Wahoo Fitness CEO On Future Wahoo Products, Past Mistakes

Last week while visiting Wahoo Fitness, I sat down with the founder and current co-CEO of the company, Chip Hawkins, for a wide-ranging interview discussing everything from past Wahoo initiatives (and failures), to the status of current products, as well as what the future brings. We covered a lot of ground, and rather than try and slice it down to a smaller size, I’ve just left the whole thing as one big interview. I’ve YouTube-chaptered the various portions linked below, though I think you’ll find a lot of it fascinating.

Here’s what we covered, noting that you can easily just listen to it podcast style in the background:

0:00 Quick Intro & Wahoo Company Size/Employees
0:40 Wahoo Docks vs Wahoo Fitness
1:52 Which Wahoo product is his true favorite
2:40 Future of Wahoo Rival watch?
3:46 Why are Wahoo products so expensive?
5:24 Why hasn’t Wahoo trainers changed design?
6:30 Why did the RGT acquisition fail?
7:46 Why did you drop lawsuit with Zwift?
9:02 What happens next with Zwift partnership?
9:57 What about how that impacts competitors?
10:56 Are open standards dead?
12:30 Why hasn’t the KICKR Desk been updated?
13:08 Plans for Wahoo CLIMB, Headwind Fan, etc…
13:33 Single favorite run/ride route in world?
15:15 Do you worry about fitness industry consolidation?
15:58 Where does AI work in fitness best today?
16:50 Why did you close Boulder sport performance center?
17:48 How is Wahoo structured geographically?
19:15 What’s Wahoo’s biggest market?
19:35 Is the indoor cycling industry recovering?
21:00 Are you hiring employees again?
21:50 How did Wahoo buy itself back from banks?
24:22 Is Wahoo financially sound now?
25:00 Why isn’t SYSTM on Apple TV?
26:02 Is the ELEMNT Bike GPS still competitive?
27:30 What’s coming in 2024?

Again, I think you’ll find a slate of nuggets throughout this interview. Obviously, there are some pretty big hints at the future in there on a lot of products – both in terms of new products, but also ones going away. Give it a listen, and again, there’s very little that requires foreground attention, so it’s perfect to just sit in the background and listen through.

At some point I’ll edit together a post with the actual behind-the-scenes tour of their HQ, testing labs, museum of sorts, and plenty more. But for now, go forth and enjoy the interview.

With that – thanks for watching!


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  1. Mark

    CEO of Polar should be your next interviewee, Ray :-)
    So much questions to ask.

    • Jesús

      Very good idea

    • Happy to interview anyone of widespread interest.

      I think one thing that makes this particular interview interesting is Chip is at the intersection of both the tech side and the business side. He literally created the initial Wahoo KICKR, iPhone adapter, etc… himself. So from a tech standpoint, there’s no tech topic avoidance you sometimes get with CEO’s – where they skew back towards biz stuff.

      We didn’t get crazy geeky here in an obvious way, but some of it was more geeky than people probably realize (e.g. talking about the death of the ANT+ Summit for industry protocols or the flywheel inertia bits).

    • gingerneil

      You both chuckled at the suggestion of you hosting an ANT+ etc conference – but I could see that working!

    • Look, I’ve seen how much that 100+ person crew can drink back in the day. It puts the DCR Open House Attendees to shame. 😂 Not sure we can have enough beer on tap to solve for that.

    • Damian

      Indeed, Polar CEO should be next as he should consider some changes.

      Wahoo has a remarkable product portfolio, from indoor trainers (KICKR), training software (SYSTM), mobile apps, power/cadence/speed meters, fans, tables, cycling computers (ROAD/BOLT), Watch (RIVAL), … They have achieved this with a small team of ~200 employees.

      Polar, on the other hand, has a much larger workforce (1300?) and focuses mainly on watches. That would be fine if they were innovative and competitive, but their watches seem to lag behind the others more and more with every day.

      It’s not just the features that are missing, but also the user experience. Wahoo (and probably Garmin) offers a seamless way to change the layouts, sync route maps, etc. Changes are instant even during activities. On the other hand, Polar requires long syncing times for every change and does not allow any modifications during activities, which is annoying as I need to terminate hike if I want to adjust the route in Komoot during the hike.

      Polar needs a wake-up call.

  2. TedP

    Great post Ray and thank you Chip for the transparency. Simplicity and “just works” – that’s what drew me to Wahoo.

  3. Alex

    It would be nice if you could interview someone from Garmin, Coros, Suunto, Zwift, Strava, TrainerRoad, etc. This type of conversation is always cool to watch.

