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WahooFitness was founded by Chip Hawkins, a guy that does more than just complain about a poor product or category lacking in good options. When Hawkins got into triathlon he was appalled at the different standards, knick-knacks and hoop jumping required to get his workout data. No matter that his main business was making high end boat docks, Hawkins set out to eliminate the headaches associated with tracking his workouts. In 2009 he created an iPhone dongle and app that put all his sensors on his phone and WahooFitness was born. That same ethos – don’t complain about it, fix it – still drives WahooFitness and it has resulted in the company’s latest product – The Kickr Climb.
We live in the glory days of indoor training. Thanks in large part to online riding simulators and smart trainers, and Wahoo’s Kickr direct drive trainer was a big part of that. But Hawkins felt indoor training could be better yet, and rather than sit around and lament time on the trainer, Wahoo set out to make it better.
The Wahoo Kickr Climb is a fork mount unit that simulates grades from 20% to -10% by raising or lowering the front end of your bike with powerful, high torque motors. The Kickr Climb communicates with both Wahoo Kickr and Snap trainers so when the road in your chosen simulator points up and the trainer begins to create resistance to simulate the grade, the Wahoo Kickr Climb physically moves your bike fork up or down to match that grade.
We spent just a few minutes on the unit, but the effect is quite incredible and will not fail to put a big grin on your face – until that 20% grade really starts to bite. It adds a true sense of realism to the trainer, engaging instincts years on the road have created. When the climb is over and the grade slacks, the Wahoo Kickr Climb drops and instinctively your hand goes to grab a bigger gear at the lever getting ready for the decent. The motor reacts to every 1% change in grade and while the movement is noticeable, it’s never jerky and the motors operate very quietly. Wahoo is busy writing computer code to improve the Climb’s response to grade changes and smooth it out even more.
While making trainer time more bearable by adding variety may be its biggest appeal, the Climb has fitness benefits as well, according to WahooFitness. By simulating grade it makes your body adjust dynamically to a true climbing position, which engages the core in a different way and ensures muscles are worked across the entire range of motion they will see on the road. Think about training hard for a hilly road race on flat roads versus hilly roads. What would have you better prepared?
A handle bar mounted, tethered remote that stores in the top of the unit allows you to pair to your Kickr or Snap and also allows you to adjust the Climb’s angle manually if you need to bail out on a climb or want to use it with a non-smart trainer. While maximum grade is 20%, Wahoo hit on just -10% for descents. Anymore than that and some pedals would clip the ground and without downhill inertia the pressure on the hands in the bars becomes too great.
Watch the Wahoo Kickr Climb in Action
While Zwift, TrainerRoad and other online simulators are the obvious candidates for using the Climb, it can also take routes from your Wahoo Elemnt or Bolt and, with your trainer, simulate any of your training rides.
Wahoo did discover that most trainers, including its own Kickr and Snap, had fixed rear axles. As the Climb moves up and down, the frame rotation in the axle can damage dropouts, especially carbon ones. So Wahoo updated both the Snap and Kickr for 2018 with rotating axles. Wahoo also added through axle compatibility to the Kickr and Kickr Climb. The area around the hub has been reduced as well to eliminate any conflict with flat mount disc brakes. Wahoo put a thermister in the new Wahoo Snap, improving its wattage accuracy from +/-5% to +/-3%.
The new Wahoo Kickr Climb isn’t cheap. At $600 it’s a serious addition to anyone’s pain cave, especially considering you’ll need to upgrade to a new 2018 Wahoo Kickr or Snap with a rotating axle. But as indoor training continues to grow and simulators get better and better, riders seem willing to spend a lot of money to make that time more enjoyable, or at least tolerable. Before the Wahoo Kickr, many riders said a $1200 trainer was untenable. There are now 100,000 Kickrs in use.
Wahoo Kickr Climb: 17lbs, Available Nov/Dec 2017; $600