Thursday, 28 December 2017

Should I Buy a Wattbike Pro or Wattbike Atom?

Wattbike Atom
Uprgrading my Wattbike Pro to a Wattbike Atom in October, a large number of people contacted me via social media to better understand the differences between the two products.  

Having owned a Wattbike Pro for three years with around 1000 hours of riding on it, I guess I know the product quite intimately and having done some hours on the Atom now, can better understand the reasons why you would or would not buy one and this initial article is to help anyone who may be thinking about which way to go.

What's the difference between a Wattbike Pro and Wattbike Atom?

Below I've highighted a few questions or considerations which may help you narrow things down.

Are you Zwifting?

If you want to invest in a smart trainer which links with new on line riding applications like Zwift, then the answer is pretty straight forward, buy an Atom.  The Wattbike Pro doesn't connect to online virtual ride applications.

The Atom when connected to Zwift can replicate hill climbs, road undulations and descents in your pedal resistance which makes indoor riding very engaging.  You can log on, do an iconic hill climb, a rolling route, ride with a group of others or bash out a flat route riding around the streets or London.

With the spate of poor weather, it offers a really viable alternative to a ride to jump onto Zwift and feel like you're riding with undulating cadence and power as you roll around different routes in the app.

Sat on the bike the cockpit replicates a road bike with time trial extensions and a new holder fan iPad or device which you'll need for your screen (the Atom doesn't come with any screen, the Pro comes with a basic mono screen).

Do you have a coach?

If you are a pretty serious rider with prescribed power intervals or a specific training plan from a coach where your heart rates, power zones and general performance numbers need to be spot-on, then a Wattbike Pro really nails that well.  When pedalling a Wattbike Pro, the pedal stroke sensation feels very similar to a bike. If you're not too bothered about joining Zwift and simply want to bash out internals, then the Pro is likely the product for you. 

Gear Changing/Power Changing

The Wattbike Pro uses two ways to adjust resistance.  A white lever on the left side which adjusts resistance against the air output of the bike and a magnetic resistance adjustment on the right.  Power adjustment is almost instantaneous and it's very easy to find your sweet spots the more you ride the bike in terms of where you slide the left lever.

The Wattbike Atom uses firmware in the application to deliver magnetic resistance which is controlled by buttons on the right of the bars, similar to a road bike.  One button sends the gear harder, the other makes it easier.  

One issue that the Atom has had is the early firmware editions were making the delay between clicking the button and the gear change around 3-4 seconds.  We're used to riding on the road, clicking a button on a groupset and having an almost instantaneous movement of a derailleur (less than one second), so it does seem strange to click the button and then wait.  I had a lot of discussion with the tech support desk at Wattbike as the power measurement also seemed out.

Three firmware updates or so later, things are much improved. There still is a delay between clicking for a gear change and the change of gear (a couple of seconds) but the upsides of the interaction with Zwift etc outweigh this.  You soon get used to it.


Due to the issue described above, if you're doing specific HIIT intervals, sprints or bursts where you want to see your numbers, then the issue with the Atom gear change will prove frustrating for you in my opinion and you'll likely be better with a Pro.  


In my opinion, the Atom has a better fit and more options for adjusting the bike to your ideal riding position, particularly if you are replicating your road bike position.  The cockpit looks more like a bike, with bars like road bars and tri-extensions with elbow rests.  From a design point of view, it has a modern look/design.

The Pro is built like a Tonka toy, fit for purpose for the many rugby players and sprinters that use the product to bash out big numbers.  If you buy one, ditch the saddle it comes with straight away and put the same saddle you have on your road bike onto it.  My beef always with the Pro was that the moulded bars didn't allow you to really get into any other position other than on the drops.  

Nevertheless, I happily rode for over a thousand hours on the Pro so it certainly is not a show stopper.

Wattbike Pro

The Wattbike Pro comes with a basic mono LCD display and I mean basic (think of a large 1980's digital watch).  Still, it only really has one job to do which is to deliver your numbers which is does more than capably.  Switching between screens is pretty easy and data is instantaneous.  The screen has no backlight so if you're training in a place where the light is poor, then you can find yourself adjusting the screen angle a fair bit.

The Wattbike Atom relies on you using a device of some kind, smartphone or iPad for example, with the latest Wattbike app.  This sits in a holder on the tri-bar extensions and is in full colour obviously.  There are a number of pre-installed workouts in the app for you to do.

Both screens deliver the now legendary Wattbike pedal stroke efficiency data alongside the other information you'll need to train.  One thing I have noticed is that the Atom only shows speed data in KM/H, not MPH for UK users.

Working with a Garmin

If you use a Garmin to capture your ride data and want to use it with either product then my experience thus far is that the Wattbike Pro nails it, does the job and captures everything.  What you see on the Wattbike is what ultimately end up on your Garmin (there are some variances but didn't plan for this article to be technical).

I've experienced a number of issues with the Ant+ protocol not working too well with Garmin via the Atom.  In the early firmware updates, speed was permanently being recorded as 18.6mph on the Garmin, the second update reset that to 170mph, which meant nothing was being recorded correctly in Garmin connect where I upload my ride data too.

Knowing my power numbers intimately having being doing intervals for over eighteen months, all my numbers seemed they were down 15-20% when switching to the Atom.  More communication with the Wattbike tech desk and advice than firmware updates would resolve the issue.  Chatting with another owner who attached his Garmin vector pedals to the Atom to validate his numbers highlighted that - in his opinion - the Atom was under recording his actual data.  Wattbike have been improving the issue with firmware updates and whilst I don't think everything is fully resolved yet, progress is being made.


If it's about Zwift and indoor riding then buy an Atom.  The integration with Zwift is superb and if you are a social rider just wanting to put some miles in indoors using a social riding app, it's a great buy.  The drawback of the product for me is the delayed gear change albeit it has been improving with each firmware update.  At present it's improved a lot in three months and I'm sure will continue to be improved.  Looks wise the Atom has it.

If it's all about the intervals, buy the Pro.  The Pro is like a muscle car, it does one job really well without any of the electronics used in many of the most sophisticated speed machines.  It's built well, has a lovely feel on the pedal stroke and tells you what you need to know in real time. 

You can see more information on the Wattbike Atom here.  From £1,499.
You can see more information on the Wattbike Pro here.  From £2,250.

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