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Stages Bike (SB20) In-Depth Review

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The Stages Bike becomes what I’d argue is the ‘final’ competitor to land in the indoor smart bike space for probably some time. Last summer we saw Wahoo, Tacx, and Stages all launch their first smart bike offerings at Eurobike, albeit on varied timelines. That’s in addition to Wattbike already having theirs in the market at the time and just launching their updated V2 variant last week.

The Stages Bike is in many ways like those others, but also in many ways not. Each company has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Stages core strength is they’ve built more bikes than any other company in this segment. Sure, you might know them as a power meter company, but the rest of the world knows them as an indoor bike company, both with their own lineup of bikes, but also for numerous high profile brands too.

The Stages Bike’s origins are clearly from their commercial gym lineup – but it also pulls from the company’s power meter heritage too. Each Stages SB20 bike has a dual-sided power meter built into the crank arms. Unlike all the other bikes on the market, Stages is actually measuring power, not just doing the math on it. Though practically speaking, all the other bikes have been pretty darn accurate – so that hasn’t really been a true issue.

In any case, the main difference between the new Stages Bike (SB20) and all of Stage’s other bikes is that this one is a smart controllable bike that works with apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, and The Sufferfest. So when the terrain goes up, the bike, in turn, mimics that.

With that, I’ve had one now in the DCR Cave for almost two months and have been putting it through its paces with workouts 3-5 times a week. I’ve pedaled a lot on this bike. So much so that I even made a full review video on it. You can just tap play below:

Otherwise, you can continue on to piles of text.

Note that Stages sent over this media loaner unit to try out. Once I’m done with it, I’ll figure out how to get it back down the Dutch staircase and back into the semi-truck that dropped it off – so it can find its home back at Stages. Or maybe I’ll just stick it on a passing canal boat and hope for the best. Either way, if you found this review useful you can hit up the links at the bottom.

With that – let’s get digging into it!

Unboxing & Setup:

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For each company’s smart bike that I’ve unboxed, I’ve seen slightly different tacks taken with their box design. For example, with the Tacx NEO Bike Smart, it was all about a super-optimized and small box. For the Wattbike Atom, it was the idea that you could take the lid off the box and the bike was basically ready to go. With Stages? It was clearly: “This bike box is ready for war – we’re gonna pack this thing to fall out the back of an airplane and still survive!”

Which, might not be a bad plan. Until stairs are involved.

The stated shipping weight of the Stages bike and box is a hefty 160 pounds (72.5kg). In a non-COVID19 world, Stages had planned so-called ‘white-glove’ delivery, just like a Peloton bike. These days that’s not currently allowed, so they drop it at your door and you’ve gotta man or woman-up and make it work. Just like I did:

However, if going upstairs/downstairs you’re best to de-box it on the main level, as that’ll dramatically reduce the weight by having individual components to move. Obviously, in my case I didn’t do that and made my life more challenging. It’s how I generally roll.

Flip open the side of the box, and everything is somehow magically packed inside:

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Five minutes later of unboxing, it’ll look like this:

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And here’s a closer up gallery of those parts:

Roughly speaking this boils down to the following:

A) Bike frame
B) Bike feet/stabilizers
C) Handlebars
D) Front tablet holder
E) Nine million pieces of packaging
F) Power cord
G) A bunch of hex wrenches

No part of the installation is difficult, nor even hard to do solo. If you managed to get the box/parts where you wanted to by yourself, then that’s the hardest part. Most of it is simply time-consuming removing enough packaging to supply an Amazon warehouse for a few days. Better safe than sorry?

First up is getting the feet on the bike to get the bike all stabilized before attaching everything else:

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Next, you’ll slide the main front post/assembly onto the bike.

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This includes threading the wiring down the tube, but that’s mostly already done for you. You just attach it at the end.

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Then you’ve got the choice of attaching the tablet holder or not. In my case I added it, but you can skip it (especially if you plan to add triathlon/TT bars later). Or, if you’ve already got a big screen or something.

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Even though I have a big screen, I’ve found it perfect for TrainerRoad workouts. I use the big screen to watch what I’m gonna watch, while using the tablet holder to hold my iPad with TrainerRoad.

Next, we’ll need to install pedals on there. The bear-claw style cranks means you can choose from four crank arm lengths: 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, 175mm.

