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Annual Winter 2017-2018 Bike Trainer Recommendations

Trainer2017-2018Recommendations

And just like that, it’s already fall.  The summer season is past us (well, unless you’re in Australia), and it’s time to pick out that trainer for the weekend.  Sure, the weather in much of the US and Europe right now might feel warm, but that’ll change overnight.

Which means it’s time for the Annual Trainer Recommendations post!  I started this five years ago, and know many of you are looking for an updated version for this season.  This year was a bit more quiet in terms of major trainer announcements, with instead us seeing a shift towards minor updates across the trainer lineups.  Still, there were some major new entrants – as well as some intriguing accessories.

And unlike last year, almost everything announced this year is already shipping and available – albeit in some cases in limited quantities.  More importantly, I’ve got production units of almost everything as well – making it easy for me to give recommendations…but also product reviews links with a multitude of rides.

Almost lastly, this post will NOT cover trainer apps, rather, I have a dedicated post for that coming up later this month. It’ll be a beast of a post, just like it was last year.

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 – though I only expect a handful more this year).  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

DSC_2629-2

First and foremost, I only recommend trainers I’ve actually used.  Certainly, there are some trainers that were announced this year that aren’t yet available – you won’t find those recommendations here.  Partially because they aren’t available yet, and partially because I have exceedingly low confidence in either when they will be available or the quality with them (see the ‘Trainers I didn’t include’ section at the end).

Next, 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 20-25+ 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 in some manner is having ridden on it at least once.

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 118 different models of trainers from $75 to $200).

Price Ranges & Currencies:

Over the last few years we’ve continued to see major shifting in price vs feature-set combinations.  For example, functionality and accuracy that used to be reserved for $1,200 trainers has slid down to $900 trainers.  I had to change my price bucketing last year, and I’m slightly doing the same thing this year by adding a mid-upper tier pricing.  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 $899 trainer.  So, here’s the 2017 buckets, aligned to the trends of trainer pricing in 2017:

Budget – Sub-$500: 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 $500-$600: These are where we see electronic resistance control, as well as the majority of features and full app integration.

Mid-High End $800-900: This is somewhat of a new category, and largely driven by the Tacx Flux and Elite Direto trainers.  I just don’t think it makes sense to put them in the lower priced category, though the case could easily be made that they compete with the $1,000+ trainers (and are almost universally a better buy).

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 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 the 2015 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.  In many ways, the KICKR frame is the same way – as is the KICKR SNAP (which I think is overbuilt for its price point).

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:

IMG_9387

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:

DSC_2647

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, Wahoo ELEMNT or a Polar V800 can pick up these signals and record them.  The same goes for apps like Zwift or Strava.  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) or the up and coming Bluetooth FTMS.

For ANT+ FE-C, devices such as the Garmin Edge 520/820/1000/etc, as well as the Wahoo ELEMNT/ELEMNT BOLT, support controlling the trainer straight from your head unit.  This also means you can re-ride your outside rides (elevation changes and all) without any other software.

IMG_0415

So what about Bluetooth Smart control?  Up until this past summer, companies have largely had to roll their own solutions.  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.

But this past spring the Bluetooth SIG finalized the specs for the Bluetooth FTMS standard, which specifies how fitness equipment can be controlled by apps and devices.  In doing so we’ve seen Elite be the first, with the Direto trainer, to support it, and Tacx and CycleOps are poised to quickly follow behind.  Wahoo’s a bit slower here, likely because everyone already supports their variant – so the motivation is lower.

Ultimately, almost all major apps support all companies’ Bluetooth Smart implementations (whichever variant they’re on).  Where the issue matters more is smaller apps that may not have the time to implement all the variants.  Nonetheless, here’s where things stand.

Wahoo: ANT+ FE-C on KICKR SNAP/KICKR.  Gives developers access to Wahoo Bluetooth Smart control.
Tacx: ANT+ FE-C on all ‘Smart’ branded trainers (except Satori). Gives developers access to Tacx Bluetooth Smart control.
Elite: ANT+ FE-C on Drivo/Rampa/Direto, plus various other older units. Gives developers access to Bluetooth Smart control for existing trainers, but Direto uses new FTMS.
CycleOps: ANT+ FE-C on Hammer/Magnus (+ CycleOps Bluetooth Smart Control), 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 on applicable newer trainers.
Kurt Kinetic: Does not support any standards on Smart Control trainers, but has offered certain developers access for Bluetooth Smart control.
Minoura: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth FTMS supported on new Kagura trainer.

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 it 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-$500):

There’s been almost no appreciable shift in this category this year, so things stay basically the same as last year.

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 $500 that don’t have any smart electronic gadgets in them and work just great.  Really, there are.  But there’s only a few units in this price range (again, looking at USD MSRP) that has ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart broadcasting of speed, power, and cadence.

Tacx Satori Smart

TacxSatoriSmart

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.

Minor note: There’s also the Tacx Flow Smart – that’s *only* available in Europe.  That trainer sits at about 239EUR.  I keep trying to get one to test out.  It’s basically the cheapest budget ANT+ FE-C controllable trainer out there for apps like Zwift and Trainer Road and simulates up to 800w and a claimed 6%.  The big box sports store near me only sparingly carries them, and each time I remember to buy one (they don’t allow backorders), it’s out of stock again.  If you have low expectations, this is probably a great unit.  Or maybe it’s just a great unit with medium expectations.  Either way, I hope to someday test it out.

BKool Smart Go:

BKoolSmartGo

BKool introduced this last year with a solid $349USD price point.  It uses your own body weight to press the wheel onto the frame, which has its pros and cons.  Usually it means slightly less fumbling because you don’t have to twist-down a force-on knob.  At the same time it’s not quite as ideal for stand-up sprints.

The unit replicates up to 8% and 800w of resistance, and can transmit both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart.  Since it’s ANT+ FE-C controllable, you’ll be able to have 3rd party apps control it like most of the higher end trainers. Note that I do get mixed reviews from folks on BKool service, so I’d probably be more likely to recommend this to someone that’s confident in their retailer (and their return/support policies).   Also note that I’ve ridden it at trade shows, but haven’t spent a ton of time on it outside of those venues.

STAC Zero:

StacZero

STAC Zero started off as a Kickstarter project a year ago, and is one of the few to actually deliver and do what they said they’d so.  Far more importantly though – it’s actually silent.  100% truly silent.  The trainer uses magnets that interact with your wheel’s metal rims to create resistance.  The only sound you’d hear is your drivetrain.  I even tested it and all that jazz.  And more recently they announced a trainer for next summer that is also resistance controllable.

The current 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 base is a trainer without resistance control or broadcasting of your power.  While the second variant is a power meter version that does broadcast your power (but still no resistance control this year).  The base version costs $349USD, while the second version costs $449.

I recently got the most current production version in, and all is good there.  I will warn that you do need to ensure you’ve aligned the magnets correctly (which can be tricky the first time), else it’ll feel like crap.  But once you do get it lined up – it’s awesome sauce.

$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.

Unfortunately, I just don’t have a ton of recent experience in this category, and most of the players don’t tend to innovate very much here.

Mid-Range Trainers ($500-$600):

   

While this is a thin price bracket, it mostly captures the entire mid-range market.  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 five basic options:

Wahoo KICKR SNAP – $599
CycleOps Magnus – $599
Elite Rampa – $549
Tacx Vortex Smart – $529

There’s also the dark horse from Minoura:

Minoura Kagura – $599

I checked out this one at Interbike, and it could be awesome.  But until they sort out the accuracy issues I saw there, I have to refrain from recommending it.  If they do that (and they could well do it tomorrow), it’s likely to gather my top-spot.

Oh, and yes, there’s 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, though the SNAP V2 is still at 12% which is solid).  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 KICKR SNAP (2017)
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 27th, 2017 @ 9:29 amNew 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 KICKR SNAP (2017)
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%12%
FeaturesElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)
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 KICKR SNAP (2017)
Includes temperature compensationNoNoNoYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesYesYesYes
Supported accuracy level+/- 5%+/-5%+/- 5%+/- 3%
Trainer ControlElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)
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 KICKR SNAP (2017)
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYesYesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYesYesYes
PurchaseElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkN/A
Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training EuropeLinkLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerElite RampaCycleOps MagnusTacx Vortex SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Mid-High End ($600-$999):

There are basically only two trainers at the moment that fit into this category that I’d consider: The Elite Direto and the Tacx Flux.  The Flux came out a year ago, while the Direto came out this past summer.  The specs on them are fairly similar, but there are some key differences.  One is accuracy (the Direto is rated higher), and two is differences in trainer noise pitch.  I say pitch, because the actual decibels are pretty similar – but the Flux sounds more grinding to me than the Direto.  They’re the exact same price at $899.

Note that there’s nothing wrong per se with the Tacx Flux, but I think at this point it’s slightly overpriced purely due to lesser accuracy.  Additionally, while the Flux got off to a rocky start last year with respect to manufacturing quality control issues, that’s long since been resolved.  So if looking at the interwebs around that topic – know that hasn’t been an issue since last spring.

Next, while Elite only claims +/- 2.5% for the Direto, almost universally folks agree it’s actually got higher (better) accuracy than it claims.  It actually even has a power meter in it.  All of which makes it my winner for this category.

Elite Direto Trainer:

EliteDireto

As noted above, Elite really nailed it this year with the Direto.  Universally folks are pretty happy with the price and performance combination, and I think if you were to pick any trainer on this list as the best bang for your buck – this is it.  It really does challenge the higher end trainers, heck, even ignoring the $200-$300 cheaper than most of them.  The core difference you’ll tend to see between this unit and those is the max wattage/resistance values (which are still incredibly high for 98% of riders), as well as the road-feel (which is good, but not incredible).

For those trying to decide, here’s the Tacx Flux and Elite Direto side by side:

Function/FeatureTacx FluxElite Direto
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated October 11th, 2017 @ 6:52 amNew Window
Price for trainer$899USD/€799$899 USD/€849/£749
Attachment TypeDirect Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)
Available today (for sale)YEsYes
Availability regionsGlobalGlobal
Connects to computerYesYes
Uses mouse/keyboard as control unitYes (with apps)Yes (with apps)
Uses phone/tablet as control unit (handlebar)Yes (with apps)Yes (with apps)
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYesYes (no control w/o)
Flywheel weight6.7kg (simulated 25kg)4.2KG/9.2LBS
ResistanceTacx FluxElite Direto
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNo
Maximum wattage capability1,500w @ 40KPH1,400w @ 40KPH / 2,200w @ 60KPH
Maximum simulated hill incline10%14%
FeaturesTacx FluxElite Direto
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoYEs
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoNo
AccuracyTacx FluxElite Direto
Includes temperature compensationYesN/A
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesN/A
Supported accuracy level+/-3%+/- 2.5%
Trainer ControlTacx FluxElite Direto
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YesYes
Supports Bluetooth Smart control for 3rd partiesYesYes
Data BroadcastTacx FluxElite Direto
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYes
PurchaseTacx FluxElite Direto
Amazon LinkLinkLink
Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkLink
Clever Training EuropeLinkLink
DCRainmakerTacx FluxElite Direto
Review LinkLinkLink

High-End Trainers ($1,000+):

TacxNeoWahoo-KICKR-SNAP-V3-2017

Ahh yes, the vaulted space of the super expensive trainers.  While the upper-mid tier of trainers gets closer and closer to these units in specs, the distinguishing aspects of the high-end trainers tends to be road feel and resistance ceilings (and to a lesser extent these days, accuracy which is equal/better than +/- 2%).

Last year we saw a bunch of changes in this area with the new Elite Drivo, the new CycleOps Hammer, and then a refresh of the Wahoo KICKR (aka KICKR2).  This year though was a quieter year with just another very minor refresh of the Wahoo KICKR (now KICKR3/2017).  All of which join the Tacx Neo in this category.

The thing that changed this year is what I’m going to call the ‘Move it’ addendum.  Last year we saw Tacx add in the ability to shake your trainer to simulate cobblestones and other road surfaces.  It was pretty cool in a geeky way, albeit without a ton of specific training value.  This year we saw Wahoo double-down with their $600 CLIMB accessory, which simulates climbing by lifting the front of your bike up.  With Tacx, you pay more upfront in most countries but get the shaking built-in.  With Wahoo, you’ll have to wait till December to pay the additional $600 for the CLIMB, which is only compatible with Wahoo’s 2017 trainers.

Like the previous category, the remaining contenders (Elite Drivo, CycleOps Hammer) are fantastic offerings.  Seriously, you won’t go wrong with any of them. Period.  It’s just that for most people the conversation becomes why would you purchase a Hammer over a KICKR (since the KICKR has more app compatibility and now CLIMB too), and since they are priced the same…well…yeah, there is no good answer there anymore (it used to be thru-axle, but KICKR3 solved that).  For Drivo, that’s a fantastic trainer with what is probably better road feel than either Tacx Neo or KICKR – and as good accuracy as Neo.  But again, it’s tricky to recommend that (looks aside) to friends/family when the Neo and KICKR+CLIMB options are there.

That said, my recommendation is that either one of the below are awesome – it just depends on what you want…and what you want to spend.

Tacx Neo:

TacxNeo

As of today, this is the trainer I turn to when I’m not testing other trainers.  It’s my go-to.  And for good reason: It requires no calibration, it’s really damn accurate, and it just works.  Oh, and it vibrates.  Everyone likes good vibrations.  Technically they’re cobblestones or what-not on Zwift, but you get the point.

Still, I think I value most the accuracy pieces.  I just don’t have to think about it.  There’s not even an option to calibrate it – and nobody has seen any reason for them to include one either.  It just works.  It also folds up relatively small, though the lack of a handle is fairly awkward in the event you’re trying to move it frequently and for long distances.  Did I mention it also looks like a ship from Star Wars?  Cause seriously, that design is worth something.

