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Cycling Gear Reviews Zwift

Wahoo KICKR Headwind Review – The Best Fan for Zwift

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Wahoo KICKR Headwind Review

The Zwift Pain cave has been a source of MANY inspirations and in turn many products since its launch. Which in many ways highlights how effective Zwift is as a platform as much as a product in its own right

Wahoo has pretty much lead the “we’ve got a product specifically for your Zwift setup” party with the Wahoo KICKR Climb and this, the Wahoo KICKR Headwind. A fan designed specifically for your indoor cycling setup. That probably gives the Wahoo KICKR Headwind one of the narrowest markets for a fan EVER! Wahoo is justifying their £200 pricetag by having the fan controllable not just by a remote, how very last century, but either your heart rate or your speed sensor via the ANT+ or Bluetooth protocols. That is quite cool in concept, but I wonder how it will work in reality?

Let’s face it you can buy some utterly massive fans from Costco for ¼ of the price.

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Perhaps that is a good place to start, as the Dyson series of fans, which Costco will happily also upsell you, have probably the best PR in the world… and yet don’t justify their price when it comes to keeping cool in the Zwift Cave. I picked one up last summer, it was almost useless when it comes to Zwift, and quicly returned it

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So will the Wahoo KICKR Headwind fare any better than my trusty two Vornado setup? Let’s find out

Wahoo KICKR Headwind – Design

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We have the very simple, and well established white and silver Wahoo box, and inside, there is very little. You have the Wahoo Headwind and a manual. You don’t even have a separate cable. Which I think does reinforce how simple the main product here is. Yes the controller is a clever idea, and the design is good, but we are still talking about a fan with a smart on/off switch.

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The face of the fan is very straight forward. Big central “on” button, arrows left and right to increase or decrease the power, and two LEDS, indicating if control is being directed from either heart rate or speed

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The fan has a lead, and storage facility to the rear

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Both sides feature vents to drawn air in, which is then blown out of the “face” of the unit

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If you look carefully between the vents on the side, you can see the Wahoo blue, forward facing, fan blades. Not a huge fact, but does give the unit a little more character

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If you tip the fan up, you can see the round underbelly. As smart as Wahoo, or Dyson for that matter, try to make a fan it is all still based on a circle in some form, and that can’t be escaped from.

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You can also see the front feet of the fan, which work to direct the face vent up, towards the rider. At the rear are two small plastic wheels, which actually seem a little superfulous.

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Under these are fold out rear legs which allow the fan to be angled more horizontally, as in default position it is firing directly up to the rider

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The reason why I say that the rear wheels are a little superfluous, is that the front legs are designed to hook over the front of the Wahoo KICKR Desk. The intention is supposed to be that you can move the Desk and the Headwind together. HOWEVER, I have always thought that the KICKR Desk had a fatal flaw, that it lacked any form of brake to keep it in place. If you block the fans rear wheels with bits of card, the Desk suddenly doesn’ go walking as easily. Then if you need to move things just lift the Headwind up and you are good to go!”

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The long wide face of the Wahoo Headwind means that I am getting a perfect beam of air directly towards me as I ride. It frankly leaves the Vornado next to it in the dust – or should that be blown away?

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Wahoo KICKR Headwind – specifcstion

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  • Motor Spec: 240v 50/60hz
  • Dimensions (leg tucked): 16″L x 12″W x 19″H
  • Dimensions (leg extended): 18″L x 12″W x 19″H
  • Weight: 5.4kg /12Lbs
  • Max Fan Speed: 30 mph/48 kph
  • Connectivity:
    • Bluetooth – Pair to phone to control the fan speed via Wahoo app
    • ANT+ – Pair to speed sensor, heart rate monitor, or smart trainer to control fan speed
  • Adjustable Leg: Yes – 2 Positions

The Wahoo KICKR Headwind manual / Quick start guide can be found HERE

Wahoo headwind review – using the device

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The setup for the Wahoo KICKR Headwind is about the easiest thing in my Zwift Cave! Simply position in front of bike, press the middle button for to power on, and the left and right arrows to select one for the four fan speed modes and you are good to go!

