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What’s Baseline on a Smart Trainer in 2018?

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Last week Shane Miller posted his review of the TechnoGym MyCycling Smart Trainer.  For those not familiar (which is almost all of you), TechnoGym makes a direct drive trainer, sorta like the Wahoo KICKR, except missing all the stuff that makes the Wahoo KICKR appealing. It doesn’t have ANT+ FE-C or Bluetooth Smart FTMS, doesn’t work properly with Zwift (or any other app) on Windows. In order to make up for your sad panda feelings, they charge you significantly more instead – twice as much as the Wahoo KICKR, coming in at $2,159USD. It’s like icing on the cake and all! (If you want all the fireworks, you can start Shane’s video at 9 minutes and 26 seconds)

While TechnoGym has success in other product segments and markets, they of course completely missed the mark here.  Not because they made inferior hardware (by all accounts, that part’s just fine), but because they made a trainer that attempted to ignore the standards used within the trainer market and pretended like things such as ERG mode aren’t important.  The last time someone tried to ignore standards, it didn’t end terribly well.  Nor did it end well for the last company that tried to do that.  And those products were a fraction of the price.

Shane did a good job of pointing out that most of this is easily fixable via software updates, if the company wanted to.  Of course, the trainer has been on the market in some capacity since last fall. One of the core reasons I didn’t bother to review it was because when I looked at the spec sheets last fall and then looked the price, I just laughed.  I could have ultimately written a review in under a paragraph, whereas Shane has far more patience than I.

But that got me thinking – what should be in a trainer in 2018? What’s considered baseline in any smart trainer? Be it hardware or software, this post is what happens when I get on a bit of a rant and have 2 hours on an airplane without internet access. Let’s get rollin’!

Required Smart Trainer Features:

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These days, I roughly bucketize trainers into price bands.  These bands shift downwards each year, on average by about $100 per year once above about $700-$800.  Said differently: What was once a $1,200 trainer 3-4 years ago is now an $800-$900 trainer. There are nuances to that of course (primarily around flywheel weight), but the general gist of that statement is true.

Note that the definition of a smart trainer is generally agreed upon to be a trainer that can have its resistance controlled via a 3rd party app or device.  Meaning that it can specify a wattage (i.e., 250w) or gradient (i.e., 5%) to simulate varying conditions and workouts.  You can, however, have trainers that may not allow control, but do broadcast data, which I’ll address later.  I’d argue those are not exactly smart trainers. We could call them wannabe-smart trainers (examples are the Kinetic inRide-equipped trainers, the Lemond Revolution with PowerPilot, and some Elite units with Misura accessories).

But let’s not get distracted.  Here’s roughly how I bucketize pricing (oh, and these buckets are only valid for 2018, they’ll shift again in 2019 and so on):

Spinny things: Sub-$300 trainers with virtually no electronics
Budget Smart Trainers: $300-$500
Middle of the Road Smart Trainer: $500-$999
High-End Smart Trainers: $1,000+

Again, the price line gets a bit messy as you approach $1,000, and will continue to get messier this year as well.  But that won’t matter in this piece.

See, as far as I’m concerned, once you cross the $300 threshold into a ‘Smart Trainer’ category, your trainer, without question, must have the following:

Control: ANT+ FE-C (Fitness Equipment Control)
Control: Bluetooth FTMS (Fitness Machine Service)
Broadcast: ANT+ Power (with speed baked in)
Broadcast: Bluetooth Smart Power (with speed also baked in)

In the event you have a non-controllable trainer, then the trainer should at least do the broadcast portions above.

However, some smart trainers go beyond that with a few optional tidbits:

Broadcast: ANT+ Cadence (either within the power channel or separately)
Broadcast: Bluetooth Smart Cadence (also either within the power channel or separately)

In general, when cadence is broadcasted, it’s an estimate. It’s usually good enough for most applications, but it’s super accurate in certain spots – such as if you sprint (with cadence increasing to say 120RPM) and then quickly back-off to light pedaling at say 60RPM.  Most trainers will incorrectly handle this from a cadence estimation standpoint.

Next, you can even double-down one step further, as Tacx does.  All of their trainers also transmit:

Broadcast: ANT+ Speed & Cadence sensor
Broadcast: Bluetooth Smart Speed & Cadence sensor

Why do this? Well, their goal was to integrate with head units and apps that may not support power meters.  When they first started doing this years ago, there were more head units that didn’t support power (such as something like a Garmin Edge 25).  Whereas these days, it’s fairly common for lower-end units to support power, such as the Lezyne’s units, Polar M460 and even Garmin’s new Edge 130.  Still, I appreciate it. It doesn’t ‘cost’ them anything to add it, and it gives consumers flexibility in certain situations.

