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The Smart Trainer Annual Recommendations Guide–2018 Edition

Indoor-Trainer-BuyersGuide

It’s that time of year again: Indoor trainer season.

Though in reality, that’s actually not terribly true these days. With indoor training apps and the entire experience becoming more and more immersive, more and more people are using them all year round.  And the new trainer announcement season itself has stretched from late spring to just this morning (with two new entrants in the last 24 hours)

Now in the past I’ve covered all trainers, from $70 units up to $1,600 trainers. But with so many new (and really good) trainers coming out this past year, I’m narrowing that focus a bit. Instead of all trainers, I’m focusing on smart trainers. Specifically ones that transmit some sort of ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart signal (dual/concurrently), and allow control of the trainer itself.

The reason is relatively simple: While I occasionally briefly try non-smart trainers at trade shows or the like, I just don’t ride them these days. As such, all my recommendations are old there (though, the tech and trainers themselves in that category frankly haven’t changed any).  You can reference last year’s post though to see some of those cheaper suggestions.

In any case, we saw new smart trainers from virtually every major brand this year, as well as some smaller brands. Some of them made big jumps, while most made more incremental bumps in specs and features. Evolutionary – not revolutionary.

While not everything that’s been announced is shipping, most things are.  And those that aren’t are within 2-4 weeks of shipping. Generally speaking, I’m not going to recommend something unless I have a unit in the DCR Cave (exceptions are noted as such). So for things that are still outstanding, it’s tougher for me to recommend them at this time. I have notes at the bottom of this post for all my caveats and why-nots.

Finally, for those looking for general sports technology recommendations (watches/action cams/activity trackers/scales/etc.…), I tend to publish those late the week of Nov 12th.  My goal being to wrap up all the outstanding new wearable reviews by that timeframe.  There are no further watches to be announced by any mainstream wearable company this year. Trainer reviews will happen as final versions of trainers come in.  I’ve already posted many such reviews this fall.

How I make trainer recommendations

IndoorTrainerBuyersGuide2

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 unless I have a unit on-hand.

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 183 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 to account for this, and once again I tweaked things a tiny bit this year.  My purpose isn’t so much moving the goalposts, as it is making the groupings more logical.  Meaning, someone looking to spend $599 is probably OK spending $699, and someone teetering at $529 might be OK spending that $699 too if the benefits make sense.

Meanwhile, someone looking for a $599 trainer isn’t likely the same person as one looking at a $1,199 trainer.  So, here’s the 2018 buckets, aligned to the trends of trainer pricing in 2018:

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-$700: These are where we see electronic resistance control, as well as the majority of features and full app integration. Most of these are wheel-on trainers, except one…the new Elite Zumo.

Mid-High End $700-$1,000: This category exists because there’s a clear line in the sand between the flood of sub-$599 trainers, and the flotilla of $700-800 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, incline/wattage increases, 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 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 Advertised 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 older 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 old 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 Wahoo KICKR in that same camp.  It’s a beast component-wise.  In many ways, the KICKR SNAP frame is the same way – as are the Kinetic frames too.

IndoorTrainer-Materials

Second, look at the attachment 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 on the mid-range Tacx options:

IndoorTrainerMount

In the case of trainers that you attach your bike directly into a cassette mounted on the trainer  – called ‘direct drive trainers’, be sure that it’ll be compatible with your bike frame.  There are only a few edge cases where an incompatibility occurs (primarily higher end bikes, usually of the triathlon or disc variety), but just be aware of them.  Many trainer companies have printouts on their support sites where you can double-check frame compatibility on your bike.

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.

Fourth, direct drive or wheel-on? If you went back 3-5 years ago, only the most expensive trainers were direct drive and the rest wheel-on. But these days direct-drive smart trainers are down to $699, and that’s great for consumers. Wheel-on trainers mean that you mount the entire bike, inclusive of your back wheel, to the trainer. Whereas direct-drive trainers mean you remove the back wheel and attach the bike directly to the trainer (via a cassette on the trainer). This means that you generally don’t get any tire slip on direct drive trainers, and for many models you can also get away without having to do calibration/spin-downs.

DirectDrive-KICKR-CORE Wheel-On-KICKR-SNAP

These days my preference is overwhelmingly direct-drive, but I also totally get that such a trainer may be out of the ballpark of one’s budget.

Technical Considerations:

Trainer-ANT-BluetoothSmart

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/Suunto/Polar/Wahoo unit can pick up these signals and record them.  The same goes for apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, or Strava.  Almost all trainer companies now broadcast dual on both protocols concurrently. No trainers in the 2018 guide fail to meet this requirement, to me it’s considered a baseline specification.

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

Open/Standard Communication Channel: Via ANT+ FE-C (all trainers use this today) or Bluetooth Smart FTMS (most trainers have this today as well).
Private communication channel:
Prior to FE-C and and FTMS there wasn’t a standard. So each company did their own thing. Wahoo, CycleOps, Tacx, Elite, etc… Most of these companies now support the ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart standard versions, but some of them also support their older variants to help out older apps. Heck, there’s even wired in some rare cases like the Kinetic trainers for certain apps.

For ANT+ FE-C, devices such as the Garmin and Wahoo cycling units 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.

Meanwhile, for Bluetooth Smart there’s FTMS, which is basically the same thing as FE-C when it comes to trainers. It’s not quite as widely adopted yet by trainer companies, but is by app companies. On the trainer company side only Elite and Kinetic support it across the board, with CycleOps, Tacx, and Wahoo all having it on their to-do list (but all support private Bluetooth Smart with all major apps anyway).

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.

CycleOps: ANT+ FE-C on all smart trainers. Gives developers access to private CycleOps Bluetooth Smart control.
Elite: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart FTMS on all 2018 smart trainers.
JetBlack: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart FTMS on all 2018 smart trainers.
Kurt Kinetic: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart FTMS on all 2018 smart trainers.
Minoura: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart FTMS on all 2018 smart trainers.
STAC: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart FTMS on all 2018 smart trainers.
Tacx: ANT+ FE-C on all ‘Smart’ branded trainers (except Satori). Gives developers access to private Tacx Bluetooth Smart control. Very near-term plans for Bluetooth Smart FTMS rollout.
Wahoo: ANT+ FE-C on all smart trainers. Gives developers access to private Wahoo Bluetooth Smart control.

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. But ultimately, if you buy any trainer from this guide, it’ll be some variant of dual.

Budget Smart Trainers (sub-$500):

There’s been almost no appreciable shift in this category this year, so things stay basically the same as last year.  And, there’s really only a few entrants in this category anyway. Only Tacx, Elite, and BKool compete in this realm from a legit smart-trainer standpoint (ones where you can control resistance).

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 have ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart broadcasting of speed, power, and cadence…AND…control of the incline/wattage.

Lastly, this is the one category I don’t have a ton of riding time on either of those units. Both of them have been at trade shows or the like.

The two options that I can recommend are as follows:

Tacx Flow Smart – 239EUR/329USD: This is without question the least expensive smart trainer on the market, though it mostly is only available in Europe (some European companies may ship to the USA). This tops out at only 6% inclines and 800w.  The 800w piece probably isn’t too challenging for most people, especially triathletes, but the 6% gradient may be tricky (of course, if you leave defaults on Zwift, you’re unlikely to notice).  GPLama/Shane Miller has tested this in a video, and it’s definitely worth a watch. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this for heavier riders, but it might work well for lighter riders that are mostly doing ERG work (structured workouts). Finally, the accuracy spec is only +/- 10%, which is the least accurate unit of the entire bunch. Still, for the price, as Shane says – you get what you pay for – but definitely watch his whole video.

Oh, and the Flow supports both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart and all the goodness you’d expect.

BKool Smart Go – $399USD: This is two years old now, but still a unique option. The unit replicates up to 8% grades and 800w, so pretty similar to the Tacx Flow, but with an oddly unstated (or findable) accuracy specification. Most others have found it fairly variable. I haven’t done a full review of the Smart Go, but have done the other BKool trainers and have things a bit variable. 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.

Mid-Range Trainers ($500-$700):

Wahoo-KICKR-SNAP Tacx-Bushido-Smart CycleopsMagnus-M2 Elite-Zumo

While this is a very specific price bracket, it mostly captures the entire mid-range market.  And to be perfectly clear: They’re all about the same, except one.  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 Bluetooth Smart control, and they all work with Zwift and TrainerRoad.  Seriously, it’s mostly a wash.

Oh – and with the exception of the Elite Zumo, none of these have changed this year (well, technically CycleOps gave the Magnus a new name and paint scheme, called the CycleOps M2 now).

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/M2 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. Note above/below photo is of the Magnus, the M2 actually just arrived as I was proofing this, so I’ll add a refreshed picture of that shortly.

IndoorTrainerClamp

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 lower priced options:

CycleOps M2 – $599
Elite Rampa – $599
Kinetic Smart Control Road Machine 2018 Edition – $569
Tacx Bushido Smart – $619
Wahoo KICKR SNAP – $599

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 them 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/M2 is the most accurate of the bunch (plus it has up to 15% incline resistance, which along with the Bushido is the most of the bunch).  The Rampa is the lightest of the bunch, thus the easiest to move around.

The Kinetic Smart Control (Road Machine or Rock & Roll frame) has a slight caveat on it in that I’m still in the process of my in-depth review. I’ve had a few hiccups, but I think I’m past those now. Note that I’m very specific in that it must be the 2018 edition and NOT the prior ones, as those don’t have ANT+ in them. (Note: I know I don’t have a picture here of it, it was temporarily across town in the wrong place and the wrong time earlier today, I’ll add one tomorrow.)

Oh…and then there’s the dark horse that none of you know about yet: The Elite Zumo

Yup, how’s that for a product announcement for you. It’s a $699 direct drive trainer, effectively a mini-Elite Direto.  It has max 12% grade, is +/- 3% accuracy, and supports up to 1,150 watts. Here’s the comparison chart versus the Direto.  Oh, and I’ve been riding it the last three weeks. In fact, my entire Zwift NYC post and video was done on it.

Elite-Zumo

It’s a really solid trainer.  But it’s not in this guide (yet) due to two unanswered questions I have on it. The first is a minor thing where it’s broadcasting target power instead of actual power in ERG mode (seen here).  That should be a trivial software fix.  The second though is a weird fake power spike issue I’ve seen on a few workouts (the power doesn’t actually spike on my legs, it just does in the transmitted signal). This may totally be WiFi interference on my part (really, very likely for this particular room), but, it might not be. So I’m trying to sort that out first. It’s not every workout, so it’s tough to narrow down and is why I didn’t release my review as planned on it this past Wednesday night.

If those things can get sorted, then this easily finds it’s way into the guide with a very solid recommendation. Outside of those two minor issues, it’s an awesome trainer. It’s surprisingly accurate, better than Elite claims (which is usually the pattern), and it also has built-in power match features like Wahoo does now. Oh, and there’s no other direct drive trainer under $749 either.  I’ve got a full in-depth review ready to go (post and video), once I get clarification or fixes from Elite on it. Availability starts next week for certain retailers in the US.

