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Wahoo KICKR CORE Trainer Review

Introduced at Eurobike, Wahoo Fitness launched the all new Wahoo KICKR CORE Trainer.  The KICKR CORE hits the sweet spot between Wahoo’s flagship KICKR and the lower end (wheel-on) Snap trainer.

In this review, I’ll take a deep dive and look at the Wahoo Fitness KICKR Core and also compare it against other leading manufacturer’s indoor trainers including the Elite Direto and Tacx Flux and why I think the Wahoo Core might just be the best mid level trainer to date.   I will showcase what you can expect to get when you order the KICKR Core and why it rocks.

This review is broken down into several sections including

  • New Updates
  • Technical Highlights
  • KICKR Core Unboxing
  • KICKR Core Review
  • Comparisons between the Elite Direto and Tacx Flux
  • Product Specifications
  • Final Thoughts

so please read on.

Wahoo KICKR Core Review

Gear Mashers New Updates

What’s New

To understand the Core you sort of have to take a step back and view Wahoo Fitness’s 2017 KICKR lineup.  Competition for the trainer market had become more intense as companies like Elite and Tacx and others competed for buyers.  One missing component in Wahoo’s 2017 lineup was a medium priced, less costly trainer that could compete against the likes of the Elite Direto and Tacx Flux on price point, thus the 2018 KICKR CORE was born.

Wahoo Fitness’s 2018 Lineup

  • Wahoo KICKR 2018 (Version 4) Model: $1,199 Direct Drive trainer (Wheel-Off) using a 16 lbs flywheel.
  • Wahoo KICKR CORE 2018 Model: $899 Direct Drive trainer(Wheel-Off) using a 12 lbs flywheel, no cassette included
  • Wahoo KICKR Snap 2017 Model: $599 Wheel-On trainer using a 10.5 lbs flywheel, no cassette included

To make things even more interesting and competitive, the new KICKR lineup is also compatible with the new KICKR Climb and KICKR Headwind.

The new KICKR Core was specifically designed to compete directly with the Tacx Flux and the Elite Direto, both of which have done extremely well in the last two years at the $899 price point, easily undercutting Wahoo’s KICKR lineup (and likely costing them a lot of money).  Of course, in the last few weeks Tacx went ahead and applied the pressure again by cutting the price down of the Flux to $799 (while also announcing the new Tacx Flux 2 today at $899-$949 – exact price TBD).

Either way, this new CORE option will definitely be appealing to those that were looking at the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB, which is finally shipping, but didn’t quite want to fork out as much as Wahoo was charging for their top end direct drive trainer, the KICKR (yes, the Wahoo SNAP 2017 is also compatible…but some folks just want a direct drive unit).

Technical Highlights

Technical Highlights

Wahoo KICKR CORE 2018 Model

  • Retail Price: $899
  • Direct Drive Trainer
  • 12 lbs Flywheel
  • No cassette included
  • Max Incline: 18%
  • Max WattageL 1,800 watts
  • Wahoo KICKR Climb Compatible: YES
  • Wahoo KICKR Headwind Compatible: YES

Elite Direto Wahoo KICKR Core Tacx Flux 2018

One of the main detractors of the Wahoo line of wheel-off trainers had to do with noise volume or more specifically the whine the trainer would make when riding.  When comparing the Tacx NEO to the Wahoo KICKR (2017 or earlier models), there is a noticeable high-pitch whine noise coming from the KICKR’s fly wheel.  For those living in apartments, this whine was a deal breaker and often was the key decision to purchase a less noisy NEO over the KICKR.

Wahoo listened to it’s customer base and resolved the high pitch whine issue, making a trainer that is virtually silent.  The only real noise now comes from the bike’s drivetrain.

Another complaint Wahoo had to contend with was price point.  Many people wanted a direct drive wheel-off trainer, but didn’t want to spend the $1100 or more for one.  Again Wahoo listening to their customer base, created a much more affordable trainer, that while not as good as their high end KICKR, certainly hits the sweet spot for price (Retails for $899) and compete’s nicely with both Elite and Tacx trainers in the same price range.

