The Wahoo Kickr Core was released in September of 2018, making it an ~4 year old trainer. Upon its release, it grew lots of media attention as it was essentially a smaller Wahoo Kickr, but $300 less. Now, there is much more competition around the Kickr Core’s price point, making it harder to decide between the choices. In this article, I dive into the details of the trainer, noise level, ease-of-use, and whether it remains a good purchase in 2023.
The Kickr Core is one of the first budget friendly direct drive smart trainer—priced at $899. However, recently, Zwift partnered up with JetBlack and the Zwift Hub was born. Priced at an astounding $499. $400 less than the Kickr Core. Even with the Zwift Hub, I’d argue that the Kickr Core is still a solid purchase. This is explained further later on in the review.
Power Accuracy: +-2%
Max Power: 1,800 Watts
Max Gradient: 16%
Connection: Dual Bluetooth/Ant+
Power Required: Yes
Calibration: Yes; via Wahoo Training app
Special Features: Compatible with Kickr Climb, ERG Power Smoothing
One of the most important things to consider when searching for an indoor trainer is the power accuracy. For some, it does not matter. But for other, more competitive riders, it does. Based off of my indoor cycling experience, the difference in power accuracy of most direct drive trainers is marginal. However, for many serious riders, this is an important section. Note: in order to participate in professional E-sport races on Zwift, a +-1% power accuracy is required. Only a select few trainers hit that mark.
In my power tests, I found that the trainer was exceptionally accurate. It definitely met the claimed specification and nailed the intervals perfectly. ERG mode was also spot on, making it great for structured training.
Something unique to the Wahoo ecosystem is the ERG power smoothing. More on that later!
When I first received this trainer and tried it, I was astonished by how much trainers have improved over the years. The first direct drive trainer I used was the Wahoo Kickr V2—it was not silent. Although I enjoyed the sound, the flywheel could be heard vibrating, which is not ideal for indoor trainers. Most trainers are “virtually silent”, meaning it cannot be heard over a fan, and most of the noise is actually coming from your bike, rather than the trainer. Overall, the trainer was able to maintain a steady audio level, rivaling that of the higher-end trainers, such as the Tacx Neo 2T.
The Wahoo Kickr Core is a mid-range trainer, so it will not offer all of the more advanced features that trainers such as the Tacx Neo offers. It does, however, have a few notable features that most trainers don’t offer.
ERG Power Smoothing: This is a very important feature to the Wahoo ecosystem. This allows riders to complete structured training with flawless graphs. What this features does is it smoothes the riders power, keeping it within 1-2 watts from the targeted power. However, riders must remember that this does mean that the power being reported is not the actual power. It is close, but I would not consider it “real”.
Wahoo Kickr Climb Compatibility: The Kickr Core can pair to the Wahoo Kickr Climb, which is a tool many use to up their experience. This allows for accurate ascent and descent simulations, which is pretty cool. The Kickr Climb is not compatible with non-Wahoo branded trainers. So the accessory would not work with a trainer like the Tacx Neo 2T.
This rounds out the bonus feature section, and quite frankly, the Kickr Core does not have a lot to offer when it comes to additional features.
Better Than the Zwift Hub?
The Zwift Hub was released in late 2022, and it caused ripples. Firstly, the trainer is just a Jet Black Volt with Zwift stickers slapped all over it. Secondly, Wahoo claimed that the Zwift Hub violates their patents on the Kickr Core’s design. They later dismissed this lawsuit. The decision between the Zwift Hub and the Kickr Core is definitely one that will continue to occur. In terms of value, the Zwift Hub is going to be a better option. Only because it offers a solid smart trainer WITH a cassette for only $499. However, the Kickr Core is going to have better power accuracy and less issues. The Hub was only just released, meaning there are bound to be software/hardware issues in the first year or so of publicity.
Personally, I have found Wahoo support to be extremely helpful and they will replace anything that does break along the road with no questions asked. With Zwift support, I find that many of the support agents that general inquiries are sent to simply are not that great. I have had great experience with the higher support agents and the general employees of Zwift.
I will try to provide a direct result as to which trainer to choose, as that is something lots of articles simply do not provide.
Simple, easy trainer —> Zwift Hub
Higher performance/quality —> Wahoo Kickr Core
Overall, the Wahoo Kickr Core is an amazing smart trainer. It remains one of the top direct drive trainers for its price point and if you can find a good deal on it, it will be a purchase that continues to give. The Kickr Core’s power is spot-on, it features a low noise-level, and checks all of the boxes for the average indoor cyclist.
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