Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift

8
£2,699.99

VERDICT:

8
10
Solid indoor bike with good adjustability, believable power and a great ride feel
Solid platform & performance
Good ride feel
Accurate power
Adjustable to fit a wide range of riders
Virtual shifting not as slick as more expensive model
No display or charge port
Can't user-assign buttons
Weight: 
36,000g

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

What the road.cc scores mean

Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.

  • Exceptional
  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Quite good
  • Average
  • Not so good
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • Appalling

The new Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift is a little brother to the company's all-singing, all-dancing model. The changes the company has made to hit a lower price point are all sensible, and the bike itself offers a huge range of adjustment, good ride feel and accurate power reporting. It's still an expensive thing, though, so best suited to riders who spend a lot of hours indoors on the bike, or households where more than one rider wants to train.

Not sure which is best for your needs? Read our guide to everything you need to know about the best turbo trainers.

Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift: Setup

Assembling the bike is simple and just a case of attaching the various bits to the main body of the bike. The handlebar is the only thing that needs connecting electronically (other than the mains power), and that's a neat magnetic connection that you can't get wrong. From boxed to ready to go only took about a quarter of an hour.

2023 Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift - cable.jpg

One of the cost-saving measures with the Shift is that aluminium alloy components have been replaced with steel, so it's a reasonably heavy beast. That's no bad thing, though, as it provides a solid platform for your training. Muscling it into position is ideally a job for two people, but once it's there you're unlikely to be moving it – if you're forking out this kind of money for an indoor bike, chances are you have somewhere for it to live permanently set up. There are adjustable feet to level it if you have a wonky floor.

2023 Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift - foot.jpg

Setting up the bike to fit you takes a bit longer, because there are quite a few ways you can affect the fit. The whole bike can be raised or lowered on its base. The seatpost assembly can be moved forwards and backwards relative to the cranks, and the seatpost height adjusted…

2023 Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift - frame adjustment.jpg

…and at the other end the front centre (BB to front axle) and the bar height can be adjusted.

2023 Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift - frame adjustment 2.jpg

Given the range of adjustment there's no reason you'd need to change the stem, but the handlebar is a standard unit and could be replaced with something wider or narrower if you're looking to exactly replicate the feel of your outdoor bike. At the cranks you have five options from 165mm to 175mm in 2.5mm increments.

2023 Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift - crank.jpg

So whatever you ride, you should be able to get comfortable on the Kickr Bike Shift. If there's more than one person training on the bike you'll just need to take note of the numbers so you can set it up easily the next time you ride. The Wahoo app has a fit calculation system to help you get the fit of the bike correct before you ride; there are basic and more involved options depending on how deep you want to go.

KICKR Bike Shift - app - fit.jpg

Connecting the bike to your favourite training app is as easy as you want it to be. Bluetooth and ANT+ connections are available. If you want a more responsive connection then you can also connect the bike over Wi-Fi, which in race mode allows you to send power data ten times a second for that extra marginal gain in the sprint.

You can also physically connect the trainer to a PC via ethernet for the most stable connection possible. No more dropouts when you're in the mix for the win! Not that that's much of an issue for me right now.

I didn't use the Direct Connect functionality but I did try the other three connection options, with no issues, and Wi-Fi race mode is definitely a bit more responsive in Zwift, although it's not something you'll necessarily notice outside of racing. I mainly connected with Wi-Fi just because it's probably the most stable connection of the non-wired options.

> How to get started with Zwift

You're almost certainly going to be hooking the Shift up to a training app if you're forking out this kind of cash. It comes with a trial for Wahoo X which gives you access to its SYSTM training suite, or you can get the bike with a year's Zwift subscription for £100 more. It will work without, though: Wahoo's app allows you to train in ERG mode where the bike will hold a constant power, or a simulation mode where the speed/power curve mimics riding outdoors.

Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift: Ride feel

Let's talk about how quiet the Kickr Bike Shift is first. I think it's the quietest trainer I've ever used. Most direct-drive trainers these days are quieter than the bikes you put on them, and since there's no bike here, just a functionally silent singlespeed belt drivetrain, there's barely any sound. It's even quieter than the Tacx Neo Bike, and that's saying something. For me it's a nicer trainer to ride than its more expensive sibling – the top tube has been slimmed down significantly and I never found myself catching my legs on it, which is an issue on the tilting bike.

