In the future, you still have to worry about getting dropped. Not just on your favorite group ride in real life. But also while you’re sitting at home on your trainer. Only, we’re talking about dropping your ANT+ or Bluetooth signal, not getting chucked off the back during a real climb that really shouldn’t be that hard.
For most trainer sessions, losing your signal isn’t that big of a deal (unless it happens frequently). At best, you have to pause for a few seconds and reset your connections. At worst, maybe you lose your progress on a ride you’ve been planning to complete for a while.
Virtual racing though? That’s a different story. Losing your signal there can make the difference between staying in the pack, and again being chucked off the back. Only this time, it’s virtual (is that worse?).
The solution? That might be Wahoo’s newest accessory, the KICKR Direct Connect. While all of their smart trainers have used wireless protocols to connect to your device with either ANT+ or Bluetooth, now they’re going back to wires.
Connecting to your network
You may have noticed the Wahoo KICKR V5 had a yet-unused port on the back of the trainer, above the power cord. It looks like an ethernet port, but it’s smaller. Now we find out that it was meant for the Direct Connect Adapter.
Once the Direct Connect is plugged into your KICKR V5, you’ll need to supply your own ethernet cable that will connect either directly to your modem/router, or to your computer. If you plug it into your computer, your computer acts as a wireless bridge to your router for the trainer – so your computer still needs to be connected to wifi. It also seems that the computer connection might not be quite as fast or reliable as the direct connection to the modem/router since the data still has to be transmitted wirelessly.
A successful connection will illuminate two LEDs on the adapter, one will be steady, the other likely flashing. In case anyone else has this question, I have a MOCA network set up so the TV by the trainer has internet access. The Direct Connect worked perfectly when plugged into the MOCA adapter, which is technically hardwired directly to my router.
Depending on how your trainer is set up, that might mean having a very long ethernet cord stretched across the room. Just know that an ethernet cable is not provided, so you’ll have to plan ahead if you want to connect as soon as you get your device.
Why not just put an ethernet port on the trainer and plug it in? It seems that there’s more to the adapter than just providing an ethernet port, which is evidenced by the fact that you have to have Bluetooth turned on to use it.
Connecting to your training program
Wait. Bluetooth? I thought this was wired? It is, but in order for your computer to sense that you have a KICKR hooked up to your network via the Direct Connect, the Bluetooth must be enabled. I didn’t know this at first, and couldn’t see the KICKR Direct Connection. Once I turned on Bluetooth, it popped up as shown above, with the trainer showing up as an ANT+ connection, or the ‘Connect’ connection. Select the Connect version, and you’re off.
Initally, the KICKR Direct Connect will be limited in compatible programs. At the time of launch, only Wahoo’s SUF Training System, TrainerRoad, FullGaz, and RGT Cycling are compatible. However, other training programs are expected to be added soon. That includes Zwift, which is something I can’t wait to try with Direct Connect. I’m hoping it will solve some of the problems I have with the trainer’s response to wild swings in target wattage during prescribed workouts and a few other things. But I’ll have to wait for the Zwift integration for that.
It’s also important to note that at first, the Direct Connect is only compatible with Windows or Mac OS desktops or laptops. It is not compatible with iOS or Android apps for mobile devices or tablets.
For now, the KICKR Direct Connect seems to work as promised (only tested on the Sufferfest though). It provides a wired connection to your KICKR V5 (and only the KICKR V5, since it needs the port on the back), and seems to function… as normal? During my short time using it for the Sufferfest, everything seemed to function properly, and without any drops in signal.
Priced at $99.99, the KICKR Direct Connect is available now. If you don’t already have a KICKR V5, those run $1,199.99 (if you can find one in stock).