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So why am I bringing this up at all?

Because the reality is that there are trainers that aren’t following that logic above.  In general, they do one of the following misdeeds:

1) They don’t broadcast power as a power meter: This is problematic for the countless devices that don’t support ANT+ FE-C or Bluetooth FTMS.  For example all Polar devices, all SRM head units, all Suunto devices, all Lezyne units, all Garmin wearables, boatloads of apps, and countless other things.  It also means you can’t do a workout in Zwift using FE-C and also concurrently record it to your Garmin Edge device so you get ‘credit’.  That’s because even if it supports FE-C, you can’t have two devices controlling FE-C at once. It becomes a tug-o-war.  Power should always be broadcast as a baseline. Period.

2) They don’t properly implement ANT+ FE-C: This happens less and less these days, but it’s still an issue. Especially with the calibration routines.  Look, if you’re a trainer company and can’t figure this out there are plenty of avenues to get assistance (many of them free).  You can go to ANT+ themselves and they’ll help you out.  You can go to the leading app companies out there like TrainerRoad and Zwift, and they’ll often help you out (I know TrainerRoad helps out numerous trainer companies in sorting through protocol things).  Or you can go via companies that specialize in consulting in those areas, such as North Pole Engineering, which behind the scenes works with many companies implementing both ANT+ & BLE in their products [Note: This isn’t sponsored in any way, I just tired of companies shipping broke-ass FE-C implementations].

3) They don’t properly implement Bluetooth FTMS: This is far more frequent, mostly because FTMS is far newer. It’s barely a year old in terms of companies leveraging it.  Elite was the first last year, alongside TrainerRoad.  Nowadays it’s fairly common for newer trainers, but even Wahoo and CycleOps don’t implement it.  Their logic is that everyone is already using their (Wahoo/CycleOp’s) SDK’s in their apps, so there’s no reason to re-invent the wheel.  Which is true.  But it’s also true that it makes app developers lives more difficult, since it’s yet another company to support via Bluetooth Smart.  Versus just using one standard. I’d also remind Wahoo that their entire basis as a company was trying to make things open and supporting standards.  That’s why the Wahoo Fitness Key started, and why the KICKR was an open platform.  Still, I’m more worried today about non-Wahoo/CycleOps companies that screw-up on their implementations of FTMS, because it means you can’t use TrainerRoad or Zwift on your iPad or phone.  Like ANT+ FE-C, you can pretty much go to all the same peoples, except talking to the ANT+ folks won’t help you much here.  But otherwise, all those same companies are experts in sorting this out if your product is having issues.

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Which brings me to the final point, and one that I find I’m having to remind trainer companies of more and more: Just make sure the darn thing works with at least the two leading apps out there.  To make this really simple for trainer companies, I’m going to give you a secret. It’s pretty dirty secret, so brace yourselves.  Here’s exactly how I test trainers:

A) I use Zwift on iOS/Apple TV via Bluetooth Smart (free riding)
B) I use Zwift via PC over ANT+ FE-C (ERG workout, specifically usually ‘Jon’s Mix’)
C) I use TrainerRoad on iOS via Bluetooth Smart (ERG workout, specifically the DCR 30×30 Trainer Test)
D) I use TrainerRoad on PC over ANT+ FE-C (ERG workout, specifically the DCR 30×30 Trainer Test)
E) I validate that the trainer shows up on a Garmin Edge device via ANT+ FE-C (sometimes I’ll use a Wahoo ELEMNT too)

There’s more nuance than that in terms of the types of workouts I do, I’m looking at response times of course and such. But I’m making sure those five core scenarios above work.  I also often validate it shows up in Kinomap and sometimes Sufferfest.  Of course, if you’ve read any of my trainer reviews, you’d know my relatively predictable test pattern. By and large, it hasn’t changed.  Do note that I said ‘Bluetooth Smart’, and technically not ‘Bluetooth Smart FTMS’. That’s because while I’d like it to be via FTMS, if it shows up in TrainerRoad and Zwift and works via Bluetooth Smart (such as Wahoo or CycleOps), I’m not going to get too fussed up as to how it did that at the moment.

It doesn’t matter if the trainer cost $500 or $5,000 – if it can’t do those five things above, it’s a non-starter. End of story.

Yes, really, end of story. I won’t recommend it in 2018 if it can’t do those. Be warned companies.