Unboxing

Unboxing the Wahoo KICKR Core Trainer

The Wahoo KICKR Core arrived inside a brown shipping box and inside was another box that housed the Wahoo trainer (a Box in a Box), with all the Wahoo trainer specs and advertising displayed.

wahoo Fitness KICKR Core Bicycle Trainer Unboxing

The KICKR Core arrived boxed in a shipping box. The packaging weight was 22KG or 49lbs and had a Made in China label.  The actual trainer weighs around 40lbs.

KICKR Core Box Info

Inside the box Wahoo includes the Wahoo KIKCR Core bike trainer plus

  • Rear Leg
  • Front Leg
  • Nuts (x4)
  • Bolts (x4)
  • Hex Tool
  • 1.8mm Spacer
  • Drive Side Adapter for 130mm and 135mm Quick Release
  • Reversible hub spacer for 130mm and 135mm Quick Release
  • Drive Side Adapter for 12×142 and 12×148 Thru Axle
  • Reversible hub spacer for Thru Axle
  • AC Power Adapter
  • Quick Release Skewer

As noted on the box, the trainer doesn’t include a cassette or cassette lockring.  It does however contain 1.8mm cassette spacer for use with 9 and 10 speed cassettes.  If you have a 11-speed cassette, you don’t need the spacer.

 

KICKR Core Trainer Unit

The KICKR Core comes unassembled. You will need to add legs to the trainer using the supplied bolts. 2 for each leg. The trainer will also need a cassette, since no cassette is supplied.

KICKR Core User Manual and Accessories

The KICKR Core includes a bunch of hardware including a rear axil skewer, 4 bolts for the legs, and adapters for those who have different bike setups.

KICKR Core Power Cord

The KICKR Core includes a power cable to power up the trainer.

KICKR Core Legs

KICKR Core Legs.

REVIEW

Wahoo KICKR Core Trainer Review

This year Wahoo Fitness expanded their range of trainers by adding a 2nd wheel-off direct drive trainer to the KICKR lineup known as the KICKR Core.

Like the Elite Direto and the Tacx Flux, the KICKR Core looks to fill the role as a medium priced trainer with most of the benefits of the high end KICKR.  As an added bonus both the new KICKR and the KICKR Core can be integrated with Wahoo’s KICKR headwind (A headwind fan unit that works in conjunction with the KICKR trainers).

Wahoo KICKR and KICKR Core

When comparing the new Wahoo Fitness KICKR to the KICKR Core you can immediately see the difference between the two.  Fold out legs of the KICKR are replaced with two horizontal legs.  Also missing is a handle for carrying the trainer and an 11 speed cassette that comes standard with the KICKR.

KICKR CORE Sound Review

I did a little sound review of the KICKR Core at this year’s 2018 Interbike.

Trainer Survey KICKR vs NEO

A while back I conducted a survey from both Wahoo Users and Tacx Neo users.  In the survey I asked why people selected one trainer over the other.

The most common answers were

  1. Noise
  2. Cost
  3. Customer Support

I then asked NEO owners why they selected the NEO specifically over the KICKR and the number one answer was TRAINER NOISE LEVEL.  Many NEO owners said they would probably have gone with the KICKR if it had been more quite, but chose the Tacx trainer instead.

I then asked Wahoo owners why they chose the KICKR over the NEO and the number one answer was trainer PRICE.  Most KICKR users said priced played a big part in their decision to purchase a KICKR ($1199) over a Neo ($1599).

Wahoo seems to have nailed both issues with the KICKR CORE, making it much more affordable ($899 vs $1199) and much less noisy than previous KICKRs.

Another issue that came up had to do with trainer weight.  Some people felt the actual trainer (KICKR) was a bit on the heavy side and wanted something a little lighter.

Again Wahoo seems to have nailed it with the CORE, shaving 7 lbs off and making it a bit more portable.

Wahoo KICKR Core Setup

KICKR Core Legs

When you receive the KICKR Core, you will be required to attach the legs to the trainer, but don’t worry, Wahoo provides the bolts, nuts and a L-Shaped Hex Tool to get the job done quickly.  Once the legs are attached, all that is required is to connect the power cable and you are off to the races.  You will have to mount your bike of course and with a direct drive trainer that means removing the rear wheel and connecting the rear to the trainer.