But of course – its biggest asset it just how quiet it is.  It’s silent.  About the only sound you’re going to hear is your drivetrain and a slight hum.  If you want the quietest controllable trainer on the market – this is it.  If you want the most accurate, this is it.  If you want the most road-like feel…this might be it.  It’s debatable.  Everyone who has ridden this and the KICKR differs on which is more road-like.  I could put 10 well-respected cycling journalists in a room and blindfold them and ride both trainers and they’d likely even have differing opinions ride to ride.

Ultimately, for now, it’s my trainer of choice.

Wahoo KICKR 3 + CLIMB:

KICKRCLIMBANIMATED

Now here’s the thing.  I consider both of these top two options somewhat equal, albeit at different price points and for different people.  I’ve tried out the CLIMB a few times, and while it’s definitely interesting, I’m not 100% sold on it till they get a final hardware version with smoothing sorted out.  I think they’ll do that, but just giving you that warning.

Once they do though – then in many ways it’ll be the ultimate trainer setup (aside I suppose from the $9,000 or so Tacx Magnum).  It might become my combination then – if for no other reason than it’s geeky cool.  Because let’s face it – at this price point that is a very real reason you’re choosing these trainers over the almost equally as functional mid-upper tier ones.

The KICKR series isn’t anywhere near as quiet as the Tacx Neo, but it is cheaper.  In US dollars it’s a lot cheaper – some $400 most of the time.  Whereas in Europe that gap is almost equal in many cases.  And as alluded to above, some say the KICKR has better road-like feel (while others say it’s the Neo).

Once CLIMB ships, I’ll definitely review that (my first look is here), so any decisions you make now about this as a combo package would be under the understanding that it’s not final till the fat lady sings.  Or climbs.  Whatever it is she does.

Function/FeatureTacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR3 (2017)
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 27th, 2017 @ 9:30 amNew Window
Price for trainer$1,599USD/€1,399$1,199
Attachment TypeDirect Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)
Available today (for sale)YesYes
Availability regionsGlobalGlobal
Connects to computerYesYes
Uses mouse/keyboard as control unitYes (with apps)YEs (with apps)
Uses phone/tablet as control unit (handlebar)Yes (with apps)YEs (with apps)
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredNoYes
Flywheel weightSimulated/Virtual12.5lbs/5.7kgs
ResistanceTacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR3 (2017)
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)YesNo
Maximum wattage capability2,200w @ 40KPH2500w @ 30MPH
Maximum simulated hill incline25%20%
FeaturesTacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR3 (2017)
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoNo
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)With accessoryNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)YesNo (But can use KICKR CLIMB for incline)
AccuracyTacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR3 (2017)
Includes temperature compensationN/AYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)N/AYes
Supported accuracy level+/- 1%+/- 2%
Trainer ControlTacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR3 (2017)
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YesYEs
Supports Bluetooth Smart control for 3rd partiesYesYEs
Data BroadcastTacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR3 (2017)
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYes
PurchaseTacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR3 (2017)
Amazon LinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLink
DCRainmakerTacx NEO SmartWahoo Fitness KICKR3 (2017)
Review LinkLinkLink

The why I didn’t include it list:

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 928 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.

Elite Kura: In a nutshell, it’s been eclipsed by the Elite Direto for roughly the same price.  Also, the Kura wasn’t ANT+ FE-C or Bluetooth controllable.  It had great road feel, but you couldn’t set a given wattage like many other trainers.

Anything older Elite: Basically, if it hasn’t got one of the new names (Rampa, Kura, Drivo, Direto), 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).

CycleOps PowerBeam Pro & PowerSync: These are far too old.  And specifically, the units have single-standard support. A unit is either ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart, but not both.  And none of them support the newer standards (though most apps support their older variants).

CompuTrainer: They went out of business (or at least stopped making them) this past spring.  I generally don’t recommend products that don’t have a sustainable support path.  I do think if you can get a used unit under about $500, and know exactly which apps you’re using – then go forth.

LeMond Revolution Pro: The company has folded and ceased operations too many times in such a short time. Like CompuTrainer, they’re out of business.

BKOOL Air or Smart Pro 2: Neither of these are out yet, so I can’t recommend them yet.  I have low confidence in the Air, though I suspect the Smart Pro 2 will be out sooner and probably just fine.

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. I think if it were cheaper, then I might be inclined, but it’s in a weird price point for me at the moment where I’d be more likely to recommend a Tacx Flux or Elite Direto.

Minoura Kagura: This could – and very likely will – make the list of mid-range trainers up above.  But right now I *need* to see the accuracy aspects implemented correctly.  That’s a biggie.  I totally get that the unit I tried at Interbike wasn’t final, but it absolutely should have been at least mostly accurate.  Once they show to me in a unit on my doorstep that it’s accurate, it may even earn one of the top spots in that mid-range lineup.

STAC Zero Controllable Trainer: I showed this at Interbike, but it’s not coming out till next summer.  Thus, too early for now.  Note that their non-controllable unit is out and shipping now and in my recommendations up above.

Jet Black WhisperDrive Smart: I think they could be onto something with this higher end controllable trainer, but they’ve simply gotta ship it.  And that hasn’t happened yet.  Until it does and I can ride it, it’s kinda hard to recommend it.

Kurt Kinetic Smart Control Trainers: I thought they had the right idea last 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). If you want the longer story, read my post here and then read through the 200 or so comments.  I had really hoped they’d have made an adapter or something for this year, which would have gotten them back in the game.  But alas, nothing changed.

Wattbike Atom: Yes, it’s awesome.  But it’s not technically a trainer.  Perhaps next year I’ll extend this guide to include non-trainer units like indoor cycles.  If you think an indoor bike is a better fit for you, then check out my full post on it.  As I noted, it’s awesome and awesomely priced.  Though, only available in the UK right now.

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 every day 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 it 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 Elite Drivo is fairly quiet as well.

What about generic rollers, any thoughts?

I don’t have a ton of experience on rollers unfortunately.  And there’s really only a handful of units I’d recommend – namely the Inside Ride rollers and Elite’s variant of almost the same thing.

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 or the Elite variant.

What about one of those bike protective thong cover things?

No, sorry, I don’t cover up my bike.  I’ve spent 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 released a cool one that actually has a cell-phone holder built in (with a protective plastic cover).  Kinda neat.

Support the site, 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.

‘2017-2018 Trainer Recommendations’ compatiblePrice for trainerAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programReview
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 27th, 2017 @ 9:30 am
STAC Zero Power Meter Trainer$449LinkLinkLink
Wahoo Fitness KICKR3 (2017)$1,199LinkLinkLink
Wahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)$599N/ALinkLink
CycleOps Magnus$599LinkLinkLink
Elite Rampa$649/€550/£449LinkLinkLink
Tacx NEO Smart$1,599USD/€1,399LinkLinkLink
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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271 Comments

  1. Josh

    Ray, I have owned the KICKR a couple of years back and recently the Magnus. In my basement gym cave I found both of those to be too noisy. So, based on your recommendation it sounds like the NEO is the way to go. May I ask, if you know, how small of a bike will it accept and how difficult is it to switch things up as in the midwest when we get ice storms, I would love for my kids to be able to get on their bikes to get energy out.

    • Tim Grose

      link to tacx.com provides some specs with “Adapters for other widths available” in the suitable bikes entry. If Ray can’t provide any further insight suggest best to ask Tacx (or your LBS) what exactly is available.

    • usr

      Congratulations, you have made the whole DCR readership imagine the peanut balance-biking a Magnus.

      On a slightly (but just barely) more serious note, I think that kids should go on rollers, everything else will probably be too easy for them.

  2. Martin

    Just i time, been waiting for refresh of your recommendations! :)

    Can you add a group of budget direct drive trainers, like Elite Roteo (big shops) and Turno (link to elite-it.com) with prices below Kickr Snap

    Regarding Tacx Flow – you can order it online (commande en ligne): link to decathlon.fr

    • jmjf

      FWIW, Turno and Roteo are not controllable, based on what I see online, so not comparable to Kickr Snap. They’re closer to a wheel-off version of a Tacx Satori or BKool Go, both in the Sub-$500 part of the list. The BKool is controllable for $350 USD vs. Roteo $300 on Amazon–can’t find pricing on Turno.

      Might be more accurate to call it a wheel-off Elite Qubo Power Smart B+ ($250ish).

      As with everything, your mileage may vary.

  3. Fabian

    1) Great post.

    2) IN the mid-high trainer part the drivo link in “Last year we saw a bunch of changes in this are with the new Elite Drivo, the new CycleOps Hammer,…..” links to elite Direto.

    3) “The core difference you’ll tend to see between this unit and those is the max wattage/resistance values (which are still incredibly high for 98% of riders), as well as the road-feel (which is good, but not incredible).”

    In comparison with a lemond revolution do you think i will miss its incredible road feel (for me) when ‘ll start riding my Direto? It was my only doubt when i had to choose between direto and drivo…and the doubt is still present :)

    thx for your support ray

    • Thanks for the notes.

      I think you’ll probably miss it at first, but like most things I suspect after a ride or two you’ll soon enjoy all the other aspects of controllable trainers – like it automatically controlling the grade in Zwift.

    • Gasman

      As a long term Lemond Revolution user (5 years) I finally made the jump to a smart trainer last month and I too was very concerned about losing the fantastic “Road feel”. In the end I chose the Kickr over the Flux as I felt the kickr’s real flywheel gave a more realistic feeling of inertia than the virtual flywheel of the Flux.
      After a month of using the kickr I’m very happy with it’s feel and don’t miss the Lemond at all.
      I was going to sell it but have decided to keep it to use for warm ups at hill climbs, as it’s more portable than the kickr. Plus I’ve managed to convert it to 11 speed simply by getting a machine shop to remove 1.8mm from the back of the spider on an 11 speed 105 cassette!

    • Bil Danielson

      Nice hack🔧

    • H M

      Did the same to use 10 speed wheels with 11 speed. Used the lathe at work though

  4. David Bonnett

    Thanks for the update! I’m one of those Down Under coming out of trainer season and heading outside.

    FYI – you have duplicated the section “What about trainer tires?”

    • Tosin

      I have to say that I have used road tires on my trainer for years, and the only time it’s good is in the first month or so, and then it starts to squeal when I am getting resistance. I just got a new trainer specific tire, and it sounds amazing, or doesn’t sound at all. I don’t think it’s THAT expensive if it decreases the noise. It’s cheaper than getting a Neo, but I might get the STAC resistance trainer when that comes out next year.

    • I find that generally speaking squeaking occurs when the press-on pressure isn’t high enough (or the tire simply has no tread left). Fwiw…

  5. fisao

    Thanks Ray, magnificent timing for this updated roundup!

    Just a personal note: I too have felt in the past that indoor cycles were indeed a category of their own. However
    with the high-level trainers evolving ( beefier/sturdier but also integrating additional features such as the Climb) and the BT/ANT+/FE-C communication standards now appearing on those indoor cycles as well, it seems that the tech gap is closing and they are now actually very comparable. I am now in the market for one (currently Neo Tacx user).

    • Yeah, I’ve got no doubt that next year there will be a new category for that.

      But given the Wattbike Atom isn’t shipping in wide quantities (if at all yet), and given that it’s only in the UK right now – I think it’s just a wee bit early to add the category. Still, I think it’s one of the best out there.

    • Tommy

      All shipping has slipped back 4 weeks ☹️

      From email….

      Due to the incredible demand, we’re sorry to say delivery lead time has been extended. We know you’ll be keen to get your feet firmly on the pedals and the Wattbike team are working hard to ensure delays are kept to a minimum.

  6. HarryH

    Ray, thx for the great trainer summary.

    One thing that seems to be missing from all smart trainer reviews – and not just yours – is the fact that a max simulated slope for one trainer (or trainer manufacturer) is not directly comparable to a different trainer.

    Example : Elite tend to base their max slope simulation on a 60kg rider who is (as far as I can tell) an elite rider putting out around 400+ watts, while Tacx seem to base their values on a more average 75kg rider.

    Why this might be important for the average buyer is that when using the trainer on Zwift or other software simulating climbs the gradients are usually around 7 or 8 % but often do hit 10 11 12% + etc in places.

    Lasr year I bought an Elite Rampa which has a claimed max simulated slope of 10% only to find that for me, a 63kg rider with a sustained climbing wattage of around 240/250 watts that it would only give a realistic simulation up to around 7% after which virtual speed is reduced in zwift and resistence does not increase. Not a huge problem, except if you want that realistic resistence for climbing… which I do. I also feel its important to know what you are buying and not just get mis-guided by the marketting numbers ie purchase the Rampa and get disappointed that it will not necessarily simulate 10% on a climb.

    Recently I looked at upgrading to Direct Drive – and Elite were good enough to send me power curves. From these I determined that the Direto – which I thought would be perfect for me – despite claiming a 14% max simulated slope – will only be good for my weight/power to about around 9/10% – an improvement over the Rampa but still not near the claimed numbers or good enough to satisfy me on Zwift or other software for real climbs. So I looked at the Drivo power curve, a claimed max simulated slope of 24% and… yes, based on my numbers and thei Drivo power curve this one comes very close for me. I believe for my numbers it may be 22% but honestly I doubt I will ever get close to that! (and I have, this weekend, swapped out my Rampa for a brand new Drivo and so far am very happy with it)

    So this is just a heads-up to others out there – do your own calculations IF max simulated slope is an important element of your buying decision.

    • Fabian

      This is really interesting Harry. It s one of the things i have not calculated when i choosed the direto …and now i’m worried because one of my purposes is to ‘climb mountains’ indoor because i live really far from real climbs… but i need them in some of my workouts.