Optional Hardware Smart Trainer Features:

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Of course, software is only one part of the situation.  You can have great software but crap hardware.  It’s actually more rare these days, but it does happen on occasion.

From a hardware baseline standpoint, I actually don’t have any hard and fast requirements.  That’s because most hardware specifications are based on hitting a certain price point.  For example, flywheel weight (which largely dictates how much road-like feel there is) is usually heavier in more expensive units.  It costs more to make a heavier flywheel, and also costs more to ship one too.  Especially since flywheel weights are many kilos, not just a few grams.

And even within that, there is a nuance to hitting price points.  For example, companies that make you install the legs on the trainer are often doing so to reduce shipping sizes, and thus shipping costs. Or a variant of that whereby they’re using cheaper materials which can’t support the weight in one configuration, but can in another – again, requiring different setups.

Same goes for aspects like direct drive trainers.  A few years ago those floated in the range of $1,200 (Wahoo KICKR, initially).  These days they’re down to $899 (Elite Direto and Tacx Flux), and I suspect we’ll continue to see downwards shifting here in pricing and options.

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Still, there are some core things I like to see in any trainer above $300 from a hardware standpoint:

Important/Useful Baseline Features:
A) Support most common bike types: Be it a road bike or a mountain bike, it should work with it
B) Properly support common thru-axle bikes: Again, similar to A above, and not really an issue in most units I’ve seen from 2017 and beyond.
C) If a wheel-on trainer: Must have a calibration/roll-down procedure
D) If a wheel-on trainer: Ideally has some automatic press-on knob, like what CycleOps Magnus has
E) If a wheel-on trainer: Ideally has quick-lever for connecting bike to frame, like what KICKR SNAP has
F) If requires a power cord: Ideally has a trip-safe connector, like what Wahoo trainers have in case you trip over the cable it doesn’t rip it out of the trainer itself.
G) It shouldn’t tip over: If I, as a 6’2” tall dude, go to mount my equally high-saddle bike, I shouldn’t tip the trainer over. Go find a tall dude and their tall bike and test it.
H) LED status lights: This may sound obvious, but having some form of lights to assist troubleshooting is useful
I) Trainer legs should lock in place, or otherwise be stiff enough to not snap your fingers off if you pick up the trainer by the legs
J) If a heavy trainer (i.e., 20KG+), it should have a handle to move it around)

Next, a brief word on claimed accuracy (and tested) accuracy.  When I look at accuracy claims, it’s roughly tied to price point (though, I think even those days are going away). I don’t care whether or not you claim to have a power meter inside your unit. I just care that it’s accurate across a broad range of circumstances. After all, there’s certainly examples of trainers that don’t have power meters that are more accurate than those with them. So it’s a meaningless thing to me. Here’s what I’m expecting in trainers today:

Accuracy Baselines:
Under $600USD: +/- 5%
Between $600-$999USD: +/- 3%
Above $1,000USD: +/- 2%

That probably gets into response time items as well, but I don’t want to specify a hard limit there. I’d say that my previously mentioned 30×30 Trainer Test tends to weed those out pretty quickly.  But if you can’t do a 30×30 ERG trainer workout and have the wattage respond and stabilize within 2-5 seconds, then it’s too slow (unless you’re talking 100w to 1,200w or something).

After this, we get into the wide world of premium features that exist in some way in the market already.  Though, as we know, nobody has implemented everything yet in a single unit.

Cheery On Top Features:
A) Silence: Pretty self-explanatory – as quiet as a Tacx Neo, or even as totally silent as a STAC Zero
B) Simulate road terrain: Like the Tacx Neo does (as explained here)
C) Rock back and forth: As Kinetic does with their Rock & Roll base, which works with a few of their trainers
D) Simulate climbing/descending: As the Wahoo CLIMB accessory does with Wahoo’s trainers
E) Requires no power plug: Self-generating power, though, I prefer both a plug if you want it as well as self-generating when you need it. A bit easier for app pairing.
F) USB/Wired connectivity (for control/data): While I personally find this mostly useless, some companies have it on their trainers, and approximately almost no companies support it in software. I suppose it’s the thought that counts. Either way, I see the time has mostly passed for this.

There are of course probably other features that others do – like the Tacx Isokinetic modes for example, but I think the above lists are really the bigger differentiators right now.

Of course, each feature in the above list has its pros and cons.  Some people like some things, others hate them (or find them meaningless). That’s fine. Ideally, those features can be turned on or off as required, allowing the user to decide what matters to them.

