The Wahoo KICKR Climb is one of the more unique devices to hit peoples pain caves in the last few years. A grade simulator to mimic the hills and descents during your indoor workout. BUT, is this perhaps an indoor gadget too far?
Wahoo KICKR Climb Review – Are We At Peak Gadget?
The Wahoo KICKR Climb is in the house! (and about time, after the reveal at Eurobike there seems to have been a looooong gestation period before a few engineering challenges were overcome in order to get the units manufactured)
Since finally popping out of the factory doors Wahoo has been honoured within 2019 with a Design and Innovation Award for the KICKR ecosystem – which they will gladly sell you for a shade under £2000 – you can read about the award here
So what IS the Wahoo KICKR Climb? Simply put, it is an incline simulator that replaces your front wheel when you are using Zwift or other cycling apps. It can increase the height of your front wheel such that you can get up out of the saddle on a +20% grade, or tuck in for a -10% downhill
Unfortunately for many existing Zwift users who might be interested in the Wahoo KICKR Climb, the unit will ONLY work with Wahoo trainers. But not just any Wahoo trainer, you are basically limited to the Wahoo KICKR CORE along with the Wahoo KICKR Snap and Wahoo KICKR unit but only the 2017 models onwards.
The reason being, as alluded to on the Wahoo KICKR Climb box, those trainers have a specifically had changes made at the axle to allow the bike to pivot, without damaging either the trainer or your frame. On the face of it, it sounds like a marketing stunt to drive sales, however, it genuinely is an engineering issue
It really this isn’t a case of “let’s try it anyway” as the Wahoo KICKR Climb is controlled by the Wahoo KICKR it is attached to, not from the Zwift app directly. This is reinforced by the presence of a communication logo on the remote. You need to have established a wireless connection between the Climb and the KICKR trainer in order to get the gradient action. All trainers currently receive gradient data from Zwift, this allows them to set their resistance, with the Climb data is simply being rebroadcast from the Wahoo KICKR on to Climb as a height command. Hence why you need both parts of the package
Speaking of package, what do you actually get?
Wahoo KICKR Climb – Design
Seriously with Wahoo’s current design and boxes, this has felt like a noir photoshoot!
Unsurprisingly when you pick up the box, the unit does feel lighter than a Wahoo KICKR but with the Climb coming in at over 8kg there is still a good heft to the box. Inside the Climb is enclosed in a coffin Esq block of polystyrene
I was very surprised at the number of axel adapters in the box, but it is good to see manufacturers including such a range rather than having them as aftermarket add-ons
Each pair is idiot proofed with coloured stickers on the plastic, hopefully making sure that you install a matching pair
We’ve also got the worlds largest power pack I’ve ever seen. Well in turbo trainers anyway
One of the main reasons for this is that the Wahoo KICKR Climb requires double the current of the turbo trainer, 10A vs 5A
Sticking with the power theme, the power pack plugs into a tiny extension off the Climb, rather than directly. Always good, as this means there is a little bit of flexibility if you do manage to trip over the wires in the pain cave – given we’ve now wires to the turbo at the rear and the Wahoo KICKR Climb at the front
The cable connecting the remote control is like a 1980’s telephone cord, and actually is probably a good deal thicker. Clearly, the solution to not being wireless is to over compensation when it comes to wires!
The remote is quite a chunky affair and should fit most handlebars without issues.
When not in use, you can feed the cable back inside the Wahoo KICKR Climb and then the remote will nest in the divot. There isn’t actually on “off” button on the Climb, but the unit will go to sleep after 15 mins of inactivity but can be woken again by pressing any of the buttons
Looking at the unit itself the two supporting struts are made of metal, adding the reassuring weight of the unit. Whilst the unit is clearly not top heavy, you can always feel physics just pushing at the edges. Without the bike on, whilst it may not be easy to actually knock the unit over you, can certainly cause it to rock worryingly, particularly so for a £500 piece of kit
Following along the lines of the metal beams, you’ll see a small cut on the bike side of the column. This indicates zero degrees or flat.
I was a little surprised at the built quality of the plastic in the Wahoo KICKR Climb out of the box. Very obvious burrs and nicks to the top of the case, almost as if the case had been opened up again on the assembly line. It may only seem a small thing, but from Wahoo, who have a strong reputation for the quality of their products, I was surprised
Wahoo KICKR Climb – Specification
- Weight: 8.1kg
- Max Incline: 20%
- Max Decline: -10%
*Exact grade changes dependent on bicycle size, wheel size and trainer type.
- Compatible Trainers: New Wahoo KICKR (2017 Edition) and New KICKR SNAP (2017 Edition)
- Dimensions: 25.75″ H x 5.1″ W x 7″ L
- Supported Hubs: QR, 12×100, 15×100, 15×110
- Wireless Software Updates: Yes
- 3rd Party App Compatible: Yes, when paired to a KICKR or KICKR SNAP
Wahoo KICKR Climb – Manual
You can access a PDF of the Climb manual, there Wahoo REEEEEALLY wants you to read this time HERE
Wahoo KICKR Climb – Using the Device
The setup of the Wahoo KICKR Climb is just about the simplest thing I think I’ve tested.
You plug in the monster power supply (then decide if you want to cut another hole in the trainer mat to hit the wire)
Remove, and maybe read the obligatory warnings. I think Wahoo REALLY wants us to notice this one!