      I can’t get the theory behind that but for me..a 73 to 77kg triathlete with a 250/260 FTP (i m not a good climber…) what do u think it could be the real slope simulated by direto?

      and a question @ray, do apps like bkool, trainer road and zwift calculate in some way what harry explained???

      Thx a lot

    • Thomas Wylie

      How are you calculating this? Why do you calculate a reduced simulated incline due to a reduced power level? Surely that would allow it to simulate steeper?

      I weigh 100kg so the calculations are even further off so I’m never really going to get a realistic climbing experience out of it (plus zwift only dials in 50% incline by default). But that’s actually *more* useful for me as where I live it’s nearly impossible for me to go out and stay in zone 2 for 1-2 hours. For those I use the trainer.

    • Harry

      It all depends on speed.

      Each trainer can apply a certain (max) resistance at a certain speed of the roller ( internal on direct drive) This speed/resistance relationship (shown usually as speed/Power in watts) is detailed on a trainer’s power curve.

      Lower end trainers may be able to deliver a high resistance (effectively high power needed to turn the roller) at a high speed ie 1400 watts at 30kph, but cannot deliver much resistance at the lower powers ie perhaps only 100 watts at 10kph (100 watts at 10kph for me equates to a slope of about 4%)

      Higher end direct drive trainers can deliver more balanced resistance levels, so more resistance at the lower speeds ie the Drivo 460 watts (max) at 10kph (I can only climb at about 250 watts, and 250 watts at 10kph equates to a slope of around 12% – note this a limit on me for this speed not on the Drivo!)

      Using these power curves, along with an online power/speed/slope calculator (suck as gribble.org ) and knowing your own weight and sustained power output the expected max slope simulation can be estimated (see my examples above)

      I don’t claim to be an expert on this, but have worked this out as a result of finding that the max slope simulation of 10% as advertised for the Rampa was not realistic for me when riding in Zwift – up to the tower on Watopia at above about 7% the resistance got no harder – and I wanted to know why?

      Hope this helps explain it.

    • HarryH

      Just to back this up with some of the information from Elite – this is from the Elite Rampa Manual:

      “The maximum simulatable slope on the Rampa is a function of speed and the weight of the individual rider. In fact, the power required to pedal up a slope is function of the speed (faster= more power) and of the weight (the heavier the rider, the more power is required to climb any given slope). Each rider has a maximum slope given his weight [i.e.,for a 60kg (130lbs) cyclist at 24Km/h (15mph) the maximum simulatable slope is about 10%].”

      So Elite are saying that the Rampa will simulate 10% for a 60kg rider at 24kph.Using the calculator on gribble.org I get an approximate wattage required of ~500watts (or just under). Which matches with the Elite Rampa power curve that I have (it’s a .pdf, so again this is approx.)

      Unfortunately I cannot sustain 500 watts beyond about 5 seconds!

      But all is not lost. The Rampa power curve indicates 200 watts max at about 12kph, this for me equates to approx. 8% slope. Above this, close to my max sustained power of 250 watts, the power curve indicates ~16kph, and for me this equates to around a 6% slope… so hence the numbers back up what I experienced when riding the Rampa in Zwift.

      Saying all that. I used the Rampa for training on Zwift, Sufferfest and with The Elite myETraining app for 10 months and apart from the slight frustration over the limited slope simulation I have been extremely pleased with it – I recall, when I first rode it, being amazed at how good it was to ride; a real revelation when compared to my previous dumb trainer – honestly it is a great mid-priced wheel-on trainer that I do not regret for one minute buying.

    • HarryH

      Disclaimer: these are approximate numbers and should be used only as a guide – if you really want to know what slope a Direto can simulate for you, please get yourself to a local bike shop that has a Direto set up to Zwift and give it a spin.

      Saying that… if we assume 75kg weight and 255 max sustained power output then using these numbers and the Direto power curve would indicate a max slope simulation of between 8 to 10% (there are many factors that mean this cannot be precise). I stress this is approximate (hence the 8 to 10), but even so the expectation should be that the Direto will probably not simulate a slope of 14% given your weight/power.

      As mentioned, I took this approach myself, when determining which trainer would best meet my own needs, and hence chose the Drivo over the Direto – purely for its ability to deliver high power (resistance) at low speeds. [I also am fortunate in that my budget allowed for the additional cost. had this not been the case I am sure I would be the happy owner of a Direto now ]

      Hope this helps.

    • Yeah, I think that’s part of the challenge is the estimate angle.

      I’d say that if someone were to put together a mostly accurate Google Sheets type document with a calculator for weights/speeds/etc for the major trainers (low-end ones primarily)…, I’d be more than happy to host/link/whatever to it.

      Cheers!

    • fabian

      Thx for your patience…but i need to understand better, hope u can help me. (like u’are talking with a kid :P )

      Direto can resist at about 1400Watts, i can’t understand even if this wattage could be only 1000Watts how this trainer can’t simulate a ‘simple’ 14% max incline for an average cyclist like me.

      I understand the fact about the weight and i really don’t understand, why they use a 60kg ipotetic cyclist weight that don’t represents a normal cyclist.

      If for a normale 70kgs cyclist a direto can only simulate a 8/10% it s really not enough for the majority of people.

    • fabian

      Ray this is the power curve of direto, posted by elite in their official forum support:

      link to drive.google.com

      As you can see the power curve (and the sheet above) report that @10kmh direto can only sustain 196W.

      with a random online calculator you can see that climbing @10kmh and 196W can only be perfomed by a 60kgs cyclist. IN my case (75kg) to simulate a 10% climb @10kmh the trainer would have to sustain a 244W resistance. so the direto for an avarage cyclist of 70kg is not even close to 14% of max simulation.

      I m sorry if i can’t explain this better, google translator is not a powertool in this kind of communications…hope this could help.

    • HarryH

      Hello Fabian,

      I see from your last post that you have got your hands on the Direto power curve and also done some basic number crunching – excellent.

      Now, in answer to some of your previous questions/comments, such as: “Direto can resist at about 1400Watts, i can’t understand even if this wattage could be only 1000Watts how this trainer can’t simulate a ‘simple’ 14% max incline for an average cyclist like me.”

      Elite states in the the Elite Direto manual “DIRETO also simulates challenging slopes, up to 14%, with a 1400 Watt power output at a 40 km/h speed”

      You will see that these values are as defined on the Direto power curve (or near enough) and if you plug 1400 watts, 40kph and a 60kg riders weight in to the online calculator this will equate (again near enough) to a 14% slope.

      So what Elite claim is true. The Direto will simulate a 14% slope, for a ~60kg rider producing 1400 watts riding at 40kph (From the power curve it would appear the Directo could also simulate a 14% slope for that 60kg rider producing 600 watts at 20kph).

      The point is that the ability of a trainer to simulate slope is down to speed, and speed is down to the ability of the rider to produce power (to overcome the resistance of the roller).

      So from the Direto power curve, it would seem that a 75kg rider would need to be able to sustain around 700 watts which would equate to around 21/22kph, this equates to a 14% slope… not realistic for most (nearly all) riders, perhaps, but possible.

      A 50kg rider, however, would only need to sustain 200 watts (197 actually) at 10kph, this also equates to a 14% slope, from the power curve.

      As you have seen the power curve yourself, you’ll know that the only accurate data points on that curve are for 10kph, 20kph, 30kph, 40kph, 50kph and 60kph. So trying to determine the data points between these values is a lesson in guesstimation. I believe that for a 75kg rider who can sustain 255 watts they can expect no more than a 10% slope simulation on the Direto. To experience a greater slope simulation more power (and hence more speed) would need to be sustained.

      As to your other question/statement : “If for a normale 70kgs cyclist a direto can only simulate a 8/10% it s really not enough for the majority of people.”

      I would have to say that the max slope simulation of any trainer is only a concern when using Zwift or other software that simulates climbs. Many riders, including myself a lot of the time, are perfectly content training on smart trainers riding Trainerroad and Sufferfest type work outs that do not try to simulate slope. Slope simulation does not alter the effectiveness of the training program, not even in Zwift. What it does effect is the virtual reality experience of climbs. Saying that, so long as the trainer will simulate 7 or 8% for a rider, at a minimum, then in my opinion you will experience 90% of the climbs perfectly well in Zwift. Slope simulation simply isn’t that important (beyond the 7/8% mark) for many people, and the reality is that any slope of greater than 10%, not many people want to experience for anything but a very short time… so people like you and I who are seeking out the real feel of steep long climbs are, I believe, in the minority, when it comes to trainer selection (again, just my opinion :).

      In answer to Ray – having opened this side topic on your excellent 2017/2018 Trainer Recommendation posting, I realize this topic is far from simple. There are far too many factors and far too little accurate data on the trainers. And, perhaps, as mentioned above, there is not enough real interest/need to drive this further. It would be nice if trainer manufacturers agreed a standard for defining slope simulation specifications… so, now I have muddied these waters, perhaps I will leave it there, with that hope for the future.

    • Severus

      Here is a good online calculator:

      link to gribble.org

      I’m 80kg and my bike is 8kg, so with this data Direto will be simulate max 7.3% slope

      Regards,

    • Don

      So I wonder why you can’t just shift to a harder gear so that the roller will be moving at a faster speed and hence be able to resist more power. If you can put the trainer in ERG mode and do an interval of say 600W for 1 minute, or even 30 seconds, why couldn’t you maintain any amount up to 600W on a climb just by shifting up to a harder gear? No matter what the simulated slope % is supposed to be.

    • Severus

      @Don – …because this is not a simulation. You can do this with cheap dumb trainer too.

  7. TL@

    I’ll hold out for the Wattbike Atom until it’s available in Belgium. Looks like the ideal indoor training device :-)

  8. shoverbj

    I have about 2 weeks of Zwift and TrainerRoad roses on my new Drivo and I love it. If you are on an old “non-smart” trainer it’s definitely worth the upgrade. Totally changes the indoor workout. The Drivo is much quieter than my old Kinetic Road Machine, which the wife appreciates.

  9. Geoffrey

    Correct me if I am wrong here DC, if I buy the Stac Zero and use my Rotor INpower I can still get power displayed on my head unit or Zwift or Trainer Road I just won’t have FE-C correct? I am just thinking why buy the more expensive version of the Stac Zero if I already have a power meter? Feel free to tell what I just said is nonsense.

    • John

      @Geoffrey: An FE-C trainer allows you to set a given power level that the trainer automatically maintains, regardless of wheel speed or current gear. Really convenient when combined with training plan software such as Trainer Road.

      With a power meter and a dumb trainer, it’s up to you to hit and maintain any given power level.

      Either way, you can record your actual power from your power meter, so that you have something directly comparable to your power out on the road.

    • jmjf

      Current Stac Zero models are not controllable, so, yes, if you have a power meter, you can buy the non-power version of the Stac Zero and lose nothing.

      Depending on the power meter, I think most people would say their bike power meter is better (accurate, consistent, closer to the source of power so fewer variables) than the trainer’s.

      Terms I use:
      dumb = no connectivity;
      smart = provide power, speed, maybe cadence over ANT+/Bt;
      controllable = trainer changes resistance based on Zwift/TrainerRoad/etc. (ANT+/Bt/FE-C).

      So I’d call the base Stac Zero unit dumb and the power unit smart and I’m looking forward to the controllable version next year–if I can wait that long.

    • Geoffrey Taylor

      Yeah thats what I thought, so basically there isn’t any reason to by the smart trainer from Stac Zero vs the dumb one since neither have FE-C until next year. So now I am torn, not quite Elite Dirt or the super quiet but lacking features Stac Zero? Grrrr…

  10. Paul S.

    I can say a bit more about rollers, since I’ve been using them since the late 70’s and still use them on occasion, although I got a STAC Zero last fall. Add the immense boredom of a trainer with the terror of riding on a steel roller only a couple of feet wide (I currently have Kreitler aluminum 3 inch rollers) that you can easily ride off of. It’s not that easy learning how to ride them (best start in a doorway), and you will fall off at the beginning. Riding the STAC I put a helmet on just so I don’t get in the habit of not wearing a helmet on a bike. On rollers I wear a helmet because I might need it (although it’s been years since I last fell off). And changing hand positions is a matter of sliding my hands along the bars rather than taking them off. There are some people who can ride rollers without hands; I’ve never been one of them. Cheap rollers can be very noisy, but the Kreitlers aren’t.

    On the other hand, you develop a very smooth technique inside and outside. Last December after a couple of weeks riding the STAC, I got a chance to go outside again, and for the first quarter mile I was wobbling all over the place. (Riding rollers again in April was an adventure; I had my hand on something solid for the first five minutes of the first ride before I dared move it to the bars.) Setup is extremely easy, just unfold the rollers and you’re ready to go; absolutely no changes need to be done to the bike. No messing with releases (or in the case of the STAC, setting up the magnets). Pretty portable compared to the big trainers Ray shows above. So there are some pluses.

  11. Why not include the CycleOps HAMMER? It’s a fantastic trainer and has both boosted my fitness as well as provided a great alternative to rainy and windy days in Bavaria.

    Love the content and your work on fitness tech, keep it up.

  12. Walter S

    You seem to have forgotten to update the intro to one of the sections… the range isn’t vast, and all of them are between $500 and $600 (well, the Rampa price in the text and the table disagree).

    MID-RANGE TRAINERS ($500-$600):
    [image]
    While this is a vast price range, the best options (save one) are all clustered between $500 and $700.

  13. Mike N

    Question: My bike manual specifically states to never mount my carbon triathlon bike to a trainer. Do you have any comment on that? Thanks for a great article!

    • Tim Grose

      Shane Miller did a YouTube video on that I seem to recall and took a rather dim view with vendors who were making such statements. I have been using my carbon P3 “triathlon”/TT bike on a trainer fairly regularly for the last 3 years and no issues so far.

