Wahoo released a firmware update on Friday, February 3 to deliver a feature never before seen on Zwift: race mode.
Until now, trainers have generally read power data multiple times per second and then computed a 1-second average of those readings for sending to software like Zwift. Zwift receives more than 1 transmission per second from most trainers, but since the data is averaged to the second, it’s functionally like receiving one transmission per second. A 1Hz power reading.
Wahoo’s new race mode increases that to 10Hz, meaning your power numbers will be read by your KICKR and sent to Zwift up to 10x faster, resulting in a ride that is more responsive to power changes.
Shane, our favorite Aussie lama, explains it all very nicely in this video. (He also runs some of the same tests we would have done, if he hadn’t so nicely done them for us!)
Enabling Race Mode
Race mode is only available for KICKR v6 owners at this time, and it only works if you’re using WiFi or Direct Connect.
To enable race mode, first make sure you’re on the latest firmware. Then just toggle “Race Mode” in your settings:
How it ACTUALLY Works
It’s worth mentioning that Wahoo’s race mode support page explains that enabling race mode means your power number will be updated up to 10 times per second.
“KICKR Race Mode updates power upon each flywheel revolution”, Wahoo says, so as long as your flywheel is spinning at least 10rps, you’ll get the 10Hz power updates. Wahoo says “During a high-speed sprint this can be up to 10 times per second” but a few tests on our end show that it doesn’t even take a high-speed sprint to get your flywheel turning at 10rps+.
A Racing Advantage?
Does race mode provide a competitive advantage? You’d better believe it.
Zwift racers generally agree that it’s hard to follow attacks crisply. Many of us have chalked this up to an inability to see other riders in real time, but it’s also caused by a lag between your power being input and Zwift actually seeing the new numbers.
During steadier efforts, race mode doesn’t feel noticeably different. But reducing that response lag leads to a much more responsive feel when it comes to race jumps and attacks, as Shane mentions above.
The KICKR v6 is on sale for $150 off – Buy Now >
Coming to the KICKR 5
If you’re a KICKR v5 owner, good news: Wahoo tweeted early this week that race mode is coming for v5 using Direct Connect:
KICKR Race Mode requires a network connection to operate. We will port it back to KICKR V5 over Direct Connect later this year.— Wahoo (@wahoofitness) February 7, 2023
No word yet on whether it’s coming to the new KICKR Bike or when, but we assume that’s in the plans.
Zwifters are already wondering when Tacx, Elite, Saris, or others are going to release a similar feature on their trainers. In theory it should be possible with most trainers, at least over Bluetooth which can easily handle 10Hz. (The ANT+ standard is 4Hz).
(The Tacx NEO 2T already supports 4Hz transmission, which while better than 1Hz is still slower than Wahoo’s new race mode.)
Zwift already uses the 4Hz standard for ANT connections and receives Bluetooth packets at whatever rate the device sends them. We just need smart trainers to start sending data more frequently. Get on it, trainer companies!
Questions or Comments?
Hi Eric, what’s the situation with the Kickr Core – won’t ever come to it due to hardware issues? Cheers
Kickr Core doesn’t have a Direct Connect port, so wouldn’t be possible.
This is all technically possible over Bluetooth, it’s in the artical.
Race mode has been tested over BLE by some riders – it might come in furture thou no timeline
Confused by your notation. 1 Hz is 1 per second. To get the 10 Hz signals wouldn’t you need the freewheel to be rotating at 10 rotations per second (or 600 rpm) not 10 rpm?
Yeah, sorry. Fixed it above! Just too used to writing “RPM” as a cyclist, I think…
ANT+ power meters are a little more complicated than once per second. They broadcast four times a second, generally, two of those include the instantaneous power value. But that value may only be updated either once per second or once per revolution (of the crank or wheel). Which update method is used is determined by the manufacturer. At high cadence (> 60 rpm), this can result in faster than once per second. At a lower cadence (< 60 rpm) this can result in slower than once per second. My Power2Max updates based on crank rotation, and I practice getting my… Read more »
All true, Stuart. Yeah, most trainers, as far as I can tell, send data at 4Hz, but they’re averaging the data to once per second. So you don’t get 4 new numbers every second, but just 1.
And of course power meters (cranks, spiders, and pedals, typically) aren’t time-based but event-based, which gets us back to how sticky watts happen…
Does this also provide a competitive disadvantage in times where you want to come off the power? e.g. top of the Leg Snapper – with Race Mode you’d have to keep the power on until you’re comfortable sitting up; without it, you could come off up to a second sooner.