Assembling the KICKR Core

  1. The KICKR CORE comes with legs detached to minimize transportation and storage size. Select a stable, level surface with sufficient room for trainer and bike. Retain packaging for future storage or transport.

  2. Attach the legs by inserting the included bolts through the bottom of the trainer leg assemblies, then secure them using the included nuts and hex wrench tool on the opposing side. Repeat the process for the second leg and tighten all bolts firmly to prevent injury or damage.

  3. After attaching both legs, pull the front leg completely forward to fully extend the trainer base and ensure maximum stability before attaching your bike.

    Warning: always check trainer stability before riding.

  4. Use the included AC power adapter to connect the trainer to a standard 120v wall outlet. Caution: use of unofficial power adapters may cause permanent damage to your KICKR CORE.

In test rides when I was pushing over 400 watts, the trainer felt very stable and secure, maybe even more so that my 2017 KICKR.

Wahoo KICKR Core 12 LB Fly Wheel

One of the main differences between the KICKR and the KICKR Core beyond appearance is a 16 lb fly wheel vs a 12 lb fly wheel.  A direct-drive trainer’s fly wheel helps improve ride quality and real-road feel.  In order to light up the trainer and make it more affordable, Wahoo had to reduce the amount of metal used in the Core’s fly wheel and had to redesign the trainer.  By doing so, Wahoo’s new Core design dropped the trainer’s maximum simulated grade (16% down from 20%) and power output (1800 Watts down from 2200 Watts).

The good news, at least for most cyclists is Max Simulated Grades of 16% and Max Power Output of 1800 watts are more than enough to punish them on the trainer.

Wahoo KICKR CORE Vs KICKR Version 4

Here are some of the main differences between the KICKR and the KICKR Core.

Clearly the KICKR is the better trainer, but it does cost $300 more.  For that money you could buy a Wahoo Bolt and still be very happy with the CORE>

 KICKR CoreKICKR Version 4
Run Without PowerNONO
Trainer Weight40 lbs (18 kg)47 lbs (21 kg)
Flywheel Weight12lb16lb (7.26 kg)
Maximum Simulated Grade16%20%
Maximum Power Output1,800 Watts2,200 Watts
Accuracy +/- 2%+/- 2%
Footprint20"x23" (50cm x 58cm)21"x28" (54cm x 71cm)
Wireless ConnectivityANT+ FE-C , Bluetooth Smart openANT+ FE-C , Bluetooth Smart open
Retail$899.00$1199.00

Wahoo KICKR Core Noise Level

The engineers at Wahoo Fitness did a fantastic job at reducing trainer noise with the KICKR Core.  While it’s not silent, the high pitched trainer hum of previous KICKRs is all but gone and with it one of the biggest complaints.  The trainer still makes noise when you account for the bike’s drive train and the chain, but it certainly is a huge improvement over previous models.  I am not sure there is much more that can be done to make the trainer more quiet at this point, which says a lot.

When riding the trainer, if you start coasting and stop pedaling you will hear the freehub (click click click) sound that occurs just like out on the road when your coasting.  That is probably the most noise the trainer actually makes, which in fact is not much noise at all.  It certainly isn’t going to wake the neighbors.

Wahoo KICKR Climb

Both the Wahoo KICKR Core and the new KICKR (2018 model aka KICKR Version 4) will work with the KICKR Climb.  That said, I haven’t had a chance to test the KICKR Climb with the KICKR Core yet.

Wahoo KICKR Core Vs Tacx Flux

Wahoo KICKR CORE Vs Tacx Flux

When comparing the KICKR CORE to the Tacx Flux, the CORE is clearly the better trainer, providing higher simulated grade, more power output and accuracy.

Where the Tacx Flux might have a slight edge is on trainer weight, being a bit lighter.