    • I agree. There’s no basis for such statements, and they’d never stand up in court. Primarily because these same bike companies pay riders to sit on these same bikes on trainers under warm-up tents at the Tour de France and countless other races.

      It’s a CYA thing, nothing more.

  14. Pablo Gonzalez

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for the awesome recommendations!
    In the $500-$600 range you said “But no matter, all of these will require calibration about 10-15 minutes into a ride to ensure accurate numbers.” Regarding the Kickr Snap, do you think that I need to calibrate it before every ride? Even though I haven’t move the bike?

    Thanks!

  15. Robert

    On “those bike protective thong cover things” – I did corrode my old steel bike (and the crank arms) a few years back – but that’s before I found out that a fan was reaaaaly needed in my basement. Withut a fan, you drip like crazy on the bike (which you don’t really do so much on the road, except on steep and long climbs). So: with fan, protective thong thing = not really needed; without, well, maybe not a bad idea. But the fan is better anyway.

  16. Phil P

    I’ve been really happy with my hammer since I got it, it feels consistent, and except for the little (or big for some) bug with zwift it’s been solid.

    I had a silly question on calibration, now that one can calibrate either through the manufacturer’s app, trainerroad, or zwift, I wonder is there a difference on the method? I assume they should have all the same outcome, but was curious if the choice came down to whatever app you’re using. I don’t feel a need to calibrate often, but I’ve usually just done the cycleops app for that.

    • Sometimes there are minor nuances, but honestly they change with each new app release and sometimes which protocal is used (ANT+ vs BLE). In general I’d do a bit of double-checking on numbers across the options for your trainer and make sure the results are identical. For older trainers things tend to be cleaned up, but sometimes newer trainers have a teething period there.

  17. John

    It’s happening! It’s happening!

  18. Awesome, i’d been waiting for this… but you haven’t helped. I’d basically reached the same conclusions on whether to get Direto or jump to the Kick based on the Climb.

    All that said, your Amazon UK links are dead for both of those products. The Direto is very dead. The Wahoo goes to an old unavailable product….

  19. Oh, and one other thing… I recently tried both the Flux and the Direto at a show. The Flux was very unstable.. and out the saddle sprint at around 5-600w had it nearly falling over, I personally didn’t find it very stable at all. The Direto on the other hand was very, very solid.

  20. David Holland

    Ray I have a question about Smart Trainers and separate power meters. You say one of the best things about the Direto is how accurate it is. Is there any advantage in using the power numbers from the Trainer if you have a power meter on the Bike with both Zwift and Trainer Road letting you use a separate power meter for training and ERG mode.

    I ask this because in the UK you can get the Flux for a good deal less than the Direto. So if I were to pair the accurate power meter I already have with the Flux, best of both worlds right?

    • Meredith

      This is true. I recently had the same dilemma. I bought a Direto because of the following reasons: The legs fold making storage easier and I have a long cage derailleur so I wouldn’t be able to use the full cassette range on the Flux. The cage issue probably that big a deal but I didn’t want to risk forgetting during a hard session when the brain isn’t working so clearly.

    • Tim Grose

      If you use the same power meter indoors and outdoors then you can be more confident in transferring your numbers to both environments. If you have 2 head units suggest recording power using each source on your next trainer ride and see how they shape up. Ray even provides a nice tool to make those comparisons. Personally I want to use my trainer with more than one bike some of which do not have a PM so nice to know they how they all shape up just in case you aren’t getting flattering or otherwise numbers one way or another.

  21. Giuseppe

    link to youtu.be

    My Tacx Flow Smart 2240, good trainer but with some problems…

  22. Tim Grose

    Re the Neo & Kickr comparison doesn’t the Neo Track link to tacx.com allow you to “CAN DIRECTIONALLY STEER TRAINER (LEFT/RIGHT)” ? Not tried this on a Neo but did have the equivalent with a Tacx Genius Smart although tried it a few times and never bothered again. Nice to hold your bike though with a bit of “manual” front wheel swivel possible.

    I just bought a Neo and sold my Tacx Genius Smart so a little relieved still your top choice. I largely went that way over Kickr as does not need any calibration, was easier to get both my TT bike (P3 – although it is pretty much touching the left chain stay) and road bike on it, has an inbuilt cadence “sensor”, AC power not essential and the quietness. That said not as quiet as hoped for thus far. I think it might be more my bike (P3) needing a bit of tender love & care than the trainer however as perhaps previously sounds from my bike were being drowned out a bit. Trip back soon to my LBS where got Neo from to investigate I think…

  23. Joi

    The discount code dosn´t work for the Wahoo Kickr :)

    • Correct. Per the little thingy at the bottom, for Wahoo it’s 10% back in points instead, per Wahoo restriction. The good news is you can use those points immediately.

    • Josh

      Not understanding how you can use those points immediately for your purchase.

    • As soon as you complete the transaction/purchase of the KICKR, you’ll see the points in your account. In the case of a KICKR, that’s roughly 120 points, which is equal to 120USD.

      So you can immediately use those for any purchase you want at that time as a credit towards something else. This is different than many other schemes which only allow you to use the points at the end of the year, or on a quarterly basis.

  24. FJ

    Hi Ray

    “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).”

    You list the $529 price which I assume is for our friends in the US. For those in Europe, the price is $334.44 (Wiggle at time of writing, excluding taxes) which is a very good deal in my book.

    I bought one which I’ve been using for the last two winters and it’s been working quite nicely. The max resistance is not very high (only a problem if you are doing sprint training as I’ve found out). The power was totally wonky when it was first released, but they have since fixed it with firmware updates and these days it’s very close to readings from my P2M and Quarq.

    For anyone in Europe on a budget, it’s hard to beat. 2+ years ago I bought it as a “stop gap” for a couple of seasons while I waited for the top ones to become a little more affordable. Two seasons have gone by, and I don’t see a good reason to drop $1000+ for a new trainer when the only flaw with this one is “sprint training”

    • kazwan

      Or, even cheaper, the Flow Smart (if you can get it). Frankly it looks like an exact copy of the Vortex Smart, the only difference seem to be some of the plastic cover parts.

  25. Lam

    Hey Ray,

    I’d like to point out that my Giant defy with thru axles did not fit the Travel Trac Magnetic Trainers from performance. It didn’t fit the fluid one either. I used a Kenetic 12m Traxle. I think it would be good to let everything know it won’t work with this setup.

    Thanks~

    • Jacob

      how do you like your Defy?

    • S. Savkar

      Have two Giant Defy bikes – a Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2 (2016) and a Giant Defy Advanced SL 1, and both are dreams to ride, love the compact chainrings. Just awesome, especially the hydraulic disc brakes which are seriously sweet. Got both on sale end of season.

      Had a two day ride with all sorts of different conditions including some heavy rain during downhill pieces, and it was amazing to see the difference in my control versus everyone I was riding with. People were seriously jealous (used the SL1 on that ride).

  26. Chris Evans

    Hi Ray, quality work as always….

    It seems the Bkool pro 2 is out from the look of wiggle etc and just wondering when we could expect a review?

    Also the difference between those at the Bkool pro 2 price point and the direct drive options for a little bit more. Worth the extra cash, what are the major benefits?

    Cheers

    Chris

  27. Theo

    Based on your recommendation I have bought the Elite Direto over here in Germany for €699. Best choice :-)

  28. Huan Le

    I just bought the Tacx NEO based on your recommendation from last year. Love it! Also took advantage of the 10% discount. Thank you!

  29. Yannick Ku

    Hey Ray,

    anything to mention abouth the new Elite Turno? There is so little information about the trainer on the web…although its already up for sale – thats so strange.

    Is it the basically the new Kura? Because Elite claims that its the updated version of another trainer, not the Kura.

    • mucher

      It’s an updated Muin. What is interesting Elite claim it has a factory calibrated Misuro sensor with temperature compensation. I would say it sits below Kura, but is still a viable choice for somebody that doesn’t need a controllable trainer or power meter – just a robust direct drive one.

    • Yannick Ku

      But I dont get what the difference is between this and a Kura. Why should I buy a Kura if I can get this?

    • Jens

      I have the Turbo Muin, it’s very inaccurate and has a very steep power curve. On a 45 min session it measured the average power to 179W while my Assioma pedals measured it to 226W. The more power you put down the more inaccurate, eg. a max power on the Muin was around 402, on the Assioma 692.
      So if the Turno is anything like the Muin, keep clear.

    • pio

      Kura has built in power meter with +-1% accuracy. Turno does not have powermeter. It estimates power based on your speed. Turno also has a little less resistance on lower speeds, but it is minor difference.

  30. Chader

    There is an error in the table above:

    Kicker Snap should be 1500w max (not 2200w shown, that is for the KICKR).

  31. James

    Great post! Thanks for all the recommendations and work you put into these.

    I’m deliberating between a Direto and a Kickr. I can get the kickr now for £75 more than a Direto with a discount code. I could wait a month and get the Direto for £90 under RRP making a similar saving.

    My inital opinion is head with the kickr (£240 cheaper than the nearest Neo price I can find) due to the proven track record and how solidly built they unit it. I would love the unit to last a fair number of years, and this makes me lean to paying slightly more for an already proven trainer, over one with 2-3months testing.

    Do you think that makes sense? Thanks again

    • Lee Sutton

      I’ve gone through the exact same process. Wiggle temporarily upped my platinum discount to 17% making the KICKR £830. At that price I decided it was worth the extra and placed the order today :-)

      I also like the idea of the Climb so thought at least now it’s still an option!

    • James

      Lee, that’s exactly how I’m looking at getting one! Trying one out this weekend then gonna pull the trigger!

  32. Jacques Dubois

    Again, thanks for the excellent round up of your always impressive reviews. A bit of a shout out to your Canadian followers here….I just bought an Elite Direto (based on your review) through Amazon.com only to find out that ProBikeKit Canada now sells them below the U.S. pricing as a result of the CETA free trade agreement which has now taken preliminary effect. Even though I was able to import the U.S. sourced Direto duty free (taxes only), it still worked about to be about $80 more than if I had bought it in Canada. This would likely be true of any hardware coming from the EU (including the UK….for now).

    • HarryH

      For Canadians (and possibly others) considering buying a trainer from a European online supplier and having it shipped across the ocean, it’s worth looking at German suppliers… I did, last year, and was very happy with the price I got on my Rampa – beat anything I could get elsewhere online or not (and yes I do shop at all the usual UK suspects) by a lot even with the cost of taxes and shipping. Of course you have to be comfortable with the risk of having to ship back, should something not work.

      Saying that, very recently, when looking for an upgrade to a Drivo, I found a deal with a local Toronto bike shop that beat the online world with price, friendliness and the added security of a place to turn to in the event that all does not go well.

    • Nickel

      Hi HarryH, I live in Toronto and have been thinking of getting the Rampa as well. Could you please tell me the name of the bike shop in Toronto that you purchased your trainer from?

  33. John

    Ray

    As always your data is invaluable. I currently have a Kinetic R&R. I decided to get a smart trainer. Upgrading my R&R seemed to be an obvious choice. Then I went to dcrainmaker.com and quickly found out that was a big mistake. It does not work on the native Sufferfest app.

    After comparing all of the options on your site, I decided the Cycleops Magnus is the right trainer for me. I intend to install this on my R&R frame. I got this idea from a comment by another dcrainmaker fan.

    Thank you very much for your efforts.

    John

  34. Chris

    **I posted this on your preliminary review of the Climb as well**

    I bought the new Kickr because of the Climb. I tried to mount my 2015 Scott Addict 10 — the very same frame that Wahoo uses on all their ads for the Kickr — and the drive side adapter doesn’t fit into the dropout (see pic).
    I contacted Wahoo and they sent a replacement. I received it yesterday and it has the same problems. I had a friend check the diameter of the drive side and non-drive side adapters with digital calipers. The non-drive side is 9.88mm (fits perfectly) but the drive side is a “whopping” 10.03mm (too big to fit the dropouts).

    This is Wahoo’s response: “I am sorry you are having this issue. The measurements you provided have been confirmed by our engineer as being the correct dimensions for the New KICKR adapter. Without having your bike to inspect and measure the dropouts compared to another bike of the same model, we would be unable to confirm why your Scott is incompatible whereas another Scott works without issue. Unfortunately, we do not have a workaround to allow your Scott to fit on the KICKR. We apologize for this inconvenience.”

    I find it hard to believe that my bike would be so unusual–1. it is the exact bike Wahoo uses to advertise the Kickr; 2. it is not an off-brand, off-model, or old model; 3. the non-drive side adapter fits perfectly; and 4. I’ve never had any trouble mounting many different wheels to the frame. And I can add that my bike is meticulously cared for and maintained.

    I haven’t accepted defeat on my end yet. :) I would assume Wahoo engineers would want to figure this out. Seems too odd. So I’m still reaching out to them to try to explore it more.

    Anyone else have the newest version of the Kickr? Any problems with the drive-side adapter?

  35. Joe Maki

    The Direto was a win for me. Performance has had it at 20% off twice so far this season.

  36. Willy

    Any thoughts on how the Wahoo Factory-reconditioned Kickrs (versions 1 & 2) would fit into the recommendations?

    • David Chrisman

      I just bought an original refurbished direct from Wahoo. First smart trainer and have only used with Sufferfest but awesome so far. Can’t wait to Zwift.

    • I have zero concerns about buying Wahoo reconditioned stuff (or honestly, reconditioned stuff from any vendor in the sports tech industry for the most part).

      I would caution two minor things:

      A) If looking at a V1 unit, some folks saw issues with power accuracy if the unit got manhandled in shipping (not unusual), impacting the power meter. Wahoo solved that with a firmware update for Gen1 that basically ignores the power meter. That might sound counter-intuitive, but most have reported far better overall results that way. Check out the video within the CEO I did in my V2 unit in-depth review.

