Wahoo Launches KICKR STEER

Of course Wahoo has had steering for a long time, and “steering” in this context refers to negotiating a route inside of an online game during a stationary cycling session. The steering Wahoo had was built into its KICKR Bike and was executed using buttons on the shifters.

Just launched today is steering that uses your handheld device’s capacity to know its orientation. Your iPhone can measure, it can act as a compass, it can detect level or slope. That functionality appears the engine behind Wahoo’s steering and it reminds me of Wahoo’s beginnings as a company, when the basis of the brand was the use of the iPhone (this is before the ELEMNT, the KICKR, or any hardware).

What you’ll see in these images is a pair of products. The first is simply software built into your handheld device (iOS or Android), exploiting the device’s changes in orientation. The second is a piece of hardware that your handheld device sits on. It’s just dumb hardware. Effective, but simply mechanical. You put a heavier-than-usual (included) clamp on your handlebar onto which would usually sit a head unit (and it functions as that, Garmin or Wahoo). It’s heavier than usual because it’s aluminum and it needs to be more robust to withstand the forces used during (stationary) steering. A platform attaches to the clamp onto which are paddles that attach to either side of this and when your hands are on the hoods the push of a thumb on a paddle tilts this platform down to the left or right. This tells your avatar to move to the left or right of the lane. (If you use the same bike for riding in and outdoors, remove the steering platform from the clamp and the clamp accepts your head unit for outdoor riding.)

Here’s what you need in order to make all this happen: In the case of RGT you need the game, of course. The full version of the app. I have it loaded on a Windows 11 gaming rig, displayed on a TV screen in front of my stationary bike. Then you need RGT’s companion app. Steering runs on the app, which you orient in landscape mode and sit on that stand that attaches to the handlebar head unit mount. Below is what my set up looked like while using KICKR STEER.

Steering is officially offered only on RGT and to remind you this program – used to be called Road Grand Tours – was bought last year by Wahoo and is a part of Wahoo X, which is a wall-to-wall ecosystem for connected training. It encompasses The Sufferfest, RGT and more. RGT is more or less analogous to Zwift, FulGaz and Rouvy in that it’s a massive multiplayer cycling platform.

I have not tried KICKR STEER on Zwift, but I did hear from one of my media colleagues that it does work. Over the next day or two I’ll navigate to Repack Ridge and give it a whirl. I’ll answer any questions on any of this on our Reader Forum.

What is it like using KICKR STEER? There is a sensitivity slider with settings from 1 to 10, and you'll see this in the companion app. Honestly, I didn’t see a lot of difference in steering when the sensitivity was at either 3 or 7. It’s not nearly as obvious as tuning – say – your mouse and track pad speed. But I didn’t find that the steering sensitivity over-fast or over-slow. Rather than the 2- or 3-second delay between pedaling force changes and avatar response you get with any of these platforms, steering response (from input to avatar response) was nearly instantaneous. You push down on the left or right paddle and you’ll see in RGT some chevrons on the screen that indicate where your bike will end up after the steer you've executed takes effect. If you need to steer further to the left or right push the paddle again, chevrons show up again, and so on.

KICKR STEER launched today at a promotional half price of $49.99. This is paired with a Wahoo X membership deal that’s very good at $149.99 for 15 months, rather than the usual $186.25 for 12. Or, there's a Wahoo X + KICKR STEER bundle at $199 for the year and it seems like for that $199 you get 15 months, based on my read.

That’s KICKR STEER and I was more impressed than I thought I would be. My prior experience with steering was using a KICKR Bike, and an Elite STERZO Smart, both in Zwift. What are the implications of steering here in RGT? Because I always wonder about the bigger picture.

Wahoo is committed to giving Zwift, TrainerRoad, and the rest of the stationary world a run for its money. It believes that Wahoo X has it all and has it for the best price. In a world where we’re getting subscribed to death (did you buy a subscription to the service that monitors your subscriptions?), the value proposition for Wahoo X is to help you spin down your list of subscriptions.

Second, Wahoo and Zwift share premium placements in eSports championships: Wahoo for hardware, Zwift for its game. You might ride your KICKR on Zwift as you compete in Indoor Cycling World Championships. The most obvious benefit to steering in RGT is while racing. It was clear in the riding I did on RGT that taking the most direct route in and out of turns, drafting, avoiding getting drafted, the sprint, were all affected by KICKR STEER. Wahoo is ambitious by nature and appears to be building – or trying to build – the preeminent online bike racing platform, hardware and software combined.

Wahoo takes up more and more real estate on my handheld these days. Of the above apps the ones I should remove are Zwift and RGT – the full versions – because I never run the games on my handheld. The Zwift orange icon is the game, the blue is the companion app. Likewise i don't need RGT (the game), but I do need RGT's companion app, which runs steering and also some cool features like built-in chat in-game, without needing Discord. This means I use the WAHOO app (for my Zwift stationary hardware, such as the KICKR, Climb an Headwind), the ELEMNT app for my ROAM and RIVAL, RGT's Companion app and for SYSTM I'll refer you elsewhere on Slowtwitch.