With that, all set, attach the QR axels at the front
Attach your bike to the trainer, and the Wahoo KICKR Climb
With everything powered up, press the central button on the remote to connect the Wahoo KICKR and the Wahoo KICKR Climb – moving the LED from the locked position to the open position. This is to stop the Wahoo KICKR Climb overriding any user entered settings. As soon as you press the arrow buttons, the Climb locks, but will immediately reconnect when you hit the middle button again
From there, load up the Wahoo Fitness app, and check if there are any new firmware updated either for the Wahoo KICKR or the Climb. Remember these two are a package, so the firmware of the KICKR can have an impact on the Climb performance
It is a little odd when you look at the Wahoo Fitness app, as you cant initially see the Wahoo KICKR Climb, as it is held within the Wahoo KICKR pages, and is from there you’ll see firmware updates for the Climb
Before we get going on the Wahoo KICKR Climb itself we need to dive back into some of the settings on Zwift. The trainer difficulty slider controls how severely you get hit when you start up an incline in zwift, compared to the real world. So if you leave this at the default 50% setting, then 50% of the gradient is smoothed out by the trainer.
This will have a direct impact on the Wahoo KICKR climb. If you are slogging up the max 17% gradient on Zwift, but the slider is only half way, then the trainer will be giving you the resistance of an 8.5% hill. As the Wahoo KICKR will only receive the signal for an 8.5% hill, it will only be able to tell the Wahoo KICKR Climb to rise to the same 8.5% slope.
It’s only a small thing, but when set up to ride, I do think that the setup looks a little odd. Visually there is something just a little bit cleaner about a front wheel. Not that looks really matter, but if your set up is a permanent one, you’re going to be adding a few more wires to your Zwift setup. I can see from a safety standpoint why the choice was made to have a hard-wired controller, but I’d still prefer to have had a wireless, and smaller, control unit
So, all set up, and ready for my first ride of the Wahoo Climb. I saw that there was the L’Etape du Tour Sportive on Zwift. Seemed like a great way to test things out.
Nope! Just forever going up the hill. This did actually give me more useful information than you might think
Reiterated on the London course, if you are in the city, then not really going to see much action from the front end either
The vistas and steep climbs on the NYC course give a good workout for the Wahoo Climb, especially with the short steep sections.
Where you do get to see and feel the Wahoo KICKR Climb at it’s best is around the undulations and very changeable terrain of the lowlands of Watopia. The Esses in Watopia, for example, give the best user interaction with the Wahoo KICKR Climb. Here the unit is dealing with rapidly changing roads, and really gives the rider the truest sense of the product which has replaced the front wheel.
However. Isn’t there always a however with these things! There is a fractional lag with the system, but surprisingly not with the Wahoo KICKR Climb, but with the KICKR 2018 at the other end. You see the big flywheel allows momentum, to be carried into the hill, so that Climb is ramping up, fractionally before the increased resistance bites.
When it comes to actually ride the Wahoo KICKR Climb… pictures speak louder than words, and video is lots of moving pictures, so let’s show you what it looks like. You can see that the Climb is much happier with longer, slower changes. It is definitely worthwhile watching, as at the beginning you can see an odd little bug in the Wahoo KICKR Climb firmware where the KICKR and climb seem to get a little confused. But other than that the ride is great
Going back to the fact you are able to set your own gradient the Climb or switch off with the handlebar controls – this might actually be a little more important than you think. For example, if you are on a group ride and wanting to chat more with the Zwift Companion app. Trust me, having your handlebars bounce around as you are trying to type out a message can really catch you off guard should you attention slip! Thankfully the handlebar-mounted control unit is securely waterproofed, so it is protected from the sweat which you WILL cover it in during a ride
Because of the position that the Wahoo KICKR Climb sits at under your handlebars, it does tend to get hit by a fair amount of sweat
Which brings me to something that I noticed after a little use and cleaning sweat from the Wahoo KICKR Climb. The metal post with the “KICKR Climb” sticker on it goes into a plastic base with a sealed bottom. The gap between the metal and that base is a little concerning given that this area is going to be liberally sprayed with sweat from a workout.
Have a look at Zwift FB groups, and you’ll see that sweat is quite corrosive stuff. Now this might have been taken into account by Wahoo, but given the fit and finish as discussed earlier and the other potential sinks for sweat… maybe not
Wahoo KICKR Climb – Conclusion
A big question I always keep in my mind when doing a review is “Would I buy one?”
For the Wahoo KICKR Climb, I’d have to say “No”. Or certainly not at the moment. If it was to be compatible with the Tacx Neo 2 or the Elite Drivo, I’d be much more inclined to look at a Climb, but as it stands I can’t shake the feeling that there is an element of community beta testing when I look at the hardware. It would not surprise me if as and when Wahoo release a smart bike we see what essentially amounts to a Wahoo KICKR Climb 1.5 within the chassis. Afterall Wahoo does have a clear track record of regular updates to their products.
Saying with that beta feeling to the hardware, if I did hit buy, I’d also want to keep hold of that receipt in case of any sweat related warranty issues in the future. Remember most of the time bike trainers are relatively clear of the “sweat zone”, the Wahoo KICKR Climb is right of the front of your bars
In terms of using the Wahoo KICKR Climb when riding, it is certainly fun and helps greatly with encouraging you to get out of the saddle, rather than just mashing the pedals. So it’s just possible that it may make you a better rider/climb (shock I know)
Ultimately the Wahoo KICKR Climb is not an easy product to award as the score to, but at the moment, I think that the unit deserves a solid 3/5. It enhances the Zwift experience, I’m just not sure if it is £500 worth of enhancement
Maybe the Wahoo KICKR Climb is actually showing we’ve already reached peak gadget??