      B) The V2 unit does have some notable benefits, mostly the reduced noise profile (more so than volume, just pitch).

      However, be aware that neither unit is compatible with the new CLIMB ‘experience’, thus, if that’s even remotely on your radar – then it’s something to consider. Beyond that though – the refurbs are great options!

  37. Stuart Brown

    I would caution anyone buying a tacx wheel on trainer (and definitely not recommend anyone buy a Bushido Smart). I originally purchased a Bushido for tablets, which was bluetooth only, in 2014 sometime I guess. I’m still getting replacement brake units every year or so and every single one has different issues. I’ve just noticed my latest one leaving a mark in the middle of my rear tyre (and on the trainer tyre). After 4 miles my Schwalbe One tyre had a deep groove down the middle (I was only after doing a quick ride). I’m thoroughly fed up with the endless cycle of the thing not working and Tacx have told me basically to get lost and I need to take it up with the dealer. I’m wondering if I have a case for the small claims court seeing as the thing has never worked properly.

    Just a word of caution to anyone buying a tacx wheel on trainer.

    • Richard

      Sorry you’ve had that experience. Just as a counter-view, I’ve had my Bushido Smart now for 2 years and have had no issues with it whatsoever. When I got my Vectors I learnt the power is about 10% different, but it is consistent. And, apart from that, it’s ‘just worked’ all the time.

    • Stuart Brown

      Hi Richard, I’m glad you’ve had 2 years of no issues, that gives me a little confidence that the new brake unit might finally see the end of my issues!

      After shredding my tyre that had only covered a few hundred miles, I’m going to invest in a spare rear wheel to use on the trainer so I can leave the trainer tyre permanently mounted. I used to have one, but upgrading the bike from 10 to 11 speed rendered my old trainer wheel defunct.

      Do you use a wheel with a trainer tyre?

  38. Michael

    I bought the Neo last year after you published this roundup last year. Still enjoyed it this year and made me feel good that you still like the Neo. I bought it for the noise level and my partner is hapoy with my purchase too ;). Thanks for the great work!

  39. Ummm … Kurt Kinetic Smart Control trainers broadcast Bluetooth. Source: Kurt Kinetic sales manager.

    • marklemcd

      Read the link included in the KK section. They only have a private Bluetooth connection. It only works with a small number of apps. And it works with no head unit. Who would buy that?

    • Yup, exactly as Marklemcd noted. It’s all private. They’ve totally shunned any of the standards, so every app that wants to work with them has to go through an approval process (which isn’t very open). It also means it won’t work with *ANY* of your head units or wearables, which all other trainers on the market do.

    • Duane

      As for the apps they work with, they have Zwift, Trainer Road, perpro studio (beta), Kinomap and Fullgaz. More are in the pipeline and they are also working on support for the actual Bluetooth standard, FTML. Most trainers use the Wahoo SDK, which isn’t any less private than what Kinetic did, just to be fair.

    • Except when Wahoo did that, they were the only game in town (the only trainer to offer an open API). Also, they even setup a site where you can download the SDK and get to work as they saw fit (which everyone did). Plus, they still worked on open ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart. link to api.wahoofitness.com

      When Kinetic did it, they ignored the standards (all of them), and locked it down to just selective partners. No distribution of the SDK/API on a site or anything like that.

  40. Stuart

    re: “The summer season is past us (well, unless you’re in Australia),”

    Hey! I resemble that remark! And for that matter, I think that my friends across the ditch in the Seventh State (those guys who refer to my region as the West Island) would object to being ignored, as well. :)

    I’ll also note that the original Kickr does have a solution for thru axles available; it costs a little extra, but it works well enough. A little fiddly to get setup – it basically turns the QR skewer into a carefully crafted skewer that bolts into the thru axle’s holes, rather than using the bike’s thru axle – but it does the job.

    • I’m confused – I thought there were just sheep on that island?

    • Stuart

      No, I can attest from personal experience that they also have some absolutely magnificent fjords. Seriously – if you’re ever in the area, pay a visit to Milford Sound; it’s very much worth the travel time. (I hear that Doubtful Sound is also awesome, but I haven’t been there, so can’t comment from personal experience.) And make sure you get a helicopter ride as well after the boat tour – you just don’t get the full experience from the boat. You can’t.

    • New Zealand Part I: Caves, cows, sheep and mountain biking: link to dcrainmaker.com

      New Zealand Part II: Glaciers, peaks, long hikes…and a lot more sheep.: link to dcrainmaker.com

      New Zealand Part III: Open cockpit vintage biplane flights, and canyoning (it’s like rappelling): link to dcrainmaker.com

      Your daily distraction of pretty pics is now complete…

  41. Markus

    I’m a disgruntled Kickr Gen 1 owner. Suffered those accuracy issues, suffered Wahoo’s poor customer service. Felt really, really disgruntled when they came out with Gen 2 – and admitting that there were accuracy issues with Gen 1. Yes, the firmware update improved the situation a little bit. The problem is, accuracy is not consistent. It can’t be trusted.

    So I was about to order a Tacx Neo. The very day I wanted to place an order Wahoo announced the Climb. Wholy cow, I want this.

    Now I’m really torn apart. I don’t want to give Wahoo a single cent of my money anymore … but I want the Climb. My hope would be that Tacx has something in the pipeline as well. Or that the Climb can be fitted to a Neo. I don’t want to buy a 2017 Kickr, not after my experience. But I really want the Climb :-)

    Tough life when you’re a gadget nerd …

  42. Michael Coyne

    Thanks a ton! Super helpful.

    I also have a question about trainer/bike storage – I’m a college student who normally doesn’t have a ton of extra space, and rarely would have time to pack/unpack the trainer+bike. I figured a simple way to save some space quickly would be to rotate the bike up against the wall (maybe with some hooks to hold it) while leaving it attached to the trainer – see amazing attached MS Paint skills. I got worried when the CLIMB came out and I found out that only the KICKR/SNAP 2017 models were compatible because without the new pivot point, you would chew out your rear-dropouts.

    I asked Shane Miller, and he responded saying that most trainers can achieve that motion safely just by undoing the quick-release – still not a bad solution. However he said he’d have to check after he finished moving stuff in a couple weeks.

    Now having looked at the pictures of it more, I’m wondering if the KICKR 2017 would actually be able to do that motion because it looks like the handle would get in the way. It looks like it might be close, but it’s hard to say from the pictures. Might be bike frame dependent? I have a newer Cervelo P2 (same basic frame as an old P3) if that helps (probably not).

    If you can confirm whether the handle gets in the way (and how badly) on your bike that might provide some insight.

    Thanks again a ton for the article! I’m definitely looking forward to the apps one – it’s REALLY hard to find info on what exactly they can do, and especially on whether they can do it well enough to be worth a damn. I most want to find out if there’s a good way to punch in Ironman courses (which I’d like to train for), or just any old course you create and simulate them well enough to help decide which races to do next summer. I’ve heard bestbikesplit can do something like that? But like I said it’s one thing to say it “can” do it, and another completely for it to be a worthwhile simulation that you can actually take something away from.

    Thanks again for all your hard work! Keep it up! :)

    • I don’t have a KICKR2017 with a bike on it at this second, but I can tell that I routinely do exactly what your picture describes with the KICKR1 and KICKR2, and probably have also done it with the KICKR3. Since the KICKR3 handle isn’t any different than the 2, you should be fine.

      It’s usually when I’m too lazy to take the bike off but need it temporarily out of the way. Of course, this would likely highly depend on frame to frame differences. But I’ve done it with both my Cervelo P3C tri bike and my Giant Defy2 road bike. Also, The Girl’s Trek Speed Concept tri bike.

    • Michael Coyne

      Thanks a bunch!

      Yeah tbh if I got better at scheduling I probably would be able to properly take it off, but it’s nice to be able to be lazy as an option.

      With the pivot it’d also be good to not worry about ruining things if I forget to undo the quick release first with my oxygen-deprived brain after a workout.

      Thanks again!

    • Don

      That’s awesome. Love the paint skills. Just for fun I’ll try to see if I can rotate my bike up like that on my Hammer once I get home. If I remember I’ll post back here.

      In regards to limited space keep in mind that you’re also going to want to plan for somewhere to put a fan. Even in my garage in Colorado winters I use two fans.

  43. DerLordBS

    I am going to move to a new flat. I don’t want to get trouble with my new neigbors. Currently i am using the TacX Vortex Smart which produces to much noise for my new flat. Is it a good idea to go for the Elite Direto or should I go for the TacX Neo Smart just from the noise point of view? Is the Elite Direto quite?

    • marklemcd

      I can’t speak to the NEO but I just moved from the Vortex to the Direto. The sound difference is astonishing to me. I can watch videos on my ipad with no headphones and hear just fine. The Direto, to my ears, is no noisier than our dishwasher which is one of the quieter Bosch models.

      Some people are turned off by the “printer noise” the trainer can make, outside of when I first plug it in I don’t hear it while riding.

  44. Tom

    How much better is the Direto compared to flux? I recently bought the flux on sale for $700.
    At that price point maybe flux is more value for money? Or would you recommend to return it and go for Direto at $900?

  45. Øyvind

    The kickr snap 17 also has support for kickr climb. That is also a thing to consider when purchasing a midrange trainer. Here in Norway a setup with a kickr snap and a kickr climb will be cheaper than a regular kickr 17.

  46. Adam Ornelles

    Heads up. The kickr goes for $450 at the REI garage sales if you’re lucky enough. I jumped on it and don’t regret it.

    • Michael Coyne

      I assume you mean an older yearthat doesn’t have the CLIMB support?

    • Adam Ornelles

      Correct, the Kickr 2. Although I assume if someone tried out the newest model and returned it the mark down would be the same. (Since when I got the kickr on sale it was the newest model.)

  47. Jon

    What about rollers?

  48. Turby M Wright

    Great review as always!!

  49. kg

    Ray, are there any trainers you would recommend that allow the bike to sway even slightly while pedaling? I find that the static hold of most trainers aggravates one knee, something I don’t feel on the road. I noticed that the Kurt Rock n Roll isn’t on your list, possibly because it’s tech is behind the times? Thanks.

    • John

      I already own a rock and roll and just ordered a Cycleops Magnus. The sway feature was very important to me because prior trainers caused me discomfort.

      So when I decided to go to a smart trainer my initial plan was to upgrade to the Rock and Roll. Kurt Kinetic did not Follow the “standard” which limited apps and functionality. This lead me to search for other solutions.

      My plan now is to bolt the Magnus to the rock and roll frame. Apparently they are compatible. Search for frankentrainer on the Kurt kinetic smart trainer first look to see this.

      This solution provides me the best of both worlds. I get a trainer frame that I am comfortable on and the smart trainer functionality I want.

      I also am planning on putting the Rock and Roll mechanism on the Cycleops Magnus frame. This will provide me a travel trainer or more likely my daughter will claim it. I have not seen that this is possible, but if you can move the Magnus to the Rock and Roll the opposite should be possible.

      I believe that Some of the direct drive trainers do sway a little, but not equivalent to the Rock and Roll. Also some people have created home made sub frames with ply wood and tennis balls to make their trainers sway.

      Hope this helps

    • kg

      Fantastic! Thank you John. I will look into these ideas.

  50. Jason

    Hi Ray,

    Bike compatibility question for you. How does the width of the Elite Direto compare to the newest version of the Tacx Neo after they made changes due to bike compatibility issues? I’m talking about the width of the part that sits between the seat/chain stays. I’ve got a Specialized Transition with very angular/narrow seat and chain stays and am wondering if it will be compatible with the Direto. There are a few reports that the new Neo works fine with the Transition, so if the Direto is similar I may be ok.

    Thanks,
    Jason

  51. Jurgen

    Ray,

    Thanks a lot. Great read!!!

    Take care
    Jurgen

  52. Edward

    I was hoping to see in this year’s Annual Winter Bike Trainer Recommendation guide some more in-depth coverage of Insides Rides Emotion rollers given they just released this year the new smart resistance controller. I’ve had a unit for a few years now and upgraded the resistance unit to the recently released FE-C model a few months back. Paired with Zwift they work and feel amazing. I do not currently have a dedicated power meter so can’t vouch for how accurate the power reading output is but relative to itself day to day it feels very consistent and I’m not seeing any swings in my power readings. I just ensure my tires are always pumped up to 100 psi. Ultimately any power reading output accuracy issue can be addressed with a dedicated power meter. What can’t be addressed/corrected after the fact is how engaging a trainer unit feels; which is why I went with Emotion rollers in the first place and believe they deserve more than just a quick word or two in this recommendation guide. Honestly I think Inside Ride is selling this unit short by marketing it primarily as rollers given they also offer a floating fork stand for users who want a more stationary unit or just have a session of noise bleeding training intervals planned and don’t want to worry about passing out and having their bike hit the deck. Another benefit to this unit which I believe gets overlooked is the simplicity and modular nature of it; basically should anything wear out the end user can reach out to Inside Ride and have a new part shipped and be back up and running in no time. With the Neo, Wahoo or etc. should it break on you after the warranty expires, I’d venture to guess you are SOL. Anyways hopefully Ray will be able to source a set and put them through their paces to see how they stack up against the other trainers on the market.

  53. matt

    I know every has a love fest for kickr but the Hammer should be up there. its just as good as the kickr

    • Eugene C.

      I think right now there’s three features where the Hammer beats the KICKR17, and they are somewhat minor. The Hammer is the most stable trainer on the market for max sprint efforts, it’s slightly quieter than the KICKR and it’s also got an ever so slightly better “road feel.” If you need to do sprints, get the Hammer…otherwise get the KICKR.

    • The road feel thing is subjective. I actually think the KICKR has just barely better road feel than the Hammer, but, we’ll call that a wash. I do feel that the KICKR is far superior on sprints for stability than the Hammer though, so a bit surprised to hear that.

      In any case, the ‘call it a wash’ part is the challenge with the Hammer.

      It’s a fine trainer. As I noted in the post, it really is. But the challenge is that it no longer has a unique selling point (to use marketing jargon). If you ask anyone in the industry, they’ll say this: “CycleOps built a fine KICKR, but why buy it over the actual KICKR?”

      And in 2016, there were some logical reasons to choose the KICKR, namely around better thru-axle support. But CycleOps had manufacturing issues, and units barely started shipping in 2016 – thus they kinda lost momentum. In 2017, Wahoo matched the thru-axle aspects.

      Fast forward to now, and there are three specific reasons to choose the KICKR over the Hammer:

      A) Slightly better 3rd party app support (this has always been a reason Wahoo wins, the smaller apps almost always support it first), it’s negligible for larger apps like Zwift/TrainerRoad.
      B) It supports the KICKR CLIMB: For some that might matter. Or maybe it doesn’t matter to you now, but it might 2-3 years from now when it’s undoubtedly cheaper.
      C) You can pair a power meter to it, and have it base power on that

      And yes, those are all minor features (depending on your view anyway). but that’s the thing, my goal here isn’t to give every company an award. It’s to pick exactly what I’d tell my Dad or other close friends to do. And I just struggle with any specific real tangible reason to pick the Hammer over the KICKR these days.

    • Don

      I think you meant to say “And in 2016, there were some logical reasons to choose the Hammer”

      Regarding c)You can pair a separate power meter in Zwift (or TrainerRoad) while using the Hammer, would it just be if you’re using it only with a head unit that you couldn’t do that?

      Personally, I think the possibility of upgrading to the Climb is the only reason to choose the KICKR over the Hammer, and the more tolerable pitch of the Hammer is the only reason to choose it over the KICKR. Of course, who knows if CycleOps might come out with their own Climb sort of unit next year, or one that climbs and shakes and allows steering. Actually, excepting if you want to spend even more money on the Climb, it’s hard to justify either the KICKR or the Hammer, now that the Direto offers even better accuracy for about 33% less cost.

      Anyway, you’ve missed the most important factor in all of these reviews. The big question is which of these trainers will be the most effective for use with an e-bike?

    • For that e-bike, there’s really only one solution: link to youtube.com

  54. De Mac

    Another great review mate – well done. I run a KickrV1 and probably will until it expires – they are still great units. Re the CycleOps PowerBeam Pro – I agree re the limited radio being either ANT+ or BT, but the ANT+ one that I had – and only recently sold – was a very solid unit and quite accurate when benchmarked against my power meters, so I’d argue it is still a good secondhand option for the right price! cheers

  55. Nacho Herrero

    I have owned a Tacx Flow Smart I bought in Decathlon for the past 2 seasons and it’s AWESOME.
    Sure, the build quality is crappy, 800w isn’t enough to practice sprints, a 6% gradient simulation isn’t great, and a +-10% accuracy rating for the power figures is downright worrysome, but I use mine in conjunction with a set of Garmin Vector 2 pedals and that way I can be CERTAIN that the power I’m doing on the street is exactly the same as what I’m doing indoors.
    It can creak, and the resistance can be wimpy for really big all-out efforts, but I’ve trained, raced, done 100+km group rides with it on Zwift and workouts on TrainerRoad and the performance at 240€ is VERY hard to argue with. I got mine on sale for 199€, too, and I just couldn’t freakn’ believe it.
    The bluetooth connection really sucks, but that’s no issue because it works GREAT with ANT+. I never get dropouts. Most of the people complaining about this trainer being unusable are pairing it through BTLE.
    There’s absolutely NO WAY IN HELL I’d consider getting a Satori Smart if I could get my hands on one of these instead, and there’s even LESS way in hell I’d drop over double the cash on a Vortex Smart for a little extra build quality (not that much, either), another 150w resistance and 1%+ gradient simulation. If you think 6% isnt enough, 7% sure as heck isn’t gonna cut it either… The Vortex doesn’t do a single thing that the Flow doesn’t either…
    The resistance responds very quickly to gradient changes and feels consistent and predictable. It even comes with a front wheel riser!
    When I upgrade it’s definately going to be to something in the 1k$+ range, going direct-drive and big-ass flywheels for the ride feel. I just see very, very little point in spending 500€ for trainers that do exactly the same things as the Flow. They even come with the same puny 1.5-1.6kg flywheels… But then again I haven’t ridden a 500€ smart trainer, they might be really awesome compared to the flow and I’m just missing out.

    • Nacho Herrero

      edit: Also, as far as I know, the Vortex power accuracy isn’t rated any better than the Flow’s, either…

    • Atomic

      Another Flow Smart user here. I bought mine in Dec 2016 for £200 and since carrying out the epoxy fix for the roller it has been reliable. I’ve used it with Zwift and recently with Rouvy for the climbs where the 6% gradient limit feels lightweight but I’ve still managed to get plenty of good workouts on it.
      Now in the market for a Direto or Drivo for improved climbs & accuracy but the Flow is a great cheap alternative to the Vortex.

  56. David

    “2,200W @ 40KPH 2500W @ 30MPH”

    Won’t someone think if the units….

  57. Joachim

    Is it be possible to combine the kickr 2017 with the canyon endurance disc model 2018?
    Answer Wahoo : they havent tested it 😭
    Answer canyon : they havent tested it 😭

  58. Branco

    hi Rainmaker

    first of all, thanks for the very useful review !

    Now my question , maybe you answered somewhere …
    I want to buy bike trainer. But i didnt find any information for max weight of driver those trainers can hold.
    My weight 120kg with 195cm. riding a bike Merida Scultura 5000 Lampre edition

    any recomendations are very apricieted?

  59. Chris

    Thanks for the round-up!

    One quick question – based on your and other reviews, I decided to buy the KICKR17. Followed your guidance and bought it thru the Clever Training website. As you mentioned, the KICKR doesn’t qualify for the 10% off but does get you points. I also bought the VIP membership for $5, so I got 125 points. Any thoughts on how to use those regarding what accessories to buy?

    Have been using HR via Apple Watch (Gen 1) but don’t have a power meter. Also, am only using a simple Cateye headunit that only has speed/cadence. Any recommendations on the best way to use those 125 points? Thanks again!

    • Thanks for the support Chris!

      So 125 points is basically $125. I’d look at getting a head unit of some sort. If you can hold out another month, you’ve got the Black Friday sales coming up, so you’d probably save 20-40% on some head units. Given you have a Gen1 Apple Watch, you may want to look at getting something like a FR735XT or the newer FR935, which would cover you on both fronts, and also allow broadcasting of the HR to other apps.

      I wouldn’t expect the FR935 to be on sale this season, but you could see other units. Just my two cents.

  60. David Tucker

    I picked up the Taxc Vortex last December and I couldn’t be happier with it. I really got a steal on it here in the United States I think since I got it for $473. For the money, it seemed like a good deal at the time and while I wouldn’t mind a trainer with better specs, I have become measurably stronger over the past year.

    I think that’s the key. All of the best tools in the world are only as good as how you use them. I may eventually outgrow this trainer but I don’t think it’s worth dropping 4 figures on something better when this one will serve my needs for years. By the time I’m ready for a better tool, they’ll be cheaper still.

    • Chris

      Yeah if you’re in the US, performance bike tends to have a decent amount of sales that apply to a lot of their stock. I picked up a Tacx Vortex smart last year as well with a 20% off coupon and free shipping. I *think* it ended up being around $450

      I think with that coupon it’s one of the cheapest, easily accessible trainers in the US

  61. Diego

    Hi Ray,

    I’ve noticed you show a picture of the tacx on the countryside. Since it has more than three contact points with the floor, doesn’t unbalance when the floor ist not flat?

    Thanks!
    Diego

  62. Ken

    Ray,
    Can you add one more thing for the direct drive trainers; which ones work for those who ride Campy. It’s my understanding that some of them only take a Shimano/Sram cassette & you can’t mount a Campy one on them. Is this correct? If so, which DD ones can be used with Campy?

  63. Troy

    Hi to all,

    Do all the mid level trainers fit for a rear disc brake?
    Are any of the above a preference please?

    Thanks

  64. John

    I received my Cycleops Magnus trainer yesterday and Immediately bolted the drive unit to Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll frame. It worked perfectly! Love my Rockin Magnus!

    I Then bolted the Rock and Roll Drive unit to the Magnus Frame. Again it worked perfectly! My daughter is already targeting stealing my Kurt-Cycleops mashup!

    My first ride with the smart trainer was on Zwift and everything seemed fine. I have a power meter, so I am doing power matching. I would say the climbs are a little easier, than real life, but I have very little seat time. I am very happy so far!

    Only thing I was not able to do with the Rockin Magnus is to utilize the Cycleops torque knob. Not a deal killer, but would have been nice. Steven in a previous blog seemed to have solved this problem See Pic below. Steven if you see this I would like to know how you did this.

    • John

      I was able to figure out how to use the Cycleops Clutch knob on the Kurt Kinetic frame. I am now fully operational and thrilled with my purchase. I turned the Swift difficulty up to about 90%. I was out of my seat hammering on an 11% grade last night on my R&R Magnus. It was fun!

  65. Roger Doger

    Hey Ray,
    I’ve seen a several people repeat that “The KICKR has more app compatibility…”. What apps is the Wahoo talking to that anyone else is not?

  66. Bob

    Is it possible to get the Maximum Torque (Nm) for each trainer? Reason I ask is that I am interested in doing low speed, high torque intervals (training for cyclocross – simulate riding through sand pits, accelerating out of corners, sharp climbs, etc). thx

  67. mucher

    Hi, Ray – just noticed that the front page links to last year’s version of this article (2016/17) recommendation.

  68. Eduardo Celis

    I tried to use the DCR10BTF code to buy a Wahoo Snap but it says: “Oops! This item is not valid with coupon codes”

    • Indeed, as noted above for Wahoo products you get 10% back in points instead (which you can then use for purchasing anything else, kinda like cash, such as sensors or anything CT sells). It’s a manufacturer specific limitation. Thanks for the support!

  69. Sebastian

    Hi Ray,

    thanks for the great review.

    I have a question, which one would you choose when you can get the Tacx Neo for 1260 or the Drivo for 1100?

    Kind Regards
    Sebastian

    • I’d go Neo for that price difference. but each person values things differently.

    • Matt

      I have a Kickr, Drivo, and Neo.
      I choose the Drivo 99% of the time. The drivo has a nicer feel (at least to me) and its quieter than the Kickr.

      I just wish it had a more stable footprint for sprinting. I think it needs longer legs

  70. Hi Ray,

    Next week I’m buying an Elite Direto and a new Macbook Air. Can I unbox both, download Zwift, open a Zwift account and get everything working like that?

    No dongles, extra hardware, software etc???

    Cheers.

    Ross.

  71. Steve

    Regarding trainer tyres, using old road tyres also used to be my MO, but I got tyres (lol) of the noise and more, all the bits of rubber than get spewed around. A few dollars later and I got a yellow Conti trainer tyre, and so much better: quieter, no debris, less slippage.

    Worth every penny

  72. Lee Sutton

    You can get the red Vittoria tyre from Wiggle (UK) usually for about £15-£17. Definitely worth it in my opinion. Just make it up on a cheap wheel and hey presto!

  73. Arthur J Schwartz

    One item which you did not comment on is how to connect a smart trainer to your laptop or cell phone. although one option is a dongle that fits in the USB port, I discovered there an antenna from TACX. I have been using it for quite a few months and in my opinion, it is a great product. First it works well! second it is reasonably priced. third, it does not take up a USB port. and fourth, it does not have to be that close to the trainer itself. I suggest looking into it.

  74. Brandon W.

    I’m looking for a low-cost trainer (under $150) without electronic broadcasting capabilities. I know you said there are tons out there that work fine, but what do you recommend?

  75. Peter J Ostrowski

    I would like more info on the the mid range calibration. I have a cycle ops magnus and just use the rovy app to calibrate and that takes only about a minute. Why are you saying 10 mins?

    • That’s generally accepted as the time it takes for things to warm-up. 10 minutes on some trainers, 15 on others. And even 20 on certain ones.

    • Peter O

      SO you ride for 10 mins then do the calibration?

    • For those trainers that are impacted, definitely, yes. Usually I find a break in my workout at the 10-15 minute marker, after the warm-up.

      For trainers where I know it not to be an issue (Tacx Neo, Elite Direto, etc…), then I don’t bother.

    • pete

      ah ok, I think zwift has something for this. Ride for 10 mins and then you can “pause” to do a spindown in zwift (though the spindown seems to have some issues with cyclops)

  76. Corky Grimm

    Does anyone make a trainer you can use with a thru axle? No traditional Q/R and large lever? Thank you Corky

  77. David Cohen

    DCR.. On slowtwitch I saw you make mention that with the Neo you shouldn’t be using “powermatch” on trainerroad.

    Is that true for any software (perfpro, sufferfest, etc) or just TrainerRoad. Why do you suggest having the computer go off the Neo rather bike mounted?

    Just curious as the gf and I have 2 neos coming and we have been on a computrainer… I know there was a decent amount of drift between the CT and the crank based meters we had… and we were both happier getting power right from the crank… What makes things different from the measurement standpoint on the Neo?

    • It’s mostly true for any software. I’d say the only scenario where I’d generally do that is if the power was for some reason significantly different. Else, I find that the lag is often too annoying for the benefit.

      With the CT, especially due to drift in the first 15 or so minutes, that was more of an issue. Whereas for the Neo there is no drift.

      Enjoy the Neo’s!

  78. Sebastian

    Hi Ray,

    short question, if accuracy and processing quality is the main thing your intrested in is the Neo worth it or would you buy the cheaper direto? The stuff like vibrating or the noise isn´t so important for me.

    Kind Regards
    Sebastian

    • I think both are actually more similar than people realize. I’ve yet to see any appreciable bad data from a Direto, either my own data or others like GPLama’s data, etc… I actually think they are underselling how accurate it really is (or being overly cautious).

      Which isn’t to take credit away from the Neo either. It’s just that I think the Direto is more accurate than they claim it to be (likely done for marketing reasons to edge people to buy their higher end Drivo).

  79. Jeff Garrett

    Very interested in the Elite Direto. However, with no stores locally and they don’t have an online store with the trainer where the hell does one buy one of these things?

  80. Mike

    Hi Ray,

    I am set on buying a Canyon Aeroad with disc brakes as my next road bike and I will be buying a smart trainer in the next couple of weeks. Two quick questions:
    1) Do you know if the Elite Direto or Tacx Neo have any incompatibility issues with the Aeroad Disc or road bikes with disc brakes in general?
    2) Last year the Neo was on offer for only 770 Euros during the first week of November on some online site. I wonder if there’s any chance I could grab the Neo for ~900 Euros somewhere or if that’s extremely unlikely now due to the Flux and Direto sitting at ~720 Euros.

    Cheers!

  81. melissa D.

    Hi Ray, this post is super helpful. I was wondering if you’ve seen this Travel Trac smart trainer at Performance. I’m not sure if it’s new or not, but I’d be curious to get your take on it after reading the description. It’s on sale right now and a pretty good price for a smart trainer. Check it out:
    link to performancebike.com

    • That’s a confusing description to be honest. It almost sounds like it’s some sort of re-branded Elite trainer, given it’s compatible with the Misuro B+ it says (except it spells it incorrectly).

      I wish I could provide better input on that unit, but without having one in-hand, and with the description a bit wonky, it’s hard to know. On the bright side, Performance is pretty lenient with their return policies if you find it’s a lemon.

  82. Patrick

    I have been using a Computrainer for 12+ years. Now that they are no longer producing I may have to replace if anything breaks.
    What is the reliability of the current trainers?

    Is there difficulty with getting trainers that at not manufacture in US serviced?

  83. Any discussion on lag? Are all the trainers the same speed at reacting to the software telling the trainer to change resistance. (start/end of hill on zwift and start/end of intervals)

    • Mark

      I am not DCR, but as far as I can answer your question:

      Yes, the devices have different lag indeed!
      From what tried out, the Elite Rampa is in the ballpark of about 1–2 seconds (I’d guess this is normal), Tacx Flux like 4–6 seconds (noticeable).

      I find any noticeable lag super annoying when due to the what is displayed in Zwift and the such, you get over a hill and the rewarding feeling of less resistance is not immediately there.

  84. Dustin

    Great review of them all, I am thinking about either the Direto or the Flux. How does the road feel compare between the two? And if you had to pick between the two which one would you go with? Thanks

  85. Rappo Rappini

    Hi DC, great review as usual. I was looking for Technogym Incycling, the new entry in the high end trainer. Any review upcoming? Thanks!

  86. George

    I tried 2 different Wahoo SNAP V1 last year and they both had unbalanced rollers. Chip, the Wahoo owner claims that they have fixed or improved the manufacturing tolerances of the 2017 V2 SNAP roller but I still see that people have issues again with it. link to youtube.com

    Now I am thinking to get the Direto. It seems good, although it has a lot of plastic? How is the build quality? Any idea whether CleverTraining will have a 20% off around Thanksgiving? I believe they always do. I am a VIP member and want to support Ray.

  87. Alan

    The cheapest I’m seeing the BKool GO is for $399 on their site. Where is it available for $349?

    • John

      I got the Cycleops Magnus for $495 I thought that was a very good deal and I love the trainer.

    • pete

      Cycleops Magnus is good but it does have the slight delay of resistance change in zwift. Got it for the same price too (nashbar)

    • John

      I have a power meter. That eliminates the delay for wheel on trainers in Zwift. Having the power meter was the deciding factor for not spending the money on Elite Direto.

      I also have been riding my friends Cycleops hammer. I really do not notice much difference between the the Hammer and the Magnus (with the power meter) in Zwift. I would guess that if I could ride them side by side the Hammer would have better feel.

      I also use Sufferfest. There is no power matching feature in Sufferfest, so I strictly use the Magnus. In Sufferfest I have not perceived any delay.

  88. Charles

    Hi,
    what cassette are you recommending for a direct drive trainer? (I just ordered the Direto)

    Is it better to have a smaller range like 11-23 or 12-25 or should I just replicate what I’m riding outside (11-28)? Or it doesn’t matter at all?

    Thanks,
    Charles

    • I pretty much buy the same cassettes over and over again for all my trainers. Amazon shows I’ve bought a disturbing number of the Ultegra 12-25T cassettes over the years.

      Specifically, this exact one: link to amzn.to

      I’ll probably start buying the new R8000 ones since it’s only a few bucks more, but really, it doesn’t much matter: link to amzn.to

      I’ve always just gone 12-25 since that’s what I had on my bike at the time outside, and well…if it ain’t broke…

    • Charles

      Thanks for your answer! And for your reviews :)

      So there’s no reason to have a smaller range on a trainer than I do on my bike? If so, I’ll just match what I ride outside to make the swap easier

    • I’d just match what you’ve got outside if it were me.

    • George

      Hey Ray,

      Ordered the Direto from CT with the 20% off to support you. Awesome deal. Two questions:

      1. I have a 10-speed SRAM cassette that I will install (11-23). I assume I will have to use the spacer ring first and then enter the cassette? I hope it is included with the Direto.

      2. How much does the rear-end is risen from the ground? I have ordered a standard off-brand 1 inch front wheel riser block. Should be OK?

    • Correct on the spacer. It’s in the box. You can see it here in the unboxing section: link to dcrainmaker.com

      I think a standard 1″ block is good, and what I use. No issues there at all!

      Thanks for the support, I appreciate it!

    • Mark

      You can change the interactive trainer resistance in Zwift to like 80% or 50%. Though this doesn’t give you more speed (Zwift will reduce it accordingly), it enables you to maintain that cadence longer and reduces how much and often you need to shift.

      Therefore, for Zwift (and OneLeap…), I would go with a closely-spaced cassette—which the 12–25 and 11–23 are—and not the one on your bike if it is one with jumps like a 11–32.

      Then, because you don’t get any speed-assist downhills on almost all trainers, I’d wager an 11 or 12 as lowest cog won’t see much use.

  89. BobbyM

    Hi Ray,
    I was wondering if you had ever heard of the Robert axle Project (link to robertaxleproject.com), and if so, would that work with any trainer (even fairly old ones?)
    Thank you!

    • I haven’t heard of them before. But, if I’m understanding it well enough, it should work with any wheel-on trainer.

      These days, wheel-off trainers (direct drive ones), are largely thru-axle compatiable anyway.

    • Keith Lacey

      Hey DC,

      Your comment on the Tacx Flow Smart is spot on, I have one and found it in Halfords(link to halfords.ie) who seem to have some sort of exclusive deal as I couldn’t find it anywhere else plus it’s in stock all the time. Got it for €230 last Xmas in a deal. Zwift works great it kicks in resistance the second you hit a climb as expected of course :) Great for the price have to say.

      Cheers
      Keith

  90. Henrik

    Cant resist “rambling” on the “mythical flyweel”.

    To figure out if flywheels makes a difference or not, try riding a “rolling hills” course with your trainer.

    If you ride at a steady pace, e.g. flat or steady uphill, the modelling of inertia (the reason for flywheels) is not that important (unless you pedalling is very erratic). But quickly switching between uphill and downhill is where inertia modelling (and flywheels) make a significant difference since you are implicated to change speed.

    Inertia is the “resistance” for speed changes and simply put the reason why you don’t stop immidiately when you stop pedalling.

    What is most weird is that the weight of the flywheel is almost always stated for trainers. But this can be completely irrelevant. What matters is the modeled inertia or differently put, the capability to store kinetic energy in the same way as this happens when you ride “unleached”. So emulated system weight (rider + bike) is way more relevant.

    Using the same weight on a large diameter flywheel provides significantly more inertia (and possibility to store more kinetic energy for a given speed) than in a small diameter flywheel. This when assuming that that flywheels spin at the same rpm. By using gears you can make a small flywheel store more energy/model more inertia by making it spin X times faster.

    Ideally the modelled inertia should be programmable for a trainer. The weight of you bike, your self, what you bring along and actually your wheels one extra time since they spin (like a flywheel) makes up your inertia. High profile three spoke aero wheels provide more inertia than sleek spoked ones. So to mimic reality this needs to be programmable. A flywhel is not programmable and hence needs some extra virtual support to get closer to reality.

    It is the effect of inertia (and the possibility of trading kinetic energy for potential energy and back agin) that makes it possible to speed up slightly just before a _short_ steep uphill and with less effort climb the short hill and then (reasonably) gain speed downhill and now you need to keep the speed up until the next uphill. And this is riding rolling hills.

  91. Andrew Judelson

    Awesome review!
    Thanks

  92. Mark

    Does the DCRVIP 20% off deal only refer to Clevertraining.com or will it work with the .co.uk site aswell ? Can’t find the VIP membership on the UK site.

    • Mark

      Just used online chat with clevertraining.com, answered the question and it’s a NO. Shame they can’t reward the Uk/Europe customers with the same deals :(

  93. Andrew Judelson

    Aside from the Climb addition, if there is no other significant difference in Kickr 2017 vs 2016, why spend the extra money for the 2017?
    Are there any differences in the ride programs/video/etc.?

    • Here’s my KICKR 2017 post, which outlines those differences in more detail: link to dcrainmaker.com

      But yes, aside from CLIMB compatibility, the only differences are:

      1) Increased 12×142 thru axle compatibility
      2) Added 12×148 thru axle compatibility
      3) More/better clearance for disc brakes and flat mount brakes.

      Cheers.

  94. Rappo Rappini

    Hi – can I get some comment on why Technogym Mycycling Smart Trainer is not mentioned please? Will it be reviewed?
    Thanks for replying
    Regards

    • I might review it. But this post isn’t about listing every trainer on earth, it’s about listing the ones I’d recommend.

      I specifically can’t recommend that unit because it’s crazy overpriced. It’s simply not competitive. The price points needs to be closer to $1,100USD/EUR, and not the $1,800 it is. There’s nothing in the specs that justifies that price.

    • Rappo Rappini

      That’s exactly the kind of review I was looking for!!!
      Many thanks

  95. David Mulligan

    Hi Ray,
    I have a Stages power meter and a spare wheel with a trainer tire mounted to it. Do you still recommend direct drive trainers for people in that situation?
    Noise is not an issue for me. My only concerns are how well does power match work either in trainer on the Kickr Snap or in app with Trainerroad and Zwift on the Dorito. Do I have to do a spin down calibration every ride even if I am using power match? Is the power match feature smart enough to deal with one legged intervals and my left side power meter?
    Thanks,
    David

    • In general I try and avoid power match, because you can get funky things out of it. I’d rather just have an accurate trainer that is super-close to my power meter. With left-only, that’s trickier because you’re going to get variances there by itself.

      Powermatch could deal with one-legged drills on a left-only unit, but I’d still be hesitant about how great that experience might be.

    • David Mulligan

      Ray,
      Please describe what you mean by “funky things.” Also are the things just as funky with the Wahoo Kickr and Kickr Snap built in power match feature as they are with the Trainerroad or Zwift app based feature?
      I’ve read just about all of your articles on the Kickr products as well as Trainerroad and Zwift and I don’t recall you ever mentioning that you generally try to avoid the feature. Please consider covering it in your reviews and perhaps even your upcoming annual app guide. If you search the comments on the smart trainers and here you’ll see there is interest in it. There is also a general lack of information on the internets on how well the feature works and if one still needs to calibrate the trainer etc.
      Thank you!
      D

    • David Mulligan

      If this isn’t the right place, where can I find out what are the “funky things”that happen when using Power Match? This affects my decision because with Power Match it sounds like a smart trainer’s precision is irrelevant to someone who already owns a power meter.
      Tha
      David

  96. Mark

    Ray,

    you often commented, that if price is no matter, than the Tacx Neo is the way to go. Do you think it is worth paying for 560 USD more than the Direto?

    Also, Shane Miller stated that the Flux is quieter (and measured so too) than the Direto – you said otherwise. Who’s right/who’s wrong?

    • That’s a tough price difference. It’s probably not worth it on accuracy alone, but it really just depends on how much you value silence.

      I think while the Flux may be quieter in terms of straight decibles, that doesn’t really tell the whole story. The problem is the Flux (or mine anyways) sounds like a gravel grinder, so it just sounds horrible. It’s just like how Shane will also note that some trainers may be ‘quiter’ in terms of decibles, but have a weird pitch that’s more annoying.

  97. ROBERTO NITRINI

    Hi Ray!

    If you have to choose one from Tacx Flow, Vortex or Bushido, how do you make your decision?
    Flow and Vortex looks the same to me, and the extra cost of the Bushido pays off??

    Tks!

  98. D W

    Wondering why there is not a mention of the Inside Ride e motion trainer. Ive been riding it for close to 10 years and it rocks. The bike is not connected to the rollers at all. The whole apparatus moves with bungie type cords so that you are pretty much riding on the rollers. And its as close to riding outside that you can get and way more fun than a typical “mounted” trainer. They are made just outside of Portland,OR.

