Wattbike Atom review: does the exercise bike live up to the hype?

·6-min read
 (Wattbike Atom)
(Wattbike Atom)

It’s that time again where we hit the reset button and pledge resolutions of change for the upcoming year.

More often than not, these are centered around the fitness arena - to get in shape, to kickstart healthy practises, lose weight, or tone up. The goals come in many forms, but the method is generally the same. To hit the gym.

That being said, gym memberships can be costly and if you’ve got the space, introducing equipment into your home removes the commute and so… the excuses. If you’ve sacrificed your precious space for this machine - you better use it.

Home equipment is also getting more advanced than ever, you only need to look to Wattbike and the brand’s Atom device to see the possibilities of these machines.

The at-home exercise bike may just be the most technologically advanced that we’ve used. When paired with the accompanying app, it offers a wealth of stats, graphs and programmes so you can set targets and achieve your goals. The information is shared in real time and is read by the bike 1000 times per second with an accuracy of +/- one per cent.

First impressions

I must admit, I’m quite technologically inept when it comes to linking, pairing and connectivity but Wattbike makes it easier than ever. Plug the machine in (it’s on the front of the back leg), download the app and it automatically looks for a device close by to pair in seconds.

In terms of the size, it is fairly compact (far more than its Peloton competitor) and comes with the back half on wheels to move around with ease.

The screen is not built-in like other models but, whether you are using an iPad or simply your phone, there’s a designated holder for your device so you can keep an eye on the stats as you ride.

The bike

The Wattbike is designed to closely resemble a bike that you would ride on the street rather than a studio one - and that may take some adjusting to those more familiar with the latter. With Peloton, for example, it is based on a fixed gear spin bike like the ones used during the Olympics to go round a track. In this case, when you stop pedalling, it will keep going due to momentum.

For the Wattbike, if you want a quick rest, there is no button necessary. You immediately stop and it will follow suit. Due to this, you rarely leave the saddle. This does make it more challenging to follow along a Peloton workout for example as a lot of the classes are spent standing. The only real time you would do this on the Atom is during the hill climb sessions when it is really steep.

Controls are kept minimal in terms of the physical bike. You’ll only find buttons on each of the handles that make adjustments to your ride without the need to touch the screen of your paired device. The right hand alters resistance; press the top button for harder, bottom for lighter and the right thumb to switch to ergo mode. The left hand changes up the display so you can switch to different graphs - the buttons swipe across. Ergo mode is like driving a car in automatic. The gears will shift depending on how you ride and your power/wattage, whereas the alternative mode - Gear - allows you to manually set the resistance.

The app

 (Wattbike Atom)
(Wattbike Atom)

As mentioned above, the app is packed with graphs and precisely monitored data that gives you unrivalled access to your fitness information. As you workout, you can adjust the display with the graph of your choosing. There are many different ones depending on what you’d like to monitor as you ride. These include heart rate, cadence, power and a unique pedalling effectiveness score (PES).

The PES is displayed as a bulls eye that will be red, amber or green. It shows you what your legs are doing and more specifically how much they are pushing on each side and if you’re balanced. The ideal is to be 50/50 but within two per cent is good too. This is a very handy feature if you’re recovering from an injury as you may see a very noticeable difference on each side, where you should be and goals on improvement. There is a good way of pedalling a bike. You need to use all your muscles - quads to push and hamstrings and calves to pull back up - to be able to reach the green level. To engage the lower parts of your leg, you have to scrape backwards as you come up.

The bike is also compatible with Zwift (where there is a handy seven day free trial) and gives you the chance to race or ride online with other people. It looks like a PlayStation game and can transport you to deserts/mountains/grasslands around the world.

The programmes

Wattbike has designed its programmes to give you unrivalled access into your fitness levels and be able to closely monitor your progress. For your first ride, it’s worth opting for one of the ‘Test’ rides. With varying times and types, this will then set the baseline to beat at the end of your plan and customise each of the following rides at the optimal level when you partake in other workouts.

The SubMax option is recommended for those, like me, who save their rides for spinning classes instead of the roads. It’s similar to the school Bleep Test and begins with gentle intensity. Every three minutes, it gets harder and you just have to stay at the same pace. The app will feedback your rate of exertion (measured in RP) as well as your aerobic fitness score.

Other great programs include the ability to mimic famous cycle routes from around the world. Embrace your inner Tour de France rider and try your hand at the Alpe d’Huez among many others. Dark red is really steep, while green is flat. It also takes weight into consideration like it would if you were actually racing.

There’s also HIIT and Speed sessions and the ability to follow training plans put together by experts and athletes including the All Blacks. The latter have been working with the brand for over 10 years and use the exercise bikes for their conditioning and interval training, putting less pressure on their joints and thus preventing soft tissue injuries. Guest sessions also include Ben Foster and the Team GB Taekwondo coach.

Conclusion

 (Wattbike Atom)
(Wattbike Atom)

All in all, this is a great bike for closely monitoring your fitness levels and stats. The amount of information that it feeds back after every ride is unrivalled without the need for any wearables. You can easily follow your progress and this provides that extra bit of motivation to keep riding.

It offers a really extensive quantity of workouts and programmes and more are added all the time but if you want to follow along to Peloton specifically, it may not be best as it’s difficult to leave the saddle.

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