Wahoo brings new gamified steering to its indoor training environment with their KICKR STEER controller, making trainer riding more palatable, and frankly more engaging. Premium Wahoo X users were treated to an early sneak peek of the new Wahoo X RGT Steering control in a pre-order invite last week, prompting more questions about what the new mysterious KICKR STEER offering would entail…
The KICKR STEER aims to add another dimension to the RGT universe, allowing users to of course steer, letting them move around within the virtual pack and even attack the group for the finish — adding more fun to every ride, race, and workout.
Wahoo KICKR STEER: How does it work?
The new Wahoo KICKR STEER is essentially a bar-mounted device that turns your smartphone into an additional controller. Together with a companion app, it allows the rider to control their view, workout, steering, and other commands via the smartphone at their fingertips, rather than the main training screen. The KICKR STEER software works in tandem with specialized controls of the on-deck steering unit. The steering rocker plate mounts neatly over the provided computer mount (Wahoo and Garmin compatible) and uses the rider’s phone to capture steering motions. The app operates similarly to Zwift companion but with steering, race radio, and more controllability.
But, how do you control the KICKR STEER?
You don’t actually turn the handlebars or lean the bike to STEER, allowing the new functionality only with a rigidly-supported indoor training setup, like the Kickr Bike, Kickr Rollr, Kickr Climb, or just a regular Kickr trainer.
Operating the KICKR STEER accessory plate (that’s the name for the bar-mounted controller that holds your phone), the rider alternately pushes down slightly on the steering paddles on either side. That moves the on-deck steering controller unit slightly from side to side, movement translated by your smartphone’s accelerometers. You can customize the sensitivity of the steering if you’re slightly nudging the unit or going full-on Mario Cart. The paddles are also moveable to set for differing bar widths and thumb placement specifications for both hoods and drops.
We’re not really sure if movement of the tilting Kickr AXIS trainer feet might affect this steering, so it might require tweaking the STEERing sensitivity calibration.
Will Wahoo KICKR STEER work on my bike?
There are three ways to control steering for all users — in fact, the KICKR STEER accessory is not required necessarily.
- If you’re a KICKR BIKE user, you can utilize the integrated thumb buttons on the bars to control positioning and strategically take advantage of large-pack drafting.
- You can use the new KICKR STEER accessory powered by your mobile device and the RGT Remote app.
- Through the RGT Mobile Remote App or on the RGT Game App, on-screen arrows or the computer keyboard (A and D) will steer the rider left or right along RGT’s roads.
*Right now, Wahoo KICKR STEER is only cleared for use on RGT, but rumors are that it works on Zwift if your phone is in portrait mode…
Why add steering?
Previously, a rider’s position on the road in RGT was automated. The only way for a rider to move up in the group was by using their power to move around other cyclists. With KICKR Steering in RGT, you can maneuver around other riders while pedaling, adding a new level of strategy and engagement to virtual rides. Just like riding outdoors, you can find the sweet spot in the middle of the pack (while seeing the watts saving above), push the pace at the front, or cut a sweeping corner to gain position. When combined with Race Radio, riders can communicate and interact to benefit from group dynamics.
Improved KICKR Race Mode
Wahoo has also added a new ‘KICKR Race Mode’ to its indoor trainers. This mode broadcasts power up to 10 times faster than standard trainers, giving riders an advantage at critical race stages. Race Mode is available on the new KICKR Smart Trainers with built-in WiFi and will be available on previous versions of the KICKR with the use of the KICKR Direct Connect WiFi adapter.
First Impressions – Riding & training with new KICKR STEER control
Wahoo’s new KICKR STEER is the first gamified steering control of its kind that I’ve used. Previously, I have ridden front wheel-enabled steering, but curiously those do not feel quite as natural and are often more of a distraction than a ride enhancement – reacting when you don’t expect it. That’s why I was excited to see something truly more like a video game, rather than a “bring the outdoors inside” experience.
KICKR STEER Installation
Wahoo’s KICK STEER unit itself is self-explanatory once you get the operating instructions. The “on deck” unit fits onto a supplied computer mount that acts as a central mounting device for the KICK STEER accessory mount.
The reverse side of the mount holds (and supplies) the needed 4mm and 3mm wrenches for installation of the unit. The thumb controls operate via a boom arm that adjusts the width of bars and drops placement. The user pushes down slightly on the thumb pads, which sit near the side of the shifter hoods.
The rubberized cell phone enclosure measures a cool 7” wide and 3.5’ tall, with a recess to accommodate any cases with waterproof camera exteriors. The size is enough to hold my phone with a heavy-duty RokForm case with some wiggle room to spare.
Once you download the KICKR STEER app – the Wahoo RGT Remote – simply link it to your RGT account, and you’re ready to ride.
As someone who spends a decent amount of time riding indoors, I appreciate adding new features & controls to make indoor training more fun. The KICKR STEER achieves that. Even though it requires a secondary input, the steering is natural, just like getting used to a video game controller. These controlled movements don’t take you out of the zone while training. Placed at your fingertips, the controller features like: race radio, shortcuts, and riders, are much more accessible than reaching for the laptop.
Regarding the steering, it’s fun, and the payback of moving around the pack and sitting in is not without its charm. I’ve yet to use the steering in a race, but I can see the possible advantages and am curious to see how/if it affects any outcome.
Not so secretly, I wish Wahoo went full Mario Cart on this and totally gamified the steering system. It would be fun and more immersive if you could slow a chasing rider down with a banana peel or have to be hyper-focused to dodge potential threats or oncoming precarious obstacles!
Without a tangible reward, whether race results, KOMs, or whatever… the addition of steering control becomes a novelty for the time being. I feel like it will become an afterthought once proper intense training and indoor racing arise.
Using the RGT Remote, I realized that I use my phone much more than I thought during trainer sessions. Given the choice between the two, it’s a hard toss-up of who gets the screen time – responding to incoming messages from the real-world, or in-game steering?
We definitely need more time under the KICKR STEER to grasp its full potential. As for my initial thoughts, it held my attention, but it also took my cell phone (and music maker) out of use in the process.
The subcontext of the KICKR STEER is clear; Wahoo would like to move RGT into a more substantial racing platform. After the Wahoo KICKR STEER accumulates some more user feedback, real (virtual) world racing under its belt, and updates, it could become a very dynamic addition to virtual racing — especially in the TTT.
We look forward to following the story of the steering in the virtual peloton. And as for the Wahoo KICK STEER itself, check back for a full review soon.
Wahoo KICK STEER – Pricing, options & availability
The new Wahoo KICKR STEER steering system is available starting today.
- A Wahoo X and KICKR STEER Bundle sells for $199.99 ($49 off with the bundled offer).
- For existing Wahoo X subscribers, the STEER accessory will be made available at a preferential loyalty price for a limited time.
- KICKR STEER accessory unit on its own retails for $99.99.
- Full Wahoo X training functionality costs $14.99 per month after a 14-day trial period ($149 for an annual membership), including Wahoo RGT and Wahoo SYSTM.