  99. Mark Lewis

    I am looking to purchase the tacx neo very shortly but slightly confused on what cassette/cage will fit. I have an old pinarello with 9 speed campy mirage and a scott addict with a med/long cage (11 – 32 cassette. Will both these fit the new 2017 neo. I would prefer to use my pinarello and have a 11-28 cassete with short cage for the scott if necessary but would prefer to be able to use the first 2 set ups so not having to keep changing drive trains
    Thank you

  100. Gergely Szatmari

    Hi,
    Can I have a question regarding to Tacx Flow Smart and garmin edge 1000 compatibility? According to Garmin side it is not possible to control this trainers:
    link to garmin.com
    But after some research on TACX site this is not a difference between the two trainers.

  101. Robin

    I’m having to return my flux a “good” serial number one “supposedly” because of belt jumping off failure i assume. Tacx not super helpful with the video i sent them, just “yes, something is wrong with this flux, talk to he shop you bought it from”. Not impressed. Hopefully I can return and get something else.

  102. TJ

    Thanks a ton for posting all these! Your reports are always great.

  103. Jon Bergmann

    Looking for a trainer that works with a electric trike. One rear wheel. So probably a roller type. But I want it to work with zwift. Any ideas?

  104. Phil W

    Regarding Bkool, I have had a Pro for about 2 years.

    Positives:
    Reliable, Wide resistance range, supports ANT+ FEC so i can ride with Zwift etc (on a PC with an ANT Dongle). Now works in ERG mode (finally).
    Their own simulator software isn’t bad and runs on an Ipad or PC with lots of different routes (but you don’t get the group experience you do in Zwift)

    Negatives:
    Although it supports Bluetooth it only does this with their Bkool software – so no Zwift IOS on Ipad or Apple TV (see link to zwiftblog.com).
    Very poor support. It took them nearly 12 months to get ERG mode working and they don’t seem to believe in keeping customers informed, lots of promise dates missed. If you ask a technical question they take ages to respond.

    Would I buy another one – not unless i can control it via bluetooth (it does output data) with 3rd party apps.

  105. Mike Long

    Purchasing a trainer in the next 48 hours. Keep going back and forth between the Magnus & the Kickr Snap. Near Wisconsin so the whole “keep it local” appeals on the Magnus but every review I have gone through seems to favor the Snap just a touch more. Really wish I would have jumped on that $799 deal for the 2016 Kickr but missed out. Anyway, here is my question….is there truly any difference between the Magnus & the Snap? I’m looking to jump on Zwift and race around 3-4 times per week during winter months. Side question: I have a power meter on my bike…do I use that or do I use the power meter on the trainer or both? New to the whole trainer experience.

    • I think Magnus is a bit more accurate. I think people in reviews have generally favored Wahoo just because it’s Wahoo, not because they’ve actually tried both.

    • Mike Long

      Okay, great, thank you! One follow up: do you use the power readings from the trainer or from your other power meters and then just use the trainer for the resistance? I have Garmin Vectors on my TT and my Road bike. Should I use those instead of the power readings from the trainer? So if accuracy was taken away does that swat you in either direction…Magnus or Snap?

    • Yeah, I generally use the power meter value for my training log, and then the trainer for resistance. I don’t generally use power match, because it usually messes with things.

      In that case it doesn’t sway me too much. The reason is that if you’re chasing a mis-match, it’s still a pain in the butt.

      On the flip-side, if you ever want to go with the Wahoo CLIMB, that’s only available on SNAP.

  106. Rainer Egretzberger

    Hello Ray,

    I’m not sure to buy a Neo or a Kickr (w/o climb device).

    You mentioned that you prefer the Neo. Can you also explain why? I read a lot of post in the internet and it seems that there is nearly no difference between these two and at the end it’s a matter of personal preference.

    I have also tested the Tacx Flux, but I was disappointed with it, because the Flux was not able to control low power (e.g. 100W) at a higher gear ration (e.g. 50/ 15) at a cadance of 90. Do you also made this experience?

    I also tested the Neo and it was able to control thsi low power. How is about the Kickr? Does this also work with it?

    Thanks Rainer

    • I prefer the Neo because:

      A) It’s quieter
      B) I don’t ever have to deal with calibration and it’s solid-accurate
      C) It can rumble and such with Zwift

      Other minor reasons would be it doesn’t need power (I don’t care much about that most of the time), and it transmits across more than just as a power meter (also don’t care about that much of the time).

      But again, the KICKR is great too – and sometime next year when they release/ship CLIMB, then maybe things will change as a total package. Some people prefer the ‘road feel’ on a KICKR vs NEO, but I’d guess in a blind test people would change their mind between morning and afternoon between the two.

      You’re talking the resistance floor, and indeed it can happen, depending on gear ratios. But it’s not something I tend to test.

      Enjoy!

    • What’s the word on how much quieter the Neo is over the Kickr3/17? I have seen a fair few comments that the Kickr3 is lot quieter than it was before.

      “Sometime next year when they release/ship CLIMB, then maybe things will change as a total package”—that’s a bit of the clincher for me. Want to be able to do the best climbs in the world; from my living room (cheaper than flights). If only Kickr was quieter than Neo, could do 25% gradients, and 1% accuracy.

  107. Ramon Antonio Gonzalez rodriguez

    Thank you

  108. hans haldemann

    thanks for your great job

  109. Fil

    Hello
    I was wondering if there is “smart” trainer, controllable through all the platforms (zwift etc.) with ANT+, FEC, BT but WITHOUT powermeter.
    I have an old powerbeam but I always use my crank powermeter as powersource. It is a waste of money for me buying a smart trainer with a power source inside.
    can i save some money in this way?

  110. Klaas

    Tacx Smart Flow
    …is basically the cheapest ticket to get get into Virtual Training like Zwift.
    It’s quite comparable to the Vortex (same flywheel, same stand) but uses 6 instead of 8 magnets in its electromagenetic brake. This accounts for a slightly lower maximum resitance and incline than the Vortex. It also adds a little more choppyness if you are on a high resistance setting and cycling at low wheel rpms.

    Basically: It works fine if:

    A: you don’t mind shifting your gears to reach the wattages you want to output. High wattages require high wheel rpms, low wattages need low wheel rpms. You’ll mostly be fine shifting between your high and low chainrings.

    B: You don’t want to simulate grinding uphill in low gear at low rpms. It just won’t work.

    Build quality, noise level, conectivity (ANT+, BLE) , calibration, app compatibilty: All great or what you’d expect from a wheel on trainer. (same as Vortex, i suppose)

    As for accuracy: You’ll need to calibrate after riding at least 10 mins in high rpms to warm up your tire, more like 20 mins if your pain-cave is not heated. After that: Don’t fiddle withe the settings and keep the tire pressure constant. This means that If you previously calibrated everything just fine and you’re just getting on oyur still halfway frozen setup, you’ll have to make do with seriously higher resitance levels (your Watts will be much lower than what you’re really putting out) until everythings all warmed up.

    Those are caveats i can live with. (I’m no watt monster and just want to keep in shape on the days on which I can’t or won’t ride outside). I’m using “Rouvy” (no Zwift for me: no reliable wifi in my cave and Zwift pricing just got a little too confident)

    I’m really happy with what I got for my bucks.

    So: If you’re on a budget and live in Europe: It’s a steal. If you can afford to spend 1k€ on your trainer, there are better choices.

    • Tobin Stives

      Available in the US….

      link to planetcyclery.com

    • Klaas

      Oh – maybe it’s not clear:

      it’s a fully FE-C compatible interactive smart trainer priced at 239,00€
      Apps like Zwift can control the resitance (slope) of the brake unit.

      basically a “Vortex” on a budget (with litlle caveats).

      BTW: Thanks Ray! Great write-up! And: you got me into sports gadgetery. Garmin owes you big-time :-)

    • Klaas

      And priced at 303$ with an ANT+ dongle already included to boot! (really recommended since BLE isn’t all that stable)

      I’d call that a bargain..

  111. Josh S

    Hey man. Thanks for all you do trying to help is less technically inclined sort through these seas of products. I’m trying to upgrade my wife and I’s trainers from a standard trainer to a smart trainer. I’ve found that there’s a handful of ‘smart’ trainers that really only broadcast your power, but you’re still shifting gears to hit certain wattages or simulate hills, etc. I’ve read through your post but I’m still a little lost. I’m looking for what trainer(s) are actually smart trainers, where I can put on a course via an app/software, and then the resistance changes as the course does, ie increasing when there’s a hill. I don’t need a direct drive, even though the ones I’ve tested feel better than the flywheel trainers, but if the value is better I’d put down the extra cash. Can you recommend a true smart trainer, or help clear up which of the ones you reviewed above meet that criteria please?

  112. Maciej

    Hi Ray, do you know Intera Smart Elite which can be found in Decathlon?
    link to decathlon.fr (French version but I get get this one in Poland as well)

    Looks like it’s the special version for Decathlon – is it similar to other existing Elite trainers so I can use Zwift with it?

    • Maciej

      Sidenote: I can get Tacx Smart Flow for the same price from Decathlon, but looks like Intera Smart Elite product is bit more advanced.

    • Klaas

      Hey Maciej!

      According to a german forum Elite stated that the intera Smart uses the same brake unit (all the electronics) as the Qubo Digital Smart B+ but a different frame. II’d prefer the Intera’s mount of the bike to that of the Qubo: The roller of the brake is fixed to the wheel instead of using the rider’s weight.
      I guess performancewise (max. incline, wattage – still needs shifting your gears) it’s not all that different to the Tacx.
      I’d say: give it a spin and bring it back to the store if you don’t like it. (Or better: compare it to the tacx in the store)

    • Maciej

      Hi Klaas,

      thanks a lot for the comment! Maybe I will get two (Tacx and Elite) and return one of them :)) Looking at their webpage it’s hard to find it in the regular stores – they are selling out the remaining ones.

  113. Nelson Gasparian

    I’m 64 years old, not that well trained, and being this my first trainer, my question is, on the $500/$600 range *(Wahoo Kickr snap X Cycleops Magnus) , what am I supposed to miss by not calibrating trainers every single time? By the way, I will be using my old 1991 Trek 8000 MTB 26″ with a Deore DX 21 speed gear.
    Exceptional text, incidentally! Thanks a lot!

    • In general, if you don’t calibrate each time on a wheel-on trainer, you’ll get non-accurate results.

      However, there are some tricks to this. :)

      If you leave your bike on the trainer, and you pump the tires to the same pressure level each time, then it’s largely perfect each time. It’s when either the press-on knob changes, or the tire pressure changes, that you get in trouble.

      So if it’s inside for months during the winter (and not taken off the trainer), before each ride simply re-pump up the wheels to the exact same pressure. That’ll get you pretty close.

    • nelson

      Thanks a lot, very interesting indeed, will definitely apply your method!

  114. nelson

    Hi again,

    I often hear some guys saying this or that Bluetooth is not so good, so even if my MacPro/iPhone7/iPadpro have bluetooth *(which they all do) I should still consider buying an Ant+ iphone for speed/cadence/power better readings! And that i should, incidentally, by an extended cable to bring the Ant+ as close to the smart trainer as possible. Should I consider this a good advice, indeed?
    I am just about to buy either a Cycleops Magnus or a Wahoo Kickr snap smart trainer (which as per your comments tend to be very similar in about every single comparison, yet Wahoo perhaps is somewhat sturdier) .
    It would be very helpful if you could express your opinion on the Ant+ iphone/ipad/macpro
    And, last but not least, will I find too many differences on the Wahoo x Cycleops in terms of readings after calibration? Thanks, again!

  115. Max

    Hi Ray! First of all, thanks for all the useful reviews. I’m learning a lot! I’m currently thinking about buying a turbo trainer (flux or dorito) and my wife is currently thinking about buying a road bike. Now, would it be possible to use the dialect drive turbo trainer for my bike and my wife’s bike without changing the cassette? It’d be nice to be able to throw each bike on there and good to go… Seen as you have switched around a lot of trainers and bikes, what are the requirements for this straight compatibility? Both bikes same number of speeds? Same size of gears? Disc or no disc brakes? Thru axle or just alloy hub? Etc. Best regards, Max

  116. Eli

    Interesting view on warranty coverage by bike manufacturers they were able to contact:
    link to road.cc

    Ray, guess your new Canyon isn’t covered

    • Says the company which is currently running a sponsored giveaway on Zwift for…Canyon bikes. ;)

      I’m not aware of anyone’s trainer claim ever having been denied, likely because it’d never stand up in court. There’s far too much evidence these companies not only use trainers themselves, but actively promote it through their sponsored teams and athletes. I’m sure all of these companies have official photos and videos on trainers they’ve published too, further lessening any case they might have.

  117. Max

    Hi Ray, could you please give your opinion on reconditioned original kickr (from official shop), is it worth it or not, would you chose it or new elite direto? Thanks in advance.

    • David Chrisman

      Might be worth looking at Shane Miller’s guide (GP llama):

      link to gplama.blogspot.com

      Shane spends a ton of time on trainers so really good resource.

      I bought a reconditioned original kickr in September and it’s worked great over blue tooth with iPad mini 2 on Zwift, sufferfest, and rouvy.

    • Max

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m a bit worried about noise levels as well. Do you know if original kickr louder than the Direto or not?

    • An original V1 KICKR is far louder than a Direto. If you’re talking a 2016 or 2017 reconditioned KICKR, they’re in the same ballpark.

    • David Chrisman

      Can’t speak to Direto but yes it’s a bit loud and whiny. Doesn’t bother me and my family hasn’t complained yet (set up in garage)…

    • Max

      Thanks a lot for replies. I was talking about kickr v1 so probably for me it won’t work since I don’t have a garage :).

    • David Chrisman

      On Black Friday or cyber Monday they had refurb kickr v1 for $550 and v2 for $650–made me wish I had been more patient!