Which Wahoo smart trainer is best for you?

Kickr Core, Swift, Snap, Shift or Move? GCN takes a deep dive into the Wahoo smart trainer range to find a version that suits you and your home workout plans

Clock14:31, Thursday 12th October 2023

Wahoo offers one of the most comprehensive indoor training catalogues on the market, featuring not only turbo trainers but also the Wahoo X and SYSTM training platforms. With so much on offer, it can be difficult to work out which indoor trainer meets your needs and what the benefits of each of the different models actually are.

Here we take a run-through the whole Wahoo range, from the most budget-friendly options all the way through to the feature-packed premium products at the top of the line

What types of indoor trainers are there?

If you are new to indoor cycling, it might not come as comforting news to find out that not all indoor trainers are built the same. There are a few key differences and terms to be aware of when shopping for an indoor trainer.

Wheel-on trainer

This is the classic trainer configuration where the bike is mounted to the trainer by the rear axle. This leaves the rear wheel in place and the resistance unit is wound up and presses against the rear wheel. These are typically cheaper trainers but can suffer from wheel slip, where the tyre slips on the resistance unit, as well as wear to the tyre. Wheel-on trainers tend not to be smart-enabled and offer a basic introduction to indoor riding.

Smart turbo trainer

A smart trainer will really allow you to maximise the enjoyment of indoor training. The smart functionality means that the trainer can vary the resistance it supplies to the rider depending on computational input. This could be a virtual cycling host such as Zwift, or a training plan provider like Wahoo SYSTM. Either way, the trainer will simulate the environment selected.

Smart trainers are also essential for virtual racing as they will simulate the ebbs and flows of a race, meaning you just have to pedal. One feature that all smart trainers have, that can vary in accuracy, is an integrated power meter, allowing for your effort to be measured by the trainer.

Direct-drive turbo trainer

A direct-drive trainer requires your rear wheel to be removed from the bike before the bike fits the trainer. Direct-drive trainers require a cassette to be fitted to the hub for the bike's chain to mount around. These trainers offer a more secure and responsive solution as well as prevent tyre wear that is associated with wheel-on trainers.

Stationary bike

Static bikes remove the need for you to mount your bike to anything. Instead, these are stand-alone training devices that combine an indoor trainer and your bike into one package. These look similar to a spin bike but have all the functionality of a smart trainer. Static bikes tend to be more expensive and bulkier than other trainers but can offer a realistic experience, without the need to wear out any components on your actual bike such as the chain or chainrings.

Which Wahoo Kickr version should you choose?

Wahoo Kickr Snap

Kickr Snap is a good choice for:

  • Those on a budget. Newcomers to the world of indoor training. Space-conscious riders.

Kickr Snap is not a good choice for:

  • Riders looking for reliable data. Zwift racing. Realistic feel.

The Wahoo Kickr Snap is the cheapest offering from the brand, offering a more traditional package that mounts to your rear wheel via a dedicated steel skewer or thru-axle. The resistance unit is then wound up to the rear tyre, although this method is quick and easy, it can be louder than other trainers as well as causing accelerated tyre wear.

At this price point, the Kickr Snap does pack in plenty of technology making it a smart choice for those on a budget or if not fully sold on the idea of indoor training. The Kickr Snap is classified as a smart trainer, which means that it has the ability to vary resistance to mimic a virtual cycling world such as Zwift or to follow along workouts on the Wahoo SYSTM training platform.

Due to the nature of a wheel-on turbo trainer, the quoted power accuracy is quite low, with a tolerance of +/- 3%. Having an error range of 3% will make more specific training quite difficult but for those less bothered by figures who are looking for an interactive indoor trainer that won't break the bank, the Kickr Snap is a great consideration.

Wahoo Kickr Core

Kickr Core is a good choice for:

  • Riders who indoor train regularly. Riders who to start training or virtual racing. Riders who want to save wearing their tyres out.

Kickr Core is not a good choice for:

  • Space-conscious riders. Serious virtual racers.

Next in the Wahoo hierarchy is the first of its direct-drive trainers. The benefit of having a direct-drive trainer is that the bike bolts to the trainer as if it were the rear wheel. This not only provides a more stable platform when putting in big efforts, but it also saves your tyre and cassette from wear as well as removes the potential for wheel slippage when sprinting.