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You can choose whether or not to use a washer with your pedals depending on the pedal. In this case I went with a pedal with them to get just enough clearance for the pods. If using a hex wrench through the back of the pedal, it’s a bit tight – but you can make it work:

Next, you’ll need to remove the small battery tag off the battery compartment:

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The Stages Bike technically has three power meters on it: One per crank arm, and then a secondary reference one at the flywheel. The ones on each crank arm are basically like those from a Stages power meter that you’d install on your bike. Except in this case they control the entire casting/specs of the crank, so it’s even more accurate. But otherwise you can pair to that power meter just like a normal power meter. Kinda neat.

And finally, don’t forget to plug it in:

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You will need to remember to adjust in the Stages app afterwards the crank length to get correct power, don’t worry, it’ll walk you through that.

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And with that, we’ve got the bike ready to set up. Do double-check and ensure you’ve got the latest firmware, but we’ll talk about the app in a minute anyway.

The Basics:

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For this section, I’ll cover some of the basics of the hardware, before we get into setup of rider fit as well as things like gearing and shifting, plus app connectivity. All of which are detailed in separate sections. There’s a tiny bit of overlap from this section to others, but I think this is laying the foundation for later geekery.

Like all these bikes, it’ll require power to fully take advantage of all its features – namely resistance control and broadcasting of data. Though interestingly, the Stages Bike can actually still broadcast your power with just its little battery-powered crank arms, even when not plugged in. It’s a nifty party trick.

Here’s a closer look at the power brick specs:

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Now as I just alluded to, that doesn’t actually power the entire bike. It powers the ‘smart bike’ side of it, but the actual power broadcasting for the non-bike part comes from the crank arms. So those are the battery caps we removed the packing tape from back in the unboxing. Realistically that’ll last you at least a year – unless you’re putting in crazy hours on it weekly. It’s one CR2032 per crank arm.

However, the plug does power other aspects. For example, it’s what allows the bike to be smart controllable, increasing or decreasing resistance. Also, it’s what powers the shifting, as well as the two 2AMP USB ports at the front of the bike:

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I like these ports. Like the Tacx Bike, they’re in a good spot and have reliably powered all my things without issue. No problems keeping my iPad fully charged while also using it for Zwift or YouTube.

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Speaking of which, let’s take a look at this entire front console setup. As you remember from before, I selected to install the included tablet holder. You don’t have to, but it’s super well built and I’ve found good uses for it. With TrainerRoad, I run it on an iPad there, and then use my big screen TV for watching movies or whatever. And then with Zwift, I actually started using it with the same iPad turned vertically to run the companion app. Thus leaving my phone to run the Stages shifting app:

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The tablet holder is spring-loaded and easily fit my iPad both vertically or horizontally. Additionally, it has an inset piece to also hold just a smaller phone:

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The phone meanwhile has its own little throne, below the tablet holder (and still there if you don’t install the tablet holder). This has a rubberized non-slip surface that keeps it in place, and a gap in the bottom so a charging cable can go to your phone.

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You can also stash a remote control there too, but honestly, without any edges you’ll eventually just bonk it off. For those, I ended up using either a trainer desk (like the Wahoo KICKR Desk or this generic one I’ve actually been using lately), or also just the spare water bottle holder for most rides. The bike has two of them:

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Notably absent at this point is any sort of display to see your shifting.  We’ll get into that later – but it’s a bummer.

Next, there’s auxiliary ports on the stem of the bike. These are used for connecting additional shifters you can place wherever you want. For example, you could actually wire up some time trial bars if you wanted to, to make a TT/triathlon bike. Unlike Wahoo/Tacx/others, Stages is already shipping these (and in fact, a set is on the way to me in the next few days – I’ll update the review once installed. There’s three ports on each side, two of which are open on each side.

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Stages says the ports can also be used for any other magical idea down the road too, just like the Aux ports we saw on the KICKR Bike. I can only assume it’ll be for a nacho cheese dispenser.

I’ll dive deeply into shifting later, but essentially on each side of the handlebars there’s buttons on the interior that can be customized. There’s also one brake per side. While these don’t function in apps today, they will stop the bike’s flywheel just like on a real bike:

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Speaking of that flywheel, it’s a beast. The biggest beast in fact – coming in at a whopping 50 pounds (22.7kg) The KICKR bike flywheel is a mere 5.9KG and the WattBike Atom’s is 9.3kg. The Tacx NEO Bike however can ‘simulate’ 125KG, but that’s sorta a different situation.

