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Wahoo KICKR SNAP Review | Zwift Gear Test

Direct drive turbos are the pinnacle of Smart trainers. But they are also associated with stratospheric prices in many cases. The Wahoo KICKR SNAP is pitched as their low-cost version of the KICKR. The same industrial design philosophy as their bigger KICKR, but with a less wallet damaging entry fee – How is the Zwift experience affected on Wahoo’s “budget” offering?

Wahoo KICKR SNAP Review – Zwift Gear Test

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“Daddy… is that you?”

The original Wahoo KICKR has undoubtedly been a great success for the company. I think that’s highlighted quite clearly when you see the registration details for some of the Zwift Races – Here data is from Tam Burns/ODZ’s Zwift Team Worlds 2.0

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Even if we assume 50% of entrants have incorrectly listed the Wahoo KICKR SNAP in the same group, that still puts the original Wahoo KICKR comfortably the most popular single trainer out of the 362 riders registered for the event! – Team Worlds Registration is still open, and the event is Nov 19th if you want to be racing for your country?

However, the original KICKR is still a very expensive piece of kit – a quick Google finds the KICKR at £948 from HandTec, whereas the Wahoo KICKR SNAP is £499 at the CycleSurgery, which is a big price differential

FYI I have no connection to either site, merely just illustrations straight from the great Le Goog!

So Wahoo has chopped the price in half, does that mean we have a trainer that is half the quality or has half the features? – NOPE! Let’s get that right out of the way now. So how does the KICKR Snap measure up?

Device Design

Hey look, it’s a box! Although relatively understated compared to some turbo trainer boxes

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As this is a review unit that has been around a few other reviewers, in the box was the Wahoo KICKR SNAP, the riser block and the power adapter – what didn’t come included in the box was the original QR skewer, which we’ll come to shortly…

The standard KICKR is exceptionally well balanced, partially due to it’s asymmetrical leg setup. With the KICKR we have the relatively standard A-Frame design

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we have nice and grippy, but not adjustable, feet

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Both of these points play into one another. The A-frame design, necessitating the wheel mounting is in the centre, does slightly affect the weighting of the unit to one sideTitaniumGeek IMG_6847-e1478086311521 Wahoo KICKR SNAP Review | Zwift Gear Test Zwift Gear Test Zwift Wahoo Turbo Trainer training KICKR SNAP KICKR cycling

The design mandates that the flywheel is then placed slightly off centre, if you rock your bike to the RIGHT, the Wahoo KICKR SNAP stays firm, but if you rock HARD to the LEFT, you can make a very slight wobble. Nothing serious at all, but I wanted to highlight that the SNAP doesn’t have larger models rock solid stability

The frame though feels exceptionally rigid, definitely the solid Wahoo industrial design here. There is a deliciously reassuring clunk from the hinges when you open out the legs of the Wahoo KICKR SNAP

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On the bottom of the unit is a long rubber foot, which acts to stop that back of the Wahoo KICKR SNAP sliding around whilst you are riding,

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The same rubber strip also gives grip when the unit is folded away

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Across the top of the unit are the parts of the dock which keep the QR skewer in place. To be honest relatively standard fair here

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On the other side is the bolt part of the dock, to push everything together

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It must be said this part of the unit has been designed with a most delicious bolt action – so much so I filmed it!!!

Finally, we’ve the actual flywheel unit on the Wahoo KICKR SNAP, with the power being measured directly at the flywheelTitaniumGeek FullSizeRender Wahoo KICKR SNAP Review | Zwift Gear Test Zwift Gear Test Zwift Wahoo Turbo Trainer training KICKR SNAP KICKR cycling

On the outside edge of the unit is the ID stickers, telling you what the Wahoo KICKR SNAP can  actually do

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Basically from a Zwift perspective, as long as your computer has Bluetooth you don’t need to go down an ANT+ dongle route, as the Wahoo KICKR SNAP can broadcast both speed and power data over either Bluetooth or ANT+. However, it’s worthwhile noting at this point, unlike some smart turbos, the SNAP can’t detect your cadence.

Once your bike is loaded onto the Wahoo KICKR Snap, it is quite likely the rear wheel will actually be floating over the roller

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One thing you don’t want in Zwift is wheel slippage, and to potentially have your power capped briefly! Wahoo has made it quite easy to ensure you are all snug – once your tyre is touching the roll, two further full turns will have you at the correct contact pressure – simples!

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The last thing for the Wahoo KICKR SNAP is power. The power socket has a little piece of extension to it, meaning it’s much easier to get to, and hopefully will last longer over time with use.

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The transformer is dual voltage, so if you’ve seen a well priced SNAP on eBay, in another country you should have no issue using it.

