Indoor training can be a drag for most folks. Good thing UK-based WattBike has partnered with British Cycling to give you an indoor trainer that the collaboration guarantees will make you want to ditch your real bike in favour of the WattBike Pro.
This indoor cycling machine has been dubbed as one of the best for training at least Cat.2 and Cat. 3 sprinters. For me, it’s all about the ability to perform highly structured intervals plus some bonus time to train when Mother Nature simply forbids me to go out. In this review, we’ll take a closer look at this indoor cycle version of an American V12 muscle car and whether it justifies its hefty price tag.
WattBike Pro Overview
The muscle car of indoor cycles, the WattBike Pro completely redefines the very notion of indoor cycling. From the way it is designed all the way to how the various components are put together, the Pro is every athlete and fitness buff’s dream indoor cycle – whether beginner or already a pro. It’s ultra-robust, fully capable of standing up to countless HIIT, burst, and sprint sessions from the sporting world’s powerful premiere athletes.
The Pro is astonishingly versatile, too, whether it is right in the comfort of your home or among the burly, powerful bodies in a rugby pitch. It may have an 80’s-era display, but it sure can provide you with the data that you need in real time. As the company says, the Pro is the culmination of years’ worth of painstaking research, data analysis, and revolutionary improvements.
The WattBike Pro is precision-engineered to be a feedback tool. It precisely measures the power that you are generating with each stroke of the pedal. As such, it gives you a more accurate representation of what you are doing with the indoor cycle. This way you can modify your technique to become a better rider, sprinter, or both. It is not the type of exercise bike that will dictate to you the power that you need to generate. For some, especially those who are more familiar with electronic brakes, this might come as cumbersome; in reality, it is an excellent motivator for you to master the correct technique of cycling your way to success.
The Pro’s main advantage is its simple design. It is factory-calibrated for optimum performance so there really is no need for recalibration. It provides real-time data on your performance so you can easily modify your approach to training. And when it comes to intense intervals, the WattBike Pro is simply a spectacular indoor trainer to ride on.
Features of the WattBike Pro
Dual resistance systems
Unlike other exercise bikes that only feature a single type of resistance mechanism, the Pro utilises two: air brake and magnetic brake. It is like combining the unsurpassed exercise efficiency of fan air bikes with the precision tuning of magnetic resistance exercise bikes. Personally, I find this combination to be the heart of the Pro since it allows me to make the most out of every HIIT session that I make.
The Pro comes with 5 endurance level settings for pushing my lungs and my heart to work even harder, toning the cardiac muscles and accessory muscles of respiration to their optimal levels. It also comes with 5 sprint levels for really punishing my leg muscles, perfect for programmed intervals that I simply cannot get in any other type of exercise bike. Now add to this air brake resistance levels the resistance range offered by the Pro’s magnetic resistance system and you’ll see why it is something that the pros will want to have in their training centres.
Highly accurate training data
One of my biggest gripes about the Pro is its mediocre display screen. Whereas cheaper exercise bikes already come with blue LED backlit screens, the Pro only comes with a standard monochrome display that is surely reminiscent of an 80’s digital watch. It doesn’t come with any backlighting so you’d really have to place the Pro in a well-lit spot in your house. However, the WattBike Pro more than makes up for this deficiency by providing you with really accurate training data.
I tried attaching a Garmin ride data capture device onto the Pro and onto another exercise bike that I found at the gym. The ride data on the Pro was only 2% off the data registered on the Garmin. The Pro showed that I was doing 18.8 kilometres per hour while the Garmin registered 19 KPH. On the other bike, I did 17.4 KPH while the Garmin showed it was doing 18.2 KPH. I am pretty sure with the accuracy of my Garmin device.
As such, I can honestly say that the Pro can provide you with no more than 2% variation from the actual data. Two per cent, plus or minus, is still a variation. But since it is a lot closer to what registered on the Garmin compared to the one obtained on another exercise bike, I’d say the Pro has a much better sensor when it comes to registering data accurately.
Polar View data export and digital analysis
The problem with conventional exercise bikes is that you don’t get the kind of feedback you need to help you change or perhaps even modify your training technique. The great thing with the WattBike Pro is that it comes with a bevy of digital analysis tools that are technologically-advanced for this kind of machine. It can be connected to data capture and digital analysis apps that run on NT+ and FE-C platforms. The Pro is fully compatible with Apple devices running on iOS 10 and upwards as well as Android platforms running on at least Kitkat 4.4.4 version, although the recommendation is Lollipop 5.1+.
What I found is that the Pro measures more than 37 different metrics about the indoor cycle ride. The on-board computer then displays pertinent data such as basic power, cadence, heart rate, angle-of-force peak, time-to-force peak, and right-left leg balance on the WattBike Hub. The company also collaborates with third-party applications to deliver power, cadence, and speed. While the initial signup will require wireless internet connection, you can still ride the Pro even without mobile data or WiFi connection. The Pro simply synchronises everything the next time you’re connected to the internet.
The Polar View digital analysis platform gives you feedback on the performance of your pedal strokes. This is one thing that I absolutely love about the Pro as the platform can help me improve my power output as well as pedalling efficiency.
Real bike ride-feel technology
The WattBike Pro’s exceptional craftsmanship especially the integration of two types of resistance can really make for a very interesting ride indoors. It surely is a ride like no other. The way the pedals feel under your feet is just like the real thing. WattBike Pro remarkably replicates both the sensation of cycling on the road and the resistance one gets as he or she slices through the thick air. What this simply means is that the effort I put in my indoor training easily translates into my real-world performance outdoors.
My only lament is that the bike saddle is not really that comfortable as I would have liked, although WattBike claims that they’ve fitted standard racing seat onto the Pro. The chain is made of industrial-grade steel, measuring ½-inch by 1/8 inch. The pedals are integrated with adapters for using toe clips. One side is designed like an MTB SPD while the other is more Keo. The handlebar can be fully adjusted, although I find the configuration to be somewhat fixed for a low-hugging position.
Pros and Cons
- Provides highly-individualised training plan and prescribed power intervals that take into consideration your general performance, power zones, and heart rates
- Excellent for doing a variety of HIIT intervals, bursts, and sprints
- Sensation of pedalling feels very much like the real deal
- Dual resistance functionality – air and magnetic – allows for more precise power adjustments for seamless transitions and hitting the sweet spot in an almost instantaneous manner
- Super-fast and super-easy switching and navigation between and across screens
- Compatibility with Ant+ and FE-C protocol ride data capture technologies and other compatible apps
- Accuracy and comprehensiveness of training data
- Level of exercise and training data and analysis
- Doesn’t have connectivity to online virtual cycling apps
- Saddle may not be that comfortable
- Moulded bars may not provide flexibility in riding position
- Very basic 1980’s-era monochrome LCD without backlighting
- Prohibitive price
Final Words on the WattBike Pro Exercise Bike
The WattBike Pro is an exercise bike designed like a muscle car sporting a V12 engine with its exceptional performance when hitting high intensity intervals in rapid succession, even without a stunning display and very complicated electronics that you tend to see in highly sophisticated speed machines. It provides a lovely feedback on every stroke of the pedal, superiorly built, and provides you with the right kind of ride information you require in real time.