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Kinetic announces new ‘Smart’ trainer lineup, and subscription service

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Kinetic was at Eurobike showing off both their updated trainer lineup, as well as their plans for trainer software world domination.  Let’s get right to it.

The New Trainers:

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First up is their new smart trainers.  In many ways these are essentially taking their inRide pods and plopping them onto all new Rock & Roll and Road Machine trainers as the new baseline.  It used to be that these pods costs from $100 to $200, depending on when and where you bought it.

The inRide pod broadcast your power over Bluetooth Smart to the inRide app (and some compatible 3rd party apps). The pod can be seen below and the magnet built into the trainer, which triggers the pod.  From there it transmits trainer metrics over Bluetooth Smart, but not ANT+.

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This differs from 3rd party apps that can determine power estimations (i.e. virtual power) based on known power curves.  See, with inRide it properly calibrates it during each ride as it has enough data to do so.  Whereas 3rd party power curve based estimates while generally consistent, aren’t necessarily accurate.  TrainerRoad has a good piece on this actually.

In any event, with all new trainers the power transmitting pods are built right onto the back of them – straight out of the box.  As part of that inclusion though, the units did receive a slight price increase of about $20-$40 each.  The Road Machine is now $409USD (was $369USD) and the Rock and Roll is now $569USD (was $549USD).

Availability for the new units is estimated at the end of September.  They had expected them to arrive at retail sooner, but a number of their containers actually got caught up in the huge manufacturing/port facility explosion in China back a few weeks ago, and were only recently found.  But they’re on the way to the US now though.

Kinetic.fit Software Platform:

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As part of their offerings this year, Kinetic will be launching a subscription based training platform as well, called Kinetic.fit.  This will include different tier options from free up to 20EUR a month.  Each tier containing a variety of features.

The four tiers are as follows:

Core (free): This is the free tier and includes a workout creator, some limited training plans, and power and heart rate zones

Smart (10€/month): Everything in core, but extends out to full training plans and full customization of the displays.  Most notable though is the second screen viewing where you can split-screen the outputs to have a secondary screen display different information.  Note that this is different than standard mirroring where both screens show the same thing.  You can see the secondary split screen above.

Smart Pro (15€/month): Everything above, but with competitions and extended challenges and rewards.

Smart Pro + The Sufferfest (€25/month): Same as Smart Pro except you get a monthly Sufferfest subscription included.

Here’s a very poorly photo’d copy of all the different tiers.  Sorry for the sketch-ville, but it sat in my pocket all day long at the show, and then onto the RV for four days being moved around the table, then into my backpack pocket, and then onto a train ride where I eventually just dug it out now.  I have no idea why I didn’t take a photo of it upfront like usual:

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Now the platform is still being built out, with the different apps in various forms.  To start, Kinetic took over development of their existing iOS app (which has long been shared with Wahoo Fitness).  Then they’ve got an open Android beta coming at the end of September.

They’re doing sort of a split approach to 3rd parties, some of which is good, and some of which is a bit concerning.  Starting with the concerning part is that they’re going to lock down some of their existing transmission pieces.  Previously they transmitted out over open BLE for power/speed, which some 3rd party apps supported.  Now instead they’re going to license the SDK to various companies, including TrainerRoad, Zwift, and Kinomap.

I suppose the good news there is that they’re making an SDK, but the bad news is that they’re potentially reigning that in – which sorta seems like the wrong direction to go in.  Especially since every other trainer company is going towards openness (heck, even CompuTrainer!).

Making a training suite from scratch will be difficult, and while things look to be off to a good start from some of the limited time I saw – I’m not sure if I’d trade my $10/month of TrainerRoad for $10/month of Kinetic Smart.  That’d be a hard sell for me.

Some Quick Thoughts:

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I think it’s going to be exceptionally difficult for Kinetic to compete with this line-up of trainers this year in the market.  With offerings from Tacx, Elite, and Bkool all at equal or lower prices for significantly more functionality – it puts Kinetic in an awkward spot.  They used to be my ‘go-to’ recommendation for a mid-range trainer.  But with so many other companies all adding ‘Smart’ options of their own, and those companies adding in FE-C support at the same price that Kinetic lacks, it’s a tough sell.  Plus, most of those also dual-transmit both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, whereas Kinetic is only doing Bluetooth Smart, and even then, only to ‘licensed’ SDK partners.

