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Annual Winter 2016-2017 Bike Trainer Recommendations

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How the heck is it fall already? Seriously.  It felt like just yesterday I was enjoying warm summer days, yet now I’m sitting here looking out the window onto a rainy, cold, windy, and generally miserable day.  I saw snow last week during my travels. Yuck.

In any case, it means it’s time for the Annual Trainer Recommendations post!  I started this four years ago, and know many of you are looking for an updated version for this season.  This year saw a continued shift of announcements earlier into the season (late spring in fact), versus having all announcements between Eurobike and Interbike.  The theory behind this was that we’d see more trainers arriving on store shelves in the September timeframe, rather than being delayed closer to Christmas.

That’s because generally speaking bike trainer companies release new trainers at those two major trade shows in August (Eurobike) and September (Interbike).  It can however sometimes take a few months for those new trainers to make it to market.  I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to try all of them for some snippets of time since their announcements, however, some of them won’t be available for another month or two.  But more on that later.

Further, this post will NOT cover trainer apps, rather, I have a dedicated post for that coming up later this month.  Else, you can look at the last time I did that here.  It’ll be a beast of a post.

Finally, for those looking for general sports technology recommendations (watches/action cams/activity trackers/scales/etc.…), I tend to publish those in early-mid November, just before the holidays (but after any lingering products have been announced reviewed).  My goal being to wrap up all the new wearable reviews by that timeframe.  Trainer reviews will happen as final versions of trainers come in.  I’ve already posted a few this fall.

How I make trainer recommendations:

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First and foremost, I only recommend trainers I’ve actually used.  In fact, that’s why this post is coming out this week and not last week, two more trainers came in over the last week that I wanted to consider.  More are also on the way.

That said, there are undoubtedly many other good trainers, great trainers even – especially in the sub-$300 range out there that don’t have electronics in them. But, even with some 15-20+ 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.  There are some trainers that I’ve used hundreds of times, and others just once or twice.  My minimum bar for inclusion in this post is having ridden on it at least once.  I’ve caveated some trainers this year specifically where I’m deferring a recommendation until a final unit arrives.

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.  My goal is NOT to make a roundup of every trainer on the market, though I will briefly discuss why I didn’t include some trainers in this piece at the end.  This is, again, my *recommendations*, not the holy grail of everything ever made by everyone.  Still, I’m lucky enough to have been able to try almost everything made by all the major trainer companies this year, at least at the mid to upper end (I don’t tend to review the 93 different models of trainers from $75 to $200).

Price Ranges & Currencies:

Last year we saw prices drop significantly for low-end trainers, but this year we saw the mid-range trainers really increase in terms of market options.  And as such, we saw a slight bump in specs at the mid-range.  I had to change my price bucketing last year, and I’m slightly doing the same thing this year.  My purpose isn’t so much moving the goalposts, as it is making the field more logical.  Meaning, someone looking to spend $599 is probably OK spending $699, and someone teetering at $499 might be OK spending that $699 too if the benefits pay out.

Meanwhile, someone looking for a $399 trainer isn’t likely the same person as one looking at a $699 trainer.  So, here’s the 2016 buckets, aligned to the trends of trainer pricing in 2016:

Budget – Sub-$400: These tend to be basic in functions, and lack automated controls, but some do still have some electronics.  Most apps support these in a basic manner.

Mid-Range $400-$1,000: These are where we see electronic resistance control, as well as the majority of features and full app integration.

High-End $1,000+: These are the high-end trainers, and primarily distinguish themselves from the mid-range by increasing durability, reducing noise, or just being expensive for the heck of it (i.e. legacy branding/marketing).

Now – you’ll notice the dollar signs, which in this case is implying US pricing.  I call this out specifically this year, because the whole pricing business has gotten kinda wonky, especially in the differences between US and European markets.  There are specific cases where something may have a vast price gap in one market (i.e. KICKR vs. NEO in the US), yet be nearly identical in other markets (some European countries).  Similarly, the European markets generally get a better deal on European-made products (Tacx/Elite), while US consumers tend to get better pricing on US made products (Wahoo).  All of which ignores the reality of MAP (Minimum Advertising Pricing), which exists in the US and doesn’t exist in Europe.

Next, be wary of purchasing trainers outside your home country (meaning, if in the US, buying from a retailer in Europe).  This is because if you have a problem, you’ll be on the hook to pay for shipping of the trainer back across the pond for service.  As one who does that regularly, it’s @#$#@ expensive. If you don’t believe me, go and look at last year’s trainer recommendation post, and see the river of tears for folks who have had to deal with cross-Atlantic shipping of cheap trainers they bought when things went wrong.  By all means, if you understand the risk – buy where it makes sense.  But do understand it’s a very real risk

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.

Things to Consider:

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 (ok, ignore the flywheel).  Some electrical components eventually wear out, but the frame is astoundingly sturdy.  I find the KICKR family 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-release lever:

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In the case of trainers that you attach your bike directly into a cassette mounted on the trainer  – called ‘Direct Drive trainers’ (KICKR/NEO/HAMMER/DRIVO/LeMond/etc…), be sure that it’ll be compatible with your bike frame.  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 tip-overs 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.

Technical Considerations:

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Ok, we’re almost to the recommendations.  But we need to all be on the same table when it comes to some of the technical terms that we’re going to talk about.  Notably, the protocols and communications side of how trainers talk to apps.

In the sports world there are essentially two camps: ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart.  Virtually all devices use one or both of these low-power technologies to transmit and capture information such as heart rate, power, speed, cadence, and more.

In the trainer realm, that means trainers tend to support two types of things over these protocols.  The first is simple broadcasting (one-way) from the trainer to the app/device that you’re using.  This is done for the following on trainers:

ANT+ Broadcast: Power, Speed, Cadence
Bluetooth Smart Broadcast: Power, Speed, Cadence

Compatible devices, such as a Garmin Edge unit or a Polar V800 can pickup these signals and record them.  Almost all trainer companies now broadcast dual on both protocols, though there are some exceptions – such as the CompuTrainer or Kurt Kinetic Smart Control trainers, which broadcast on neither.

Next, for control there are basically two semi-standards that allow trainers to be controlled via apps:

Private communication channel: Over private-ANT or private Bluetooth Smart, or heck, even wired as in the case of the CompuTrainer.  There is no standard for controlling a trainer for Bluetooth Smart yet, so pretty much every company does their own dance.  That’s fine, but just make sure whichever app you plan to use does the same dance as your trainer company.
Open/Standard Communication Channel: Via ANT+ FE-C (virtually all trainers use this)

For ANT+ FE-C, devices such as the Garmin Edge 520/820/1000 support controlling the trainer straight from your Edge.  This also means you can re-ride your outside rides (elevation changes and all) without any other software.  Wahoo with their ELEMNT is set to allow the same as well (FE-C control), but even today they support controlling their own Wahoo trainers.

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So what about Bluetooth Smart control? Well today there actually isn’t a standard trainer control over Bluetooth Smart.  Rather, each company does their own thing and shares it with developers.  So, Wahoo has their variant of a BT Smart control implementation (that everyone supports), CycleOps has theirs, and Elite has theirs, and so on.  Tacx took an interesting spin and simply wrapped the ANT+ FE-C standard inside a Bluetooth Smart wrapper and called it done (making it easy for app developers).   Either way, things are a bit messy here.  Here’s what each major manufacturer does there:

Wahoo: ANT+ FE-C on KICKR SNAP/KICKR1/KICKR2.  Gives developers access to Bluetooth Smart control.
Tacx: ANT+ FE-C on all ‘Smart’ branded trainers (except Satori). Gives developers access to Bluetooth Smart control.
Elite: ANT+ FE-C on Drivo/Rampa, plus various other older units. Gives developers access to Bluetooth Smart control.
CycleOps: ANT+ FE-C on Hammer/Magnus, older trainers have developers get access to private-ANT control, and Bluetooth Smart control methods.
BKOOL: ANT+ FE-C on all electronic trainers.  Gives developers access to Bluetooth Smart control.
Kurt Kinetic: Does not support any standards on Smart Control trainers, but has offered developer access for Bluetooth Smart control.
CompuTrainer: Gives some developers access to WiFi and wired control.  Most other developers just ‘make it work’ via wired.

This all matters when it comes to apps – but the thing you need to know is that you want your trainer to be dual capable, and should ideally support if you want resistance control across a broad number of apps.  At this stage (at a super high level), every single app supports ANT+ FE-C (on desktop), and virtually every app on mobile supports Wahoo on Bluetooth Smart.  The vast majority also support Elite, CycleOps, and Tacx on Bluetooth Smart for mobile.  Most desktop apps support the CompuTrainer (wired).

Budget Trainers (sub-$400):

This is a tricky category, and one in which I’m really going to focus on options that have electronics in them.  But let me be clear – there are TONS of trainers out there for less than $400 that don’t have any smart electronic gadgets in them and work just great.

But there’s only one unit in this price range (again, looking at USD MSRP) that has ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart broadcasting of speed, power, and cadence.  So for this reason, I’m mentioning that one.  Note that it may be worthwhile looking at the older Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ (which I recommended last year at $450), as well as the BKOOL Smart Go offerings, which sit just a bit above this at $479USD.  But alas, you eventually have to draw a line somewhere in the sand on a price breakpoint.

Tacx Satori Smart

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This is the least expensive ‘Smart’ branded trainer from Tacx, at $399US, but significantly cheaper in Europe at about 225EUR.  Their ‘Smart’ trainer lineup broadcasts your power/speed/cadence over ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart.  It does NOT have ANT+ FE-C control though because it doesn’t have automated control. Instead, you have a little lever connected via cable.  But otherwise it’ll give you your power and other metrics and let you connect your Garmin, Polar, or other App to read it.  Accuracy-wise it’s fairly good once you’ve done calibration on it using the procedure in the app.

Now, you’ll notice the caveat about being Euro pricing focused.  That’s because this is an example where the US pricing is way more expensive than the European pricing.  So you may want to figure out what’s most important to you (control or broadcasting power).  The Satori doesn’t allow automated control, but does open-broadcast ANT+/BLE Speed/Power/Cadence.  Meanwhile, trainers starting at $500 allow automated control.

Finally, this is the only trainer I’d feel comfortable ordering from Euro web shops on the cheap and shipping to the US.  That’s because there is no resistance control unit (which is where things usually break).  Thus, the likelihood of this trainer having issues is far less than the ones in the $500+ category.

Stac Zero:

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You’ll remember this Kickstarter project from this summer, which offers what is truly a silent trainer.  I even tested it and all that jazz.  I caught up with them again at Interbike a few weeks back, and they should be shipping any day now (if the first units haven’t gone out already).

The unit works by using magnets to create an eddy-current that gives resistance.  It means that from a resistance standpoint, no portion of it touches your bike.  Thus the entire thing is totally silent (save your drive train).  It’s really impressive.  They have two versions.  The first is a trainer without resistance control or broadcasting of your power.  While the second is a power meter version that does broadcast your power (but still no resistance control this year).  The first version costs $302USD, while the second version costs $378USD.  Those prices are converted from Canadian Dollar prices, as that’s the selling currency.

I’d have zero issues recommending this trainer at this point, super cool stuff.  And I’m even more interested in seeing how it shakes up next year when they introduce a resistance control version.  I suspect if they can pull that off, it’ll be a huge disrupter in the mid-range trainer market.

$100-$200 Trainers:

This is a tough category, because there are so many entrants here and I’ve only used a few.  And quite frankly, they’re all pretty similar.

My general recommendation is to check out the Travel Trac Magnetic Trainers that Performance Bike offers (these are also branded under various other names worldwide – usually about $100-$120).  The key thing is that you want to ensure it can handle an appropriate amount of watts.  For that I’d swag 300w for those just getting into the sport, but probably more like 400-500w if you’ve got a bit more strength.  If you’re on the pointy end already, then you’ll already know your max wattage and already know you probably need more.

The most important thing is ensuring that it meets some of the characteristics that I talked about earlier in the post on things to look at (materials, build, stability, lever for control, etc…).

Finally, if you’re spending more than $200 in this category, you should really be looking at other automated resistance options.  About the only reason to spend more and get less is if you’re trying to get a trainer that supports a very high level of resistance (i.e. 1,000w), which some of the lower end trainers will fail at providing.

Mid-Range Trainers ($400-$1,000):

While this is a vast price range, the best options (save one) are all clustered between $500 and $700.  And to be perfectly clear: They’re all about the same.  There are minor nuances between these trainers, for which you’ll want to look at closely depending on your needs.  Specifically, look carefully at these four areas:

A) Maximum incline
B) Maximum wattage
C) Which protocols/standards/types they transmit on (i.e. power, but not cadence, etc…)
D) Flywheel weight

That’s about the only real tangible differences between them.  They all have about the same road feel (and each company will tell you their road feel is better). They all have ANT+ FE-C, and they all work with Zwift and TrainerRoad.  Seriously, it’s mostly a wash.

The flywheel weight in theory gives a more road-like feel, but the thing is, at these weights, it’s all kinda wimpy to begin with.  I know a lot of folks want the most road-like feel, but my brain can’t really separate out the fact that I’m still inside looking at a wall going nowhere.  I’d rather have greater accuracy and more app support than the mythical road-like feel.

There are also very minor differences in how you mount your bike to each one in terms of the clasp/lever, but that’s too a wash.  About the only notable difference here is that the CycleOps Magnus has a nifty resistance knob that makes it easy to ensure your bike is at the same resistance setting each time.  It’s actually kinda brilliant.  But no matter, all of these will require calibration about 10-15 minutes into a ride to ensure accurate numbers.

With that in mind, here are your four options:

Wahoo KICKR SNAP – $599 (new price as of Oct 17th, 2016)
CycleOps Magnus – $599
Elite Rampa – $549
Tacx Vortex Smart – $529

As you can see, there’s a slight price bump (not anymore) up to the Wahoo KICKR SNAP.  I’m not sure it’s worth that over the CycleOps Magnus, though, it is available today unlike the Magnus.  On the flip-side, so is the Rampa and Vortex Smart.  Oh, and yes, there is the Tacx Bushido Smart at $799, which is nice in that you don’t need a power supply for it.  But honestly, I just can’t justify spending that much more compared to the pile of units noted above.

I know a lot of folks will want some sort of concrete answer on which of the four aforementioned trainers to pick, but the reality is that they are just so darn similar.  That’s obviously on purpose, the companies have largely modeled it after each other, and thus the end-state is basically the same.  I’d be happy with any of these four trainers.  I think the KICKR SNAP is probably the most robustly built of the bunch, whereas I think the Magnus is the most accurate of the bunch (plus it has up to 15% incline resistance, the most of the bunch).  The Vortex and Rampa are both the lightest of the bunch, thus the easiest to move around.  I’d say the Vortex is the weakest in terms of specs/resistance (especially depending on your weight), but it’s also the cheapest (even more so in Europe).

Here’s some nifty tables that might help narrow it down.  Remember, you can make your own comparison tables here.

Function/FeatureElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated December 5th, 2016 @ 9:45 pmNew Window
Price for trainer$649/€550/£449$599$529$599
Attachment TypeWheel-onWheel-OnWheel-onWheel-on
Available today (for sale)YesYesYesYes
Availability regionsGlobalGlobalGlobalGlobal
Connects to computerYesYesYesYes
Uses mouse/keyboard as control unitYes (with apps)YES (WITH APPS)YES (WITH APPS)YES (WITH APPS)
Uses phone/tablet as control unit (handlebar)Yes (with apps)YES (WITH APPS)YES (WITH APPS)YES (WITH APPS)
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYesYesYesYes
Flywheel weight2.3KG2.6lbs/1.2kg4.4lbs/2.0kg10.5lbs/4.8KG
ResistanceElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNoNoNo
Maximum wattage capability1250w @ 25MPH1,500w @ 20MPH950w @ 20MPH2200W @ 30mph
Maximum simulated hill incline10%15%7%10%
FeaturesElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoNoNoNo
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNoNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoNoNoNo
AccuracyElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP
Includes temperature compensationNoNoNoYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesYesYesYes
Supported accuracy level+/- 5%+/-5%+/- 5%+/- 5%
Trainer ControlElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YesYesYesYes
Supports Bluetooth Smart control for 3rd partiesYEsYesYesYes
Data BroadcastElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYesYesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYesYesYes
PurchaseElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkN/A
Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training EuropeN/AN/ALinkN/A
DCRainmakerElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Again, these are really very similar trainers.  You won’t go wrong with any of these.  Note that the CycleOps Magnus should start shipping in the next week or two, whereas the others are already out and about.  I have used a prototype Magnus a bunch this summer (as seen here), which did well.  Of course, it’s possible it went from good to bad between then and now.  But hopefully that’s not the case.

The Mid-High Wild-Card:

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Now before we move onto high-end trainers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the Tacx Flux.  For the singular reason that it has the potential to demolish both the high-end bucket as well as the upper portion of the mid-range bucket.  This trainer sits at $899USD, but is direct drive with ANT+ FE-C built into it (and Bluetooth Smart and all that jazz), not to mention being pretty darn quiet.  It’s essentially a cheaper KICKR.  The only downside is that it has a lower accuracy rate.  It’ll likely have official specs in the +/-5% range, but it sounds like that once it’s warmed-up (10-15 mins), then they’re hoping more in the 2-3% range.  As a reminder: That’s exactly how the long-fabled CompuTrainer works when it comes to accuracy and specs.  Warm-up is variable, but then it stabilizes.

So why not recommend it yet?

Well, it’s not out yet.

Simply put Tacx hasn’t started shipping the units, and as of last week had again pushed delivery dates further into the fall.  I’ve tried it a bunch of times now over the last 4 months, but all of them have been pre-production units.  The first production units might not be available in Europe until early November, with them not hitting the states until early December.  And that’s assuming nothing else goes wrong with production.

So my advice is this: If you can wait until early November, and if you’re looking at dropping more than $800 for a trainer, then I’d strongly recommend waiting.  At least if you want to save $300 (the difference between $1,199 for the KICKR and $899 for the Flux).  There’s *nothing* wrong with the KICKR at $1,199, or the Elite Drivo at $1,299.  This is simply a case of saving you money.  As soon as a production unit rolls out the factory, I’ll likely have my hands on it.  Until then, there’s really nothing more than can be said on whether it’s as accurate and quiet as Tacx (and others) hope.

High-End Trainers:

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This season we saw a couple a number of new players in the higher end trainer space.  These are essentially trainers that cost more than $1,000USD, but also usually have a much higher accuracy range +/- 2%.  This year we saw a new Wahoo KICKR, a new Elite trainer (Drivo), a new CycleOps trainer (The Hammer), and of course, we saw the Tacx NEO from last year receive a very minor external case tweak to increase bike frame compatibility.

This category has seen tremendous competition and innovation this year, and I suspect it’ll be cheaper for the 2017-2018 trainer season (next year).  But for this season, you’ll have to spend at least $1,100 if you want to join this club.  The good news is the club is very solid.  The bad news is that one player (CycleOps Hammer) missed the boat (literally), and thus won’t be included at this time in the rankings.  See the ‘Why I didn’t include it’ section below for more there.

Like the previous category, all three of the remaining contenders are fantastic offerings.  Seriously, you won’t go wrong with any of them. Period.  That said, I’ll go ahead and give my top recommendation, and then my thoughts on the remaining.

Top Pick: Tacx NEO

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First off, let me start by pointing out the obvious: This baby’s expensive.  It sits at $1,600USD.  But it’s the best trainer of those I’ve reviewed.  Is it worth $400 more than the KICKR or Drivo?  Probably not.  But, if money is no object – then this is it.

Historically the NEO’s claim to fame is its noise properties.  Or rather, lack thereof.  It aims to be the quietest trainer on the market.  And I’d agree – I don’t know of anything that’s more silent than this.  That’s all while having ANT+ FE-C compatibility, as well as ANT+ transmission of power/speed/cadence to any capable device.  And finally, Bluetooth Smart control as well.   Plus, this past summer they added that nifty ability to simulate road patterns, so it actually feels like you’re riding on cobblestones in Zwift.  It’s crazy cool.

The NEO is more expensive than the KICKR, at $1,699US. For Europeans, this NEO is much closer in price to the KICKR, only 100EUR difference at 1,299EUR + the cost of a cassette (about 50-100EUR).  So that’s something to heavily consider.

In my opinion, the primary reason you’d get the NEO over the KICKR is that you want near-silence.  And in my experience – it does deliver on that quite well.  There’s also a slight gap right now on the Bluetooth Smart control side for 3rd party apps (notable for iPhones/iPads that can’t do ANT+).  Tacx released access for developers to control all Tacx Smart trainers via Bluetooth Smart the last week of September, so we’re still seeing some apps get that all baked in.  I expect that to settle out by December though – thus putting them on the virtually same app playing field as Wahoo.

Now, there is one downside here: Tacx quality control on the NEO production line seems to be variable.  Last year started off with some folks having various noises coming from their units.  These had different sources, and Tacx found an issue in assembly that caused metal bits to end up in the unit.  That was supposed to solve that.  But the reality is it hasn’t.  There are still people – including even myself – who have managed to get bum units straight off the assembly line, even as recently as this past week (via retailers).  It’s a problem.  So, I’ve got no issues recommending the NEO as long as you can return it easily and quickly for a new one (within your country).  You’ll generally know within the first ride or few if something is amiss.

(Side note: For no particular reason, I don’t have an in-depth review of this unit published, despite using it all last winter.  I’ve seen zero issues with power accuracy, and you can often see those charts in various in-depth power meter reviews.  Aside from the quality control issues, I’m pretty happy with it.)

Wahoo KICKR & Elite Drivo:

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Both of these trainers are new this year.  Or, at least refreshed.  Wahoo started shipping  their ‘new KICKR’ in August (aka KICKR2), which I’ve released an in-depth review on.  And Elite pushed out a totally new trainer, the Drivo, this past summer as well.  My review is also here too!

The new KICKR got far quieter, and addressed some outstanding accuracy quirks that some people had, while the Drivo upped the accuracy game by stating a +/-1% accuracy claim (and then backing it up by 3rd party labs).  I found both very accurate in testing, without question, solid.

The KICKR is priced $100 cheaper than the Drivo ($1,199 vs $1,299), and the Drivo will require you to purchase a cassette ($50-$100), so that is a downside.  On the flipside, it can claim a slightly higher accuracy rating than the KICKR.  Whether or not that additional 1% increase matters…I don’t know.

Both trainers have ANT+ FE-C control, so they’ll work with all desktop apps.  The KICKR will broadcast power and speed, while the Drivo will broadcast power, speed, and cadence.  Further, as they showed at Interbike, they’re also doing cool pedaling metrics too, which the KICKR lacks.  On the flipside, the KICKR is going to enjoy slightly more 3rd party app compatibility on mobile devices, simply because Wahoo’s been in the game longer there and more mobile/tablet apps have the Wahoo API than Elite.

Here’s a look at all three trainers, side by side in a shoot out!

Function/FeatureWahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)Elite DrivoTacx NEO Smart
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated February 24th, 2017 @ 8:27 amNew Window
Price for trainer$1,199$1,299/€1,390/£1,099$1,599USD/1,399EUR
Attachment TypeDirect Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)
Available today (for sale)YesYesYes
Availability regionsGlobalGlobalGlobal
Connects to computerYesYesYes
Uses mouse/keyboard as control unitYEs (with apps)Yes (with apps)Yes (with apps)
Uses phone/tablet as control unit (handlebar)YEs (with apps)Yes (with apps)Yes (with apps)
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYesYesNo
Flywheel weight12.5lbs/5.7kgs13.2lbs/6kgSimulated/Virtual
ResistanceWahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)Elite DrivoTacx NEO Smart
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNoYes
Maximum wattage capability2500w @ 30MPH2,000w+2,200w
Maximum simulated hill incline20%24%25%
FeaturesWahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)Elite DrivoTacx NEO Smart
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoNoNo
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoNoYes
AccuracyWahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)Elite DrivoTacx NEO Smart
Includes temperature compensationYesN/AN/A
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesN/AN/A
Supported accuracy level+/- 2%+/- 1%+/- 1%
Trainer ControlWahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)Elite DrivoTacx NEO Smart
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YesYesYes
Supports Bluetooth Smart control for 3rd partiesYesYesYes
Data BroadcastWahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)Elite DrivoTacx NEO Smart
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYesYes
PurchaseWahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)Elite DrivoTacx NEO Smart
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkLinkLink
Clever Training EuropeN/AN/ALink
DCRainmakerWahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)Elite DrivoTacx NEO Smart
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

Again, all three are very solid, and I’d have no problems recommending any of them as a high end trainer.  I will also use all three of them semi-randomly throughout the winter.  Though…a small part of me really does enjoy the feeling of the road on Zwift with the Tacx NEO.