 KICKR CoreTacx Flux
Run Without PowerNOYES
Trainer Weight40 lbs (18 kg)35.3lbs (16 kg)
Flywheel Weight12lb15.4lb (7 kg)
Maximum Simulated Grade16%10%
Maximum Power Output1,800 Watts1500 Watts
Accuracy +/- 2%<3%
Footprint20"x23" (50cm x 58cm)26.4×25.6in (670×650mm)
Wireless ConnectivityANT+ FE-C , Bluetooth Smart openANT+ FE-C , Bluetooth Smart open
Retail Cost$899.00$799.00

Wahoo KICKR Core Vs Elite Direto

Wahoo KICKR CORE Vs Elite Directo

When comparing the KICKR CORE to the Elite Directo, the CORE is clearly the better trainer, providing higher simulated grade, more power output and takes up less space.

Where the Elite Directo might have a slight edge is on trainer weight, being a bit lighter.

 KICKR CoreELITE DIRETO
Run Without PowerNOYES
Trainer Weight40 lbs (18 kg)33.1 lbs (15.1 kg)
Flywheel Weight12lb9.26lb (4.2 kg)
Maximum Simulated Grade16%14%
Maximum Power Output1,800 Watts1,400 Watts
Accuracy +/- 2%+/- 2%
Footprint20"x23" (50cm x 58cm)33.07" x 25.59" (840 x 650mm)
Wireless ConnectivityANT+ FE-C , Bluetooth Smart openANT+™ FE-C & Bluetooth
Retail Cost$899.00$899.00

Product Specs

Kicker Core Product Specifications

KICKR Core SpecificationDescription
KICKR CLIMB Compatible Wahoo’s KICKR CLIMB indoor grade simulator was designed in conjuction with the KICKR smart trainers to deliver a unmatched indoor training experience when combined.
KICKR HEADWINDCompatible KICKR HEADWIND was designed to deliver innovative climate control to your indoor training experience.
Thru Axle CompatibleThe new KICKR features 12×142 and 12×148 thru axle compatibility in addition to standard 130/135mm quick release. Click to find out if your bike is compatible.
+/- 2% Power AccuracyEnhanced power accuracy to provide accurate power measurement and generate up to 1800 watts.
16% Maximum GradeMaximum percent grade adjusts to simulate up to a 16 degree incline.
LED Indicator LightsVisual confirmation that KICKR CORE is powered connected and transmitting via Bluetooth and / or ANT+.
ANT+ ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth ConnectivityANT+ and Bluetooth capabilities allow it to connect to both smartphones and GPS devices simultaneously or separately. An ANT+ FE-C connection allows the KICKR CORE to be controlled from any FE-C enabled device or application.
Professional Grade DurabilityRobust steel construction ensures the KICKR CORE stays in place while you crank out the watts and stands up to years of heavy use.
Controlled Resistance When connected to your device it automatically sets your resistance via your favorite app or software.
Realistic Ride FeelThe KICKR flywheel is innovative and proven technology emulates the power and inertia experienced during outdoor riding. It provides the most realistic ride feel especially when using virtual riding/training platforms like Zwift and TrainerRoad.
Measures Speed Distance and Power Get these vital cycling metrics on your indoor ride.
Third Party App Compatibility Works with popular training apps such as Zwift and TrainerRoad. For more details on which apps are compatible with the KICKR download our in-depth KICKR app comparison chart.
Third Party Power Meter SupportCompatible with a third party power meter.

Specs:

  • KICKR CLIMB Compatible
  • 1800 maximum power output
  • 16% maximum simulated grade
  • V-Groove Belt
  • Electromagnetic resistance
  • +/- 2% accuracy
  • Wireless Software Updates
  • 3rd Party Power Meter Support
  • ANT+/ANT+ FE-C/Bluetooth connectivity
  • Pairs with iOS Android PC (Mac and Windows)
  • 250lb max user weight
  • 40lb total weight
  • 12lb flywheel weight

BONUS! When you register your KICKR Core in the Wahoo Fitness app, you’ll receive these awesome offers from our partners:

 

Q&A

Does the KICKR Core Trainer come with a Cassette?

NO.  Unlike the KICRK, Wahoo doesn’t supply a cassette.  The Core can use a 9, 10 or 11 speed cassette.  Wahoo does provide a cassette spacer for those using 9 and 10 speed cassettes.

Does the KICKR Core come fully assembled?

NO.  You will need to add the two legs that are provided, plus add a cassette.

Can you use the Wahoo Fitness Bike Desk with the KICKR Core?