The Future:

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Now the good news is that most trainers I’ve tested over the past year conform to these standards.  There are exceptions, however. For example, the JetBlack unit I tried a month or two ago had standards issues, as did the far more expensive TechnoGym unit that Shane tested that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  In the case of both of these units, I (and to the same extent Shane) are even harder on them because they cost more.  They weren’t $300 budget units, but rather they were $1,200-$2,150 high-end units, designed to be the most premium offerings you can buy.

Still, I’m relatively confident that as we go into the trainer announcement season of 2018 that we’ll see most companies do this right.  With Eurobike less than two months away, those trainers are starting to come together as companies get down to crunch time.  Even more so since Eurobike is a month and a half earlier this year than in years past (now early July vs late August).  While I expect most (if not all) trainer companies will announce products at Eurobike, I also foresee some stragglers that may slide to later in the summer or Interbike (mid-late September).

I’d argue though that given what I see upcoming for 2018, companies that don’t at least announce their wares by early August will be at a significant disadvantage going into the Fall 2018 timeframe, as most consumers will have placed orders by July putting themselves in a ‘safe’ position on the backorder/pre-order queues (or at least, that’s what I’d recommend).

And, as always if you’re trying to decide whether to pick up a trainer now or wait to see what comes up, my guidance stays the same each year: If you want to use a trainer before October, then buy now. If you don’t mind not having a trainer until October (or even November), then you can always see what comes down the pipe.

And as always, expect my full 2018 trainer buyers guide in the fall, unless I’m highly confident everything has been announced by August, in which case you might see it then.  Till then, here’s last years trainer guide.

With that – thanks for reading!

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79 Comments

  1. Matthew

    Ray,

    I have a gen 1 Kickr that is working fine, and I pretty much only use it with TrainerRoad at this time. If you were me (in this scenario), is there any reason to go out and get a new trainer?

    thanks for the great overview, and keep pushing companies to follow standards.

    • dan

      I think you answered your own question. If everything is fine and it works for what you are doing then why would you need anything else? Want….is an entirely different category….do you WANT a new trainer? Should you simply want a new trainer then yes, you also NEED a new one 🙂

    • Eli

      If you got a new bike with disc brakes so you’d need a trainer that you could attach to or if you bought a CLIMB

      Does seem like the high end trainers are pretty stable without anything major coming.

    • Michal

      Just stay with your tested and proven Kickr 1. Better is the enemy of good.

  2. Steven

    I thought another cherry on top feature would have been: no need for calibration, like the Neo!

    • Eli

      Complete lack of a need for calibration I think is a bad goal as it limits the tech too much just to do that. Decreasing the amount of calibration needed so longer breaks between calibrations using things like temp sensors to compensate for temp changes in the enviroment would be very useful. Along with some form of auto calibration. Thinking that while a full spindown will give a true calibration, if you coast for a bit of time while on the trainer maybe there is enough data in there to give a bit of correction to the calibration?

    • Eli

      How about ability to pair to a power meter? Wouldn’t power match be better done directly on the trainer where the trainer knows how it may incorrectly apply the wrong resistance then by using software that tries to power match all trainers the same?

    • I agree that non-calibration required trainers (like the Tacx Neo and Elite Drivo are where we want to go to).

      I’m mixed on PowerMatch. I find that it’s basically just adding a bandaid to the real issue: Getting proper power measurement.

    • Martin

      With the technology used in the Neo there is no need fot callibration. We measure the actual power generated by the user.

    • Eli

      That assumes power meters can read the same exact power. The amount that has to be matched should be small but there will be a difference. Even if the power was measured perfectly the pedals and trainer will measure different. When you train that shouldn’t matter, you should be targeting the same numbers indoor and out.

      Plus power meters seem to be mostly strain gauge based and anything based on a strain gauge must be calibrated

  3. Niclas

    Thank you Ray for supporting FTMS.

    Niclas

  4. \\\Wes

    Ray- Do you expect to have a hands-on for the STAC Zero Halcyon before the extended pre-order period expires? Thanks as always!

    • Yes, definitely. I have a unit, started using it, and then ran into a minor battery issue. I was waiting for a new battery to arrive today before my flight, but for some odd reason it didn’t come yesterday…or by morning today. No worries, I get back tomorrow night.

      In which case I hope to have a post out early next week detailing my thoughts.

    • \\\Wes

      Great, thank you! I will stay tuned. Safe travels.

    • 6co

      Just so you know, STAC zero link in your text is not working.

  5. fisao

    Hi Ray,

    I believe that you are preparing us readers for a wave of new trainer products that will be presented at Euro/Interbike and I thank you for that!