The Outsiders:

DSC_2635

Now, every year there are a few trainers that don’t really fit into the norms, but somehow they end up in my bucket and I figure I’ll briefly discuss them.  These are different from the ‘Why I Didn’t Include It List’, which is next.  Think of this as sort of a curiosity of sorts.  In years past it was the Inside Ride Rollers, plus a tiny little portable trainer from Sportscraft.  These aren’t so much direct recommendations as really just kinda interesting products that you might fit into the ‘Well that’s different!’ category.

This year, I’m tossing the Revbox in that pile.  I was going to put the Stac Zero trainer in this category, but I decided it should really be moved up into the sub-$400 category above.  I think it deserved that, after all, they did start shipping.

So…Revbox.

This is a $1,400 wind trainer that effectively forces you to keep constant pressure all the way around the crank/pedal rotation.  Failure to do so makes it immediately obvious where pedaling dead spots are and is kinda like stalling a manual transmission car.  More than that though, it has the unusual capability of allowing very high power resistance with a very low cadence.  They advertise being able to hold 500w at only 45RPM (many other trainers fail these types of tests).

Now, whether or not those features are truly useful is definitely debatable.  Since last year they added a power sensor, though it doesn’t transmit ANT+ to your head unit.  Instead, only to their app…which is a solid bummer.  Further, the trainer is anything but quiet.  It’s the loudest trainer I’ve tested by a long shot.  It’s basically a small jet engine in your living room.  On the bright side, that fan output does get funneled directly back to your back, cooling you.  So that’s kinda cool.

In any case, I’ll do a bit more on this sometime this fall, more out of curiosity than anything else.

Why I Didn’t Include It list:

DSC_2648

First and foremast, this isn’t a list of bad trainers.  If you take that away from this paragraph, then you’re mistaken.  In fact, there are some awesome trainers in here.  Instead, this list is to save me time answering the same question 482 times below for each trainer as to why I didn’t include them.  I’m keeping these explanations short and sweet.  In many cases I’ve detailed out longer answers in posts related to those products.

CycleOps Hammer: Simply put – it’s not out yet.  While I did try it back in May, far too much has changed on the internals of the unit to know how it might shape up.  Not only that, it sounds like in a best case scenario it’ll start shipping in later November or December.  But then why write a whole section on the Tacx Flux when it’s not out yet either?  Because at that price point it has the potential to be a massive industry disrupter.  Whereas as the Hammer price-point, it’s just another KICKR by a different (albeit very reputable) name.

Elite Kura: There’s nothing technically wrong with this trainer. It shares the same power meter accuracy components as the higher end Drivo.  The challenge though is that unlike the Drivo, it doesn’t allow control of the trainer.  It’s kinda like the LeMond Revolution Pro below, in that there’s no resistance control.  If that’s your preference, and you want something that has good road feel and solid accuracy – this may be your deal.

Anything older Elite: Basically, if it hasn’t got one of the new names (Rampa, Kura, Drivo), I’d consider it older tech and simply would focus on the newer stuff.  Now you might find some older units out there for a steal, but validate that it has dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, as well as FE-C (if you’re looking for a controllable unit).

CompuTrainer: Solid physical product (build/accuracy), horrible software, overpriced compared to KICKR (or even NEO). Just outdated.  But, if you can get a used one on eBay for about $600, that’s a good deal and it works with many desktop (Mac/PC) apps these days. But I wouldn’t pay any more than $600 for the unit.

LeMond Revolution Pro: The company has folded and ceased operations too many times in such a short time. While it was a good (albeit crazy loud) product, from a consumer standpoint it just doesn’t make sense. Plus, technically speaking the Wattbox isn’t up to par with many other solutions on other trainers today.

CycleOps PowerBeam Pro & PowerSync: While technically a very capable trainer, it lacks the ability to do dual ANT+/BLE. For that singular reason, it doesn’t make the list. Otherwise, it probably would. In such a shifting landscape of apps, you don’t want to be locked in on one protocol or the other. I’m only recommending purchasing trainers that are dual-capable.  Plus, with the CycleOps Hammer and Magnus replacing these – I wouldn’t pick up the older single-protocol trainers for any more than about $400 (the current $499 sale is still a bit too high for me).

BKOOL Trainers: These are very capable, and their $479 price point is really solid for the Smart Go (and their Pro at $699 with a fairly solid 20% incline rating is *very* impressive).  But when I compare them to the other four brands at the same price point, the BKOOL Trainers are missing one specific thing: Power broadcasting using open ANT+/BLE.  They do however use ANT+ FE-C, which means you’ll get it easily using desktop apps.  But unless you have an Edge 520/820/1000, you won’t get it on your Garmin head unit.  And thus for that tiny reason, I have to separate it from the other four.  If they were to enable that, then I’d have no issues lumping it in with those other options.  Or if you don’t care about that and want inclines, then go forth!

Tacx Genius Smart: This trainer is different from the other Tacx units in that it can actually spin the wheel by itself, thus simulating downhill sections.  While fun for a ride or two, I don’t find it worth the extra money.  Like anything else, if you find it for what you consider a great deal, then sure there’s no harm in the extra capability…but for MSRP pricing, no thanks.

Tacx Bushido Smart: While it has more incline simulation capability (15% vs Vortex Smart at 7%), that really only impacts you if you’re doing hills above that. It’s about the slow speed, and not actually the total wattage output.  Further, if you’re really set on spending that money, then the KICKR SNAP is $699 currently.  But it gives you slightly better app compatibility and a much beefier frame. The SNAP also gets you up to 10.3% incline, so not as much as the Bushido, but covers it for most hills. There are other nuances, but that’s the gist of things.

Kurt Kinetic Smart Control Trainers: Really? I thought they had the right idea this year with offering the upgrade kits for *any* older trainers.  While the upgrade kits were a bit overpriced (by about $100-$150), the theory was sound.  Well, until we found out that it doesn’t follow any standard (ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart ones), and as of this writing is only compatible with a single 3rd party app, and only on the desktop version of that app.  If you want the longer story, read my post here and then read through the 200 or so comments.

Trainer FAQ:

Most of this is from years past, 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 long 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 – some 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 actually buy expensive trainer tires.  Hint: Just use last season’s tire and toss it at the end of the winter.

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

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.

What about that desk you use on the trainer?

Ahh yes, that desk is awesome.  More on that here in my in-depth review.

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

Sometimes.  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, sweat proof) and offers some padding to lower sound profiles, that’s really the key thing.

What’s the quietest trainer?

Technically, it’s the Stac Zero.  But for resistance controlled it’d be the Tacx NEO, though the new Wahoo KICKR2 and Elite Drivo are both very quiet as well.

What about generic rollers, any thoughts?

I don’t have a ton of experience on rollers unfortunately.

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 one thing I do like about the Inside Ride unit is that the bumpers make it a bit easier to get used to riding rollers versus units without that, plus they support the ANT+ FE-C.  So if I had to pick a pair of rollers, I’d go that direction.

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.  That said, Tacx just released a cool one that actually has a cell-phone holder built in (with a protective plastic cover).  Kinda neat.

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.  Pick up 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 se, but just to handle differences in the different trainer heights.  It’s $26.  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.

Support the site, and even save 10%!

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 DCR10BTF and you’ll also get free US shipping for all items over $75.  For the Wahoo products, you’ll need the DCR/CT VIP club, but that only takes a moment to sign-up.

‘2016-2017 Trainer Recommendations’ compatiblePrice for trainerAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated October 17th, 2016 @ 7:14 am
Wahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)$1,199LinkLinkLink
CycleOps Magnus$599LinkLinkLink
Elite Rampa$649/€550/£449LinkLinkLink
Elite Drivo$1,299/€1,390/£1,099LinkLinkLink
Tacx NEO Smart$1,599USD/1,399EURLinkLinkLink
Wahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP$599N/ALinkLink
Tacx Satori Smart$399LinkLinkLink
Tacx Vortex Smart$529LinkLinkLink

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

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467 Comments

  1. Drew

    I have a ‘dumb’ fluid trainer. I would love to know how much better the Stac Zero weights would make my trainer experience.

    • At this point, it would do two things:

      A) Make it silent
      B) Broadcast your power/speed (assuming you bought the higher end model)

    • On their website Bkool says that the Bkool Smart Pro links both
      – ANT+ wireless
      – Bluetooth Smart

      In your article above you wrote that it doesn’t have the Bluetooth Smart connection.
      Can you please explain this to me?

    • Nick

      Regarding the Stac Zero and the smart trainer market that is quickly becoming competitive: I’d really like to see the Stac Zero electro magnetic technology applied to a solid steel flywheel on a direct mount trainer that a) does not have whiny, noisy belts and b) does not attempt to measure power.

      Many of us already have powermeters. I’d like for this trainer to allow my phone and my garmin to communicate between my powermeter and the trainer. I want direct mount because these are more stable than the stand-style trainers and I don’t want to add weights to my wheel. The only advantage to the current Stac Zero design for what I’m proposing is I could use my Powertaps…. but those are on carbon rims, so that’s a no-go for me, personally, and again: I like direct mount trainers.

      By the trainer simply reading my powermeter and adjusting magnetic resistance/braking to the heavy flywheel, the trainer could be in the $500 range.

      If using a crank or pedal based powermeter, my Garmin or phone should know where I am in my pedal stroke, which could mean the electronic braking easing up between 11 and 1 o’ clock in my pedal stroke when in ERG mode – that would drastically improve erg mode so that it is more realistic. Last, allow for some side to side rocking, and then you have what I think would be an industry disruptor. (sure, it wouldn’t shake and vibrate like the Neo, but do you want a trainer or a sybian?)

    • “solid steel flywheel on a direct mount trainer that a) does not have whiny, noisy belts and b) does not attempt to measure power”
      You just described Velotron. Now ask yourself why the prices is well north of 500 😉

      Your idea about using pedal based power meter for easing resistance at this stage is a pipe dream due to packet loss, latency, the way eddy current brake reacts to force/current change etc. etc.

    • Nick

      Criticism is fun, but it isn’t the same thing a critical thought… or just careful reading for that matter: the idea I presented is not really a Velotron – last time I checked, you can’t control the resistance on a Velotron with your own crank/pedal based powermeter and the velotron has a built in bike.

      As for the “pipe dream”, there are people reporting that they are using their crank based powermeters to control the Neo’s… so if that’s possible, why have the onboard powermeter in the Neo?

    • Velotron does what you say. Software function to adjust it accordingly to power meter can always be added. Problem/pipe dream (sorry did not mean to be rude) is using it in real time to control in between pedal stroke as I think you imply. Neo does not do in between pedal stroke adjustment to power meter either.

    • Nick

      So yes, a velotron that has the built in ability to be paired with your own powermeter and for which you use your own bike, and which is $500.

      yes, the between pedal stroke – that is definitely a pipe dream! but something that maybe the Neo could tackle if there were demand.

    • Stuart

      The key question here is, what drives the resistance on the trainer? Is it the virtual incline (as with, say, Zwift)? Is it the workout? (eg, doing intervals – hard/light resistance). Is it a desired power output level?

      The ANT+ FE-C protocol has as one of its parameters the ability to set a desired power output. That means that the trainer has to have some way of measuring your power, in order to be able to adjust its resistance to increase or decrease your power. If it doesn’t have its own built-in power meter, that means you have to be able to sync the trainer with your power meter.

      It’s possible in principle, in other words, but I suspect it’s significantly easier from a design point of view to simply build in a power meter and read directly from that. Especially since needing to buy a ~$1000 power meter to be able to use the equipment to full advantage effectively would mean you’re limiting your market to those who already have a power meter, which is – pretty much by definition – a smaller market than the entire market for a bike trainer.

      Then, too, if the power meter you’re talking to only supports BLE (admittedly rare today, but it may become more common into the future), it can connect to only one other device at a time, which means you need to re-transmit the power data, and make sure the user turns the trainer on before turning on the head unit (whatever it may be)… from a simple user friendliness point of view, the built-in power meter just seems to me to be a no-brainer.

    • Nick

      the thought is to have your computer (phone, garmin) reading your powermeter and that communicating with the trainer, so basically the same as the current crop of smart trainers, just not having the PM on board. Again, folks are claiming they are doing this with the Neo, bypassing the built in powermeter and using their own

  2. Al

    Since I use my quarq for power metrics when connected to trainer road, which direct drive (remove rear wheel) would you recommend? Road feel is probably most important feature for me (I had the Lemond Rev).

    Thx,

    Al

    • If road feel is what you’re after, I’d look at those in the ‘High-end category’.

      You could look at the Kura, but with that you can’t do trainer control by TrainerRoad (which may or may not matter to you).

  3. Giovanni

    Hi Ray,
    thanks a lot for all the terrific work and all the help that you give us to choose a product..
    Just a quick note: I found out that the Elite Rampa is more around 410-450 € in European online shops (german, but shipping all around Europe)

    • Arnold

      Would you have some links to those shops that you could share ?

    • Giovanni

      Hi, as this isn’t my site, but it’s Ray’s I don’t know if I can put in any direct link. But I simply made a search with google shopping, and I get 5 or 6 different results.

    • Arnold

      Tried that already but cannot find it any cheaper than 428€ incl. shipping :(

    • Yeah, I was only putting list in there (the fact that the Elite ones had Euro/Pound list is somewhat a hold-over from my Elite Rampa/Kura/Drivo announcement post earlier this year where I added all of them).

      As noted in the post, it’s virtually impossible to track European pricing with any accuracy. Some retailers will simply take a loss on a given product, in hopes that you’ll purchase other products with higher margin down the road.

  4. Kai

    Thanks for the round-up Ray, always enjoy a good long read.

    Quick comments:
    -IMO the non-need to warm up and calibrate the Neo/Drivo vs Kickr is notable and might be worth the price of entry for some, although it doesn’t bother me much on my nu-Kickr since I only do it once every few weeks or when I remember to.
    -I used to use a trainer tire because it doesn’t shed little black bits of rubber tread all over the floor. That, and I had a spare cheap alloy wheel to leave on the trainer, made it make sense to use one.
    -My TACX bike-bra doesn’t fit an iPhone6 with case…YMMV
    -Do you know if the Flux will use strain-gauges or brake-resistance or some other instrument for power measurement?

    Looking forward to your apps round-up next!

    • I switched to a trainer tire on my Bushido and the biggest difference I have is when going up gradients steeper than 11% the trainer tire is much less likely to slip than old road tires were. It may have just been the kind of road tire I was using, but now in Zwift I rarely get slippage in Richmond anymore where the gradient can jump from 3% to 15% on a curve which almost always caused that with road tires.

  5. And

    How about a used Kickr Mark 1? Is it worth to go to Kickr 2 ?

    Thank you

  6. Happy Runner

    I don’t protect my trainer bike from sweat either (too lazy) and I have the corroded headset bolts to prove it!

  7. Hi, I think the link to get the Tacx Vortex Smart from Clever Training Europe is not working.

    • Odd. I just re-created it. Hopefully it works. Thanks!

    • Armando

      Hi Ray,

      I just called Clever Training customer service and they said that they don’t ship trainers outside the US, unfortunately. No luck for us Canadians looking to take advantage of your offer and get through the long winter.

    • Yeah, from CT-US they’re semi-limited on trainers, though CT-UK can ship within the vast majority of European countries for free.

      Most other things CT-US can ship overseas/anywhere though.

  8. Arnold

    Hi Ray !

    I wanted to go for a Vortex but after a lot of posts on the Internet regarding the problems they have with the brakes I wonder if you also noticed that or are aware of this issue ?

    yours

    Arnold

    • I’ve seen some comments elsewhere, but only a couple here. Part of the problem too is that you get cases where folks mix-up Vortex vs Vortex Smart – so it’s harder to differentiate.

    • André Lemos

      I got this problem with my Vortex Smart (and a couple of my friends too). Tacx were fast to send a replacement part though (and they did not ask for the broken part back or anything), and it has been working smoothly.

      It’s pretty easy to identify the issue. Here’s the video I’ve sent to Tacx: link to youtube.com (sorry for the portrait mode)

    • giorgitd

      ooohhhh…that’s ugly. I have the same model since 12/15 and am hoping that I *never* hear that…

  9. TonyF1

    Unless you are super light and only ride flattish routes the Vortex just doesn’t cut it in the slope simulation stakes.

    I weigh 90kg and anything over 3% and it goes into virtual speed. Swapped out for a Bushido and massive massive improvement. Check the graph on Tacx site linked via the motor brake for the power curves. Advertising Vortex as 7% slope is totally misleading.

    • Hakon H

      I’m around 100kg and have been riding the Vortex Smart on Zwift for close to a year. I haven’t tried the Neo or Kickr but I have tried the Bushido. Frankly, the virtual flywheel on the Bushido was nice on paper but felt like riding in sand in real life. I prefer the feel of the Vortex even if you effectively have to go into a higher gear to get the wheel spinning fast enough to get the resistance on the hills. I assume this is what you mean by virtual speed? I can’t say it bothers me but it’s not to say I wouldn’t like feeling the 15% grade going 13km/h in 1st gear and grinding it out :) That calls for a pretty impressive flywheel if it is to feel realistic though.

      As far as misleading advertising goes, I agree. They claim the 7% slope for a 75kg rider going 20km/h but on their site the graph leaves the operation zone for a 3% grade at around 36km/h and never intersects the 7% line.

    • Haydn

      Thanks for the great write-up as always Ray. Reassured that the soft-choice I’d made on a Vortex is still quite sensible, if there were more deals on the Vortex (actually went up in price by €100 earlier in the year, you could get them at €250!) then I’d not still be sitting on the fence!

      Interested if you could expand on this Tony, I’m almost set on the Vortex Smart (as a KKRM replacement), it’s only the 7% which is making me choose it over the ~+£90 more expensive KICKR Snap.

      If the slope is less than 5% (@~20mph) then I’ll go the Snap route, as some hill/high-power & low-cadence work is one of the things I wish to work on. I won’t be pushing out much more than 450W (currently) for any extended (2-3min+) periods. But that should change!

    • Ypuh

      Mind you, the i-Vortex graph on the Tacx website is not the same as the Tacx Vortex Smart.

      Based on the previous recommendations (and reading loads and loads more user reviews/recommendations/forums) I bought the Vortex Smart.

      Pricing of the Vortex in Euro went up quite a bit this year but I managed to buy one from a local retailer (€315) which is good for warranty and also the lowest I could find anywhere else. Since I live in The Netherlands I preferred to buy a Tacx over a Wahoo Kickr Snap (€650) or Bkool/Elite for warranty and support our locals (in Holland we call all indoor trainers Tacx no matter which brand and indoor training is ‘Tacxing’). I also thought about the Bushido (€480) but couldn’t justify spending 50% or €165,- more just for the higher resistance which apparently also causes more breakdowns.

      I weigh around 82 kg and my FTP according to Zwift is 350’ish and I can tell you, anything over 450w for a couple of minutes or longer kicks my butt more than anything out on the road. I’m mainly interested in a good work-out and not so much in a realistic simulation of the Mount Ventoux. To me climbing a digital mounting is fun once or twice before getting back to business as usual which means work-outs, multiplayer rides or races. The Vortex Smart is more than up to that job

      Ps. I’ve never tried another trainer, this is just my experience as a recent owner of the Vortex.

    • TonyF1

      Hakon, worth a read of the getting started section of Zwift to how virtual speed works based on wattage.

      I ride mainly mountain bikes so am looking at short very steep climbs so training is focused on 10%+ short and hard efforts. The realism with the Bushido is my virtual and actual speed based on current gear and cadence is the same, on the Vortex I have to change down or increase cadence to maintain speed.

      Agree on the flywheel comments but reality for the climbing I do is if you stop pedalling you stop.

      If you riding longer rides with lower slopes (5%) Vortex is fine and I thought it was really realistic. It was when the slope went hard it just didn’t feel real for my weight hence the swap out to the Bushido that works for both scenarios.

  10. David E.

    Awesome, as usual, Ray. I own a first generation Kickr. Two questions:

    1) In your conversation with Chip at Eurobike, there was mention of updated firmware to deal with the power disparity issue on first generation Kickrs. Anything new on that? I continue to use Powermatch on TrainerRoad with success, but I live in fear of waking up one day and it no longer working (and I kind of hate having to use my ANT+ dongle on every trainer ride to hook up my Quarq PM with the Kickr to use PowerMatch).

    2) Is there any reason to consider upgrading from Kickr 1 to Kickr 2 (or potentially the Tacx or Elite)? Presumably, I could sell my used Kickr 1 to offset the cost of upgrading a bit.

    Thanks!

  11. Robert Brighton

    Great information, reviews and personal options, very much appreciated – much better than the simplistic info that most of the “professional” bike mags provide….

    However, a couple of issues with your recommendations of the Tacx Neo:

    1) Support for Thru axle appears to require the purchase of an additional adapter (approx £45) where the Drivo for example provides includes comprehensive support.
    2) The Neo frame does not support the use of medium or long cage rear derailleurs without “additional washers”?? – see “Why is noone mentioning this?! – 04 Oct ” customer review on wiggle site.

    Would be good to track these and similar issues on your comparison charts.

    Also, would be good to have more information on the manufacturer supplied VR and similar software and feature support for the leading training and VR apps.

    Thanks again
    BB

    • When it comes to thru-axle, the challenge there is every trainer is different, and depends on teh different standards. So trying to capture them all is almost impossible. Not to mention they constantly change. For example Bkool added options just a few weeks ago they didn’t have either.

      For the NEO, it’s because there’s thousands of bike frames, and tracking them all would be impossible. Tacx does actually offer a print-out though you can do to figure out if you’re specific bike matches. I think that’s sorta the last-mile in terms of research. With frames and configurations so different, it’s just really hard otherwise.

      My goal isn’t to try and nail every single edge case here for every bike on earth. It’s to get folks reasonable close to finish that last-mile type of research to see if it fits.

  12. Nir

    Peripherally related, but having purchased a Tacx Neo last year, I was struggling to find “nice” software to create workouts. I wasn’t happy with all the graphical tools out there, and found hand coding ERG files a pain. I ended up hacking together a domain specific language to describe workouts, and a small tool which would allow me to convert from this language to an ERG file.

    While I created the software to scratch my particular itch, I think it might be useful for others, it’s available for all at link to jhudsy.org

  13. Peter

    Ray,

    Thanks for your detailed smart trainer recommendations guide.

    I have a more specific/personal question:

    I have the option of buying a second hand Vortex Smart t2180 or second hand Bushido Smart t2780.
    Both are in very good condition but don’t know if the Bushido is worth the price difference.

    – Vortex Smart @ 200 euro
    – Bushido Smart @ 375 euro

    Thx for your thoughts.

    Rgds,
    Peter

    • Ypuh

      Pretty much same price difference as new (€318 vs. €378). I can’t tell you if it’s worth the price difference because I went with the Vortex. It’s my first trainer and I would like to find out if indoor training suits me (so far, so good). Currently I’m happy with my Vortex, but if I ever decide to upgrade I’ll make the jump to a direct drive (Tacx Flux).

      €200 is a good deal for the Vortex, €375 for a Bushido is a bit much I’d say. Remember, they might break and 2nd hand probably means no warranty. I’d say €200 is an excellent price to get started.