On top of of that, I think Kinetic is going to really struggle to find buyers for their training suite.  The offerings found by competitors such as Zwift, TrainerRoad and dozens of other apps are far cheaper.  Not to mention generally more capable.  Kinetic is also swimming against the trend right now of trainer companies getting out of making their own software (or at least, focusing less on it), and instead letting 3rd parties handle that.  We’ve seen minimal software updates from all the major trainer brands that had software suites – Tacx, Elite, even CompuTrainer – in favor of letting 3rd party apps run with things.  The only one that’s expanded their software lineup is CycleOps, but they double-dip in that they sell that just as much to 3rd party trainers as they do their own trainers.

They did seem to acknowledge their various shortcomings though, and noted that they are keenly aware of the interest for a smart resistance controlled trainer – but noted that such a device unfortunately won’t be on the docket for them this year.

With that, thanks for reading!  If you’re looking to burn a bit of time, here’s all my Eurobike 2015 posts!

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34 Comments

  1. Eric

    Love my Road machine and have had it for over 2 years. One of the best 20% off purchases I made from REI and it is a great basic trainer. The new add on to me doesn’t make much sense and a little disappointed it does not include ANT+ as well.

  2. Chris

    “This differs from 3rd party apps that can determine power estimations (i.e. virtual power) based on known power curves. See, with inRide it properly calibrates it during each ride as it has enough data to do so.”

    Ray, I’m confused on this bit. I’d expect inRide to be better than virtual power in that the resistance unit is spinning faster than the bicycle wheel (therefore higher data rate), but I wouldn’t expect the steady-state “power” values to be any more accurate. Are you saying that they would be?

    As usual, thank you so much for all of your work!

    • 3rd party apps (ours included) are using generic curve built by using some bike with some particular tire inflated to some particular pressure. KK can do a bit better by doing spindown test and therefore adjusting for variability in rolling resistance due to tire type/pressure factors.

      I personally think however the the value of it is close to zilch. People who really care about power would just buy power meter (even used one) and be done with the subject using proper approach instead of this voodoo magic with power curves/pods/etc.

    • Dr_LHA

      As someone who uses the inride pod (which I got for $70 with HRs strap off Amazon), and has also used TrainerRoad’s virtual power, I can say that the inride power meter readings react a lot faster, i.e. if you stop pedaling the power almost immediately drops to zero, as opposed to ramping down that is seem with virtual power. I believe Ray’s review of the pod showed that with spin down calibration it’s a pretty accurate power meter as well, taking out the annoying variability you get with TR’s VR when, like me, you have to dismantle and rebuild your training set-up for each session (no room to have it set up all the time).

      A nice bonus as well is that it measures cadence and wheel speed, meaning that all the metrics that you’d want from your training session (power, speed, cadence) can be derived from the trainer itself without needing extra hardware on the bike, which is especially good if more than one person uses the Trainer with different bikes. Although the cadence is “virtual” I can attest from running it on a bike with a dedicated cadence meter that it seems pretty dead on.

      Including the inride pod seems like a win-win to me, even for a small price increase, although I’m surprised they didn’t upgrade it to dual ANT+/BLE, honestly.

  3. Fred2

    A general question about this type of trainer: Why does the surface where the tire makes contact always have such a small diameter? Designed to slip. Why can’t we have something that is at least as large in diameter as rollers? I don’t have a trainer yet, but I’ve tried this type and been disappointed. Am I missing something?

    • With a trainer like these, the tire is locked in place laterally – so it’s not going left or right. Meaning, it could be 1″ wide and that’d be enough (but would of course make locking it in place finicky).

    • Larger diameter of the roller would decrease roller’s RPM and increase the torque correspondingly. It is technically harder/more expensive to deal with low RPM higher torque situation than with high RPM low torque.

      It is still possible though. Look at our Lynx trainer. It has 6″ roller diameter.

    • Ray, sorry to interfere but he is talking diameter, not width

    • Yup, brain-fart on my part. Overdue for lunch and some caffine…

    • Fred2

      I guess I wasn’t clear – the diameter, not the width. I’m complaining about the rear wheel slipping in the trainer. Doesn’t your rear wheel slip in this kind of trainer when you stand on the pedals and apply a lot of force? My rear wheel never slips when I’m out on the road, except maybe, on ice. If the diameter of the artificial road (where the rear tire contacts the trainer) were larger, you would have more tire contact area and you wouldn’t need to dial in so much tension with the adjusting knob on the bottom. (But then again, maybe it was just a problem with the trainer that I tried.)

    • Fred2

      Oops, spent too much time trying to rephrase while others did a better job. :-)

  4. iamchrisone

    Any idea if the new app will be capable of getting data from an ANT+ HRM?

