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My 2013 Trainer Recommendations

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It’s that time of year again – trainer season.  At least for us poor saps up in the Northern Hemisphere (no, you don’t count if you live in the Caribbean).  I started doing the Trainer Recommendations post last year, and I know many of you were looking for an updated version for this season.  There’s been a ton of movement in the trainer market over the last year, though I predict you’re going to see substantially more change over the next 6-8 months. Thankfully, most of that change is actually coming by way of software and updates across all units (with the ANT+ Trainer Device Profile being adopted by basically everyone except the CompuTrainer).

That shift will drive some really cool software solutions – which we’re actually already seeing today as companies are partnering ahead of that and bandaging things together in time for this season.

Like last year’s post I’ve included a bit of background on how I make my decisions, as well as a FAQ section afterwards.  Much of the background pieces are fairly similar to last year since that doesn’t much change.  However, the actual recommendations sections are all new and re-written.  The FAQ’s have been updated to reflect the reality of today as well, where appropriate.

Finally, for those looking for general sports technology recommendations (watches/etc…), I’ll be publishing those just ahead of the holidays – roughly the week of November 11th.  There’s obviously a bunch of new devices (in particular for running) coming onto the market in the next 7-14 days, so I want to be able to include all those.

How I made my recommendations:

First and foremost, I only recommend trainers I’ve actually used.  There are undoubtedly many other good trainers, great trainers even – especially in the sub-$400 range out there.  But, even with some 6-8 trainers currently in my possession, I simply can’t try out every one on the market today with any reasonable level of detail or authority.

When I look at recommendations across all products I make, I try and recommend products to you in the same way that I’d do to friends and family.  I keep it simple and explain exactly why I feel a given way.

I defined the price ranges to align a bit to how the products are priced competitively.  For example, if I had made the price range $500-$1,000, and then an additional $1,000+ range, it would have grouped together the $650 BKOOL Trainer with the $999 PowerBeam Pro.  Which wouldn’t have take into account that realistically the $999 PowerBeam competes very easily with $1,600 CompuTrainer.  So, I arranged them based on how they best fit against each other.  Ultimately, you can cross-compare categories if you’d like, but I think these ranges align fairly well to your price requests.

And finally, note that I tend to focus on trainers that have some element of technology in them.  It’s not that I think that all non-technology trainers are the same (cause they aren’t…well…except that most are), but it’s because that’s just what I happen to review the most here.

General things to look at in a trainer:

There’s a lot of things to look for in a trainer – but some are applicable across the board from a sub-$100 unit to a $1,500 unit.

First and foremost, it needs to be sturdy.  The more plastic involved, the less likely it’s going to last over time.  Take for example, the CompuTrainer, otherwise known as the rock.  A tank really.  I’m certain I could throw that in front of a semi-truck, and it’d probably be fine.  As such, those units last 10-15 years (or more).  In fact, I don’t know anyone who’s ever broken a CompuTrainer frame.  Some electrical components eventually wear out, but the frame is astoundingly sturdy.  I find the KICKR in that same camp.  It’s a beast component-wise.

Second, look at the attach point to your bike.  I’ll start with the ones that leverage a skewer of some sort and don’t require removal of the wheel.  In these cases, try to find one that has a ‘quick-release’ mechanism for quickly locking the trainer into place.  One that doesn’t require you to endlessly spin the tightening lever and try to find an exact spot each time.  See below for an example of a quick lever:

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In the case of trainers that you attach your bike directly into a cassette mounted on the trainer (Muin/KICKR/Silencer/etc…), be sure that it’ll be compatible with your bike.  There are only a few edge cases where this occurs (primarily higher end), but just be aware of them.

Third, look at how stable the platform is.  The smaller the base of the trainer, the more likely it is to tip over (and you along with it).  And while tipovers are extremely rare – they are a problem on lower end trainers ($50-$150) where the base is really small.  This can be further compounded when the trainer mounts the wheel higher up – meaning a higher center of gravity.  It’s not hard to get a situation where you try and reach for a TV remote control or something off to the side and fall over.  None of the trainers I’m recommending have this issue, but in general, keep it in mind.

High End Trainers ($800+):

This category has many entrants – with numerous companies trying to compete for the high-end market.  When I look at trainers in this range it really all comes down to technology.  For the most part, the mechanics of these units are all fine.  It’s the software side that moves a unit between awesome and sucky.

The key item that tends to make a high-end trainer…well…a high end trainer, is that it’s resistance controlled.  Meaning that it controls the resistance on your trainer, rather than you changing gears (though, you can do that too).  So it can simulate the terrain automatically, or hold a precise 225w.  Your choice.  All  trainers in this section have this capability.  The BKOOL has the capability to control resistance to match terrain/videos, but the update has not quite been released to be able to set a specific wattage (i.e. 225w).

Wahoo KICKR: $1,099

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It should come as no real surprise to anyone. This topped my early recommendations list last year, and it continues to be my recommendation for a high end trainer.

The single biggest reason I recommend this trainer is the dual-protocol nature of both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart.  This means that it can communicate out to everything from Windows PC’s and your Garmin Edge over ANT+, to iPad’s and iPhone’s over Bluetooth Smart (and Android devices shortly).

Since it’s arrival on the scene we’ve seen a number of apps come out and support it, both training focused (i.e. TrainerRoad, PerfPro), and more entertainment focused (Kinomap, BullTrainer, etc…).  We’ve now also seen even competitors supporting it within their software – this was done by Cycleops (with VirtualTrainer), as well as BKOOL too.

Now, there are still some snags around Android connectivity.  Wahoo has been saying for a while that they’re close on releasing their app – and, to some degree I can see that.  But it’s ultimately not yet here today.  So in order to use the KICKR you’re going to need an iPhone/iPad/Windows PC/Mac.  Initially to update the firmware once you’ll need an iPhone/iPad – but pretty much anyone can find a friend to buy a six-pack of beer and get them to spend 90 seconds to upgrade the firmware so that it’s compatible with ANT+.

Finally, Wahoo has committed (like everyone else) to upgrade to the final ANT+ Trainer Resistance profile once it’s released.  Technically speaking, today they use a blend of private-ANT (control) and ANT+ (broadcast).  I suspect we’ll see this get sorted out in the December-January timeframe.

To get all the details on the KICKR, check out these specific posts:

Wahoo KICKR in-Depth Review
Wahoo KICKR Windows App Overview
Wahoo KICKR Segments App Overview

CylceOps PowerBeam (ANT+ variant): $999

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The PowerBeam is a new entrant into my trainer recommendations list (but not a new trainer), as it didn’t quite make the cut last year.  What’s changed?  Well, a few things.  First is that they reduced the price.  Price plays a big part in recommendations.  Second is that they’ve made good progress on connecting to 3rd party apps (opening up access).  Since then we’ve seen TrainerRoad and Kinomap now control the PowerBeam.  They’ve said they’ll give the otherwise private-control trainer keys to anyone (developers) who asks.  Third – and most importantly – they’re working to adopt the more open ANT+ Trainer Control profile as soon as it’s released.

Given that last one, it means that they’re in a really solid spot once that gets adopted (for any apps not yet working with them directly).

Beyond that though, they’ve also recently released (last week) a pretty well done iPad app.  I’m impressed, it’s very well designed and has connectivity beyond just their own trainers.  Android is coming soon as well (they already have a PC version).

You may have noticed I specifically called out the ANT+ version above (as opposed to their planned Bluetooth Smart version).  Why is that you ask?  First, the BT Smart version simply isn’t out yet.  That’s an immediate blocker.  Second is that with Bluetooth Smart you’re limited right now to trainer control apps primarily on the iPhone/iPad/Mac, with nothing yet available on Android or PC.  ANT+ doesn’t have those limitations today.  Further, with the ANT+ Trainer Control profile coming up, that means that everyone software-wise will be on the same playing field there.

Now ideally we’d see CycleOps offer a combo version of both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ (like the KICKR), but that’s not in the cards (and the unit can’t easily be upgraded).  I’d go as far as saying that I’d love to see them develop some sort of re-broadcast adapter for the unit to go from ANT+ to Bluetooth Smart.  In fact, they could probably partner with 4iiii’s and their Viiiiva to knock that out.

That said, there’s really nothing that’s BT-only today that doesn’t also work with an ANT+ adapter, app-wise.  All of the apps I’ve mentioned can connect over ANT+ to the CycleOps unit just as well as KICKR can over Bluetooth Smart.

To get all the details on the PowerBeam, check out these specific posts:

CycleOps PowerBeam Pro Review (a bit older, and pre-cool software)
CycleOps Virtual Trainer Review
A look at the CycleOps iPad App

Mid-Range Trainers ($400-$800):

Mid-range trainers continue to be an awkward category to recommend purchases in.  In fact, there’s really only one unit that I’d recommend buying at this point – everything else I kinda feel you’re over-spending, or under-spending and should just get one of the ones above.  Meaning that outside of the BKOOL, a lot of the options don’t really get you all that much more than cheaper units.  And the more you spend, the less you get for your buck compared to just a bit higher at $999.

Almost all trainers in the $400-$800 range lack the ability to control resistance, but the BKOOL can control the resistance – which is one of the major reasons why I list it.

BKOOL Trainer (€500/$650US):

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BKOOL came onto the scene a bit over a year ago with a new resistance controlled trainer at a lower price point.  Instead of aiming for the high-end market concerned with the highest level of accuracy, they made some compromises and went half-way in between with a unit that both entertains and provides useful training data.  Unlike most other units it actually uses your body weight to push down on the trainer resistance unit.  Since their release they’ve done some good work in improving their software to address concerns I had, as well as greatly expanding distribution of the unit globally (you can convert the prices above pretty much flat-rate to other currencies).

Further, in the last month they’ve previewed their new tablet app (they showed me Android, below, but iPad is there as well) that’s coming out next year.  I’d wager it’s probably the most visually well done app I’ve seen for a trainer – really slick.

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Now, that helps to compensate for their not-so-awesome user interface on their desktop software.  Which isn’t to say it doesn’t work, as it does.  It’s just not quite as awesome.

The more important news is that they’ve actually already implemented the ANT+ Trainer Control beta profile on trainers they’ve shown off at both Interbike and the ANT+ Symposium.  Which means they’re much closer to getting that support out the door than most others I’ve talked to.  That’s huge, because it means that even though their tablet apps (platform agnostic) won’t be out until a warmer season, they’ll be able to work with everyone else that does have apps much sooner.

Like almost everyone else these days, BKOOL has a Netflix style streaming model for course videos (they did it first best I can tell), which means you pay a flat-rate per month for unlimited videos.

Now of course, since you’re paying almost half of what you’ll pay at the higher end, there are some compromises.  The power accuracy of the unit can be a bit less accurate.  Also, in out of the saddle climbing you might see some slippage because of the design were your body weight pushes down on the unit.  But for many folks buying a trainer in this price range you’re probably looking more at the entertainment value (keeping you busy while staring at a white dot), than absolute accuracy on power.  For the price though, you can’t beat it.

To get all the details on the BKOOL unit, check out these specific posts:

BKOOL Trainer In-Depth Review
BKOOL new tablet software update preview

Budget Range Trainers ($75-$400):

Virtually this entire section remains unchanged since last year.  The reason is that there’s simply been no shift in units in this range that warrants me changing my recommendations.

Little Red (aka: Performance Ascent Trainer aka Performance Travel Trac Comp Mag + Trainer) – $109:

I’m going to start with the cheapest trainer I know of…and ironically, the first trainer I ever owned.  Yet, it’s still the one I’d recommend to folks on a tight budget.

As noted, this was the first trainer I bought in DC, and, it’s actually still a trainer I have at my parents house in Seattle.  For the vast majority of basic use cases, it works quite well.  The trainer can be found only at Performance Bike (big bike superstore in the US) for generally $80-$110.  If it’s not on sale this week, it will be next week (a rule of thumb at Performance Bike for everything).  Though, it seems like the days of the $80 may be behind us, as the retail price of that trainer is listed at $149.  Still, today it shows $109.