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However, despite being beastly, it doesn’t make much noise. In fact, I’d argue it’s the quietest smart bike out there. The closest would be the Tacx NEO Bike Smart, which is I think very slightly louder. But we’re talking basically the sound of a microwave. The Wahoo Bike is louder than both, and the Wattbike Atom V1 louder than all those.

*You can listen to the audio within the video at the top of the page at the 13:00 marker*

Now, that said, I did start running into odd sounds about two weeks ago with the Stages Bike, whereby it started creating a slight thunking sound from somewhere inside the flywheel. Stages believes the flywheel bearings might be bad, and has offered to swap out the flywheel. GPLAMA thinks I should just replace it with a big wheel of Gouda cheese from the cheese shop around the corner. However, I checked into that, and that’d actually cost a sizable portion of the Stages Bike cost. Not a cheap option.

In any case, the sound actually went away this past week. So…ok. Either way, Stages customer service is pretty well known as being super responsive, so I’m not super worried about it at this point.

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In terms of road-like feel of that flywheel, it’s pretty good. However, I wouldn’t say that it’s a massive difference to the Wahoo KICKR Bike or Tacx NEO Bike. All of them feel pretty good. And in the case of both of those units, they can forward-drive the flywheel while descending in apps like Zwift. The Stages Bike doesn’t have that, and it’s something I kinda have come to enjoy.

Now, to wrap up this section I’ve got a quick little summary of things I do and don’t like about the bike from a basics standpoint. I hesitate to call this a pros and cons list, though that’s more or less what it is. I’m sticking it here in the middle of the review so people that just skip to the end without reading will miss it (and thus hopefully read the whole review to make an informed decision – nuance matters). I’ll ignore any accuracy likes/dislikes in this section and keep it more on practical things, also ignoring spec-specific things too. Basically, this is more of a practical list of likes/dislikes:

Things I really like:

– The tablet mount is nailed, it might look a bit clunky, but it’s the most stable one out there and easiest to actually use
– Double water bottle cage holder
– Dedicated rubberized spot for placing your phone, with two USB ports below
– No wires sticking out, tons of expansion ports already usable today
– Usability between riders and super quick and clean (not clunky like some bikes)
– No rubbing anywhere, easily fits me and my awesome calves
– The Dream Drive concept is cool for configurable shifting jumps

Things I really dislike:

– I’m not a fan of the Stages Bike shifter hardware, it’s hard to overstate how good the KICKR Bike shifters are in comparison
– Lack of small screen for gear indicator display is a pretty tough pill to swallow
– ERG mode stability is pretty rough (this is slated to be addressed in firmware)
– It’s not exactly the most sleek bike looks-wise, looks more like a gym bike than a home bike
– While minor, I wish the unit didn’t require batteries. I get that realistically you’ll have to change it only once a year, but still.

You’ll see the same list formatting on all my indoor bike reviews. With that, onto the details of rider setup, and then shifting

Bike & Rider Fit Setup:

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Ok, with everything all built, we’ll get the bike fit to you from a sizing standpoint.  Later on in the post, I talk about multi-user considerations and swapping positions. Given Stages experience in selling more indoor bikes for the gym market than probably anyone else, they’ve pretty much nailed the customization aspects of the bike from a sizing standpoint.

With the SB20, you can adjust the bike in these five ways (plus more if you include loosening the handlebars and changing the orientation there):

1) Saddle height (up/down)
2) Saddle position (forward/back/tilt)
3) Handlebar height (up/down)
4) Handlebar position (forward/back)
5) Seat tilt

In the case of the Stages Bike, you can also adjust crank length too of course, within the four parameters noted earlier. Unlike the KICKR Bike, there’s no need to adjust a step/stand-over height, since it’s designed without a top-tube (so as to maximize sizing for shorter riders).

Here’s a quick gallery of all of those measurement bits.  Like Wahoo and Tacx, Stages also only puts ruler measurements on the right side of the bike (plus the top for the saddle fore/aft). Though in Stages case those measurements are laser-etched into the frame, versus just stickers on the other bikes.