The Kickr Core offers a lot of functionality, as do the other direct-drive trainers in the range. However, the Kickr Core does lose out when it comes to practicality. Firstly, you will need to factor in the cost of sourcing a cassette for the trainer as it does not come with one as standard. Secondly, the footprint of the trainer is rigid once bolted together, making storage harder than some of the collapsible models.

In terms of performance, the Kickr Core offers an increase in accuracy over the Snap upping the accuracy to +/- 2%, bringing it closer to the benchmark +/- 1% for direct-drive trainers. The Core also has the ability to simulate gradients of +18% and -10% providing a wide range of simulated environments.

One thing that is noteworthy when compared to the more premium direct-drive trainers in its range is that the Kickr Core does lag behind a little bit in terms of responsiveness. For some people, this will hardly be a deal breaker but if you are a fan of a Zwift race or looking to do micro intervals on an indoor trainer, this lag can mean you have to wait just a second or two longer for the resistance to build.

Wahoo Kickr Rollr

Kickr Rollr is a good choice for:

  • Riders who move around a lot. Riders who want the ability to set up and ride quickly. Riders who like to use their bike as it is.

Kickr Rollr is not a good choice for:

  • Preventing wear on rear tyre. Accurate power collection. Big out-of-the-saddle sprint efforts

The Kickr Rollr sits on its own in the Wahoo product range, not fitting in with the typical indoor trainer model. Instead, this trainer is designed to be quick and easy to use with limited set up time and no adjustments needed to the bike at all. The front wheel is clamped by a plastic stand and the rear wheel sits on top of a roller system that offers resistance.

The Kickr Rollr is a smart system offering simulated gradients of +/- 10% and a maximum resistance of 1500 Watts. The ease of use for the Kickr Rollr makes it an ideal choice for riders who want a trainer that doubles up as a warm-up aid for races or who want the most natural feel from the bike on the road to the bike on the trainer.

Similarly to the Kickr Snap, this trainer will cause accelerated tyre wear as it uses the weight of the rider on the roller to provide resistance. This can be an issue in the long term as the tyre can wear unevenly, developing shoulders that make using the tyre out on the road impossible. Something that would be advised if using the Kickr Rollr for any prolonged period of time would be to use a specific training wheel so as to not wear your best tyre.

Wahoo Kickr

Kickr is a good choice for:

  • Serious indoor riders. Virtual racing. Riders looking accurate data collection.

Kickr is not a good choice for:

  • Riders who take their trainer with them to races. Those on a budget.

The original direct-drive trainer from Wahoo has seen a lot of development since its introduction to the market over a decade ago. This is often regarded as the benchmark indoor trainer that others are compared to. Some of this is indeed in part due to the legacy of the Kickr but it also packs plenty of features and functionality into the unit.

With a maximum simulated resistance of 2200 Watts and virtual gradients of +20% and -10%, this caters to the needs of the most powerful riders. The fold-out legs also allow the trainer to be stored that little bit easier than the Kickr Core.

The Kickr is a direct-drive trainer that is aimed at the serious indoor cyclist. With a power accuracy of +/- 1%, it allows for accurate recording of power data whilst training and racing. The newest generation Wahoo Kickr features plenty of technology that makes it the perfect choice for virtual racers including race mode that transmits data over Wi-Fi 10 times faster than typical to give tactical advantages for critical race moments.

Something else that the Kickr introduces is a level of lateral movement, allowing a more natural feel on the bike, especially whilst riding out of the saddle. The trainer is a serious investment but for someone who uses indoor training as a consistent part of their training regime, this is a solid contender.

Wahoo Kickr Move

Kickr Move is a good choice for:

  • Those looking for a realistic experience. Riders who spend prolonged periods out of the saddle. Full gas sprint efforts.

Kickr Move is not a good choice for:

  • Those on a budget. Those who want to store their trainer when not in use.

The Kickr Move uses the same platform as the standard Kickr, in regard to power accuracy and simulated gradient and resistance. What the Kickr Move adds to the package is the ability for the bike to move up to 20cm forwards and backwards, providing the most real-world feel of any trainers offered by Wahoo.

The ability for the bike to move forwards and backwards, as well as side to side, not only puts the rider in a more immersive experience, but you do not lose the functionality of a rigid trainer as the Kickr Move features a lock-out.