YES.  There is just enough space between the Core’s legs to pass the Wahoo Fitness Bike Desk around it.

Is the Wahoo Fitness mat wide enough for the KICKR Core?

YES.  The standard Wahoo trainer mat can easily fit the Core with plenty of room on either side.

Do you have to remove the rear wheel to use the Core trainer?

YES.  The KICKR Core is a direct drive trainer, which requires the removal of the rear wheel.

Was there an earlier model of the KICKR Core?

NO.  2018 is the first iteration of the KICKR Core.  The KICKR has had 4 versions (KICKR, 2016 KICKR, 2017 KICKR and 2018 KICKR)

Is the KICKR Core more quiet than the 2017 KICKR?

YES.  The new KICKR Core uses a different belt system that makes it much more quiet than the 2017 KICKRs and previous versions.

Does the KICKR Core work with the KICKR Climb?

YES.  The KICKR Core does work with both the KICKR Climb and KICKR Wind.

Bottom Line

With the Release of the KICKR Core, Wahoo has shored up a mid range trainer line that competes nicely with Elite Direto and Tacx Flux.  In fact they have done such a great job it actually competes with it’s more expensive and heavier flywheel KICKR counterpart.

A present the Core is an all-around great trainer and thus far I am really pleased with how it performs.

Are There Any Negatives?

Carrying the KICKR Core is rather awkward when transporting since the trainer doesn’t come with a specific KICKR carrying handle, so you’re left guessing as to how to carry it.  I normally just use one of the legs and hold the trainer flywheel with the other hand.

Another issue pertains to accuracy.  The trainer has an accuracy rating of +/-2%, which is a little more than some of it’s competitors.   Hopefully the Wahoo team will tackle trainer accuracy to make it even more accurate.

Lastly the trainer doesn’t have the ability to adjust to uneven surfaces, which to me isn’t a big deal.  Most people use trainers indoors where surfaces are usually level.

OVERALL

Overall Wahoo did an amazing job and the KICKR Core will make a lot of cyclists very happy.

You can find out more about Wahoo and the KICKR Core on Wahoo’s website (https://www.wahoofitness.com/)

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Wahoo KICKR Core Trainer Review

94%

Best Cycling Trainer In It's Class Wahoo did an amazing job with the KICKR Core Trainer. It's as good as the 2017 KICKR's and prior models for $300 less. What makes this trainer really good is it's build quality and quite noise level when riding.

Mid level Cycling Trainer
100%
Transport Ability
80%
Accuracy
90%
Build Quality
100%
Noise Level
100%
Price Point
95%

About The Author

Tom Crandall

Tom has been writing about photography, cycling, running and fitness since 1988, covering everything from the product reviews to the latest in fitness trends. Tom is the Editor-in-chief of GearMashers.com, 10KstepsDaily.com, EndTheTrendNow.com, AntiqueOutings.com, MiniatureReview.blogspot.com and a few other publications, he began racing in college while getting an Information Resource Management degree at George Mason University. Based in the photography and cycling-crazed city of Austin, Texas, with his wife Kathleen and pug Olaf, Tom enjoys running, walking or riding most every day.

7 Comments

  1. Larry

    Does the Core come with the cadence sensor like the Kickr does? If not, and with no cassette , the price difference to the Kickr becomes significantly less.

    Reply
    • Tom Crandall

      Hey Larry,

      The KICKR Core does NOT come with a cadence sensor or cassette. I also double checked this with the Wahoo team at Interbike.

      Cheers

      Tom

      Reply
  2. Kate Smith

    You mentioned the CORE was a little more difficult to transport. Is the KICKR easier?

    Reply
    • Tom Crandall

      Hi Kate,

      I do find the KICKR easier to transport because of it’s handle, but it is heavier, so it’s sort of a wash. I plan on asking the folks at Wahoo how the CORE trainer should be carried when I go to Interbike.

      Reply
  3. Jake Ellis

    So if you were buying a trainer today would you go for the KICKR Core or the KICKR 2017?

    Reply
    • Tom Crandall

      Hey Jake,

      My money would be on the Core. It’s essentially the same as the 2017 KICKR as far as performance goes, but it is more quiet.

      Reply

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