    I also believe that the ‘premium’ trainer market will soon evolve to add or include full Wattbike-like trainers that will include the ‘bike’.

    Hopefully there will be a few announcements regarding this during the summer. Maybe even some second generation updates or followups from last year?

    Can’t wait 🙂

    • Definitely, lots of players have talked about Wattbike like products. But it’s looking like it’s going to be harder for everyone than everything thought – and they all set the bar pretty low last year in terms of delivery timeframes.

      The biggest challenge for all these players is figuring out the delivery portion. How do you get an incredibly heavy bike into someone’s house and setup. It’s sorta the Peloton problem, or historically the treadmill problem. It requires a different distribution model than exists today for most of these ‘legacy’ trainer companies.

      It’ll be interesting to see how Wattbike themselves reacts with it. If I were in their shoes I’d hope that they:

      A) Find a way to address some of the issues I raised specifically around hardware shifters (they’ve done a lot in software since then).
      B) Find a way to get into the continental Europe and US markets. They’ve got a big lead on folks, but that’ll be wasted if they can’t figure out distribution partners outside the UK.

    • Lukasz Rewerenda

      “They’ve got a big lead on folks, but that’ll be wasted if they can’t figure out distribution partners outside the UK.”

      That. I can’t believe I am waiting all these months and still unable to part with my hard earned money for their toy. Even my wife want’s one, and since she spends half of the year abroad – that’s two lost sales for Wattbike. Surely, getting the distribution up and running is not THAT hard. I’ve worked 15 years for a manufacturing company and I’d be laughed out of the office for suggesting that shipping and servicing a 50kg consumer unit is a problem. We’d not have fridges, air conditioners, and large sofas if it was.

    • I agree in general.

      That said, part of the challenge they have is that a bike isn’t a fridge. Meaning, mechanics/people to hookup fridges are more or less a dime a dozen. Versus a bike is an entirely different beast. Mechanics are also relatively inexpensive, but that doesn’t cross-over to people wanting to move heavier items.

      I suspect the model they’ll ultimately get to is getting a Wattbike (or similiar box) to a persons final resting spot inside, and then letting the person deal with unboxing. The unboxing and moving around of a Wattbike for example is trivial, especially since it has rollers.

      Obviously Peloton has solved this problem, but only in the US markets and soon rolling into a few other markets. But that took what, 3+ years?

    • PT

      I’d be fine with unboxing and setting up since it is still much easier for non-regular bikers than buying a smart trainer, cassette, cassette tools, and bike and putting them all together successfully. Since I’ve become addicted to Zwift, I’ve wanted to buy a set up for my wife and several friends but there’s no simple option to do so. I’d gladly buy an Atom but seems like a ways off until I can get one in California.

  6. Daveymorrisuk

    Xd/xdr driver options for 1x road and mountain bikes, especially important for SRAM eagle 1×12.

  7. George

    Thanks ray to keep this industry honest!!! It would have been such a mess without you!

  8. Dean

    This is an interesting point, I am a newbie triathlete and only did one proper road race before and didn’t enjoy it that much, mostly because I felt I didn’t train well.

    What actually is the question here is, as a Computer Science Student with a small budget, why is there no proper freeware way of using smart trainers? Why isn’t there a simple app that you can load a GPX file into, it figures out the height differences etc and adjusts it for you, so you can virtually ride it?

    Am I simply seeing this too simple? Are the SDK of the big providers all not free?

  9. Michal

    As of USB/Wired connection. I think many Zwift events organizers and gym owners wished this feature was available in trainers and software they used. I think wired connection could make big come back if Zwift virtual racing or group training mass events become more popular. Wireless interference/noise issues when so many broadcasting devices (not only smart trainers but power meters and HR straps too) are present are a serious problem.

    • Duane Gran

      It is in the tentative works at Zwift, I’m told. To my knowledge the Kinetic trainers are the only ones that offer a wired connection. Gradually support for this is working its way into third party apps.

    • Luis R De Freitas

      This as well… I would love to plus my trainer to my laptop/pc just to make sure I won’t lose power/connectivity during an important event.

  10. fabian

    Looking at this post it seems like Elite with Direto has done a pretty good job. Every review i ve read (included the one on this site) report a 1 or max 2% accurancy, a good road feel and here in Europe now it ‘s easy to buy it under 700€…

    I think next season tacx wll need to do somethink for the flux because in this price range the choice is really easy.

  11. So… WattBike Atom or Wahoo Kickr with Climb accessory?

    I’m in the UK so getting hold of either shouldn’t be an issue.