Wahoo has ensured that accessory compatibility is maintained even with the dual-axis float. With an adapter, the range of Kickr accessories such as the Kickr Climb can still be used.

In terms of storage, the Wahoo Kickr Move has collapsible side legs but does have a larger footprint than the other trainers.

The Kickr Move is a trainer that offers the most functionality of the Wahoo range, best suited to serious indoor riders who are looking to simulate real-world riding as closely as possible. This trainer would also be a wise consideration for riders who like to spend large portions of time out of the saddle.

Kickr Bike Shift

Kickr Bike Shift is a good choice for:

  • Riders looking for a budget friendly stand alone indoor training bike. A household of multiple athletes. Saving you bike from indoor training related wear and tear.

Kickr Bike Shift is not a good choice for:

  • Those with limited training space. Riders who only indoor train sporadically.

The Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift is the first of two offerings from the brand that deviate away from the typical indoor trainer. The indoor static bike allows the rider to dial in their bike position and use this as a dedicated training tool without the need to mount a bike to a trainer. This has the advantage of time-saving as well as protecting your bike from the salt corrosion associated with indoor training.

Wahoo uses virtual electromagnetic shifting to simulate a full complement of gearing that can be tailored to perfectly mimic the gearing of your actual bike. Similarly to the top spec direct drive trainers, the Kickr Bike Shift can offer a maximum resistance of 2200 Watts, a maximum simulated gradient of +20% and a minimum of -15% that is delivered through an internal belt drive system.

The Kickr Bike Shift is a serious investment and works ideally for indoor riders who spend a great deal of time riding indoors or who do not want to use their bike on an indoor trainer. This could be a potentially wise choice for virtual racers or people who run hot, to prevent any damage to your bike from sweat corrosion to headset bearings or bolts.

Kickr Bike

Kickr Bike is a good choice for:

  • Physically simulating virtual environments. Preventing wear and tear to your actual bike. Sprint efforts.

Kickr Bike is not a good choice for:

  • Riders who do not have a dedicated training space. Training in your exact bike fit position every ride. Most people's budgets.

The most premium offering from Wahoo is the Kickr Bike, which puts on functionality and ergonomics to make indoor riding as immersive and realistic as possible. The Wahoo Kickr Bike is similar in its use to the Kickr Bike Shift and the riders it appeals to will be broadly similar.

What the Kickr Bike adds to the Kickr Bike Shift is real-world gradient shifting, so that the relative angle of the bike replicates the simulated gradient in a virtual cycling world. The Kickr Bike can physically simulate +20% and -15% gradients.

The Kickr bike is easily adjustable, making it simple to adjust the fit between multiple riders ideal for active households. As with the Kickr Bike Shift, these static bikes do take up a lot of space and would be best suited for a rider with a dedicated training area as their weight and size make them difficult to move and store.

The Wahoo range covers a wide range of budgets and needs for riders heading indoors to carry on their training. If you are unsure of how to get started with indoor training we have a whole library of articles to help you, including this one, on how to get started.

Need more indoor cycling help or inspiration? GCN's ultimate guide to indoor cycling has you covered with advice and guides on everything from turbo training tech to workouts. Check it out here.

Related Content

Link to Zwift brings in a raft of new features for winter training season
New updates for Zwift

Zwift brings in a raft of new features for winter training season

The updates, including more roads, a racing score and increased gamification, will roll out gradually in the next few weeks and months

Link to Guide to Wahoo SYSTM: Fitness tracking and workouts for your smart trainer
Wahoo SYSTM online training platform

Guide to Wahoo SYSTM: Fitness tracking and workouts for your smart trainer

Wahoo’s fitness app is one of the best dedicated training platforms for cyclists wanting structured and high-quality workouts at home

Link to Getting started with Zwift indoor training
YouTube video _NQE6XbcTcA

Getting started with Zwift indoor training

Some surefire ways to make the most of indoor training as the days get shorter and the weather less appealing

Link to Cycling in the rain: 8 top tips for staying safe and comfortable
YouTube video ZYKx-_sQIbs

Cycling in the rain: 8 top tips for staying safe and comfortable

Here’s how to continue riding outdoors when the rain is pouring

Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox