The new Wattbike Atom has generated enormous interest and publicity since it’s launch in September. The first production bikes have now started arriving with customers, although demand has been so high, that delivery times have been slipping as order levels sit above production levels (meaning that as more sell delivery times get longer as Wattbike can only produce so many. Tacx had the same issue when they launched the Neo).
However, bikes are arriving with customers and press and I’m lucky enough to have an early chance to review the new Atom. This post is a first impressions based on my first few hours of riding the Atom.
I spent two years riding the original Wattbike and it helped to transform my approach to training, helping me ride faster than I ever have before. Whilst the original Wattbike remains a great product, new technologies like Zwift and Trainerroad changed the game. Smart trainers with their ability to mimic climbs by adjusting the resistance dynamically, saw new brands like Wahoo jump into the trainer market and help to permanently change it. Traditional trainer manufacturers like Tacx and Elite have responded strongly with some new cutting edge products but the indoor trainer market has fundamentally changed in the last 4 years.
The Wattbike Atom is the UK company’s response and has been in development over several years. I’d been tipped off by staff at Wattbike more than a year ago that something new was coming but it wasn’t until the Cycle Show in September that I saw it too.
In simple terms, the idea of the Wattbike Atom is quite simple: Take a traditional Wattbike indoor trainer, re-invent for home use by building in a smart trainer. In doing so, create at product to enable owners to utilise the leading indoor training platforms and maximise it’s compatibility with future standards to lock in longevity as much as possible. Then combine all of this in attractive package and at a price point that makes sense given the market landscape it launches into.
From a tech point of view, the new Atom has full connectivity with both Ant Plus and Bluetooth training protocols, magnetic resistance that’s adjustable from 40-2,000 with +/- 2% accuracy.
Cleverly, they’ve also made it more space efficient too. When set up, the new Atom is only 75cm wide and 130cm long making it usefully more compact than a bike (with a front wheel) on a turbo trainer and smaller than the original Wattbike too. The new design aesthetic is also much more in keeping with a home environment.
As with the original Wattbike, the Atom is designed to be most useful for those households who have more than one person who wants to use a smart trainer. The Atom is designed for easy and quick adjustment of the seat and handlebar heights with twist lock mechanism that’s easy to change the heights on the bike. These adjustments can be made in seconds.
Moving the saddle or handlebars back and forwards requires a 5mm Allen key so is more tricky to fine tune your position. In another welcome change it’s now also possible to swap out the supplied handlebars for those of your choice should you wish to do so. Of course, it’s still perfectly suitable for an individual who would rather set up a static bike to train with, rather than using a turbo trainer and their bike.
A key new feature on the Wattbike Atom is gear shifting. The original Wattbike uses an adjustable air fan (with a sliding lever), with the additional ability to adjust magnetic resistance if you need more of a challenge. On the Wattbike I had, I almost always only used the fan resistance and that worked very well. However it was a manual process and not compatible with the smart trainer age. The fan was also loud, so removing that from the design of the Atom has remove one element of noise production.
One thing that the Atom doesn’t come with is a “head unit” or screen like the traditional Wattbike. So just like you do with any other smart turbo trainer, you need a screen or device to manage it with to get the best from it. The front of the Atom is designed to allow you to fit pretty much any size tablet up to and including the iPad Pro (in fairness I don’t have an iPad Mini to try it with).
However, you can run it from a laptop or computer as well as long as you have an ANT+ or Bluetooth connection.
To set up and run the Atom, it’s best to use an iPad, especially when you first get it. You can download the Wattbike Hub app from the App Store or the Google Play store. When my Atom arrived, I downloaded version 3.2.3 to my iPad and immediately had a notification that the Atom wanted to update the firmware to the latest version (released October 30th).
This update took a couple of minutes and has updates to the gearshifting experience amongst other tweaks.
Using the Wattbike Hub app gives you the traditional Wattbike Polar view graphics as you pedal. It also shows you what gear you’re in and allows you to ride any of the Wattbike tests, programs and climbs it includes. Click the gear buttons on the left hand shifter allows you to switch views on the display and using the gear shift buttons on the right shifter allows you to change gear (the top button to make it harder, the bottom button to make it easier). There is also a third button on top of the shifter which allows you to switch from gear to erg mode (but software like Trainerroad should automatically switch this for you).
Riding the Wattbike Atom
I’ve already spent a few hours on the Wattbike Atom using a combination of Zwift and Trainerroad, which is what I anticipate most users will focus on. I also have a Tacx Neo to compare it with as I bought one after reviewing the Neo earlier this year.
My first impressions are that whilst it’s definitely quieter than the original Wattbike, it’s quite noticeably noisier than the Neo. However, the Neo is the quietest smart trainer on the market, and the Wattbike Atom sits at around the 70 decibel level they aimed for in the design process according to some simplistic testing I’ve done so far. Here’s a useful link on comparative noise levels if you want to compare levels. My initial estimate is that my Neo is around 60 decibels, which is about half the noise level of the Atom, which is around 70 decibels.
The riding experience is good though and very much like the original Wattbike. If you’ve spent any time on one, you’ll quickly feel at home on the Atom.
The thing that takes the most adjustment is getting used to is the gear shifting and you need to make sure you’re running the latest firmware for that. Part of what’s difficult is that Zwift doesn’t show you the gear you’re riding in. So the simplest way is to look at your RPM/Cadence and your power in Watts. The gear shift buttons don’t give an enormous amount of tactile feedback, so they’re very different to ride compared to a gear shift on a bike. There’s no mechanical clunk and this can give you the temptation to press the button again. You don’t need to do this though.
Pressing the gear shift button once on Zwift to move up and I can see and feel a change in power and rpm. With the new firmware it also seems to be working quickly enough for me. Power and rpm are adjusting in around 1 second (I’ve not found a way to measure it yet), which seems perfectly fine. I’ve enjoyed riding it around Zwift’s Watopia courses including some of the rolling climbs. I’ve not noticed any particular issues other than some times if you drop your cadence by 15-20 RPM, the resistance can temporarily ramp up and then smooth out again. This might be how I’m using it though, so I’ll spend more time riding and see how I get on.
The more I ride the Wattbike Atom so far, the more I’m enjoying it. I like the compact size and the ride feel seems good. I’m happy with how the gears are shifting and in my house, all of my family members have got on and had a go.
The actual smart trainer element of it is not as sophisticated a design as the cutting edge Tacx Neo, which is quieter and offers the road feel feature on Zwift. The Wattbike Atom though is easier for multiple people to user and a more compact solution. I’ve not tried a Wahoo Kickr or Elite Smart Trainer as yet, so can’t compare to them for now.
It’s early days but I am enjoying the Atom and I’ll keep riding it so I can report back closer to Christmas with a full review. If you’d like me to investigate any particular aspect of the Wattbike Atom’s performance, please leave me a comment so I can do that.
I’ll be posting all of my rides on the Atom on Strava, so find & follow me here, if you’d like to see how I’m using it.
For more information on the Atom including how to order one, please visit Wattbike’s website.
Thanks for reading.