It does not have adjustable resistance, instead, you adjust your gearing to increase resistant.  Further, I found that it maxes out at about 300 watts.  For most riders, that’s not a terribly big issue.  If you aren’t sure if you can output 300 watts, I’d wager a bet that you can’t.  Folks that can output 300w tend to know it.  I ran into issues where during certain interval sessions, I’d effectively hit the ceiling on resistance of the unit at around 280-300w.  But for steady state workouts and everything other than those top-end workouts, it works great.  Plus, it’s tiny and lightweight.  Here you can see me using it outdoors:

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Now, it used to be called the “Ascent”, but best I can tell, the “Travel Trac” is simply the new Ascent.  Everything looks identical on it, just a new paint job.  By the way, this is the Performance Bike house brand, so you won’t find it anywhere else.  Performance bike likes to rebrand trainers all the time for reasons that defy logic.  Same trainer, new name.

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Like I said – same thing from what I can tell beyond a new coat of paint, and definitely the best low-budget option.

Performance Bike Travel Trac Century V Fluid Plus (~$150):

Next up is a slightly more expensive model from them that offers controllable resistance.  It’s fairly basic otherwise like Little Red, but you can use the resistance control cable and lever that specifies resistance from your front handlebar.  You simply wrap the cable around such that you don’t get it caught in your bike, and you’re good to go!

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I used this quite often in brick workouts in DC at the track.  As well as before sprint triathlons and the like.   It doesn’t require any plug-in or anything, and is easy to transport.

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Unlike the $109 Ascent, this one can easily handle over 300w during workouts, so there were no issues for any of my higher interval workouts.  I don’t have any good individual photos of it that I can find from my stockpile, and I gave it to my neighbor before the move – but it’s still a great little trainer.

I often took this with me travelling when going by car, because it easily fit in the trunk.  For example, here I took it to a ski area in West Virginia and did my workout there.

The primary reason you’d buy this trainer over the cheaper one is the resistance control (which you’d otherwise do simply by shifting gears), or because you need higher wattage resistance.  That said, it seems to be missing off of Performance Bike’s site right now – so perhaps it’ll show up again.  They like to constantly re-brand/re-label their trainers.

Note: While looking up the prices for the above trainer, I did notice that the CycleOps Mag+ trainer was only $20 more.  While I’d guess it’s probably a better trainer (the lever is certainly better), I haven’t ridden it and thus can’t really make any recommendations one way or another.

Kinetic Kurt Road Machine – $330US:

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This is an interesting trainer for a few different reasons.  First, is that it’s well built.  Second, is that it’s fairly stable within the power curve, and thus works well for predicting power through various apps and accessories.

And in my mind, the ONLY reason you’d pay $330 over one of the cheaper options is because you want to integrate it with a platform that provides power estimation.  In this case, TrainerRoad (there are others though).  They’re an online platform (with a client software that gets installed) that has workouts and integration via ANT+ to your existing devices.  Grab your bike with an ANT+ speed/cadence sensor, stick it on a trainer, and then it’ll record the whole thing.

So why does this matter for the Kurt Road Machine? Well, TrainerRoad supports a concept called Virtual Power, which means that they have a known resistance curve of a given trainer (many trainers actually, listed at that link), and can then semi-reliably predict power.  By semi-reliably I meant that they can generally be fairly precise, but not fairly accurate.  In other words, session to session you’d get consistent numbers – but those numbers may not map to the correct wattages if measured using a direct force power meter.

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(Above: TrainerRoad would fit into the leftmost box, while a conventional direct force power meter would generally fit into the rightmost box.  Btw, I can’t remember where I saved this chart from months ago – but I believe it was power meter guru Tom A., so thanks Tom!  And, if it wasn’t you Tom, thanks and sorry to whomever it was!)

Take for example a rider that’s riding at a reliably measured 200w output.  In this case, with a PowerTap (direct force power meter) he may show 200w day in and day out.  But with Virtual Power, he may show 220w day in and day out.  The key is, he’s showing the same thing each day (assuming he’s outputting the same thing of course, just an example).

Now there’s a TON of debate out there as to whether power numbers matter as long as they are consistent.  I’m going to stay out of that debate.  Ultimately, number accuracy only matters if you change cycling power meter measurement devices (i.e. go from TrainerRoad VP to a Power Tap).  For many people, over the course of their riding career, they will likely do that.  Thus, ensuring accuracy over time is important for those people.

For the purpose of being within the confines of TrainerRoad and Virtual Power, it’s not terribly important.  But again, it’s up to you to determine how applicable that is to you and your use cases.

At any rate, back to the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine.  This is the trainer that the TrainerRoad guys recommend as their best balance between reliability and cost.  And thus, it’s the one I picked up.  And therefore, after playing with it – it meets all of my standards defined earlier on in terms of reliability/stability/etc…

I will say however, that if you don’t plan to use TrainerRoad or PerfPro, then honestly I wouldn’t spend the extra cash.

Finally, in addition Kinetic last winter introduced their Kinetic inRide Bluetooth Smart device.  This accessory allows you to calibrate the rolldown piece and thus get astoundingly accurate power numbers transmitted via Bluetooth Smart to your phone (or apps such as TrainerRoad).

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I tested this out last winter and found it did quite well.  They’ve had some bobbles in updated software releases since then, but I think that turbulence is largely past at this point.  Ultimately, this is an interesting way of getting power information that is more reliable than Virtual Power (because of the roll down piece) to your computer or phone for recording.

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Now, the only challenge here is that the device is $200, which puts you pretty darn close in price to the BKOOL trainer.  So I’d probably steer more towards the BKOOL at this point if you’re planning on buying both.  But if you already have one of the compatible Kinetic trainers – then definitely pick it up.

Finally, for those curious – I don’t have much experience beyond a few test rides with the Rock & Roll variant.  So I can’t say it’d be worth it one way or the other.  Sorry!

Here’s the relevant review for the Kinetic pieces:

Kinetic inRide Bluetooth Smart accessory (and Kinetic Road Machine Trainer) In-Depth Review

Software Options:

Over the past roughly 10 months, software has become such a big part of high-end trainers.  In fact, I’d argue software compatibility has become even more important than the actual trainers themselves.  There’s a lot of options out there, and one has to understand that no single piece of software does everything.

They tend to be grouped into two major areas:

– Training Focused
– Entertainment Focused

The first category – Training Focused– is primarily aimed at keeping you on target for a given wattage/threshold/etc, rather than trying to distract you with a video of a course or similar.  For many folks, this is distraction enough and it works just fine.

Whereas the second category – Entertainement Focused – tends to be around recreating an experience.  For example, riding a course with a video, or re-riding a Strava segment.

There’s no ‘right’ answer here.  Different people like to train to different things. For me personally, I prefer the first category.  Give me a wattage number to hit and I’ll go and zone out for a while, putting me mostly in a ‘just get it done’ perspective. Whereas many others simply prefer something more visual to make the time go by.

That said, here’s what I’d recommend others take a peak at.

Training Focused:

Remember that as I noted, this is just what I recommend and use repeatedly.  There are others beyond this that you can check out, like PerfPro and Peripedal.

Default Wahoo Fitness App

This is actually my go-to app for all the time I spend on the KICKR.  It records data consistently and reliably, and then uploads it to just about every web service and file format I could want.  It’s got plenty of screens (though, I wish I could customize them more), and has lots of options for choosing which sensors your data comes from.  And it supports every kind of ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensor (Heart Rate Straps, Speed/Cadence Sensors, Power Meters, etc…).

Oh, and it’s free.  Today it’s available on the iPhone/iPad/iPod, but it’s coming shortly to Android devices.

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TrainerRoad

When I’m not using the default app, then I’m likely using TrainerRoad.  I’ve been using it a lot more lately since they’ve introduced their Power Relay options, which automatically transmits the TrainerRoad power data out as ANT+ power (so your bike computer can record it).  This helps to make the CompuTrainer much more integrated, as well as helps with non-controlled trainers that the app can work with (many many many trainers).  That way you can take a $200 trainer and broadcast out Virtual Power to any ANT+ device that can record power.

They also have tons of free training plans and workouts built in, though I tend to just go freestyle and follow my own plans/workouts.

Their model is subscription based, and starts at $10/month.  It’s available on Mac & PC.

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Entertainment Focused:

There’s quite a few options within the entertainment focused space.  Some of them have just come out, and some have been around a bit longer.

Kinomap (iPad)

Perhaps the first iPad app out there to display training courses and allow you to re-ride them, they’ve done a lot of great work over the past month coming up on their update which should be out any day now.  The app allows you to pick a course from around the world and then ride the corresponding video.  They’ve also got a tool that allows you to upload your own action cam + GPS footage and ride/share that as well.  Their updated toolset streamlines that significantly, and over the past few weeks they’ve begun cleaning up some of the elevation issues that some courses have with an elevation correction algorithm.  Over time, this will be done against all courses.

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Their model is subscription based, and starts at $7/month.  It’s currently only available on AppStore.  It’s compatible with the Wahoo KICKR, CycleOps PowerBeam and will also be compatible with all upcoming ANT+ Trainer Control trainers (i.e. BKOOL, etc…).

CycleOps Virtual Trainer (iPad or Desktop)

CycleOps has made great strides with their Virtual Training suite, now branching out into the iPad segment as well (with Android on the way).  While the suite is actually made by a 3rd party company, there’s a fair bit of involvement from CycleOps in it.

The suite allows you to not only follow course videos like Kinomap, but to also create training rides quickly and easy that more closely align to the software apps listed up above in the ‘Training Focused’ area.

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Their model is subscription based and starts at $5/month.  It’s available for Windows & iOS devices today.  It’s compatible with the Wahoo KICKR, CycleOps PowerBeam and will also be compatible with all upcoming ANT+ Trainer Control trainers (i.e. BKOOL, etc…).  Additionally, it can connect to ANT+/Bluetooth Smart power meters.

Trainer Q&A/FAQ:

Most of this is from last year, but I wanted to repeat it for this year.  I’ve tweaked things where appropriate and/or where they’ve changed.

What about trainer tires?

I commented on trainer tires a while back in a Weekly Mailbag post, so here’s what I said then – which still applies today.

I train everyday on the stock wheels and tires that came with the bike.  Just normal tires and normal wheels.  In fact, I don’t even bother to swap out for a separate trainer tire.  Why?  Well, my thinking is that I spend 3+ days a week on a trainer, and the last thing I want to deal with is swapping tires or wheels every time I go inside to outside or the inverse (I’m kinda lazy that way).  Further, when you step back and look at the total cost of triathlon or cycling, and the total cost of simply getting a new tire each year due to wear – the new tire is pretty low (between $30-45).

Now, if you’re riding race wheels with expensive race tires – you’ll have to balance the much higher cost of most race tires.

Do trainer tires make it quieter?

Nope, actually, not at all.  And I proved this as part of my Tacx Genius review – they actually make it louder.  I’ve then further confirmed this with a few other tire companies as well.  Most of them kinda silently laugh at the fact that people buy actually buy expensive trainer tires.  Hint: Just use last seasons tire and toss it at the end of the winter.

Why didn’t you recommend XYZ trainer or software instead?  It’s way better!

As noted above, it’s likely because I haven’t used it.  I’m pretty strict in that I don’t recommend things I haven’t used or know a lot about.  I know magazines love to, but I don’t.  Sorry!

Why aren’t you recommending the CompuTrainer?  And what about RacerMate One?

I’ve bought two CompuTrainers myself, and still use them.  But at this point, I can’t justify recommending the purchase of a full-price CompuTrainer to anyone.  Perhaps used at a solid discount, but not full price.  Ultimately, I feel their RacerMate One software isn’t competitive in the market place today, nor what’s coming down the road with 3rd party apps for platforms like KICKR.  At $1,640US, it’s the most expensive consumer trainer out there, yet aside from SpinScan, has less functionality and features than everything else.  And SpinScan really isn’t super-useful for the majority of folks (I do understand a small number of folks like it of course).

What if I get the CompuTrainer used, what’s a good price?

Well, software suites like PerfPro and TrainerRoad have really breathed new life into the units – making them function in a much more digital world than the CompuTrainer wants to operate in.

So with that in mind, I wouldn’t spend more than about $700 on a CompuTrainer.  The reason being that the CycleOps PowerBeam Pro sits at $999 (before any discounts), and can be controlled by many apps today.  Further, they’ve committed to deploying the ANT+ Trainer Profile spec as soon as it’s done (again, CompuTrainer won’t do that).  Which means you’re paying roughly $200-$250 more to futureproof yourself.

What about the LeMond Revolution Pro Trainer?

This story is complex, but here’s the short version: They built a trainer, people bought it, then they sold off the entire company except the trainer division (but still let everyone go), then they started up a new company focusing on new things – including trainers and bikes again.  No new trainers have come out of it. (Note: Read the much longer version in this post here.)

Now, I think that the LeMond Revolution Pro is an excellent unit when it comes to feel.  However, the noise totally overshadows that (it’s the loudest on the market by a substantial margin).  Further, the technology side of the unit is really bad compared to the rest of the units on the market – especially at that price point.

They’ve said they’re looking to address it – but I can’t seem to get any update from them on it (I e-mailed multiple times over the past month, and apparently all the people I know have left yet again – or the company just doesn’t read e-mail anymore).  Perhaps some day we’ll get some consistency out of them with an awesome product.

Any tips or suggestions on where to place remote controls/jelly beans/bike computers/etc while on a trainer?

Yup, you’re in luck.  I’d recommend either a simple 4-cup OXO measuring cup (silly, I know, but clips onto almost all road bike bars and triathlon bike aerobars – awesome).  Or, you can build your own like I did here in this post.

Do you use a trainer pad/mat (floor protector)?

Yup, it’s just a generic one I picked up at Performance Bike way back when.  You can find endless numbers of them online or at your local bike shop – usually around $30.  You can also just use a towel, just be sure that if you’re on carpet that you change the towel regularly, otherwise it’ll eventually stain the carpet below (sweat going down into it).  Here’s the thing, don’t overspend on this – that’s silly.  You don’t need a $70 trainer mat.  As long as it’s waterproof (thus, sweatproof) and offers some padding to lower sound profiles, that’s really the key thing.

What’s the quietest trainer?

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So I did a lot of testing on this a few weeks ago.  Each trainer, multiple iterations, videos, differing speeds (which is what control sound levels on trainers, not resistance/wattage) – and did them all in front of a decibel meter (measures sound).  I think I did them for three hours in total.  I suspect my poor neighbors below thought civil war had broken out above their heads.

But here’s the thing: They’re all within about 1db of each other at their peaks (and about the same across the rest of the profile).  Well, except the LeMond Revolution – which was 20db higher and topped out at 100db, which is literally the same as a jet engine.  No joke.  Of course, everyone knows it sounds like a jet engine – but this literally proved it.

What about the super-quiet new Elite Muin or CycleOps Silencer?

Well, the Elite Muin is legit-crazy-quiet.  Scary quiet.  But it’s also a wee bit expensive for the technology it has (it doesn’t transmit power openly, only to their app).  I had in fact delayed this entire post purely because one of the Muin’s was supposed to arrive earlier this week for me to test.  It has not arrived.

So it’s hard for me to comment on that without use beyond a trade-show floor (which again, was impressive on the noise side).

For the Silencer, it’s sorta in the same bucket as the Muin, except without any sort of transmission of metrics (and only a touch bit cheaper).  It’s also somewhat louder than the Muin.  You can see a video of it that I took last week at the end of this post.

What about rollers, any thoughts?

IMG_4358

I don’t have a ton of experience on rollers.  I’ve been recently testing the Elite Arion Digital ANT+ rollers however, and have been getting more than my fill of near-death experiences.

I had hoped that the review would be out yesterday, but I’m awaiting some answers to a few questions I had.  In any event, I find that the cross-over between people who really like riding rollers and the people who really like the technology aspect tends to be rather small.  Said differently, roller people tend to be more purists who don’t want technology in the way (not all of course, but most).  The Elite unit is good, but it’s also pricey for what you get.  I haven’t tried others beyond that.

Why did the Bushido get cut from the recommendations this year?

One reason: The TTS4 software suite.

I became frustrated with the software suite even more during my Genius review last winter, and then that’s been compounded with continually recurring problems every time I use the Bushido at my Dad’s house as well.  At this point, it’s just too buggy.

Now, with their recent iPad app release – I’m seeing some positive things.  It just came out a couple of weeks ago and things look good.  But I haven’t had enough time to use it with any depth, and beyond that from the feedback I’m getting from many of you it’s still going through some teething bugs.

Finally, while they’ve said they’ll be adopting the ANT+ Trainer Control profile, I’m getting some mixed signals there a bit.  So I want to see that chicken hatch before planning a rotisserie for dinner.

That said, fast forward to next spring and I’m optimistic they’ll have that sorted out.

What about one of those bike protective thong cover things?

No, sorry, I don’t cover up my bike.  I’ve spent a A LOT of time on my bike, pouring a lot of sweat – many multi-hour rides.  But you know what?  I’ve never seen any adverse issues due to it.  Perhaps I’m lucky, perhaps it’s not normal.  Either way, I don’t use one.

Do you use a trainer block?  Which one do you recommend?

Yup, I have a couple floating around.  In general, don’t go overboard here.  Pickup something cheap and call it a day.  I’ve got the CycleOps climbing block – which is somewhat handy in that it has basically multiple levels on it.  I don’t use that for climbing per say, but just to handle differences in the different trainer heights.  It’s $23.  But there are other cheaper ones that start at about $11.  Most of those are fine (I have a few of those too).  Just be sure it can support your weight.

Product Comparison Tables

Still can’t decide which trainer?  Well, no worries, you can swing on over to the product comparison tool and mix and match all of the trainers I’ve written reviews for.  Comparing individual features down to the uber-detail level.

image

If you’re looking at any of the above devices, you can support the site by purchasing through any of the below links.  Here’s a handy table of everything mentioned above that I have a review on.  And remember that everything you purchase through Clever Training saves you 10% off your entire cart – so that will definitely help in some of the trainers cases.  You’ll use coupon code DCR10JKW, and you’ll also get free US shipping for all items over $75.

‘2013 Trainer Recommendations List’ compatiblePrice for trainerAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10JKW)Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated December 12th, 2013 @ 7:11 pm
BKOOL Trainer€500/$650LinkLinkLink
CycleOps PowerBeam Pro$999LinkLinkLink
Wahoo Fitness KICKR$1,099.00N/AN/ALink
Kurt Road Machine (with inRide)$199 + $340LinkLinkLink

Thanks for reading!  And feel free to drop any questions below, I’ll be happy to answer them.

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196 Comments

  1. Efraim Shaw

    What is it that causes trainer manufacturer's to think that they can get away with charging 60-70 bucks for a mat when you can get them "unbranded" for half the price?!

    Reply
    • euro replied

      If people are foolish enough to buy a name brand piece of rubber, then why wouldn't they continue to make and sell them?

      Reply
  2. Efraim Shaw

    Ooops... I almost forgot to mention, Great post... As usual!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  3. Miquel Casas

    From your previous review, it sounded like Tacx was going to adopt ANT+, so I took the plunge and got a Tacx i-Genius. It's unfortunate to hear that you're getting mix signals, because, they just need to look at the stampede of customers running towards a Kickr just because it's open, and rightfully so. I hope Tacx does not fall in the same mistake as companies like Computrainer...it reminds me of Kodak, some companies will wake up one day when it's too late and ask "What happened?". I really hope they're smart for the sake of their loyal customers and do the right thing. They have an awesome trainer and they a nitch in some of the software which is really cool like the 3D multiplayer, but other companies will catch up and it won't be nitch anymore. I lived in Holland for 1 year and one of my best friends is Dutch. I know that Dutch people are awesome business people and I hope it shows in this case...they have the opportunity to shine or sink...we will see which one, it's...

    By the way, I bought a Windows index score 7.5 computer to go with my Tacx given all the issues that everybody is experiencing, and my installation was pretty smooth in terms of recognizing my Bontrager ANT+ belt, etc...now, I'm going through the updates which are long in downloading, and hopefully I'll jump on the saddle very soon and hope to have fun and not walk away frustrated with the experience. Thanks for this awesome review. Cheers, M.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'm optimistic logic will prevail, but I'm hearing some mixed/conflicting things from different people which seems to indicate they're not 100% onboard with moving quickly onto it.

      Reply
    • Tisztul_A_Visztula replied

      I have been figthing for a year for handling a Powertap paired with Bushido in the proper way. Right now it works in a way that zero power (cadence = 0) stops the Real Life Videos while doing the same without a paired power meter (when the Bushido brake defines the level of power) does not necessarily mean a sudden stop of RLV, just a continuous slowdown.

      Here is the conversation between me and Tacx support (I cut it from Tacx forum page):

      As a consequence of two threads

      viewtopic.php?f=60&t=19977
      viewtopic.php?f=60&t=20573

      I tried to start a discussion with Tacx about why there is an immediate stop if cadence is zero when a Powertap is paired.
      It was a long period until I get the answer to my question after some reference of internal Tacx tests etc.

      My statement was the same in my 4th or 5th email of that discussion:

      "But it is a bad logics. When you stop pedalling on a descent, you should not get immediately the pause message. Bushido brake's roller is still rolling, so 1. there is a speed of >0 and 2. there is enough voltage."

      And the Tacx answer was

      "Yes, wel actually you do
      If you buy a Genius you wont
      You are connected to your powermeter. So if you stop peddeling the info is taken from that
      That why it stops
      If you dont connect to to powermeter you wont
      This is not something that can be changed and is like a "part of the deal" thing when you connect different powermeters (or have the possibility to do)"

      My final argument to the core part of the answer was

      "
      "So if you stop peddeling the info is taken from that
      That why it stops"

      Let me refer to the fact that if the rear wheel is spinning at zero power (=no pedalling), Powertap as a powermeter still measures speed, which is > zero.

      So I dont get the point why it is part of the deal.

      You would be right if I used a crank-based powermeter like SRM, Quark etc which cannot measure speed, because one can argue that at zero power speed is zero, too.

      But again the info, which is taken from Powertap , confirms that you are riding at a speed of >0.

      So a paired Powertap should be handled exactly like a paired Bushido brake. They have the same abilities and logics to measure speed, cadence and a similar logics to measure power. Bushido brake is quasi a hub based powermeter.
      ......."

      Reply
    • Pete replied

      That sounds wrong to me, its a problem of communication. Its obviously a bug if power drops to zero & the video stops directly. The video speed is reliant on having a cadence normally & it will cut after 5-10seconds for safety.. What it sounds like is they are using virtual speed calculated from watts. Zero watts = Zero speed but they can add a rolling average & reduce the speed in the same way as watts so you can rest for a bit on a descent & the speed should gradually reduce until Zero if there is zero cadence. Best though would be to fix it so any cadence keeps the speed calculated from the virtual speed maths with gravity pulling you down the hills!

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Wait, so you're implying there's a bug in the TTS software? Nah, I can't fathom such a thing.

      Reply
  4. Great post, Ray. Besides getting virtual power with the Kinetic Road Machine, we hear a lot of people comment on how nice it feels to ride, especially with the pro flywheel. I think this can make a big difference on whether people do one ride all winter or make a habit out of training indoors.
    The other thing I think is really important is to have a good fan or two. Without good cooling an indoor ride can feel twice as hard.

    Reply
  5. Scott

    How much can change in a year with a little competition. After researching and placing a bet on the iGenuis last year during the holiday season it is has been bitter sweet - not unlike your review and frustration with software. I was actually hoping your article focused on the preferred platforms in lieu of looking in the rear view mirror - in a good way. You nailed it with the recommendations, solid choices.

    ANT+ versus Bluethooth is still a bit of a mystery. It is almost as if no matter what choice you side with there is a good chance more purchase will be needed going forward in the form of compatibility upgrades. Guess I'll have decide between deferred purchases or hitting the blackjack table of devices.

    Hey, that looks a Mac Mini hiding on the stack of computer equipment!

    Reply
  6. Jordan

    Thanks for the great articles. One comment- I'm surprised you don't have CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer listed. It's about as common as the Kinetic among my tri teammates (DC area).

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yeah, it's simply a case of the recommendations here are based on my usage of the devices. There's obviously a lot of other trainers out there, but my apartment can only be so big.

      Reply
  7. Shai Simchi

    What would your recommendation for a trainer be if I already have a power meter on bikes?
    I currently ride an old cycleops fluid 2.
    Seems like a lot of your recommendations are based on the technology and the fact that using the combination of the trainer and the apps you can have smart training options (getting power data etc).
    But for me it does not make sense to pay for power data in a trainer since I already have it.
    What would be the choice then? Seems like either the very low end or the kurt road machine?
    Thanks for the great review and looking forward to your feedback.

    Shai

    Reply
    • Pierre replied

      Same for me, an advice if you have a pm on your bike that is communicate via ant+.
      Today I run the iflow with upgrade (bought it before the pm) and trainerroad but I assume that I can get a better setup for even cheaper amount of money.

      Reply
    • Julian replied

      With a Power Meter I don't think you need much else unless you have a particular desire to ride courses with video or desperately need an erg mode.

      I use a Powertap with the Fluid 2 and TrainerRoad - covers all the bases for me. With the recent Powertap price drop you could probably buy one (or go second hand), a cheaper trainer and a TR subscription for less than the cost of a high end trainer.

      You'd end up with essentially the same functionality and a wheel to use outdoors

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      For a trainer itself I'd agree that if you already have a power meter you have less of a need for a trainer that outputs power. However, there still significant value in having a trainer that can hold a specific wattage - repeatedly and calibrated - week after week.

      As far as apps, the CycleOps app doesn't require a trainer, and can actually work with just a speed/cadence sensor, and power meter. Which is pretty cool.

      Reply
    • J. Brown replied

      Shai,
      My experience with the new CycleOps Virtual Trainer software: With an existing ANT+ power meter on your bike, you can pair it up to your PC or your iPad (with the ANT+ wahoo dongle) and use it on all the courses since watts is what propels you through the course and not wheel speed. As long as you have a CycleOps trainer, that is. Then you just pay for the subscription on your device.

      Reply
  8. I can't find the KICKR on amazon uk, do you have a uk link for it?

    Reply
    • Philip replied

      I bought my Kickr from the apple UK store. Doing this had the advantage of not paying their over inflated postage and i also got necter points.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, no Amazon UK link unfortunately. I appreciate the support though!

      Reply
  9. Ian

    Interesting that you have no tacx options there - has your view on them (genius / bushido) changed in terms of value Etc?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Ian - See the FAQ questions for the TACX one where I talk a little bit about why I've left them off this year.

      Reply
  10. Candy

    Just making sure I'm not missing something here. If I have a Kurt Kinetic and plan on purchasing a Stages PowerMeter, something like the inRide device wouldn't really add anything to my training correct? Same with the higher end trainers, would it just be an upgrade in the sense that you would have control of the trainer power instead of having to rely on bike shifting/gearing?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      That's basically correct for the first scenario (whereby if you had Stages, you'd have no need for inRide).

      However, for the second scenario, the key difference is computerized or automated control of wattage to a specific level (i.e. 200w).

      Reply
  11. Patrick

    Thanks again Ray for a great writeup.
    Do I understand correctly that once the final ANT+ Trainer Control is implemented on Bcool I will able to control it from TrainerRoad or any compatible app? I don't care about virtual power as I already have a Powertap.

    Reply
  12. Thanks for the recommendations, I was waiting for this post before pulling the trigger on a new trainer!
    Will be buying the KICKR now to get me through the winter.

    A couple of questions:

    1. Is there a way to buy the KICKR in Europe while supporting the site?

    2. Out of curiosity: have you discovered Decathlon yet? It's a French sports store which offers great value for money, especially for cheaper products. Don't go there if you need the highest quality, but for simple things like clothing, pumps, lights, etc they're great.
    For example, they offer a resistance-controlled trainer with quick-lever for 100 EUR.
    Occasionally they have great deals on GPS devices as well, though product range is limited.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Unfortunately, no way to support the site purchasing the KICKR in Europe. I appreciate thinking of me though!

      I have been to Decathlon once, fun stuff. The challenge with me reviewing their items is they tend to be only sold in France (with occasional coverage in other EU nearby countries). With so many products in my 'queue', I've been mostly focusing on ones that are global, or at the very least North America with plans to be global shortly thereafter.

      Reply
  13. Havelaar

    Thx for the comparaison, Ray!

    It seems that the BKOOL Trainer once they release their android app might be a good choice for me. That's because I've got no Apple devices and mostly because Wahoo Kickr in the US sales for 1099$ (Amazon), which corresponds to 813€ whereas in the EU, it sales for 1199€ (Wahoo website), adding +47.5% to the bill, if I'm not mistaken.

    Have you seen that the Strava android (and I think also IPhone) app now also offers 3 Sufferfest videos per month to premium users for indoor cycling? I have not tried it yet (as I don't have a trainer for the time being) and would be curious to know more about this feature.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Indeed, unfortunately there is a reality to the various import customs and taxes in the EU (remembering I live here too!). This tends to increase the cost of devices made outside the EU quite a bit. For example, in France a 19.6% import for just about everything means a 20% jump before you take into the much higher costs associated with lab, return policies etc... On the bright side, those taxes pay for things that other countries don't have. So it's give and take.

      I've played around with Sufferfest before - and it's good stuff. I just tend to focus mostly on specific workouts in free-form mode.

      Reply
  14. Travis

    As usual, fantastic insights and review. For those of us drawn to computrainer for the joy of high quality (HD and smooth) ErgVideo courses, any idea if a comparable Kickr product does/will exist?

    Reply
  15. kayla

    Hi there, am wondering in this if your least expensive options are the first option for someone that is a complete non-biker and newbie that is getting their first trainer and training for their first HIM?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yup, check out the budget section and honestly aim for the $109 option (used to be $80). It worked for me for my first HIM. :)

      Reply
  16. Ran

    Is there any recommended trainer that is software controlled and can used without electricity? Except the Bushido.
    I'm looking for trainer that I can used both at home and for warmup before races.

    Reply
    • Todd replied

      I've seen some Kickrs at the races hooked up to a car 12v system.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The Bushido is the only one I'm aware of that's also resistance controlled. As Todd noted, the KICKR was designed to use a car hookup (in fact, originally they were going to include the adapter in the box). They were going to provide a specific list of compatible adapters, I'll circle back and see if that's been posted anywhere.

      Reply
  17. Eddie

    Surprised you make no mention of the iMobileIntervals app, which works very nicely with the KICKR.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      There are many great apps out there - including iMobileIntervals - however, I ultimately focused my recommendations on apps that I would recommend day to day and that I use in my training.

      Reply
  18. Tim

    I don't know if I've ever seen it stated, but I assume the powerbeam is firmware upgradable so that once they release the trainer profile / open ant+, everyone with an Ant+ model can update?

    Reply
    • Tim replied

      Sort of answered my own question -- the comparison table shows the firmware is able to be updated in the Powerbeam, thus I will assume an ANT+ Powerbeam can be updated to open ANT+ or the new control profile as it is finalized.

      Thanks for the great review!

      Reply
  19. Moose

    Hi Ray
    I see still no Elite reviews in the round up? Really liking the options that the Qubo wireless has and elite's new App, but not yet pulled the trigger, It's a toss up between the Bkool and elite, just wondered if you had any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Moose - check out my Elite comments within the FAQ section. Unfortunately I haven't tried out the Qubo unit yet.

      Reply
  20. Great review !!!!

    On the apps and software side, which are available that can be used on rollers?
    I have the eMotion rollers and use TrainerRoad, but I'm curious to know which apps/software out there can use uni-directional (from sensors to software) to simulate rides.
    The ones reviewed here need to control the resistance on the trainer, but the software could also receive the input from the sensors (like power) and from data (like grade and weight) could calculate speed and show the ride on the screen.
    Is this available on any software or to take advantage of the simulated/virtual rides the software needs to control the resistance?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Rodrigo-

      That's actually sorta the problem on the roller side - it doesn't transmit open power as ANT+, it's all private to the app. It does transmit speed & cadence however, which is useful to apps like the CycleOps app which can utilize that.

      If I'm understanding your second question correctly - yes, Kinomap and Virtual Training both show your bike on the route based on data from the speed/power side of things.

      Reply
  21. Casey

    Nice to see the Kickr now has a Strava Segments App which allows you to ride Strava segments indoors on the KICKR.
    I've had the Bushido with a dedicated high end PC for a few years now. There has been some frustrating moments but for the most part I find the Real Life Video's very enjoyable. Nothing like riding up Alpe 'd Huez one day and then Mount Ventoux the next. Just a very expensive experience requiring a lot of patience at times.

    Reply
  22. ekutter

    Is there any software for the Kickr that lets you ride any GPX file with 3d aerial view like the Tacx TTS software which uses Google Earth?

    That feature with the Bushido kept me motivated to do a ton of riding a couple winters ago as I'd pick several hundred mile routes like the Blue Ridge Parkway or Hwy 101 along the Pacific coast riding up to 100 miles in a day. Then start the next session where I had left off. It was pretty cool to actually see the terrain to keep me motivated, "exploring" new areas. I found the google earth views just as motivating as a real life video from the Computrainer.

    Unfortunately I got so frustrated with the Bushido and TTS reliability/support issues that I replaced it with the Kickr.

    Reply
  23. one stupid question: how well does cycling on such trainers work, if you go out of the saddle?
    because, obviously, on the bkool it's basically impossible and on the other models it makes the impression as if it would be relatively unstable.

    sorry for the question, but i have never ridden this kind of trainer, instead i bought a "stationary" trainer from daum quite some years ago... but the lack of data recording & analysis as well as the limitations in adjusting it's position make me consider to buy a new trainer. (also for the loss of power display)

    Reply
    • Marco Polo replied

      I'm no expert so correct me if I'm wrong.
      Most of the trainers are stable enough that you could get out of the saddle without overbalancing.
      Problem is the stress that you would place on your bike frame. I guess a standing climb would be OK, a sprint down the Champs-Elysees should probably be avoided! :)

      Reply
    • Dominik J. replied

      thx! :)

      Reply
  24. Brian

    Ray,
    What happened to CleverTraining and the Wahoo Kickr? Looks like they don't sell it anymore.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Brian (and others)-

      Just as a heads up, effective about an hour ago, Clever Training and Wahoo Fitness came to an agreement and the KICKR (and all other Wahoo Fitness items) are once again available for purchase through Clever Training. This not only supports the site, but you get all the benefits that comes with the Clever Training/DCR deal as well.

      The applicable links/codes are hanging out at the bottom of this post and the KICKR In-Depth Review.

      Thanks for the support!

      Reply
  25. Mark

    The Performance/Travel Trac Fluid+ also works with Trainer Road. It's got adjustable resistance too. So you can get into Trainer Road for $150, half the price of the nicer Kurt Kinetic.

    Reply
  26. @Hu3ain

    My current setup includes a powertap wheelset, a cheap fluid trainer, rollers and Trainer Road software. Rollers are a challenge and Trainer Road adds another dimension, but It takes a certain measure of confidence to ride a carbon TT bike/wheels on rollers. That skill, I don't have.

    I wouldn't hesitate to invest in a Kickr, as it's compatible with more bikes than trainers restricted by wheel size. Except availability and international shipping costs are unreasonable.

