Wahoo Kickr Core Review, Smart Trainer & the Wahoo SYSTM Training Platform
Wahoo is renowned for making awesome indoor trainers and this is a review of the Kickr Core, their mid-range model released in 2018. Perhaps less well-known is Wahoo’s video-based SYSTM Training Platform, a perfect partner for those solo, indoor training sessions on the Kickr Core.
If you were thinking of buying a TACX trainer to use with Zwift then maybe the Kickr Core will be as good and cheaper? and maybe Wahoo SYSTEM will be better suited to the kind of indoor training you want to do? Let’s see.
This content is not sponsored and the Kickr Core is a media loaner. I buy my own gear for my own training and if you buy from the links here then I get a commission. Thank you, it pays for the sports gels! #NeedCarbs.
Let’s start out with a summary and for those of you who want more insights please use the Table of Contents or just page further down.
Wahoo Kickr Core Review + SYSTEM
Price - 85%
Apparent Accuracy - 90%
Build Quality & Design - 90%
Features, Including App - 95%
Openness & Compatability - 95%
Wahoo Kickr Core is one of the very best, mid-priced smart indoor ‘turbo’ trainers. It meets all the indoor training needs that most beginner to advanced cyclists would ever need. It has all the features of the top-end models and all that most of you would miss would be the handy carrying handle. Naturally, it has great compatibility with the whole Wahoo ecosystem, Zwift and, of course, Wahoo SYSTM.
A certain kind of cyclist will love the indoor partnership of the Kickr Core and Wahoo SYSTM training platform. SYSTM is perfect for the rider who wants to be entertained and motivated by great video content rather than the gamified world of Zwift. Whether you are a cyclist or a triathlete, SYSTM comes with holistic plans for all major race distances.
- Extensivive video content
- Large and varied workout library
- Includes free cycling and triathlon plans
- Great structured workouts and training calendar features
- Its one-to-one focussed training should be the best way to get fit
- 4DP seems a better focus than simply FTP.
- Kickr Core needs a carry handle!
- SYSTM workouts need better integration with ELEMNT and RIVAL for outdoor training
- Not social
Wahoo Kickr Core Setup
Just tighten 4 bolts, plug the Kickr Core into the wall socket, add a 10-spd or 11-speed cassette to match that on your bike and you’re almost ready to go.
The Kickr Core is one of those types of trainer where you simply remove the rear wheel of your regular road bike and switch your bike over to the Kickr. It should take you less than 60-seconds to do that and the big advantage is that you can fold up the Kickr Core and hide it away somewhere when not in use.
Setup Tip: If you use a 10-speed cassette make sure you have the same spacer behind the cassette as on your bike otherwise shifting might not be the same as on your bike.
You can now pair your new Kickr Core to your trainer platform, your phone, your bike computer and/or your sports watch. There are 3 Bluetooth connections and an unlimited number of ANT+ connections for you to use. For the purposes of this review, I connected the Kickr Core to my trusty old Wahoo ELEMNT bike computer and also to the SYSTEM app on my iPhone and iPod.
Daily Pre-Ride Setup
Always check that your bike is correctly attached to the KICKR, even thru-axles are not guaranteed to fully seat the bike.
There should be no need to perform a calibration (aka spindown) unless you move the KICKR to a new location. Wahoo recommends a 2 weekly spindown, personally, I would do one before every ride as it only takes 30 seconds.
Wahoo Kickr Core Review: Ride Feel
I find the Wahoo MAT and Kickr AXIS feet (on my other Wahoo trainer) give me a little bit of welcomed, lateral movement. Most turbo trainers/smart trainers do not give that lateral movement and Kickr Core is the same in that regard. Thus any powerful, side-to-side movements you make may well add stresses to your bike that you don’t give it when riding on the road. I DO use my carbon-framed bikes on Wahoo Kickr but if I were you I would be mindful of how you put the power down with any indoor trainer and a carbon frame.
The road feel is good in the sense that you are using your regular road bike so the setup is normal. I would say that sometimes the Kickr Core felt harder to re-start when I unexpectedly slowed to a stop during a workout, I had to push pretty hard against the resistance to get going again! That must be down to the algorithm that Wahoo use in specific circumstances as even the Core’s flywheel is relatively light at 5.5kg.