    • Dave Craig

      I’ve got a Wattbike Atom, and it came down to a question of space and ease. It’s compact and I never have to mess with it, I just turn it on and pedal. I could have got a Kickr and a bike that remained attached to it, but even little things like having a lubed chain exposed to brush against in the tight space it sits in my office is a downside for me.
      I don’t race in Zwift on it, I use it purely for workouts and it’s been great.

    • To me I see them as different beasts.

      The thing I loved about the Wattbike when I had it was just the whole ‘jump on and go’ concept. Whereas with a trainer, there’s invariably something you need to dork with, especially if you’re taking that bike in and out.

      Inversely, the Wattbike doesn’t go up and down. I find I do enjoy the CLIMB, but it’s hardly a deal breaker for me.

  12. Alex

    Hey Ray,
    What would you recommend to someone currently on the market for a high end trainer? Does it makes sense to hold on tight for another 3-6 months in anticipation of the new model range? Or perhaps expect the prices for the 2017 range to go down in the second half of the year? I’m talking about the high end trainers from Wahoo and Tacx here.
    Thanks a lot for your insights.

  13. Joey

    Wattbike should get in bed with Ikea before Ikea comes out with their own unit.

  14. Mike E.

    Thanks for that link to titaniumgeek about the Neo iso* modes…that article finally explained them in a way that makes me understand them finally.

    I’d like to get a direct drive trainer as my personal xmas present this year (been on a Tacx Vortex Smart for 3 years now), toss up between Neo and Kickr, leaning towards Neo as it is the quieter one and looks easier to fold up and transport around.

  15. Martin

    my Wahoo Kickr Snap 2017 has some freezing on Zwift when I switch on (and connect) also Wahoo Bolt computer – it’s a fault of Snap or Bolt?

  16. Henrik

    One more Cherry On Top thing:
    If using the trainer as a virtual road simulator, then good downhill emulation is in my view required. Motorbrake makes a significant difference in this case.

  17. tallswimmer

    Not sure where to put this question, but have you ever heard of the Matchrider? $4200 bucks and (maybe) some of the features you discussed above. Or it could be vaporware as that’s been out there for a couple years at this point.

    link to matchsports.com

  18. Ken

    A suggestion for this year’s review, add a “Campy compatible” row for the wheel-off trainers & include the cost for any accessory/adapter necessary to be able to use a Campy cassette. If a given trainer is really $60 or $100 or $___ more for me to use than I might not really want to get that model.

    • Lucas

      There’s not much need for campy compatibility with a direct-drive / wheel-off trainer. 11 speed road groups are compatible with any 11 speed cassette. See, e.g., link to cyclingtips.com (“it is now possible to mix and match 11-speed chains and cassettes from all three manufacturers with satisfactory results in most instances.”). So you can use a cheap Shimano/Sram 11 speed cassette on the trainer even if you have a campy groupset.

  19. James_C

    Ah-ha! Trailer for the Magene Gravat2 in-depth review! Silent as a mouse…pinpoint accuracy…cheap as chips..yes?!

    Can’t wait 🙂

    • Mattv

      Yeah, that Gravat2 thing might completely change the whole trainer market.

    • The thing is, it’s really not all that cheap. It’s about $800-$900, depending on where you manage to find it. So basically, the same as the Elite Direto, again, depending on where you find it.

      I don’t seeing it changing the market, but, I think it does serve as a good reminder to the established players that others can do this trainer thing functionally just fine as well.

    • Mitch W

      Just purchased a Direto from the CT sale for $720 free shipping (thanks Ray). Accuracy is listed as better on Direto (2.5% vs 3%). Availability: now vs who knows; the only place I can see it being sold to US is via Aliexpress for $919 plus $541 for shipping (so more than double the price for now, but maybe it’ll be in stores/CT/Amazon at some point). Well established market distribution and support vs little support outside of China. Noise? Road Feel? We’ll see… Slight improvements along the points Ray made in the post, maybe. Change the market, I doubt it.

    • Mattv

      Oh, I thought it was closer to 500-600 USD. Yeah, $900 isn’t that special. I’m just amazed that the market is big enough for all these expensive trainer. I’m happy there is because it motivates the vendors to keep improving the products, but in reality, I’m not sure how much better they could get and still be meaningful..

    • Robert Victoria

      Hi,
      Is there a specific 20% coupon code for the Direto?
      Really considering one as I have a non smart trainer and power meter but I have started using Zwift to train with and work on power. Thanks!!