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

Function/FeatureKinetic Smart Control 2018 (Road Machine/Rock & Roll)Elite RampaTacx Bushido SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)Elite Zumo
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 2nd, 2018 @ 12:07 pmNew Window
Price for trainer$569$599$619$599$699
Attachment TypeWheel-onWheel-onWheel-onWheel-onDirect Drive (No Wheel)
Available today (for sale)October 2018YesYesYesYes
Availability regionsGlobalGlobalGlobalGlobalUSA
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWireless & WiredWirelessWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYesYesNoYesYes (no control w/o)
Flywheel weight12lbs/5.45kg2.3KG1.2kg, but simulates up to 60kg10.5lbs/4.8KG4.2KG/9.2LBS
ResistanceKinetic Smart Control 2018 (Road Machine/Rock & Roll)Elite RampaTacx Bushido SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)Elite Zumo
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNoNoNoNo
Maximum wattage capability1,800w1250w @ 25MPH1,400w2200W @ 30mph1,150w @ 40KPH
Maximum simulated hill incline10%10%15%12%12%
FeaturesKinetic Smart Control 2018 (Road Machine/Rock & Roll)Elite RampaTacx Bushido SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)Elite Zumo
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoNoNoNoNo
Can rise/lower bike or portion thereofNoNoNoWith KICKR CLIMB accessoryNo
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNoNoNoNo
Can rock side to side (significantly)Rock & Roll VariantNoNoNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoNoNoNoNo
AccuracyKinetic Smart Control 2018 (Road Machine/Rock & Roll)Elite RampaTacx Bushido SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)Elite Zumo
Includes temperature compensation-No-YesYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesYesYesYesYes
Supported accuracy level+/- 5%+/- 5%+/- 5%+/- 3%+/- 3%
Trainer ControlKinetic Smart Control 2018 (Road Machine/Rock & Roll)Elite RampaTacx Bushido SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)Elite Zumo
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YEsYesYesYesYes
Supports Bluetooth Smart control for 3rd partiesYEsYEsYesYesYes
Data BroadcastKinetic Smart Control 2018 (Road Machine/Rock & Roll)Elite RampaTacx Bushido SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)Elite Zumo
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYesYesYesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYesYesYesYes
PurchaseKinetic Smart Control 2018 (Road Machine/Rock & Roll)Elite RampaTacx Bushido SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)Elite Zumo
Amazon LinkN/ALinkLinkN/AN/A
Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)LinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training EuropeLinkLink
DCRainmakerKinetic Smart Control 2018 (Road Machine/Rock & Roll)Elite RampaTacx Bushido SmartWahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)Elite Zumo
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

Mid-High End ($700-$1,000):

DSC_2459

Up until this year, this category was basically a tie between the Elite Direto and Tacx Flux. Two years ago the Tacx Flux came out at $899 and dominated the scene. Then Elite joined the crowd a year later and it dominated things for the past winter. Wahoo saw this eating into their lunch (and dinner, and desert, late afternoon snacks, and beer money), so they announced the KICKR CORE at $899.

The KICKR CORE basically took a full 2017 KICKR and made it silent, then lopped $300 off the price.  This meant that you got what up until July 2018 was one of the best trainers on the market that was loved by most, for $300 cheaper – and now it didn’t make any tangible noise.

Obviously, that pretty much decimated the value prop for the Elite Direto at $899 or the Tacx Flux at $899.  Elite dropped their price to $849, though I’m not really sure that helps much. Tacx meanwhile tweaked one item and changed the name to the Flux S, and dropped the price to $749.  Tacx also introduced the more powerful Flux 2 at $899, though it’s not ready yet – so no inclusion here. And honestly, I’m not sure it really competes with the CORE anyway.

Wahoo KICKR CORE:

DirectDrive-KICKR-CORE

There’s really no surprise this trainer is here. In reality, if I were to pick one trainer of the year out of all of these and assign it ‘best value’, it’s the CORE. Just like last year it was the Elite Direto and the year prior the Tacx Flux.  But the value is outsized on the CORE compared to those, given how much power is behind it.

Ultimately, it’s essentially a 2017 KICKR that’s been muted.  If you had told someone last (2017) summer that they can buy a quiet KICKR for $300 less, albeit with no ability to adjust height – people would have scrambled for it.  And frankly, that’s what’s happening this year. The sales figures I see show the CORE dominating others in the same way Elite’s Direto dominated last year.

The fact that the CORE is compatible with the KICKR CLIMB means that you can get a CORE + CLIMB for $1,500, versus just a KICKR FOR $1,200.  Said differently, you can justify to your significant other that you’re saving $300.

DSC_2444

Now one minor caveat of the CORE is there have been some teething issues. A few people have had their Wahoo chevron stickers go flying off the CORE’s flywheel, and some have had some weird internal sound issues. Wahoo support has been atop that, and given there’s likely more than a thousand of these units going out each week – I think the impacted numbers are incredibly small.  Ultimately, I haven’t seen any trainer manufacturer in recent years release a perfect trainer in the first few months. This would follow that pattern.

Tacx Flux S:

Tacx-Flux-S

Sitting at $150 cheaper than the CORE, the Flux S is basically just the 2016/2017/2018 Flux 1 with a bunch of internal changes and support for longer derailleur cages. And by basically, I mean, that’s all it is.  But that’s OK. The Flux 1 was incredibly popular and for good reason. It was the first direct drive smart trainer below $1,000 when it came out, and supported all the apps people wanted.  Thus, it’s an easy pick.

Had Elite found a way to reduce their Direto price to $749, they’d be in this category as well.  But ultimately at $100 higher, I think at that point there’s little reason to not just get the silent KICKR CORE.

Neither the Flux S or Elite Direto is silent in the same way the CORE is.  But ultimately, all those trainers make some amount of noise once you put a bike on it. After all there’s still a drivetrain of metal on metal.  No doubt the CORE is very quiet, but once you turn on a fan – all of these trainers are quiet in comparison.

STAC Halcyon:

STAC-Halcyon

(Note: Above gloriously orange photo is of the non-interactive model, since that’s all I had on-hand in a functional state. Physically they appear almost identical.)

The STAC Halcyon is the unique trainer that is both silent as well as wheel-on. There’s no roller or secondary flywheel, instead, your wheel interacts with magnets to create resistance. It’s a pretty cool concept, and is neat to watch work.  It can deliver the wattage that most people need (and the silence), and supports all the major ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart protocols (so apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad) and control it easily.

But there’s some notable catches. First off, it requires a bit of fiddling to get right. Both in terms of initial setup as well as general usage. Next, if have carbon wheels it won’t work with those. And finally, it’s limited to 7% grades, which is a bit low. So this is somewhat better for structured training (like TrainerRoad) rather than lots of climbing in Zwift.

The price is down to $749 today, which means it’s better pitted against the Flux S than it is against the KICKR. So essentially you’re trading off ease of setup (Flux S) for quietness (Halcyon). I’d say in general if you’re more of a gadget person/tinkerer, the STAC will appeal to you. Whereas if you just want a simplified out of box experience, go Flux.  And if you have more money, go KICKR CORE.

Function/FeatureSTAC HalcyonTacx Flux SWahoo Fitness KICKR CORE
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 2nd, 2018 @ 5:15 pmNew Window
Price for trainer$749$749USD/€599$899
Attachment TypeWheel on (but wheel doesn't touch)Direct Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)
Available today (for sale)YesYEsYes
Availability regionsGlobalGlobalGlobal
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredNoYesYes
Flywheel weight2.3KG/5lbs6.7kg (simulated 25kg)12.0lbs/5.44kgs
ResistanceSTAC HalcyonTacx Flux SWahoo Fitness KICKR CORE
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNoNo
Maximum wattage capability1,500w1,500w @ 40KPH1800w
Maximum simulated hill incline7%10%16%
FeaturesSTAC HalcyonTacx Flux SWahoo Fitness KICKR CORE
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoNoNo
Can rise/lower bike or portion thereofNoNoWith KICKR CLIMB accessory
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNoNo
Can rock side to side (significantly)NoNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoNoNo
AccuracySTAC HalcyonTacx Flux SWahoo Fitness KICKR CORE
Includes temperature compensationN/AYesYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesYesYes
Supported accuracy level-+/-3%+/- 2%
Trainer ControlSTAC HalcyonTacx Flux SWahoo Fitness KICKR CORE
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YesYesYEs
Supports Bluetooth Smart control for 3rd partiesYesYesYEs
Data BroadcastSTAC HalcyonTacx Flux SWahoo Fitness KICKR CORE
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYesYes
PurchaseSTAC HalcyonTacx Flux SWahoo Fitness KICKR CORE
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programN/AN/ALink
DCRainmakerSTAC HalcyonTacx Flux SWahoo Fitness KICKR CORE
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

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

WahooKICKR-TacxNeo

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 +/- 1%).

This category has largely remained the same for three years now (both winners and non-winners alike).  And this year the two winners got even closer in specs. Previously the NEO was the silent one, and the KICKR the loud one. But now both are silent (save your drivetrain). Essentially, you’re left with comparing some minor nuances in features (and entertainment/experience/distraction ‘features’)

By that, I mean that we’ve got what I’m going to call the ‘Move it’ addendum.  With the Tacx NEO that’s the ability for the trainer to simulate cobblestones and other road surfaces.  It’s pretty cool in a geeky way, albeit without a ton of specific training value.  Meanwhile, with the Wahoo KICKR (and KICKR CORE/SNAPv2) you can add their $600 CLIMB accessory, which simulates climbing by lifting the front of your bike up.

Like the previous category, the remaining contenders (Elite Drivo II, CycleOps Hammer/H2) 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/H2 over a KICKR (since the KICKR can connect to the CLIMB, and is silent), and since they are priced the same…well…yeah.  For Elite’s Drivo/Drivo II, that’s a fantastic trainer with what is probably better road feel than either Tacx NEO or KICKR – and as good of accuracy as the NEO.  But again, it’s tricky to recommend that to friends/family with the silent Tacx NEO 1/2 and Wahoo 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 (1 or 2):

Tacx-Neo-1-2

Above you’ll see both the just announced Tacx NEO 2 (left), and the previous Tacx NEO 1 (right). Frankly, had Tacx not announced the NEO 2 yesterday, this section would be identical. Nothing included in the NEO 2 impacts my recommendations here. Which inversely means that you can apply all of this logic for either model depending on what kind of deal/availability you can get.

Obviously, with the NEO 2 however you’ll get new internals that down the road Tacx says will unlock new features on the NEO 2 specifically. But those features aren’t known yet (nor timelines).  Meanwhile, the NEO 1 is past any new trainer teething pains and is fantastic.

Ultimately the NEO 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 (though, slightly less so with the new blue bottom on the NEO 2).

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 both the quietest and most accurate trainer on the market (and most powerful), 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.

Wahoo KICKR 2018

Wahoo-KICKR-2018

Now here’s the thing.  I consider both of these top two options somewhat equal, albeit at different price points and for different people.  If you’re planning on buying the KICKR CLIMB, then obviously, get a Wahoo unit. The CLIMB doesn’t work with non-Wahoo trainers.

And yes, the CLIMB is fun to ride. I’ve been riding it on and off since February or so, albeit mostly since mid-summer with the KICKR CORE instead of the KICKR.

The KICKR 2018 got an increased flywheel size over the KICKR 2017. Additionally, the KICKR 2018 became silent over the previous models. I suspect most people can’t feel the flywheel size difference, I know I can’t. And GPLama/Shane Miller has said the same. Perhaps in certain scenarios it’ll manifest itself, but I haven’t seen said scenario.  And as such, I don’t notice any difference in feeling between a KICKR CORE and KICKR 2018.

Still, if you want the ultimate in upwards indoor trainer movement, the KICKR 2018 + CLIMB is where it’s at. Not to mention the fact that unlike the more expensive Tacx NEO, you actually get a cassette included here. Why on earth the NEO doesn’t include a cassette is beyond me.