    • Certainly happy to interview any of them in a similar style if it’s something that’s interesting to folks (and more importantly, if said company people are willing…).

    • Alex

      Would love to see Nate at TR.

    • Chad McNeese

      +1 for Nate.

    • CowRob

      Mr Apple: Tim Cook.

      Now that they are falling on their sword over the Masimo lawsuit and expected import ban, it would be interesting to see if he will talk about the future for Apple products and sports monitoring, etc. Will there be an Ultra 3 (likely), what will it provide owners? Will it replace the Garmin Edge, pairing with even more sensors? And, tongue in cheek, ‘Who else has Apple pissed off in the medical/sports industry?’

    • Paul S.

      How could a watch replace an Edge? A phone (ruggedized, ANT+ support), maybe, but not a watch.

  4. Leo M

    Great interview! Thanks for doing this.

  5. Marvin Freeman

    Great interview. Ray, you had a mix of easy, personal, tough questions. The CEO didn’t dodge anything, seemed straightforward. Really impressed by both parties and the interview.

  6. Marvin Freeman

    I’d love a similar one with the Coros CEO. I don’t think it would go as smoothly, but maybe it would.

  7. Led

    Phenomenal interview. We need a hint about what’s coming in January? Cycling related? Running related? Swimming related?

  8. b.one

    Did he say that there will not be a Rival 2? It was difficult to hear.

    Also, was that a Apple Ultra on his wrist? Integrating the Apple Watch in to the Wahoo eco system might be a greater selling point for Wahoo than releasing a Rival 2.

    • Chad McNeese

      “There’s probably not going to be a Rival 2 or 3 or 4…” Chip H.

      – Pretty clear there is no new stuff planned as of now per his overall tone including that specific quote above.

  9. Don Rhummy

    PLEASE interview TrainingPeaks. They’ve made zero improvements in over a year. The app is mediocre at best. I want to know what their plan is here. Others are starting to move ahead

    • b.one

      Trainingpeaks are going to release a new version of their app and pkatform with integrated strength training in January. Looks really good.

    • tizzledk

      I really hope they improve the UI, it hasn’t really changed since I started using it in 2014/2015 and my old coach its looks the same as 2010 essentially. Thanks for the update by the way.

  10. John

    Down to earth and kinda geeky – attributes I like in a CEO 👍🏻

  11. Dave From Idaho

    Great interview! Couldn’t help but laugh when Mr. Hawkins mentioned the addition of “Climb Pro”.

  12. Garrick

    Great interview – would love to see more of these for other companies.

  13. JF

    Chip/Wahoo is in a spot…I get the challenge they’re up against .. he was wearing an Apple Watch :-)

    BTW I’m a HUGE Bolt V1 fan

    • CowRob

      That’s awkward…

    • Chad McNeese

      I think it’s less awkward than most people are taking (here and in the YT comments). It’s not like Chip is claiming the Rival is the best watch available and pushing it as the “one watch to rule them all” choice. They slashed the pricing on the watch and seem intent on unloading the current stock without much plan to keep it long term.

      Rather, the entire section about the watch shows that he recognizes that the watch was possibly not fully featured from the start, not to mention the progress that has taken place in the space since it was released.

      I think it’s a practical example of a pragmatic person (my guess) choosing what works best in each situation (he still uses if for running per his comments), but apparently swaps to the AW for regular daily use. And considering the future that AW holds based upon recent developments I think it’s the clear reason they have no plans to push the Rival development beyond minor upkeep to the first (and only) model.

  14. ArT

    I missed one question that is very important to me. Whether and when virtual runs will be added to Kick. Climp or Headwind update are unnecessary because they work ok.They lack nothing.
    I don’t have the size of the Garmin 1040 equivalent. I prefer comfort and a larger screen than micro BOLD or a relatively small ROAM. I have been using ROAM since the beginning of production. However, I’m waiting for something bigger.

  15. David Sanchez Gonzalez

    Great Interview and happy to see Chip “smiling” after a bad year … sorry to hear about no rival2, but I understand his concerns … I hope that Polar CEO takes note and access to have a interview like that … really good job

  16. Rob

    Great to see this thanks Ray.
    I’m a long term Wahoo fan who’s just changing brands sadly: my Tickr X replacement (had the old one, bought the new against your advice… I know) is anything on any recovery runs where it suggests a HR of 220+(!).

    Now they’ve gutted their Wahoo app I was using for running and casual cycling: no screen lock, no audio alerts, only about 5 items on screen to list three of many much-missed features. I do hate upgrades which gut features you find useful, so I’ve gone elsewhere.