    Reply
  27. Brad Davis

    Great writeup! I waited for this to buy my trainer. I am going with the Kenetic because it gets good reviews with trainer road.

    Also, ArtsCyclery.com has the Road Machine on closeout for $264.99. Way cheaper than anywhere else!

    Reply
  28. Dean Dunn

    I love my Lemond Revolution, but I am slightly worried about ongoing support. Saying that I ordered some spares recently and they arrived very promptly. Also noticed they've got some blinged up Garmin models on their website.

    Very interested in the Yahoo Kickr due to the open architecture and resistance feature but cant justify the price in the UK. 949GBP is over 1500USD, way too much.

    Reply
    • Kostya replied

      I just finished support for KICKR in my software and rode it for a few days while testing and debugging. It is a very well built unit well worth the price.

      Reply
    • Joe Public replied

      I called the Lemond Revolution folks about three weeks ago. They are working to get a new attachment on the market that will go where the Lemond speed sensor currently attaches. The new attachment will function as a speed and cadence sensor and will transmit power data via ANT+. The representative said the price will be $249, and he said they are hoping to have them to market by December.

      If that comes to fruition, I think that will make the Lemond much more attractive than the previous Power Pilot option.

      Reply
    • Dean Dunn replied

      Good to see them still working on improvements. I tried buying the original ANT+ sensor but gave up when I got no response from the UK distributor Saddleback. I think it was during the time of the company reorganisation.

      I purchased a third-paty ANT+ sensor for 40USD and stuck it on the side of the Lemond Revolution with a bit of tape. Works perfectly, and I use it with trainerroad all the time.

      Reply
  29. stefan

    Great writeup!

    Could you measure the base of the Kinetic Kurt road machine? I might be looking into buying one next year and I want to make sure I can fit it on my tennis-ball ride damping construction thingy.
    Cheers,
    Stefan

    Reply
  30. earl rise

    "Hi Ray
    I see still no Elite reviews in the round up? Really liking the options that the Qubo wireless has and elite’s new App, but not yet pulled the trigger, It’s a toss up between the Bkool and elite, just wondered if you had any thoughts?"

    Moose - I have the Bkool trainer and really like it particularly as I managed to get a good deal on eBay. Downside is that the software interface on the PC is poor and the power measurement is not accurate (in comparison to my powertap) but is quite consistent - tends to over-estimate power. The feel is really nice and the videos/courses are surprisingly good with realistic resistance adjustments.
    One point - you cannot (not to my knowledge anyway) use the trainer to set specific power outputs for you to ride at ie you can't set the trainer so that you can ride at 200 watts for 4 5 mins and have the trainer adjust resistance accordingly. If this is on it's way (Ray seemed to suggest so above) then I would definitely recommend the Bkool trainer.

    Reply
  31. Francis

    Hello Ray,

    I am considering buying a trainer for a moment and this article is very helpful; thanks for that.
    One question, though. I bought recently my first carbon bike and was told by my bike shop that it should not be used on a fixed trainer (e.g: wahoo kickr) due to the stress applied to the frame. Apparently the frame could be damaged/weakened in "wobbling" situations (high spin, climb, sprint...).

    The Kinetic faq (link to kurtkinetic.com) contains a section related to this potential damage.

    Has Kinetic done any type of testing on trainers and bike frame stress.

    We are aware that most bicycle manufacturers will not warranty bicycles damaged by side to side torque from riding on a trainer. (...) When riding the rock n roll bike trainer the top plate moves with the bicycle – thus eliminating any stress on the rear stays or bottom bracket of the frame.

    It may be just marketing but have you experienced or heard of such damages?

    Reply
    • Scott replied

      Interesting comment by your local bike shop. I suppose warranties vary from manufacture to manufacture, yet have had no issues with my Specialized Pro SLC carbon frame. The physics of stress on the frame should be no different than regular road riding, unless of course there is some kind of extreme re-occuring wobble. Bottom brackets today are pretty heavy duty, and the rear stays have been tuned to be firm with specific flex points to smooth out the ride.

      It would be interesting to hear if anyone has ever tweaked a frame by regularly using a trainer.

      If the carbon fiber frame was 8 or more years older there might be concern. I've trained on the Kurt Kinetic, Minoura RDA and Tacx iGenius without issue.

      As Ray indicates, the Kurt Kinetic is a solid choice with good stability - the fluid version is that much heavier to keep you planted firmly on the ground.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      There’s no real/actual issues. It’s a bit of a rumor based in part on a few random magazine articles a number of years ago. Nobody in the trainer industry I’ve talked to has ever seen an issue in real-world normal use, and the same goes for bike companies. If it were, we wouldn’t see pro teams with sponsored carbon bikes warming up on trainers. ;)

      Reply
  32. Terry

    You need to update this link:

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    Reply
  33. Francisco

    I think this trainer link to decathlon.es 99.95 EUR deserve a comment .

    I do not work in Decathlon ;-) but it is present in more than just France.

    It is also present in Spain, Italy, Germany, UK, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Hungary, Romania, Russia, China!!!, India!!!.... a good bunch of people I would say slightly less than 50% of the World population.

    In any case great comparison as always

    Reply
  34. KenZ

    ROLLERS: Understand you're not into them, but for those of us who prefer them, this will be my next roller set. Check this video out: you can stand and sit easily on them. The money shot is about half way through when he stands and is hammering, but the way it's 'rollers on a roller' seems to compensate.

    link to youtube.com

    Don't tell me you can watch that and not think it looks more fun for the winter than you stationary...

    One thing I will also note about rollers: after a few days on the rollers one year, I went out on a ride with a friend and he commented that my wheels were tracking a much more smooth/forward line than usual. Not saying it'll make YOU a better rider, just that it made me less of a bad one. It really helps on training you to keep the swerving to a minimum, and pushing that power in a true forward direction.

    Reply
  35. Katri

    Well written overview as always! I really do enjoy your reviews that are understandable also for non-experts. The only problem is that many of the quoted prices are US prices, same products cost tons more in EU. And some of the products are not even available here. I hope that you will put together an review on "options for poor Europeans" or sth like that.

    And congrats you you and the Girl on the success of the cupcakery!

    Reply
  36. glurple

    Thanks for your honest comments about Tacx.

    I really, really wanted to love the Bushido that I bought. But the standard head unit was a piece of junk.

    Reply
  37. Christian Barnes

    You provide very valuable information and thank you. I have a dilemma. I have a bike with a quarq power meter on it. I want to get an indoor trainer and originally I was going to get a computrainer on ebay so that I could have power, resistance, and something to look and train with. But with all these new apps and sites out there it seems to me I don't need a computrainer. I don't have a budget so I could go anywhere from the low end to the kickr or a used computrainer. What is your take for people in my situation. I have the bike, i have the power meter, I have an iPad and ANT+, i have the software. All I need is a trainer and I cant figure out what to do. Thx.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      At the high end I'd consider the KICKR the best overall option. But at the low end with your Quarq and iPad + ANT+ dongle, you can use the Virtual Training suite today and do some cool stuff. I'd recommend poking at that first with the trial and see what you like there.

      Reply
  38. Cheers DC!
    Any clue when you will receive your Elite Turbo Muin for test? I have one on order from Evans Cycles in UK & current date they are giving me is 29th November! What is going on over at Elite? It will be Spring at this rate!

    Is the Muin really that quiet--even compared to the Kickr? Living in an apartment block in Geneva I need to consider my neighbours (a lot). The need for quietness is what is keeping me willing to wait.....but not very patiently.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I've been told this week, but I won't be home till Monday now, so next week is earliest to test.

      As far as quiet yes, far quieter than KICKR. Literally almost silent.

      Reply
  39. Thanks DC! That's awesome. How long do your (very thorough) reviews usually take? Any chance you will drip feed your thoughts on the Muin over twitter?

    Thankfully I just discovered the velodrome so have a great alternative to a turbo until I get the Muin.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'll probably get it setup and take a video of the sound levels pretty quickly (within a few days if I'm not travelling next week). After that it might be a bit of time since I'm pretty slammed the first few weeks in November with a ton of reviews I'm trying to get out.

      Reply
  40. Jonathan

    HI Ray super review !

    I can't choose from Powerbeam or Kickr :(
    I'm worried about removing my back wheel and potential fine tune up or setup with chain- cassette-derailleur ? Is that a concern or not at all ?
    Also is Bluetooth a real advantage given the fact that HR- Cadence are ANT+ with my garmin and that I can have the dongle ANT+ on my Ipad ? Or it's just a nice to have Or maybe will bluetooth take over ANt + over the year

    Best regards,

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      At present, I'd go with the KICKR primarily based on dual-transmission protocol and the fact that it's better positioned long term with that (options are always better than less options).

      As for removing the back week, it's more an inconvenience that a concern with messing up the back area.

      Reply
  41. Hi DC--do you know of anyway to get the data from the Turbo muin (power etc) into Strava?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'll test out the CSV file, the Muin is scheduled according to DHL to be delivered on Monday. Though, I won't be back till later in the week.

      Reply
  42. Cheers DC. Exciting your Muin is inbound. I was beginning to think they only existed in prototype!

    Reply
  43. James

    Thank you for the great reviews! I am in the market for the wahoo kickr - and now the shop tells me my current cadence/speed sensor (garmin) will not work with the unit - I have been trying to verify that the Garmin is ANT + and will work? Just looking for some re-assurance ?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      That's correct. In order to get the ANT+ accessory data into your iPhone/iPad you'd need a small iPhone ANT+ adapter.

      Now, that said, you can have the KICKR transmit ANT+ to your Garmin (since you have accessories, I assume you have a Garmin). As long as it supports the ANT+ power meter devices.

      Reply
  44. Ray

    Great reviews. Is there really no difference in noise between the KICKR and the PowerBeam ? I would have assumed that removing the tire/roller contact point would reduce the noise of the KICKR.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It's roughly a wash. The reason is that while the KICKR lacks the rear-wheel aspect, the belt they use increases the pitch of the noise. So it ends up being basically the same to a deciblemeter - just a bit different in pitch.

      Reply
  45. Shannon P

    Are any of the major training software companies (TrainerRoad, PerPro, Peripedal) working on Bluetooth Smart integrations? All of my sensors are Bluetooth Smart and the USB dongles are only $10 instead of $40 for Ant.

    Reply
  46. Cindy

    Hi Ray
    A few days ago I thought I saw on Clever Training the Wahoo Kickr listed along with the DC code allowing for the 10% discount. I just went on the site now to finally buy the product at Clever Training and the product was not even listed. Are you aware of any changes?

    Reply
  47. Abby

    I'm also waiting patiently for the Elite Muin review, mostly to know how very quiet it is. Thanks for the great reviews!!

    Reply
  48. Drew W.

    I am in training for my first marathon & my training plan calls for cross training on non-run days during the week (read: after work, after dark, and very chilly). I'm hoping to get into triathlons next year, so I figured a trainer would be a good idea that will help me get on the bike more often. I was sold on the intro/budget Travel Trac Comp Mag + Trainer you recommended, but after getting to Performance Bikes I opted for the Travel Trac Comp Fluid Trainer instead because I was able to get it for $100. Knowing that fluid > mag, and the fact I could get the fluid for the same price as the mag, it seemed like a no brainer!

    Now I just need to get it home, unboxed, and set up! Thanks again for a great guide!

    Reply
  49. Hi DC, from your experience so far of the Turbo Muin how easy is it to set up & move around etc? Basically in discussions (negotiations) with my wife about where I am going to use it. In fairness our apartment in Geneva is getting a little cramped what with kid number 2 on the way in January.
    I am of the opinion this set up isn't going to be that portable & attaching & dis-attaching the bike (with it's carbon drop outs) every evening isn't something that is practical.

    pete

    Reply
  50. Eli

    Wonder how long it will be before one of the software platforms the trainer can connect to can take input from a Kinect sensor. Would be an interesting way of checking the biomechanics of how you ride the bike as it could measure the position of your body while pedaling and do it at home without any fancy expensive equipment.