To adjust a given component you’ll either use a rotating knob (saddle/seatpost/front post), or a lever (front handlebars fore/aft). All of them work great, and are infinitely adjustable, compared to the KICKR bike which in some cases locks into certain grooves. Or in the case of the Tacx Bike where the handles stick out at odd angles.

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However, what Stages lacks compared to Wahoo is a sizing/fit guide. Unlike Wahoo’s app which will duplicate our road bike setup using your phones camera, or tell you exactly what sizes to put the bike at based on your inseam/height/etc – Stages mostly just says ‘Shrug – you figure it out’ (just as Tacx does).

Technically, Stages does have a small portion of their web user guide that talks in general about how to take measurements from your outdoor bike and convert them to your indoor bike:

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One of the issues I saw on the Wahoo Bike, and to a lesser extent the Tacx bike, was what I dubbed the ‘thigh gap’ problem. Which was that the seat stay of those bikes were abnormally large, and thus would actually rub against certain people’s thighs (mine, and others).

However, I’m happy to say that the Stages Bike mirrors that of the Wattbike Atom and there’s no thigh-gap issue. This is because of the lack of top-tube frame design. So it’s not even an issue.  To be clear, look at the three other bikes and the top-tube:

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And then look at the measurements for those:

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Now the 40.40mm measurement (basically at your ankles) for the Stages Bike – but again, it’s at your ankles, so it’s a non-issue:

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Next, there’s the crank length. The Stages bike supports 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, and 175mm crank arm sizing, via the bear-paw design. You simply put your pedals into whatever crank arm hole you want, and magically it’s the right crank arm length:

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Finally, what about triathletes or time-trialist? The Stages Bike doesn’t include any aerobars or specific aerobar kits. But it uses a standard 31.8mm handlebar, which means most aerobar clip-ons will work just fine. However, in order for most aerobars to work you’ll need to remove the tablet holder. Not a big deal, since they include a front cover plate. It’s plausible with shorty aerobars you can make them fit, but I don’t have a pair handy.

Beyond the aerobar attachment, all other TT/triathlon-type aspects would really fall more under the rest of the FIT section above. Given the flexibility here, I imagine most folks will have no issues finding their right fit here. And, Stages also already offers remote shifters that you can integrate into your aerobars – something that nobody else offers. So that’s a huge deal for triathletes. A set of those is on the way to me as we speak

Finally – what about multi-user scenarios in terms of the software settings?

Stages says that the best option there is to use their Stages Link app, installed on each person’s own smartphone, and then to connect to the bike to set the gearing customizations that you want before starting your session (actually, you can technically set them mid-way through the session too). As soon as the other person’s app connects to the bike it’ll update the settings with those from that person’s app.

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I’d love to see apps like Zwift, FulGaz, etc, be able to send your gearing customizations straight to the bike from your account profile. That way it’s just there for whoever jumps on the bike. Still, it’s a general problem that hasn’t really been solved for the industry yet, but with Zwift looking to build their own bike – it’s something that’ll need to get solved sooner or later.

Overall though, the Stages Bike is super flexible in terms of getting everything fit to your specific needs. I had no problems with my fit setup on it.

Shifting, Braking, and Steering:

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When it comes to shifting on the Stages Bike, I’d put it in the ‘mostly good, but still a work in progress’ category. Meaning that it’s more flexible than the Wattbike Atom, but not anywhere near as nailed as the Wahoo KICKR Bike. Some of that will be tweaked via software, but some pieces are shortcomings in the actual shifters themselves. On the flip-side, the KICKR bike cost like $700 more.

But first, let’s step back just a little bit. The purpose of adjustability to shifting in an indoor bike may not seem obvious at first. But this bike is replacing your outdoor bike, and on that bike you’ve got a specific gearing setup you’re used to. Be it the shifters type (such as Di2), or having a different gearing combination (like a compact crankset). If you’re going to do an app or route with lots of climbing, you’ll want to replicate that compact crankset (or, change into such a crankset).

With the Stages Bike, you’re going to configure this shifting using the Stages Link app. It’s effectively your digital bike shop for what you want your stages virtual drivetrain to look like. I say ‘virtual’, because, well…it’s virtual. But also because it’s effectively infinitely customizable. Nothing physical changes on your bike. It’s just simulating different gearing.