Function/FeatureWahoo KICKR 2018Tacx NEO SmartTacx NEO 2 Smart
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 2nd, 2018 @ 12:04 pmNew Window
Price for trainer$1,199$1,369$1,399
Attachment TypeDirect Drive (No Wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)
Available today (for sale)YesYesYes
Availability regionsGlobalGlobalGlobal
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYesNoNo
Flywheel weight16lbs/7.25kgsSIMULATED/VIRTUAL 125KGSimulated/Virtual 125KG
ResistanceWahoo KICKR 2018Tacx NEO SmartTacx NEO 2 Smart
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoYesYes
Maximum wattage capability2,200w @ 40KPH2,200w @ 40KPH2,200w @ 40KPH
Maximum simulated hill incline20%25%25%
FeaturesWahoo KICKR 2018Tacx NEO SmartTacx NEO 2 Smart
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoNoYes
Can rise/lower bike or portion thereofWith KICKR CLIMB accessoryNoNo
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoWith accessoryWith accessory
Can rock side to side (significantly)NoNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoYesYes
AccuracyWahoo KICKR 2018Tacx NEO SmartTacx NEO 2 Smart
Includes temperature compensationYesN/AN/A
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesN/AN/A
Supported accuracy level+/- 2%+/- 1%+/- 1%
Trainer ControlWahoo KICKR 2018Tacx NEO SmartTacx NEO 2 Smart
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YEsYesYes
Supports Bluetooth Smart control for 3rd partiesYEsYesYes
Data BroadcastWahoo KICKR 2018Tacx NEO SmartTacx NEO 2 Smart
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+YesYesYes
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartYesYesYes
PurchaseWahoo KICKR 2018Tacx NEO SmartTacx NEO 2 Smart
Amazon LinkN/ALinkN/A
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkN/A
DCRainmakerWahoo KICKR 2018Tacx NEO SmartTacx NEO 2 Smart
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

The why I didn’t include it list:

First and foremost, this isn’t a list of bad trainers.  If you take that away from this section, 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 327 times below for each trainer as to why I didn’t include them.  I’m keeping these explanations short and sweet.  In many cases, I’ve detailed out longer answers in posts related to those products.

CycleOps H2: This is almost the same story as the Elite Drivo II, though I think the Drivo II is both more accurate in real-world testing, and certainly more quiet.

Elite Direto: Look, this is a great little trainer – and the *only* reason it’s not in the above list is purely because of pricing. At $849, it sits $100 more than the basically equal Flux S (in terms of specs), while the far more capable (and silent) Wahoo CORE sits at $899 – a mere $50 more. Obviously, in Europe the pricing game shifts a bit. But it’s hard for me to track Euro pricing as it shifts about every 8 seconds based on whenever a given retailer decides to go even lower. So ultimately, I’d say you can kinda figure out what you value here in terms of price to features. But certainly don’t shy away from a good deal on the Direto – it’s solid.

Elite Drivo II: This is a fantastically accurate and relatively quiet trainer. Really, it is. The only challenge is that it’s up against two also-accurate trainers that aren’t just ‘relatively’ quiet, but actually silent (Tacx NEO 2 & KICKR 2018). Also, they’re up against two trainers that both have unique features (CLIMB compatibility for Wahoo, and road-feel/no-calibration for Tacx NEO 2).

Jet Black WhisperDrive Smart: Essentially they’re in the same bucket as the Elite Drivo and CycleOps Hammer. Yes, it may be quite capable, but pricing wise it’s competing against the Wahoo KICKR CORE that has more features, better accuracy, silence, and better worldwide support. Note that I do plan to have a refreshed review of this out by the end of the year based on the updates they’ve made since my preliminary review. It sounds like they’ve made some good headway, but I don’t know if it’s going to shift the overall value ratio here.

Kinetic R1: This could potentially make the list, maybe in an update later in the year. Right now I don’t have one though (they just started shipping yesterday), and so it’s hard to say for certain. The core thing that’ll be the tipping point (get it?) is the software side of the house. Kinetic has shifted platforms this year to a fully dual ANT+/BLE setup, and the underlying chipsets they are using offer some super unique indoor-training features that nobody else is doing (or even talking about). But, these are also new and going through some teething pains too.

Minoura Kagura DT (Not Direct Drive): While this almost made the cut for the mid-range trainer bucket this year, the accuracy was just a bit beyond the price point I’d expect. I think they’re getting closer on it, and depending on where you are (specifically, Japan), this may be a very good option based on the costs of other trainers being more expensive.

Minoura Kagura DD (Direct Drive): This was shown at Interbike this year, and looks really cool. But, it’s not out yet. So…yeah.

Wattbike Atom: Yes, it’s great.  But it’s not technically a trainer. And while I wanted to include indoor bikes in this year’s roundup, there frankly isn’t a reason to. Tacx hasn’t released their bike yet (shipped it), and BKool’s bike seems like…a bust. Elite’s bike is 14,000EUR – so most don’t care about that unless you have a yacht big enough to play tennis on.  I do like the ATOM though, and I need to re-visit it since last fall. I’m hoping to get a unit back again soon to do so, in time to do a showdown between it and the Tacx NEO Smart bike by the end of the year.

CompuTrainer: They went out of business (or at least stopped making them) two years ago.  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 and if they’re compatible – then go forth.

LeMond Revolution Pro: The company has folded and ceased operations many years ago. Like CompuTrainer, they’re out of business.

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.

The only benefit of trainer tires is that some tires will slowly shred tire specks over the course of the winter, depending on both the specific tire and the specific trainer. Not ideal in a carpeted living room, but not even noticed in a garage.

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?

It’s basically a wash between the STAC Halcyon/Zero trainers, the Tacx NEO 1/2, and the Wahoo KICKR/KICKR CORE.

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).

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%!

TrainerGuide0218

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 $49.  For the Wahoo products, you’ll need the DCR/CT VIP club to get 10% back in points (which is spendable immediately), but that only takes a moment to sign-up.

‘2018 Trainer Recommendations’ compatiblePrice for trainerAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programReview
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 2nd, 2018 @ 5:15 pm
STAC Halcyon$749Link
Kinetic Smart Control 2018 (Road Machine/Rock & Roll)$569N/ALink
Tacx NEO 2 Smart$1,399N/ALinkLink
Elite Zumo$699N/ALink
Tacx Flux S$749USD/€599N/ALink
Wahoo KICKR 2018$1,199N/ALinkLink
Wahoo Fitness KICKR CORE$899N/ALinkLink
Wahoo KICKR SNAP (2017)$599N/ALinkLink
CycleOps Magnus/M2$599LinkLinkLink
Elite Rampa$599LinkLinkLink
Tacx NEO Smart$1,369LinkLinkLink
Tacx Bushido Smart$619LinkLink

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

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238 Comments

  1. ROBERT J PICKELS

    Hey Ray-
    I’ve never seen negatives from riding my bike uncovered on the trainer… until one I day I tried to remove my fork.

    My sweat had seeped between the steerer tube spacers and the steerer tube. The sweat / salt crystals fused them together. I had to cut a spacer off to remove the fork.

    It was corrosion as my steerer tube is carbon.

    Since then I’ve mostly* ridden with a sweat catcher.

    • Eli

      Sweat can be very corrosive, and can be made worse from training in a basement with high humidity. (sweat doesn’t dry allowing salt water to do more corrosion of the bike)

      Also depends on how salty your sweat is, Ray may not have much salt in his sweat. Mine is sometimes orange which leads to annoying sweat stains but thankfully doesn’t increase rust.

    • jmjf

      Rather than the expensive bike thong thing, I bought a cheap, white hand towel and lay it over the stem and bars. White so it shows stains and bleach is not a problem. Wash when you start to see sweat staining the stem side or can’t stand the smell, whichever comes first. Also handy for willing my face between intervals.
      🙂

      The other best cheap trainer accessory I bought is a $2 terry cloth tennis headband to keep sweat out of my eyes, which was a literal pain.

    • Anton Peterson

      If you don’t use a cycling computer or your phone on the bars then save your money and use a towel.

    • Andrew Bernstein

      I use a towel and simply slide the towel under my ELEMNT BOLT. Problem solved! Has the added benefit of keeping sweat off the bar tape and shift levers. The only time I’ve ever had a corrosion problem from salt was with an aluminum handlebar.

    • Daniel

      +1 to this.
      I’ve wrenched some bikes that went uncovered on the trainer, and while they might feel fine during regular use, they might not feel as fine when you’re replacing a headset. It was not a fun (or inexpensive) job having to chisel the headset spacers and dust caps off a Pinarello. The corrosion and fusion was unbelievable.

      Even if you don’t want to buy a furry thong for your setup, I’d recommend to at least throw a towel over the front end to keep your bike from getting salty.

  2. William Morgan

    I’ve just bought a BKool Smart Pro 2 for £360. Perhaps worthy of addition to your budget list (next year)? It’s price vs spec is what attracted me – I’m happy with it so far.

  3. Jerome

    thank you for the review, Core seems like a clear winner budget wise, but still in love with my neo 🙂

  4. Tom

    Hey Ray,
    You mention the wahoo kickr has a power match feature so you can use it with a power meter. I’ve just switched my phone to Android and can no longer find this feature in the fitness app. Is it only available for iPhone people?

  5. Eric Boyle

    Just bought a Direto this week, maybe I should have waited for this guide! It was that or the Core. I bought it based on your and gplama’s reviews as well as a recommendation from a friend.

    One thing about the price points is that as I understand it Wahoo does not really discount much. Performance was running a -20% off sale on the Direto, so in my case the final price was less than $700. For my budget the extra $200 for the Core was a big difference.

    • Alex

      I made the same decision yesterday. Do you by chance have a Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt computer? I have been trying to control the Direto with the Bolt without much luck. Power and speed (although incorrectly) registers during workouts, but I am unable to control resistance.

    • John

      I have a direto and a bolt and have been able to successfully control the trainer with the onboard team sky workouts on the bolt.

    • jmjf

      I’ve controlled my Direto with my Bolt several times both with the watts setting and the percent setting. I haven’t bothered trying to get the speed numbers correct because I record primary data on other apps and just merge power balance data from the Bolt. When controlling the trainer, the Bolt displays trainer power, not power meter.

    • Michal

      Make sure your Direto is paired with Bolt as FE-C device only, not power meter or speed/cadence sensor.

      @jmjf

      If you want your Bolt to display and record power from power meter instead of trainer, you need to unpair your PM and pair it again. Bolt displays and records power from last power meter broadcasting device you paired it with.

  6. Christina

    Hey Ray!

    I tried to get the wahoo core on Clever Training with your discount code (and as a VIP) and it doesn’t seem to want to apply the 10%. do you know if they have excluded these from the discount? In the review it says they should apply. Am I just doing something stupid?

    Thank you! You’re the best. Love these reviews 🙂

  7. Nemo

    Just in time! The bottom level of my house was flooded from Hurricane Matthew and both of my trainers were placed on the casualty list. Now I can replace them with some confidence in making that decision. Thanks!

  8. Fabian

    Ray u’ve mentioned the direto a lot but it’s not in the list. Is this a guide focused only on new models or simply u think is not a good choice?

    • The Direto is still a fantastic trainer, but when priced at $849USD, it’s hard to recommend given the more powerful and totally silent KICKR CORE is sitting there at $899USD.

      Of course, local prices differ, so that’s an element to consider as always.

    • Oleg

      Direto can be found for 550€, much cheaper than any Wahoo trainer in Europe. I will probably go for Flux S.

    • I just added this to the ‘Why it’s not in the list’ section for the Elite Direto, might help some folks clarify my thoughts:

      Elite Direto: Look, this is a great little trainer – and the *only* reason it’s not in the above list is purely because of pricing. At $849, it sits $100 more than the basically equal Flux S (in terms of specs), while the far more capable (and silent) Wahoo CORE sits at $899 – a mere $50 more. Obviously, in Europe the pricing game shifts a bit. But it’s hard for me to track Euro pricing as it shifts about every 8 seconds based on whenever a given retailer decides to go even lower. So ultimately, I’d say you can kinda figure out what you value here in terms of price to features. But certainly don’t shy away from a good deal on the Direto – it’s solid.

    • Casey

      For those interested in a direto – 700 at mountainsteals.

      link to mountainsteals.com

  9. ognacy

    I’d speculate that not including the cassette on Neo prevents waste (and the Dutch *really* dislike waste).

    How would they know what standard to assume? I run my both Neos at 9 and 8 speed cassettes respectively, on my old race bikes that are on permanent trainer duty. A lot of my friends do that too, on anything ranging from ancient to last year bikes.

