An inconvenient truth: With every passing day I have less time on earth. This also means I have no interest in wasting precious minutes. That’s why I’m increasingly drawn to the most efficient, effective workouts that require minimal drive-to or setup time.
Enter the next generation Wattbike Atom. This low-hassle, smart trainer spits out scarily accurate data. It’s well designed enough to make riding indoors almost fun. And with its chunky frame and aerodynamic seat post, it closely resembles a time-trial bike, which my brain equates with going fast.
Developed in the UK in 2008, the original Wattbike was built for British Cycling’s Olympic medal and World Championship–winning teams. They wanted a reliable stationary bike that could more extensively track data like speed, cadence, and pedaling technique, yet still feel like a real bike without the hassle of having to take a wheel off. The vast majority of cyclists who ride indoors use a smart trainer they clamp onto their own bike. Either they want to train on their outdoor bike, they don’t have the space to store a stationary bike, or they don’t have the cash to buy a stationary bike, which typically costs thousands of dollars more than a decent smart trainer.
The original Wattbike eventually evolved into the Wattbike Atom, which eventually evolved into the next-generation Wattbike Atom, which is used worldwide by elite athletes from USA Cycling to New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team. But this latest model has only been widely available to the US public since July 2023.
The buzz about the next generation Wattbike Atom is two-fold: First its electromagnetic resistance system has been improved. Instead of using motors to move magnets up and down to automatically change the pedaling resistance the rider feels, the next generation uses the magnets’ currents—the higher the current that flows through the magnets, the greater the resistance and power needed to turn the pedals. It now delivers up to 2,500 watts of power within plus or minus 1 percent accuracy.
The most obvious result of the new resistance system is that gear changes (there are 22) and reactions to gradients in popular training apps like Zwift and Rouvy are faster. It also allows for greater accuracy while dialing in specific levels of resistance during high intensity interval training workouts or standing starts.
The second bit of buzz is about the Wattbike’s updated electronics, including the addition of more sensors throughout the bike. For example, its new crank angle sensor reads 48 times per revolution, which is 46 times more than the first-generation Atom. Adjusting the old resistance system would result in an awful second-long lag that threw off the rhythm of your workout, but the new system allows the bike to adjust its resistance system instantaneously.