So once you’ve got it all paired up you’ll connect to the bike. The first time you do so you’ll get the option to create your virtual bike. You can create numerous virtual bikes. So this is just your first one. Give it a name to begin, and then choose the type of gearing and buttons:

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When it comes to gearing you’ve essentially got three core options:

Dream: With Dream Drive you can customize the number of total gearing steps, and then how many steps you want the left shifter to ‘increment’ each time you press it. The right shifter will always increment one shift up or down. Don’t worry, I’ll explain it in a second.
Road: With the road bike config, you’ve got a standard 1x and 2x configurations.
MTB: While I saw this option initially, I actually can’t get back to it specifically after the fact, I think it’s just rolled under the generic ‘Custom’ setting.

Once you’ve done that, then for the road and MTB button options you can customize the exact front chainring and rear cassette gearing. If you dive into the Road settings you’ll see options for 1x and 2x (meaning one chainring or two chainrings), and then options for 11 or 12 speed:

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In general, I think Dream Drive is probably where the goods are. With Dream Drive, you’re effectively on a 1X type system. You’ve got a single virtual front chainring, and then up to 50 rear cogs. The key though is that your front gear shifter becomes a super-shifter. So instead of shifting just up/down once (as the rear shifter does), this can shift a customizable number of times. For example, tap the front gear shifter and it shifts by default 3 steps. But you can make that 5 steps or even 10 steps. Here, take look at the default at left (3 steps) – and then a tweaked version at right (5 steps):

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It’s a pretty cool concept, though, like most of these bikes – does take a little bit to get used to. And, I’d argue – really re-enforces the need for a gear shifting display. Which, is why you can connect using the Stages Link app to act as that secondary display:

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This way you can see in real-time what you’re currently in, as well as easily switch gear mid-ride. Now note that as of today, the Stages Bike only accepts one concurrent Bluetooth Smart connection. When it first shipped, it was dual Bluetooth Smart (plus unlimited ANT+), but then they rolled back to a single Bluetooth Smart (and still unlimited ANT+) connections to sort out some issues. However, as of yesterday I tried a new beta firmware update that brings back the dual Bluetooth Smart bits. That allowed me to use my iPhone to connect to the Stages Bike while also using Apple TV to connect to it for Zwift:

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However, we should probably talk about the shifters themselves. Which, are basically just small buttons. On the inside of each handlebar where our thumbs go there are three buttons. Two of which are used by default on each side. The left side will increase/decrease your front chainring (virtually), or, increase/decrease big skips with Dream Drive.

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While the right side will increment the rear cassette (again, virtually). This will go up/down a single increment/gear shift.

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But all this is customizable within the app. So you can scroll down in the app and change these buttons, as well as the remote shifters that connect to them.

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You can assign them to do whatever you want shift-wise:

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In addition, down below on the lower portion of the handlebars there’s two more shifter buttons on each side, sorta wedged under the tape. These are also customizable as you see fit up above.

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Also, as noted earlier there’s further yet aux ports for those remote shifter cables. They’ve shipped over to me, so once I have them in-hand I’ll go ahead and update this post to show how they work. There’s three per side, and you can see that one port on each side is already utilized.

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And yes, those are customizable too:

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You’ll also notice there’s brakes on each side of the handlebar. These brakes don’t stop the in-game avatar in Zwift (or any other app), but will stop the flywheel when held. In fact, if you hold those brakes while trying to pedal, it’ll actually cause your Zwift dude or dudette to go faster. That’s because it spikes your power (since it requires more effort to pedal with the brakes on, just like outside).

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Perhaps some day we’ll get braking in Zwift. Until then, they aren’t super useful.

It’s worth noting that none of the indoor bikes today (including Stages) support the ANT+ Shifting Profile at this time. While not a big deal, it’d be cool if that data was transmitted and then recorded by apps or bike computers, just like it is on a real bike. This really shouldn’t be that hard and I’ve yet to think (or hear of) any technical blocker here. After all, most head unit companies already support it today.

And what about steering? Well, physically it’s there – but there’s nothing hooked up yet software-wise. Like other bikes on the market, the Stages Bike has extra buttons, one per side below your normal shifters. These were ostensibly put there for when Zwift wanted to enable steering/veering. To date, that hasn’t happened.