Sure, there are scenarios where it’s advantageous to have your trainer holding on your power number longer before dropping it. But my argument would be – you should just hold your power a bit longer.
The advantage of race mode is definitely on the “startup” side, though.
How about the kickr bike? V2 or even V1?
I reached out to Wahoo but haven’t heard a reply back. My assumption is the bike’s internals would support it, so it’ll roll out soon…
Yes, they confirmed on Twitter it will be added to the kickr bike as well.
v1 and v2, or just v2?
the article states “and it only works if you’re using WiFi or Direct Connect”. If the feature is not available via Ant+ or Bluetooth then it won’t be supported on v1.
I saw an update somewhere on official Wahoo site that this new feature is being added to wi-fi enabled KICKR trainers (or older generation KICR with direct connect module (not sure about the name, but this is a wi-fi dongle that is optional). It was noted in the same announcement that the same feature is “coming to kickr bike soon”. If wi-fi connectivity is a must, then it is probably only V2 that will get this functionality, but this is just my interpretation.
It’s not correct AFAIK that ANT+ power meters only give a reading every second. Actually, they send roughly 5 data pages with power days every second: A basic page every second (at 1 Hz) and the main data page with a frequency of 4 Hz.
If you have a way of tapping into Zwift live data you’ll also see 4-5 power readings power second.
Correct – I edited what I’d written above. It’s a bit confusing, because many transmit at greater than 1Hz, but they’re actually only calculating power every 1 second (to reduce noisiness I assume) so they’re effectively transmitting power at 1Hz.
Will it ne enabled for Kickr Bike?
nvm, i see the post below. just out here having a full conversation with just myself.
Great… more work for us Neo owners….
As much as I like certain features of neo, kudos to wahoo. Had been considering a change due to them due to the constant and measured power decrease vs several power meters (on bike at tie using neo). Fine for training, but brutal for racing.
If it helps, the Neo reads and broadcasts at 4Hz, which is better than other trainers! (Not sure if that’s all versions of the Neo or just the 2T…)
Ahh.. yeah Im on the original… seems to def be a lag… oh well.. Ill take real watts and the delay…
Eric do you know how smart bikes compare to this new race mode? I use a Stages SB20. It does not seem to be this responsive.
Haven’t tested the SB20 for power frequency, so I can’t say!
Nvm, just read that again.
Any idea if Zwift will update the Zwift Hub with something similar. Or is this something that can be implemented via Wifi or a direct connect?
Let’s just say… Zwift has plans for the Hub to give it more features other trainers don’t have!
Like power accuracy of +/-2.5% ?
When might this happen? The new Hub with features?
And for stages bike sb 20?
perhaps will repair the lag of the Wahoo kickr climb !!! the price of the dircon it’s very expensive
There is no reason for it to not be possible via Bluetooth which can send signal with 125Hz frequency.
Race mode has been banned from being used during UCI World Championships.
Interesting! Do you have documentation on that?
good. anything that gives a competitive advantage needs to be scrutinised before being rolled out across the board, especially if it is only availble to certain models of trainer. be surprised if Zwift doesn’t add a hard limit now (so everyone is on an equal playing field).
I was disappointed at first, seeing as this update was only available with the v6 Kickr, but not that I know it’ll be available soon for the v5 I can put my wallet away and cancel my trip to the LBS.Ha!
Well, I guess, one needs to find out first how much benefit, if any at all, is in this new feature.
So if I am pairing ant+ power and using the trainer for resistance – am I already at 4hz
Only if you have a Neo. Other trainers average power to the second, it would seem.
Easy to test. Set your power display in Zwift to instant and see how often it updates.
Eric is that black box with the race mode toggle under the top left watts/BMP box supposed to show?
Not sure what you’re asking….?
Race mode has been banned from World Champs this weekend. Some riders seem to be having issues with Wifi Direct Connect and not all riders have the Direct Connect Dongle: ensuring a level playing field with equipment (which is the primary objective of having a single hardware partner in the first place!) isn’t possible with some riders able to use Race Mode and others not
Can confirm v5 race mode is in beta
With a Tacx Neo 2T, does anyone know if the power data rate is different on Bluetooth and ANT+? I’d like to run whatever updates the quickest I guess, but not sure if they are both the same frequency?
Thank you for pointing out that the Wahoo KICKR bike does not have the “race mode” feature. After watching Bares/Anna/Nathan on The Wrap talk about this race mode on Wahoo then I watched Llama’s video. Then I tried to do the race mode on my KICKR bike…but to no avail. I will keep an eye out for the update. Seems like they would want to sell more of those bikes over the trainer….why a trainer would have higher functions than their full on bike I don’t understand. Great article as always.