    Speaking of old gear, those two Neos I run are 3 years and 19 thousand kilometers apart. Both required, when they were brand new, one time treatment which included removal of the flywheel cover and reassembly (as both were noisy straight out of the box, unfortunately this still happens in 2018) – but afterwards the 2016 unit continues to run silently to this day.

    And one more reco for anyone looking for truly silent experience with Neo. Neo is silent, but it does vibrate, especially in downhill simulation mode. I live in a 4 story wooden building, occupying the two top floors. With the turbo in the attic I could see smaller objects moving on the level below when the turbo was simulating long downhill ride. I put 3 layers of the rubber damping mats that people (should) put under their washing machines and this killed the vibration issue entirely. The mats cost around 20 euro per square meter and can be found in most home improvement stores.

    L.

    • Perhaps on waste, but ultimately, Wahoo sells more high-end trainers than anyone and I’ve yet to hear anyone complain about inclusion of cassette. Whereas, I often see people caveat that you need to go out and buy a cassette/tools/etc with non-KICKR trainers.

  10. Alex Whyte

    You are awesome Ray!!! I mean totally, for real!

  11. Christopher McDougall

    I think one of the features of the Elite Directo that’s easily forgotten is that it has a built in power meter. That’s why I’m still on the fence about purchasing it instead of a Kickr. I don’t own a power meter for my bike and it would make training indoors easier for me. I guess since many people in the market for a direct drive trainer already have a power meter then it’s a moot point.

    Now that I know the Zumo exists I’m torn. I could theoretically just purchase that and a power meter for a little more than the price of a Direto, then have power outside as well as inside.

    • It’s true, it does. And it’s accuracy is fantastic.

      That said, I don’t pin much value on power meter versus not. I pin value on whether or not it’s accurate – I don’t really care how they do that.

      We see the KICKR 2018 is just as accurate (real-world) as the Direto.

      The Zumo does NOT have a power meter in it, but things are looking very solid, save the quirks I’ve seen. It lags a little bit on sprints (a bit slow), but otherwise good. Here’s an example data set (sans-spikes): link to analyze.dcrainmaker.com

    • Christopher McDougall

      Thanks Ray! The numbers seem promising. I’m patiently awaiting the review.

    • Christopher McDougall

      And silly me. For some reason I always thought that a power meter was necessary to train by power indoors. I guess it’s a moot point and smart trainers sans a power meter measure power pretty well. Guess the Kickr would be a huge contender for my money then. But Performance Bicycle here in the states is running a terrific deal for the Direto. Hmm…

    • Jānis Vaskis

      Not it isn’t silly, I actually think it’s smarter because normal powermeter on bike let you get correct data inside and outside, and not less important also really compare it, of course indoor numbers tend to be slightly smaller but it’s difference from user to user. Any way you get idea.
      So get this winter powermeter and use with any dumb trainer on zwift etc., next winter any direct drive trainer that can use data from your powermeter and vualla. Perfect combination.

    • Marc W

      I’m on a dumb trainer looking to upgrade, and so am completely confused about this comment (and Ray’s confirmation) that the Elite Direto has a built-in power meter. Don’t all smart trainers have this? If not, how do they measure your wattage? Or is this some unit that separates from the trainer and you can mount on your bike when you ride outside? Thanks!

    • Most trainers actually don’t have power meters, but rather instead just do math. And many do said math really really well.

      Inversely, we’ve seen cases (such as the original KICKR) where having a power meter can actually be a detriment. In that case it was sensitive to shipping impacts, and would end up not travelling as well.

  12. dkrenik

    What are your thoughts on the Inside Ride e-motion trainer with the Qubo resistance unit?

    • I haven’t had a chance to try it with the Qubo. It’s definitely on my request list though once I can move into the new DCR space (hopefully Monday).

    • Ed

      I’ve been using mine with the Qubo for a few seasons now and love it. They just feel like I’m riding on the perfect stretch of Rd.. Full on out of the saddle sprints are no issue at all and riding on Zwift is super engaging! I’m honestly surprised Ray hasn’t given them a proper review. Especially in light of all the recent hype around rocker plates; the e-motion rollers do a much better job simulating riding out doors. On the smart controller front I believe Inside Ride has now moved on to selling the rollers with their own smart controller unit which now support power meter pass through and come with a remote. If my Qubo add-on unit ever gives out I will deff just upgrade to the new power control unit.

    • dkrenik

      Good to know – thanks.

    • dkrenik

      Excuse me, what is “pass through”?

    • Ee

      Sorry, the correct term is Power Match. E.g. you can connect your dedicated power meter up directly to the smart resistance unit on the roller.

      link to insideride.com

    • dkrenik

      Thanks. So the e-motions with the Qubo unit do NOT support Power Match? That’s kind of a “deal killer” in my opinion.

    • Ed

      I don’t believe InsideRide sell it with the Qubo unit anymore. They now sell it with their own in house unit which supports power match. That being said even though the Qubo unit doesn’t support power match you can essentially achieve the same results in most apps by connecting directly to your dedicated power meter rather then using the Qubo as your source of power. You can then connect to the Qubo to control the resistance.

  13. Matthew

    I have gone from a Tacx Vortex to a Atom Wattbike and expectingly different league but the main surprise was the difference in difficulty when came to high % climbs. So more realistic.

    My main reason is for the switch though, easy setup and go, no wearing out on my main bike. No strain on the carbon chainstay for example. Plus, there is a chance my wife will use it as it less intimidating.

  14. Gerrit

    Hi Ray, with the Neo 2 out,I already see Neo prices dropping. 1000 USD equivalent in Switzerland. I would think that might impact the recommendation?

    • Yeah, it’s tough. I’m basing on USD pricing, because chasing Euro pricing is impossible (it shifts by the minute).

      In this scenario all things shift in EUR pricing anyway, and mostly equally when looking at the Euro brands (Elite/Tacx).

  15. Nemo

    FYI- In the final table of the article, the Kickr Core link goes to the review of the 2017 Kicker rather than the Core.

  16. A.C.

    Hi Ray

    If I can get a Neo for 999 Euro or the Kickr Core for 799, which would be the better deal?

    • That’s tough. I just went to the grocery store a second ago and I bought a few salted caramel chocolate bars for 1,95EUR each. So in this scenario, I could get 102 chocolate bars for that difference – and both trainers would still be silent (and still have a euro left over).

      Really depends on whether you value zero-calibration and cobblestones, or KICKR CLIMB compatibility. Or chocolate bars.

  17. George

    Ray – Thanks for the write-up. Do you by chance have an article on the specifications of spindowns on trainers? I’m always curious if I should do it on mine (Kickr Snap) every ride, or only one a week, if I need to wait to do it after 10 minutes of warming up, etc. Thanks!

    • I don’t. But generally speaking for wheel-on trainers I recommend doing it each time, about 10-15 minutes into the ride.

      If the bike hasn’t been removed from the trainer (in other words, the knob hasn’t been tweaked), then just note the tire pressure and pump it up to the exact same pressure each time. Then you can skip calibrating until the next time you turn the knob. 🙂

    • Steve W

      I have a snap. I have my bike in a basement where the temperature doesn’t vary by more than 2 degrees F. I always pump my tires to the same pressure before every ride. I have a mark on the adjustment dial and always rotate it two turns. I calibrate the snap about once a week figuring the only variable is tire wear. I asked wahoo if this was reasonable and they said that it was.

    • Steve W

      Wahoo updated their Kickr Snap 2017 spindown instructions. Referring to their updated instructions, I asked Wahoo about this (having a 2017 Snap). My two questions were:

      To calibrate a 2017 Kickr Snap should tire pressure be 110 psi per the video or the recommended tire pressure on the sidewall as stated on your site.

      …and what’s this about ignoring spindown times and roller adjustment. Do you just pump up the tire and turn the knob twice for calibration??? very confusing
      to everyone.

      Their very prompt response was:

      Thank you for reaching out. You should pump up the tire to 110 PSI before installing on the Snap. As far as ignoring spindown times on the first generation of Snaps there were recommended spindown times but due to improvements in the 2017 the same protocol doesn’t apply. Once you got the tire pumped up and the two full turns once it touches the tire it should be good. I do want to make sure you saw this link about completing spindowns on our support site:

      link to wahoofitness.yonyx.com

    • Steve W

      Hey Ray,

      Sorry to bother you but could you clean up my post #50 by deleting the beginning down to “Wahoo updated their Kickr Snap 2017 spindown instructions”

      I screwed up pasting and deleting on my phone and I don’t see any way I can do it.

      thanks

  18. Eli

    Cassettes are ~$50 so seems like where the trainer comes with one or not impact price a bit. The kickr core is really only $250 less for example

    • usr

      Otoh, hand me down cassettes from outside are free.

      The chain pull from that sudden sprint over cobbles where an aging cassette slipped for the first time and you nearly crashed and would have taken down half a dozen of your friends will *never* be replicated by Zwift.

      Cogs that would be irresponsible to keep riding outside can still have many of those lonely, sweaty hours in front of the TV set in then.

  19. Scott Shell

    I’m one of those oddballs that likes the purity of rollers but also like technology. This winter I’m expecting to spend most of my time on E-motion Rollers with their smart resistance along with adding their floating front fork for my especially long rides (so I can get some motion that isn’t possible on most fixed trainers…)

    Riding rollers for extended periods is far too difficult. I’ve done 60 miles, in Zwift, for just over 4 hours but don’t think I could go much longer on straight up rollers… it is a lot of work mentally and physically.

    • Ed R.

      I’ve done long rides on my emotion rollers (3+ hrs.) no issues at all. Most rides I’m juggling between glancing at my computer screen and watching TV without even giving much thought to the fact that I’m riding on rollers. You will be surprised how natural they feel; they don’t require a lot of concentration. Fork stand will be useful if you are looking to turn yourself inside out on intervals. That being said I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you hardly end up using the fork stand. I have no issues doing full on sprint intervals without it. Just recommend having a decent dismount platform to put your foot down on.

  20. Hernando Bermudez

    Hey Ray, the review link for the stac zero is not for the halcyon(smart) version but the non controllable one.

  21. Greg

    When you pop off the wheel and put the bike on a direct drive trainer, do you need to fine-tune the derailleur adjustment? Or are the tolerances all standardized enough across frames and trainers that it works well right away? I don’t have space for a permanent trainer set-up, so I’d be going back and forth regularly.

    I’m currently using a wheel-on trainer, but I’m getting tired of the wheel slipping on zwift climbs.

    • Richard

      HI Greg,

      I had the same problem with my Cycleops Magnus. Using a my new Elite Direto with 10sp Ultegra 6600 drivetrain, I have not made any adjustments to the limits screws for the rear derailleur.

    • It’ll depend quite a bit on the specifics of the cassette and how good (or bad) the fine tuning/adjustments have been made on your bike. Most time it works just fine, but sometimes it’ll need a minor tweak.

  22. dennis bossaerts

    hi Ray,

    is it possible to include in future reviews if the software update is possible by android/IOS/both.

    as i’m in doubt between kickr core or tacx flux s/2, android compability is for me maybe the determinative factor in this case. and i’m probably not the only one…

    brgds,
    Dennis

    PS: keep up the good work

  23. Jānis Vaskis

    Hello Ray.
    With big respect to your work I surprised that under TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS, you hasn’t mentioned that most direct drive trainers use belt driven mechanism inside, except one – NEO I think and after my research most of belt driven units face problems because of that. And every one knows, that cars and most of random belt driven machines needs service and maintenance. For example direto users must make manual manipulation to fine tune tension on belt from time to time, flux users just change their units trough warranty with first signs of strange noise or vibration like in your and GP lama videos. It’s actually confusing that non of trainer manufactures speak about that, no comments about belt costs or maintenance periods etc.

    • Thanks.

      Honestly, I don’t see it as a factor. And I don’t hear of many people that actually ever touch the belts, except in case of abnormal service.

      I’ve never heard of it being common for Direto users having to make tension from time to time, and the vibrations/issues seen on earlier Flux units weren’t really belt related in most cases.