  5. Duane

    I love the KK trainers from a ride feel and durability standpoint, but it really rubs me the wrong way for them to call this a smart trainer. That term has sort of emerged as a way of referring to electronically braked trainers (Kickr, CT, Tacx, etc) that have some means for external software to simulate resistance. What they have is smarter than before, but I’m pretty sure someone at Kurt knows they are appropriating and watering down this term. It sort of feels like when Walmart figures out that people like to buy organic and finds the lowest standard possible to still use the term.

    • Steven Shaw

      I agree. This isn’t a new product is it? It is just a road machine with built in inride?

      I have a kk road and will probably look at zwift or trainer road and virtual power until such time I can afford a kickr. Now that is a smart trainer.

    • Ken

      Agreed 100% – it’s a misappropriation of the term “smart” as understood by consumers and the current market. I see a little bit of this from TACX, too – eg their Satori Smart has braking which is controlled by a lever, not electronically.

    • Generally agree with the mis-use of the term. However, I don’t mind the Satori so much, because it’s doing dual transmitting on both ANT+ and BLE with the open variants of both. Kinetic is doing neither.

  6. sbyrstall

    It would be nice if they could come up with something that can added to Kinetic designs currently on the market. I don’t want to “throw away” my Kinetic just for this feature.

  7. John Hallas

    As someone who has a KK Road and uses TR I cannot see what this offers me at all.
    if I was to get a KickR I would see that as a definite upgarde and improvement but not this.
    Where does the $25 a month for Sufferfest come from – an extra $10 every month to use Sufferfest – be much easier to buy one a month

    Good review though

  8. Tyler

    Your Tacx blog post link is dead, fyi.

  9. Ken

    IMHO, it is truly unfortunate that Kinetic decided to go down the software route. If, instead, they had applied their engineering resources to 1. developing a truly smart braking flywheel-based trainer and 2. opening up with ANT+/FE-C to control that braking, I think they would have had a hit on their hands. For months, I had been flipping back and forth between a Vortex Smart for smart braking/openness and a KK for hardware quality. If bought online, the two are similarly priced. At first, I was leaning towards the KK for an unbreakable unit. But then I thought that technology’s going to advance and most likely, I will replace whatever I buy now in another 5-6 years. So I placed an order for the Vortex Smart for around USD320. Maybe the next time around, if Kinetic adds the right features to their unit, I will switch to KK.

  10. Ken

    TLDR – Kinetic should have remained to their original principles and built a quality unit with features the market wants, rather than jump on the “let’s make more money by introducing our own proprietary subscription-based software service” bandwagon.

  11. John Hallas

    Well said Ken

  12. Cory

    Ho Hum – given that the in-ride pod basically eats batteries, crashes when running spin down calibration, and won’t reliably work with Trainer Road there certainly isn’t any reason to bother.

  13. Kristen

    I am new to biking and triathlons, and this will be my first winter season. Someone recommended the new Kinetic Smart trainer for indoor training. Do you know if it will sync up with my Garmin 920XT, or am I better off with a less expensive trainer in conjunction with my Garmin watch and cadence sensor. Thanks!

  14. Brent

    Any idea when the net .fit platform will come online?
    At Eurobike they stated that by Interbike ’15 it would be running…That was a month ago.

    The manual that comes with the Road Warrior Smart shows that the app works on Android. Which is untrue at this time, there is no android app. They also failed to mention that the new Bluetooth Smart is actually a closed api, which companies have to pay to access. I’ve emailed them about this, they stated that is would degrade accuracy if it was open…or something like that.
    Which begs the question: Stages and PowerTap have ‘open’ bluetooth and are considered accurate, why can’t my trainer do the same?

    Anyone else tired of buying products before they are completed?

  15. Ismo

    “I’m not sure if I’d trade my $10/month of TrainerRoad for $10/month of Kinetic Smart. That’d be a hard sell for me..”

    Looking at the details, I would never change my TrainerRoad to the new Kinetic service either. Actually, I have been using TR since they started and thus I am not paying even that $10/month, but even if the price was the same, the new service does not look half as good as TR.

    The good thing is that Kinetic is upgrading the existing Kinetic InRide v1 pods to v2 with no charge. The old one had serious reliability issues. I have read TR will support the v2 pod in the future.

  16. Steve

    Great article! I just wish I’d read it before buying one of these. I understood all the terminology except for TDK. At the risk of sounding daft, what is TDK?

  17. Jared Verbeke

    DC,

    How would you recommend using inRide with zwift? Zwift now supports bluetooth in beta, but I want to ensure that my inride unit is calibrated correctly before using zwfit. Would I need to calibrate on the zwift app before each ride?

  18. If you had to choose a trainer around $400 that is compatible with Zwift, which one would you choose? Looking to pick one up soon. Thanks!