      To compare the machines, probably the only thing that sets them apart is the resistance (lack of DC cable is useless since you need power for your laptop/fan anyway), the inertia is a load of bull, the frame is exactly the same so it all comes down to more resistance. 450w (half of what the Vortex can do) will allready kick your butt in workout mode, so that only leaves the climb simulations. If you want to climb Alp du’huez once a week as realistic as possible, choose the bushido. If you want to ride around, get a good workout, get some exercise in, the Vortex will be more than enough. The Bushido probably still won’t satisfy all your needs and keep you wanting for more (Neo/Kickr).

    • Peter B

      I ended up buying a Bushido before this review came out. Read lst years one and the Bushido was mentioned but was not worth the extra pricetag then accodring to DC.
      But i found a new Bushido on sale for 378€ and thats definitely a good price i think.
      It smy first trainer so i havent tried others, but according to members of the Zwift community the experience when riding wiht zwift is more fun with a bushiod than the Vortex

  14. Doug

    Excellent article Ray. Thank you :)

  15. Cristovao Morgado

    Just one BIG question how about trainers such as Real E-motion B+ …. it’a a roller…. some say it helps your pedaling technic and so on….

  16. Steve M

    Ray – great article but surprised you didn’t mention the Tacx Flow Smart – at just £199, it’s the best value trainer in the Tacx range. Unlike the Satori, it’s fully controllable so makes it the perfect budget option for Zwift or similar apps.

    • Alex

      I agree, looking at it myself, but it is only available from a couple of shops (and I think only in Europe) so perhaps it’s just not a valid opinion for many people.

    • Mark Hewitt

      This is also the question I’d like to pose to Ray. It seems that the Tacx Flow is the best value smart trainer out there. Do you not mention it because of it’s limited availability? It’s only available in Europe AFAIK.

    • Paweł Koniarski

      It’s only available in Decathlons as far as I know. There are not many reviews available online but the general theme is that it’s of pretty bad quality.

    • Victor

      It’s also available at Halfords in the UK. Seriously, for £200 how bad can it be? The specs are not super but definitely good for the money

    • Alberto G

      I purchased the Tacx Flow Smart trainer from Halfords (UK) at the beginning of the year (Feb 2016). As Halfords had a special on at the time, I ended up paying only £189 for mine.

      The quality is more than acceptable for the price. However, I did have bearing noise problems after a few hours of use. I had to return mine 3 times (given a different one every time in return), but because I really enjoyed it so much, I remained hopeful that I would find a good one. I even considered replacing the bearings myself, even though the unit was new, that’s how excited I was about the unit versus cost.

      After returning it for the third time to the same branch, it became clear that there was a problem with the batch delivered to that branch. My local branch of Halfords then suggested I get one from another branch, which would most likely be from a different batch. Although I was keen on the Vortex at the time, I couldn’t justify paying twice as much as the Flow cost. So I persevered and went and got one from another branch.

      Excellent decision on my part. I have had no problems whatsoever to date. It works extremely well with Zwift, and in my case, it helped me to increase my FTP by 50 watts in six weeks of training with Zwift, during an illness come back training program.

      I posted a comprehensive review which Halfords refused to accept, even though I sang their praises for excellent customer service.

      In my opinion, if you’re looking for a value for money no nonsense smart FE-C trainer, and you’re quite happy with its 750 watt max resistance, then I have no hesitation in recommending the Tacx Flow Smart trainer.

      The Flow was only originally available through Decathlon in Europe, but now it can also be purchased through the Halfords group in the UK. Perhaps because it is still fairly new, Tacx have opted for a localized distribution to better support any initial manufacturing problems in the mean while. Just a guess though.

  17. Lars

    Hi Ray!
    My 2 cents to the Tacx Bushido Smart over the Kickr Snap: it needs no power cable. :-)
    (but I admit, that I never used it outside or on travel, so maybe that’s a poor argument…)

    • Ypuh

      I need power for my laptop/fan and I got a stationary set-up anyway. Also, you need to pedal before you can connect, so not having constant power is more of a downside. The DC isn’t really a unique selling point in my humble opinion.

      In Europe you can get the Bushido for €478 and Snap for around €650 so that would be the deciding factor (I’d probably go with the Snap since the Bushido is prone to failure). On the other hand, I live in The Netherlands (home of Tacx) so not really worry about hardware issues.

  18. tom

    i would like to buy a trainer where I can use the indoor test results(ftp-test) outdoor on my powermeter equipped bike…
    witch one do you recommend?

    • H M

      Unless your PM is a powertap hub, just use the average from your indoor FTP test as measured by your cranks/pedals/chainring/etc. PM.

      However, if you want to use your indoor FTP outdoors…
      1. use a big fan
      2. ride your FTP test in your racing postion (in my experience extreme aero positions can cost abt 15-20 W of FTP however given that you go so much faster (at least 50W better than drops) its worth the lost power.

  19. Patrick

    Ray,

    Between the new KickR and the Drivo. How do they compare in erg mode in how fast it switches during sprint intervals in Trainer Road? In terms of how quick it applies the resistance?

    In my current trainer the Tacx Bushido Smart the timing never is right. It either applies to resistance WAYY to early before say a 10-20 sec interval or even more so way to late (some times it will apply the resistance 5 or more seconds into the interval). If your only doing a short interval like that that timing screws everything up.

  20. Doogie

    Ray,

    As always a great wrap up/review. Even better for us Scorpios…time to add to my Birthday list.

  21. Adam J

    Thanks once again for all your input here Ray.

    I think you’re right in that you’ve probably covered almost all the aspects of a normal review for the NEO within other reviews over time (and combined with the first look). The one aspect which I think may be missing (and can be incorporated into upcoming reviews I suspect) is the noise comparison one – in particular versus the Kickr2/Drivo (both of which are similar). I think it’s clear that the Neo is quieter, but just how much?

    And of course, subject to your usual noise recording caveats :)

  22. Dan H.

    Thanks Ray. Amazing commentary as always. Once a rider makes the plunge into ANT+ FE-C, is there a platform you prefer, for any reason? I know you reviewed Zwift a couple months ago; have you had any experience comparing them to Virtual Training or others of which I am not aware?

  23. Fabio M

    Thank a lot Ray.

    obviously i’ve some question about the high end trainers (i perform 95% of my training indoor even when i train for ironman races so it’s a very important gadget for me).

    I ve a lemond revolution and i’ve no problem with its noise so it doesn’t matter if my trainer is silent.

    i’m not used to calibration so i’d prefer something that work out of the box with minimun attention required to accurancy because i don’t own a real power meter on the bike, only the one of the trainer. so something simple to maintain

    My goal is to use it to simulate famous ironman bike courses because i live in a really flat zone so i can only simulate climbs.

  24. Stuart

    Regarding the Stac Zero, and “I suspect if they can pull that off, it’ll be a huge disrupter in the mid-range trainer market.” – I have absolutely no doubt that they can pull it off. It’s a very obvious and straightforward path (conceptually speaking) from basic permanent magnets to electromagnets, with electronics to control the current through the magnet (and hence the magnetic flux the electromagnet puts out, and hence the eddy currents, and hence the resistance.)

    The hard part, of course, will be figuring out the relationship between that current and the pedal resistance, and writing the firmware so that the increase in resistance reflects the expectation of the software controlling the trainer. Conceptually easy; the devil’s in the details. And the million dollar question, of course, will be how much the upgrade from the basic trainer will cost. There might also be implications for the power meter they’re using, depending on its design.

    So.. uh, yeah. The basic idea is simple enough. The time it’ll take to implement it, work out the kinks, design an upgrade package, etc. – that’s the bit I’m not prepared to estimate, because I have no basis for such an estimation. But I’m certain they’ll get there – whether that way, or some other way, remains to be seen.

  25. Aldo

    First of all, thanks for all the effort.

    Now the questions 😉

    I am coming from a KK Road Machine and I am down to 2 options: Elite Rampa and the KK Smart Control (due to a number of reasons, including proper support, which the rest doesn’t have here).

    1) How is the road feel sensation of the Rampa, compared to KK Road Machine? Both have similar flywheels (in size), but since one is magnetic and the other is fluid, and I do enjoy it a lot the feeling of the fluid machine, I have a slight fear that the Rampa is not the same in that category.

    2) Will you do an in depth review of the Rampa at this stage? There are zero reviews of this unit so far around the web, so although you are recommending, I would like to know a little more of the unit.

    3) I know you don’t like the KK Smart Unit, but besides the connection problem, or should I say debacle, the unit itself works as good as the “dumb” fluid version or it has any difference to the old unit? (by the way, the smart unit is magnetic or fluid? No one explained that yet)

    Thanks for the help.

  26. Hugo

    I have the opportunity to buy a used Wahoo Kickr 2015 (old version) that I know the owner and has served only a couple of hours for approx 800$ US. Is it worth it or should I save more to get the new Kickr2 ? Will the upgrades on the new Kickr justify those 400$ + tx ? Thanks

  27. Chris Ives

    DC thank you as always for the amazing time and effort you put into your reviews! This overview is already my go-to link for everyone on the Zwift pages for trainer recommendations… Glad to see the Neo is top of the pile :)

  28. Jacques

    Hi Ray,

    I am down to either the NEO or the Kicker and the only thing keeping me from buying the NEO right away is that I seem to recall a comment saying that the Cervelo P3 didn’t fit version 1 of the NEO, but I cannot find iwho made that comment again…

    Since you have a P3 as well, have you tried hooking it up to the version 1 or 2 of the NEO ?

    As always, your insight would be super useful…

    Many thanks in advance !!

  29. Alejandro

    Hi Ray,

    thanks for the guide!

    I’m thinking about a smart trainer for Zwift use mainly. In Europe the price range of the Rampa, Bkool and Bushido are about the same (from 420€ to 475€). Considering this, the decisive point would be how loud they are and the Bluetooth compatibility and Power estimation. So I have one question per topic:

    – I know that the old Elite models like the Qube were having some power estimation problems, do yo know if this has been improved in the Rampa?
    – Bkool is sayin in their website that they support ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, but I don’t know if that means that I will be able to connect the unit directy to my PC via Bluetooth or not (cause for example you mention that they don’t transmit in bluetooth).
    – Last but not least, any personal experience about the noise level with these 3? (bkool is the only one giving a noise value with 75dB at 30kmph)

    Thanks in advance!

  30. Chris

    Ray, I understand the Neo is near silent, but what about vibrations (i.e. using it on the second floor of an apartment living situation). All wheel-driven trainers, even expensive ones i’ve used, cause enough vibration to shake the building. I would think direct drive, by eliminating so many large and potentially not trued moving round parts, would solve this issue.

    Thoughts?

    • Jeff

      I am also curious about this. I have my trainer on the second floor. I currently have a Tacx Vortex and it resonates through the house.

    • David

      I presently use a neo on a wooden floor in a shed (hollow underneath), rife for vibrations but not noticed any.

  31. Michael

    I’m also adding to the line for ELITE RAMPA review. The main thing for me to know is the power accuracy with factory setting and if it can be calibrated – and how? Because I just cant find something about its calibration process. For example if it can be calibrated with Garmin Edge 520 via ANT? TO be honest I just got the Elite Rampa today and it is still in the box and I still dont know if it will work fine or not:-/

  32. Michael Fiola

    Thank you Ray. Why is temperature compensation not applicable to the accuracy of the Drivo or Neo Smart?

    • David

      The neo doesn’t use belts it anything that can warm up and affect the resistance.

      Kickr did and was horribly inaccurate and drifted unpredictably. Returned that.

    • tri-james

      From the Drivo review:
      The unit doesn’t use strain gauges, thus there’s no need for temperature compensation. Instead, they measure a time delay between two sets of teeth within the sensor. By measuring this time delay they can determine the exact amount of torque being applied to the sensor

      link to dcrainmaker.com

  33. Jeff

    Awesome! been waiting for this all summer! :)

    I am ready to upgrade to a direct drive… would you recommend waiting for Black Friday deals or do you expect prices to stay pretty much the same?

    • I suspect we’ll see some minor deals this year, but nothing earth shattering.

      We don’t tend to see too much on trainers at Black Friday, and virtually never the new stuff. Just the 1yr+ stuff.

      The logic kinda holds though: There’s no reason to discount things that are already in high demand and they know you’re going to buy anyway. Sometimes you do see deals where they’ll toss in some extra for free (like a cadence sensor, etc…).

  34. Duncan Martin

    Thanks for the above, it’s really comprehensive and interestingly written too.
    Have you tried a WattBike, and if so, how does the WattBike compare to the elite models you list above? I know they are more expensive, but my local gym has them, and they seem kinda cool – I’m debating whether to renew my membership and spend time on the Wattbike or just get a cheap trainer.
    Thanks
    Duncan

    • As a general philosophy, I don’t like training on something that you’re not racing with. Meaning, the fit is different, no matter how close people try and get them.

      Hence why I don’t include them. Sorry!

    • Duane

      Wattbike probably falls into a different category along with the Stages trainer and the Cyclops Pro that are whole trainer+bike setups. My understanding is that the Wattbike is highly appreciated by people who do sprint training because it is quite stable on the floor and its measurement is good for peak power efforts. This is probably a hard trainer market to review as the shipping cost on these things is really high and international distribution seems limited on them.

    • Tim Grose

      Wattbike has a practical element at my gym in that you can pair it to your Garmin to get your power, cadence, speed/distance stats and even do a Zwift session on it and of course it is just “there”. It’s more of a road bike position but short of riding your own bike on your own trainer, it’s a decent substitute for that and reasonably widely available now in UK gyms I think. Being a lanky so and so have even bought my own extended seat post and saddle and got some SPD shoes as the standard pedals can either used in “trainers” with SPD shoes. So perhaps it is quite “there” for me :) That said the LCD is rather outdated and could with FE-C type remote trainer control to vary your resistance rather than you having to change this manually.

  35. D_0

    Would love a Stac Zero but I don’t think I can wait until January for one. Will probably end up with one of the mid-rangers, whichever I can get the best deal on. Right now that’s looking like a BKool Smart Go (have a 520) on a Nashbar sale. However I will keep my eyes open for sales or used options. Thanks for the write-up!

  36. Greg

    I really like your site and appreciate all the product reviews. I recently bought a Vortex Smart, and so far am really happy but curious about your comment “all of these will require calibration about 10-15 minutes into a ride to ensure accurate numbers.” I do a spin down calibration whenever I put the bike back on the trainer (swap between inside/outside alot) but do I really have to start a ride, and stop to calibrate to have good numbers every time? How much accuracy are we talking about. I’m primarily using the trainer with Zwift and particularly if I’m scrambling to get up for a 6AM ride that seems kind of impractical.

    • In theory, if your press-on resistance hasn’t changed, and your PSI is exactly the same, and it’s the same temperature…then no.

      But if any of those things is different, then it can indeed make quite a bit of difference. That said, I’d still baseline 10-15 mins in at some point, even if you use that baseline for future rides.

  37. Don B.

    I’ve become interested in wattage accuracy partly because I assume higher accuracy also implies higher consistency. Currently I have a powerbeam pro where it seemed to get 20-30watts harder after a calibration spin down which I’ve done before without noticing a difference. One explanation would be temperature related. (From winter to summer my basement goes from low 60’s to mid 70’s.)

    Question: which direction does temperature affect calibration. In other words, if I calibrate in a cold room, then warm the room/device up, does a reported 200watts, for instance, get easier or harder?

    • Michael Fiola

      I’m only guessing, but I would think that the colder it is, the less a strain gauge would flex and thus, without compensating for the difference, would register lower power.

  38. Alex B.

    What would you recommend for ease of switching between bikes? Any models in particular?

  39. Justin

    Ray, thanks. I’ve been waiting for this round-up for a few weeks before I made my final purchase decision. I tried the Clever Training link and applied the discount code to the KICKR2 and it says it’s not valid? Is this true or is something wrong?
    Thanks.

    • Phil W

      Correct. Wahoo doesn’t allow discounts. However, with the VIP, Clever Training gives you points equal to 10% toward future purchases that you can use immediately.

    • Correct. You can sign-up here, it only takes a moment: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Plus, it also supports Girls On The Run, a great girls running charity. Cheers!

    • Mac

      I’m finding myself confused as I try to make this work with a Wahoo Kickr – Does this only work with future purchases? It’s telling me that I will earn 125 points, but I don’t see a way to convert that to a discount coupon I can use for this purchase.

    • Tim

      It is for future purchases (much like being an REI member and getting a 10% dividend each year for purchases made that previous year).

  40. Tommies

    Hi Ray

    I think that the Cheapest smart trainer is TACX flow smart ANT+ FE-C compatible (T2240) à 239€ in France at Décathlon. Less expensive than vortex and you Can use a smartphone control. It’s a special edition. I bought it tdi weeks ago to use with Zwift. Zwift controle the resistance and it’s great

  41. dbon

    Great round-up. I just picked up a Neo (replacing a Vortex). The Vortex had issues, it got obnoxiously loud and the status lights were always flashing red/green. Given the massive price tag on the Neo, here’s hoping that the quality/durability is much better…time will tell.

    As an aside, DCR is an example of consumer advocacy at its finest. Ray’s reviews and recommendations are literally shaping the market for the benefit of consumers, while simultaneously keeping us thoroughly educated/entertained. It’s a beautiful thing. On the other hand, Ray can make or break a company with just a few words (e.g. avoid trainers without the ability to do dual ANT+/BLE). With great power comes great responsibility! In Ray we trust…

  42. Bertram

    I didn’t use a bike cover for indoor rides, but this spring (after logging more km then usual during winter), I noticed that my rear brake cable had corroded quite a bit. This is on an older bike, which has the cable running outside the frame, without a sleeve, along the top tube. There was actually a layer of rust at the point where the cable came out of the sleeve that leads to the shifters – not safe to ride anymore. Now I ride with a towel over the top tube.

  43. Mike

    I have been trying to decide among the Kickr2, NEO and Drivo and just bought the Kickr2. I don’t know whether it is the “best” trainer in terms of performance, but from your reviews and comments of others I assume the Kickr is close. But the deciding factor for me wasn’t “performance” but rather support and customer service. I live in the U.S. and I can reach Wahoo by phone, online chat or email. I have called and chatted with several questions and got prompt responses. With Tacx and Elite I think I have to deal with Europe and limited to email. I “tested the waters” with both by sending emails. I received a response from Taxc within 24 hours. Emails to Elite have been an issue. Maybe for those living in Europe the distinction among the manufacturers isn’t as great as dealing with a U.S. company by a customer within the U.S. I’m not very “teckie” and the ability to call someone and walk through an issue means a lot. Thanks for all the work you do.

    • If support is a concern, there’s no question that for US customers working through Wahoo is much easier than Tacx/Elite.

      The reason is simple: If something goes wrong with your Tacx/Elite unit, you have to deal with the retailer/distributor. Tacx will do support troubleshooting, but not hardware replacement. Once it’s time for HW replacement, it has to go via the original retailer. Elite is largely the same.

  44. David

    The Kickr was plagued with quality issues. Useless for accuracy and drift.

    Is the Kickr2 as bad?

  45. HalvorV

    What about the Tacx Magnum??

  46. Matt v.

    Great roundup!
    I have to disagree with the assertion that the top end trainers all have the same road feel. I have a Neo and a Kickr (and others) and the Kickr definitely has a more natural feel. I do most of my trainer miles now in Zwift races and the Kickr just tends to “disappear” more. It’s not perfect, but I’ve been riding trainers for many years (anyone remember Road Machines?) and in races, my mind shuts off and the bike becomes just and extension of my body. When I’m not racing on the trainer, I tend to agree that the various trainers feel less natural, overall. It’s some kind of muscle memory-like thing or that I’m consciously thinking about the feel of the trainer more.

    Because the momentum is Neo is electronically controlled, I would presume this could be software controlled to some extent.

    Still, smart trainers are in their infancy. The next few years will be interesting.

  47. Jake Johnson

    Yep, just received my new-version NEO last week. Overheated six (6!) minutes into an easy test ride. Updated firmware, restarted, same thing. Replacement is sitting in the garage, waiting to be tested this weekend. At $1,500+, expectations are higher than 6 minutes…

  48. Roberto

    Hi
    Will the Tacx Magnum eventually be added to the comparison?
    Cheers
    Roberto

  49. Rob Crane

    Ray, Thanks for the great review as always. Can you determine any differences in resistance to sweat among these trainers? I’m I heavy sweater and have ruined my Kurt Kinetic Road Machine to the point it’s difficult to take the bike in and out and impossible to change the width to fit a different bike. I’m interested in a smart trainer but need to be sure it’s up to my level of sweat.

    • None that I’ve seen. I sweat quite a bit, and it virtually all ends up on the trainer (or my handlebars). There are some trainers that are more concerning in design to me in that area, but that’s never really proven to be an issue in real-life usage.

  50. Chris

    Ray,
    Awesome review as always! I use a Quarq. Is there a smart trainer that only controls resistance that I could use with Zwift? It would have to be automatically controlled vs manual.
    Thanks

    • mub92

      +1, although I have stages.

      (PS thanks for a great site).

    • Mub – Sorta. You could technically do power meter using the Wahoo app, and then from there configure the power source as the KICKR on Zwift. But I hear variable stuff on double-downing on that, compared to doing it natively in TrainerRoad.

      Chris – All of the ones in the mid & high range are automatically controlled and work with Zwift.

  51. Duane

    You dropped a bit of a hint about the CompuTrainer having some developer access to the wireless (well, sorta wireless if you ignore all the other wires) head unit. Is this really happening somewhere? Is RacerMate selling these wireless head units or doing anything official about this? I haven’t heard anything about this since Interbike in 2015.

    • 2015 was the last news. At 2016 Interbike I checked with them, and they’re still working on it. I wrote a tiny bit about it during my 2015 Interbike roundup post for trainers, but basically all you need to know is what I said in the second sentence. 😉

  52. Patrick

    Anyone considering the Elite Drivo, be careful. I spent a big chunk of $ to get one and it’s far from excellent. My old 7 year old Tacx Bushido was adjusting the power faster than the Drivo in Erg mode.

    • Odd, I found it responded very well. What specific software were you using to control that had issues, and can you post some data?

    • Fritz

      True, my experience with Drivo is the same – Drivo is very slow when adjusting the Trainerroad power levels, impossible to do any short intervals, like 30 second or even 1 minute intervals. Mine has firmware version 3.1 (150). Also I’m not sure if the Elite’s My E-training app does update firmware at all. At least there is no such info there.

    • Patrick

      here is the picture from Spuce Know on Trainer Road. See how power jumps around during the 2 x 30 min intervals (and I was careful to keep a steady cadence). Also, the trainer does not seem to adjust to very low power levels (see from 15 to 16 minutes in and at the end).

      ????

      I have reached out to Elite as to how to update the FE-C firmware, but not sure how I am supposed to do that

    • Looking at that image, it seems your paired to either the power meter side or another power meter, but not actually via FE-C. That reason is that on TrainerRoad, it’ll say FE-C as the paired type (see this screenshot).

      So within TR you need to go and pair via FE-C instead.

  53. Joao

    Hi.

    Im thinking about on a 400/500€ trainer.
    More importance to me will be possibility to use zwift and that must be a “silence” trainer.

    For that kind of price and a trainer with a diret drive, the model Elite Turbo muin smart+ can be a good option. In Europe at this moment we can get one about 450€. This model have all the connections for apps.

    I really wanted to know your opinion and advise about this model. After all…the TACX Flux will be on 800€ range and there is no date to be avaiable.

    Winter is coming….

    • Matt

      I just got this trainer a few days ago to replace my old mag trainer. It’s so much quieter than my old trainer. I was able to snag a deal at my local bike shop for 380€. The flux would be nice, but I can’t justify twice the cost when I only use my trainer in the winter. It is a little slow to change power and you do so with your gears, but I’m not doing many sprints on it, so not a big deal for me.

