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.
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:
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?