Old man winter has visited the lower Rio Grande Valley and while it’s nothing like those in the Northern states it does affect me. Cold, windy and rainy days has kept me indoors for the past several months. I have managed hop out on the those 60+ degree days and put in some relaxing miles but otherwise, I’m indoors on my trainer. Oh no, the dreaded trainer you say. Not for me, I actually like riding my trainer and I’ve seen the improvements already on a couple of rides. Today, I’m going to describe my setup and what I do with my Wahoo Kickr.
What is a Kickr? Sounds like some car speakers or something but it’s not. It’s an indoor trainer for your bike from Wahoo. When I first saw this I knew I had to get one. It was a little pricey but I saved up for it and purchased one and it has been worth it. What makes it so great? There are several reasons:
- Power Based
- ERG Mode
- Manual Mode
- ANT+ and Bluetooth support
- Incredible apps to control it
There are many ways to use it and any other trainer but this how I settled on taking advantage of it.
There is more to it than just having the Kickr and a bike. You need a plan and support tools to go with it and or any trainer to be successful. Here is a rundown of the software and other equipment that I use to get my business done:
- Music Stand
- ANT+ Dongle
- cable for ANT+ dongle (depends on what iPad you have)
- iMobileIntervals iPhone app (no iPad version)
- Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime (all optional of course)
- Headband / Water bottle
- Training Plan of some sort
The last item is real important. You need a training plan to follow. It keeps you focused and it’s part of the motivation to continue. Without it what are you going to do? Hop on and start pedaling? How long can you do that before you get bored and quit? My guess in less than a week you will stop because it’s boring. That’s why you need a structured plan for you to follow. They tell you what it is you are going to do that day, how fast/slow your cadence will be, what your power level/heart rate should at each step of the workout. You will learn to warm up, do your workout and then cool down. Structure! For beginners that is very important.
Training plans are based on one of three measurements, power, hear rate or perceived exertion (how hard you felt the work out was). Depending on the equipment you have you choose which method you want to train with. Since the Wahoo Kickr has a built-in power meter, I chose to have my workouts based on power. I’m not going to go into the details of training, but basically, the intensities are broken up into zones and you are to workout in the zone for the prescribed time. The higher up the zone you are in the harder the workout. For an understanding on how to train in either of these methods I suggest to checkout these books:
Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 2nd Ed. – By Allen Hunter and Andy Coggan, PhD
- Amazon Search on Training With Power
As for the plan its self, it doesn’t matter where you get it as long as you have one. I chose a plan from TrainingPeaks and from that I use iMobileIntervals to create the workout on their website. Then I use the app version to download it to the iPad and run it to control the Kickr and tell me what I need to do on the current interval step. I need the ANT+ dongle and cable because my speed and cadence sensors are of the ANT+ type. If you have Bluetooth type Speed/Cadence then you can do away with the dongle.Once the workout is complete, I uploaded the workout to both Strava and TrainingPeaks for review and record keeping.
The music stand is used to hold the iPad and TV remotes. I like using Netflix because it automatically loads the next episode and plays it. No Netflix? Anything else will do. Music, talk radio will work too. I use the TV to catch up on my programs. Be careful not to forget about your workout! I sometimes catch myself glued to the TV more than the workout. Great thing about iMobileIntervals is that it announces the next step or every minute countdown so it snaps me out of the TV trance. Agent Carter anyone? How about The Flash or The Arrow? Now that The 100 is back on, I have even more choices.
The fan and head band are a must. You will be sweating a lot and you will need to control it some how. Some use a sweat catcher for the bike. I will probably end up getting one of those. Let’s not forget about a water bottle. I have a full water bottle within reach and drink regularly during the work out.
To me I like doing intervals. It’s the best way to pack in a great workout in a short amount of time. My workouts have been around the 1 hr mark.Sometimes they extend to 1.5 hours but not often. To facilitate this, I need software that does three things. One, keep track of my intervals. Two, control the Kickr by setting up the correct power levels, and three, send the work out to my favorite sites (Strava, Facebook and Training Peaks). iMobileIntervals fit my requirements nicely.
I really like iMobileIntervals because of its flexibility in controlling the Kickr, the way it announces the interval, the ease of creating workouts, the ability to share workouts with others, and the ability to send the results of the workout to multiple locations such as Strava, Facebook, TrainingPeaks or an email with the TCX file. One of the special predefined workout is a fitness test to get your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) number and record it in your account. Your FTP is very important because all the training zones are based on a percentage it. That is the first workout you should do. It should also be repeated every month or so as you progress and get stronger. This ensures that the workouts don’t become too easy.
Being that I run it on my iPad and I have an Apple TV, I can put up the display on my TV and use it that way. I’ve done it several times but I lose the ability to watch something. They have released an update to use ChromeCast and overlay the workout over YouTube. Looks interesting but I don’t have ChromeCast.
There are other applications such as TrainerRoad that does all the above except the direct export of the workout to other sites. It does send you the email but it’s up to you to manually upload it to your favorite site. It too has a website to pick a workout (even more than iMobileIntervals) or create your own. They also have training plans depending on your goal. Either program will work for you.
Wahoo also has their app for the Kickr called Fitness, but it doesn’t support intervals. They may in the future but why wait when you have others ready to go. You do need the app to check for and upload firmware updates to the Kickr and other of their products. It’s worth having in your toolbox of bike apps.
In case you haven’t noticed, all the software mentioned here runs on iOS or on the web. I don’t have an Android phone so I can comment on software for that OS. Although, I do think Wahoo Fitness app is also on Android. I’m sure that there are apps for the Android phones. If there isn’t any, there should be.
So far the results has been positive. There is a ride that I do that is about 27-28 miles called the Penitas Loop (check my Routes page) that I used as a benchmark. The ride is out in the country with very little cars. It’s mostly flat but it does have a small steady climb (remember that the Valley is pretty much flat so anything that resembles a climb besides a strong headwind is a big deal for us) and some rolling hills at the twenty-mile mark. The last time I did the ride was in late December. On the twenty-mile mark I really had to push it hard the rest of the way to raise my average mph to 15.4. By that point my posture was bad as I was leaning heavily on the handlebars resulting in sore triceps.
After nearly a month of more indoor intervals and incorporating planks into the regimen, I decided to do that same ride again. I had done a 30-mile ride the week before and felt a lot stronger and faster but I wanted to compare it to a known ride, in this case the Penitas Loop. Halfway through the route I was already at the average speed from when I finished it back in December! I could have gone faster but didn’t and worked on steady power pace. By the end of the ride I was at nearly the same average speed with no issues with posture or soreness in my triceps.and I had a lot of energy left. Wahoo! I couldn’t be happier with the results. I checked on the variability index (VI) and it came out to 1.05. More good news!
I completed one week on the new training plan from TrainingPeaks and they are rough but doable. My plan is to use the trainer on weekdays and on the road for the weekends. Let’s see how that works out.
Well, there you have it. Using the Wahoo Kickr has been fun and hard but well worth the price. Check their website for refurbished units that they have on sale, you might be able to pick one up at a discount price. I’ve had no issue with sturdiness or being excessively loud. Definitely not as loud as the turbo fan types. I do have it in my room and I can fold it up and put it aside when not in use. I do have to unplug it when I need to repair my bike sensors to the bike computer (Magellen Cyclco 505). That is how I use the Kickr in my training. If you can afford it, get it. If not, you can still have a structured workout plan with what you have.
If you have a Kickr, let’s hear from you and share your experience with it. Drop a comment about it.