While at Interbike I got the chance to check out and ride Minoura’s new smart trainer, the Kagura. The Japanese firm was on-hand at the Las Vegas show, including their founder and CEO (Koji Minoura) to show off the $599USD unit, which ranks competitively compared to other moderately priced smart trainers (KICKR SNAP, CycleOps Magnus, Elite Rampa, and Tacx Vortex Smart, Kinetic Smart Control).
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick video I slapped together showing the Minoura Kagura and how it all works, as well as the highlights of it:
With that, let’s dive into the details.
The Kagura Details:
To get things started, the unit is wheel-on, meaning that you’ll leave your rear wheel on your bike and then clamp it in the trainer frame. However, what’s notable is that it actually has two frame ‘modes’. The first is a gravity based mode (akin to some Bkool models), where your body/bike weight keeps the rear wheel pressed on the roller, so it’s a bit like floating. And the second is a more traditional system where the frame is locked in place and the roller tightened onto the wheel.
You can swap between the two modes using the small slider switches at the bottom of the trainer.
Now, while this is a wheel-on trainer, the company says that this is their initial focus. While the next model will be a direct drive unit (wheel-off, à la a Wahoo KICKR/CycleOps Hammer/Elite Direto/etc…).
The Kagura sports all the protocols and standards that you’d expect from a smart trainer in 2017. You’ve got ANT+ FE-C control along with Bluetooth FTMS control. Then you’ve got standard power transmission across ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart as well. Further, you’ve got the ability to do wireless firmware updates via Bluetooth Smart as you’d expect.
All of the above means that it works with basically any app out there: TrainerRoad, Zwift, Kinomap, Road Grand Tours, etc… It also means it’ll work with the trainer control functions of your Garmin Edge or Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT units that utilize FE-C.
When it comes to simulation, the unit can simulate an impressive 20% incline, and 2,000w. That’s generally considered high-end trainer territory, usually reserved for $1,100+ trainers. So to see it on a $600 trainer is fairly remarkable.
In addition to electronically controlled resistance, the unit can actually flip over into a mode without electricity (meaning, no power cord). Within this mode it has three resistance levels (aptly labeled 1,2,3). These resistance levels roughly correspond to 100w, 200w, and 300w of maximum resistance. The idea being to use this at a race or similar locale without power provided.
Of note is that the company will allow you to buy just the resistance unit, which is compatible with almost any wheel-on trainer they’ve made over the last 15 years. That’ll set you back $499, so you’ll save $100 by doing so compared to the regular all-in price of $599.
Also – the company says that the trainer is the quietest wheel-on trainer on the market. Unfortunately that’s not a claim I can validate at Interbike on the loud show floor. Though something I’ll certainly test once I have a unit in-hand, likely in mid-October if all goes well.
As you might expect from a wheel-on trainer, the unit supports a spin-down calibration process to ensure accuracy, which is claimed at +/- 1.5%. Now, this is the only area that I have some concerns on. While jumping on the trainer/bike at Interbike it was paired up with Zwift, so I was able to see my wattage in real-time. Despite throwing down a few solid intervals (likely in the range of 400w-600w), it was only showing about 97-110w.
The company says this particular unit wasn’t calibrated prior to Interbike. However, they noted they were awaiting completion of the calibration software in order to do calibration routines on any trainers. That’s a wee bit concerning that this wasn’t done prior to this point (on any trainers), as getting accurate power is an area that often takes months to really nail/finesse.
Still, perhaps it’ll be a quick fix. But it’s definitely worth pointing out since it struck me as odd given the timing.
The current plan is to have the Minoura shipping starting later this month (October, in case you didn’t realize that happened over the weekend). In fact, the company has already been producing the hardware, and is just awaiting the final software. Thus units are already piling up in distribution centers around the world in anticipation of the final software.
Of course, this is a bit risky given the calibration concerns I saw above. Typically companies would get a bit closer before stock-piling hardware. Of course, they have been making trainers for the better part of two decades, thus they do have some experience here that shouldn’t be ignored.
While the trainer will arrive too late for complete analysis in this year’s DCR Annual Trainer Guide, that won’t keep me from checking it out and posting on it once it does arrive. If the road feel holds up, alongside the accuracy, it’ll definitely be a very compelling option at that price point. Especially considering the higher wattage and incline levels, as well as the ability to go without electricity, all of which are superior to any other unit in its price range.
With that – thanks for reading, and I look forward to presenting the annual trainer round-up in the coming days! Stay tuned!
“presenting the annual trainer round-up in the coming days!” – perfect! Looking forward to it.
Minoura still working on the software? But they already shipped Kagura about a month ago in Japan and some Asian country. Looking at the claimed specification, just remind me how Kurt Kinetic failed in smart trainer market. Both are well known in dumb trainer hardware but failed to catch up in software.
Yeah, I kinda had the same thoughts on the Japan shipping thing, since they mentioned that.
I’m interested in your full test on this. I’m going to say I doubt their 20% claim. The Magnus is rated at 15% it clamps so hard that the tire is half compressed to the rim. Despite that I still get wheel slip starting at 11%.
Are those really finger size holes? good for nail clipping. I would say make a new mesh around it.
Why/how would/could you put your fingers in there while riding?