2023 Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift - detail.jpg

One of the ways that Wahoo has made the Kickr Bike Shift cheaper is to use a simpler electromagnetic resistance unit. The top-end Kickr bike uses a motor brake system that can drive the rear wheel, similar to the Tacx Neo trainers. The Shift has a more standard resistance unit that's similar to the direct-drive Kickr trainers; it runs at a higher flywheel speed, though, and Wahoo says that as a result it's quicker to react. The ride feel is very composed and smooth.

Gearing is virtual, as it is with all smart bikes. They vary in their effectiveness, and the Kickr Bike Shift is pretty good. Without the motor brake you lose the ability to replicate the 'clunk' of a gear shift – the Tacx Neo Smart and top-end Kickr Bike do that very well. Even so, the shift is more or less instantaneous, and you soon get used to the feel of it. Overall it's pretty good. For my taste the ramp to a higher gear is a bit too pronounced – you have to work a bit too hard for a bit too long to get on top of the gear when you're shifting to a higher virtual ratio. It's not a deal breaker, though.

The Shift can replicate any outdoor gear setup, or you can just design your own in the smartphone app. There's no display on the bike, which is another cost saving; it's not a huge loss in that the display on the more expensive Kickr Bike is pretty ordinary, but I sometimes missed knowing where I was in the range.

KICKR Bike Shift - app - gears.jpg

If you don't have a USB port in range of your setup then you'll probably miss the USB charging port from the more expensive bike too. Zwift is working on getting gear information displayed in game, like it does with some other smart bikes.

Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift: Power

Wahoo claims a maximum resistance of 2,200W, a maximum gradient simulation of 20%, and an accuracy of +/- 1% for the Kickr Bike Shift, which is exactly the same as the Kickr direct-drive trainer. Unless you're a track sprinting hero and need the 2,500W that the more expensive Kickr Bike offers, that will probably do just fine.

When benchmarked against my elderly and generally dependable Garmin Vector 2 pedals, the Kickr Bike Shift does an admirable job and spits out very believable numbers. Wahoo has a long history of accurate power reporting across its high-end trainers, and the Shift doesn't appear to buck that trend.

Below is a trace of an interval session in ERG mode. The overall average power of the two power meters is within a watt; the bike is very slightly under-reporting compared with the pedals in the efforts and is slightly over in the rest periods. There's not a great deal in it, though, a couple of per cent where they differ most.

KICKR Bike Shift - ERG - power 1.png

This close-up of one interval shows that the bike does a really good job of moving up to a higher resistance: there's no big spike where the algorithm over-adjusts and then has to dial back, which is often the case. I found that for the most part the Kickr Bike Shift was very, very good at this – best in its class, probably. The pedal trace is maybe slightly more peaky than the bike trace, but again, they're very close.

KICKR Bike Shift - ERG - power 2.png

This is the mean max power from that session, which confirms that across the board the two power meters are in agreement, with the bike slightly under at some points and over at others.

KICKR Bike Shift - ERG - Mean max power.png

The cadence graph, again, shows very little discrepancy between the bike and the pedals, which are directly measuring the cadence. If you suddenly stop and then suddenly start pedalling again the bike is not as good at noticing that as the pedals are, but it's not something you'll be doing much anyway.

KICKR Bike Shift - ERG - cadence 1.png

Here's a power trace from a race on Zwift and, again, the overall numbers are very similar. You can see at the end that the two lines drift apart. I'm not sure why this is, but the bike numbers at that point are more believable than the pedals. Again, at higher power the bike under-reports a bit compared with the pedals.

KICKR Bike Shift - race - power.png

It would seem that the difference is a bit more marked at higher cadence, especially the first bike spike where I was head down and spinning like fury trying to stay at the pointy end. The discrepancy there was about 7-8%; again, given my current fitness it's more likely that I was at 450W than 480W, sadly, so I'd err on the side of the bike being closer to the truth.

KICKR Bike Shift - race - cadence.png

Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift: Controls

Like I said earlier, you can swap the bar if you're desperate to replicate a specific setup. Or, if time trialling is your bag, it'd be easy to add aero extensions.

2023 Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift - bars detail.jpg

The bar is a pretty standard size and drop and most people will, I expect, get on fine with it. The levers you're stuck with, of course, as they're specific to the bike. In terms of look and feel they mostly resemble Shimano Di2 levers, with a similar dual-paddle design behind the brake lever that handles the gear shifting. Pulling the brake applies resistance to the system so you stop pedalling, although in Zwift it doesn't actually slow you down; braking isn't really a thing in Zwift currently. Steering is, though, and on the inside of each lever there's a button that'll steer you if you enable it – steering is still very much optional.