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Finally you may have noticed that the Stages Bike actually has splayed out bars by default. This means that the handlebars taper outwards, akin to gravel bike bars.

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Just a minor thing I figured I’d mention somewhere.

App Compatibility:

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The Stage Bike (SB2) follows all of the industry norms as you’d expect from most trainers/smart bikes these days.  As you probably know, apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, SufferFest, Rouvy, FulGaz, Kinomap, and many more all support most of these industry standards, making it easy to use whatever app you’d like.  If trainers or apps don’t support these standards, then it makes it far more difficult for you as the end user.

The Stages Bike transmits data on both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart as well, allowing interactive resistance control across both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart.  By applying resistance control, apps can simulate climbs as well as set specific wattage targets.

To be specific, the Stages Bike supports the following protocol transmission standards:

ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control): This is for controlling the trainer via ANT+ from apps and head units. Read tons about it here. Stages also includes cadence and speed data here.
ANT+ Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard ANT+ power meter, with cadence data as well as left/right power balance data measure independently including also torque efficiency and pedal smoothness. This does not include speed data.
Bluetooth Smart FTMS (Trainer Control): This allows apps to control the Stages Bike over Bluetooth Smart (with cadence/power/speed data)
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard BLE power meter with cadence

Between all these standards you can basically connect to anything and everything you’d ever want to. Be it a bike computer or watch, or an app – it’ll be supported. This is actually notable because the Wahoo KICKR Bike & Tacx Bike don’t actually do proper Bluetooth Smart FTMS. Practically speaking, it doesn’t matter a ton since most apps support their proprietary variants. What is notable though is that the Wahoo KICKR Bike *still* doesn’t support broadcasting out power via ANT+ or Bluetooth independently. That’s notable for Garmin & Polar users that want to connect to their bikes to record training load on their watches or bike computers. Whereas the Stages Bike does support that just fine (and how I recorded all of my data here).

The Stages Bike also bakes in the cadence data (like everyone else). This is handy if you’re connecting to Zwift on an Apple TV, due to Apple TV’s two concurrent Bluetooth Smart sensor limitation (plus the Apple TV remote).  While you can use the Zwift mobile companion app for additional sensors, I find that can be sometimes a bit flaky.

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It’s these same standards that also allow you to connect via head units too. For example the Stages Dash L50/M50, Hammerhead Karoo, Wahoo units, as well as Garmin Edge series support ANT+ FE-C for trainer control, so you can re-ride outdoor rides straight from your bike head unit to your trainer. For example, for my accuracy testing section, I recorded the data on a Garmin Edge 830 & 1030 Plus, as well as the trainer apps.  From there I’m able to save the file and upload it to whatever platform I like.

In addition to baseline power and cadence, the Stages Bike also includes both left/right balance as well, which you can see on head units as well as in recorded data files.

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Not only that, but it also transmits torque effectiveness and pedal smoothness…which, you’ll probably never use.

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For me, in my testing, I used Zwift and TrainerRoad as my two main apps (which are the two main apps I use personally). In the case of Zwift, I used it in regular riding mode (non-workout mode, aka SIM mode), whereas in the case of TrainerRoad I used it in a structured workout mode. I dig into the nuances of these both within the power accuracy section.

Here’s an example of Zwift paired on an Apple TV, you can see it shows the sensors as a controllable trainer, a regular power meter, and a cadence sensor:

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I had no issues riding the Stages Bike in Zwift on numerous occasions – everything worked as expected, including gradient responsiveness. More on accuracy in the next section:

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And here paired up in TrainerRoad using Bluetooth Smart on an iPad:

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When it comes to calibration of the Stages Bike, that’s actually calibrating the two crank arm power meter sensors (just like real Stages crank arm power meters…cause they are). To do that you’ll connect to the bike via the app and then go to calibrate the bike, which asks you to place the crank arms vertically (you can use the brakes if you need to stop the crank arms from rotating).

In fact, you’ll actually see the two individual Stages power meters listed here, complete with their own firmware (which means that yes…you have to update the firmware on three different components – something I think Stages should try and sort out in the background when you update the main bike firmware).

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Note that you can’t calibrate the bike from within apps. For example, within TrainerRoad when you go into the settings, there is no option to trigger a calibration for the Bluetooth Smart FTMS connection of the bike. That’s fine – it’s something you won’t likely have to do often in my experience (Stages already does temp compensation in their units – and that’s cross-checked with the secondary flywheel power meter sensor).