  54. giorgitd

    So here is a characteristic that I think is super important, but not discussed…the *rate* at which the resistance can change. Why is this important? Well, the specific case is an interval workout as controlled by FE-C using Trainerroad or Zwift (or, presumably, others – but I don’t use anything other than TR or Z). Especially for short intervals, I often am programmed to have an immediate change (at the start of an interval) of 200 W (let’s say). Now, if the interval is to be held for a few minutes – or even a minute – a slow v fast ramp from cruising power to the interval power may not be a big deviation, overall. But I often do 15 second or 30 second intervals and find that I ‘fail’ to complete these – but only because the trainer (Tacx Vortex Smart) can’t increase the resistance sufficiently fast to get me to the interval power before the interval period is significantly completed. As a specific example, I may be at 160 W pre-interval and then have an immediate jump to 360 W. I’ll be pedaling at a good cadence (100 rpm) and as hard as I can, but my power output increases slowly – 180 W…200 W…220 W…240 W…you get the idea…so that getting to 360 W might require 10-15 seconds. If I’m doing a 15 second interval, I get to the target power just as the interval is ending. Bleh. Is this a problem with other trainers? Are those that have greater maximum resistance (I admit that the TVS provides among the least maximum resistance of the popular FE-C trainers) also able to ramp the power changes more quickly? I’m interested to hear comments from other owners and from Ray’s POV on how to test this (and if it is worth testing)…

    • It’s tricky.

      Different apps add different smoothing levels, so it’s variably by not just trainer, but app.

      You’ll notice that all my trainer reviews since this summer I’ve been using a new ‘standardized’ test that I’m doing 30×30’s on to test rate of change. I’m doing that with a structured workout I’ve created in TrainerRoad. This allows me to see exactly how fast it changes (within the context of TR anyway).

    • giorgitd

      Yup, totally agree. IME, TR is far better at coaxing a rapid power change from my TVS than Zwift. Somehow I’ve missed your new 30×30 protocol. Is there a line in the comparison table that characterizes your observations? Ramp rate (or slew speed, or similar) as some objective measure? Even ‘fast’, ‘moderate’, ‘below average’ would be useful. Which trainers are the most effective at rapid power changes? Even thought my TVS is only 10 mos old, I might ask Santa for a new FE-C trainer that could do significantly better at this task…

    • Are you recording actual power from actual power meter using some Garmin unit during those tests? Apps/trainers are doing all kinds of interesting things when trying to set/keep power. The actual power and one reported by trainer/software combo are not necessary the same thing.

    • Chris Benten

      If you are reading your power on a watch/bike computer…make sure you do not have a 3 or 5 second smoothing activated. On Zwift I have instantaneous power while my Fenix 3 has a 3-second smoothing. The F3 always trails during power ramps up or down.

    • giorgitd

      Yup, my 920xt tracks the Zwift or TR power pretty well. It’s totally evident in the feel, too – the resistance continues to increase for many seconds after the start of the interval. And, after the workout, the increasing power recorded after the start of the interval is clear.

    • For the tests I record actual power from the power meters on the bike as well as from the trainer, all directly to head units. I don’t typically use the data from the apps (except whereas to demonstrate something specific).

    • Greg

      Just to throw it out there… I find that my Vortex Smart has a sweet spot in terms of gearing for it to be most responsive. Since the resistance is controlled, you can theoretically be in any gear and get the same power with the same cadence. It just keeps adjusting to what TR wants. But for the rate of change on intervals, I find that if I shift into a higher gear and get the bike wheel spinning a bit faster, it responds more quickly. Especially if I increase cadence a bit also.

      Here’s an image of a TR ride. It doesn’t have the big jumps you mentioned specifically, but it tracks pretty well I think.

  55. Gary

    Great review. Will you be looking at the Tacx Magnum?

    • Gary

      I know the Magnum is high priced, but I think there would be demand if you look at the cost of high end treadmills. Also if it feels closer to riding outside, I think that makes a difference.

    • Chris Benten

      I would be more interested in a Racermate Velotron if I could connect my bike to the Flywheel. Or perhaps if the included frame had infinite adjustments to perfectly match my bike.

      That said the Magnum is interesting and would be quite an experience with a 65″ monitor right there:-)

    • Fritz

      Velotron is probably the coolest trainer around but it’s really expensive and supports only Racermate software. Veloreality Lynx 2 has now ANT+FE-C and the price is also more realistic 2,795.00 €. So sad that they don’t have European distributor :(

    • I think we do now but I am not sure if the deal is finalized or not. Our CEO would know but he is on the road until Wednesday. If you ask the question using contact submission form on our web site (contact item in the menu bar) he will answer.

    • I do have a post I’m been meaning to finish about some trials of Magnum, but I don’t plan a review. Partly because while they’ve offered to send a unit down, I simply don’t have the space for it. :(

    • Hello Fritz, arrangements are being made for distributing in/from the Netherlands. Besides Veloreality you can also contact me for more information: info@reesfiets.nl

    • Oliver

      Hello Fritz, can we still help you with some information?

      Best regards, Oliver

  56. Fritz

    Hy Ray, do you ever plan to test the real high end trainers like Veloreality Lynx 2 or Racermate Velotron?

    • Not really. I just don’t see much demand for them from readers, and in the never-ending battle for time vs new products to review (of all types), I’ve unfortunately gotta draw the line somewhere.

  57. REVBOX: …Since last year they added a power sensor, though it doesn’t transmit ANT+ to your head unit….

    This is probably incorrect as they claim compatibility with our software among the other and we do not do anything beyond and above standard ANT+ and ANT FE-C with the exception of older Computrainer and KICKR protocols

  58. Rafiudeen

    Hi, Jetback trainers were not included in this shoot out any particular reason?
    Thanks

    • Chris Benten

      I went and looked JB up…appears to have a proprietary app and does not transmit ANT+ or BT Smart…go read all the comments on KK and this approach…Summary: Non-starter. Probably ok for basic trainer but not the product-type this forum interested to learn about.

    • Correct and not.

      Their new trainers slated to hopefully come out by the end of the year will be totally open/ANT+ FE-C. But that timeline seemed optimistic.

      I actually have a fair bit of photos/discussion on them I did at Eurobike (though, I haven’t written anything up there yet), and they’re looking forward to getting me a unit at end of the year once they start shipping. But it’s a good point to add into the ‘why I didn’t include it list’.

  59. Ayis

    Hello Ray! Thanks for your recommendations!

    I was thinking about getting the Tacx Satori Smart as my first trainer because of its “smart” capabilities, but doing a little google search about pairing it with an Ambit3, I’ve got people having issues with it and I’m not super clear about it.

    Do you know if it actually pairs with the specific watch? I’m interested in having an activity like “indoor cycling” where the trainer would transmit to the watch live data such as distance, power and cadence. Also, if it does so, is it possible to run the phone/tablet app and transmit data to it at the same time that the watch is paired?

    Thanks again Ray!

  60. carlo

    -Do you know if the Flux will use strain-gauges or brake-resistance or some other instrument for power measurement?
    is it the same as the old or the new kickr ?

  61. IlanH

    Hi Ray, thanks for all the goodness in this review!
    One thing I was left un answered is why would you consider Kickr and Drivo a tie while you mention a few advantages of the Drivo (precision, cadence sensor and ‘cool pedaling metrics’)? Is it because it comes with an extra price tag or because there’s some extra enjoyment with the kickr? (perhaps the variety of apps?)

    • Far more apps (mobile specifically) support the KICKR than the Drivo. Also, the KICKR does include a cassette, whereas the Drivo doesn’t.

      Note that the KICKR2 now includes the cadence sensor by default.

  62. Daniel Westow

    If your in the UK and are looking for a budget trainer I have found that the Tacx flow (T2240) from Halfords is a fantastic buy at £199 ($240) or £180 if you are a member of British cycling. It is a full smart trainer with automatic resistance, Bluetooth smart, Ant+ FE-C etc………..

    It is basically the same as the Vortex except it can only simulate a 6%, and a maximum of 800 watts.

    I have owned mine for a couple of months now and am loving it. For me if you live in the UK it makes a lot more sense than the Satori.

    link to halfords.com

  63. Garrett

    Any more info on the Bkool trainers, specifically the smart pro? I am due for a Garmin upgrade (to the 520), so if that is all that is necessary to allow the trainer to perform similar to the others and gather data effectively, than as you said, it isn’t a negative for me. The Bkool website also states that no calibration is necessary, it self adjusts. If that feature actually works, that is another huge plus.

    Am I missing any negatives that should be brought up?

    • Garrett

      Sorry to spam, I realized another question I had after reading a separate review of the Bkool. It is mentioned that its measured power can be off at lower speeds, so what if I had a 4iii? Would that be transmittable somehow to the trainer and allow it to adjust, or does it only use its own internal measurement?

  64. Bob Raikes

    Just to let you know that the link to Clever Training UK is broken!

    Thanks for the site.

  65. Matt

    Just want to say I recently got the Elite Turbo Muin B+ for 380 Euro. It’s not smart, but a great deal if you’re looking for direct drive. My old mag trainer was too loud for an apartment.

  66. Max P.

    Hi Ray,

    I use a Power2max on my tri bike.
    Given I’ll buy a trainer which includes a power, how do newer Garmin (sensor pool concept) devices handle power input of two different sources?
    Do you manually disable other powermeters than the trainer one?

    Best, Max

  67. C

    Thanks DCR – this completely solidifies my decision for a Magnus. Would love the Snap, but it’s 100USD too expensive IMO vs it’s competition. Wahoo really needs to consider this as the market is rapidly leaving them in their current price point.

    Now the question becomes do I roll the dice with approaching holiday cyber deals, or take the availability of units now at current pricing.

    • Spiro

      I’m facing the same choice. I love Cycleops products and currently have the Supermagneto Pro and agree about the $100 difference being significant. Having said that, I’m leaning towards the Snap because it’s more robust and I would think, more steady. I also like the heavier fly wheel .

  68. Fabio M

    So ray if noise and cobblestone simulation is not important for me and i don’t want to calibrate every time the trainer which one of the ‘high end’ category is the right one ?

    i’m in italy so the price of neo is near the other two and i’ll buy Neo or Drivo from a local shop that has always been kind for every issue (they have replaced all the triathlon gadget with issues i’ve bought in their shop).

    • Any of those three are great. If you use apps other than TrainerRoad/Kinomap/Zwift, you may want to double-check with those apps (mobile primarily) that they support the trainer of your choice on Bluetooth Smart.

    • Fabio M

      Thanks Ray, i’m not used to ‘trainer apps’ cause at the moment i train on a lemond revolution (now u know why noise is not a problem for me :) ).

      i’ve a coach so i only need a sw to create custom workout (something like your 30×30) and something to simulate real life courses. so in addiction to those you have mentioned i think bestbikesplt could be a good choice (their course files are often ‘verified’).

      have neo or drivo something like a ‘lemond revolution mode’ ?, it simulate flat course in short.

      i’m afraid of wasting money in the tacx only for silence and road patterns with the “Tacx quality control on the NEO production line seems to be variable” issue. maybe drivo is a safer product.

  69. Lars

    I have the Tacx Neo, and I can support the view that there are some quality control issues at Tacx. My Neo makes as much noise as my friends Kickr. So beware. Unfortunately I purchased mine from bike24.com and I am loathed to wait three weeks for them to replace it. I do not live in Germany you see. Otherwise a really great and stealthy looking trainer – just wish it also sounded stealthy :-)

  70. Paul

    Really disappointed that the Hammer has been delayed and did not make the review. Living in the US I am quite concerned about support for Elite and Tacx. From what I have read in the posts others have run into problems getting timely support for issues. I am also a bit wary of the Kickr. I have seen quite a few negative comments related to their customer support. Seems to be quite hit and miss as to whether you have a good customer experience with them. (Take a look in the Google “Wattage” group to see some rants)
    On the other hand I have had received awesome support from “Power Tap” on multiple power tap hubs and a set of P1 pedals. I am still holding out for the Hammer to be released but it is getting harder to wait especially since no one really knows at this point how good the product will be.

    • MartinR

      I am in the similar situation, albeit the opposite one. So far I’ve not been able to find a Wahoo dealer in Slovakia and my LBS (where I could get a substantial discount) sells “only” tacx and elite trainers. I guess, for Europeans it makes much more sense to get either Tacx or Elite trainer, given their proximity, support and price. It’s almost like Boeing vs Airbus, although Airbus is building a manufacturing facility in the US… Anyway, waiting for the Tacx Flux review.

  71. spiro

    Great overview as always, DC. It’s between the Kickr Snap and Magnus now for my purpose. Do you think one is more accurate then the other or are they both +/- 5% PM?

  72. Maris Berzins

    Thank you for the great and thorough research. It is very much appreciated. Two comments:

    1. Just returned a Tacx Vortex Smart, in favor of the Wahoo Kickr Snap. Data fluctuated quite a bit during steady parts of rides. The Tacx app is clunky. Tried it with TrainerRoad, which is a much better app, but their support for Tacx was weak, as they don’t use Tacx’s implementation of Bluetooth Smart. You can get better support with ANT+ FE-C, but there’s not a great option for getting ANT+ onto iOS devices with lightning plugs.

    2. I tried to order my Kickr Snap using your Clever Training discount code, but Clever Training said the code is not valid for the Kickr.

  73. 6fattie

    following

  74. Bobsmart567

    Hi. Re the max incline, if you have a kickr snap, can’t you sort of simulate a higher incline than the 10% max in a program like Zwift or Skuga by keeping the bike in a slightly higher gear than you normally would on a climb in the real world?

  75. trapper

    I’m currently riding a KK road machine with no power meter. I’ve been saving my pennies and am looking to get the 1 side power meter pedals from power tap along with a smart trainer.

    Would it be worth it to wait on the Tacx flux vs a kickr snap. I know they cost more but are the benefits of a direct drive trainer worth the extra cost?

    Thanks so much for all your reviews. You’ve saved me a ton of money!!

  76. HarryH

    Firstly, thanks Ray, your insights and knowledge are very much appreciated…

    Secondly, i am Interested to know what “maximum simulated hill incline” actually means? I’m looking at buying a mid-range trainer; tacx bushido, elite Rampa, bkool pro, or may wait for the cyclops magnus, and want to be able to ride climbs up to 15% at low speed -12-20kph low -50-60rpm. I weigh around 62kg so how do I know what trainers will be a good match for this – the numbers quoted for max slope are obviously based on some assumptions, (rider weight being one), and the max wattage numbers also don’t mean much at face value (elite Rampa max 1250watts at 25mph, but what can be sustained at lower speeds and low rpm?) – any suggestions? The information provided is fantastic… but it leads me to ask these questions and want further details… something it would be great if the manufacturers provided (I see tacx do have some low res hard to read and possibly out of date power curves, which is better than nothing, but…)

  77. Steve

    You can get a brand new computrainer cheaper than the kickr right now. $999.

    • Interesting. Though, to be honest since they hold up so well structurally my second hand pricing is still the max I’d pay ($600ish). Beyond that it just doesn’t make sense compared to today’s products on the market.

  78. Mark Hill

    I always appreciate your reviews. I have a CompuTrainer from 22 yrs ago I use with Trainerroad. The accuracy was bad because they didn’t test the power unit on the dyno back then but I’ve adjusted the potentiometer to match my powertap hub readings and modernized the firmware.

    Is there a compelling reason to switch to something like a Kickr if the old CT still works?

    • Would depend on which apps you plan to use. If you’re using TrainerRoad, and things are all happy, then honestly I’d see little reason to upgrade.

      Whereas if you wanted to start exploring more iOS/Android based apps, then going the direction of KICKR/etc would make more sense.

  79. Hugo

    I see some questions about the Tacx Magnum. I have used the “former” Tacx Magnum (called klimtrainer or climbing trainer) here in Amsterdam at the “http://cyclinglab.amsterdam”. They have 2 (see them on the left in their website).
    I have done training sessions that I specified like: 10min warmup (flat), 5min @ 5%, 3 min @ 8%. Main: 2 * 20 min @ 8% etc. Also I rode up Alpe d’Huez (I just asked the guys, give me Alpe d’ Huez and they set it up in like 2-3mins and you are good to go, and it is like the real Alpe d’Huez.
    My first time was June 25 2013 (3 years ago), last time was Jan 2016. All in all 7 times, never any big issues.
    There is a laser beam in front and 2 behind. If your front wheel crosses the beam in front the belt speeds up, if your back wheel crosses the beam behind you, belt slows down, if you cross second beam behind you, belt stops. Only issue was that the belt would move to 1 side of the system, it was easy to correct by riding a bit more on the other side of the belt.
    The feeling is great, I needed 3-4 minutes to be able to ride without holding the sidebar, then after a while it is like on the road, you can grab a bottle, shift gears like you would on the road, grab a towel from the sidebar to whipe some sweat. When you come to a hill/mountain, the front tilts up and you are climbing! Shift gears, come out of the saddle, just like on the road.
    So, since this thing has been working since 2013, I guess the Magnum is working, I don’t expect any problems. Tacx probably made it better (Ant+ FE-C, Bluetooth) and made it production ready. So if you have €8000 and a spare room, my advice is, get on.

  80. frenk

    I’m interested in the Stac Zero, but shipping to Germany (about 120CAD) is quite hight. So I’m wondering if a “Sammelbestellung” would make sense and if someone else would think so too.

  81. Kai K. (MSBIKE)

    Ray,

    I bought a Neo Smart from Clevertraining back in November 2015 and it had the grinding issue (felt like it was full of rocks). CT was great about the return. I waited a few months for production to stabilize, and bought another Neo Smart from my LBS in March. This one still had a bit of grinding feel, but it was slight and at low RPMs. The bigger issue was that power read 5-15% low (the more watts, the bigger the discrepancy). I put my 2015 Kickr back on the bike and waited for firmware updates from Tacx, but the problem was never fixed. There are multiple threads on Tacx’ web site about the power reading low and Tacx is not responding. I just put the Neo Smart back on for a week to try out the Zwift road feel and it’s still quite low (also, the road feel is an interesting diversion but not something I would use on a long-term basis).

    I own, by way of comparison, two power2max type S, Quarq ELSA, ELSA RS, Pioneer, Powertap Pro, and Garmin Vector. So when I say my Neo Smart reads low, it reads low.

    Thanks for mentioning in your recommendations that people have had problems with the Neo Smart, but IMHO it may be too problematic to recommend. You’re lucky you got a good unit, it’s really a roll of the dice. I’m waiting for your Hammer review to decide whether to upgrade my 2015 Kickr to the 2016, or go with the Hammer.

    • MartinR

      Have you considered returning your second NEO unit? It suppose to be within 1%, so seems like a faulty unit to me…

  82. okrunner

    The Wahoo Kickr Snap is onsale at Wahoo for $599. I don’t see it at this price on Clever Training or anywhere else. Any reason, at this price, not to get it over the Tacx Vortex or Elite Rampa, especially if in the US?

    • General FYI for folks-

      Yup, as of today, Wahoo has reduced the price of the KICKR SNAP by $100USD (and in other currencies as noted below). Note that this was not as a direct result of this post, as the drop had been planned for a bit. Though, I suspect it’s a direct result of the CycleOps Magnus trainer being at $599 and being more powerful.

      In any case, you’ll see retailer prices update today, if not already. This is not a sale price, but the new floor. Prices are as follows:

      USD: $599
      EU: €549
      Canada: $849
      UK: £499
      AUS: $949

      Enjoy!

    • okrunner

      Thanks Ray!

    • Matt V.

      I called my LBS and they said their distributor was showing the Kickr Snap on sale for $950 CAD. Is the reduced CAD price shown officially somewhere?

      Also, given the price drop, any thoughts on getting the Snap vs. holding out for a Magnus?

      Thanks!

    • Felix

      Apple Store currently has it at 849.99$ Canadian. Check it online.

  83. Hassan Elhassan

    Hey Ray,
    A certain UK website has the Tacx Flux ready for shipping…. Is it still correct that shipping is not ready yet?

  84. alibi

    would be good to have a small section for us, peoples with only one mtb bike :)

    ps: elite selector suggested to me “qubo fluid”, with misuro sensor. someone has experience with this one?

  85. Andy

    Hi Mr Rainmaker,

    Can a Garmin fenix 3 pick up the data from a bkool pro like the 820/1000 head units?

    Cheers

    Andy

  86. matt

    Ray,
    I am thinking of getting a magnus in place of my old powerbeam pro. Do you feel the lack of flywheel weight matters? Also the powerbeam is very slow to respond on intervals, does the magnus do any better

  87. Goldorak

    just bought a KICKR SNAP refurbished on their website for only 439,99E!!! link to fr-eu.wahoofitness.com cant wait to get it!

  88. Eric

    Thanks Ray for the amazing review. It seems that smart trainer are all over the place!
    In my case, I already have a powermeter on my bike as well as a garmin edge 520. I dont need the Smart features. I’m looking to buy a trainer but can’t choose between fluid and magnet with adjustement. What is your input about that?
    Thanks again.

  89. Tim Grose

    As a fyi if you live near London in the UK, I am hoping to pop along to link to sigmasport.co.uk where can try out some of these trainers including the Tacx Magnum and see what Zwift Running might be about!

  90. Mike Ritchie

    I was thinking of purchasing the Kickr Snap, but your code for 10% off is not valid.

  91. Which mid range trainer works with Mac?

    I am looking to get a smart trainer in the mid range – Elite Rampa, Vortex Smart etc. However, I do not own an iPad but would instead like to use my MacBook Air. I cannot work out whether which of these trainers are possible to use with a Mac.

    Can anyone help?

    • Anders Uhrvik from Sweden

      Got a Tacx Ironman trainer, and have problems with that trainer. When pushing hard, let say going uphill and the software breaks the trainer it gets hard to pedal smooth, the pedaling gets a mix of hard and soft resistence, not so nice, and very annoying!! Regret this purchase – think i had to get a directdrive unit with a heavy wheel to get the pedaling smooth and heavy at the same time!

      So the solution i think is to buy Tacx directdrive trainers – but have to pay a lot! Anyone having the same issues??? Maybe the new Tacx directdrive trainer i solving this problem ????

    • Generally speaking, the behaviour you describe is because:

      A) Not enough tire pressure
      B) Not enough turns of the resistance knob
      C) Calibration not completed

      I’d ensure your tires are pumped up, and that the resistance knob is nice and snug, and finally – that calibration completes successfully. Else, you’ll get pretty much what you described. This is true of both Tacx and non-Tacx trainers.

      Good luck!

    • Paul

      As far as I can tell none of the midrange trainers have their own Mac app, however several of the third party apps do have Mac versions. This includes Zwift and Trainerroad so if you plan to use on of those you’re all set.

    • Bernie

      What’s the optimal tire pressure? Like on the street? I.e. 120 psi/ 8 bar? Thanks!

    • It’s more about consistent than optimal to be honest. In my case, I just do 120psi, simply out of habit. As long as you do the same each time, then you’re more or less golden (assuming knob and temp stay same).

  92. Kenny

    Since the Magnus and Snap are now equal in price and similar in performance, which would you say has the sturdier design? You’ve mentioned in the post on the Magnus that setup was very simple; simple enough to warrant one over the other? Do you see one as definitely better, or is this decision that’s really dependent on each individual?

    • I feel like the KICKR SNAP has a slightly more hardened design, whereas the Magnus has a more foolproof design. That said, it’s not as though the Magnus isn’t hardened, it’s just that the KICKR SNAP is overly-hardened. They built a tank whereas a hummer would have been acceptable (and still overkill).

      If the final production Magnus units have as good of accuracy as the pre-prod units (and if they do indeed start shipping soon), I suspect they’d get the edge, mostly because of the higher incline specs, but also the knob.

    • Dean Telson

      Our intel with distro says Magnus on Oct 28. We have been watching it closely cause we have a group of teammates (some who work at the LBS hence the intel) who all ordered one and are waiting for them to come before trying Zwift. Most of these guys don’t have power meters so don’t want to bother with Zwift and back wheel speed sensors but rather just wait and dial in their set up once with their new Magnus. Since I have power on several bikes and love Zwift and have been pushing this tech on my team, I’ll still patiently wait for the Hammer. Our shop has had great service from Cyclops so we are betting on them and Rays fantastic reviews! Thank you again Ray! BTW I notice Hammer didn’t advertise updated accuracy specs but again the hope is better than 3% and or 2% or less. Thats fine for me.

    • Igor

      Hi Ray. While I am admire the work you do answers like the one above leave me really puzzled.

      How do you know if Snap is excessively hardened?

      1) Bearings that support main shaft. Those can be different quality from different manufacturers and specced for various expected loads. So the time to wear can range literally in the orders of magnitude. Have you done any research on that subject?

      2) Shaft itself. The material shaft made from can range as well. I have nothing to say about new Magnus trainer but I did have Powerbeam Pro unit and over the time tire dug a nice semi round channel into it. Any research on that front from your side?

      3) Main resistance element. I case of Magnus it seems to be thin disk while Wahoo employs their big sturdy close ended cylinder with thick walls. Thin disk may be prone to warping due to excessive heat build up during high torque low speed situations while I do not see that happening with solution from Wahoo. Again any research on your side here?

      4) Claimed simulated incline grade for Magnus/Wahoo means nothing unless it is backed up buy some data (like what is the simulated weight of the cyclist and his/her power/speed at that particular claimed grade and if that handling is sustainable). Any insight on that?

      It seems to me that except that “knob” your answer is based on just pure gut feeling.

      To me personally I would always go for “overbuilt” unit as from my experience (and I do have some) thing break just way to often.

    • Someone asked my gut feeling, and I gave it to them. Overkill is as the very word itself implies: Overkill. You can be overkill in a hundred areas, but still suck in the ones that matter. I’ve frankly never heard of a trainer frame collapsing here. I’m sure it’s happened, but never has anyone ever posted about it. Further, I’ve actually *never* heard of someone burning out a KICKR or CycleOps resistance unit. Other things, sure, but never due to wearing out.

      It sounds like your assumptions are no more than assumptions though.

      For the incline, these are manufacture specs at this point, once I have a final unit from Magnus, I’ll validate the 15%. Generally speaking it’s on a stated rider weight (usually 70-75kg).

    • Penny

      I much appreciate that you gave us your gut feeling on those two units as they are also the two units that I am considering. I’m a 57 year old woman, who has been biking all my life. At this point I’m just interested in staying in shape without being bored to tears. I won’t pound the heck out of it like you guts do. I’ve had my order for the CycleOps Magnus in with Clever Trainer for a couple of weeks now and was thinking about switching to the Wahoo Snap now the price has fallen. I won’t pound the heck out of it like you guys do. For me, I’ll go for the foolproof and sturdy over the “built like a tank”. I do really appreciate all of your reviews. I may be 57 but I do like my gadgets!

    • Penny

      That would be you guys not you guts! :)

  93. rumpole

    Following.

    In reading your reviews, it just stuns me that Kurt Kinetic went down the road that they did. Looking at the comments here, I can’t help but think that had they come in with a solid resistance unit at 400 bucks as well as a more open use of standards, they would have killed it this holiday season.

    Looking forward to your review of the new Cycleops, as well as more information about ramp-ups. That’s one thing that my existing KKRM does well…

  94. Adam

    Hi,

    I recently purchased a Tacx Neo and I was hoping someone could tell me what tools are needed to install a Shimano cassette 11-32. I also have a thru-axle bike (Ridley X-Trail) and purchased an adapter (T2835). Anything else that I will need?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Stuart

      The tools you’ll need to install a Shimano cassette on a direct drive trainer (like the Tacx Neo and the Wahoo Kickr) are exactly the same as those you’d need to install it on a wheel. You’ll need a cassette lockring tool (Park Tools makes one – the FR-5C), an appropriate spanner or socket driver (in the case of the Park Tools lockring tool, you’ll need a one inch socket or spanner), and a chain whip (to let you remove the old cassette, or the new one if you mess it up somehow.)

      Torque wrench… maybe. Most bike mechanics wouldn’t bother for a cassette installation; they’d just tighten it up nice and tight and call it done. If you’re not confident that you’ll get it tight enough, or that you’ll over-tighten it (the former’s more likely than the latter), then go for it, else just a regular spanner should do.

      There are plenty of videos on Youtube to show you how to do it – it’s very easy once you have the right tools.

      Good luck.

  95. Brad Silverberg

    FWIW, Ray, the Tacx Neo Smart is available from Bikebling.com for $1359.99, which closes the price gap somewhat. I got one from them and am very happy with it. Great service.

  96. Tim

    I always enjoy the trainer post, thanks for keeping us all so informed.

    Last winter I picked up a SNAP from REI locally and rode it a bit since then (probably around 75 rides). Early on I noted difficulty getting the accuracy within 5% of either of my Powertap wheels — often I could get close to 5% at higher power and 10-20% off at lower power. I could calibrate it several times after being warmed up and generally felt lucky if I was close to 5% — rarely better. This week I even calibrated it 10 minutes into my ride and it was about 50% off. In ERG mode it was unusable because of the high torque required (this was a first for me).

    So in the end I decided to take REI’s 1yr 100% satisfaction policy and return it.

    I have hopes the Magnus will be more consistent (planning to order it, or wait briefly into winter and order it if things look good). I’d love something better than 10% accurate without calibration and consistently 5% or better after calibration.

    I have only this experience with wheel on ERG trainers, I know most have similar specs, but my gut says that Wahoo (at least on the unit I had) really didn’t meet their specs. I get that load unit torque and PSI affect things, but that’s what spindown is supposed to calibrate out, right? It seemed to me that my spindown results on the SNAP were a random joke.

    For others with power meters and more wheel on trainer experience — is this the norm?! Should I just try to hold out and look more at the flux instead?

    If I don’t find anything better, there’s probably a chance I’d try a SNAP again, but it seemed like I spent more time goofing around trying to get the thing calibrated right than just ride!

    I would consider just using “power mater” with TR and my powertap, but at times I don’t use my PT on the trainer, and it defeats some of the purpose of having an ERG trainer.

    Other concerns for any other trainer:
    TR on mobile only supports Wahoo’s trainers in BLE mode. Kind of a bummer here… to use any other ERG trainers you need the silly ANT Key (and 30 pin adapter).

    Any hint of a BLE FE-C equivalent standard coming? It seems like the TR guys imply they wouldn’t support anyone else via BLE unless there was an open industry standard.

  97. Johny

    Hello,
    I am planning to buy a trainer. Do you think that I can do any damage to my carbon bike (especially the rear fork) while using any of the direct drive trainers like elite drivo?

    Thank you

    John

  98. maKe

    Now that the Wahoo KICKR Snap is the same price as the CycleOps Magnus, would you suggest one over the other?

    I was dead set on the new Smart Control KurtKinetic’s until their defiance to industry standards as outlined here. Good thing, because both of the considered above are within my price range and are healthy competitors, something that has been necessary in this price bracket for awhile. They also both have a lot more presence and professionalism on both the internet, and in the industry.

    I don’t think I will ever need the 2200W from the Wahoo, and I also like the increased 15% incline on the Magnus. However, customer service and build quality are also two very important principles to me (so much so I would give up a little bit of superiority resistance or incline wise). That being said, what is your opinion on both? At the very least, were you to remain neutral like the article, I assume I can’t go wrong with either.

    I’ve read great things about CycleOps customer service, and not so great about Wahoo’s, and that obviously leans me one way more than the other; yet, that can be purely anecdotal or a disgruntled customer. Just trying to see if you can chime in because you probably have a hell of a lot more first hand experience than some sentences I read on the internet regarding the matter. I’d appreciate your thoughts as I plan to make the purchase in the coming days, thank you very much and great job with the article once again!

    • If the final production Magnus ends up being as accurate as the one I tested, then I’d probably give it the nod – given slightly more real-world accuracy with more incline.

      I think they were shipping me out one yesterday (final prod unit), though maybe it’s not going out Monday. Either way…shortly.

    • maKe

      Awesome, thank you very much for the reply! I am glad I didn’t purchase the used CompuTrainer I found on CL for the same price. Seems like the technology, specs, and pricing of these recent trainers are making it an excellent time to buy without the threat of obsolescent trainers for the next couple years. The few things I read about CycleOps loyalty to their customer base are very promising traits when making a relatively large purchase like this. I appreciate the opinion, definitely secured my purchase with CycleOps, which I also noted regarding your article when talking with them. When you do get a final unit, do you plan to do another hands on review or just stick with the one you had?

      Either way, sounds promising and thank you again for your reply. As a relatively new cyclist, your website has helped familiarize me with products, and the sport in general. Time to start researching a bike computer!

    • Lee

      Hi Ray, Have you heard on a release date for the Magnus?

    • Lee

      Went to a local dealer and they have a November 21st release date. Answered my own question. This would be for Canada so it may be different dates elsewhere.

    • maKe

      I’ve been getting late October and early November across the board. Many of the websites that previously noted late October have changed to early November so it looks like that date is correct. PerformanceBike states November 15th. I was in the process of talking to CycleOps regarding their trainer and they noted that they started shipping to distributors (and otherwise) on October 21. So those dates pretty much add up. Also looking forward to when they are stocked, have been waiting (very impatiently) to pick one up!

    • Paul

      Clever Training had it listed as late October but changed it to early November. I’ve checked a couple other retailers and Nashbar just listed it recently as available November 29th and Amazon says November 30th. Maybe some retailers are getting it sooner than others, or maybe no one knows and they are all guessing.

    • Felix

      Just checked with a local dealer in Québec City; same here, Magnus is expected Nov 21 at the distibutor.

    • Lee

      Just saw on Cycleops website that the Magnus is showing “in-stock” and shipping.

    • Felix

      No news about your final prod Magnus, Ray?

    • In theory it’s waiting for me when I get back to Paris early next week.

    • Lee

      Just received my Magnus today! going to try it out later. Very short on time this weekend

    • Javier

      Since you have the Magnus how does it feel? I’m debating between Magnus, Snap and psibly KK RR Smart Control as a outsider right now

    • Lee

      Hi Javier. My only trainer experience is on rollers this is the first wheel on trainer I have used. I have a few rides on the Magnus running through Zwift. Overall I’m very happy with it. I was a little surprised at the noise, it is quite a bit louder than the rollers. But in reality my fan that I use drowns out the rollers and the trainer. The resistance response I have found is excellent, very quick. The Magnus supports a lot of incline, this was a selling point to me as well as the clutch knob. The clutch knob on the Magnus puts alot of pressure on the tire, at first I was worried about this but after some back and forth emails with Cycleops I’m not worried about it. They are saying the Magnus is pretty much on the limit for a tire on trainer and resistance so they had to ramp up the pressure on the tire. It’s very well built, went together easily and was very easy to pair up to my laptop and Zwift. The only real issue I’ve had is with the Cycleops app and calibration of the Magnus, I’m a little confused if the calibration actually worked or not.

    • Lee

      Thanks for the reply. That’s what I’m basically looking for too the incline, as it will almost always be used with Zwift. I have a powermeter so I will have something to compare readings. I’m coming from a Kinetic Road Machine and I like it seems the Magnus is on par with Kinetic noise wise. Thanks again

  99. MartinR

    Ray, have you noticed any difference in clearance for the rear disc brake caliper between the NEO and the belt driven trainers such as the KICKR/Drivo?
    To me, it seems like the belt driven trainer have a better DB clearance, but I might be wrong. Thanks!

  100. Al

    I currently have a fluid trainer/speed sensor/virtual power/trainerroad setup – and wondering what/whether to upgrade. The trainer has a clutch mechanism to have a consistent pressure applied to the wheel, and I pump the tyre to a “consistent” (indicated on my pump) pressure. Sure, everybody has good and bad days, but I feel I get a fair bit of variance in the resistance – my guess would be at least a 10% range. (It’s a cycleops fluid trainer, so I guess it may be the same mechanism as the magnus above)

    I imagine if I had a smart trainer, non-direct drive, the accuracy would still be influenced by these variables ?
    If I added a power meter to this setup, and used that to report the power back to trainer road, eliminating tyre rolling resistance as a variable, would that power level then be fed back to calibrate/control the resistance of the trainer ? or can the ANT+Control thing only be done inside the trainer unit ? (A half answer is here – link to dcrainmaker.com – “Can I use my power meter to control FE-C?”). Maybe this would then compromise the response time ? Apologies if it’s been called out elsewhere, but If it’s the latter then I would say that the elimination of rolling resistance is a big benefit of direct drive trainers – a few extra % accuracy makes a big different in intervals when your at your limit.

    I haven’t used an erg mode trainer before, and am new’ish to trainer intervals so maybe this isn’t an issue, or point of distinction for old hands ? (who are used to bumping the intensity of their intervals up and down based on a good understanding of how they’re feeling, hence compensating for this trainer power variability)

    This would change the criteria a bit in my mind. This guide is super helpful, but combine thinking about this with power meters and it’s a head trip trying to decide what to buy…

  101. Stephen

    I have an Elite Qubo Digital (not Smart B+), with ANT+ connection to it’s proprietary wireless control unit, with Power/Cadence/Speed…..and I can connect my ANT+ heart rate belt during training too. I had been wondering and had sent question to Elite (they haven’t replied me yet), that whether I can buy an upgrade kit or something else to make it equivalent to the Smart B+ model? All I want is to connect this with Zwift and start riding with my buddies online. Thanks.

  102. Augsburg

    DCR,

    Do you have an update to your projected ETA for your trainer app review update?

  103. dbsmith

    FWIW:
    Just took the plunge and purchased a 2017 Neo. I rode last Winter on a Kickr Snap:

    Compared to the Snap, the Neo is “different” but I’m not sure yet if it’s “better”.

    Based on two hours of Zwift — one hour on a flat course and one hour on a mountain course — First impression is that the Neo’s flywheel effect is not nearly as good as the Snap. The road surface effects are clearly there and somewhat interesting. I didn’t sense much of a downhill free wheeling effect (the Neo powering itself). The Neo free hub body is very noisy — far noisier than standard Shimano free hub bodies. The claimed frame movement (side-to-side) is there but less noticeable than my old KK Rock and Roll. Using the Tacx front wheel block (instead of the Kickr rotating ring) stiffened things up even more. The Neo is quiet — really all the noise is from the chain — but IM (unscientific) O not appreciably quieter than the Snap.
    Early days still but my major impression is that the Snap has more natural “feel” because of the true flywheel. The Neo’s flywheel transmits pulses that are noticeable at some rpm’s whereas the Snap just spins smoothly. Lots still to try but I can’t say the Neo blew me away (as, frankly, I expected).
    Was going to sell the Snap but I think, for now, I’ll hold on to it.

    • Chris

      Interesting comparison btw the snap and Neo. I’ve been going back and forth for weeks about getting the snap or Kickr. My first smart trainer. Leaning towards the snap. Particularly b/c of price. I ride a lot on Zwift. How does the snap handle the downhills? Does it seem realistic? Is there much of a delay with regards to resistance applied when going uphill? Any other quirks when using the snap on Zwift?
      Thanks!

    • dbsmith

      Not sure what you mean by “handle downhills”?
      Resistance on the Snap seemed prompt and appropriate. Some folks here seem to try and use a stop watch to measure the exact delay; I’m not that scientific. I think the Snap is realistic enough for 99.9% of riders!
      I should note that, once I discovered the difficulty slider in Zwift, I usually used a difficulty level of around 30% (I’m old!).
      I had more extensive comment re: Snap in other posts on DCR; to summarize: I think the Snap is probably the best value smart trainer for 99% of riders. And I still find (after 3 hours use on Neo) that the Snap flywheel effect is better than Neo – spinning up is smoother and effort to attain speed seems very realistic.

    • Tim

      Any idea how accurate your SNAP and NEO units ultimately were? I had a SNAP for about a year and it was really hit or miss on accuracy to my powertap wheels. I couldn’t get it to consistently be within their claimed spec — even after trying to be really picky about tire pressure and load unit tightness (which, honestly, no one wants to deal with).

      I assumed something like the NEO would be much closer from the get-go and more consistent overall… but of course you’d need a non-wheel based power meter to compare.

    • dbsmith

      I don’t have a dedicated power meter so I can’t make any claims about Snap accuracy. I can say that the power readings I’m seeing on my first 3 hours of Neo/Zwift are right in line with what I was seeing on the Snap.
      On the Snap I used a standard road tire (Schwalbe tubeless), inflated to 90 psi and two full turns on the Snap adjuster (after contact with the tire). Got virtually no tire slippage and no visible wear in over 2500 miles of use.
      I never found it to be problematic or overly inconvenient — checked tire pressure every day and used the same trainer tension, but that’s hardly a burden! Performed an occasional spin-down (but only very occasionally). My exercise area is heated to 65 degrees consistently.

    • “And I still find (after 3 hours use on Neo) that the Snap flywheel effect is better than Neo – spinning up is smoother and effort to attain speed seems very realistic”

      Nothing can beat real mass 😉 Well electronics can come to that same exact “instant” feeling but for that to happen trainer has to incorporate actual torque sensor instead of estimating torque by overvoltage (noisy and introduces delays). As for feeling magnets/cogging/ratcheting – using sine motor control instead of trapezoidal would help as well. Unfortunately that will make trainer more expensive.

    • maKe

      Chris, while I can’t answer many of your questions regarding Zwift as my trainer hasn’t come in yet, definitely compare the Snap to the Magnus a bit more before deciding. It was a hard choice to make in the end between the two for me, but based on everything I’ve read on here (the factory visits of Wahoo and CycleOps being a main factor), I ended up choosing the CycleOps. In addition, when I was having trouble deciding I posted further up about it and DCR ended up giving the nod towards the Magnus due to accuracy (if it was the same as his prototype).

      However, the one difference between the Magnus and the Snap is incline (on Zwift or otherwise). The Magnus can simulate up to 15%, whereas the Snap is roughly 10-12% grade. Now, granted Zwift sets the resistance on your trainer to half the resistance of the road by default (and I am unsure how many people change the setting), it may not matter as much. Yet, just consider that for when you start progressing and want to up that to real road resistance, it may be an issue as you begin to top out. I am unsure if this is the case with other training apps.

      Just some thoughts, happy riding and hope to see you on Zwift!

  104. Sean

    Yoga mats make good water/oil proof training mats.

    They’re also widely available and much cheaper than the branded trainer mats. I think I got mine for about £3ish (they probably cost about £5,000 here now 😀 ).

  105. Hotwirez

    I’m in the market for a smart trainer – mainly looking to stay in some sort of bike shape while it is cold and crappy here in Ohio. I plan on using Zwift to alleviate the boredom of riding in place for hours. NB stocks the Vortex Smart, and today is the last day of their 24% off sale – should I bite the bullet and get the Vortex, or wait until the end of the month when the Magnus is available? The vortex is about $70 cheaper – I’m not sure if for a complete trainer noob that I’ll really notice the difference between the too.

    • okrunner

      I couldn’t pass up Nashbar’s deal on the Tacx Vortex at $402 with the 24% discount. That made it $200 less than the Wahoo Kickr Snap even after Wahoo’s latest discount to $599. I was planning on the Snap but don’t believe it was worth $200 more. I was willing to pay $70 more for the Snap but this was just too good a deal. Really surprised Nashbar gave 24% off on so many trainers over the weekend. Hoping the Vortex works well.

  106. Todd

    Long time runner – never/rare cyclist looking for advice, please.
    What’s the cheapest/best way to get started w/ a trainer that can tell my Fenix 3 my speed/distance? Almost everything here seems like overkill for something that I might not stick with…

    • maKe

      Todd,

      So it should work with about any cycling trainer on this list (even the low-end ones), or low-end ones from past lists. Granted you will need speed / cadence sensors attached to your bike that will link up to your watch. The Garmin ones sell for about $50-60 on Amazon, and they are standard uses for training and overall performance increase even for the most expensive trainers on this list as they don’t measure speed and cadence (although some programs guess). The rest after that is just trainer features, whether you want automatic adjusting resistance (incline), or just want a linear curve like a flat road, etc. etc. The higher end trainers will also communicate an estimated power (watts) to your Fenix 3 directly, (and possibly other data, I am not completely sure here), while your sensors give the data that they do. As far as distance, I am unfamiliar with that aspect. I believe (and may be wrong), that the Fenix 3 in indoor cycling mode will turn off GPS, and rely on the above sensors to give you an estimate on the distance ridden using your speed and cadence (RPM’s). Many reviews help with this explanation, this one included: link to bikehub.co.za

      Therefore, you can use the cheapest trainer or the most expensive trainer you want. The difference being features, automatic resistance, noise level etc. and many of which are outlined above. The least expensive ones will do what you think: roll, and loudly. Now if you wanted to pick up a more expensive one (either now, or down the line) to simulate natural incline road resistance and grades / hill climbs, I believe your Fenix 3 will serve as a head unit just like a bike computer will, either through the trainer itself or through the app you are using (in the case of Zwift, I believe). In Zwifts case, it would ask to connect all sensors and serve as the primary head unit, with your Fenix 3 then connecting to the Zwift app on your phone and serving as a secondary head unit for your workout stats. I believe this is the way it would work, but bear with me as I am new to cycling as well and don’t have any type of Garmin computer or head unit yet (soon!). Now, if you did decide to get a more expensive erg (smart trainer), you’d end up with a whole host of capabilities, like mentioned above with Zwift and your Fenix 3, including: pre-programmed workouts with the trainer auto-adjusting and simulating resistance levels, workouts accompanied by training videos, the same basic trainer function as a “dumb” trainer while not powered on, the ability to pick and follow real roads all over the world and simulating them / their resistance, cycling with other people on Zwift online, and many, many more options. The tech available now days is absolutely crazy and amazing, but can be overboard if you’re simply looking to just roll wheels and ride. For more information on this look up articles / YouTube videos about: Zwift, CycleOps Virtual Training, TrainerRoad, and SufferFest.

      Anyway, just some bits of information. Hope it helps with your purchase. If you have any other questions feel free to reply to me and ask away or check out other articles on DCR’s website! There is plenty on the subjects here under review sections and in comments.

    • okrunner

      You just need a $100 trainer from Nashbar or Performance and a $60 speed/cadence sensor, either Garmin or Wahoo. Total investment, $160 or less. Might want a front tire block and rubber mat for an extra $30 or so. Either sensor, Garmin or Wahoo, has ANT+ and will connect to your Fenix 3 for speed, cadence, and distance. By the way, many of these apps will still work with varying degrees with this sort of “dumb” trainer setup. If you get the Wahoo dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart sensors you can connect to your Fenix 3 over ANT+ to record and at the same time connect to your Ipad over Bluetooth Smart for use with Bkool or other apps. You just won’t get trainer resistance control. Bkool, if I remember correctly, will give you estimated power with this setup. I did this last winter with a dumb trainer and it worked well. I used an Apple TV to put the ipad screen on a large tv. Just ordered the Tacx Vortex and can’t wait for the upgraded experience.

    • Chris Benten

      Just make sure the speed sensor is on the rear wheel. Unless you get rollers.

    • Todd

      Thanks! I’ve actually already got the cadence sensor – so just need to pick up the speed sensor ($40 on amazon) – then a trainer. Maybe later I’ll upgrade if I actually stick with this.

  107. okrunner

    Ray,
    Have you seen or experienced the Tacx Magnum? Looks interesting but I see lots of holes in wallboard, etc. Maybe even worse than rollers. What’s your thoughts on this system?

  108. Karen

    I have a Computrainer and am looking to get a smart trainer so I can use apps and have more variety. I have electronic shifting. Will the trainers which are used without a rear wheel work with electronic shifting?

    • Stuart

      I have a Wahoo Kickr, and one of my bicycles has Shimano 6870 (Ultegra Di2, 11 speed) as its groupset. (Well, mostly. Long story.)

      Basically, the Kickr itself acts as a rear wheel: it has a standard Shimano 11 speed cassette (I started with the 11-28, then replaced that with the 12-25 when I realised I wasn’t using either extreme in my indoor training, and wanted something with fewer gaps in the middle). From the rear derailleur’s point of view, it IS a rear wheel – the shifting is exactly the same.

      So the short answer is, yes, they will. The only reason a given trainer wouldn’t work with your bike, to the best of my knowledge, is if the frame design won’t physically fit the trainer for some reason. As long as the cassette you put on is compatible with your groupset (11 speed to 11 speed, 10 speed with spacer to 10 speed, etc.), you should be fine.

    • Karen

      Thank you Stuart. I see a kickr in my near future

  109. Chip

    I am really torn between the mid-range options and was wondering if there was an appreciable difference in noise level between them. I am coming from a very quite spinner stationary bike, but can’t really justify the jump to Neo or other really quiet system – is one of the mid-range significantly quieter?

    • dbsmith

      I’ve owned (and used!) a Kinetic Rock and Roll, a Wahoo Kickr, a Wahoo Snap and a Tacx Neo Smart. I currently have both the Neo and the Snap.

      IMHO there is almost no difference in noise level between the Neo and the Snap — most of the noise you’ll hear comes from the bike drive train, not the trainer.

      Yes, the Neo is very quiet. But you still hear the chain/cassette and, indoors, that’s more noise than you might suspect.

      My guess is that you will be very happy with a Snap, probably the new Kinetic “Smart Control” or several others priced around $600.

      Indeed, I’m thinking that I probably made a mistake buying the $$$ Neo — it’s very nice, but it isn’t (IMO) $1000 nicer than what’s available in today’s “mid-range”.

      My 2¢

    • maKe

      Search my username (control+F) and you’ll get a little bit of information regarding the mid-price range purchases further up the thread. In my opinion, it’s a shootout between the CycleOps Magnus and the Wahoo KICKR Snap. Neither is relatively better than the other (although the Magnus can take ~3-5% more incline), but both are great choices. I would read my posts above, search DCR’s blog in the top right for his factory visits to Wahoo and CycleOps, and see if one of them speaks to you more or you want to give your money to one company over the other, or feel more secure with one over the other. That’s what I did and I ended up picking CycleOps. While I was definitely leaning more towards CycleOps prior to my ultimate decision, I was still trying to decide so I posted and asked Ray his ultimate opinion on the two and he said that if the Magnus is still as accurate as his pre-production unit that he had a couple months ago that he would go ahead and give it the nod.

      Anyway, hope that helps! Looking forward to seeing all the new users (myself included) on Zwift this training season!

    • rumpole

      I’m in the same boat and coming down to either the Wahoo or the Cycleops (each with its pros and cons). Noise not so much of an issue, as I’ll be in my basement.

      2 qs for you:
      1. The thing that I find the trainer good for, in addition to FTP raisers, is it’s a good time to really thrash yourself on short intervals like the sufferfest’s revolver or violator. (1 min on and off, or sprints). How quickly does the wattage ramp up? (If it’s a 14 second interval and you lose ten, that’s significant). That seems to be the selling point on the Cycleops which is intriguing but there are no reviews. How does the Snap handle those kinds of things (using Trainer Road, for example?).

      2. Some folks don’t care about road feel; I actually do. I like the KKRM (have it without the flywheel add-on). How would you compare the snap? (And I’d love to hear anyone who could compare road feel of the Magnus to either KKRM or the Snap).

    • Tim

      When I had a SNAP I thought step-change intervals were pretty responsive, generally “nearly” instantaneous. i.e. Revolver was no issue.

      The SNAP did seem to have a weird bug that if you did a “ramping” interval (I think TR’s Keeler Needle is one?) that it would basically ignore the new ERG setpoint and only randomly adjust the load. If it was a control issue I would have assumed to see some changes — just not keeping up, but instead it stayed almost flat at the wrong setting until a setpoint change was properly adjusted.

      I’ll try to add a screenshot that shows this phenomenon. Again, step changes seemed ok.

    • rumpole

      That is so odd… I wonder if that is a unit issue, a software problem, or a design flaw in how the brake works? The cure would be to do Keeler in slope mode, I suppose, and there aren’t that many “ramp”-type workouts, but there are a number of wkos where they ramp the resistance up on the way to the target power (and down). Do you get the same kind of issues when the power undulates? (For example, when it rolls between 90-95 FTP over the course of ten minutes (there are lots of ones like that) ?)

    • tim

      The issue seemed to be related to setpoint change slope — see the first slope in the workout, the power updated fine. The steeper ones were the issue.

      I haven’t tried it in a little while (and have since returned my SNAP due to frustration with it being randomly ~10% off from my Powertap), but the last time I tried it was still working this way.

      With the Clever Training 20% sale for the next 10 days I’m leaning to trying a Magnus or Flux next.

    • rumpole

      I bought the snap–20 percent was just too good to pass up and I wasn’t sure Ray would review the magnus before the sale expired. Besides, I think it’s largely a question of degree. Most of my intervals are not sprints.

      Haven’t set it up yet, but when I do I’ll post something. I have a powertap c1 to compare the numbers against.

    • rumpole

      I now have about 10 or so hours in on the Snap, so can give something approaching an opinion. I use a PM to control the resistance on Trainer Road, but have done some informal testing–e.g., doing a post-spindown look at wattage in the “Devices” screen. A couple of notes:

      1. It is so much easier to do long z2/z3 sessions when the machine controls the resistance. One good movie, and the week’s long ride is basically done. And there’s always Luke Cage if you need to put in another hour… This will be a godsend if I train for another half IM.

      2. The ever elusive “road feel” — I went from a KKRM to this. I think this feels better. Certainly, the spindown is longer.

      3. I have the machine calibrated as follows: when I first got it, did the advanced spindown. Before each workout, I’ll inflate the tires, ride for 3-5 min, and then do the standard spindown. I also keep tires inflated at 120, and try to get exactly two turns on the blue dial. When looking at the two measurements (Snap vs C1), they were within just a few watts–seemed to be less than five percent. I have not experienced the random 60w surge.

      4. The thing really is built like a tank.

      5. Yes, I’m still staring at a wall. But with a TV in front of it, no issues. I have yet to do any zwift races, but am looking forward to giving it a whirl. In the meantime, TR’s plans are producing pretty good results and I look forward to my indoor time.

      I still have some questions about it (haven’t done any sufferfest vids like revolver or half is easy, nor have I done a pure FTP test). So far, though, the long and short of it is that I would buy this again.

  110. DBSmith

    I’ve not used TR. 14 sec is a pretty short interval; I found intervals on e.g. Zwift workouts on Snap worked fine.
    IMO road feel of Snap is equal to kkrandr without large flywheel; both are better than Neo!

  111. Thomas C

    Great write-up! I have a KK Road Machine now, but I’m interested in upgrading to a true smart trainer and I’m curious to see how the Cycleops Magnus fares once it is released and starts getting some real customer reviews.

    Based on your knowledge, is the Magnus a direct (and better??) replacement for the Cycleops Powersync (and similar Powerbeam) trainer? Other than the added support for ANT+ in the Magnus, is there anything that the Powersync offers that will not be included in the new Magnus?

    • It’s better than PowerSync in the sense of being dual compatibility/etc with different protocols. Whereas PowerSync you bought in either ANT+ or BLE variants.

      I don’t know off-hand (on plane right now) if the PowerSync had slightly higher resistance specs.

  112. Llew davis

    I’m trying to decide between getting the old Kickr or the new one– old Kickr is $900, new is $1200–is the new one worth an extra $300?

  113. Inge

    Hi Ray, thanks for a great site. I work in a neuroscience research group that is currently planning a project involving a group of elderly, VR and bike trainers. There are some concerns being vocied regarding the possibility of the participants toppling over, or otherwise falling off the bike.

    Which ant+ direct drive trainer would you consider has the most stable platform?
    What would be your reccomodation when noise is also taken into consideration?

    Cheers!

  114. Todd Holquist

    Regarding the STAC Zero … I’m a newbie that has never used a trainer and would like to buy my first for this winter. My understanding of fluid trainers is that you get progressive resistance which gives you a more realistic ride than just magnetic resistance. Is the resistance of the STAC Zero more like magnetic resistance or a fluid trainer. Thanks.

  115. Griffin Guild

    Keeping it simple — recommendation for something simple. My current trainers are Computrainer with Nintendo and Kreitler rollers.

    Like wheel off with direct drive trainers.

    Would prefer no requirement to coast down, but have it with the Computrainer so not a deal breaker.

    With Clever Training’s current VIP sale I am thinking of Elite Drivo, Wahoo Kickr2 and Tacx Flux.

    Will also need device to control trainer have Garmin Forerunner 235 and thinking either a PC or Garmin Edge 520.

    Also interested in software again with simplicity in mind. I am looking for something to keep me engaged and in reasonable condition. I am not concerned about personal records, etc.

    Any thoughts are welcome and appreciated!

  116. bryan

    Any update on the Magnus or Flux? I am wanting to take advantage of the Clever Training deal and trying to decide between the Magnus, Flux or Kickr (stretch). Flux is very intriguing, but concerned about the release delays coupled with Tacx having issues in the past with new products. Quite frankly I am always a little apprehensive to pull the trigger on anything that is not out yet.

  117. Troy

    Ok
    Newbie question

    What ( or all ) trainers are compatible w disc brakes?
    Ex..caad12 disc
    What about the skewers too
    Looking at maybe the Magnus or SNAP
    Thanks

    • Generally speaking disc brakes aren’t an issue on skewer-based trainers (wheel-on), since that all happens outside of that region (whereas it can be an issue on direct drive trainers depending on design).

      And most trainer frames (including Magnus and Snap) are super flexible when it comes to length of skewer.

  118. Colton Miller

    Thanks for the codes and discounts DCRM! I just picked up a Wahoo (New) Kickr from Clever Training!
    I went with the Kickr just for its track record, and I couldn’t wait on the Flux.

  119. Diane

    Will any of the smart trainers support 650c wheels?

    • dbsmith

      They (smart trainers) ALL should work with 650c. The wheel-off (direct drive) models like Kickr, Neo don’t use the rear wheel at all; the wheel-on trainers I’m familiar with (Kickr Snap, Kinetic Rock and Roll) can easily accommodate a 650 wheel.
      If you look at wheel-off trainers you might want to take your bike along just to be sure that there aren’t any frame-related issues — not every frame works with every wheel-off trainer (700c too!).
      But, in principle, a 650c wheel shouldn’t disqualify you from using a smart trainer.

    • Many do. For example, the KICKR does, as The Girl has 650c wheels and rides that no problem.

    • Stuart

      I have the original Kickr. It’s designed so you adjust the position of the drive unit based upon your wheel size – so a 700c wheel has a different position to a 650c wheel, has a different position to 29″ mountain bike wheels, etc., etc. It’s basically a function of height of the cassette, to reflect the different wheel radius (and hence hub and cassette position relative to the ground/road/floor).

      So no, there’s no issue with using a well designed direct drive unit with a bike that has 650c wheels (and let’s face it, at the prices those things go for, if the manufacturer hasn’t dealt with that particular issue, there’s a very serious problem in their design team). There MIGHT be an issue if you’re sharing the unit with somebody who uses 700c wheels, as that will mean adjusting the position of the unit whenever the bike changes, but that’s easy to deal with compared with the fun of pulling the rear wheel off and positioning the bike on the trainer.

  120. Mike Scott

    DCR,
    I own a Specialized Diverge and Roubaix Pro, both with 135×12 through axles and neither of which are compatible with my Kickr which only sells an adapter for 142x12s. Are you aware of any workarounds? Could it be as simple as extending the threads on their adapter an additional 7mm at a machine shop?
    Thanks for your help!
    Mike

  121. steven

    Ray, the Tacx Flux looks very interesting (with the 20% off at Clever Training, it’d be my first choice if I had to buy today). My question though, is will this be the push needed to get companies like Wahoo to make a cheaper wheel off trainer? I’m thinking they need to convert the Kickr SNAP to wheel off without a price increase for next year at Eurobike. Am I dreaming?

    Thanks

    • Definitely will be the push, no doubt. But, they’ve also still gotta deliver on it. That means making an accurate product and once that doesn’t have any other issues.

      If they do that, and demonstrate that consistently over the winter, then it’s a huge push. I have no doubt we’ll see a lower-cost version of the direct drive KICKR next fall. Just like I suspect we’d see the same from Elite and CycleOps.

      But when it comes to trainers, it’s really a fall game (for Northern Hemisphere). So any new products are almost a year away.

    • steven

      Understood. The savings of a 2017/2018 Kickr Snap with wheel off vs a 20% off Kickr2 now, would cost a year of actually having the trainer.

      I’ll look out for a Flux review when commercial units are out there. I would say being in the US, that I’m more inclined to buy a new product from Wahoo over Tacx, just that Wahoo support (both for phone calls and returning product) is probably much easier with them being in the same country.

      Now to sell some Tacx Galaxia rollers in good condition …

    • Frank in NJ

      I also wanted to see if there’s any new info on the Cycleops magnus. I’m interested in that trainer compared to the Wahoo Kickr Snap. I’m assuming to 20% off applies to either on Clever training.

      Thanks for any feedback

  122. Fred

    Can you add a column for us track riders? 120mm rear hubs with nuts are still around…

  123. Michelle

    Hi there, I’m looking at bike trainers for my husband and 12-year-old son. My son races mountain bikes and my husband coaches on the MTB team. Given that most of the terrain they ride on is rooty/rocky/craggy with lots of single track and some open fields, is there one trainer that stands out for MTB riders (e.g., You mentioned the cobblestone feel for the NEO…) They want to be able to train through the winter so it’s time for a trainer. Was looking at the Wahoo KICKR and the Tacx NEO based on your last review. Since they will be sharing the trainer and are on different size bike frames (One Specialized stump jumper (650B) and one Cannondale (26″ tire), is it going with a nightmare to switch back and forth if I go with a direct drive option? Or would it make more sense to go with a wheel-on option? Anything else I should consider? Thanks for your help and review, it has been so incredibly helpful!

  124. Ben Dobson

    I’m in the market for a new, ANT+ FE-C trainer as a Christmas present for use with TrainerRoad etc. I’m in the UK and the budget won’t stretch above the mid range, and so based on this post and UK pricing it’s hard to see past the Tacx Vortex Smart at ~£315 (the Kickr Snap and Magnus are both well over £450 with the Rampa at about £400).

    What’s making me hesitate is that I can get the Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+, which was recommended in last years post, for about £270 and seems to offer the same as the Vortex.

    Is there a reason the Qubo wasn’t recommended this year? And is it worth the extra cash for the Vortex over the Qubo? Any advice from Ray or anyone else who’s used both these trainers would be appreciated!

    • diede

      Currently in Europe: Vortex @ 359€ and Snap @ 549€ (including trainer mat). Even with the big price gap between them, not sure which one to choose. Is the robust build and bigger flywheel of the Snap worth that difference? While Googling, I also see a lot of issues with the Vortex?
      Or is the Vortex a no-brainer at this price tag?

      thanks

  125. DJHart

    Hi DC,
    Thanks for the introduction and recommendations. I am looking to purchase a trainer this month. I am inclined to go for CycleOps because of the warranty and wait for the Hammer because I want top tier and direct drive. Have you had a chance to try out the new Hammer? Any advise please?

  126. Jay

    Nearly 20 years ago, I had a computrainer stand fail on me where you tighten the axle in the stand against the hub of the rear wheel. The stand was replaced without question by Computrainer. I only needed to return the damaged stand to them for replacement.

  127. Jason

    I’ve been reading that several people have experienced difficulty using the Wahoo SNAP for Trainerroad workouts either because of the +/-5% variance or an inability to read power reliably/consistently. Doing structured power workouts is the primary purpose for me buying a smart trainer, as I don’t have a power meter.

    Has this been your experience? Will the SNAP reliably support structured workouts so I can use it with apps such as Trainerroad?

    • rumpole

      I have been using a recently-purchased snap and running the power through a powertap c1. I have yet to run it without that function on but will do some comparisons. Overall, though, I find that the device works well with trainerroad. I did experience dropouts, but I had those on my fluid as well. I will eventually do some rides without the PM connected and see what the deviation is. (If your FTP is X, x-5% is basically the same training benefit. X+ 5%, however, is an explosion.)

  128. Ron

    Any chance you’ll be doing the in depth review for the Rampa as well DCR?

  129. Jim

    Ray, your table shows the Tacx Vortex Smart has a accuracy of 5% but the spec here link to tacx.com say 7%

  130. Kevin

    Hi all !
    First of all, thanks Ray for your site, really nice to have big comparison of electronics sports gadget, love it ! for choosing gps and now home trainer, so i am looking for a home trainer, winter is coming…
    I have 2 models i hesitate my specs are (i live in France) :
    Budget : 400 euros
    Silent : leaving in apartment
    Connectivity : i have a garmin edge 520 i want to connect, maybe drive the HT without app only with gps
    App : don’t know if i will use app, maybe swift… i prefer to choose an app for windows instead of android (bigger screen), didn’t see free app for windows on your recommendation guide

    Models i have choose for now :
    Tacx Vortex
    Pro : smart, price (340euros),
    Cons : noise ? have to buy a special wheel and tire

    Elite turbo muin or volano/roteo with misuro b+
    Pro : silent, direct drive
    Cons : not smart but work with swift, bkool…
    Difference between turbo muin and volano/roteo is power 2000w against 1200w i think

    Budget is the the same, with buying a new wheel/tire, i like the elite for direct drive and silence, but the tacx is smart… the new tacx flux look nice too but expensive…
    What do you think ?

  131. Mark

    I’ve read some things about the Snap being a little better overall than the Magnus. However, I can get the Magnus for about $100 CAD less than the Snap ($760 vs $850). Would the Magnus win out given the price difference?

  132. Jonathan

    (Also posted in the Edge 820 discussion)

    Just got an Edge 820 and a 2016 Kickr (both with latest firmware). The Edge paired with the trainer fine, and I performed the spindown using the Edge (as well as the Wahoo app). When I try to do a power target workout, the Kickr resistance goes to infinite. If I try set the target power manually, it does nothing. If I try to set resistance manually, it works properly.

    The Wahoo Fitness App controls power correctly, but does not run workouts so that is kind of useless.

    I’m very frustrated. Anybody have advice?

    • David Blume

      YES! This exactly. I have had this problem on my Original Kickr since day one. Could never fix it. Wahoo just sent me a fix that seems a bit ridiculous. It disables the strain gauge. They say that the Kickr’s now measure power by optically reading the sticker on the outside of the flywheel. Really? That doesn’t sound very accurate to me. Drives me nuts. Everyone RAVES about the Kickr and I have never been able to get it to work properly in ERG mode.

    • Regarding the new firmware, it actually makes a lot of sense. This explains why: link to youtube.com

    • Jonathan

      I have the new Kicker, so it is not a strain gauge problem.

      Now, in fact, the Kickr is not working at all. I had one successful ride with Virtual Training since, and half a ride with Fulgaz. In the middle of the Fulgaz ride, it started getting funky — changing resistance in a way not completely consistent with the purported gradient. It seemed to correct itself, but then resistance went up to almost immovable even though the gradient was essentially flat. If I really pushed hard (by feel, maybe 400-500 W) I could move the cranks but the power reading was 0. I ended that ride and tried to control the Kickr with the Wahoo Fitness App: as soon as the workout starts, resistance shot up to un-rideable. Tried to control the unit with Wahoo Utility App – same thing. Tried again with Virtual Trainer — same thing.

      Is this simply a defective unit? So far, it is pretty much useless. I’ve had it all of 4 days.

    • David Blume

      I installed the new firmware this weekend and my Kickr (original model, not “2”) and I also performed a detailed cleaning including cleaning the optical sensor and the reader. It seems to be working well at this point. HOWEVER, I notice now that it is recording power when I am coasting (not pedaling). Is this a result of the new firmware turning off the strain gauge?

  133. Si

    Completely new to the world of trainers and interested in the tacx vortex smart as being something fairly middly and able to set up with Zwift et al.

    My question is durability. On looking at reviews on Amazon, there seems to be a significant minority of complaints about this unit giving up the ghost early on. Now I realise that the people most likely to leave comments (in general) are those who have negative things to say but I wonder what the experience has been in this group. Anyone able to comment?

    Thanks
    Si

  134. SERGIO GONZALEZ

    HELP!
    What do you suggest to get:

    1. ELITE Rampa (370 US)
    2 BKOOL PRO (410 US)

    Price doesn’t seem to be a factor. I am worried about quality! Altough bkool has lots of additional Wats to offer

    Thanks

  135. Bernie

    Ray,
    Great source for info on Trainers!
    From NJ. Varied terrain. Mostly varied terrain, some flat, to some 10% -12% hills. Cadd 10 bike. Ride to stay in shape for water skiing but want to take it up a notch to be able to ride with more capable riders. Looking for a Trainer that will be able to simulate the local terrain, especially climbing hills in low gears.

    I’m not a tech geek, and am not really looking for tracking training, but would buy a Smart Trainer if that is what it takes to meet my wants. (I’m willing to spend up to the cost of a Magnus or Snap if need be.)

    I was told by the folks at Cycleops that controlling the Magnus could be as simple as an App on the I-phone that allows +/- to adjust resistance. Does that sound accurate? And if so, would the same apply for the Snap?

    Will the Magnus or Snap give a noticeable (if any) higher resistance at lower speeds than the cable controlled, manually adjusted units that are available?
    Than You in advance for your suggestions/answers.

    • dbsmith

      Given your modest training objectives and your apparent level of knowledge about trainers and apps, the best thing for you to do is to go to a good local bike shop where they can demonstrate how “smart” trainers actually work and you can experience exactly what it means.

      You can probably get the benefit you mention with a simple “dumb” trainer — most will provide the exact same level(s) of resistance that a typical smart trainer will.

      But you may very well decide that you want more capabilities than you mention after you’ve actually experienced using a smart trainer with e.g. Zwift.

      You really need “hands on” to make an informed decision.

    • Bernie

      Here’s the rub regarding looking and learning at bike shops: I haven’t found any shop that has more than maybe a low end trainer or two. Plus, I’ve called both shops and on-line dealers and the people I talk with for the most part, know less than I do about trainers.
      This site was the best source of info I’ve found so far. I scanned all the above posts and read the ones that looked to be helpful.
      I was hoping to hear back from someone who’s been on some of the trainers I referred to and could give feed back accordingly. Or if anyone knows of a good shop to go to in North Jersey or Eastern PA, please chime in. (previous post Dec.3)
      Bernie

    • dbsmith

      A quick look at e.g. the Wahoo Fitness website suggests that there are quite a few stockists in ‘eastern PA/northern NJ’!

      I recommended ‘hands on’ because you seem uncertain whether you actually want a smart trainer or not — whether you need to spend $600 to get a good bike-based workout.

      If you just want to set a trainer at some level of resistance and ride for an hour, the answer is that you don’t need a smart trainer. Most dumb trainers will give you all/as little of the pre-set resistance you need.

      If you want to be able to vary the level of resistance as you workout you can still achieve that (as you seem to know) with several old-style dumb trainers. (You can also do that using the gears on your bike regardless of trainer type).

      The attraction(s) of smart trainers is (a) their ability to vary resistance remotely — either through a phone-based app or an on-line service (i.e. Zwift) and (b) the data streams, especially power calculations) they emit (to your phone, your bike computer or the online service — maybe all three).

      When remote controlled resistance and data are available, developers can do all sorts of neat stuff with e.g. programmed workout routines (Trainer Road), video game-style virtual rides (Zwift) and even virtual reality rides where you can “ride” the Tour de France and see the scenery on your laptop (VeloReality and others).

      So it really depends on how much immersion you’re after. If you just want to get a good workout while, maybe, watching Netflix, you don’t need a smart trainer to do that. But in the last year the emergence of smart trainers has really changed the possibilities available to you, dramatically.

      I’m not familiar with CycleOps but I own a Kickr Snap. You can, indeed, control resistance on the Snap using just an iPhone app and it works great. I assume the CycleOps apps are just as good.

      Before the Snap I had a Kurt Kinetic fluid trainer and it was absolutely perfect for what it offered — good workouts while watching Netflix. You can have your pick of e.g. used Kinetic Road Machines on eBay for around $200.

      I’m guessing that, if you had a chance to try one, you’d be amazed and excited by what is possible with the current crop of smart trainers — that’s why I suggested you get to the LBS. But you certainly don’t need a $600 trainer to get high levels of resistance and an excellent workout.

  136. Andrew Seidman

    Hi,

    I’m noticing with my Tacx Vortex that when im at a fairly low power (~120W) my 4iiii and Tacx are fairly similar. The higher that number goes and they begin to diverge. Around 200W the 4iii shows abot 30W higher. Once you’re in the 300s its an even farther margin, well out of the 5% accuracy range. What may I be doing wrong? To the best of my knowledge everything is calibrated and set up by the book. Tires warm, spin down, 2 full rotations of the knob, etc. Thanks!

    • Is your calibration after about 10 minutes or so? And any chance tried a bit tighter or looser on the rotations?

    • Michal

      Is temperature in the room you’re training stable or is it go down as training progresses? What tire do you use? Is your 4iiii PM left leg only and if that so what is your stronger leg?

      The only problem I had with my Vortex was overestimating power when overheating (long intervals >250W). Better ventilation of the room and resistance unit helped and now I observe +/- 2% accuracy comparing to power meter, much better than advertised. I see you’re having opposite problem which is rare as far as I know.

    • Andrew Seidman

      Yeah my calibration is after about 10 minutes of warmup. I’ve played around with the knob in both directions but when I FINALLY get it to match my crank, you’d think as long as I keep all these variable the same it should match the following ride. Alas, no dice and i’m fiddling around again. I’ve noticed that sometimes in the calibration screen of Trainer Road I can get the numbers to be pretty close up to the 215W range, but when I go to erg mode suddenly 250W on 4iii equals 220W on Trainer Road. Could there be an offset that got screwed up somewhere along the way? I’ve accepted it’s going to be a little off from time to time with a left-only crank based PM and a resistance based trainer, but on a 20s sprint 450W (Tacx) vs 550W(4iiii) is just strange.

      For what it’s worth, I keep my trainer in my basement so it gets a little colder than room temp. and I use the “Tacx recommended” trainer tire (I know, I know). But after 10-15 minutes of warm up I wouldn’t think the temperature of the room matters. In any case, isn’t it usually the trainer that reports higher wattage off the bat if you calibrate before the tire is warm? I thought that might mean the knob is too tight if my 4iiii is higher, but then wouldn’t that induce slipping?

    • Michal

      Temperature of the room would matter If it dropped since them moment of calibration (due to open window etc.). That would result in underreporting of power. Similar situation could happen if cooling fan was turned off during warm up and calibration and was turned on later.

    • Michal

      Also the difference you’re reporting might be due to leg power imbalance if your left leg is stronger than right leg.

    • Andrew Seidman

      No open windows, I’d say the room is generally a constant temperature. Maybe warmer over time in my vicinity because i’m a human. I never thought about the fan. I do usually turn on a small desk fan when I begin my workout, but I can’t imagine that’s altering the temperature around the trainer. I will give it a shot though. Left Right imbalance i’m sure plays a part somewhere, but that would have to be a pretty extreme imbalance at a comfortable power output. Unfortunately there’s no way to check that until 4iiii allows dual-side Ultegra, but that’s another issue :)

      As I mentioned before, sometimes I can get it accurate, most times not. So unless sometimes i pedal correctly and most times I don’t, I’m a little skeptical my LR balance is too far off.

    • Andrew Seidman

      To add one more wrinkle, I remembered before I started using Trainer Road to calibrate I used the Tacx Utility App. I could never get the calibration in the green GOOD zone. It ALWAYS said it was too loose, unless the tire was irrationally tight to the point where I could barely spin. Eventually gave up on that because I just figured the android version of the Tacx app was buggy.

    • Michal

      Fan doesn’t alter temperature but moving air affects how fast heat is being dissipated. Small desk fan shouldn’t affect trainer that much though.

      Potential imbalance wouldn’t have to be so extreme. Only 5% difference in leg power would result in 10% power over/understatement by one leg only power meter. Add to 3% drive-train power loss and you get 13% of difference which at 250W total power output is equivalent to 30W.

    • Michal

      Have you ever tried Tacx Cycling App (for tablets)? That’s what I use for calibration.

    • Andrew Seidman

      I have, and I have had better results with that than utility in the past. Recently i’ve only used trainer road. I’ll use that again and see if i’m far off.

  137. Ron Boh

    Clever Training mentions that the Elite Rampa accuracy is within +/- 1% (instead of +/- 5%), and the flywheel weight is at 3KG in the video (instead of 2.3KG mentioned in the table on top).

    link to clevertraining.com

    Any Elite Rampa owners can help to clarify?

  138. Ed Hoskins

    Ray, I’ve just been told by wiggle.co.uk that the Kickr Snap has been discontinued and they’ve completely removed it from their online store (it was previously showing as expecting new stock in 2-4 weeks).

    Have you heard anything about this?

    • Nah, they’re confused.

      Basically, Wahoo totally misjudged inventory for the holidays, and ran out of SNAP units about two weeks ago. Some some retailers that had leftovers obviously still had stock – but others (like Clever Training with the huge trainer sale) blew through all their units.

      As a result, they actually had to airship a containers worth of newly made SNAP’s to Atlanta (Wahoo HQ) about a week ago. Still, there’s going to be some breaks in supply though until new shipments catch up.

    • John

      Purchased my Wahoo in November – worked fine for a couple of months – last week developed a low growl that got louder and louder coupled with vibration.

      Poor response from Wahoo – only came back to me after poking them on social media.

      Sent a .pdf with a supposed fix; they claimed it was due to the main power cable rubbing against the flywheel. The fix involved removing the cover and zip-tying the main power cable to another wire.

      This actually was far more time consuming and required more dexterity than I am used to. Put the thing back together and no change.

      My research reveals that there are a lot of us experiencing this issue.

      Wahoo have been absolute awful in terms of their service.

      Here are some youtube clips of people experiencing the same issue – all with Snaps purchased in the last couple of months…

      Quality issue – for sure… not fit for purpose, not satisfactory quality and Wahoo are not taking ownership of the issue and are fobbing customers off: moral of the story – AVOID WAHOO LIKE THE PLAGUE.

      youtu.be/zCm7PFdhRSw

      youtu.be/qcp_0oHezPw

      youtu.be/YZPg0pSUd_A

      youtu.be/pJ02caZVzuo

      youtu.be/28kuiP77IDM

    • David Sembiante

      That’s why they call it the Wahoo Scrap. How did this make DCRs recommended list? And no removal from that list despite all the complaints. Can’t make this up.

    • No David, it’s just you that calls it that.

      And oddly, despite asking countless times for you to post a video demonstrating your supposed vibration problems, you’ve yet to do so.

    • John

      Well I posted links to several videos Ray.

      You might also take a look at the Facebook user group – there are serious and genuine quality issues with the Snap.

      I absolutely loved mine for 2 months and then midway through a ride it just developed the growl and vibration. Wahoo were absolutely woeful.

      They eventually refunded me and at least one other guy from the Facebook user group that I was in touch with.

      I was so appalled by the nonchalant manner of the Wahoo support that I will never buy Wahoo again – and I had invested a lot with them – largely moving to them over Garmin — but right back with f Garmin now.

      And it’s a Tacx Bushido Smart for me next (£375!)

    • David Sembiante

      Another satisfied Wahoo Scrap user!

    • With any trainer there will be a handful of people that aren’t happy with it (or with support). I can point to any trainer and find a pocket (likely 1% or less) of people with issues:

      Tacx Flux – Belt braking
      Tacx Neo – Noise issues
      Tacx Bushido – Brake failing
      Wahoo KICKR v1 – Accuracy issues
      Elite Drivo – Component failure

      And on and on…. The same goes for support. Most people seem pretty happy with Wahoo support, of course, a few aren’t happy. Same with Tacx (actually, most people aren’t happy with Tacx support), or with Elite.

      And that doesn’t account for challenges where some people have legit issues, some people perceive themselves to have issues, and some people simply make up issues.

      The point isn’t to try and find every random issue that folks have or the outliers, but rather to find what the overwhelming majority of people are having (i.e. 97%+).

    • David Sembiante

      True. I just wish I was in the “other 1%”.

  139. Ryan

    I am looking for a mid-range trainer, and someone local is offering an unopened Vortex Smart for $540 CAD (about $400 USD). I was considering waiting for the Magnus review and any potential upcoming sales, but is this deal too good to pass up? The lower maximum resistance on the Vortex is a bit concerning, though I am a relatively beginner rider. I do plan on Zwifting alot this winter though!

  140. Stu

    First off, thanks for all the reviews! Love them. I know it is a labor of love for you.
    Smart Bike trainers!
    I have Kurt Fluid trainer with a power meter. Love Zwift and it will be a cold winter of indoor riding. I want to take my Zwift (& possibly other apps) to the next level and turn it into a Computrainer like Trainer.
    So Questions:
    BKool vs WAhoo? TacX. $$$
    Does Wahoo allow you to re-ride rides I’ve done on my Garmin? Bkool does… Yes ( appeals to me for riding Tri Courses I have done)
    If yes, for either app…. What do I see while riding…
    Does it matter about the trainer power if I have a power meter?
    Will BKool Work seamlessly with Zwift and controlling the trainer as it relates to terrain?
    I am confused with the Ant+ FEC vs Blue tooth….. (Does blue tooth relate more to Apple or the equipment (speed/cadence, HRM, Power)……
    If I have PowerTap power hub (roadie), Vector (Tri), Speed and Cadence, Edge 820 & 920XT……. Which makes the most sense?
    I want to feel the terrain in Zwift (& possibly other apps) and re-ride rides I have on my Garmin from outside…..
    Need some help deciding how to improve my pain cave!!!

    Stu

  141. TG

    Soundproofing Solutions… Thanks Ray for all your reviews. Because of them, over the 18-24 months I’ve confidently purchased from CleverTraining P1 pedals, a Withings scale and a Garmin Fenix HR. And just this past holiday, the Kickr-2.

    Now, about the Kickr and noise… I saw your latest video comparing the noise of three different trainers and I see in this review 25 instances of the word noise (last year’s was ~90) and in the Kickr review there are 17 mentions. I’m wondering, has anyone attempted to soundproof the room in which they use their trainer? Or maybe just build a small box with soundproofing acoustical material such as this in it that fits loosely over the trainer?
    link to westcoastsoundsolutions.com

    Of course, overheating of the unit might become an issue. I’m starting to look into this and wondered if others have tried anything more than a mat underneath. I already have that. I’m about to contact these folks for some answers…
    link to westcoastsoundsolutions.com

    • I think it’d be challenging. An enclosure would have to still allow the drive-chain to go through (plus your frame). Further, your pedal on your crank arm would be coming pretty darn close – so clearance would also be an issue.

  142. David Tucker

    Just picked up the Tacx Vortex over the weekend on Amazon since it was going for $473 and that seemed like a killer deal. I got it the next day when I was still out of the country! Gotta love fast shipping. But I assembled it last night and took it for a quick spin this morning to test it out. I really liked the difference between this and my $100 TravelTec or whatever it was called when I got it at Performance a few years ago. I ran it with just my 520 since I just moved and can’t seem to find my Ant+ stick for the computer to try out Zwift. It was fun to use a course I created based on my honeymoon ride through Sonoma with my wife so I could see how it simulated hills. (She even agreed to road bikes vs hybrids…)

    I have a question about how the calibration works. I calibrated it before I started my ride and everything looked ok on the Android app. Should I be doing calibration again though after I start riding? And is calibration something I should do every ride? I’m not really clear on what it’s doing.

    • Michal

      Calibration should be performed after warm up, around 10 minutes into the ride (resistance unit and tire have to be warm during spindown for best power accuracy). You don’t need to do it before every ride if you are sure that room temperature and tire pressure are the same as the last time you calibrated trainer. Vortex saves calibration value and uses it on the next ride.

    • David Tucker

      Thanks Michal. I did that today thought I really don’t know what it might have changed!

  143. Christoph

    Stay away from Tacx, really.

    I’ve bought a Tacx Vortex Smart two years ago. After permanantly having disconnects (Nexus 7, Nexus 5) every two minutes, I’ve sent it back last winter – after months of frustration and no training.
    The “repaired” it, though no one could tell me what exactly they did. I assume it was a scam to avoid me sending it back under warranty.

    This year tried my luck again, updating the software, but I’ve got the same problems.
    Customer support is a nightmare.

    I literally hate this company, please do not buy anything of Tacx if you are serious about training.
    I wasted 2 seasons, and I’m very frustrated.

    • Given you’re getting disconnects on multiple phones, it looks to me like a pretty simple/straight-forward case of WiFi interference within the room your trainer is on (also can be caused by wireless phones). You’d likely see the same thing on any wireless trainer you try, since they’re all using the same protocol.

    • Christoph

      It’s in my basement, there is nothing besides the trainer and my tablet..

    • Tablet with WiFi could technically do it, though rare.

      One thing to try is actually doing a Zwift workout and then using Zwiftalyzer, it’ll let you know about any dropouts and often other tech details that can be useful in troubleshooting.

    • Christoph

      Thank’s, I’ll give that a try. But it’s hard to believe that these trainers (and protocols) are so different to standard BT devices that work for hours without problems..

    • “It’s in my basement, there is nothing besides the trainer and my tablet..”
      It does not matter. Could be a power grid or whatever else. We had particular case when customer bought USB network card and immediately started experience heavy signal loss. After changing that card to internal one everything went nice and rosy, no more signal drops. Go figure.

    • “But it’s hard to believe that these trainers (and protocols) are so different to standard BT devices that work for hours without problems..” those devices do not use Bluetooth LE.

    • Sergio

      Did you have the chance to try it trough bluetooth??

    • Sergio

      Did you have the chance to try it via bluetooth??

    • Christoph

      Those devices actually use BT LE.
      Statistically, I assume that most people don’t have the RF isolation I do have in my basement – but the majority of users has no such problems. Thus it’s fair to assume it is not my tablet.

    • Ben

      Sounds like you’re making a lot of accusations and assumptions without doing much actual scientific testing, or trying the things people are suggesting to help you

    • Christoph

      What makes you think so?
      I had two years time to test this. It included every possibility suggested by the – not very professional – Tacx support team.
      Since the RF interference problems came up in a separate discussion I disabled every source of noise and measured the RF floor.
      I tried several other BT, ANT+ and BTLE devices to see if it’s related to the Nexus devices.
      I’ve started several discussions on Android forums to double check if it could be an Android OS related problem.

      This is how I arrived at my current set of accusations.

    • Have you tried something that’s not a phone (desktop/laptop/etc…)? And which apps?

      I guess what people are saying here is that while it may be easy to blame Tacx for it, it’s likely not actually the culprit. Generally speaking, ANT+/BLE chipsets aren’t things that often die/break on trainers. As in, I’ve never heard of one dying.

      Interference is far more common, and while still generally not a day to day issue, it’s something that can be seen from time to time. I run into it about 1-3 times a season usually, though in an extremely RF heavy environment.

  144. Phil

    Thanks for putting these reports together annually! Seriously influenced a lot of purchases of mine from Garmins to trainers.

    Picked up one of the few Kickr Snaps still floating around in store yesterday for full blow, came into work this morning and saw the email from Performancebicycle.com stating 20% off of all online orders today! Being curious, I go in, click around. Tacx Flux is on the list of items where you can apply that 20% too bringing the price down to $720, plus another 10% back for members. Drawback: Not shipping until 1/2/17. Is the Tacx $100 at that price point the go to?! Even with that wait?!

  145. Rick

    does it make sense to put a “lower end” road bike on a high-end trainer with it’s own cassette?

    I have been using a “very dumb” trainer – just rear wheel resistance. The speed numbers are ridiculous when using a rear wheel computer – they are accurate to the wheel revolutions but not similar at all to riding in the real world.

    I have no power meter experience. I ride many bikes outside – lots of miles on old Trek 1200’s, a new $600 cyclocross bike, and mountain bike. I like to ride – want to improve. I need to ride more – more than I need to spend $$$$ on another bike. I don’t want to spend $600 on an indoor trainer only to find that I want a more expensive on immediately.

    Where should I start? What trainer/type should I be looking at? Zwift really interests me.

    Any help/suggestions would be appreciated……

    Thank you

    • Paul S

      The whole point of a trainer is to convert food energy into waste heat, with a secondary purpose of boring you to death. I can’t think of a single reason why the quality of the bike would matter. The only thing to watch out for is if the hardware on the bike is compatible with the trainer (for example, not having a thin chain that would engage correctly with an 11 cog cluster, having tires too wide for the trainer, things like that). Things like Zwift are an attempt to alleviate boredom, but no trainer I know of compares with riding outdoors. Someday, maybe, we’ll have true VR like Star Trek holodecks and you won’t easily be able to tell the difference between riding inside and outside, but we’re not there yet.

      I wouldn’t look to a trainer to improve. Mostly they exist to try to hang onto some of the fitness developed during the summer. If you live somewhere where it’s above freezing most of the time, investing in cold weather clothing and riding outdoors might be a much better idea than a trainer.

    • Rick

      I think I worded my question poorly………..I’m looking to change my indoor riding (Michigan) and alleviate the boredom.

    • dbsmith

      1. If you have several bikes and want to be able to, easily, change from one to the other using the trainer, you want a “wheel-on” trainer.
      2. If the concept of Zwift — a program that controls trainer resistance and offers a degree of “social” interaction — ability to do group rides/races — you want a wheel-on “smart” trainer.
      3. If you live in the States I’d recommend buying a trainer with US-based support (Wahoo, Kurt Kinetic, etc). If you live in Europe, Tacx seems popular (but US support gets bad reviews). Read DCR’s recommendations.
      I, personally, am very happy with a Wahoo Kickr Snap. I bought a wheel-off Kickr and also a Tacx Neo Smart (both supposedly highest end) but sold them both and came back to the Snap. YMMV.
      With any reputable smart trainer (the category is really only two years old) you’ll be able to provide appropriate resistance levels for your wife and kids.
      Someone in this thread said you can’t improve on a trainer — I think that’s factually incorrect — you can work plenty hard on an indoor trainer and, if you follow a real training program, you certainly can improve! (But I do think it’s probably correct to say that it’s more difficult to work as hard, for as long, riding inside.)

    • Davesee

      Hi Rick,

      I used to dread the winter (I live just a little south of you in Ohio) and riding the trainer (I have a $350 fluid trainer). I did some DVD’s (spinnervals I think) and although good work outs–were not fun. So not fun that I skipped using the trainer for a whole winter. Last winter the owner of my LBS said he started using Sufferfest videos and liked them a lot. I bought a video and did like it better. Then I tried their app on an iPad with heart rate, speed, and cadence connected and it was awesome. If you’re looking to improve–they have quite a few training plans that come with the app subscriptions ($10 a month) and they will definitely improve you a lot. I picked up 1-2 mph doing one of their 10 week programs. For me–winter is a time to sharpen and get better for outdoor season. So whether you do Sufferfest, TrainerRoad, or something else–I think the key is to find work outs that you enjoy doing and then you’ll see the improvements. As I said–I used to dread trainer work and now I look forward to it.

      I have not taken the dip into Zwift although looks really fun and could be fun to train on there too for open rides. Not sure how good the experience would be on a “unconnected” trainer but at $600 I’d read DCR’s review on KICKR Snap and Cyclops Magnus which seems like it will be published soon (make sure to read comments as well). You could reach out to both companies as well to make sure they will work with whichever bike you decide to use on it.

    • Rick

      Bought a Kickr in early January (after debating/agonizing over spending that much $$). Absolutely love it paired with Zwift. This is a complete game changer for indoor riding. It is crazy how much more interesting this makes things.
      Zwift and a movie or a good podcast – and the time just flies by.

      I will probably ride more miles indoors in 2017 than out – hopefully not – but it could go that way.

      Gotta go Ride…..enjoy y’all

  146. Jared Blankenship

    I’m looking for an interactive trainer in the $400-700 range that will allow quick, easy transitions from 24″-650c-700c wheel sizes. Will any of these do this without moving the resistance unit? Will I be able to alter settings to adjust resistance levels easily for my wife and daughter to use it also?

    • Jared Blankenship

      Edit-Will I be able to alter settings in apps, such as Zwift, Trainer Road, etc., to adjust resistance levels easily for my wife and daughter to use it also?

    • tim

      Most of these apps have a single user account / profile.

      I suppose you could manually edit the FTP and/or weight of the rider each time you change who is using the app.

      Similarly you could each have your own account (obviously more costly) and it would be managed there.

      Some pros to “your own account” — less fiddling with settings, better historical performance tracking and workout history. Of course the con would be the additional cost.

      I don’t know if the apps themselves have any issues with constantly changing between users for a single account (would they shut you down?). Somehow if you are paying for the account I doubt they would care if you are willing to put up with the mild hassle.

    • dbsmith

      Have a look at the Wahoo Kickr Snap. Around $600, “smart”, will accommodate different wheel sizes with minimum hassle, excellent (big) flywheel so good inertia (feels more like riding a real bike outdoors). Wahoo support is among the most responsive (not perfect, but better than most).

  147. David

    My local shop has the hammer in stock do I buy or wait for the tacx flux eager to start riding swift

  148. David Sembiante

    Surprised that you recommended the Snap. After returning a KK Smart Control, I thought I’d use a DCR recommendation. My Snap vibrates (KK was at least very smooth like my KK fluid trainer), brake applies randomly, weak ANT signal with dongle 6″ from the unit, power swings widely and wildly, power drops to zero.

    When researching other sites I see many describing that exact same problems I’m having.

    Surprised you recommended this. Build quality seems low…..out of round components and faulty electronics.

    • As noted on the SNAP review that you posted similar comments, there are some straight forward troubleshooting steps you should/could try.

      Simple interference (connectivity) could explain your issues, and if you look at this page and other trainer reviews you’ll see identical behavarious across all units when interference happens. This causes these sorts of power on/off issues because it’s trying to bridge a gap between last known information.

  149. Sam

    For the mid-range options, how would you rate them for physical balance/solid feel? The floor in our basement is anything but level. Thanks.

  150. Djay

    Hello,

    There is something that bothers me about choosing a trainer. How do I know if my bike will be compatible/fit on the trainer?

    I was looking at both Tacx Neo Or Flux (not sure I want Neo when I see the pricing of Flux) and I own a GT grade 105 and I wonder if it will fit.

    I can’t find any information about this anywhere.

    Regards.

  151. David Sembiante

    0 – 3 in terms of a Smart Trainer that might actually work.

    12/23/2016 Update.

    Here’s an update if anybody cares on my journey to find a working smart trainer.

    1) Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Trainer – RETURNED – Purchased in early November. No way this thing was ready for market. KK kept saying we will have fixes next week. Well that week is not over yet.

    2) Went with a DCR recommendation, Wahoo Snap. WORSE than the KK Smart Control as it had both hardware and software problems. Out of round roller made it comically (well not really) vibrate, software reported ridiculous power, varying from 0 to 220 while pedaling steadily. RETURNED

    3) At the local bike shop today they reported they sold the Bkool Pro unit they were trying to talk me into. It was reboxed and heading back to Bkool – vibration and software issues. RETURNED

    So me and my bike shop are 0 – 3. They told me even though Wahoo is out of stock of the Snap they have some reserved for warranty claim so we going that route since it is a DCR recommendation and I trust him when he says defects happen and they are not common (otherwise there would be uproar here).

    Hopefully have something in a week or two and report back.

    This is gone on almost two months now.

