Wattbike Atom: the home smart bike redefined
The Week Portfolio has been putting the Wattbike Atom through its paces
The team behind Wattbike set out in 2000 to redefine the world of indoor cycling with what they envisaged would be the ultimate exercise bike - one that would replicate the sensation of riding on the road while also providing accurate and detailed data on every pedal stroke.
Eight years later, the very first Wattbike was showcased. The groundbreaking machine was - and remains - the only exercise bike ever endorsed by British Cycling.
Since then, the Wattbike has been embraced by other performance-focused athletes and sports, including international rugby and Premiership football teams and competitors in the worlds of F1 and NFL, as well as being a regular fixture in top-class gyms.
Fast-forward to 2017 and Wattbike launched the Atom, their first smart bike made specifically for the home user. It is more affordable than the brand’s gym models, has a slicker design, is quieter and simpler to use, and has greater connectivity to third-party training apps.
Keen to see what the hype was about, a little over 90 days ago, I took delivery of an Atom, which now lives in my sitting room alongside the sofa facing the TV. Since then I’ve ridden for 41 hours and covered a distance of 1,290km (800 miles). I’ve done it all: taking part in races, enduring rigorous training programmes, enjoying virtual rides with friends, improving my technique, beating personal bests - and feeling great in mind and body as a result.
But how is it as a product? Futuristic in aesthetic, the eye-catching and compact aluminium frame is pleasantly stark, with a refreshing absence of plastic compared with most other options. Pretty much every part can be adjusted to ensure the bike fits perfectly for riders of all shapes and sizes, and there’s no bulky, integrated screen.
Instead, the interface can be sent to nearby smart devices such as iPads, laptops or even TVs via Bluetooth. Herein lies one of the bike’s huge strengths - its connectability to a wealth of high-tech training and racing apps.
Choose from Wattbike’s very own Wattbike Hub - an app packed with workouts, climbs, HIIT sessions, sprints, endurance rides and replicas of real climbs, such as the iconic Alpe d’Huez. But the ace in the pack is the so-called Pedalling Effectiveness Score (PES) feature, which draws a diagram for each individual pedal stroke, helping you understand the balance of power applied between your left and right leg, and how efficient each revolution is. This is for the real geeks.
However, much of the Wattbike Hub is also a rather dry experience, comprising wave after wave of black, white and red graphs and an endless stream of data. Should you prefer a richer, more interactive experience, the best option is to connect to external virtual-world avatar style apps such as Zwift, TrainerRoad or The Sufferfest for limitless ride options.
These third-party apps allow you to ride with friends or against thousands of other cyclists using the app live at that very moment - it’s a fantastic motivator and the main reason for my addition-like level of use. The apps tap into the Atom’s ERG mode, which adjusts the resistance you need to apply to the pedal automatically.
But what’s it like to ride? Clip in with your cycling shoes and, true to the hype, it feels just like riding a bike on the road, with drop handlebars and fluid, smooth pedalling action. The feel is flawless, using magnetic resistance which also keeps the bike quiet - vital for me as the father of a newborn.
With 22 gears, finding a level you’re comfortable at is easy, with a very smooth transition through each. The one issue here is a noticeable lag of around a second from when you change gear to when the shift takes place.
Since taking delivery of the Atom, my exercise regime has been transformed. Sure, since having had my first baby a few weeks ago, time to train has suddenly become in short supply, and trips out to the Surrey Hills for a Sunday morning ride have mostly been off the agenda. This makes having a piece of exercise kit in my own home hugely time efficient and ideal to maximise a half hour or hour when the opportunity arises.
Also, the winter months mean heading outdoors sometimes just doesn’t appeal. Combine these with the Wattbike’s realistic ride feel and integration into Zwift, and this bike is just the job.
With a £1,599 price tag, it is certainly a considered purchase. It’s worth noting that there is also a 0% finance option of £276.50 per month over six months - a nice option to ease the cash flow.
So, yes, the Atom isn’t cheap, but this bike has transformed my winter training and fitness - and what value do you put on that? For me, it’s definitely worth it.