2023 Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift - bar and shifter.jpg

On the top of each lever there are two further buttons. On the right lever the foremost one will deploy a powerup in Zwift, if you have one, and the rear button performs a U-turn. On the more expensive Kickr Bike the left top buttons manually control the tilt of the bike. There's no tilt here, so those two buttons don't do anything.

2023 Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift - shifter buttons 2.jpg

It'd be nice to be able to user-map the controls to work how you want them to, either in your app of choice or on Wahoo's smartphone app.

Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift: Value and overall

There are no two ways about it, nearly three grand is a lot of money. Smart bikes have got significantly more expensive over the past few years, though. When we tested the Tacx Neo Bike in 2020 it was £2,299, but the new (and not hugely different) version is almost half as much again at £3,499 – the same price as the more expensive Kickr Bike. Similarly, the Wattbike Atom, £1,999 when we reviewed it not much more than a year ago, is £2,399 now. So it's not like the Kickr Bike Shift is an outlier.

Both the more expensive Wahoo bike and the Tacx bike have a motor brake resistance unit, and the Kickr Bike also has its USP, the tilt mechanism that moves the bike to match the on-screen gradient.

Both of those units are certainly better overall than the Kickr Bike Shift, but it's a solid thing that performs well and is £800 cheaper, so if you're looking for a money-not-quite-no-object setup for your pain cave then it's a good fit for that.

While you can still buy an original Tacx bike – and there are plenty out there online for about £2,000 – that's still the pick for me, especially now they're discounted with the new version out. There's a lot to like about the Kickr Bike Shift, though: it's a high-quality smart bike with solid performance and a great ride feel.

Verdict

Solid indoor bike with good adjustability, believable power and a great ride feel

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Wahoo Kickr Bike Shift

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

From Wahoo:

Always ready to ride, the powerfully efficient and effective design of KICKR BIKE SHIFT offers an unmatched ride feel.

TRUE FIT

Guided by an intuitive set-up app, KICKR BIKE SHIFT's 5-point adjustment system lets you easily adjust frame, setback and reach dimensions to optimize overall bike fit for comfort and performance.

YOUR RIDE. INSIDE.

KICKR BIKE SHIFT features virtual shifting and custom gearing that allows you to match the gear ratios of your outdoor bike, replicating the major groupsets from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo to create a personalized ride experience.

REAL-TIME RESPONSE

KICKR BIKE SHIFT's innovative brake and belt drivetrain system delivers lightning fast resistance response to grade and power changes.

FIVE POINTS OF ADJUSTABLE FIT

Adjust the fit of your smart bike to match your outdoor bike's geometry across 5 points - stack, reach, setback, saddle height, and frame height.

PROGRAMMABLE VIRTUAL SHIFTING

Customize the KICKR BIKE SHIFT controls to match shifters from the leading manufacturers - SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo.

PROGRAMMABLE GEARING

Replicate your outdoor bike down to the exact gearing configuration by selecting the number of speeds and cassette tooth count.

NO LIMITS TRAINING WITH WAHOO X

All Wahoo smart trainers and smart bikes come with a trial to Wahoo X, giving you access to SYSTM, a comprehensive collection of structured workouts and training plans, tailored towards your fitness objectives.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Wahoo:

TECH SPECS

Maximum Power Output: 2200 Watts

Maximum Simulated Grade: 20%

Minimum Simulated Grade: -15%

Product Weight: 79 lb / 36 kg

Drivetrain: Belt Drive

Resistance Type: Electronic Brake

Power Accuracy: +/-1%

Connectivity: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, WiFi, Bluetooth, Direct Connect

Crank Arm Lengths (mm): 165, 167.5, 170, 172.5, and 175

Rider Height Range: 5 feet (152 cm) to 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm)

Maximum Rider Weight: 250 lb / 113 kg

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
10/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
10/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
7/10
Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

It's a really solid smart bike with a good ride feel and accurate power.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Solid, good ride feel, accurate power, adjustable to fit a wide range of riders.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Virtual shifting not as slick as more expensive model, no display or charge port, can't user-assign buttons.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

£2,699 is mid-market these days; the Wattbike Atom is cheaper and not as good, and the Tacx Neo Plus and Kickr Bike are more expensive and better. So you pays your money, really.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

Overall: very good. Given the price of the other smart bikes on the market you're getting what you pay for here and there's a lot to like about the build, adjustability and ride. Some cost savings you'll notice and some you won't.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 50  Height: 189cm  Weight: 98kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

Latest Comments