      Which might answer your last question on why nobody is talking about it: Because it’s not a tangible/real issue for 99% of people. And, if you subdivide the last 1% of people, my guess is half of those will make forward progress with fixing whatever it is, but half of those will probably make it worse. 🙂

      Just my two cents.

    • davie

      In my decision making process, the belt issue was key. Flux has a history of belt jumping off the tensioner, new kickr core has belt tensioning issues which destroy bearings, direto needs belt adjustment. All of them need calibration and spindowns due to a belt. Why replace a rubber tyre noise and inconsistency with a rubber belt noise and inconsistency?? The Neo won my (extra) money for this precise reason.

    • Plate of Shrimp

      What made me go with a Drivo was that the Neo slips on sprints. I do stand still/rolling sprints and the Drivo never fail to dish out the pain. After two years, I never had an issue with the Drivo’s belts (all 2 of them).

    • Paul Dashwood

      There should be no inconsistencies with the belts, on the Wahoo Kickr at least. They are toothed timing belts, the same type that have generally replaced timing chains in cars. As long as the tensioner does it’s job, the belt will stay positively engaged with the teeth in the pulleys and provide consistent results. Five years on my 1st generation Kickr still has its original belt. The only maintenance I have done is to pull drive assembly apart, clean and grease it, and replace a bush that was showing signs of wear.

  24. Steve

    Hi Ray,

    What is the usable life of the mid-high direct drive units, managing mechanical forces with belts and pulleys vs. a Stac Zero with no mechanical force applied, just magnetic fields? Nobody seems to consider this in the value proposition.

    • I honestly don’t think it’s something that’s needed to be considered. It hasn’t proven to be at this point, outside of rare service edge cases (which apply to all trainers).

  25. Darius Camp

    Any advice for an off the grid trainer? ie a trainer that works well-ish without power or is battery power. I know the stac zero does it but I am not thrilled about the set up process.

  26. Eugene Chan

    That’s it. I’m officially calling the Zumo the Elite Dieto.

  27. Po Doddy

    I’m still using a Fortius there are FEC bridges to use any app, finally free from the garbage Tacx software

  28. Ty

    In AU I purchased an Elite Drivo online about $400 cheaper than a TACX. Very happy with it. Sometimes it’s response to quick changes in power is a little slow, like a series of sprints with 10sec rests. I’m wondering how TACX and Wahoo respond in similar workouts?

  29. Jean-Philippe Baril

    “Tacx also introduced the more powerful Flux 2 at $899, though it’s not ready yet – so no inclusion here. And honestly, I’m not sure it really competes with the CORE anyway.”

    What do you mean by that?
    Thanks

    • The CORE does grades to 16%, the Flux 2 to 15%. The CORE has a bigger physical flywheel, though the Flux 2 claims a larger virtual one. With the exception of the Neo, I generally don’t find the Tacx virtual flywheel quite as road-like feel as the real-ones.

      Finally – and more importantly, the Flux 2 isn’t silent and the CORE is.

    • Jean-Philippe Baril

      Thanks a lot for your reply and guide.

      I just pressed the button on a Kickr Core!

      Hopefully I won’t get a defective one as some seem to get: link to cyclechat.net

  30. Ben Khoo

    I have a tacx bushido smart, but it’s impossible to shift into the big chainring.
    My bikes shifts fine not only on the road, but also on a cycleops fluid classic trainer. Bought a tacx skewer, but it still doesn’t shift.

    Anyone have ideas on what I can do?

  31. Daniel

    Hi Ray,

    I saw your comment regarding rollers in general, but would you mind to share your thoughts about smart rollers?
    For example: Elite Nero: link to elite-it.com 900$ or about 650-700 Euro in EU
    As an owner of old Elite E-Motion I am trying to decide whether to stay with rollers but go smart (though only 5% incline) or move to trainer

    Thanks.

  32. Michele

    Hi Ray,

    I can not decide btw Neo and Drivo…I’d buy the first one but as you pointed out for Core there are consumer complaints about units not really silent.
    Even on Tacx site it is described how to fix the possibile noise issue.
    Do you know if it is finally fixed in Neo 1 2018?
    Thank you for the guideline!!!!
    Michele

    • I haven’t heard of much in the way of Neo 1 sound issues in 2018.

      I’d say that any CORE units that aren’t silent for whatever reason are being swapped out by Wahoo pretty quickly.

  33. Stephen PEARCE

    You have the Rampa as being firmware upgradable. Any idea how to do this ? Have had a google and nothing out there since I last checked last year.

  34. Norman

    Hi Ray,

    The Tacx Neo (1) has been reduced in price in the UK to £879 vs Wahoo Kickr 2018 at £999 (albeit including a cassette!). I was on the verge of buying the Kickr when this was announced. I have heard that when using the Tacx Neo with a disc brake road bike the rear caliper rubs against the casing of the Neo and to avoid a potential problem the caliper needs to be removed or at least loosened. Any experience of this scenario? It would be very off-putting even at this price.

  35. Jeff

    Ray –

    You mentioned that no new watches are expected this year… what does that mean for the timing of the Wahoo Rival, will that be another year away or maybe a spring launch?

    Thanks!

  36. Nick Jones

    I am currently using the Tacx Flow Smart, but am tempted by an upgrade to the Elite Drivo (NOT the Drivo II) which is currently on sale for £600 in the UK. Given this price is there any reason not to go for it? I realise it is two years old and being phased out, but it seems a good deal. A bit of noise doesn’t bother me (or anyone else) given I Zwift in a garage and normally wear headphones anyway.

  37. I must say I do not really get this “I wish it had a cassette installed”. In the end you pay for it, wether it is pre-installed or not. I am into vintage/retro bikes and my bike has a 9-speed cassette. If I buy a trainer that comes with a cassette I will end up paying twice: once for the pre-installed cassette that has to come off and will never be used and another time for a new 9-speed cassette.

    • Ultimately you do pay for it, but you pay less for it installed and it minimizes the junk you have to deal with.

      When you’re buying it pre-installed then the company is bulking them at cost, versus you paying for it at a shop. And for most consumers (because overwhelmingly, it’s 11spd these days), that means they’ve either got to go buy the tools (more money) or may someone else to install it (yet even more money).

  38. Gustavo Gomez

    You can always get the elite Direto under $700 on the internet. If you are paying more, you are not really looking.
    By far it’s the best value on mid grade trainers.

    Elite drivo is just the best road feeling and you can get the trainer around $1100 as well.

  39. Dave T

    Hi Ray, as always, a great article. I have a Trek mountain bike (Fuel Ex) with a SRAM 12 speed drive train and a boost 148 rear hub. I would like my training to include steep climbs. Any suggestions on a trainer that I can use 3x a week in between forest rides?

  40. Frank Eeckman

    The Elite Direto has been available for $699 for over a month now.

    • Sorta.

      For the US market (which is what matters in terms of using the $ sign), Elite actually is clearancing out their ‘older’ 2017 Elite Direto’s. There’s no physical difference between this and the 2018 ones, except the 2018 ones come with a $5 wheel block. As such, most $699 retailers have already sold out on them at those clearance prices, bringing the normal price back to $849.

      I don’t try and account for every sale price out there for these guides, because it’s to fluid. If we fast forward a few weeks, Elite doesn’t expect any of those $699 (in the US) units to be available. So I can’t give them a pass on it, since that’s not really useful medium to long term. Now, if they’d stayed at $699 for Direto, then easily it’d have been in that category and leading it.

  41. Thanks for this updated version Ray ! Amazing work as always !

    I’ll probably buy my first trainer soon (kickr core), and I’m a little bit worried about much “stress” my bike frame will suffer on one of these trainers ? Do they have some horizontal slack of something like that ?

    Thanks !

    • Short answer: No real-world issues.

      Long answer: It requires reading through your bike manufs specific policies on trainer uses. But even once you’ve done that it’s not enforceable in any real-world legal sense. Especially as those same trainer companies have started sponsoring Zwift rides and using it in marketing. To say you can’t ride a trainer and then market with that same bike on a trainer gives them no wiggle room.

      Writing something up on it continues to be on my to-do list, especially with respect to Canyon’s policies.

    • Thanks for the short / long answer Ray, I did not even know about those policies !

  42. jeremiah bell

    I am confused about the “maximum simulated incline” metric. Wouldn’t max simulated incline also be highly dependent on the weight of the rider (as input into the simulation?)

    Is this metric influenced by Zwift’s trainer difficulty setting? If I leave the Zwift trainer difficulty setting at the default of 50% and use a trainer with a max simulated incline of 10%, will the trainer continue to increase the resistance until the grade reaches 20%?

    • Michal

      Yes it is decedent on the weight of the rider. For example for Tacx it is 75kg of total weight.

      This metric is not directly influenced by Zwift’s trainer difficulty. It is software based drtting and affects virtual incline. Trainer will change resistance accordingly to what Zwift ‘tells’ it up to it’s max simulated incline.

    • Most trainer companies use a default rider weight of between 70 and 75kg in their calculations for it.

      Tacx shared some work this summer they’re doing around this and trying to make this more even across the board, though I don’t think that’s been published yet.

      Do note that the trainer difficulty setting does impact how this manifests itself though (default 50% in Zwift).

  43. Robert Colombo

    Great write up! Do you know if/when clever training is doing a fall VIP sale. I think I am going to pick up a kickr core but 20% off would be nice! Do you see any reason to go with the kickr over the core?

  44. botina

    Just got my Core couple of days ago, reading this was like “plz dont tell me I made a wrong choice” :)))
    great post like always, I remember how I found about this blog by getting to last years edition of this post via google, subscribed to all your channels since.

    1 quick question if someone can help. I use both road bike and mtb on my trainer. Do I have to recalibrate each time I switch my bike? I only care about precise power output so do I need to edit my wheelbase, wheel circumference and recalibrate each time I change my bike or are those things just for optional speed/cadence calculations? thx

    • Nope, in this case the bike you put on it won’t impact the calibration. My understanding is that it’s really more temp swings or moving it (shipping) that could impact it.

  45. Daniel Ritsma

    Hi.

    Great as always. I am interested to hear about the freehub being as quiet as possible too. I tried out a Direto recently (not that quiet), the sound while cycling was one thing, but the freehub….. OMG! Sum total, much more noise that my Kickr Snap, with my bike that has a relatively silent freehub.

    Can you also include in your silence eval the sound of the freehub?

    Tnx

  46. Mattv

    Which high end trainer is the most responsive (fastest response)?

    I have a Drivo I and I notice a bit of lag, but I love the road feel. Much better than the Neo or Kickr (i’m the Imelda Marcos of trainers, I’m afraid….)

    • Drivo II is pretty good (3x faster than Drivo 1).

      NEO 1/2 is pretty fast as well.

      If you look at my TrainerRoad profile, you can actually look at all the tests there for all trainers for response time. I do the exact same DCR 30×30 test each time, and generally speaking that’s going from ~150w to ~400w.

      Here’s the 30×30 sets: https://www.trainerroad.com/cycling/workouts/199459-dc-rainmaker-30×30-trainer-test

      Do note that sometimes my exact gearing can impact the results slightly. Or, as was the case with one trainer (the Elite Drivo II in fact), whether it was BLE or ANT+ seemed to impact results too (significantly).

  47. Alex Masidlover

    Any thoughts on a trainer to share with my son? I ride an 11 speed 105 – 700C bike and my son has an 8 speed Alivio 650 bike. Unless I’m missing anything then it has to be a wheel-on gravity attached trainer – if I want to easily put either bike on (I had a Tacx Flow Smart but that required you to remove and re-attach the resistance unit to change between wheel sizes).

    • Yeah, I’d definitely go wheel-on in that scenario. You should be able to mix and match a 700c and 650c bike no problem on any wheel-on trainer though (as the press-on mechanism will tighten it up). For example, The Girl has a 650c triathlon bike, and we’ve long since shared trainers. More recently that’s been direct drive, but prior to that it wasn’t.