Wattage is hard for on bike power meters, but trainer indoors that has less other variables to deal with to get a wattage number
Little bit of topic but are there any new smart rollers in the New guide?
I saw elite made the Arion smart but it doesnt look better (less options) then there older real e-motion b+ (wich to me is still the best roller but pretty ik already)
Mine broke down so i am looking in buying a new roller or trainer but i prefer the rollers
Ray, I see that you say that the trainer supports a calibration process. Do you know how to conduct this process? I recently purchased one of these trainers and so far find it to be very user friendly and workable with Zwift, but I want to ensure I have the most accurate data and realistic experience before racing or performing group rides.
I haven’t been able to find anything online to point me toward a calibration process for the trainer and Zwift doesn’t support an in-game calibration yet. Any advice you can give would be awesome!
Update: Minoura informed me that the spin-down calibration functionality would be available by the end of January. So far, I’ve been using the trainer almost exclusively in ERG mode for the structured workouts. Normal free-riding is very frustrating – even out of the saddle in my biggest gear, I can’t get the watts above 180 or so…but then the moment I hit a hill it’s easy to get the watts well above that figure with relatively little effort. I hope the spin-down calibration functionality comes soon and fixes this problem because at this point I can’t recommend this trainer for any kind of racing – impossible to put out the requisite power on the flats and downhill.
Yeah, I haven’t touched it till the calibration piece is implemented.
I wonder if your Kagura came with a riser for the front wheel?
It did not. I bought a CycleOps riser and am perfectly happy with it!
Does this trainer have an Erg mode? Can”t find the details in your post or anywhere else online.
Yes, via ANT+ FE-C or Bluetooth Smart, to whichever apps you want to use.
Thanks for the prompt reply Ray.
I bought the Kagura as its the best trainer available locally and which has ANT+FE-C and Bluetooth Smart. I thought this would give me freedom to use with any app. However, I’ve contacted TrainerRoad and they say that this is not the case and that there “is additional development that needs to happen on both ends before the Kagura can be used with TrainerRoad with ERG mode.”
Hmm, that’s odd. I’m not sure why TR would say that, though, at the same time, I also know the TR test guys well enough to know that if they’re saying that – then it’s probably legit.
Meaning, Minoura may have some issue with not following the spec correctly (somewhat common the first time a company implements it). Given Minoura hasn’t resolved the accuracy issues yet, I could see how this may be considered lower down the totem pole. 🙁
I’ve contacted Minoura about this before I buy another trainer, as the main reason I bought the Kagura was to use in Erg mode. My understanding was if a trainer is F-EC then it should work with any app in Erg mode. If it doesn’t then Minoura should state this in their specs/marketing.
No reply from Minoura yet. It is interesting that TrainerRoad sent me 3 replies in 24 hours regarding use of the Kagura with their software. Very impressed with TrainerRoad customer service.
I have attempted to connect to the Minoura Kagura with a Garmin Edge 500 so that I can create workouts and control the trainer in Erg mode. However, the Garmin will not pair with the trainer when it is switched on and shows “No Indoor Trainer Connection.”
Just wrote a long update and then lost before I could submit! Short version: problem solved, Minoura were very good- great customer service from Takeshi Minoura! Trainer works in Erg mode with TrainerRoad via Bluetooth and is very quiet. Only one ride so far at low wattage but at the moment, I would recommend.
I wonder if your Kagura came with a riser for the front wheel?
After getting a very noisy Kickr Snap, and seeing many similar complaints, I’m considering returning it and getting this instead. Has the power issue been fixed yet, and would it even be an issue if you use an external power meter instead?
It has not been fixed yet.
FWIW, I shot them a note the other day since I was interested in this trainer as well. The rep wrote back “We are still putting the finishing touches on the power calibration part of our firmware and don’t have an exact date for completion yet”
I think i will look elsewhere.
Will using TrainerRoad’s power matching feature, along with an on-bike power meter, solve the calibration issue of the Kagura?
On a side note, does it make sense for anyone to make a controllable resistance smart trainer that doesn’t have a built in power meter, for use by those who already have power meters on their bikes? Just to help keep costs down on what is essentially just a very expensive hobby…
Not yet fix? Japanese engineers are known to fix these things immediately.
Is the resistance accurate when you hit higher gradients?
I haven’t seen a general fix for accuracy at all, thus, I haven’t spent any time on it.
Hi DC Rainmaker,
Any chance the Feb 1, 2018 firmware fixed the issue with Kagura?
Saw 2 update files (Sep 2017 and Feb 2018).
Attached screenshot from Minoura website.
Nope, Feb 1st, 2018 firmware didn’t fix it.
However, good timing. The company reached out to me in the past few days with a test firmware version that they hope will address the issues.
I’m travelling at the moment, but will give it a whirl when I get back.
Great! Will wait for your updated test.
It seems that a new firmware [nrf51422_Minoura_20180530 (June 18, 2018)] has been released publicly.
My minoura sits in the cupboard gathering dust – $ 500 and doesn’t work as a smart trainer..
I just got this unit and cannot connect anything to the Kagura’s bluetooth. It can be seen but will not pair. Have tried Andriod devices, Win 10 device and an ipad that does not even find it.
My question is how can I update the firmware without bluetooth
See my comment above. I can only use without electronic resistance @ approx 150 watts. If you can get your money back or exchange for a different make and model, then I would.