Editor’s note: Wattbike has since updated its Atom smart trainer for 2020
Wattbike has been synonymous with British Cycling since it launched the original Wattbike back in 2008. And ever since the Wattbike Pro/Trainer has been a key piece of equipment for the likes of the UCI and its Talent ID program in identifying talent and the development of elite athletes.
The Wattbike has also become a fixture in plenty of commercial gyms and is often seen as a piece of professional sports training armoury and as a warm-up tool for players on the sidelines of professional and international rugby union games.
The key to its success has been its Polar View power measurement tech, which shows in real time the efficiency of your pedal stroke.
Each crank measures power independently of the other, so you can get an accurate picture of how balanced your pedal stroke is and which parts of the stroke you can improve to generate more power. A polar graph and left/right leg percentages on the display mean you see this as you ride and you can even see how long it takes to reach peak force per pedal stroke.
The major downsides however for anyone wanting the benefits of a Wattbike outside of sport institutions and gyms have been the price and size of the unit. At £2,250 / $3,495 it’s in no way cheap and because of its air-resistance turbo design it’s noisy too.
The Wattbike Trainer/Pro is also designed as a standalone unit, so fans of online services such as Zwift or TrainingPeaks are left out in the cold. It can be configured to work with these services, but it isn’t easy.
The new Atom
The Atom certainly looks stylish compared to most static bikes Warren Rossiter / Immediate Media
Richard Baker, MD of Wattbike’s consumer business, tells us: “With the advent of smart trainers, and some real premium ones at that, we knew we could apply our expertise into something more affordable and more usable for the home user.”
The Atom has a dual mode setting, which can be manually shifted using the hood triggers built into the Atom’s bars
The new Atom certainly looks the part with its sculpted styling and lighter (44kg) weight, it’s much more home use friendly. Wattbike has also moved the resistance technology away from noisy air resistance and incorporated a dual flywheel design with seven electromagnets to control the resistance adjustability.
At the crank end of things the bike uses exactly the same design as the Pro/Trainer to give super-accurate power measurement, and this also means that its impressive Polar View pedalling analysis is a key part of the hardware too.
At launch the Atom will have access to the Wattbike Hub, which is its own app, but out of the box the bike is compatible with Zwift, TrainingPeaks and Sufferfest. It also connects with Strava automatically and Wattbike is working on offering compatibility with Garmin Connect too.
With both Ant+ and Bluetooth connectivity built in you won’t have any issue with wearable tech and heart rate monitors either.
Resistance and adaptability
The hoods feature wireless triggers to control settings on the app, gearing on the bike and power resistance too Warren Rossiter / Immediate Media
The Atom has a dual mode setting, which can be manually shifted using the hood triggers built into the Atom’s bars.
The first is a ‘just ride’ setting; resistance comes from the electronically-set gearing, and the default is equivalent to a 52/36t and 11-28t cassette.
The second setting is ‘Power’. In this setting the hood triggers manually increment power resistance by five watts — or you can set a fixed power constant via the app.
The dedicated hoods feature trigger controls so you can shift between screens either on the Wattbike app or via control settings on third party software, such as Zwift.
The app also has preloaded sessions or you can define your own using numerous third-party applications Warren Rossiter / Immediate Media
The Atom uses the FEC protocol so you can combine the app with pre-recorded routes, via the app or Strava, and the bike will simulate climbs and routes with its fast-altering electro-resistance.
Resistance is rated between 20 and 2,000 watts, and Baker tells us that the Atom is configured to 2,400–2,500w. If you’re pushing out bigger numbers than that you’ll be better served by the Pro/Trainer, which is configured to almost double the Atoms, and are probably a track sprinter.
The fixed bike design is certainly more convenient than a traditional or direct drive trainer, and the frame offers adjustability in both heights at the stem and seat, plus masses of reach adjustment and saddle position too. Baker says the Atom will adjust to fit riders from 4’8” up to around 6’7” (dependent on leg length).
The seatpost offers plenty of height adjustment, while the bladed shapes are just for style Warren Rossiter / Immediate Media
Wattbike aims to make the Atom as tunable as possible. For example, you can switch in your favourite shape and width of bars, and the saddle fits via a standard clamp too.
The front-end features clip-on bar ends, which also integrate a neat and very adjustable tablet holder that will fit anything from an iPhone up to a full size iPad Pro or equivalent oversized Android tablet. The tri-bar pads are optional and easily removed, so if you’re not a fan of a TT position you can go with a standard bike setup.
Atom pricing and availability
The Atom is priced at £1,499 including delivery (international pricing is currently TBC), which still puts it at the premium end of things: Tacx’s brilliant Neo costs £1,200 / $1,599 / AU$2,299, as does the Elite Drivo, and the ever popular Wahoo Kickr is priced at £999 / $1,199 / AU$1,399.
The bike is available globally via Wattbike’s website, but currently the warranty only covers the UK for under warranty collection and repair. Users outside of the UK will still get full warranty support, but shipping back to the UK for repairs isn’t covered.
We’ve got our hands on an Atom and are putting it through it paces right now, so we’ll be reporting back with a full review soon.