[2024] Wahoo KICKR HEADWIND Review – In-Depth look at a smart indoor bike fan

Wahoo Fitness KICKR Headwind ReviewWahoo KICKR HEADWIND Review – a smart indoor bike fan

Yikes! $300 for a smart fan, here’s an in-depth review of the Wahoo KICKR Headwind warts and all…let’s hope it’s super smart for that price.

More: Wahoo Fitness

Buy: $300 £230 €280

We’ll start with a summary review of the Wahoo Headwind with in-depth details below, this review includes changes to the ecosystem well after launch that are not covered in most other reviews.

FYI: Media loaner

Verdict: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Clever and good fan. Could be smarter and you might need two.
80%

Wahoo Kickr Headwind Summary Review

Kickr Headwind is a good, strongly blowing fan that delivers more air than you might expect to a targeted part of your body.

Like any fan, it can be manually controlled but its unique feature is focussed airflow that automatically increases as you try harder – either from virtual speed or heart rate. It’s aimed at those of us who are committed to the Wahoo ecosystem but works equally as well with non-Wahoo kit.

For this amount of money or even when discounted in the sales by 25%, I expect something even smarter in 2024 (more, below).

Buy: $300 £230 €280

Pros

  • Great for variable flow during intervals
  • Great for gradually colling down after a race
  • Can be tilted
  • Powerful, focused airflow
  • Effort-based airflow control
  • Manual control by ELEMNT or app
  • Manual flow control from the app or press the physical button
  • Airflow progresses evenly between min/max levels you set
  • Airflow has been fine for every use in early 2024.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Lacks Voice control/Home automation
  • No swivel (does it need it?)
  • Best placed slightly to the side or on a desk
  • Not controlled by power
  • AFAIK, Zwift etc do not have wind effects
  • Power button could have a more positive feel
  • You may well need two!
wahoo kickr climb review
Wahoo Ecosystem

Wahoo KICKR HEADWIND – Setup and Walkthrough

Plug it into a power source, press the button on the front to turn it on and pair it to the Wahoo app.

That process should automatically add a pairing in your KICKR Trainer and your ELEMNT.

Use the manual control on the app or on ELEMNT to show all is working. It is that simple to get started although there might be a delay in the control screen appearing on ELEMNT.

To get variable, smart airflow you’ll need other sensors paired to the app. I had a smart trainer and heart rate sensor already paired and had to do nothing further to link them together. I only had to configure how they worked with HEADWIND, as shown below.

You can link these sensors

All you have to do in the app is set the control method (manual, heart rate or speed) and then the limits for each. Do NOT set your HRmax. Headwind effectively scales the airflow from zero at your minimum setting to MAX at your maximum setting. Thus your max setting will be somewhere around your threshold, where things start to get uncomfortable and you’re sweating a fair bit.

I’ve been doing hills on myWhoosh (it’s like Zwift but free!), so the speed setting is not that useful as the fan is not triggered when you most need it ie when going slowly uphill and trying hard. Thus I favoured using heart rate to control the airflow and the settings that seemed to work best for my comfort were a MAX set in the upper end of Z3 and a MIN at the top of Z1. I’ve not had the aircon on in the room and haven’t dealt with wildly varying room temperatures.

I experimented with using speed to control the airflow on some of the faster, flat courses but found it hard to dial in a speed that reliably kept me comfortably cool. However controlling with speed did give a better and more realistic game feel, as did the KICKR CLIMB on my front forks.

The physical placement of the fan is important for optimal cooling. When placed directly ahead of the front wheel, your bike will disrupt the airflow before it hits your torso or head. I found the optimal placement to be no more than a metre to the side of the bike and slightly ahead of the front wheel. Check the airflow is OK for you on the bars and the drops and you’re good to go.

TL;DR – Controlling by HR and correctly setting limits works great with HEADWIND on the floor just to one side and ahead of the front of the wheel.

Wahoo KICKR HEADWIND – How Could It Be Better?

KICKR Headwind already works well and is a great product. However there are several ways it could be made smarter and easier to use, I’m not sure that these potential improvements would ever find their way onto a product and maybe there is not a sufficiently large market for an update to this kind of premium product.