  48. Gail

    Hey, Ray — I am Girl-size with an FTP currently under 130 and a Kickr Snap. It is wildly inaccurate – sometimes 30% different from my PT hub – and Wahoo confirms it will not calibrate below about 120, making erg mode useless most of the time. I would love to discuss with you the “floor” on various trainers; you would be doing a great service to many not-yet-super-strong women everywhere.

  49. Hairpin77

    The Kinetic Smart Control 2018 shouldn’t have made the list. Don’t get me wrong, I love using mine… when it works. The first one had overheating issues, and the resistance would lock up. Kinetic sent a replacement which was extremely loud and didn’t provide any resistance on simulated hills. Basically a dumb trainer.

    Kinetic stopped responding to my emails about the faulty product they sent as a replacement. Despite being well within my two-year warranty. Radio silence.

    The only difference with the 2018 model is a chipset supporting ANT+. Don’t risk it! Do yourself a favor and buy a Kickr Snap.

    • Sucks to hear about the customer support issues. Though, I can point to a comment somewhere here on the site for every trainer company where someone was displeased with the level of support. Thus its somewhat hard for me to remove all trainers due to a single support incident.

      Instead, I tend to look at trends. For example, you’ll notice I called Bkool as concerning on support trends (I struggled to find a single good support comment for them). In fact, it’s odd to hear of Kinetic’s issues. By and large their customer support is actually really good (I’d caution that’s slightly different than some of the technical issues they’ve had with the inRide V3 for example, but that’s a different ball of wax).

      Finally, note that the 2018 models are actually a bit different than just a chipset update. My understanding is there’s also some better temp compensation stuff in there as well. And even the ‘just chipset’ part is a massive shift across the board for the chipset. Like going from iOS to Android sort of shift (again, for better or worse as I noted in my note in the post above).

    • Charlie

      For my part I’ve had a similar experience with my original (ca 2016) smart control unit. It was serviceable at times for a year. But then, after continuing to have issues, Kinetic sent me a new smart control unit this spring (Shoutout to Steve!). Man, I didn’t even know how jacked up first unit was, but now the new one works fine.

      Not a huge fan of all the calibrations, and I’m not sure how accurate the readings are even with a proper calibration, but the thing changes resistance and does erg and fluid mode.

      The app interface is by and large pretty good. Although they recently did an update where they removed the requirement of the 10 minute warm-up prior to calibration. Nice to have removed that requirement, but it would have been better to allow for turning it on or off. Now I just have to budget an extra 10 minutes in free ride to cal before jumping into my workout. A minor thing, but the little things matter!

      Hope that experience helps! Seems like the 2018 units work and function well. But, based on my experience with the app interface and unit overall, not sure it’s all worth the effort.

      Also, why I have cooled any excitement for the R1. I have a feeling that release will have similar “growing pains.”

    • Aldo

      Looks like I just have this problem with mine. Bought in 2016 and couldn´t use much for the past year and a half. Now that I was finally able to do this (even with this lock up issues I was able to use it) it looks like it gave up last Saturday, after a mere 3-month use. Waiting for KK reply now on this.

  50. Michael

    Thank you Ray for all your work. Is the purpose of calibrating a Wahoo KICKR/core merely to obtain accurate power values or does it also impact the way the trainer works? In other words, If I have an external power meter, does calibration matter? Thanks

  51. Karl

    Can the tacx neo have fitted a Shimano 8 speed cassette from what I can see it’s 9 through to 11 speed

    If so will it take much converting

    Reason. For 8 speed cassette is I only use a cheap Bike on a trainer a Carrera Virtuoso bike

    If not compatible then I’m looking at getting a kickr snap

    Regards karl

  52. Ken Clark

    Graduated from the KurtKinetic smart trainer.
    The Wahoo Kickr has been a great step up
    Using it along with the Zwift program, and it works well with apple TV
    Thumbs up on this one

  53. chup

    Any trainer that is compatible with XD-R cassette? Obviously SRAM is gonna introduce 12-speed with XD-R next year. I wonder if the top end models support it. E.g. Tacx Neo.

    • Daveymorrisuk

      CycleOps Hammer and H2 is the only one i am aware of that supports a XD-R freehub. But even then on their website they confusingly just call it out as a XD freehub not -R.
      You could always go with the cheaper NX level cassette’s from SRAM which has a Shimano style fit.
      But i’m with you, I’d love it for all of the direct drive people to support XD/XD-R.

    • Michal

      Yeah, I see no reason to use expensive XD-R cassette on the trainer where weight is irrelevant and cheaper, standard hub alternatives are available. Spinning out of gears can be solved easily on the software side (Zwift “trainer difficulty” slider etc.).

    • chup

      If it’s really that simple I’d buy the NX.

      Would 12-speed RD go too close to the Neo flywheel? The NX cassette works by dishing the big cogs towards the spokes. Could the same dishing strategy work the same on Neo? That’s my concern.

    • NM

      Just use an 11x cassette. The spacing on the seam 11 speed is apparently the same as eagle12, thus cassette clearance could be improved by ditching the dished 12th gear? I guess a standard 11x cassette on the trainer would therefore work fine with eagle shifters, just don’t over shift unless you adjust the stop screws

    • daveymorrisuk

      No that’s not correct. The spacing is different between SRAM 11 and 12 speed. An 11 speed cassette will not work on a 12 speed Eagle system. The mechs may be interchangeable (although not advisable) but the shifters pull different amounts of cable and the spacing on the cassette’s is different.
      @Chup, yes good point about the dishing. I’m not sure about the Neo, but there is loads of space on my Wahoo Kickr and Elite Kura/Drivo. Also don’t forget that a std road freehub is wider (36.75mm) than a mtb (34.95mm) one and you’ll need to use a 1.8mm spacer to shim out a mtb cassette. With that in mind i’d take a punt that there would be plenty of space for the overhanging dish with an Eagle cassette, but maybe someone with a Neo can confirm.

  54. Jens Øxenberg

    Hi Ray, Just bought a Tacx Neo 2018 version. Fantastic product. Though I did a FTP test in Trainerroad, and was surprised, that my level was much lower than with my Favero ASsiomo pedals (Duo). I took a new ride for an hour and compared the two outcomes – one from TACX Neo – and one from the pedals (with a Garmin 520+). It seems like TACX Neo measures between 10-18% less than my pedals – though the curves is very similar/parallel.

    Have you heard about this before – and do you know how to fix it….

    BR Jens O

  55. Mike

    Quick question on the derailleur cage size and compatibility with the TACX Flux 1:

    I have a Cross Bike with a Sram Apex 1, 11-42 Cassette. How do I know if the Flux 1 would work or I need to choose the Flux S instead?

    THX

    • Michal

      Google “tacx flux derailleur” and you will find image showing what and where to measure. Shift to the gear where derailleur cage is extended the most.

  56. John

    Hi Ray,

    For a triathlete who wants to start training with power and plans to spend some $$$ this holiday season, which would you suggest:
    1. High-end smart trainer
    2. Power meter pedals (Garmin or PowerTap) to be used with an old (but still working) CycleOps fluid trainer

    I live in the Midwestern US and spend a lot of time on the trainer in the winter and a lot of time dodging potholes in the spring. Thanks and great work as usual.

    • Marlon

      Honestly, I’d get the pedals first! You can train indoors and outdoors with them. Also, eventually when you get around to a Smart Trainer, the ability to use “power match” or other similar features will be awesome.

  57. Simon

    Hi Ray,
    I’m not sure where, but did I read that you can calibrate some trainers whilst logged on to the Zwift app?
    If so could you tell me which ones please.

    Thanks for your help.

  58. JD

    If you want one trainer for all situations the STAC Zero Halycon is a top contender. Besides no-noise, a major benefit is portability. No other smart trainer folds completely flat and fits in travel luggage or a pizza delivery bag. It slips easily under a bed or coffee table in a small apartment. There are no qualms riding it in a hotel room or at a campground on battery.
    You can avoid fiddling with setup by adding a training wheel with weights pre-mounted, ready to ride.
    If you can afford two trainers — one a fixture in your workout room and another for travel — the Halcyon is a natural choice for trainer #2.

    • Steve

      Also, no belts, no pulleys, no tire wear, self calibrating, no spin downs, lightweight.

    • Michal

      … and crappy road feel.

    • I think it depends on the road feel. It’s really easy to get crappy road feel with it, it’s harder to get it right. But you can indeed get it right. But it still won’t match other trainers in that ballpark road feel wise.

      Ultimately, it depends on what you want.

    • Steve

      Hi Ray,

      I’ve been using the Stac Halcyon in ERG mode doing a Zwift workout program. It’s easily adjustable for ERG transitions. They can range from comfortable to crazy fast. When you talk about getting the road feel right for Sim mode, are you talking only about adjusting the inertia slider in the app? Are there other tweaks you found helpful in dialing in the road feel?

      Thanks.

    • Mostly actually about tweaking the weights and ensuring alignment is spot-on. Though, things are a bit different in the final product from what I tested back this spring/summer.

    • Paul S

      I upgraded my Kickstarter STAC to a Halcyon using the upgrade kit. The biggest surprise is that I haven’t yet really felt the need to put the (old style) wheel weights on, which I didn’t want to yet because there’s still a chance I’ll take that bike outside. I don’t know for sure, but they might be modulating the position of the magnets to minimize the problem. So far it’s been working well, but I’ve only done about 7 rides on it, and only 3 under FE-C control (so far simple workouts). I can’t get excited about “road feel” because I’m indoors and not on the road, but it feels like, say, rollers do or like the old fixed magnet STAC did with the weights on.

  59. Adam

    Ray, on the Clever Training site it only lists the Elite Direto II and not the original Direto. What changes did they make to the new version?

  60. Ian

    Any thoughts on durability/warranty?

    Recently I have had some rough warranty coverage issues with a few KICKRs of the 2014 vintage and Wahoo seems to be of the opinion that most issues require the KICKR to shipped back to them. The shipping fee on that is at the very least $50 just to get a warranty process started. They were also hinting that they would probably be looking at the equivalent of crash replacement pricing… 3 to 4 years and done on $1200 direct drive trainers? what is that all about.

    1 year of coverage on a $1200 product is a little pitiful.

    • CGSjr

      I agree about the pathetic warranty for these. I am ready and willing to purchase a direct drive this year but the warranty alone gives me no confidence in durability.

      For the asking price of $1000 I expect the trainer to be built right and that means that all issues have been resolved and that the company stands behind that assertion.

      With only 1 year warranty, (or even two years for the Kinetic electronics), the message that I get is that these companies don’t have any lasting confidence in their own product.
      If they don’t have the confidence to say that their trainer will continue to work for me for more than 1 or 2 years then this industry needs to seriously look into making a better product.

    • I’m not aware of any consumer electronic or cycling product in the US that has more than a 1-year warranty by default. There’s a handful that have done 2-year warranties because the EU requires it.

      But ultimately, I’m just not hearing issues with people using trainers beyond 1-2 years and having problems. In the vast majority of cases what I see here, if someone’s going to have a problem, it’ll be on day 1, or at worst within the first 30 days.

      Not discounting folks having issues at 3-4 years, but I remember having issues on my CompuTrainer back in the day and the pricing was the same there. I paid shipping on it (the resistance unit in that case, but still heavy), as well as even just a basic service fee to look at it. I know it wasn’t any less than about $125.

    • Alex Masidlover

      Anecdata; I killed two Tacx Flow Smarts both at about 18 months old. Thankfully because we’re in the EU (for the moment…) Tacx replaced both – I’ve sold the new replacement and am looking for something a bit more robust.

      I suspect doing 3 workouts a week with 20-30 mins of each workout >300W might be a bit much for the budget trainers… (Why am I doing 20-30 mins >300W in each workout – because my coach told me to…)

    • Ian

      I suppose my issue is not with the warranty specifically, but more with design intent.