A last note, only a very small detail, but one that I feel is a MAJOR improvement over the Wahoo KICKR, the SNAP actually has an indicator light, so that you know things are working. Plus they are quite subtly hidden INSIDE the frame of the of the flywheel, but can be seen shining through

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Specification

  • Communications: ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Resistance type: Electromagnetic
  • Accuracy: +/- 5% (3% KICKR)
  • Wheel size compatibility: 24″, 650c, 700c, 27.5″, 29″
  • Hub compatibility types: 130mm, 135mm
  • Total weight: 17.3kg
  • Footprint (legs open) 74cm x 66cm
  • Flywheel weight: 4.8kg (5.7kg KICKR)
  • Inertia: 140 (175 KICKR)
  • Max wattage (at 20mph): 1500W (2000W KICKR)
  • Max incline (75kg rider at 10mph): 12% (20% KICKR)

SO just quickly looking at the specs, the forces and wattage produced by the SNAP is down compared to the KICKR. The question is will that matter? I would dearly love to be able to reliably break 800watts, which I more often consider to be a glitch in the software, rather than the prowess of my own legs, so I don’t need that power put down. HOWEVER, if you are actually able to deploy > 1500 watts of power, then I’d say you need to go to bigger turbos, but with increased price ranges.

Manual

Wahoo has an “instructions” part of their website which covers just about everything you’ll need with the Wahoo KICKR SNAP

Using the Device

The lack of things in the box is one BIG benefit over the KICKR if you are not mechanically minded. You just put attach the new QR skewer, but the wheel on the KICKR SNAP, tighten the chunky knob, and you are good to go.

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Well nearly – The eagle-eyed of you will have noticed that the bike isn’t quite level. Due to the A-Frame design, and unlike the larger KICKR, on the SNAP you can’t separately adjust the height of the bikes rear wheel. As a result, Wahoo has included a riser block

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Ah, that’s better, all straight now!

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The Wahoo KICKR SNAP accepts the bike mount easily – if you are using the right skewer. Someone people get particularly pinickity about using the “right” skewer with their wheels, unfortunately, due to the shape of the SNAP’s bolt, it’s a trainer skewer or bust

Let me put it another way. When the Wahoo KICKR SNAP arrived without a skewer, I had difficulty for a week or so, even with two older skewers I had knocking around

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The issue being common to many wheel on trainers, that the mounts didn’t have holes wide enough for normal skewers

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However, once that was sorted, we were ready to complete the setup, before we can head off to the races.

To update the firmware you need to be using the Wahoo Fitness app, after adding the Wahoo KICKR SNAP as a new sensor, selecting it to see if there is an update available

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The app nicely displays what the update will do the KICKR – there has been a lot of work for both the KICKR and the SNAP firmware to improve the simulation in Zwift

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Once you are running the latest firmware, the next hurdle is to get the KICKR calibrated, which is done with a spin down, either through the app,

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or a compatible unit which can send commands to the Wahoo KICKR SNAP

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The actual spin down involves cycling up to 37kph

TitaniumGeek FullSizeRender-9 Wahoo KICKR SNAP Review | Zwift Gear Test Zwift Gear Test Zwift Wahoo Turbo Trainer training KICKR SNAP KICKR cycling   Then letting the unit coast, or spin down in order to adequately calibrate the power meter. As we’ll see in a moment, that spin down is vital every time you take the bike off the SNAP, much more so than with the bigger KICKR wheel, due to tyre/air pressure variables and their effect on power measurement accuracy

Speaking more generally, though, due to the FE-C protocol, the Wahoo KICKR SNAP will play nicely with just about all the turbo trainer software out there, KinoMap, TrainerRoad. Even software from different manufacturers like Elite and TacX if that’s you have already invested with them

Once you are finished with a ride in terms of storage for the Wahoo KICKR SNAP, the unit folds up very neatly and easily.

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There is something odd, though. the Wahoo KICKR SNAP seems smaller than the KICKR, but that is only due to it’s lighter weight and the large amount of empty space in the SNAP frame

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Even after having both trainers knocking around for a few weeks, it was only when I came to take the product photos that I realised that Wahoo KICKR SNAP is the larger of the two units!!

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The final part of any turbo test has to be volume/sound testing. Which the best way was to do a video hitting 500 and 600watts. At 61dB at 500 watts and 66db at 700watts, it’s not ear-splitting, but the nature of the sound is a little intrusive apparently – coming from Amy next door, in her plasterboard walled office.

How does it Zwift? – Zwift Gear Test

For me, the real test location on Zwift, of the responsiveness of a trainer comes in two sections on Zwift – Firstly going up the Watopia wall

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Then on the later part of Watopia, as you return to the finish line, going through the hilly corners, where my original KICKR before a few firmware updates would actually struggle to react quickly enough

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To put it succinctly, Wahoo has managed to engineer a very good feeling in Zwift, possibly with smoother transitions than on the bigger KICKR.