    With the new Kinect 2 sensor doing heart rate too you could ride without wearing a heart rate strap:
    link to brekel.com

    Reply
    • Kostya replied

      I can imagine one of those companies doing specialized fitting bikes and software (like Guru Fitting system) probably hooking one to their software but can not really see any company investing money into hooking Kinect into some general trainer software platform

      Reply
  51. Hi Ray love your site but why you imply that cheap trainers are as good as the KInetic beats me this could only come from your experience on trainers I have over a thousand hours and there are only two the lemond and the kinetic . The only reason for buying one of these machines is to train seriously I would assume serious trainers can afford $300 I've tried most others the above two coupled with trainerroad or perfpro and your done as far as indoor traing goes . I've ridden the Kickr for about 7 + hours the Lemond killed it and beats the Kinetic hands down but the noise has gotten to me I've been forced indoors after breaking my hip so I've just purchased my second Kinetic . As a further insight I've must tried the best roller with resistant and the front forks sucured result crap done bother.
    Thank s for listening
    Dennis

    Reply
  52. Silver

    Hello DC,

    i've just bought a Lemond revolution and i have to say that relative to the Tacx Bushido i have been using so far is an incredible step forward relative to the road feel and to the inertia of the trainer. The only issue is the noise that is really high. If you spend more than an hour on the trainer it gets to the level of unbearability.

    Considering the road feel and the inertia how do you rate the Lemond compared to the Wahoo? I can always be running the lemond with ear plugs but what i do not want to do is to buy the wahoo and the end up finding the same problems i have been facing with the bushido ie. very poor road feel.

    Thanks a lot in advance for your help and suggestions

    Silver

    Reply
  53. Tehninjo0

    Hi! Thanks for this ever-insightful article!

    I notice that you pay pretty much no attention to the whole fluid vs mag debate that pretty much opens any other low-end trainer review.. Is it safe to assume that the difference at the low end of the spectrum just isn't all that relevant?

    Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Basically.

      There are differences, but honestly, I think they're overrated. At the end of the day, with a fluid trainer you control resistance via your gearing and cadence. Whereas with a magnetic trainer you control resistance with a lever. In some cases (but not all), fluid trainers 'feel' better. But quite frankly, most trainers still feel like trainers. Maybe I'm not 'intuned' enough to feel the differences, but to me they still just feel like I'm sitting in my living room on a trainer going nowhere. ;)

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
    • Tehninjo0 replied

      It does!! Thank you very much again for your reviews and insights, they are very much appreciated.

      Reply
  54. Dave Howard

    OK..I totally get the frustration with Computrainer. However, After the sizable investment in $'s I just can’t see getting a whole new set up with a pricy high end system (yet). What -if anything- do you recommend for dealing with the computrainer as it now is and any 3rd party enhancements? I do 90% of my riding on the trainer using Spinnervals, Real Course vids and downloaded GPX courses I’ve "created" (particularly of race sites). Is there anything out there to overcome RM1/Computrainer limitations? OH…and I have no “i-anything”. (use Garmin 910XT and Newton+ for power)
    THANK YOU!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Your two best bets are PerfPro and TrainerRoad. I know TrainerRoad can't emulate GPX courses, but I don't know offhand if PerfPro can.

      Reply
    • Kostya replied

      Not sure if it is exact replacement but for real course videos you can use our free software http://veloreality.com along with our videos. It is definitely cheaper alternative and the video quality is superb. We also support structured workouts (in it's basic form for now but subject to change). The software supports Computrainer and you can link to your ANT+ sensors

      Reply
  55. Michele M

    Hi Ray,

    My husband is asking for an indoor trainer for Christmas. He's a big boy at 6'5" and a little on the husky side. He does not race, he is not training for a race. He just wants to be able to ride his bike indoors during bad weather to get some exercise.

    Can you make a recommendation on one that will support his frame and serve the purpose of indoor riding? It sounds like the first trainer you purchased (the Ascent/Travel Trac) might fit the bill.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      My only concern with the smaller little red one is that the wattage might be a bit low for him at his size. You may want to look at one just a tiny bit higher in price $30-50 as it'll be able to sustain more load.

      Reply
    • Michele M replied

      Thanks for your reply and Happy Holidays!

      Reply
  56. Christoph

    Hi Ray,
    Incredible review and thanks for all those useful information.
    I still have a question:
    What's the difference between the Powerbeam and Bkool.Is it just the accuracy or is there more?
    I am looking for a new trainer and for the moment I'm using an old Tacx in the winter for some power block (High load- low rotation).I think that VR en RLV or group sessions will not my cup of tea, but I am considering a few options on the mentioned trainers.
    Due to the price difference I think the Bkool is more than enough for me or am I overlooking something.

    Thanks

    Reply
  57. Womp

    Hi Ray, I now have a Kickr and found the info regarding compatable apps on the wahoo site woefully out of date, the overview of software above is great but it would be awsome to see a more indepth review/comparison of he multi platform software now available.

    This is a short thread I stumbled earlier which has some great comparison charts (but no reviews) that you may find usefull

    link to forum.slowtwitch.com

    All the best and have a great new year

    Reply
  58. Roman

    Hi Ray, I've been thinking about getting a not-too-expensive trainer for the winter and almost decided to get Tacx Blue Motion (a magnetic trainer), but then began wondering whether paying some 35% more for Kinetic Road Machine wouldn't be worth it (which is often described as an almost perfect device).

    I live in an apartment, so the quieter the better, but a few dB of difference probably are no big deal. I also tend to be pretty sensitive to specifics of the feel of different sports equipment, but I've never ridden a trainer, so I can't tell whether the price difference here is adequate.

    I've read quite favorable reviews on both trainers, so what it comes down to for me is whether the differences in feel and noise justify the price difference, which - as you wrote a couple comments earlier - seems not to be the case, but I've also read elsewhere that the differences are dramatic.

    Thanks for any ideas and I wish you all the best in the new year! Great site, by the way.

    Reply
  59. RSD

    Perhaps you're right that people who train with rollers may tend to be purists, but that's not incompatible with being a bike-techno-geek. I'm quite happy to be able to use all my bikes and all my riding gadgets during indoor training on the rollers, including various power meters on different bikes. -No special set-up or modifications to the real bikes, except a couple towels to catch all the sweat.
    Also another vote for eMotion rollers. After about six years of hard use, they're still going strong. Way more enjoyable than a trainer.

    Reply
    • Rodrigo replied

      +1 on eMotion rollers.... I use my bike with power tap coupled with TrainerRoad.... best setup ever. Sold my CompuTrainer and glad I did... The 'feel' of road on the rollers is quite realistic and well above any trainer.

      Reply
    • Harmless Harm replied

      Another +1 for eMotion rollers. Use it in conjunction with Power2max. I have used ordinary trainers before, on which I just learned to mash power. With the rollers, I learned to cycle more efficiently, meaning cycling in straight line, and improved my handling skills and balance on bike. And it works on core stability too: lower back, abdominals gives nice sensations afterwards (as a bonus).

      Reply
  60. Josh Parks

    Performance bike has their 15% discount back 'up' for the Wahoo Kickr (despite having it excluded in the text) - so probably something to check out before they run out again...

    Reply
  61. Josh Parks

    Ray - thanks for your comment about Virtual Power being consistent but not accurate. Tying into something else from the above - I have been using both Rollers AND a trainer with a known (but admittedly BETA) power curve via Trainer Road this winter. The bike that I ride on the Rollers has a power meter...

    I've noted that my efforts on the Trainer suggest that my threshold power is considerably higher than I can manage to ride outside or on the Rollers. I'd suspected something like you describe (please note interest in comment #109 just above) - as I would really like to train and ride consistent power both indoors and out.

    At first it was really disconcerting to struggle so much to keep my watts up on the rollers - but now I know that the FTP as read via the virtual power is simply too high. Hopefully riding the SufferFest videos through TrainerRoad on the Kickr will eliminate this difference.

    Makes sense and is 100% consistent with what I've seen personally. I'd erroneously thought that the Beta Power curve for my trainer was off - which might also still be the case. But it's darn consistent, judging from RPE.

    Reply
  62. David

    Have you tested any of the elite trainers(not rollers). Looked at the training software and looks good, wondering if you have any thoughts,

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I've got their Turbo Muin I'm working on right now a review for. It's good, though I wouldn't consider the software the best out there (lots of little items).

      Reply
  63. Peter Bartley

    DC I just bought the suunto USB ant key. Think I'm better off trying out trainer road instead of elite app? As I understand it trainer road can take data from several sensors. Will take care of my cadence issue with elite app.

    Reply
  64. With regards to the ongoing issue with getting this speed cadence sensor to work I have an update. Elite were good enough to send me a couple of small magnets to try on my drive side crank that would hopefully provide me with enough physical chain clearance and a cadence signal. Life would be easier if the cadence sensor could have fit on the non-drive side but the speed/cadence sensor connecting wire is too short.

    The small round magnet I put inside my pedal axle (I had an awful bother getting it back out) but unfortunately it would not trigger the cadence sensor. The thin flat magnet attached to the end of the crank but sadly the magnet attraction with the chain was stronger than with the crank so it kept leaping off.

    So basically I am at a loss. Crappy set up. I have a Garmin GSC10 on the non-drive side so I am moving to trainer road tomorrow. Think Elite should refund me on the app subscription at least (not to mention wahoo iPhone ant dongle + the apple lighting adaptor).

    Although I am not happy with how things have gone with the Turbo Muin I must say Elite have been trying their best to assist & have been responsive.

    Reply
  65. Todd

    I bought the TravelTrac Comp Mag last winter based on your recommendation. This winter I am trying to use TrainerRoad with the TravelTrac Comp Mag.

    TrainerRoad does not appear to have power curve information for the TravelTrac Comp Mag.

    Can you recommend how to obtain this data so that I can try training with power (virtual power) before committing to a high end trainer or power meter?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Unfortunately, with the Comp Mag not in their database, there isn't a way to use it directly. That said, I'd ping the Trainer Road guys. Sometimes they have beta profiles that they can make available.

      Reply
    • Todd replied

      Thank you. I contacted Performance Bike, and they gave me the power curve data to forward to Trainer Road. Fingers crossed!

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'm reasonably certain that I didn't expect:

      A) Performance to knowledgeably respond to an e-mail
      B) Them actually have the power curve (let alone in a useful format)
      C) Them send you said power curve

      I'm impressed. Nicely done!

      Reply
    • Todd replied

      the "useful format" is probably going to be the downfall. All that Performance Bike sent me was the graph from the side of the packaging.

      Maybe some day I'll just skip one destination/vacation race and spend that money on a KICKR instead...

      Reply
  66. Jeff

    I finally got a Kickr and love it for the most part. When using it with Wahoo Fitness app the data screens are nice. But once the workout is complete the saved data views are limited. Today I recorded laps on the Kickr. The only lap data at the end of the ride was speed and distance. It only showed my averages when looking at the data for the entire ride. Am I missing something? It would also be nice to see graphs. Can this data be exported to another app that shows this data in a better view or graph? Also, the RPM sensor that was on the pedal crank kept dropping out. So I put it in my shoe as recently suggested. It does work a little better. Still not sure why all the drop outs. Lastly I purchased strava segments. Right now I find this app worthless. As others have experienced the resistance is way off especially on the uphill climbs. Some hills you can't even move the pedals. I have tried recalibration and lowering my weight in the settings. Still useless. Any other suggestions? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      You should have seen a screen with all the lap data for each lap (like a small summary for each lap). And then depending on the site you uploaded to, you would have had lap data there too. For example, I upload to Training Peaks and Garmin Connect all the time from the Wahoo app (even yesterday) and see lap data no problem.