    Which I feel almost guilty about. I felt oddly good about not feeding the Garmin beast til now…

  17. Greg

    I found the thing about buying back the company for pennies on the dollar of the debt is interesting. Seems like a nice win for Chip/loss for the private equity. Or am I missing something?

    • Simon Lockwood

      From what i heard, the PE company bought wahoo with the help of bank debt. As is normal, that loan had covenants around performance of the company, which were broken and led to the bank taking over the equity and hence the PE firm loosing their money then. It’s a risk the PE firm made when they bought the company with bank debt and sometimes that kind of risk doesn’t work out. The CEO bought the company back from the bank at a later stage. It’s similar to a commercial RE loan, where the bank can take ownership if conditions are not met, then they sell the building for whatever they can get for it.

  18. José D. Costa

    Hi Ray.
    Great interview, I would love to see more like that.
    I am a bit disappointed to hear that there is no roadmap for a Rival 2. I hope that they keep improving the current Rival via firmwqre updates. I am more likely to buy a Wahoo bike computer if I am using a Wahoo watch.

    And at around 200€ (was even discounted to 100€), it is a very solid product.

    What I would most like to see improved is the Elemnt app. It does the job of updating to other platforms, but it is currently no match to Garmin Connect when it comes to analyzing and editing small glitches in the workouts.

    I once used an old version of Sporttracks which had lot of extensions that would provide all kind of information and graphics, I would love to see something like it.

    With that, I wish you a great holiday!

  19. Peter Z.

    2 things jumped out.
    1) they have only 200 people creating products for the world, rather remarkable.

    2) CEO explaining how much more cost and difficulty using motors for inertia control adds. Somewhat explains the price difference for a Neo Tacx 2T/3M. Now whether the cost is worth the feature benefit is personal decision of course

  20. Jared

    This would be a perfect podcast. Interview with Ray!

  21. George


    I wish I’d have heard you were doing this interview in time to let you know how happy I was that Wahoo decided to buy Speedplay. I would have asked you to send along my thanks to Chip! Speedplay has always been my favourite cycling gear!

    • giorgit

      I really enjoyed this interview. I own zero wahoo hardware – oh, wait, I have a TICKR provided as a bonus for renewing Sufferfest…errr…Wahoo X (but I have not taken it out of the box). But I have been on the Sufferfest platform since the early days of downloadable mp4 files! It’s not really clear where Wahoo X ‘fits’, especially with the demise of RGT. I could see the potential of hardware (Wahoo) + training (Sufferfest / WahooX + the Boulder Sport Science Center) + virtual riding (RGT). That did not work out for Wahoo wrt RGT and the BSSC, so I wonder what the endgame is for Wahoo X? As I view it, Wahoo is a hardware company. Why do they want Wahoo X? They are not selling hardware through that channel (I don’t think). Wahoo X requires resources to update content, find a path to Apple TV integration (promised since Sufferfest/pre-Wahoo X days), fight with the development of AI-based training… But Wahoo X has one significant unique element – the video content that integrates with the workouts. That is a much bigger lift than creating another variation of 3 x 20 min workouts. It’s not clear to me that Wahoo X is in Wahoo’s best interests.

      But I don’t know relative sizes – who buys who? I could imagine a Xert/Wahoo X mashup – use the AI-based training to select Wahoo X video workouts, maybe including Yoga for off days. Humango + Wahoo X? Another AI-based training platform? I doubt that Wahoo is ready to follow the path of Trainerroad and build their own AI-based training informed by user data. I imagine that, after destroying the Sufferfest vibe through corporate sanitization, Wahoo might just turn Wahoo X loose – probably too valuable to close (like RGT and BSSC relationships) – but who would buy???

  22. Eric Fine

    Excellent interview!

  23. Jan

    No more watch from Wahoo. As mentioned before, a partnership or tradeoff with Polar or Suntuu could be a great oppertunity for both.

    Will cycling computers have the same fortune as the Watch category? Do you think there will be a further development of the Elemnt?

  24. Hans Hortin

    That was an awesome interview – leveraged expertise in the product, industry, standards, business model, and even travel. Really appreciate the high quality content!