      It is very clear how a KICKR/any indoor trainer is going to be ridden, decently high wattage, intervals, lots of mileage/time, plenty of sweat. This is arguably a more predictable set of circumstances than a bike faces being ridden outdoors. a $1300 bicycle can be reasonably expected to last at least 10 years. This is a very premium product, on par with a power meter. There is a very reasonable expectation of durability by the customer and the products are not living up to that.

      I just want some acknowledgement that these direct drive trainers are still in the relative infancy of their development and recently i am seeing durability issues that seem to be a direct result of that.

    • There is another issue that makes a 1 year warranty not really a 1 year warranty. For most people a trainer is mostly used in the winter, so you but a trainer before winter hits and use it a few months during the winter. Spring comes so away goes the trainer. When does the trainer get used again? When it gets cold again. That would generally fall right outside the one year warranty.

      Where do people leave the trainer in the summer? In the basement. A usually hotter and more humid place. If the trainer is built well it should be fine. Maybe they use lower quality metals that rust or have other issues with sitting unused for awhile, you never subjected the trainer to this. So the first time you do when you come back to use it there is no warranty to come back to.

      Thankfully I took out my trainer about two weeks before its one year anniversary so its problem should be covered by the warranty since the clever trainer receipt says Nov 9. (I think its bad bearings, but not sure)

    • JD

      At this point more and more smart trainers are ridden year-round.
      Zwift alone has changed the behavior on that. So have structured workouts especially for anyone on a time constrained schedule.

    • Did you see how many people reacted to zwift increase in price by saying they’ll only pay for the months they use it? I hardly see any zwift rides on my strava feed during the summer but do in winter.

      We aren’t all racers trying to be as fast as we can be, some of us bike just for fun

    • David Chrisman

      I’m canceling my zwift this month–I like it a lot but $15 is more than I value it. I am a bit sad as I just started importing xert workouts into zwift and that is pretty awesome. Think I’ll “downgrade” to xert on iOS and record for Strava with bike computer. Rouvy if monotony gets to me…

    • JD

      Rouvy’s new AR looks interesting.
      3D riders on 2D videos with hundreds of HD routes to choose from.

  61. flan

    The definition of direct drive specifically excludes belt-driven. Look it up. We don’t get to choose our own definitions. Direct drive is a well-understood and well-defined term for more than a century. My technics turnatable is direct drive because it’s directly driven. My thorens turntable is belt-driven They both play records. The “direct drive” trainers here are almost all belt-driven. By definition they are not direct drive. Why not refer to them using an accurate term like ‘belt-driven” or ‘direct-mount” instead of a blatantly false description that the industry uses to deliberately mislead?

    • And a tissue isn’t a Kleenex.

      I didn’t invent the term, but there’s not a single person in the entire cycling community that doesn’t call them direct drive trainers. I’m not about to add more confusion here just to be pedantic.

      (Funny side note: In 6 years+ years of direct drive trainers, this is the first complaint I’ve heard/seen about the language of it).

    • I think the term is pretty fitting as it refers to how it connects to the bike and you think of the trainer as a black box. Is the trainer directly driven though an almost completely lossless and non variable connection of the chain or though a lossy and variable connection of the tire.

      So a direct drive trainer is directly driven by the bike

  62. Ray – I recently upgraded my Kinetic Smart Control Unit on my Rock and Roll. Connection issues and incompatibility were the main reasons for the switch, but I also wanted to record power on my Garmin 110. It would give me another GRAPH, Data Geek. I received my unit from Clever Training last night, and tried to pair the two units without success. Do you know if this is a systemic problem or is it just something that a firmware update will fix sometime in the near future?
    If not, then another nail in Kinetics coffin…Just saying.

    • It’s not yet in the current firmware version. You can technically pair via ANT+ FE-C today if your Garmin supports it (most Garmin Edge units do), then that’ll work. It’s on the short-term radar to do vanilla ANT+ broadcasting of power, but they’re waiting on some aspects of the underlying chipset to firm up a bit (which ironically, is waiting on Garmin for GFit, the module Kinetic is using).

      (Note: I think there’s a typo in the Garmin 110 – can you clarify which model it is? Unless you mean the running watch Forerunner 110, which doesn’t support power unfortunately.)

    • Richard Tomassetti

      It is a Edge 130 sorry. I know it should connect, but alas it does not. Is there a time line on this feature?

    • Gotchya. Yeah, Edge 130 doesn’t support FE-C.

      However, it does support Bluetooth Smart power, so you actually should have been able to see that in the listing. Just to clarify, you have the absolute newest Kinetic Control (bought in the last 2-3 weeks)?

    • Yes I just received it from Clever Training yesterday!!! Was on pre-order.

    • I also have a Garmin 820 for outdoors, will that work?

    • So a Garmin Edge 820 will connect over ANT+ FE-C, so see if it sees that as a starting point. Also, double-check that you’re on the latest firmware (Kinetic). I can see tomorrow if I can make an Edge 130 find it.

    • I am Zwift Crit Racing tonight, although I’ll come in last, I will try the 820 then and respond. Thank you so much for the help!!! T

    • The Garmin Edge 820 did work with the New Kinetic Smart Control Unit. There was a caveat, however, I had to ask it to Search All Sensors, instead of Power. I tried just searching for Power first without success, however, once I searched for All then it cam up as an Indoor Trainer…Go figure!

    • Ahh yes, sorry, should have mentioned that.

      One minor thing to be aware of though with pairing via FE-C and concurrently having another app control the trainer is that FE-C is technically for control. So you can get into a situation where two devices are fighting for control.

  63. Martin Juarez Ferrer

    Hi Ray,

    I’m considering my furst trainer, and I’ll get a budget unit. Do you think Tacx Flow is a better option than Tacx Vortex that you recommended last year??

    Thanks a lot!!!

    Martin

  64. Yannick

    Hi
    I would like to know if it’s possible to command a tacx trainer with my garmin 935 or it’s only with cycle computer like edge 1030 ?

  65. Steph

    Which of the direct drive trainers performs best at intervals for the average cyclist? I seem to find complaints for all of them, not sure if people are just picky. I was considering Drivo II but the comments in the elite forum have me worried.

    One last one, are the new Wahoo’s Campy compatible?

    Thanks.

  66. Tyler

    Apologies if you’ve already covered this in the questions, Ray, but do you have a blog post where you describe the different apps or ways that you use your trainer?

    Considering making the plunge. Currently loathe training indoors, but need to get more rides in during evenings.

  67. Jailcopper

    I have a dumb question! My current ride has disc brakes. I want to purchase a direct drive trainer. Ive heard that with the rear wheel off and and you happen to hit the rear brakes, the pads will stick together and bad things may happen. Is there a certain way to prevent this? What is the common solution?
    Thanks brother! I visit your site often!

    • Paul S.

      My mountain bike came with little plastic inserts to put in between the pads when the wheel is off. That way the pads remain separated if you accidentally hit the brakes. You might want to look and see if yours came with those or if they’re available somewhere. Probably anything that can keep a gap between the pads (so you can pry them apart if necessary) will do.

    • Paul N.

      It depends on if your disk brakes are self adjusting or not. If they are not (most mechanical disk brakes fall into this category) then there is nothing to worry about. If they are than like the other Paul suggested you can use a spacer of some kind. Another option is that some brakes have a lockout on them to lock the brake in place. My road bike has TRP HY/RD brakes and they have this so I just lock the caliper if I want to use it on the trainer…and make very sure to unlock it before using the bike outside. 🙂

  68. dave

    ray – where is the stac zero halcyon listed for $749.00? The company web site has it listed for $799 (only place i could find it). CT does not have it listed – although i heard they will. thanks. great web site

  69. Charlie

    Never really followed it before but, are there usually decent discounts on trainers for black friday? Wahoo? Tacx?

  70. Mayhem

    While I only skimmed the article I saw no mention whatsoever with regards to thru-axle compatibility. Shouldn’t this at least be mentioned in the chapter about attaching the trainer to the bike? As many road cyclists (myself included) are making the move to disc brakes, it’d be a huge help to have this added to the data comparison tables for all trainers.

    Also, rather than a simple yes/no field, I’d also like to see specified whether the trainer has true 142×12 axle compatibility. Meaning, can the bike’s own supplied axle be used (as unfortunately many different threading standards exist) or would it require a finicky adapter from a standard QR skewer (like at least early KICKR models do if I’m not mistaken).

    • Most (all I think?) support thru-axles of some types today, so it’s actually less of an issue than it was just 12-24 months ago.

      That said, adding in the specifics of compatibility is on my short-ish to-do list for the product comparison database. Just waiting for a (really) rainy day to go and research them all and add them in.

    • Ian

      I have an endurance bike and I recently had to scan the market for the thru axle options: every wheel-on trainer I’ve seen will work with a thru axle adapter (there’s dozens of manufacturers – Robert Axle Project being the most reputable and thorough) because they simply reproduce the shape of the ubiquitous quick release skewer and few, if any, wheel-on’s include an adapter. The Wahoo Kickr direct drive trainers come with easy to use adapters and all other companies appear to sell thru axle adapters for their direct drive models.

      As per your yes/no question, I don’t think it would be responsible for Ray to answer that at all – leave that to bike reviewers. Bike manufacturers have very different thru axles and it would be a disservice to offer an umbrella statement. Giant, for example, has a massive lever that make standard mounting impossible.

  71. Kevin Teasdale

    I’m looking forward to your review of the atom/neo bike.

    Any chance the bkool smart bike will be up for comparison as well?

    • I don’t plan a review of the Bkool bike at this point. Honestly virtually no interest from folks about it. 🙁

    • Kevin Teasdale

      Thanks for replying DC

      That’s a shame 🙁

      I quite like the idea of it being a spin bike TBH. Ive only seen two reviews on it but neither really give any real insight into power measurement/accuracy and bkool offer even less.

      Any idea if the neo can be used to do eccentric training. I asked a while back if it could and they dud say that theoretically it was possible but they weren’t planning on releasing it as a feature.

      Similar to this…

      link to cyclus2.com

  72. JD

    Is this to be believed? link to bit.ly
    It’s been over a year since Bkool displayed the prototype at a trade show.

  73. Tim

    Hey Ray,

    I am upgrading from my CycleOps JetFluid Pro at home this coming week. I am planning on buying the KICKR Core based upon both your review and a friends experience with Wahoo’s older KICKR. Additionally, I need a trainer for when I am working away from home. I typically spend ~ 2-weeks per month at a long-stay hotel and have storage available. I have a bike there (Salsa Vaya) and want to be able to consistently follow a training plan on TrainerRoad while there. From a cost standpoint, a wheel-on trainer looks to be the best solution (hard to pul off two KICKR Cores with SWMBO).

    Would you recommend keeping it “in the family” and leaning towards a KICKR Snap? I do not have power meters on either of my bikes so I’ll depend on TrainerRoad or my smart trainer to deliver that info.

    Would you recommend any other avenue or set of trainers to deliver the best and most cost-effective training?

    Thanks!!!

    Tim

    • Hi Tim-

      Not sure if you saw the 20% off deal I posed this morning, but…that might allow you to pickup the CORE for almost the same price as the SNAP normally…something that might pass the SWMBO test.

      If so however, I’d agree the SNAP is a good option. The other might be the Zumo, though availability isn’t till early December and I still have two outstanding questions there.

      Finally, you could definitely consider any of the Flux units. For example, the Flux 1 is available at $699 from Clever Training, and with 20% off available on that, a steal. Or the Flux S which supports longer cages at $749.

    • Tim

      Thanks Ray!

      I am pulling the trigger on the Core this week. My 2nd trainer will be on hold until at least January when I am actually in Miami to receive it. I do not think it’s helpful to order it to my home then ship it, but perhaps that is short-sighted. I do have an REI membership, so I could leverage a discount there as well. I appreciate the advice, quick reply and your detailed reviews.

