Monday, February 01, 2016

The Kicker is the KICKR. Or vice versa.

Early last month I took my riding indoors. The temps were falling, the cold-weather kit had revealed a sub-30 degree gap that I didn't feel I could reasonably fill, and the early darkness threw my evening commute into serious question.

I did a *TON* of research before I bought my trainer. I investigated maximum power, maximum incline, ANT+FEC support, BLE support, online reviews, warranty support, cost, and delivery times. The search quickly narrowed down to a couple of options:

The Wahoo KICKR Snap
TACX ProForm Vortex Smart 2180

The KICKR had a couple of significant points against it, namely cost and the fact that ANT+FEC was listed as a future upgrade, but the Vortex couldn't simulate the hill out of my neighborhood, and the shipping time was a big unknown. So I watched the sales and plopped down the cash as soon as the KICKR went on Black Friday sales.

And was almost instantly disappointed. The first thing it did upon unboxing was to update its firmware and become inaccessible to anything other than ANT+ speed. No other data output, and Wahoo's support is Mon-Fri, business hours only--exactly when NOBODY has available time to troubleshoot their trainer.

Fortunately their email support came through, and after a couple of days of back & forth, I was up and running.

Then came the signal drops.

In Zwift, with my laptop INCHES from my rear wheel, I was getting constant power signal drops. No drops in heart-rate or cadence, just power, and reliably unreliable over 200W.

I spent days combing through forums, ended up building a custom stand to get things where they needed to be, removed all extraneous wireless signals, and...still had intermittent power drops. Not as bad as they had been, but they were still there.

Then I discovered that with the Wahoo Utility monitoring the KICKR over BLE, the ANT+ signal reported to Zwift became much more stable. This flies in the face of all logic, but whatever: it worked. Power drops went from being constant at 200+W to maybe one or two seconds per minute. That's enough to get full credit for workouts in Zwift, so I was happy.

The other day I was not happy. I'd found IPWatts, an app that allows you to monitor multiple power meters for comparison. This, I figured, would be a great opportunity to directly compare the reported wattage from the KICKR and my Stages Power Meter. While I was not wrong, the lack of tracing on the BLE signal was too much for the damned trainer, and power signals became so erratic that it disabled ERG mode mid-workout.

I'm desperately hoping Wahoo will address this with a firmware update, but I gave up on the whole damned ride after 12 miles of vitriolic screaming

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