  25. Marco Soldano

    Great interview.
    I was always puzzled by Wahoo product and market strategy, but this interview removed any doubt: this person does not have a clear idea on how to run this company.
    To summarize:
    – yes we made a watch because we wanted to, but turned out to be a bad idea (so we won’t make another one)
    – yes we sued Zwift because we wanted to, turned out to be a bad idea
    – yes we bought Sufferfest and then shut down the team in Boulder, because of lease…(so bad idea?)
    – yes we bought RGT and shut it down, because bad idea…
    Meanwhile no update to trainers, no update to head units and as of today (it’s 2024) I still can’t upload a structured workout in my head unit with hacking it.
    Done with Wahoo. Goodbye.

    • What’s funny though, is that the reason you’re listing actually don’t hold a ton of water:

      A) Everyone wanted them to make a watch, they tried, but the market forces here are now measured in the billions of dollars. Wahoo is wasting money trying to compete there. Frankly, it’s smart to kill it.

      B) I agree that sueing Zwift seemed over the top, but, if we loo at the output a year later, Wahoo has essentially gotten Zwift out of the trainer business, and Wahoo got that business. It’s incredibly likely the KICKR CORE becomes the new Zwift Hub, as noted in a post I did a month or so ago. Something that neither company seems to deny. One could argue it actually kinda worked out for Wahoo, killing off their biggest threat.

      C) Sufferfest: The Sufferfest team as a whole wasn’t in Boulder, rather, the much smaller sports science team. I think one could argue (agreeing with you), building out a fancy sports science lab was overkill, but I suspect the real reason they closed the team wasn’t the lease, but as an excuse to change the direction of that team. The actual people leaving from that is very very very small, but basically a targetted layoff.

      D) I agree that buying RGT was a bad move, but it was also a low-cost hail mary. Basically, they just hired the couple people there. People on the interwebs keep thinking Wahoo went and paid vast sums of money for RGT, forgetting that RGT was barely keeping afloat at the time, and just wanted a way to put dinner on the table for the small team there. Wahoo came in and did what was essentially an acquihire.

      As for trainers, they released a new trainer just 5 months ago, the KICKR MOVE, and a new lower-cost bike too (KICKR SHIFT). I agree they’re far behind on head units, but not sure what you mean on structured workouts to head units, as you can do that today via TrainingPeaks.

      Point is, successful companies are the ones that recongnize failures and move on/rectify. Unsuccessful ones are the ones that keep trying the same thing that isn’t working. Wahoo has certainly seen both sides of that coin, but if we look at their entire history, generally speaking they’ve expanded and continued to expand areas that made one, and dropped ones that didn’t. Which, is how a business should work.

    • Chad McNeese

      *mic drop*

      Gotta love a proper reply from the master that more fully sets the scene :P

    • Marco Soldano

      It sounds like we’re agreeing on a many points here….

      A) “Frankly, it’s smart to kill it.” – we agree then.
      They wasted a large amount of resources and time to attempt penetrating a market they had no business to be in. Any market research would have told them it was a bad idea to begin with. A company CEO doesn’t make a product because people want them to make it, it’s based on company core competency and market opportunity…
      And why is he wearing an Apple Watch Ultra in this interview???

      B) the same result could have been achieved with much less effort. Legal expenses is probably the last place you want to throw your money into if you’re not a 500lbs gorilla of a company. Trainer business should have stayed the main focus for the company.

      C) People they let go in Boulder gave an aura of credibility to the training plans (there’s is this thing called Sport Science I’m sure you’re familiar with) and the main reason for success of platforms like Trainer Road.
      Wahoo does not seem to understand that model: so SYSTM is now another empty shell, destined to fail.
      Lack of vision and understanding of market.

      D) Again we agree, they bought a dying horse and killed it for good. Wasted time/resources they didn’t have to begin with. All I see is a sequence of bad decisions that I have to assume were made by the CEO and exec circle.

      “I agree they’re far behind on head units, but not sure what you mean on structured workouts to head units, as you can do that today via TrainingPeaks.”
      They have been extremely slow in opening the API. If you have structured workout (ZWO/ERG or else) files, you can’t load it into the head unit without resorting to either TP or TR.
      Hammerhead at least has a simple web UI to do so, but it would be super simple to do for the iOS ELMNT app.

    • Eli

      A) it seems like the watch used lots of the same code base as their bike head unit and they were planning to rev the software to add features over its life to make it more competitive. They weren’t competing with Apple at that point. As to why wear an Apple watch? why not?

      B) How would they have achieved the same result? And if as you say their trainers should be the focus, a lawsuit protecting the IP of their main focus seems like a good idea.

      C) Did this lab have any impact on the training plans in their platform? Outside of the 4DP test what has been their contribution to the platform?

      D) Zwift is dominant. If they could get another platform to be a real competitor to it they could have scored big. Seems like a good risk to take if the cost was low