    David

  152. Steve S.

    Thanks for the detailed review. I had been leaning toward the Kickr2, but after I read your review I decided to kick in the extra $ and ordered the Tacx Neo Smart from the supplied link to Clever Training and got the 10% discount with your DCR10MHD code.

    I am also interested in exploring the various PC-based training apps — I’m in it for cardio not competition, so I’ll be looking forward to apps that let me tour around and maybe gameify a bit.

    Again thanks for your time and research.

  153. Mike

    David –

    Thanks for the feedback, in case anyone didn’t see my posts on the SNAP thread, I had to return a brand new SNAP because it’s brake was locking up on its own, and I suspect it also had out of round/vibration issues although that’s difficult to quantify.

    What really infuriated me was Wahoo refused to pay my $45 return shipping on an exchange, then would not post my critical review on their site – those are all “moderated” and apparently everyone there is happy with theirs.

    Needless to say support DCR or your LBS. I’m a glutton for punishment and will probably try again like David but only after this gets sorted out.

    • David Sembiante

      Hi Mike. I had the same frustration with Wahoo not wanting to ship directly, so I went back to the LBS and they will work the warranty claim. The LBS reports that Wahoo kept unis side for warranty repair, so it should only be a week or so. DCR assures me that the vast vast number of these units are working wonderfully. Based on that, the odds of getting two defective on a row is quite slim. Hard to beat the build quality of KK hardware….too bad they can’t make software.

      I had read your comments, even pointed out to DCR that others are experiencing what I experienced with Wahoo.

  154. Nigel

    This might be a dumb question, but if you have a trainer with attached cassette, does the range of that cassette have to match that on your bike for minimal changeover difficulties?

    I have a Campagnolo Chorus cassette. If I have a 12-29 on my bike’s rear wheel and 12-27 on the trainer, will I be able to swap the bike over without readjusting the derailleur setting?

    • Stuart

      When you change your wheel to one with a different cassette, do you need to adjust your derailleur? Same thing.

      I run an 11-28 on my road bike and training wheel (on my TT), and a 12-25 on my Kickr and race wheel. No issues whatsoever (Shimano 11 speed 105 on the roadie, Ultegra Di2 on the TT.) As long as the chain is long enough for the biggest combination, and the rear derailleur has enough capacity to take up the slack, it’ll be fine.

    • Nigel

      Thanks, Stuart.

      “When you change your wheel to one with a different cassette, do you need to adjust your derailleur?”

      Therein lies the rub, and the reason for my question, I don’t change my rear wheel so I had no idea whether changing between 27 and 29 would be a problem. But since you swap 25/28 I guess it’s be fine! :)

  155. Edgar

    Hi,
    As i understood of the reading of this review and each of these models specific review on middle range smart trainers is that The Elite Rampa and Tacx Bushido and Vortex are the only of then that broadcasts cadence,speed and power. And, analizing just the 3 of then, Tacx Vortex is in a pretty lower level if max. incline matters to you. So is the Elite Rampa the best option as the Tacx Busuido is US$ 200 more expensive? Or have i missed any important issue? Do you have any info in which of these trainers is the most quiet?

  156. Michael Longano

    Hey Ray I love your reviews, the most informative and detailed I’ve seen on anything, ever! Anyways, I just wanted to know if there is a clear winner for quietness in the $400-$1000 mid range? I have a garmin 1000 and would love to simulate rides I have done previously and also to use zwift properly. I also really like riding on a trainer for a half hour, or an hour, and seeing what wattage I can average (stages pm). It really keeps me interested and motivated to improve. I have the original jetblack z1 fluid trainer at the moment and it is very quiet. I’d hate to drop $700 on something and find its louder than what I have now, though. Cheers, Mike

    • I’d have to divide it up into the sub-$600 range, and then up closer to $1000 (i.e. Tacx Flux). I haven’t done a head to head between the Tacx Flux and the wheel-on trainers. My guess is that it’s close to a wash at ‘normal’ speeds (i.e. 10-18MPH), but likely sways in favor of the Flux at higher speeds (above 18MPH).

  157. Ethan

    I’d love the Elite Rampa — apps with a trainer sounds great.

  158. Alvaro

    Hi Ray.

    I followed your advise and wanted to order the Kickr Snap via Clever Training, so I signed up and paid the VIP club fee. There is no 10% discount on that product. Very disappointed.

    Is there a way to get a discount?

    AJS

    • Hi Alvaro-

      For Wahoo, they only permit 10% back in points (which you can then use immediately for other purchases – such as sensors or such). It’s a manufacturer restriction, and not a Clever Training one unfortunately. So basically, it’s the same restriction everywhere within the US (where MAP policies are enforced).

      Thanks for the support via CT though!
      -Ray

  159. Don Laury

    So Tacx Flux still not out yet, I guess?

  160. Nicholas

    I just bought a Tacx Flow Smart. It has only an inclination percentage of 6% and a has a maximum wattage output of 800 Watts. But it costs like 120 euro less then the Vortex Smart. I bought it for 240 euro. Seems like the best bang for the buck to me for a beginner.

  161. michael khamsot

    Taxc Neo been out over a year now. Do you think they will come out with a update model like KickR2 or new model for 2017? thanks

    • The next point we’d see new trainers announced is late next summer (i.e. August), for availability 1-3 months later. Unknown on Neo, at present, they kinda have the best product out there.

  162. Michael M

    Anyone have any thoughts re the CycleOps Phantom 5?

  163. Sean

    Hi Ray,
    Sean from Expatriés Tri Club in Paris here… How are you?!
    I’m thinking of upgrading my 4yr old Elite Qubo Digital trainer to a newer Qubo Digital Smart B+ which seems good value at €310 on amazon.fr but had a quick couple of questions.
    1. I’m used to controlling the resistance via a wireless head unit on the old trainer but can’t seem to see how I change the resistance on the new version – is there a manual control included?
    2. From reading the 2015-16 trainer review I see that the Smart B+ trainer won’t send data to a Garmin head unit. Do I need an app on a smartphone to see the power output in real time if, for example, I’m not doing a workout on Sufferfest or similar?
    Much appreciated and see you at the next team social. After an obligatory January de-tox of course!
    Cheers Sean

    • peroni

      I don’t know if something has changed on the firmware level but I recently bought a Qubo Digital Smart B+ and it does broadcast power and cadence to my old Garmin Edge 500 unit.

      It also offers a way to calibrate the trainer manually if you have another source of power to be used for comparison.

      Pretty solid deal, you also get a voucher for one of of free Zwift. All for 260€

  164. jared

    So now that the hammer is available is the Tacx Neo still the trainer you’d recommend if cost is not a factor?

    • Davesee

      Hi Jared–if you read DCR’s comments on other recent trainer reviews–I think his rankings would be as follows:
      1. Tacx Neo
      2. Elite Drivo
      3. Hammer and KICKR2

    • dbsmith

      I’d be careful about relying on DCR’s (or anyone’s) recommendation about what is the “best” trainer for YOU.

      DCR has been up-front about saying that “feel” isn’t particularly important to him, that he often prefers to use a wheel-on trainer and that ratings of trainer noise are highly subjective and depend on environmental conditions.

      I’ve owned a KK Rock and Roll, a Kickr Gen 1, a 2017 Neo and a Kickr Snap. For me, the “best” trainer, and the one I still own, is the Kickr Snap — the Kickr was too loud, the Neo had lousy road feel (IMO there’s no substitute for old-fashioned flywheel mass). The Rock and Roll lost out because it was “dumb” but, in many other ways, it was (for me) the best of all.

      Best advice is to try before you buy or, at least, have a good return guarantee if you don’t like what you get.

    • “…Best advice is to try before you buy or, at least, have a good return guarantee if you don’t like what you get…” – words of wisdom.

    • David Sembiante

      Agreed…..while I tried to support my local bike shop with the purchase it was a dumb idea. Return for store credit only. My lesson, purchase durable goods on Amazon, service at the bike shop.

      I LOVED the feel of the rock and roll trainer. I wonder if KK will ever get their smart control to be, well, smart. It was simply not ready for prime time.

      The build quality of both my Snaps was poor….out of round rollers. So I have to go another few weeks without a trainer because of poor Wahoo quality? That is unacceptable. I’m going to ask that they ship to the local bike shop and I can use the out of round unit unit they get their act together.

      David

  165. Tim

    The trainer review implies that the ten percent discount at Clever Training works on the Wahoo Kickr products. It does not. If you join the VIP club you will get points towards the purchase of other products, but that’s not the same as getting 10% off the trainer. I have everything else; all I need is the trainer so there is no discount available. This seems misleading.

    • DHG

      I am also trying to figure out how to use the VIP to save at checkout. I have VIP and the KICKR in the basket. I see the total points I will earn but I do not see how I can apply them to this purchase. I am not sure I will need those points for future purchases. Any help appreciated.

  166. Troy

    Ray,

    For the budget travel trac trainers
    Performance offers 2 options
    There is only about a $30 difference
    Magnetic vs Fluid

    What one do you recommend?
    The fluid trainer option is $30 more

    Thanks

  167. CJH

    Anton,

    very interesting, can you advise which trainer is preferred by your fraternity?

  168. Ruben

    Hi, I just wanna ask if you have a review of the super magneto pro. I just found what appears to be a good deal on clever tranning, 280$ for the trainning kit

  169. Kristopher

    Your promo code wouldn’t work on the KICKR Snap on the Clever Training site. Please advise.

  170. Gousti Fruit

    Has anyone any experience with the Bkool Smart Pro ? Is the slope simulation realistic, as it is supposed to simulate up to 20% ? I have a Tacx Vortex and though it is advertised to simulate up to 7%, I see no difference above 4.5%, which removes part of the fun on Zwift !

  171. Tron

    Hey Ray,

    First off — big fan of your work and I truly respect your opinion.

    I’m debating the KICKR2 vs TacX Neo (2016)

    Buying a trainer is a considerable investment and a difficult choice, as most of us don’t have the opportunity to try before we buy.

    Based on my reading and your reviews, the KICKR’s appeal is in it’s robustness, reliability and customer support. I am also uncertain as to whether the physical flywheel is an advantage over the Neo. The Neo has the appeal of being quieter, more feature-filled (although I’m not sure if cobble-stone rumbles are gimmicky) and slightly higher hill/power ratings. I am concerned about the QA issues, the built in sway (I’m 95 kg), and the relatively LOW uptake of the device in North America.

    I’m Canadian, and the KICKR vs Neo are within $100 CAD of each other (~ $70 USD). The Neo therefore seems to be a much better price point given that it is about $400 USD more if purchased in the US.

    My question to you is:
    – How does the physical flywheel of KICKR vs virtual flywheel of Neo compare in terms of ride feel
    – Does the Neo feel poorly built?

    All things considered, if prices were relatively equal, do you think the Neo is a better product?

    Thank you for your opinion and expertise,
    Tron

    • In case you are in Toronto or nearby you can try either in “The 11” bike store. Here is their page in FB: link to facebook.com

    • Tron

      I’m in Vancouver and therefore don’t have that opportunity :(

      None of the local bike shops I spoke with here have much familiarity with the Neo, and all state that the KICKR is a better seller. That’s my main hesitation towards the Neo. Otherwise, by all measures and reviews it seems to be a better product. Thoughts?

    • Just to make everything clear: we make our own high end trainer but it is very expensive.
      As to what is better: that depends on lots of criteria. What I value might be very different from what you value. So even though I have experience with many (I do test trainers as a part of my job) I will not give you my personal preferences.

      One advice from a money cautious customer point of view. If you do not like the trainer or believe something is wrong would you be able to return it to the same place you bough it from for refund/exchange. That’s the first question you should ask.

      Few years ago I used trainer from manufacturer XYZ and it’d taken me more then 2 month to organize exchange as I got a unit from a batch that had production defect. The shop I bought it from was not at fault though. The manufacturer was.

  172. Martin Bjorgvik

    Hi
    One thing that I would like to see in future reviews of trainers is accuracy against an external powermeter at different watts or if someone knows of such a site where they done tests of that kind.

  173. Jim in Colorado

    The Shane Miller YouTube video on the Tacx Flux reported that they originally had a 10 second delay between the rider increasing power and it showing up on Zwift. A firmware update reduced that to 5 seconds. A 5 second delay in reacting to rider power is unacceptable to me. If I’m in a Zwift race and it takes the trainer 5 seconds to notice ‘m out of the saddle hammering, then my attempt to create/bridge/prevent a gap is gone.

    I’m currently Zwifting on a Kurt Kinetic Rock-n-Roll using an ANT+ dongle to read the power from the power meter on my bike. When I stomp, my Zwift avatar goes! In races, missing the break because of trainer lag would really take the fun out of it.

    Your review doesn’t mention a delay for any of the smart trainers. Do any of the smart trainers you reviewed suffer from this problem?

  174. Ed Schirmer

    I completely agree with your recommendation of the Tacx NEO. It is incredibly quiet and accurate. It is worth the extra investment! I did test the New Kicker (way too loud) and the Hammer before I got the NEO.

  175. VanMich

    Hi DCR, love your site..

    I’ve got the Kinetic roadMachine (not smart), I want better! (wheel slips, fluid consistancy variates…)

    I want max road feel above all, and a constant resistance for all the session and on accels, my eyes on the power number I’m developping, the chrono, and nothing else! (till now my eyes are still on the cardio, it would be my 1st PowerMeter!)
    So I’m thinking: KURA…

    Sad thing is I may miss the possibility to tighten the resistance for some little portions; but I can’t go “smart”, my head would explode!
    Unless…
    I’m a primate in technology (got nothing blu or ant), so if I buy a Drivo, what would be (step by step please!) the EASIEST way to plug it (what and where!), have on screen just the power I developpe and a chrono, and for the plus part: click on “road feel” for most of the session, and for some portions click on “10% climb”, using a PC ?

    Thanks!
    (and pardon I’m french!)

    • I’d probably look at an app like CycleOps Virtual Training. Lots of flexibility to do that kind of simple control. They have a 30-day trial I believe, so may want to check it out first.

  176. Marek

    Considering the current prices in Europe being within 1150 – 1300euros (bike24.com) for Drivo, Neo, and Kickr… would you say Neo is no brainer here? (it is not even the most expensive out of 3).

    If you would really take price out of the equation, how yould you compare the 3?

    • Ignoring price, Neo, easily.

    • Tron

      Thanks for your advice Ray! I just ordered a Neo based on this comment. It’s arriving in March. Some excellent prices on the Neo is Canada, comparatively, where it is the same as the KICKR.

      I got mine for $1680 after taxes, as an FYI to other Canadian readers. Limited availability from distributor means we have to wait for the next shipment though.

    • RickZ

      Hey Tron
      Where in Canada did you get it for that price taxes in?
      Thanks

    • jay

      I’d like to know too, please!

    • Tron

      I have a discount at a local bike shop (LBS) in Vancouver.

      The bike shops seem to use the same distributor, locally at least. And they can still turn a profit at that price.

      Out of respect for the LBS I won’t post their name, but hopefully knowing that they can turn a profit at this price can help you negotiate a good deal.

  177. I had a Neo for about 6 months and it started making funny noises and had to get sent back to Tacx.

  178. Arthur J Schwartz

    Greetings dear DC Rainmaker! Thank you for your reviews which are so refreshing because honest! I am interested in starting out with my first bike trainer. Three questions. First, is there a seasonality to the prices of new or used trainers? Since winter’s about to end for USA-Canada-Europe, if there is a cycle in prices, then it may pay to wait a few weeks. Yes? Second, what is a complete set up? Is it: bike plus trainer plus toe clips (or clip less pedals) plus floor mat plus a power meter? Five items? Or is the power meter built into the trainer, meaning that a person only has to download a free app on laptop or cell phone? Third is there a way to distinguish trainers where the bike is left intact versus the trainers where the rear tire and cassette comes off? I would prefer the “keep intact” trainers over a trainer which requires taking tires on or off. Thank you, Arthur

  179. Atif

    What happens if you take on a hill gradient greater than max limit of your trainer? E.g. Assuming 100% difficulty setting in zwift and hit 14-15% hill on a SNAP?

  180. Radu

    Hello Ray,

    I have the Suunto Ambit 3 and got the Tacx Satori Smart for the winter months.

    I am attempting to pair the trainer with the watch to be able to log Cadence, Speed and Power.
    Cadence and speed should be covered by Suunto’s “Bike Pod(s)” support
    Power should be covered by the by Suunto’s “Power POD” support.

    However, I find I can only use either the “Bike POD(s)” or the “Power POD”, but not both during an indoor excercise.
    The ambit makes the first connection to the “Bike POD(s)” but then attempts to create a new BLE connection to the “Power POD”, instead of reusing the existing BLE connection to get the power data.

    The trainer rejects the second connection since it only supports one client.

    Can you confirm this issue with the Ambit3 and Tacx ?

    Thank you !

    • Alex Masidlover

      I’ve also found exactly the same thing; in reality though its not been too much of an issue – I just use power since distance is a pretty much meaningless metric.

      Cadence would be nice to have on the Ambit, but as I’m logging the ride with either Zwift / Golden Cheetah and/or a Garmin 520/310 then if I’m interested in cadence I’ll use those.

      But yes – I’m pretty convinced its an issue…

      I hadn’t previously submitted a support ticket as its not a big issue for me, but have done so now: ticket – 00870732

      Alex

    • Radu

      I have a background in Bluetooth engineering and found an issue with the way Tacx presents the bluetooth data.

      To keep the story short, the Cycling Power profile can contain speed/cadence information also altough the standard sais it is optional. The tacx actually sends speed/cadence information along with the power info, but ti was just not marked correctly in the “headers” of the package.

      If they fix this, the ambit should be able to get all the info using only the Power POD sensor.

      I have contacted them with a detailed explanation and Tacx have been amazing.
      In less than 15 hours they have confirmed the issue and are preparing a firmware update.

      It is not clear if it will fix the issue with the Ambit3 specifically (since suunto might have their own issues), but I will at least make the Tacx compliant with the bluetooth standard so at least other devices will be able to use the entire data correctly.

      I will post updates here, but so far, tacx have been great.

    • Alex Masidlover

      Excellent!

    • Jim in Colorado

      Do you have knowledge of ANT+ as well? or know someone who does? My Wahoo ELEMNT pairs with my Powertap P1 pedals over either BLE or ANT+, but it won’t pair with my SRM power meter. My SRM PC7, Garmin and Zwift via ANT+ dongle pair with my SRM meter. Clearly, both the SRM PM and the ELEMNT are working, but they won’t work with each other. I really want the Wahoo ELEMNT to be my single head unit, not another head unit. I’m in touch with the Wahoo engineers and they are wrestling with it, but it has been many months and no resolution. Any expertise or pointer to expertise would be appreciated!

    • Radu

      Sorry Jim, I don’t have ANT+ expertise. I asssume with the proper tooling the Wahoo engineers should be able to get to the bottom of this.
      These protocols are designed to be simple.

      I have noticed that most manufacturers decide make a “good enough” or partial implementation of the standards, causing al kinds of incompatibilities.

      It also doesn’t help the fact they can’t test all possible device combinations.

    • It’s odd that it’s not pairing with the SRM…but also not surprising.

      If you turn the way-back machine on to about 5-7 years ago, SRM didn’t actually follow the ANT+ standard exactly. They followed it in a bit of a ‘Our version of ANT+ power meter standard’. So companies like Garmin and others basically implemented hacks that made it work.

      Companies also did the inverse as well. Quarq famously introduced ‘SRM Mode’ (except it was initially jokingly called “German Achievement Mode”) to their Quarq units, a setting you can toggle. That allowed compatibility with older SRM PC head units. Even today, that setting still exists on the new D Zero power meters of theirs.

      Obviously, Wahoo has experience with SRM power meters, and certainly some ride ELEMNT’s with them. But I wonder: How old is your SRM? Any chance it’s old enough where it may transmitting slightly odder variants of the standard? Though, I’d have thought by now that Wahoo would have seen those variants.

  181. Ed Schirmer

    I like all your detail reviews, but I have to disagree with you on the statement that the “NEW Wahoo Kickr got far quieter” than the original Kickr. We owned the original Kickr and liked it so we bought the NEW one. The first NEW Kickr unit we got was really louder with a higher, annoying pitch than the original we had. Thinking we got a bad unit, we returned it and got a 2nd unit shipped to us. The second unit was the same: louder with a higher, annoying pitch. We returned that unit too and got the TACX NEO based on your recommendation. We love the NEO!!!

    By the way, we recorded audio from both Kickr units and sent it to Wahoo. We got no push back from Wahoo, i.e. they are likely hearing this from other customers. Wahoo’s recommendation was: if you don’t like the sound of the NEW Kickr then get the SNAP.

    • Not sure what to say there. But you’re honestly the first person to say to the contrary since release.

      I outlined it all in a video here (plus my review): link to youtube.com

      And every other review/person that has tried it has agreed there. Not quite sure why you’d see anything different. :-/

    • Ed Schirmer

      I think there is a manufacturing variance that causes some Wahoo Kickr units to have louder belt noise. Wahoo did suggest to check that the belt was properly tensioned/tighten to see if the noise would come down, but since it was a new unit we didn’t even try messing with that. We did record audio of the new and old kickr sitting next to each other which shows the new Kickr was louder and higher pitch.

      Anyway, this is something to be aware of when making sound level claims about the Wahoo Kickr.

    • David Sembiante

      A defect in Wahoo manufacturing?

    • Ed Schirmer

      We got two units from the same vendor that were “defective” so perhaps it was a bad manufacturing batch that went out to the same vendor. However, Wahoo was pretty nonchalant when we contacted them so my guess is that there is more to the story of sound levels.

    • John

      Nonchalance and indifference seems to be the standard Wahoo attitude to defective products.

      They acknowledged a defect in my Kickr Snap and seemed utterly lacking in concern. They sent me a PDF explains how to strip it and what to do to perform a fix (that wasn’t a fix) requiring inconvenience and expense on my part.

      When informed that it wasn’t a fix their response was ‘we are testing in-house’ — all the time I am left with a £500 pile of junk, missing out on my structured training and they don’t give a damn.

      A quick search of YouTube revealed at least 4 others with the same defect.

      Support were awful – very slow to respond and totally couldn’t care any less if they had a gun to their heads.

      Eventually arranged collection and a refund yesterday.

      Will never touch a Wahoo product again.

  182. David Sembiante

    John, I had the same experience with my Wahoo Scrap. That was my last Wahoo purchase as well. I’m glad you put it out there for DCR to see. Many of us have had very unsatisfactory experiences with Wahoo. It will be interested to see if Wahoo makes the “recommended” list next year.

    • James Omondi

      I can attest to the vibration issue on the Snap. I’ve had the Snap for 1 week now and the vibrations make workouts unbearable. Vibrations and inaccurate power readings are the reasons I will be returning this and trying Magnus. Calibrating the Snap multiple times after 10 minute warm up did not help improve accuracy. While the Snap is quite compared to the Qubo Digital Smart B+ it replaced, the vibrations are so violent and load. Ray I think you should really reconsider recommending the Snap especially for seasoned riders.

    • David Sembiante

      Thanks James. Could not agree more.

  183. Arthur J Schwartz

    As a novice to indoor smart trainers, I want to state what I see as the “big picture”. First, the hardware is pretty new and is evolving. Second, the software (primarily Zwift and Sufferfest) are also pretty new and evolving. But the value of a trainer paired with the software is already so good that purchasing a smart trainer right now (as opposed to waiting) is very compelling. It is really an investment in your health and fitness and with the software, indoor cycling is fun! I also like what veloreality said about service and returns. So the conclusion I arrive at is that the most prudent policy is to buy an inexpensive smart trainer from a store with a good return policy and simply upgrade in a year or two. Several stores have holiday sales today which are worth checking out. Comments? If yes, thanks!

  184. Ed

    love artical about trainers

  185. Ville Forsblom

    Satori smarts 2015 and after can be updated to understand ANT+ FE-C making it pretty good deal here in Europe :)