That said, it’s not so hard to overcome that weight of flywheel on any kind of acceleration once you are already spinning, or at least it wasn’t for me. So it’s fine for an average Jo cyclist. As to whether or not it simulates an exact road feel then I’m never quite sure exactly what that means. It feels reasonable to me and the accelerations and changes in resistance seem plausibly similar to some real-world conditions, albeit on lovely smooth road surfaces in South East France!
The neighbours? Shhhh.
I do my indoor workouts in my pain shed so I don’t have to worry about the neighbours.
However, the Kickr Core is very quiet. My fans and noisy chain make WAY more noise than any vibration caused by the Kickr.
Kickr Core – Versatility Abounds
Wahoo endeavours to be compatible with as many things as it can. It’s their ‘thing’. Thus Kickr Core has great support for all the key cycling platforms (obviously SYSTM too), plus support for its own bike computers as well as those from Garmin and others.
Once you are linked to Zwift or Wahoo SYSTM then that app controls the resistance levels on your bike. All you have to do is pedal and enjoy your chosen ride type.
There are other interesting ways to get extra value from your Kickr Core’s other modes. I’ll assume here that you choose to use the free Wahoo app (not Wahoo SYSTM, that’s a subscription app)
- LEVEL: The higher the level, the harder it is.
- RESISTANCE: The brake’s resistance level is fixed regardless of your speed
- ERG: You specify a power level and Core will continuously correct the resistance regardless of what gear you are in or how fast you are pedalling.
- SIM: Enter some personal and environmental estimates to allow Core to simulate power outdoors
With a compatible bike head unit, like the Wahoo Bolt 2, you can also simulate route conditions
- Route simulation lets you re-ride a route/workout you have already completed. Perhaps you want to practice your local loop’s hills and descents?
- Route simulation lets you ride a route you have downloaded from the internet. Perhaps you want to practice your race day route weeks in advance from the comfort of your own bike room rather than travelling to the race location for a practice?
- A variation on the latter would be to use Best Bike Split (BBS). BBS can factor your FTP/CP ability level, gradients and race day (wind) conditions to produce the optimal race power day plan. Obviously, you can use that on race day itself but you could also run a trainer simulation on your Kickr Core at home the month before.
After you have invested in Kickr Core you might as well use the free 60-day subscription to SYSTM that comes with the trainer. That will save you spending more money on Zwift or some other system that you might end up disliking.
Wahoo SYSTM’s main selling point is its extensive video content but there are also very good training plans with highly detailed workouts. The video content entertains, motivates and informs you whereas the structured training plans cover all the triathlon disciplines plus mental training, yoga and strength work. It’s comprehensive.
It’s also super simple to link your sensors to the SYSTM app and create a full plan.
Ad-Hoc Content on SYSTM
There are several channels each with many videos and workouts of all types.
These range from GCN class/spin workouts to the original Sufferfest, Pro Rides and gems of inspirational content…I particularly liked the Wolfpack Insider videos at the TdF. To be honest, these videos are so good they can be enjoyed from your sofa as well as your saddle and I’ve nowhere near seen all of them. There must be hundreds.
Wahoo Kickr Core Accuracy Review
I’ve got a pretty noisy drivetrain at the moment and that might explain the differences, which are trivial in any case.
GPLlama has a quite nice test that covers extended periods at 200w and 250w followed by some short under/over sprints. It covers sensible power ranges that most of us will encounter in normal riding.
Note: One Wahoo element ran out of battery at about 18 minutes so the replacement recording device started at that time.
Wahoo Kickr Core Specifications
|Wahoo Kickr Core Specifications|
|Dimensions (legs open):||20″L x 23″W x 19″H (51 cm x 59 cm x 49 cm)|
|Dimensions (legs closed):||9″L x 23″W x 21″H (22 cm x 59 cm x 54 cm)|
|Weight (Unboxed):||40 lbs (18.1 kg)|
|Rear Wheel Size:||24″ RD / 24″ MTB / 650c RD / 26″ MTB / 700c RD / 650b MTB / 29″ MTB|
|Hub Types:||130/135mm QR, 12×142, and 12×148 Thru Axle – Adapters Included|
|Drivetrain:||Cassette is not included. Requires Purchase and Installation of New 8/9/10/11 Speed SRAM/Shimano Cassette|
|KICKR CLIMB Compatible:||Yes|
|KICKR HEADWIND Compatible:||Yes|
|Speed & Cadence Sensor:||Both are broadcast on FTMS (Bluetooth)|
|Front Wheel Block:||Sold Separately, not needed|
|Accuracy:||+ / – 2%|
|Connectivity:||Bluetooth/FTMS, ANT+, ANT+ FEC|
|Wireless Software Updates:||Yes|
|3rd Party Power Meter Support:||Yes|
|Devices:||iOS, Android, PC (Mac and Windows)|
|Max User Weight:||250 lbs (113 kg)|
|Power Requirements:||100-240V~1.5A 50-60 Hz|
|Flywheel Weight:||12 lbs (5.5kg)|
|Maximum Simulated Grade:||16%|
|Maximum Power Output:||1800 Watts|
Wahoo Kickr Core vs Kickr V6 (2022)
Kickr V6 is about 30% more expensive than Core and I would pay the extra myself for Kickr 2022, though it probably isn’t worth that much of a premium in reality. Here’s what you are paying the extra for.
