Wahoo Kickr: How I setup mine

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:

  • Sturdy
  • Power Based
    • ERG Mode
    • Manual Mode
  • Quiet
  • 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.

EQUIPMENT

Wahoo Kickr Setup

Wahoo Kickr Setup

Wahoo Kickr Setup

Wahoo Kickr Setup

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:

  • Kickr
  • Bike
  • Music Stand
  • Fan
  • iPad
  • ANT+ Dongle
  • cable for ANT+ dongle (depends on what iPad you have)
  • iMobileIntervals iPhone app (no iPad version)
  • TV
  • 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:

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.

RESULTS

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.

Peeking over the Edge: Training with Power

Like many cyclists, I measure my cycling progression by either one or two metrics: distance and/or speed. I remember when I used do 10 miles per day every day and shoot for 50 miles per week. Seemed like every little rolling hill was a major leg burner and the wind! Oh my gosh, the wind! Going south on 107 was a blast but turning around to face the wind made me wonder if I could ride the distant seven miles back to the car. Well, I did make it back to car and that’s how I continued to measure my progress. Distance was the way to go. Eventually, speed started to creep in my metrics but that was later.

iBike_POWERHOUSE_InsertionMy first foray into something different was with the Powerhouse system from iBike. This was an innovative system to do structured intervals while cycling. A combination of iPhone case and the Powerhouse application that, when combined together along with your bike, would guide you through a fifty-four day plan of intervals and rest days. It would start you out with a fitness test to see where you stood and establish that baseline. Once you completed the fitness test it would then create a custom schedule of intervals for you to follow throughout the week. The application paired up with cycling coach Allen Hunter that guided and encouraged you to keep at it. It’s his formulas and techniques in training that is used to create that personalized training plan for you. How cool is that!

The program was simple, Allen Hunter would pop up and tell you what to expect for that days workout. It had a structure to it: a warm up, a set of intervals and then a cool down. All you had to do was keep up a certain cadence and keep a sliding arrow between the minimum and maximum range for that segment. The intervals varied from day-to-day and they were tough! You had to learn to change gears to keep that sliding arrow where the coach wanted it. Shifting gears up or down depending on the road conditions and winds was the name of the game. It was fun and challenging to go through the entire 54-day program. Throughout the program there were rest days and fitness test days to see where you stood and to make adjustments to the training program. Fun! When you completed the program you simply start over but at a higher fitness level.

The Powerhouse was my first experience with and training with a power meter. Yes, that’s right the Powerhouse system was in fact a power meter with all the numbers stripped out and a simple graphical interface was used instead. No mention of Watts, FTP, NP, VI or some other acronym was ever uttered. Total bliss. The case held the wind port and the sensors needed to measure the forces you were overcoming to pedal. The software on the iPhone used those sensors to compute the power and display it graphically. That sliding arrow represented the power you were exerting while cycling. That fitness test you was doing was the same fitness test you do to get your Functional Threshold Power (FTP).

I did improve. It was easier to ride against the wind, those rolling hills were a lot easier and my average speed improved. I find it interesting how I fall back to the old metrics for measuring improvement, distance and speed. Those are “feel good” metrics that we can easily relate to.

iBike Newton

iBike Newton Power Meter

I now use a Newton Power Meter from iBike. It is just as accurate as any other permanent power meter but the big advantage with the Newton is the price and the fact that you can take it from one bike to another as easily as you could with a Garmin. The Newton has been on my bike for about a year now and just love it. The unit does have a few quirks such as no backlight, no bluetooth and no GPS but makes it up with having a great visible display in bright sunlight, long battery life, wind gauge, temperature and excellent power readings.

I’ve learned to do my fitness test to get my FTP and I’ve become familiar with the average power readings to expect on my rides. It does have Intervals built-in but they are not as easy to follow as the Powerhouse unit. The developers are constantly updating the firmware for the unit to improve and add new features to it. Bug fixes are free as well as minor enhancements. New major features means you will have to fork out some funds to enable it. That’s cool because you pay for what features you want. With the new enhancements I now have access to Nominal Power (NP) and actual power on the same screen. This really helps me pace myself depending on the type of ride I plan on doing. In my case it’s mostly endurance or long rides. No Time Trials for me.

kickerfeatureAs I mentioned before, I’ve set a weekly distance goal of 100 miles. I’ve started out at 50 miles and now it’s 100 but I’ve been thinking of increasing that. That is until I started using my indoor trainer to do some of my intervals. This trainer is not the usual mount bike and ride type of device but instead you can vary the resistance electronically through your PC or iOS device. The resistance is also calibrated and outputted in Watts to you electronic device. In essence I can now do structured power based intervals indoors (while watching tv of course)! Wahoo makes the trainer called Kickr and what a blessing it is. Combine that with the iOS app called iMobileIntervals I can do my rides, post them on Facebook, Strava or TrainingPeaks. Sweet!

Because of the Kickr, I have readjusted my thinking on those 100 miles per week. I used to struggle with deciding on whether I should ride on the Kickr or go cycling outside. I like doing the intervals on the trainer, but yet I’m not reaching my miles per week goal. It took me a while to get over the mindset that the miles HAS to be from cycling outside. That is just not true. Good quality miles on the trainer is just a good as being on the road. This was really hard to wrap my mind around but I’m starting to accept it.

Now my routine consists of intervals on the Kickr and longer rides outdoors where I focus on the target Nominal Power (NP) and reducing my Variability Index (VI) by pacing myself at the target power level. I don’t worry about speed or the wind. That will be taken care of as I get fitter and stronger. So far the results has been amazing. With the right pacing (even with the wind on my back) I can do the long rides without being burnt out although I do have to mindful of the 100+ F weather that we get around here in the Rio Grande Valley.

I’ve started brushing up on training with power and I got two books to help me on that aspect. Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan and the other book is The Power Meter Handbook: A User’s Guide for Cyclists and Triathletes by Joe Friel. I’ve read the Joe Friel book and I need to go back and reread it again for better absorption.  The Huner Allen book is there waiting for me to graduate to that level of understanding. Both books are great and highly recommend either one to anyone. I am definitely a beginner in this and have a lot to learn but I feel like I’m peeking over a tall fence and I can see the what’s on the other side, training with a power meter and I like it.

Share your experience with your early years of using a power meter. I’d love to hear from you.