When we first looked at the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB back in August of 2017 (yeah it’s been a little while), we shared how excited we were to check out the CLIMB. South Florida weather had been making riding outside a bit uncomfortable and 3-4 hour trainer rides could use just about anything to break up the monotony. But was a $599 price of admission (and that was assuming you already have the required compatible KICKR) going to be worth it? Only a long term test was going to tell us and a few months ago we got a chance to kick(r) one off. So is the ride worth the price of admission – let’s dive in to find out.
The Wahoo KICKR CLIMB
The KICKR CLIMB is a grade simulator which means that it allows a stationary cyclist the ability to accurately feel the grade of the climb they are virtually riding by raising and lowering the front end of your bike. The CLIMB itself can vary the grade from +20% to -10%.
To start your virtual riding and grade simulating requires you first to have a 2017+ compatible KICKR or KICKR SNAP. Assuming you either already have one or you bought a KICKR and CLIMB together next comes the unboxing. The CLIMB comes with adapters for quick release, plus thru axle 12×100, 15×100, and 15×110 hubs. Simply slide the correct adapter into the CLIMB, and then plug the power brick in.
The power brick is a bit on the larger side. For those that had an XBOX 360 or XBOX ONE and don’t remember the power bricks that shipped with them – the CLIMB’s will bring back some memories. The good news is that you can stash it out of the way fairly easily and forget it’s there. One note, you now will have power cords coming from the front and the back of your bike/trainer setup. Tripping at AeroGeeks HQ definitely has become a concern with the CLIMB added to our trainer setup.
Next is the pairing process. And it’s a simple process since the CLIMB pairs with the KICKR trainer you are using and not the device that you are running your virtual application on. (Which is also why a compatible KICKR \ KICKR SNAP is required). Open the Wahoo application on your phone and follow the instructions to pair it to your trainer.
Finally, it’s time to mount the bike. What we found is that when you still have your front wheel on it’s easier to mount the rear of the bike first to the KICKR (or KICKR SNAP), and then remove the front wheel and attach the CLIMB to the front. If you have already removed the front wheel you can still easily mount the bike but it was just a little easier with the wheel still on as you end up holding the frame with just a single hand at some points versus when the wheel is on you get to distribute the load. If you are like us and have a few bikes you will be rotating onto your trainer (with CLIMB) setup we definitely recommend a stand that holds a bike by its frame. (We picked up a Feedback Sports Velo Cache and have been very happy with the results – review forthcoming.) This way you do not have to reinstall and then remove wheels regularly as you rotate bikes on and off the trainer.
To properly center the CLIMB, once the skewer is in and the bike is locked down. Simply pick the front of the bike (with the attached CLIMB) and allow the CLIMB to hang. It will naturally settle in the correct position (just make sure your CLIMB is in the zero-point).
So now the CLIMB is paired and the bike is mounted…. And that’s it. Because the CLIMB communicates with the trainer and not the app itself you do not need to do any further syncing or pairing. When the trainer receives grade data (which is how it determines resistance already) it will share it with the CLIMB and up and down you go.
Once you get going you can either let the CLIMB take commands from the app or manually move the bike up and down – this is where the attached wired remote comes in. The wired remote has three buttons – up, down, lock\unlock. The lock\unlock (which is the center button) is key as at first the CLIMB will be locked and not accept commands from the KICKR. We learned this when we started our first ride and didn’t understand why the CLIMB was not “climbing”. Quickly we realized we had left it in “locked” mode. Once we unlocked it things got working quickly.
As we mentioned – the CLIMB takes its commands from the KICKR that in turn takes its commands from an app. This is important to understand as it impacts just how much the CLIMB climbs. In a product like Zwift there is a setting page with a slider for “Trainer Difficulty”. By default it’s set to 50%. What that means is that when you encounter a 6% grade only 50% of that grade (3%) is simulated by the trainer. Because of this the CLIMB would also only simulate a 3% grade. If you want to get the full climbing experience you have to max out the trainer difficulty to 100% – but beware this also means all climbs are now fully transmitted to your trainer and it will impact how hard of an effort you are going to experience.
The KICKR CLIMB itself retails for $599. If you do not have a compatible KICKR trainer you have 3 choices – the wheel off KICKR for $1199, the KICKR Core (minus a cassette and with a smaller fly wheel) for $899, and finally the wheel on KICKR SNAP for $599.
We are very regular trainer users here at AG HQ. On average most weekdays one of our team members are doing a trainer ride. And those rides are anything from 30 minute recovery rides to 4 hour rides of attrition. So to say we are always on the lookout for something to increase the enjoyability of those sessions is probably an understatement. The CLIMB delivers exactly as promised in that regard. Now when the going gets tough – typically the tough are going up hill.
At first we did find the up and down of the CLIMB can be a bit disconcerting. One of our editors mentioned they had brief sensation of motion sickness the first time it started to move (a feeling that never returned). It’s actually pretty simple – when you see the road go up – the bike starts to go up – it’s just not something we were accustomed to.
But once we were used to it, the feeling was not just an enhancement to the ride, it made it feel just a little more natural. When you are climbing a steep climb in a virtual world, it feels much more natural to have the bike raised up. In fact now when we ride without it that feeling, we immediately miss it. The movement between positions is relatively fast – with that however is the fact that when you come up over the top of the climb to the flat the bike will quickly go from its more vertical orientation to a flat one. If you aren’t used to that, the bike does fall out from under you a bit. This is exactly what should happen but still – it takes a ride or two to get used to.
From a noise perspective the CLIMB is relatively quiet. On larger changes – say from 0% to 6% you do hear it raising the front end, but by the time you connect what the sound is to where it originated, the CLIMB has already finished repositioning and you are all set.
We aren’t fully sold on the wired remote, specifically that it is wired and not wireless. Yes being wired means it is impossible to lose. And also it’s really not that big a deal (you probably can call this a nitpick). But with a tri\tt setup there isn’t a great place to attach it to the bike without interfering with how you are positioned in the cockpit. A small IR remote (like that comes with a fan) seems like it could have solved the same problem but given you more places to put it when riding. The remote itself does work fine however, we never had an issue locking\unlocking the bike or manually setting its orientation.
So back to the question that we first asked – is the KICKR CLIMB worth the price of admission? This is going to be a highly specific question depending on what your indoor training needs are. The CLIMB is not a for everyone” product. For our team that so regularly use the trainer the answer is an easy yes. With an editor on the trainer just about every weekday the CLIMB got heavy use throughout the evaluation period (and once we get one full-time for the AeroGeeks pain-cave we suspect that will continue). And for those like us, spending as much quality time with our trainers as we do with our loved ones, anything that makes the grind more enjoyable is worth purchasing.
For those that the trainer is a last resort and only minimally use it – purchasing a CLIMB will be a much different value proposition. Making the most out of something you do so infrequently may not be worth the $599 price. Truly – to each their own.
And with that we wrap up our time with the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB. But make sure you pay a close eye to AeroGeeks.com over the few weeks as the CLIMB wasn’t our only Wahoo product in the pain-cave these past few months and we have one more review up coming to share with you!