- Core doesn’t come with a cassette and these can be about $50 or more, Kickr 2022 comes with an 11-speed cassette
- Kickr Core connects to almost everything over WiFi, BLE, ANT+, FTMS and FE-C. Kickr has an ethernet connection & WiFi which might solve your radio interference issues.
- Kickr 2022 claims 1% accuracy whereas Core is 2%. I don’t think this really matters especially as you can also align the resistance to your bike’s outdoor power meter via the Wahoo app
- Kickr V6 is for more advanced riders who can churn out up to 2200watts and climb 20% simulated inclines (Core is 1800w and 16%…1800w is a LOT). Handily it has a new ERG Smoothing mode which gradually ramps up resistance over 10 seconds after an unplanned pause.
- Kickr V6 includes Kickr Axis feet and has a carry handle. Core supports neither.
Wahoo Kickr Core Alternatives
If you can afford a Core…go for it. If not here are some other alternatives in my best indoor trainer guide.
The Peloton bike is an alternative for those of you without a road bike as is the CAROL Bike that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.
Fun Facts & Annoyances
- One of the major annoyances with the KICKR Core, when compared to the more expensive KICKR, is the lack of a carry handle. The Core is just that bit more tricky for me to move it the 2 metres each time I use it #annoying.
- SYSTM used to be SUFFERFEST which Wahoo bought, rebranded and rewrote
- You can use a 3rd party source of power, such as your bike’s power meter pedals. Kickr Core will then match its resistance levels to that external source of power. This is a pretty cool way to eliminate any differences that might exist between Core and your normal road setup.
- Wahoo’s compatibility is great with support for just about any modern sensor or platform. However, the Core may have mechanical incompatibility with these specific bike models so please double-check if you own one: 2021+ Trek Emonda, 2021 Trek Checkpoint Carbon, 2021 Trek Top Fuel, 2020+ Trek Domane & Madone, 2021+ Giant TCR Disc Models, 2021 Rondo Ruut AL2, Lauf True Grit and All Cervelo Disc Frames
- Here are some of the most googles turbo trainer questions.
- All workouts are classed based on how they will improve each aspect of your Four-Dimensional Power (4DP). 4DP is a sensible way to look at the strengths and weaknesses of your physiology over different effort durations as that broadly corresponds with the abilities of your body’s different energy systems
SYSTM has been a relatively recent project for Wahoo and they are definitely, currently working to add much more to it. Expect it to get even better.
Kickr Core was released in 2018 and I reckon there is a good chance of a new version this fall/autumn. It can’t change too much though without encroaching on the top-end Kickr V5 (2020). On that basis, you won’t miss out on much by buying one now.
The first two months of SYSTM are free with a Kickr and then $129pa or $15pcm thereafter. Even without buying a Kickr you can probably get a free 30-day trial.
Kickr Core – £700 from Wiggle/Wahoo, Gold/Platinum Wiggle members should get a discount of at least 5%
Kickr Core – £700 direct from Wahoo Fitness
Kickr Core – $899 with 15% off for new customers at Competitive Cyclist (USA Only)
Kickr and Kickr Core are great trainers and you should just buy one without giving it a second thought. They really are that good.
Kickr Core supports all the same key metrics and controls that your app or bike computer needs and it does it more than accurately enough. Wahoo’s Core is a heavy, well-made trainer that is built to last and the price is reasonable.
The choice for Zwift or SYSTM or some other platform is a more difficult one and comes down very much to personal preferences. Clearly if all your mates regularly cycle on Zwift and you love the social side of digital cycling then Zwift is your best option. However, if you love to be entertained, informed and motivated while you cycle at home then SYSTM is a great choice as your training partner, made even better if you are already heavily vested in the Wahoo ecosystem.
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