  • More Ways to Automate Control
    • I was surprised that airflow was not controllable by power. Controlling by power zones would enable airflow to adapt to real and immediate changes to your performance level.
    • A cleverer control method would be to add the Bluetooth body temperature profile from sensors like greenTEG CORE.
    • Overlapping control mechanisms would be useful so that one generic setting added max airflow at LTHR, FTP, 36 km/h, or 38.5 degrees Celcius. Whichever trigger is reached first will be used. This would mean a single mode works uphill from power (effort), downhill from speed (simulates real-life airflow) and in the summer based on body temperature (environmental impacts).
    • The Wahoo app and ELEMNT bike computer act as remote controls. It would be nice to have some other means of manual fan speed control in Zwift, Wahoo SYSTM, myWhoosh, etc
  • Improved tech integration
    • Matter compatibility – Adding voice control over matter would give compatibility for on/off/’intensity’ control with Google Home, Apple Homekit and other home automation systems
    • A common Wahoo power block – I’d like to see a single Wahoo power transformer into which I can plug CLIMB, KICKR, Headwind, a spare fan plus some USB ports. I’d like the fan sockets to be voice-automated and the whole shebang to have an automated power off when not in use. It would tidy up the appearance of all the cables and extensions.
  • Real-world Simulation Improvements
    • Wind could be added to Zwift and other platforms but it’s unlikely. Zwift would have to model the effects of air resistance on road speed plus transmit wind intensity and direction, then will you really buy 4-6 KICKR Headwinds to experience wind from other directions?
    • Gusts – as a simpler compromise to wind automation on Zwift, it might be fun for Wahoo to introduce gusts as surges in the airflow
  • Physical improvements
    • A Swivel/Tilt feature could be added but I’m not entirely sure what that would add to the training experience. It would reduce cooling efficiency and add mechanical complexity to HEADWIND.
    • A more substantial Carry Handle
    • More than 4 manual fan speeds
    • Improved up/down adjustability (HEADWIND legs can be adjusted to point the unit down for on-desk usage)
    • Ability to work as a pair of fans (this already might be possible, multiple Headwinds can be paired I’m just not sure exactly how they are then controlled)
    • The ability to locate the fan on top of KICKR CLIMB would be a good central position for the fan as currently, it’s best either directly in front of you on a desk or to the side of the front wheel on the floor. I’ll leave the practicality and aesthetics of that suggestion to Wahoo’s design team to work through ;-).
  • KICKR RUN Treadmill is due for release in the USA in Summer 2024. I would assume compatibility in terms of attaching hardware and software links via FE-C.

 

Alternatives to Wahoo KICKR HEADWIND

The direct alternative to Wahoo’s HEADWIND is the Elite Aria which looks better-made but is quite a bit more expensive  (+£/$50-100). It has body temperature control, power meter control, and an adjustable flow rate and position. Like the Headwind it has manual remote control from the app. Elite’s hardware ecosystem has modern contemporary styling whereas Wahoo’s designs are more ‘industrial’. For aesthetics, I reckon it’s best to stick to one system or the other.

Click: Buy Elite Aria

 

An adjustable, 3-speed floor-standing fan is your next best option. You might be ok with a single 20″ one but I previously used two 20″ fans and the going rate seems to be about £40-50 each or $65. Actually, I have 4 of them and we spread them around the house for general cooling in the summer. Ensure you get the 20″ ones or larger if you can find them.

The Vacmaster Cardio54 has a remote control for $80 or £75. They are rated highly by 220Triathlon and cyclists on many forums, I’ve not used one despite talking with the brand a few years ago. You might get away with buying one as they are powerful and the airflow is more focussed. Vacmaster originally focussed on industrial coolers, so check your local builders’ supply store for other brands not trying to take advantage of ‘rich’ cyclists.

Multiple Fans, Complementary Fans

Wahoo’s app and ELEMNTs can pair with more than one fan and I assume they are controlled individually not together (IDK).

For a techy two-fan setup, alongside HEADWIND I would use a voice-controlled socket compatible with Matter/Homekit to control the spare fan manually set to the maximum.

You could get clever with a smart dimmer plug like this one on Amazon. You could then control the airflow progressively by voice. I’m not sure that varying the current would be a good idea for your fan.