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But that doesn’t really get to using the smart side of the fan does it. For that you need to download the Wahoo app, which allows you to connect via Bluetooth

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Once connected, the first thing to do it update the firmware if needed – I’ve given up now being surprised at the products which have firmware updates now!

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With the updates do, you can opt to simply control the Wahoo KICKR Headwind with the app. So a glorified remote control app. Again not exactly earth-shattering here. Where the magic lies is with connected sensors to instruct the fan how to behave

Sensor pairing is done via proximity, and will pair to the closest unit. To select sensor mode on the trainer you need to press the left arrow once, from the off position to have trainer speed control. Press a second time to have heart rate control

The respective light will flash until a sensor is found. It’s frequently easier to bring the sensor closer if you want to be sure. When connected the respective light will turn solid

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Within the Wahoo app, you can determine how the Wahoo Headwind responds to the different sensor inputs. Personally I’ve found increasing the heart rate level where the fan is at maximum speed gives me a little more mental headroom. As in knowing that if I keep pushing I’ve still got some additional cooling to come

Initially, it does sound like a good idea to set the trainer to your heart rate. It has the advantage that the Headwind will likely be sitting there relatively quietly at the start of the work out and then ramp up as you start pushing harder.

Although you know intellecutally that the unit will respond like this, it’s still a little odd to the first time it happens. With the Headwind seeming to increase it speeds a notch for every 10 BPM. It’s certainly pleasant when you are doing certain work outs, BUT it does break your immersion the first time it happens. The downside is also when you are in the workout and peddling hard, your heart rate variability isn’t going to be huge once you are up to pace. As a result, the Headwind is just an expensive fan blowing at you. Hence why I increased the headroom before maximum output

So why, after only a couple of days of reviewing the unit do I have mine in order? Simple. The immersion you get with Zwift, connecting the Wahoo KICKR Headwind to the speed sensor, rather than your heart rate sensor is tremendous. It reacts well on the hills and gives you a tremendous blast to the face on the downs.

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BUT that causes a modicum of difficulty when on the ascents in Zwift, in that you are not generating a lot of Headwinds!! If you are plodding up Alp du Zwift at a 10-15km/hr you are better off when a dumb fan, just fire and forget. However if you are really giving it the beans, you can get a reasonable airflow, but I was left wanting more. Thankfully the Wahoo KICKR Headwind does have a third option

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Control the fan from the app, and that is frankly the best of both. Do your immersive Zwift ride, when you start the epic, (and somedays never ending climbs) switch over to control via the app. Get the blast on your face!

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Wahoo KICKR Headwind Noise

So the headwind is a fan, and not a small one at that. We’ve big blades spinning to move the air around. We don’t expect the unit to be silent. But I was a little surprised at the electrical background noise. With the unit under manual control, at 1% power, the electrical humm is around 50-55 dB

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I’m pretty confident that this noise is related to the electrics of the motor, and not actually the motor movement, for as the speed increases, obviously wind noise becomes the loudest sound. However, the underlying electric noise you hear as a baseline is unchanged in volume and note. At full blast,

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The first couple of minutes using the Wahoo KICKR headwind gave me an immediate respect for using the correct beam when it comes to airflow – but then Dyson has been telling us that for years (even though their offering is still rubbish for zwifting with!)

The best analogy to me is a bike light. It is not the brightness of the bike light that matters, but what you do with those photons and where you point them. It’s great having a nice wide beam of light, but that will likely mean more light at the edges of the beam where you don’t need them, sacrificing the intensity of the light in the middle of the beam, right where your wheel will be travelling.

I’d previously thought that, obviously, a directional beam of air is good, that even the air moving generally is going to be cooling, and that simple fans were fine. I was wrong.

