Wahoo Kickr Core Smart review – BikeRadar

A more affordable version of Wahoo’s acclaimed Kickr trainer
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By Ian Osborne
The Kickr Core Smart is Wahoo’s mid-price trainer, sitting between its top-of-the-range Kickr (£999.99 / $1,065) and entry-level Kickr Snap (£429.99 / $499.99).
The Core may be mid-priced but doesn’t skimp on features and uses much of the same technology as the Kickr, but one difference is the size of the belt-driven flywheel. These are measured by weight, and the 5.4kg flywheel on the Core isn’t as burly as the 7.3kg flywheel on the Kickr.
The heavier flywheel on the top-level trainer is designed to improve ride feel, but in reality it was hard to notice and never felt like a compromise when testing these two trainers back-to-back.
The Core works directly with quick-release axles but also comes with adaptors for 12 x 142mm and 12 x 148mm thru-axles in the box, but there’s no cassette or wheel block. I set up the Core 11-speed but it will also work with 8-, 9- and 10-speed cassettes.
To help keep the price down, the unit’s legs are fixed and need to be bolted on out of the box. It’s a simple job that only takes a few minutes, and you only need to do it once. After construction the legs fold in slightly for storage, but it doesn’t pack as small as some other trainers.
Ride setup is simple and only takes a few minutes using the Wahoo Fitness App to adjust the settings to match your bike; for example, its wheel size. Everything connects quickly and easily via Ant+ and Bluetooth, and works easily with third-party apps. The trainer paired instantly with Zwift, which I used for testing.
However, you will need to perform a spin-down to make sure the trainer is correctly calibrated, which is all managed in the app.
With my bike bolted on to the trainer, the unit was ready to use, and initial ride feel was good. What was instantly noticeable, and stands out, is how quiet the Core is. This is thanks to the neat belt drive which offers almost silent pedalling. To be honest, the bike’s transmission makes more noise.
I was also impressed by how stable the setup is, even when you’re out of the saddle working hard. The combination of ride feel and stability is impressive.
It was good to see that power outputs are similar to those found on my Garmin Vector power pedals, and was usually within a couple of percent at the most, so I had no issue with power read outs.
Wahoo’s claimed power accuracy for the Kickr Core is the same as the top-end Kickr at +/- two percent (the cheaper Snap is +/- three percent).
As a fully-fledged smart trainer, the Core is capable of automatically adjusting power to a prescribed output when using a training app.
The Core itself works up to a maximum gradient of 16 percent gradient – again, it will automatically adjust the resistance according to the gradient of the virtual road you are riding – while it’s also compatible with Wahoo’s Climb (£499.99).
Once paired, this indoor gradient simulator adds physical gradient changes of up to 20 percent on climbs and -10 percent on descents.
Although the Climb doesn’t come cheap, it is a neat piece of kit that adds to the realism of the indoor riding experience.
On a similar note, Wahoo has the Headwind smart fan (£199.99), which aids cooling as you pedal and also helps create realistic wind speeds. It only works up to 30mph but the experience is unique and makes for the ultimate in pain cave riding.
Once again, however, it’s undoubtedly a premium purchase, with powerful fans available online and on the high street for significantly cheaper.
The Wahoo Kickr Core is an impressive smart trainer and, for many, the price will be a big pull compared to its main competitors, even when compared to its more expensive big brother, the Kickr.
It’s a great deal at this price, especially if you’re going to splash out on extras such as the Kickr Climb or Kickr Headwind fan. Accessories aside, however, the Kickr Core is an excellent turbo that will give you the full smart trainer experience for a competitive price.
Ian Osborne is a contributor to BikeRadar and Cycling Plus magazine. He grew up riding BMX and working part-time in bike shops to feed his habit. After travelling the world, usually with a bike, he started working on mountain bike magazines, going back to his roots by playing in the dirt racing downhill and taking part in early four-cross events. Ian has since raced everything from cross-country MTB to 24-hour events, and over the last 20 years has graduated into the world of Lycra, skinny tyres and time trial bikes before catching the Ironman triathlon bug. He continues to ride bikes of all types on a regular basis and occasionally still races for fun.
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