Wahoo Fitness KICKR Headwind – Other Tidbits

Here are some other factettes

  • The windspeed equivalent quoted by Wahoo relates to the speed of the air immediately after leaving the fan. By the time it hits your body, it travels MUCH slower, more in the region of 10-15km/h. However, that is what you probably want for comfort as if you had a 30km/h wind directly in your face it would be very uncomfortable
  • In automatic mode, HEADWIND always blows air when the KICKR flywheel turns. Presumably making it more responsive when it needs to blow faster
  • The ELEMNT app should give you the option to show or hide the HEADWIND control screen after a minute of being paired to HEADWIND. That option never appeared for me and the HEADWIND control screen on the ELEMNT just appeared as one of the screens in the KICKR Trainer control section.
  • There are only SPEED and HR LEDs on the front control panel of HEADWIND. This implies that Wahoo can’t or won’t add power control via a firmware update.
  • There are 4 fan speed settings
  • There is a carry handle of sorts, shown above
  • There is a cable tidy on the rear
  • My pain shed is fairly dusty, I can’t see how the innards of the fan can be cleaned out once the dust builds up.
  • The noise-to-effectiveness ratio is low! Put another way it’s quieter than one of my floor-standing 20″ circular fans and works better
  • HEADWIND uses Bluetooth Multi Peripheral mode (allowing connections for up to 3 devices)
  • The blue LEDs on HEADWIND will blink when pairing and go solid once paired – this direct pairing is only necessary if you do not use the Wahoo app.
  • Standby mode is activated after 3 minutes of inactivity
  • Standby mode is ended and HEADWIND is powered on once the last paired device comes in range. If you always leave HEADWIND on standby you should never have to get off the trainer to start the fan if you forgot to do that at the get-go.
  • Cubic Feet per minute (CFM) is a measure of airflow and if the manufacturer-stated values were to be believed this could be a good metric to compare fans, however, this would not account for the focus of the airstream. A simple test is to measure the airflow at a set distance in a set place. Or you might simply be able to feel the difference when stationary in your riding position – HEADWIND is definitely stronger and more focused than one of my fans but not as strong as two of them.
  • It is possible to have multiple HEADWINDs paired according to images I have seen from Wahoo.

Wahoo KICKR Headwind Specifications

  • Motor Spec: 120v 60hz (US / Japan); 240v 50/60hz (EU / AU / UK Versions)
  • Dimensions (Legs Tucked): 16″L x 12″W x 19″H / 40.6cm x 30.5cm x 48.3cm
  • Dimensions (Legs Extended): 18″L x 12″W x 19″H / 45.7cm x 30.5cm x 48.3cm
  • Weight: 12 lb / 5.44 kg
  • Max Fan Speed: 30 mph / 48 kph
  • Wireless Software Updates: Yes (via the Wahoo smartphone app)
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+ FE-C, Other
  • Adjustable Legs: Yes (2 Positions)

 

Wahoo Fitness KICKR Headwind Review Summary

If you ignore the price and look at the KICKR Headwind in isolation, it’s a great product implemented nicely. It just works and it does the job, provided it’s on or in standby mode before you get on your bike. Placed on a table directly in front of me, one fan is enough but I need more than one fan when floor-standing.

I do not doubt that Wahoo’s fabled Wahooligans who are uber brand loyal will already have splashed the cash on one of these and be happy with their purchase. They will have looked no further than the Wahoo brand name to trust the product to do its job.

However, if you do a bit of research you discover Elite Aria which on paper is a more capable product albeit even more expensive. Then you think, why isn’t Headwind controlled with Power & Core Temperature – those sensors are both supported by ELEMNT bike computers after all? I also read on DC Rainmaker’s site that Apple Homekit support was originally planned but later cancelled. I would have loved that and used it from time to time alongside automated control from heart rate.

Basic floorstanding fans are getting more expensive on Amazon but Kickr HEADWIND seems to maintain the price from years ago. Thus it’s perhaps not as overpriced in 2024 as it was at launch and becomes relatively good value with a 25% sale discount.

If only it had cycling power control…

The best-ever price was briefly 50% off on Amazon but a typical sale is 25% off and a bundled deal might include a decent discount.

Buy: $300 £230 €280
Wahoo Fitness KICKR Headwind Review

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2 thoughts on “[2024] Wahoo KICKR HEADWIND Review – In-Depth look at a smart indoor bike fan

  1. Appreciate the review and the honsesty. This is so overkill as to be ridiculous. For 1/5th the price I use a Lasko “Stanley” model that I bought 8 years ago (similar to this one below) and it is still going strong. I use a remote control power on/off outlet and turn it on when my RPE dictates. Simple as that. HR/Speed-enabled speed is “neat” and caters to, as you said, “rich” cyclists with more $$ than sense.

    https://amzn.to/3J1zLVQ

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