wheels, and I actually like the existing Wahoo non-stick surface compared to the wood look. Just my personal taste.
And heck, they can even throw in some silliness like downwards facing under-desk RGB LED lighting tied to power/HR zones like the Tacx NEO series trainers/bikes have and upcoming Zwift Bike appear to have – if they want to maintain that premium pricing. After all, that’s functionally no different than the LED bar atop the Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT series bike computers for power/HR zones
For the price right now, this desk is near-impossible to beat. Right now (and for a while), it’s been £79/103EUR, which is a fraction of the price of Wahoo, and even cheaper than the previous base Lifeline desks. It’s a steal for what is easily the best trainer desk on the market. It’s got the most features, and is just as durable as any other desk. The only one that probably beats it in the looks department is the new Elite trainer desk, which just arrived a couple of days ago to the DCR Cave for review.
In the case of the Lifeline Pro trainer desk, I appreciate the dual USB-ports atop it, as well as the singular power plug for when I need to plug my laptop in. Occasionally I’ll use that for a Zwift or TrainerRoad session, especially if I need to use the Windows or Mac versions for a specific test/scenario. Same goes for other training apps too. Heck, even the odd Livestream. The channels and water bottle holder are all on-point. While the previous Lifeline desk had dual water bottle holders, I actually kinda like the extra space back as a spot for TV remotes. Plus, I can keep two more bottles on my frame in reserve if I need them.
About the only mechanical downsides here would be the fiddly screws/nuts on the wheels, but that was a one-time thing I solved. And similarly, the unsealed inner edge of the tablet groove is sorta odd, but I don’t see that as a likely area I’m going to be pouring sweat, since it has to not just land in the channel, but overflow it to the wood area. Point being: Not perfect, but not a big deal. One other catch is if you want it shipped to the US, it’s $104 with a $38 shipping charge…but hey, that’s still $100 cheaper than the KICKR Desk. [Also, for mainland Europe folks, it seems the Chain Reaction link has free shipping to the continent, whereas the direct Wiggle link only has free shipping in the UK.]
Again, even if this were more expensive, it’d still be the best desk on the market. I do think the official retail price of 199EUR is a tough one to swallow, just as it is for $250 for the Wahoo KICKR Desk. But hey, if you’re gonna spend that much, at least this is doing it right.
With that – thanks for reading!
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