From an inertia perspective, which if off can make Zwift feel unrealistic, the SNAP that goldilocks of inertia feel, possibly a little lighter than out on the real road, but at the same time giving Zwift an engaging, realistic feel. But that is about feel, which whilst it might be wrong to describe feel on Zwift as subjective, it is a hard thing to quantify. On which note, let’s look at data – power data

Wahoo KICKR SNAP power meter

Calibration, and performing the detailed spin down is absolutely vital to effective use both of the KICKR SNAP and it’s use on Zwift – To highlight this, for the first test, I ran the Wahoo KICKR SNAP following just the simple spin down. The graphs below show quite a difference in powers between both power units, averaging about 23 watts difference, BELOW the PowerTap C1 – if you’re racing in Zwift you MUST perform the detailed spin down, or you’ll do yourself out of watts!

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The advanced spin down requires a 3 min warm up, and then the similar spinning up to 36km and a coast down, however that coast down may be repeated several times, as the software feels, fit in order to correctly determine the brake strength needed

After the detailed spin down, the graph looks quite different, with power readings aligning more closely, both on overall value and responsiveness.

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However in order to accurately test a power meter, you need three units to compare to, so using the 4iiii Precision, and PowerTap C1 as comparators, attached to three different recording units, I set off

TitaniumGeek IMG_7893-1024x768 Wahoo KICKR SNAP Review | Zwift Gear Test Zwift Gear Test Zwift Wahoo Turbo Trainer training KICKR SNAP KICKR cycling   Sometimes things just line up nicely, and I think it’s reasonable to say that is going on with the three power units here.

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There is some slight variation during the sprints, usually a variation of about 5-10 watts, which will be attributed to drive train losses between a chain mounted power meter and a turbo measuring power from the tyre, but also simple documented accuracy – remember the Snap is advertised as having a 5% accuracy.

During hard accelerations,there is no evidence of the Snap faltering at the initial pickup, however it is important to ensure your wheel is correctly tightened, if you do see that. Certainly following Wahoo’s instructions when correctly tightened, I had no issue with tyre slip during my tests.

On the plus side, compared to the Kickr or other direct-drive smart trainers like the Tacx Neo Power, you don’t have to worry about 10-/11-speed compatibility with the Snap.

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CONCLUSION

Wheel on/off. There is no absolute answer.

I personally prefer direct drive turbos like the original KICKR, Neo, or Drivo: The benefits can be considered thusly:

  • No tyre slip – although that didn’t seem to be an issue here
  • Typically better inertia.
  • No tyre wear.
  • No wheel/cassette wear – I’m thinking more about sweat and corrosion whilst Zwifting than mechanical
  • Removes any variance based on tyre pressure/contact point/etc.

Some people just don’t like the faff of taking your wheel on and off a bike, and the hassle of the direct mount trainer. Similarly, your bike is completely unchanged from how you ride it outside with a wheel on trainer like the Wahoo KICKR SNAP.

If £500 is your limit, then it is your limit. The Wahoo KICKR is not in your price range. I fervently don’t believe in suggesting people spend more than they can afford.

At a slightly different level, what happens if you have £750? Half-way towards a KICKR, but will easily clear a Wahoo KICKR SNAP. If you can hold out, I personally think that’s the better bet save and get the full KICKR, or look to eBay for a low mileage unit.

So that is literally comparing apples to apples, what about the Wahoo KICKR SNAP in isolation?

The bolt mechanism is beautiful. I have not seen any issue with “shredded tyres” on the Wahoo KICKR SNAP, which may be due to not having done any recent rides over 1.5hrs. It may also be due to Wahoo’s instruction of “two turns after contact” to get the correct pressure against the tyre.

I found the drone from the Snap a little annoying, but again, we’re headed back to direct vs wheel on issues there.

The Snap, in real terms use was nicely planted and didn’t make me worry about knocking the bike over when getting out of the saddle

The Wahoo KICKR SNAP is much easier to move around than the original KICKR, and if you are someone who doesn’t have a Zwift only bike, or needs to pack up your Zwift station after every session, that’s a major selling point.

Stepping up to a smart turbo will revolutionise your Zwift experience, and genuinely I’d say you get 90% of the experience on a Wahoo KICKR. The question is, do you think that extra 10% is worth £500? The day you by the KICKR SNAP, no that difference isn’t worth it. A year further down the line, after trying a friends direct mount turbo, you might be looking to upgrade.

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. Feel free to drop me a line about sports tech, medicine, or frankly anything that you want to chat about!!