The update to the original Atom – A smartbike for all training platforms
Okay, you are looking for a smartbike, or you are looking for a smart trainer/turbo trainer and you’ve heard of the Wattbike Atom. You may have also heard of the Tacx Neo Bike, the Wahoo Kickr Bike or the Stages Bike and you want some certainty over ‘is this a good purchase?’ You’ve come to the right place.
We have extensively tested the Wattbike Atom and we have ridden the others. One of the team owns the Tacx Neo Bike and I fell in love with the Wahoo Kickr Bike at the Rouleur Classic in 2019. However, I wasn’t ready for the Atom Next Generation. ‘Why is that?’ you may ask – well, it’s a cracker – let’s get it out there and let’s quality my thoughts on this smart bike.
Between us all at the Titaniumgeek, we’ve ridden about everything out there – that’s indoors. We know Zwift, especially and intimately and know what any course should, or ought to, feel like. We are getting there on RGT (a terrific platform and that’s another post altogether) and the others. For the purposes of this test, we used Zwift mainly – three weeks of it and daily riding.
We also made a short video on what we like and don’t like about the Atom NG and here, in text, we will go into more detail.
Straight to it – what do we like about the Wattbike Atom Next Generation?
- Accuracy – 99% accurate
- Slope – up to 25% gradient real-world climb feel
- For the quadzillas – up to 2,500 watts can be tolerated!
- It looks fantastic! All it needs are LEDs fitting in or on the frame and we have the Zwift Concept (aka Tron) bike in real life and in your pain cave!
- The footprint is small – it fits into smaller spaces that a smart trainer with a bike attached
- It’s solid and stable
- The build quality is excellent- British engineering heritage and from the manufacturing home of cycling in the UK – Nottingham
- Real-life feel – the responsiveness is superb. Put the pressure on and the watts register. Take them off and they register as coming off. You may think ‘no big deal!’ It is, as we are currently testing a very well known trainer here that lags terribly.
- Smooth pedalling
- The ability to replicate your position exactly to any bike fit that you’ve had. Also, for say time-trial or pursuit specialists, a way of playing around with an aero position to obtain maximum wattage.
- Multiple users in any one house can use it – with no need for taking bikes on and off a smart trainer
- Easy to wipe down and clean
- Rides around the Zwift courses comparable to or better than anything else we’ve used.
- No toys – some like the toys on the others – however, toys date (e.g. USB-type B sockets). We have a Sterzo Smart for steering on Zwift and this obviously can’t be used on any current smart-bike. Honestly, after a few weeks of using, it’s forgotten and we just get on with training.
- Takes riders up to 6′ 6” tall. The spec sheet says 6′ 5” and I’m 1.98 metres tall, 6′ 6”, and all my height is in my legs and the fit is perfect and to my Cadence Sport – Adrian Timmis – bike fit
- The seat post is solid – the previous model had reported slippage issues. This model does not.
- Software – if you don’t want to pay for a training platform – the Wattbike hub comes with the bike and it’s terrific, course, training programmes and pedal efficiency analysis. Please remember, RGT (every bit as good as the other virtual platforms) has a free version.
- A narrow top tube – this might seem trivial and it is not. The Wahoo and Tacx competitors have fat top tubes that knees can bounce off. I ride very narrowly and this top tube was spot on.
- Q factor / standover height. the Wattbike gym bikes have a high Q, the Atom doesn’t and it’s very similar to a Scott Foil team spec bike that I have here.
- Fast gear changes and over 20 of them – less than a second and feels like a Di2 gear change.
- Price – sub £2k sounds expensive, however, compared to the competition, what you get, the quality of the product and the ability to pay monthly, this is good value. Yes, you can get a comparable smart trainer for £1k and put an old bike on it and that is always an option. However, add in the looks, function, form, multi-users and small footprint and it is a decent price.
- The power cable is long. How many devices (and smart trainers) do we buy that have short power cables that are also tricky to lengthen – Wattbike have this boxed-off.
What we weren’t so keen on:
- The footprint is small, so why have a top-tube? The people with the large foreheads and slide rules at Wattbike will say that this is for stability. Come off it! This can be built into the frame elsewhere. Having a top tube means having to cock your leg and thus restricts space. The more nimble amongst us can cock their legs over the top-tube, I get it and at the same time, I do wonder what other positions could be achieved by removing the top tube and creating the ability to get an almost recumbent position – arguably better for indoor cycle racing? A small point for many I know.
- Customer reviews on Trustpilot. We know that Wattbike are addressing this and a global pandemic, huge demand and supply-chain issues are out of Wattbike’s control. This should not detract from the product
- You have to learn how to ride the Wattbike Atom on Zwift. Leave your real bike in gear and it stays in gear. Leave a Wattbike Atom NG and return the next day for a session and it’s back in gear 6. Leave a ride in Zwift and join a race. You are in the pen and your gear is now 6 again. You will be Mullered in the sprint start! On the top right of the shifter is a button, click it twice with your thumb and you can then go up the gears and get in a something suitable for a very fast start.
- Maintenance – the drive chain is within the Wattbike – there are instructions for monthly maintenance and nothing for an annual service. When is a service needed? What does this involve? An updated manual would be good.
- Crank length – for the super-serious, having the ability to choose different crank lengths is important and having a simple way to choose different crank lengths, would be a good addition.
- ERG mode – left till last. For me, ERG mode was invented by one of the early training platforms to help with the functionality of an early smart trainer with said platform. It has grown into something important for many. I have a bias against it as I can’t see why it’s needed? We can all change gear and generate watts. IRL, we don’t ask the road/track to give us 300 watts! For those who feel the need to ERG, the Wattbike Atom NG seems glitchy in ERG. You can see in our video, 99 rpm and the watts jump around a bit. Personally, not an issue but if you are one of the ‘I can’t possibly train without ERG’ then maybe it is? NB – we only tested ERG on Zwift.
Would I buy a Wattbike Atom NG? Yes. Why haven’t I? Too many smart trainers to test and only so much space. If however, I had the need for a smart-bike, for the price, this would be my current choice. If you are a smart-trainer fixed to a bike person, it’s worth trying a smart bike as it’s hard to explain just how convenient they are.