The aperture, (or should that be vent?) on the Wahoo KICKR Headwind strikes you with a perfect beam vertical blast. Seriously it’s just right. Hitting you right in the chest, thighs and just above my knees. I’m NOT going to say anything daft, like “hitting you with a cooling beam” as it’s not. What the Headwind does is it keeps enough air hitting you so that you might just about consider yourself to be feeling fresh. Or that at least your sweat now has a function when on Zwift. Maybe for version 2.0 Wahoo could add in a small aircon unit?

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Certainly I felt a much more comfortable ride up Alpe du Zwift, with the fan connected to be heart rate, and blasting at me compared to my usual two Vornados. Together my fans cost about £100 when I started on Zwifting several years ago. I’ve wired them into a smart plug, at £30. so that I can control them with my voice. But that control is merely on and off. When you start to look at the cost, the Wahoo KICKR Headwind looks quite good value at £200

The Wahoo KICKR Headwind is obvious a major part of their Wahoo ecosystem, with the KICKR, Climb and Desk. In fact, as mentioned the Headwind is designed to sit over the rear bar of the Wahoo KICKR Desk. Wahoo could have made the Headwind a priority piece of kit, needing KICKR to function properly. But they havn’t. You don’t need a KICKR, you don’t even really need a smart trainer, you can happily use the Wahoo Headwind plonked at the end of a treadmill for when doing indoor runs!! In that situation, again you could set it up to pull the speed from the your heart rate, or just control manually.

Heck if you want to you can even use the unit as an unsightly desk fan! This isn’t as daft as it sounds, as the rear legs mean that you can direct the beam in a slightly more downwards fashion, so hits me just nicely on the desk. Although worthwhile mentioning that anything more than 1% manual setting is a little too much!

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Not quite sure where to put these, but there are a few additional thoughts I’ve had while reviewing this unit. It would be interesting if it were possible to connect the Wahoo Headwind directly to Zwift so that drafting could be simulated as well, but I think that is a step beyond the bounds of reasonableness!

As the Wahoo KICKR Headwind isn’t very small, it does cause a small degree of impact on storage. My two Vornado’s tuck away perfectly under my Zwift screen, and then pull forward when needed. That isnt possible now, so the Headwind becomes more of a permanent part of your setup

If I was going to nit pick, in the most pedantic way ever, the only criticism of any worth would be to the shiny face on the front of the Wahoo Headwind. As it is shiny, the face is an utter finger print magnet. Most people won’t care, but I had to give it a quick wipe each time

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That might just sound like me being needlessly pedantic, after all, I don’t do that with the black Elite Drivo II, but that is partly as I’m not facing the trainer most of the time.

Wahoo KICKR headwind review – conclusion

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When the Wahoo KICKR Headwind launched at £200, many rightly thought this was soon much for a fan.Yes it might be less than some of Dyson’s super fans, but they are not the best for Zwifting. The beam is too narrow and too weak.

The Dyson fans are designed to cool a room, gently with air movement and with relative quiet. The Wahoo KICKR Headwind doesn’t need to be that quiet. Just not significantly louder than the trainer and bike chain. I have shown on many Zwift Gear Tests in the past, most trainers top out in the 65 -75dB range so the Headwind just about acceptable at full blast

I’m surprised nearly a year after launch the price has remained at £200 – I still think that this is expensive. If you can afford it, then you really should consider a Wahoo Headwind for the Zwift Cave. But at £150 though, Wahoo would have a product I genuinely don’t think that they would be able to keep production with.

If you want to improve your indoor training, be that Zwift Running or Zwifting generally, the Headwind should be on your next upgrade list. It’s that good! Perhaps if I was going to strain for an additional criticism, that would be that for the price, the unit should come with a separate, physical, waterproofed remote control, just to reduce the risk to your smartphone. But I think most Zwifters acknowledge that risk YEARS ago!

So there we have it – the Wahoo KICKR Headwind. An easy TG 4/5 and a recommend if you can afford it

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. <br /> <br /> After learning a lot about olecranon fractures, I was introduced to the world Zwift, and slowly transitioned into writing about sports gadgets and the like<br /> <br /> Trying to keep up cycling, swimming and running whilst being a busy General Practice Doctor