In the fall of 2022, Zwift made headlines with a new smart trainer. The Zwift Hub was less expensive and easier to use than any previous smart trainer with little little-known brand JetBlack handling production. As we head into the spring of 2024, the brand is making headlines again with the introduction of a new trainer. This time it’s called the Wahoo KICKR CORE Zwift One and, as is obvious, there’s a new manufacturing partner.
Today’s news brings to a close a rift between Zwift and Wahoo that opened almost immediately after the Zwift Hub announcement. Looking back, it only took Wahoo a month to file multiple copyright infringement claims against Zwift after the company’s launch of the original Zwift Hub. Then, after a year of litigation, the news came that both Zwift and Wahoo were adjusting the two brands’ respective turbo trainer ranges.
For a brief few months, consumers had the option of a Zwift Hub One with only virtual shifting or a Wahoo Kickr Core with a cassette and included Zwift membership. As these different options have shifted over the past two years, so has our coverage of the best smart trainers. With today’s announcement, Zwift and Wahoo are coming back together in partnership by launching a new Wahoo KICKR CORE Zwift One and our list will likely need adjustment again.
JetBlack and Zwift partnership ends
There has always been a great deal of overlap between the Zwift Hub and the Wahoo Kickr Core. Initially, that meant there was little reason to purchase a Kickr Core for more money than a Zwift Hub but over time, the two brands carved out distinctions. As we entered this year’s Zwift season you had the choice of a Zwift Hub One or a Wahoo Kickr Core. The Kickr Core had a standard cassette that you’d need to match to your drivetrain while the Zwift Hub One used virtual shifting and the Zwift ‘cog’ single sprocket. The Zwift Hub One offered shifting via included buttons or the Zwift Play controller but only worked inside of Zwift.
With this arrangement, the two brands had similar but unique offerings. The Price sat at £549.99 / $599.99 / €599.99 for either piece of hardware and both included a 1-year subscription to Zwift in the purchase price. The Zwift Hub One was the simpler option but you could only shift in Zwift and there was no ability to tune your gearing. The Kickr Core on the other hand offered a more traditional approach to gearing while continuing to shift via your bike’s controls. The downside was the need for a matching cassette making it difficult to share a trainer or use a trainer for more than one bike with different drivetrains.
The Wahoo KICKR CORE Zwift One marks the end of that distinction. The Zwift Hub One will no longer be available. According to Zwift, “While we are very proud of what we accomplished with the Zwift Hub and Zwift Hub One, our partnership with Wahoo, and the new hardware packages we’ve created together, gives more cyclists access to a high-quality, high-value trainer that will make it easy to take advantage of all that Zwift has to offer. While Zwift will no longer sell the Zwift Hub or the Zwift One Hub, we are committed to supporting all customers who have purchased a Zwift Hub or Zwift Hub One.”
Simplified consumer choice
The available options now dwindle from two different branded options to one. For the consumer what that means is a simplified choice. The Wahoo Kickr Core is now available with your choice of 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12-speed cassette or the Zwift Cog and Zwift Click. Whatever option you choose continues to include a year of Zwift.
What’s not changing is the basic premise of your decision. If you want to be able to change cassettes to adjust gearing and you want to keep your shifting on your bike then choose a Wahoo Kickr Core and a matching cassette. If you’d prefer to have a trainer that’s compatible with almost any bike then choose the Zwift Cog and Zwift Click instead of a standard cassette.
For those who prefer compatibility, the Zwift Cog is a single-sprocket device that replaces a cassette. It fits onto the freehub as a normal cassette would but, instead of a range of different cassette teeth, there’s only a single cog that your chain fits on. It’s great for multi-bike households and less confusing for potential buyers.
When it’s time to shift you no longer move the chain to a different part of the cassette but instead use the Zwift Click. The Click takes the form of a wireless Bluetooth two-button shifter that mimics shifts by adjusting the resistance of the trainer, similar to how smart bikes offer virtual shifting with belt-driven drivetrains. The combination offers 24 gears specifically tuned for the Zwift landscape. You can still tune the gearing further but you’ll need to do it by using the trainer difficulty setting within the Zwift software. Outside of Zwift, it will be possible to use your trainer but only in ERG mode.
For those who are averse to commitment, there are currently some limitations to be aware of. If you start with the purchase of a Wahoo Kickr Core Zwift One, which includes the Zwift Click and Zwift Cog, you can later add a standard cassette. However, if you start with a standard Wahoo Kickr Core and cassette there’s no option to purchase only the Zwift Cog as an upgrade.
Virtual shifting for any Wahoo Kickr Core
While it’s not currently possible to upgrade from the Kickr Core to a Wahoo Kickr Core Zwift One, anyone with a Kickr Core can still start shifting virtually as of today. What you’ll need is a set of Zwift Play Controllers and a firmware upgrade.
This doesn’t quite open up the universal compatibility of Zwift Cog but it does upgrade your riding experience. Shifting virtually is smooth and instant with no concern for cross-chaining. You can think of it as a way to instantly adjust ERG resistance as needed and you can now add it to any Wahoo Kickr Core.
Pricing and availability
The Wahoo Kickr Core remains available for $599 / £549 / €599 including a cassette of your choice. Alternatively, the Wahoo Kickr Core Zwift One is also available today via Zwift.com and wahoofitness.com with a price of $599 / £549 / €599. Both options include one year of Zwift membership.
For the first time, customers located in Australia and Canada will also have access to Zwift virtual shifting. The Wahoo Kickr Core Zwift One will be available in late March via wahoofitness.com.
The Zwift Play controllers are available via Zwift.com priced at $99 / £99 / €99.