This week, I was talking with my chiropractor, who has finished multiple Ironman triathlons a decade or so ago. We were talking about our brutal winters in Buffalo, NY and options for riding inside. He hasn’t updated his bike or indoor trainer since he was racing. And, he shared that he struggles to get motivated to tune his bike up and set it up on his “not-so-smart” indoor trainer, let alone get on and ride for an hour. There are just too many obstacles that are easily cited as excuses for not riding indoors. He has done it. He could do it again. But, would he be more likely to ride indoors if he had a smart trainer setup that was easier to use?
I also have a friend who in the last several years has become a dedicated recreational cyclist and bicycling advocate in the city of Buffalo. She rides outside in almost all conditions, except for snow and ice, with organized groups in the streets of Buffalo and alone on the bike paths. She too has a “not-so-smart” indoor trainer that she mounts her bike on to ride indoors. She shared that her trainer isn’t that easy to setup, and riding indoors isn’t very exciting. I have been encouraging her to try a smart trainer and an online riding platform like Zwift. I know she’ll find community on a virtual riding platform, like she does in our metro area, that will improve the appeal of riding indoors. Though, so many trainers are cost prohibitive and overly technical for setting up. But, would she be more likely to try a virtual riding platform if she had a smart trainer setup that was easier to use?
I was thinking of both of them when setting up and riding on the Wahoo Kickr Rollr for the first few times. I don’t think it is the smart trainer for everyone, but I do think it could be just what some people need, including the two people I mentioned above.
The setup of the Kickr Rollr isn’t any more complicated than assembling a small piece of furniture. The base is made up of three pieces, and the front support triangle is made up of three pieces. Using the tool included that is an allen wrench and a Phillips head screwdriver, the assembly goes quickly using the instructions and even quicker using the installation video on the Wahoo website. I appreciate that there are no special tools or mechanical bike knowledge required for assembly. You don’t need to know your axel type and dropout width to sort through a bunch of adaptors, and you don’t need a cassette tool or a chain whip. Wahoo has made this one easy for anyone to set up. You do, however, have to know if your bike is compatible, which almost all road and hybrid bikes with 700c wheels are. A 29er mountain bike may fit, but not if the wheelbase exceeds 1100mm.
This is where the Kickr Rollr really shines. Putting your bike on the trainer to ride and taking it off when you are done couldn’t be easier. The only adjustment is turning the tension wheel that squeezes the front tire. Wahoo calls this the “Safety Tire Gripper.” This mechanism holds your front tire in place side-to-side, along with rider weight keeping the front wheel in the bottom wheel holds.
Then, you simply have to adjust for your bike’s wheelbase and make sure the rear tire is touching the two rollers evenly. This is accomplished by releasing the large grey plastic quick release and sliding the telescoping base to the correct position. Here too, the video comes in handy. Once the wheelbase is set for your bike, you’ll never need to adjust it again. Your only adjustment for taking the bike on and off the trainer is tightening and loosening the “Safety Tire Gripper.” Again, I appreciate the trainer’s ease of use with taking the bike on and off so quickly. The only detail you need to attend to on your bike is making sure you have adequate pressure in your tires, which you would have to do anyway if you were riding outside.
Technically, the Kickr Rollr is a semi-smart roller with a front wheel stand. As such, you get the benefit of the roller feel, being able to move around a bit side to side on the rollers, but you don’t have the risk of falling like you do with conventional smart rollers without a front wheel stand. However, the road feel is considerably helped by the 10.5 lb. flywheel that once spun up to speed makes accelerations smooth and predictable. The first few pedal strokes can feel kind of clunky, but that is only because you are getting the flywheel up to speed to provide the inertia that aides in the road feel. The large roller drums don’t provide a significant amount of resistance, which helps as well.
I refer to the Kickr Rollr as a semi-smart roller because it is dependent on pairing with a power meter to broadcast power measurement to apps and online riding platforms. However, you can still use the Kickr Rollr with virtual riding platforms that will estimate power based on the speed of the rollers (e.g., Zwift). Therefore, if you want to make the most of virtual terrain resistance and ERG mode, you'll need to pair a power meter to the trainer.
It Does Take Up Space
The only downside I see to this trainer is that it is large and rather heavy. While those same characteristics provide the necessary stability and riding experience, this smart trainer is not that easy to move and store away. The front triangle folds down, so it could be slid under a bed if there is enough clearance. But, more than likely, once setup this smart trainer will occupy a semi-permanent spot in your living space. And, you might want it that way because you can easily fold the front up and pop your bike on for a ride.
The Ideal Trainer for Some
The price of the Kickr Rollr has dropped from $799.99 to the sale price of $599.99. That puts it in the entry level category along with the Zwift Hub, priced to entice those who are new to riding indoors. Now that Wahoo and Zwift are playing nice together again, you can also get the Kickr Rollr in a Zwift bundle that includes a year of Zwift membership for $699.99. There is also a sale on the bundle with the Powerlink Zero Pedals for $1206.88. Those prices are closer to the threshold my chiropractor and friend would be comfortable with, but I think the real selling point is the ease of use and quality of indoor riding that Wahoo Kickr Rollr could potentially bring to them.
My chiropractor is pretty set in his ways. I don’t know that I will ever get him to come around to the idea of spending money on an indoor trainer, no matter how easy it makes indoor riding for him. But, I do think I have a chance of convincing my friend. In fact, my next move with this Kickr Rollr is to offer it up to her to borrow and see if I can get her to try out riding on Zwift. I know she’d love it once it was all setup.
Wish me luck!