      As for Segments, try updating with yesterday's update. It was the first major change on the elevation front, and most of the comments I've seen on the Segments App post (that I put together) have been very positive since yesterday's update. Murray also dropped in on that post and explained in the comments the 3rd party company their working with (BestBikeSplit) to help on some of that. Interesting stuff.

      Reply
  67. Jeff

    Thanks. I do see the lap tab at the bottom. When I click on it it shows a summary of each lap but only displays time, distance, speed for each lap. That's it. No avg HR or avg Watts. I do upload to training peaks but only see a summary of the entire ride and not each lap. Am I missing something to click on?

    I see Segments updated sweet! Can't wait to try it. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Here's an example of an activity uploaded to TP with lap data. In this case, you can see the laps on the right side, and if you click them, then you can see data up above. Does yours look anything like that? link to dcrainmaker.com

      If not - definitely ring up Wahoo via their support page, cause it should definitely do laps.

      Reply
  68. Jeff

    Ok, I think the issue with TP is I don't have premium yet. So the data output is limited. I just wish Wahoo provided better data views similar to Garmin connect or something. Thanks for the help!

    Reply
  69. womp

    Hi

    Sorry if im in the wrong page but i have a KICKR and have been trying out some of the virtual training software, i want to try to make my own videos but don't want to bother syncing GPS files, what good camera's produce a video with GPS already synced ? any recommendations ?

    thanks

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The VIRB Elite is pretty much your best bet there - all-in-one, just upload and done.

      Reply
  70. Jacques

    First of all many thanks for this great and extremely useful review !

    I was wondering generally speaking how those trainers compare to dedicated indoor bikes in terms of functionalities, usage.... (beyond the significant cost difference that is). Have you ever tested and reviewed one ? As you tested the cycleops trainer, I am specifically wondering for instance how it compares to the cycleops 420 pro. Any experience/feedback with other similar indoor bikes where you can adjust the position to be sitting "almost" exactly as on your bike would be great to.

    Many thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I haven't tested the indoors bikes. Part of the main reason is that I believe it's pretty important to actually spend time on your bike in the exact same position as you'll be training/racing. Especially for triathletes doing long course racing. You simply touch on different muscle groups, unless the indoor bike is configured with precisely the same fit dimensions (and that's harder than it sounds).

      Just my two cents.

      Oh, as for the 420 Pro, I do believe that's compatible with Virtual Trainer and the other ANT control items, so it's actually the most compatible out there.

      Reply
  71. RTJ

    Do you have a recommendation on exercise bikes? I have been looking closely at a new Lemond g-force UT which feels very much like a spin bike, but have concerns over support and the fact that it is 2006 technology, maybe with some electronics upgrades. It looks to be a great marriage of spinning and a regular exercise bike with programs.
    Just stumbled across your blog, looks great!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Unfortunately not. I tend to focus just on the trainer side. Plus, if I get any more large training objects (like an exercise bike) in our little apartment, my wife is going to start throwing them into the river.

      Reply
  72. RTJ

    Thanks-appreciate your prompt reply!

    Reply
  73. I have the Little Red (aka: Performance Ascent Trainer). In the big ring/small sprocket is that 300w at all cadences? Or 300w at 90rpm? I can push that power but only at like 60-70rpm.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It was at ~90RPM. So, you could probably go a bit higher RPM and get slightly more wattage out of it.

      Reply
  74. Daryl

    I'm curious if there are any issues using these with Shimano di2 shifters? (The whole electric shifting thing is new to me, so still a bit of a mystery and I'm assuming there are hidden pitfalls.)

    Reply
  75. Javier

    Days ago I was in the process to acquire a trainer and although the bad local service (lack of info and knowledge about their products, staff with no commitment to serve, high end price, etc) my decision was Tacx Bushido for iPad. I say it was my decision until I heard about Bkool and then started to read here all comments you have about it. Could you please suggest me the best option that you would consider? Gracias from Bogota!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It really depends on what you want out of it - primarily in terms of software. It's a bit hard to make a specific recommendation at this time, since both trainers are in a bit of flux (Tacx iPad app, and BKOOL upcoming apps). I think it'll be a lot clearer in a few months, but if you have to purchase now, I'd go with my recommendations above.

      Reply
    • Javier replied

      Thank you very much for your prompt reply.

      I looked in detail into the article and started to consider Wahoo Kickr mainly because the possibility of integration of all data in only one device: iPhone. I guess by my personal experience that as less you carry on is better when training outdoor. In other hand I see you have recommended it in 2012 and 2013.

      So in a moment, I was fully decided to move on in Apple Store with Kickr, Blue SC sensor and Tickr HR monitor both for iPhone when suddenly I had a concern and it is related to the reliability of GPS signal from iPhone. You know, it is somethig that depends of quality signal of a mobile data provider such as Orange, Movistar, etc or perhaps of the site or place where you are training. I use to ride in my road bike out of the city close to mountains above 2500 meters.

      What is your opinion or experience here when working via iPhone? or should I consider too acquire a separate cycling computer like Garmin Edge or Forerunner bundle for a more reliable signal supported by satellite?

      My purpose in all of this is to improve my current weekley bike training routines targetted to participate in Gran Fondos. Also combining routines with some of swimming and running.

      All best!

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It can be a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes it's fairly accurate and sometimes it struggles a bit. In general, it tends to be slightly less accurate than a dedicated device - but depending on where you right it may not be appreciably much less effort. I would start with the phone and see how the data looks to you for the areas you ride in.

      Reply
    • Javier replied

      Hi DC - hope you are doing very well.

      Based in you last recommendation to my post finally decided to go with Wahoo Kickr, Blue HR, Speed & Cadence sensor and Bike Mount for iPhone. All available in Apple Store.
      After a week waiting for the arrival of the order, finally I got it and….. What a toy! Very excited about all posibilites I have for training indoor by simulating external conditions.

      I would like to thank once again because your comments and support.
      All best!

      Reply
  76. wayne warburton

    Purchased a lightly used Cycleops Powerbeam Pro after reading sooo many of Rainmaker’s reviews. A very valuable and accurate source of information. I have no idea where this man finds time to workout!
    I have to say this is an awesome trainer and could only be happier with purchase if the software was all free. This unit has so much potential using 3rd party software and I don't have to worry about the unit becoming a dinosaur like one of the competitor's wired version...
    Always being a PC kind of guy and owning all ANT+ devices, the Powerbeam is the best solution for me. All works as currently advertised. Set-up was relatively painless. Had an issue with the first calibration of the unit using VT where the display kept going and going. Closed the program, restarted and everything was good. No problems since. I’ve compared the power reading with my PT and they were close enough IMHO :)
    Currently using the free subscription. I’m not crazy about a subscription to unlock the virtual rides. Eventually, the Alcatraz to the bridge demo will get tiring (as in boring). You can also program any 20 minute interval workouts. I’m can't find were the interval is stored on my computer. It’s not in the same folder as the downloaded VT rides.
    I’m planning on waiting until Winter and getting the paid 6 month option of VT or may look at some 3rd party packages. The Cycleops Virtual Training software is working well and I don't see any reason to change at this point of time.

    Reply
  77. Luke

    Ray,
    How much do you see the trainer world changing in the next couple of months? I'm goint to need a new trainer this winter and I'm not sure if it is worth just getting one now or waiting until new releases (frankly, not even sure when that "season" is) before I retreat indoors...
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      In general, you'll want to at least wait until Eurobike (last week of August), or Interbike (2nd week of September). Any and all trainer announcements are made by then, annually, by all companies.

      Said differently: This (today) would be a poor time to buy a new trainer.

      Reply
    • Luke replied

      ...then wait I shall!

      Reply
  78. Lennart

    He Ray, Noticed in your sound testing (might have been the 2012 version of this article) you used normal tires. I know you told in one of your comments you are to lazy to change them over. I DO use a special blue tire however. Not because of tire wear (because i could just use an old clincher tire) but because it makes the whole system a lot quiter (for me it was a relieve switching over). Wondered if you can comment/test about this point. If the sound is very simular it might be because the resistance systems don't make the majority of the sound, but the tire does.

    Everybody always wants to know about the sound, and using the normal road tires puts the kickr an unfair advantage in this test. Some people that might use the indoor tires might find that because of it the sound reduces. Suddenly the kickr is stuck at the same level and there could be a noticable difference. Please, if you have the opportunity, test one or a couple of the trainers as well with a indoor tires so we can see if and how big this effect can have.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yup, I did indeed test that. And in my testing I actually found it louder with a trainer tire - go figure. I did it as part of my Genius trainer review, where I tested both a regular tire and then the Tacx trainer tire, and the regular tire was quieter.

      Of course, the thing is there's so many factors that contribute to that - so I wouldn't read too much into those numbers. For example, the exact tires you select (either trainer or regular), or the specific trainer you're comparing it to. In my case, I matched speeds, which is the most important thing for nose - but it's still tricky.

      Reply
    • Lennart replied

      oh that surprices me indeed! Especially since when i bought mine it did make a difference. I never actually measured it though, and I suppose brand, making tire presure, they all make a contribution to that. Maybe my normal road tires where exceptionally loud! Ill check out that review later.

      Reply
  79. ojvindegg

    About the PowerBeam, I'm struggling to find out whether or not it is possible to control the trainer directly from a computer - ie without the Joule GPS.

    It does look like the PowerBeam can be controlled used Virtual Trainer, while creating a workout in Power Agent requires the Joule GPS to control the trainer.

    Are you able to enlighten me?

    Reply
  80. Daryl

    I'm curious if you have any plans to review any of the Minoura LiveRide trainers. I'm in Istanbul, and this is the only good looking thing I can find here. (Or if you have an idea of how to find something else available here, that would be great. I'm just googling around...)

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It's not currently on my list to test, though I'm keeping an eye on things in case things change in terms of products that look more appealing to me.

      Reply
  81. Eike

    Hi Ray,

    thank you very much for the reviews! I get the solid feeling that this is the first place where I actually find some well-founded review on the trainers.

    I've been looking into getting a Tacx system, but after seeing complaints elsewhere and here some more detailed feedback on that, I'd rather stay away from it. It surprises me though that IronMan is partnering up with them, I'd expect no less than a perfect product instead of something which isn't and spills over bad image.

    Anyways, I wanted to ask you when you're going to set up a 2014 review (if any planned). Probably the best decision is to wait until then with any trainer purchase.

    Thank you very much and kind regards,
    Eike.

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      "It surprises me though that IronMan is partnering up with them"

      Money talks...

      I'll have a 2014 recommendations likely at the same time as last year, so probably the first week or so of October. That will include any new units coming out at Eurobike/Interbike and then any thoughts on said units.

      Reply
    • Eike replied

      Thanks - I'll be looking forward to your 2014 recommendations!

      Reply
  82. Phillip

    Hi, Basic question re: Trainers. I have a fluid 2 and it does not have enough resistance to allow me to simulate sprinting in a big gear. For example, using Virtualpower on TrainerRoad I am able to easily knock out 1000+ watts: 120rpm in my biggest gear!! I can't just can't get enough resistance to be able to grind out in a big gear, i.e 70rpm's. Is this normal with a fluid trainer? Thanks Phillip

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      It honestly just depends on the specific trainer and the ranges for that trainer.

      That said...typically though, yes, at lower cadences it's difficult to get higher wattages. Whereas an electronically or magnetically controlled trainer wouldn't have that limitation.

      Reply
    • Kostya replied

      "Whereas an electronically or magnetically controlled trainer wouldn't have that limitation"

      Well they all do have that limitation to a variable degree. Good thing would be to put not just max wattage for particular trainer but also max wattage at some low speed. Alternatively one can just look at power vs speed curves for particular trainer before buying if manufacturer supplies those curves.

      Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      Actually, electronically controlled trainers often have the inverse problem - specifically at lower cadences (i.e. under 50RPM) where it'll either burn out the motor or cause an issue that basically overpowers you with a non-proper power level. CompuTrainer users are quite familiar with both these issues.

      The challenge with using power curves is that you'd have to know your gearing and speed outputs to figure that out.

