Wattbike Atom is my new smart bike ride for when I'm not going anywhere

Just don't call this stationary smart bike a poor man's Peloton.

Joseph Kaminski Senior Associate Technology Editor / Reviews
During my almost twenty years at CNET, I handled benchmark testing/methodologies for both Mac and PC systems and, sometime after, integrated testing for micro-mobility (e-bikes, electric scooters and EUCs), which is a passion of mine. Transitioning from a BMX background to this field was seamless. Despite testing numerous products, each new one brings the same excitement as my first.
Joseph Kaminski
3 min read
Joseph Kaminski

It's funny how things work out. I received the Wattbike Atom on loan a few months ago. But I had just sprained my ankle and was unable to truly evaluate this stationary smart bike. Fast forward. Due to the coronavirus, I'm working from home with a much-improved ankle. At a time where gyms are closed and we are asked to stay inside, it's nice to be able to get a ride in whenever I want. 

Recently, I've been riding the Atom every morning, simulating my daily commute to work, even though I'm not actually going anywhere. I plan on progressing to longer rides as my strength returns. The advantage of the Atom is that it feels like a real bike, even though it is stationary and you can't take it outside. It has 22 speeds, freewheel sounds, and gear shifting on the handlebars. 

It's 70 pounds and quite sturdy, almost too much so. It's great that, while pedaling hardcore, it feels like you can trust the bike, but when you try to stand, it's so rigid you can't move it side to side to get that momentum going. That might be too much to expect from a stationary bike, even a smart one, but my old outdoor habits die hard, and my conditioning isn't where it used to be.  

The Wattbike Atom will run you $2,599, Had I known the pandemic would have gone this long I would have requested a loan extension.  The entry-level Peloton package is currently $2,245, but also you're expected to pony up for its monthly app subscription. The other main difference is that the Atom uses magnetic resistance to automatically adjust, and thus feels more like a real riding experience, while the Peloton has a resistance knob you turn.

Watch this: Buying your first e-bike: What you can expect

Setup of the Atom was simple -- pretty much just adjust the seat and handlebars and put on the pedals. For those who want to fully immerse themselves, it supports clip-in pedals. For multiple riders, it's a breeze to adjust the handlebars along with the seat and both can be moved forwards or back to get that perfect sweet spot. The resistance is magnetic, so no adjustment knobs are used for that. Instead, the bike automatically adjusts resistance to mimic the riding environment. 

The smartest thing about the Atom may be that it's not tightly tied to a single digital or app platform. Lacking the Peloton's built-in display, it works with several apps such as Strava Summit, SufferfestTrainerRoad and TrainingPeaks. Or there's the free Wattbike hub app. It's not fancy, but does provide a wide range of workouts and access to data to monitor and improve your performance. 

Joseph Kaminski

I used it with Zwift, one of my favorite at-home riding applications. In that, you can customize the Zwift ride to match your personality and style. During my virtual ride, I could see other Zwifters riding around and could exchange pleasantries (which may mean something different to New York City natives). One of my rides took place in Central Park, but Zwift has maps from all around the world, giving its users miles and miles of new scenery and routes.

Because it doesn't have a built-in screen like the Peloton, the Atom comes with a device holder that can support phones or tablets . Some of the applications like Zwift are also available on Apple TV , letting you project your ride to a big screen. 

My girlfriend, who is normally a spin-bike fanatic, has taken a liking to the Wattbike as well. She prefers the realistic riding sensation that it simulates. She even signed up for a trial subscription of the Peloton service and used the Wattbike to participate with the Wattbike Hub running in the background to keep her stats. 

Joseph Kaminski

Many apartment-based riders prefer to use their outdoor bicycles on indoor rollers to save space, but I didn't consider the Wattbike Atom a space hog. When I needed to move it, it had two clear rollerblade wheels to help it maneuver easily, which is extremely convenient living in a Manhattan apartment. Especially one you're rarely supposed to leave. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.