      Cheers,

      Tim

  74. Steph

    So, locally the jump in price from flux/direto to Drivo 2 is fairly small. Ultimately I’d love the neo but it’s a different bracket I can’t really do. Is the Drivo 2 a decent upgrade over the flux or direto? And should the 36 free months of e-training software with the Drivo 2 factor into the decision or is it pretty useless?

    • Woah, Drivo (not Direto)? Yeah, that’s a big bump in features, primarily in resistance and feel. Especially with the Drivo II response time. I’d jump on that deal quick before someone changes their mind.

      The 36 free months of Elite’s software should not factor into the decision at all. I mean, maybe somebody uses it. I haven’t met any of those people yet.

    • leon

      You haven’t met me yet…….

      But as there are still issues between the elite qubo smart b+ and zwift (BLE you peddle 140 cadence and are lucy to get 250 watts going up a hill, this stems from it originally being overgunned in the power department). Anyway the only realistic resistance I have found is on elite’s video courses on their app, so there is a minor reason for its existence.

  75. Steph

    Yeah, little LBS that’s always been could to me with pricing. I’ve spent way too much money there over the years. Keeps me from internet shopping.

    For some reason he can do a good discount on the Drivo II. I think I’ll go for it. Thanks!

  76. Vitek

    Lads, help me pick my first trainer. I’m choosing between KICKER 2017 and KICKER CORE, both new. The 2017 is on sale and I can it get about 100 USD cheaper than the CORE.

    The main differences I see are that the CORE is silent but has less resistance (1800 W vs 2000 W) and lesser gradient (16% vs 20%). The KICKR2017 comes with a cassette (not a big deal to me). I think the 61 db max “loudness” of the 2017 doesn’t seem terrible either when I take into account fan+music+drivetrain noise. The handle or lack of it doesnt really matter to me. Anyway, I’m slightly leaning towards the KICKR 2017. Have I overlooked anything?

    Thanks!

  77. Ian

    Skimming through the review, I had a moment of regret at buying the CycleOps Hammer a couple of years ago. It’s been a solid trainer; was a bit pricey at the time. But I couldn’t remember why I decided to buy it instead of the Kickr.

    Then I remembered it was (and may still be) the only direct-drive smart trainer that supports my 29er MTB with Boost rear hub spacing. I know DCR trends towards the truth/crit crowd, but I wanted to flag that—I know it took me a while to figure it out.

    Have any of the other trainer manufacturers added increased compatibility?

    • Indeed, that was an advantage years ago when the Hammer came out. But these days, all of them support all the major standards. The KICKR for example: 130/135mm QR, 12×142, and 12×148 Thru Axle – Adapters included.

  78. Andy

    Hey Ray,
    Any update on when the full review for the Elite Zumo may be ready? Really wondering if it’s worth the extra $200 savings vs. the Wahoo KICKR CORE. Thanks!

    • I just got word an hour or so ago that they’ve got two fixes in for the two issues I was concerned about. I replied back asking what the timeframe for those were. As soon as I have that, I’ll circle back on exactly when I can get a review out.

      Both issues are easy to test for – so it won’t take but just another ride or two after I get the firmware update to be able to push my largely already done review.

    • JohnnyJ71

      Hi. I am in the same boat between the Elite Zumo or the Tacx Flux S. This will be my first smart trainer and want to get one of them before the Clever Training sale ends in a few days. Based on what you know so far, which one would you go with?

    • I got a note this morning saying they’re at most 2-3 weeks away from a software fix. Hopefully sooner.

      In the case of the Zumo, that wasn’t going to ship till then anyways. Whereas the Flux S ships now (or heck, you can even pickup the original Flux 1 for $699 right now on clearance – and you might even be able to stack the 20%, not sure on that one offhand).

      It’s a summer 2018 Flux 1, so the only difference between it and the Flux S is the slightly different/more clearance on the Flux S.

    • JohnnyJ71

      Thanks for the reply. I dont mind waiting for the Zumo if you think its a better unit (with the firmware fixes). I also the clearance on the Flux S might make it a bit more future proof if I go the Tacx route. So I suppose my question is do you think the Zumo is worth it or is the Flux the better trainer?

    • Realistically I think they’ll be a wash when all is said and done. That’s just my guess based on where they both feel right now riding them almost back to back.

    • JohnnyJ71

      Thanks again. I actually pulled the trigger on an Elite Direto based on your and DC Lammas review. I figured it’s worth the extra money.

  79. Alisha Shutler

    Hey Ray,

    Maybe you can help me? My old Vortex has officially died and I’m in the market for a new trainer. I’m completely torn between saving some $$ and upgrading to the Wahoo CORE, or really splurging and going all in on the Neo, and I want to take advantage of the 20% sale while I can! I’m a huge data nerd and like the accuracy on the Neo, but at the same time I know I’ll never, ever be able to take advantage of the huge power output that the Neo can provide, although 20% gradients might be nice. Would I notice the difference in power accuracy on the CORE vs the Neo? Is there a comfort level difference, given that the Neo can handle some swaying? I spend a lot of time riding indoors this time, and if there was a notable difference in comfort that would sway my decision. And honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever be interested in investing an extra $500 just for a machine to lift my bike up…

    • I don’t think most people would notice the accuracy on CORE vs NEO. Especially with the latest updates. As long as you every once in a while update the CORE’s spindown/rolldown, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

      As for sway, there may be some sway in the Neo – but honestly, I almost never notice it. Maybe because I ride so many different trainers or something, but it just doesn’t stick out.

      As much as I love the Neo – the value prop of the CORE specifically makes that hard (since you could get both a CORE+CLIMB for the same price as the NEO (on sale).

    • Alisha Shutler

      Thank you, Ray! That helps… Looks like I’ll save some $$ and get the CORE for now. Save the extra money for the holidays.

  80. Mikko Lehmuskoski

    Hi Ray,
    As a Finnish citytriathlete, I keep my trainer in my balcony. I have decided to update to direct drive smart trainer, thinking of Kickr or Neo. Do you have any insight on storing and using it outside in temperatures from -5 degrees to +5 degrees, or storing it outside when its -20 degrees. My worry is that it wont work in cold and even more that it will break due to moisture when temperatures fluctuate near zero degrees.

    • I’m mixed on it. Personally, I’d be hesitant to put any trainer where things might get condensation inside them. Over time, that’s challenging (they deal with sweat drippage just fine, but they’re designed to have sweat/water from certain angles, not nessessarily on the inside of it).

      Cold-wise though, no issues with operation. I’d just be hesitant on leaving it outside year-round.

  81. Charlie Anderson

    Not sure where to ask this, but I figured this is the closest. My wife and I are thinking of taking the Zwift plunge. We’ve an apple TV and would like to ride side by side. Is this possible or what are most people’s setups to ride concurrently?

    • Yup, totally possible.

      In fact, here’s a pic on The Girl’s Instagram feed from just last week with us doing exactly that: link to instagram.com

    • JD

      The Instagram pic shows riding side-by-side with two logins on separate monitors.
      How do you configure Zwift for one Apple TV and two rider accounts?

    • Ahh, sorry, I thought you had two Apple TV’s (which is what we have). It’s pretty much the cheapest option out there.

      Note that Zwift does actually store both logins though, so when you start up an Apple TV Zwift session it asks you which person you want to login with, which is pretty nifty.

    • JD

      I was asking for Charlie Anderson. I’m not an Apple groupie or Zwombie. ;- )
      I assume one rider could log into their Zwift account connected to the Apple TV and the other via their iOS device. As long as they keep pace with one another they’ll be side by side on the big screen.

      How do big screen systems work at a fitness center with multiple riders?
      Does Zwift support watch-only mode to display multiple riders logged into a specific event so only those riders are displayed? Preferably with each rider’s stats.

    • Charlie Anderson

      +1
      Would like to be on the same screen as my riding partner. I guess right now I would do one on the Apple TV and the other on a laptop…

    • Ahh, gotchya. Yeah, no method I’m aware of to getting on some screen. I mean, I know there are some TV screen doohickies and such, but that’s honestly still going to require two Apple TV devices.

      Fitness centers tend to either use software specifically designed for it (such as PerfPro, Wahoo’s Gym solution, etc…), or, they just end up having a bunch of screens spliced together.

      Most people have noted that Zwift has so much potential in the single-room multi-rider event space, but all of its untapped at this point.

  82. John

    Can you please explain why a certain trainer might work better/worse for a heavier rider when it comes to max simulated elevation? I guess I am having a hard time understanding why it would make a difference.

    Thanks!

  83. Charlie

    I understand trainer choices are a personal decision, but I’ve run into a bit of a conundrum and would love any input.

    I currently have Kinetic Road Machine Smart Control unit from 2017. It works (I know, rare!), but I’m getting a bit sick of the warm-up, calibration etc.

    As a bit of a primer, with the winter coming in NC I’ll be doing the vast majority of my training inside with a little bit outside on the rare nice weekend. I do NOT foresee myself using zwift or any augmented reality platforms, but I will probably be using TrainerRoad or SufferFest for structured workouts. Currently I’ve been using the Kinetic Fit app.

    I’m of two minds on what to do next. One option is to get the 2018 Kickr. It would give me greater trainer functionality, remove the need to calibrate every time, and give me the portability and adjustability for uneven floors.

    My other thought is to get the Garmin vector 3 pedals and downgrade to a “dumb” trainer (Roadmachine etc.) This would give me the option of doing power training outside and get power readings inside. As well, I do kind of like the idea of the simplicity of a fluid trainer that doesn’t need to get plugged in etc., lower maintenance.
    However, I’m not sure if I would miss the trainer controlled resistance particularly in structured workouts.

    Looking to take advantage of the recent sales, so any recommendations or advice are welcome!

    Thanks!

    • Hun Cyclist

      I have a 2016 Kickr Snap (version 1) that I’ve had a mixed relationship with – it’s had connection issues and despite Advance Calibration, still reads 20-40 watts low, which makes for frustrating transitions between indoor and outside riding. I do however love its robust construction and I know many others have good experience with Wahoo products. I’m thinking of picking up an Elite Zumo to replace it with the Clever Training 20% off deal.

      Is there any reason I shouldn’t do that? Should I be considering a replacement Snap Version 2?

    • I think in general the Elite Zumo would be an upgrade over the KICKR SNAP. Elite confirmed this morning they expect the firmware fix for the two issues I saw to be in place within 2-3 weeks max.

      On the flip side, you could also get a Tacx Flux S right now with the same for only $50 more (before the 20% off btw). It’s got super similiar specs and you can get instant gratification.

      Personally, if I had ~$1,000 to spend for a trainer and a power meter, I’d go with one of the Zumo or Flux units, and then one of the power meter meter deals such as the PowerTap P1. That gets you roughly at $1,000 (maybe a touch over) with both solid inside control and outside readings.

  84. JohnnyJ71

    Thanks again. I actually pulled the trigger on an Elite Direto based on your and lammas review. I figured it’s worth the extra money.

  85. I wish support as Wahoo was more transparent and better at communicating. I had to ship my kickr and climb back for warranty issues (unrelated issues on both, guessing bearings on the kickr and the cable on the remote for the climb wasn’t correctly attached) and was told:

    I have attached FedEx labels to get your units back to us. Once we receive confirmation that it has been dropped off at a FedEx location to ship back to us, we will cross ship a replacement to you. The replacement typically arrives to you within 3-5 business days.

    Fedex first scanned the packages into their system on wednesday, (dropped off at office depot on tuesday) so you would think wednesday or thursday they would send out the replacement since they said they would cross ship. Wahoo signed for the shipments at 10am on friday and still hear nothing from them and no shipments from them. (You can register on fedex and ups to know of any packages sent to your address) Be nice if they could at least acknowledge they got the trainer and went to expect them to ship out a working one. And if they are so backed up they can’t send out a working trainer don’t say they will cross ship.

    • This isn’t to say they are bad, its far too early to say that, and can’t say others would be better. Just that they aren’t doing what they said they would.