      It's funny, I often ask companies for their max power range. Many don't really like giving it. Some because the haven't tested it beyond a range, and some because they claim others can't actually do what they say. Unfortunately for me I can't put out 2,000w, so in most cases I can't test those claims.

      Reply
    • Kostya replied

      "Actually, electronically controlled trainers often have the inverse problem - specifically at lower cadences (i.e. under 50RPM) where it'll either burn out the motor or cause an issue that basically overpowers you with a non-proper power level. CompuTrainer users are quite familiar with both these issues."

      Because those trainers are not engineered to be run at low speed.

      "The challenge with using power curves is that you'd have to know your gearing and speed outputs to figure that out"

      Why would I need that? Trainers like KICKR, CT, Lynx, Fortius (I have/had all 4)"know" the speed and if you stay within their TRUE specs your gearing/speed at particular simulated road grade will be more or less the same as in real life at this grade. The problem is that the range of grade particular trainer can more or less faithfully simulate is often well below the announced limits.

      Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      "Why would I need that?"

      Sorry, I was referring to fluid trainers there (the original question). Obviously on the trainers you specify (non-fluid), you can more or less do whatever you want speed-wise and it holds.

      Reply
  83. Thomas G

    I am ready to purchase and indoor trainer as it is getting colder outside and have decision trouble :)
    Wahoo Kickr or Cycleops Pro 420 VR...

    Both have ant+ connectivity, and can use trainerroad. I will primarily be using ipad, less hassle than a PC.
    Can anyone help me along the way - to choose? I have had a tacx fortius before - the amount of hassle, software bugs and installation got the best of me, and ended up on ebay. I would like to use my edge 800 to log training, and trainerroad. If it is "hassle" free to swtich bikes on the wahoo kickr (wife) that is also good..

    Will the wahoo kickr work with Di2 gear system?
    Why is a trainer like kickr typicly preferred instead of a fixed solution like the cycleops pro 420 vr ?

    Any insight will be welcome?
    Will we see the 2014 recommendation for indoor trainers soon? :)

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      In general, my recommendation remains to go with the KICKR in most cases.

      As for Di2, it doesn't yet work there.

      People generally prefer to train on their own bikes because it most easily replicates the position of outdoor riding. There's substantial muscle differences for even the slighest of position changes. This is especially critical for triathletes where they may be spending 5-7 hours in a single position (i.e. aero), and ensuring that you replicate that in trainers.

      I'll have a 2014 edition likely the first week of October, same time as this was last year.

      Reply
    • Thomas G replied

      Does not work with di2 mean I cannot mount my bike on the trainer and use it? Isn't the only difference between di2 and ultegra just electronic vs wire for shifting?
      Confused. Buy or not, what todo

      Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Oh, you can certainly mount your bike no problem with Di2 to any trainer. I do it without an issue. The bike doesn't 'know' it's outside vs inside.

      Reply
  84. Jennifer

    This maybe little off point of this topic. I'm confuse which one should I buy the trainer or indoor spin bike. I already have Trek Lexa road bike and it already over 4,000 miles in under 2 year. I use my bike lot because I don't have car and I depend my bike for my transport/travel also use for workout too.

    About indoor spin bike and trainer, I was not sure which one is best choice for my workout. I fear that my bike will wore out fast if I use trainer. Also I not sure which one have better burn more calories.
    So, I ask you is trainer is better than indoor spin bike or should I get trainer?

    Thanks
    Jennifer

    Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Generally speaking I always recommend putting a bike on a trainer versus a standalone indoor spin bike. The reason is that your position won't be the same, and thus you will be working slightly different muscles. While you can get your position somewhat close on an indoor spin bike, it rarely ends up being the exact same.

      I wouldn't worry about putting too many miles on your bike. :) At worst you'd have to swap out you tires a touch bit earlier (not wheels, just tires), which most people do about once a year anyway.

      Reply
  85. Gabe

    Ray - i'd like to invest in either a power meter and a modest trainer.

    while the weather is still great it's getting darnk to ride on weekdays.

    do you suggest that i go for a better trainer such as the bkool and forego the powertap/trainer

    or go with the bkool? i understand it's not the most accurate assessment of power but i certainly like that it's not super boring to train on.

    Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      I think you might want to look at getting a PowerTap and then using the Virtual Trainer software from an entertainment point.

      Reply
    • Gabe replied

      Thanks Ray! i picked up the power tap with reynold assault wheels.

      I was looking at performance bike's line of budget trainers - Elite Qubo Fluid with the resistance controls.

      I will look into the virtual trainer software - i imagine i will be able to pair my power meter, heart rate, speed and cadence to this -

      Reply
  86. Daniel

    Thanks for an other great recommendation. Do you already know if and when you plan to update this guide for 2014?

    Days are getting shorter and I would like to buy a trainer soon, but also wanted to wait for the reviews from Interbike/Eurobike.

    Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Current plan is first full week of October. I'm waiting on the Tacx Smart trainers to arrive, along with the new Elite Turbo Muin with resistance control.

      Reply
  87. Andreas Trianta

    any thoughts or -even better- experience with the "TruTrainer" rollers. They look like a sweet spot between rollers and trainers

    Reply
  88. ce

    Hi,

    I assume the 2014 trainer recommendation is already in the works.

    Just curious if you can give us a little preview. Are the real turbo muin and the wahoo kickr in the same ballpark?In terms of realism resistance at low rpm numbers etc., (beside noise level)

    Greetings, ce

    Reply
  89. mark Gray

    In my experience and I have tried the computrainer, wahoo kicker and Tacx
    I now have the Lynx VR trainer from Veloreality out of Canada.
    This is by far the best trainer I have used. It simulates real time riding, especially at low RPM and while under high resistance say in a high % climb. The roller is particularly smooth and quiet. The movement on the roller makes for a realistic motion particularly when out of the saddle. You don't a training tire and there is no slippage. Great piece of kit and built to last. Great customer service as well.

    Reply
  90. Jon Hughes

    Ray,

    Love the blog. After getting soaked on my evening training ride today, it's time to accept that summer is over and that trainer season has begun in London. I'm keen to buy a new trainer this year - do you have an ETA on this this year's recommendations post?

    Thanks,
    Jon

    Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Well, the plan was yesterday. Then I had three additional trainers that got tangled up in various shipment states. So now, I think it'll be Monday/Tues.

      Reply
    • Jon Hughes replied

      Great thanks, looking forward to it.

      Reply
    • Susan replied

      Would it still be safe to assume the low end trainers are the same?

      Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Yes, for the sub-$300ish trainers they remain the same. And, at the high end the recommendations remain the same. It's the middle ground that you'll see some shifting around. So those units from $350-$800US.

      Reply
    • Susan replied

      Thanks for the quick response. Planning to pick a low end trainer today. Then save for a nicer one in the future.

      Reply
    • Susan replied

      Thanks for the quick response. I'm planning to pick up a low end trainer today. Then save for a nicer one in the future.

      Reply
    • Daryl replied

      And it is exactly in that area that I'm curious, as it seems like there are a few good options now.

      Reply
  91. gabe

    highly recommend trainer road.

    I picked up the cycleops fluid 2 and i'm able to sync my powertap powermeter, heart rate, speed & cadence to my pc via the garmin usb dongle.

    with trainer road it is awesome. i can watch netflix or use the videos to workout too.

    I haven't tried out the cycleops version of the software yet but after scouring the forums Trainer Road was the way to go. Only $10 a month too.

    Not sure if it is worth mentioning that this will work with any type of trainer not just the electronic ones.

    Best.

    Reply
    • gabe replied

      ah i must of missed you mentioned trainer road! der

      Reply
  92. Jez

    Hi Ray,

    Many thanks as ever for all your time and effort with the blog. I was wondering if you'd had a look at the new Elite Real Turbo Muin and how it compares to the Wahoo Kickr?

    In short it'll be for use with Trainerroad/VirtualTrainer (and eventually Zwift if that beta entry ever comes through...) with the gradient simulation and ERG being my main interests over my current Kinetic Rock and Roll.

    I was holding out for your next trainer review but I have an option to get a Kickr at £750 if I buy by Sunday so I'm wondering if it's worth taking the plunge now rather than wait for the Muin to be properly released.

    Cheers,

    Jez

    Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Yeah, I've done a few rides on it now. It's tough, while I really wanted it to be a true KICKR competitor, I'm finding it's not really one.

      1) It doesn't transmit out on standard ANT+ (power/speed/etc...), which the KICKR does.
      2) It doesn't transmit any Bluetooth Smart (again, the KICKR does).
      3) It doesn't have an API to interface with it.
      4) The desktop app is really quite honestly very dated looking. Very.

      Now, #3, Elite has said they will adopt the ANT+ Trainer Profile by the end of the year. So that helps quite a bit. I know that apps will quickly add support for it, so I'm not worried there. Of course, #3 doesn't actually solve #1 though, because it's different and still won't allow you to pick it up on a Garmin device.

      I also have concerns around accuracy. I saw issues on the original Muin with wattage accuracy and drift, ones that Elite was able to confirm as a limitation of the platform. I haven't had the time yet to see if that's still an issue, though, I suspect it will be.

      Reply
    • ce replied

      Thanks Ray!

      Reply
  93. Carlos

    I need to buy a trainer and I'm thinking on either the new Kurt Kinetic Road Machine or the Bkool classic.
    Both are basically the same price (around 350 €), but the Bkool kind of forces me to pay a suscription while I can use the Kurt Kinetic with any software I want (paid like TrainerRoad or free like Golden Cheetah).

    I want it basically to train during the winter months using virtual power. I want the trainer to be silent, and I am not really interested in the VR software of the Bkool, as I will probably train intervals rather than riding a virtual course. I am leaning more towards the Road Machine, but I like the fact that the Bkool is resistance controlled. Any thoughts?

    Reply
  94. Tiago Duarte

    Hi Ray,

    congrats on the amazing reviews! I'm a fan of gadgets and since I found your site, every time I thinking of something new I look for what you've said about it.

    I'm looking forward to reading your 2014 trainer list! Such as the other readers I'll buy a middle range trainer.

    Well, I hope you post them soon.

    All the best and keep the amazing work!

    Reply
  95. Philip

    Hello Ray

    Thanks for all the in-depth and informative reviews - they really are a big help for people like me who perhaps cannot go and see / test different gadgets, and who are prepared to spend a significant amount of money for quality equipment. The effort you put into your reviews is really appreciated! :)

    My question: I have a (dual-suspension) mountain bike, Garmin Virb Elite and Garmin Edge 810 (with speed / cadence sensor & heart-rate sensor). I want a good-quality indoor trainer that I can use with my bike and other equipment during winter. I have already recorded lots of video footage, with GPS and other data.
    I'd like a trainer that will allow me to 'ride' a course I've already ridden, for the trainer to simulate the course using the data I have recorded (i.e. simulate going uphill by making it harder to pedal, etc), and to watch the video of the course that I have recorded while 'riding' it on the trainer; this will be quite motivating.
    I can use my existing Edge and sensors to record the training - so I'm not very interested in the sensors the trainer might have, nor even the software it might have (I use Garmin Connect and Strava now, I won't need more just because I'm riding indoors instead of outdoors, I'm sure). It would be AWESOME to watch my own recorded video and for the trainer to simulate the climbs, etc; this is quite important to me.
    Does any such trainer exist? What can you recommend (or even suggest I look at, if you cannot specifically recommend anything)?

    Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Yup, you can use both Virtual Trainer software, or Kinomap to do exactly that with the camera/GPS hardware you have already. :)

      Then, you can pair it with trainers that that software supports, primarily the Wahoo KICKR and PowerBeam Pro (BLE or ANT+ editions).

      Reply
  96. Theo-Marien van Rossum

    Hi Ray, Since it is this time of year... I'm curious what your 2014 Trainer Recommendations will be?

    Reply
  97. Reinaldo

    Hi Ray! Any estimate of when you will post the 2014 Trainer Recommendations?

    Reply

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