    • Robert

      Thanks for the link. Unfortunately the SPRINGVIP 20% off is not working for the Direto even after adding the VIP subscription. Normal 10% off is coming up. Thanks!

    • Mitch W

      Small print…apparently ended: May 23rd, 2018 at 11:59PM US Eastern Time

    • You are correct Ray. I have gone from Gravat1 (June 2017) to now Gravat2 (November 2017) and they are bang for the buck in terms of functionality (sans road feel of a Neo). For its worth, I am enjoying Zwift a lot through this trainer.

      I am looking forward to your sharing of the Gravat2 review given your experience time on it.

      Cheers!

  20. Uwe

    Sometimes, upcycling is the solution. For Kettler and Daum trainers it’s possible to setup an ANT+ FE-C connection to zwift, rouvy, rgt etc. ANT+ FE-C simulation and workout is supported. This app does the job: http://ergo.ub-online.de

  21. mvonw

    perhaps a business idea here:
    Are there any affordable adjustable (like fit bike) frames that don’t have brakes or wheels, that could be uses instead of a road bike on a trainer. I know i could build my own from an old frame or cheap bike, but it would be nice if there was an adjustable frame that my wife or other could use and not tie up the road bikes…

  22. Adi Gerblich

    I was wondering why you are excluding Peleton from your discussion. It is capturing a wide and enthusiastic following of bicyclist. Maybe not the hardcore road or mountain cyclist crowd but nevertheless cyclist. I own a Kickr but would love a trainer that has the display and all the training programs incorporated in it, rather than fiddling with all those connections to PC, TV or other devices. Reading your blog for several years, I do recall that the girl had the same question a while ago.

    • Chris Benten

      The “problem” with the Peloton is that you manually change the resistance. No different than a cheap spin bike. My neighbors developed and build the QA/QC test apparatus for the Peloton factory and has offered to write the code to make it a full-fledged Smart Bike (she is software and he does the hardware)…Peloton is not interested. Their business model is for the consumer to pay $40/mth for the spin classes.

      Great looking and solidly built hardware that has limited capability.

    • I didn’t exclude Peloton here, but rather, all bikes of all sorts. I just focused on trainers for this one. I considered diving into the soon to explode stationary bike market, but with only one ‘real’ player today (a product in market – Wattbike) today that fits my criterion (ANT+ FE-C/Bluetooth FTMS), it’s a bit soon for me to lay down the line on what I want.

      That said, there are obviously numerous players working on units, some of which have announced intentions (such as Tacx). As Chris notes, Peloton is actually a different beast here from a functional standpoint.

      Still, I have covered Peloton before and thing the product is fascinatingly compelling: link to dcrainmaker.com

      However, for a review…that’s trickier. Being based on mainland Europe, they don’t ‘do’ here. They only just announced UK rollouts, and with their delivery model that doesn’t much help me. Still, it’s something I suspect that I’ll look at come this fall, as I have chatted with the company a bit concerning their new treadmill (mostly around the topic that they were displeased at the fact that when I ran on it I thought it felt like…non-awesome).

    • Tim Parker

      I would imagine because it actually has none of the features you need, or want, from a smart trainer and is very expensive for a start. It doesn’t even have the ability to change resistance itself. The only thing I can think of that is remotely appealing is that it’s a single unit and the screen is already attached. The former is just a nice-to-have and the latter can be solved by plopping a tablet on a handlebar mount if you really want one (I prefer a large scale display myself but I can see it would be a useful option for others). There really is nothing to recommend the Peloton bike as a smart cycling trainer to be used with other software, that I can think of, and plenty of things against it.

    • Ahh, but that’s taking the approach of technology over non-technology.

      See, that’s not the real strength of why Peloton has been so successful. Sure, the all-integrated nature is frustrating to us geeks. But it’s also why it’s do so darn well. It’s beautifully integrated from a simplistic standpoint and most importantly: The classes are the draw.

      Even hardcore cyclists I talk to in the industry that have bought one (including for trainer companies) are blown away by how addicting it is. Sure, some (maybe almost all?) of that you could do with their iPad app and an existing trainer. But the jump on and ‘just works’ factor is what folks like about it. That’s really the holy grail that Zwift is chasing (and has stated as such).

    • Mike

      Peloton are coming; UK late this year and Europe the year after….

      link to theverge.com

    • Tim Parker

      Oh absolutely Ray, I get the success of peloton and know people who would lap it up ! My answer was in the context of the smart trainer article, and in that regard I don’t see any positives at all apart from the jump on and go aspect and a screen, that’s all.

    • Mattv

      Zwift needs to have some TV ads and hire the Peloton models. That’s what’s really selling it.

  23. RET

    Wow, another great post. Now could you do the same for treadmills? For treadmills I believe the TechnoGym MyRun is on the forefront of where treadmill designs are headed, again though they may be significantly overpriced. Do you think ICON and other manufacturers will catch on and produce products that rely on web based applications for control?

    • Yeah, treadmills have historically been tough for me to evaluate because I just didn’t have the room.

      With moving to Amsterdam and the new DCR space there I may* have such space, finally. I do actually agree that the TechnoGym treadmill looks fantastic at least in looking at Shane’s video and the overall integration with Zwift. But I just can’t see justification of the price tag there.

      The good news is that I suspect we’re not far off (1-3 years) from seeing a similiar drop in price of treadmills that we saw with trainers. But first, I think you’ll see the trainer companies finish focusing on their diversion to stationary bikes that they started last summer. That’s going to take until at least winter for everyone to sort out their first round of products.

      *Assuming we can get the lease signed as planned

  24. Read

    Thank you very much for that great piece.

    As an example: There is a nice bike callled Kettler S (2018) that comes with what your heart desires (campy eps shifter for example!) but… closed sofware environment!

    A private programmer has made it compatible with an Android pack for Zwift etc, so it can be done as the bike supports whatver standard you want, but they just do not make the official effort to open it up because they want to sell their island software.

    Accordingly, I continue to wait until the Atom Wattbike ships in Continental Europe!

  25. Aar

    How are smart trainers on knee strain?

    I have a replaced knee and need to look after the health of both knees. My experience with variable resistance indoor exercise bikes and other variable resistance trainers has been really bad when it comes to knee strain. Thus, I have steered clear but am starting to reconsider.

    When “wheel” speed gets low with high resistance and in a high gear, it takes substantial torque (way more than on a steep climb in the real world) to build momentum. Generating that amount of torque causes the knee strain to which I’m referring. Do current smart trainers protect users against that situation by relieving the load when “wheel” speed drops? “Wheel” in quotes in recognition that direct drive trainers have no wheel, at least not an external one that can function as a wheel.

    Specifically, I’m considering a Kickr, Neo or Drivo. Is any of these better than the others in regards to the situation I described above?

    • fameh

      Hi Aar. Same question here.
      I have an Elite Rampa since 2 months ago and I have started to suffer from one knee. I have it with my MTB and have adjusted and adjusted again and again. Same with cleats. Problems persists.
      With my road bike I never experience this issues in real scenarios, although I never put it in my Rampa as it’s carbon fiber and I don’t want so much stress in the frame. Also I dont have trainer specific tyre for it nor spare wheel. So MTB only.

      So I’m as you considering a Tacx Neo, as the bike wobbles a bit over it, so I think its less demanding for bike and also knees (movement). Then I would be able to put my carbon road bike and do it without another wheel.
      The thing is…if I buy a 1200€ trainer and knee hurts again after 2-3 hard weeks on trainer….well, imagine the moron face I would get…

      Could someone who has experienced the same with knees or has a Neo and feel some change (or not) provide some light? Huge thanks!!

    • Aar

      Fameh:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. Locally, I feel like I’m talking to a wall when I bring this up. Would love to hear from others with experience on the Tack Neo, Wahoo Kickr or other smart/road feel trainers.

      Aar

  26. Robert

    Ray,
    First of all thank you for your in depth reviews.

    I have a question. I have recently started training with power for Triathlon. I have a fluid trainer and Garmin Vector 2s power meter pedals. I am attaching a picture of my setup.

    I use Zwift for all my indoor training. I am interested in a Kickr or a Direto. My question is: in your opinion, is it worth it to spend the money for the smart trainer for ERG mode training? I also believe I would be able to pre-ride a course if I load the GPX file into Zwfit.
    I thank you and all in this forum for your opinions.
    Thanks.
    Robert

  27. Henrik

    One thing that I think will need more attention going forward as trainers continue their evolution towards the ultimate design is the accuracy of the applied resistance compared to the (reasonably) physically correct resistance.
    When speaking of trainers and accuracy one is usually only adressing the comparison of the power reported from the trainer to the power reported from a power meter (pedal, crank, etc). Simply since this is a straightforward comparison that is easy to do.
    But is the trainer emulated resistance reasonably close to the resistance that one would encounter in reality? This when assuming that weights and various constants are set up correctly.

    • Henrik

      A bare minimum should be a statement on the linearity of the ANT+ FE-C Basic Resistance Mode (and/or the similar BLE mode).