2020-07-01 16.51.43

I haven’t seen any difference in calibrating versus not calibrating on a weekly basis. To give a solid spoiler on accuracy, it’s been spot-on no matter whether I calibrate the bike or not. But wait – don’t skip the next section, there’s some important tidbits on ERG mode!

Power Accuracy Analysis:

DSC_6499

As usual, I put the bike up against a number of power meters to see how well it handled everything from resistance control accuracy, to speed of change, to any other weird quirks along the way. In the case of indoor bikes it’s a bit more tricky to have 2-3 other power meters, since you typically can’t swap out the crankset or rear hubs. So you have to rely upon other power meter pedals.

No problem, I’ve got plenty of those. I’ve had the bike set up with two main configs over the past month:

Config 1: With Favero Assioma Duo pedals
Config 2:  With Garmin Vector 3 pedals

Within this timeframe I’ve also seen multiple firmware versions, with most of the data below from either the most recent or version prior to it. Today’s ride was also made with a beta firmware version, though there’s no changes in that related to accuracy (it’s related to re-instating dual Bluetooth Smart connections).

We’re going to start this parade with today’s ride actually, a Zwift ride. This ride is on my favorite trainer and smart bike testing course: Titan’s Grove. This route on Zwift starts off on the flats, which is good for sprint testing and high-flywheel testing, then it loops up into the hills and mountains for some solid rollers. These rollers are tricky for many trainers/bikes with their constantly shifting intensities.

In any case, here’s how it compared against the Favero Assioma pedals:

image

As you can see, it’s pretty darn close. The maroon color is the pedals, with the blue as Stages bike. In general, I see slightly more variability with respect to swings of power from the Stages Bike than the Favero Assioma pedals. I’m not sure if that’s simply because Favero smooths slightly more (something I’ve shown in other reviews). In the case of a SIM mode ride in Zwift, it’s largely a non-event (more on ERG mode in a moment).

image

Even looking at sprints – for example this almost 1,000w sprint, both units peak within 1w – which is pretty darn crazy alignment at this point. Keep in mind the measurement of the Stages Bike is at the crank arms, not somewhere in the drivetrain like most of the other bikes. Said differently – that’s crazy impressive closeness as there’s virtually no power transfer loss between the pedal and crank arm.

image

In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a result so close between two units at such a high power level. Usually by the time you clear 700w or so you’ll see more divergence in the max peak-power simply due to timing and recording rates. So part of this is dumb luck, but part of this is just being damn close (physically and in accuracy).

To illustrate the dumb luck aspect, here’s another half-hearted sprint a short bit later. In this case the timing and responsiveness isn’t quite perfectly aligned. The Stages Bike sees it first, and then the Assioma about a second or so later:

image

There’s virtually no practical difference in those though from a riding standpoint.

Next, we’ll shift to another Zwift ride – this one from last week on the current production firmware. This ride was supposed to be a group ride, but apparently I mostly missed the group lead-out. So, I was in some groups and sometimes by myself – just chugging along. Here’s that data:

image

Now on the above chart, for fun, I left two different recordings of the Stages Bike. One via the Stages Bluetooth Smart FTMS connection, and one via the Stages power crank-arm connection via ANT+. Point being they mirror each other. But that’s not always the case with trainers/bikes, hence why I sometimes poke at it. For the purposes of simplicity, let’s remove the duplicate one:

image

Well, that’s pretty crispy. I mean, how much crispier do you want?

I mean, sure, you see slight divergences of a couple of watts here and there. That’s pretty much expected with any power meter comparison. This is really really really good.

image

There are however in this workout a few moments where one of the two units floats a bit. I don’t though have any way of knowing whether this was the Favero Assioma pedals floating down, or the Stages Bike floating up. There’s literally no way to know.

image

One could look at the left/right balance and take a guess. For example, on that same section above, if I look at the comparative left/right balance split, the Stages Bike on the left-side appears to rise up slightly. Is that an incorrect reading from Stages, or an incorrect lack of reading from Favero? I simply don’t know. And there’s no other way to install any other power meters on the bike at the same time to find out.

image

Whoever’s fault it was, it’s gone a couple of minutes later:

image

Oh, and just to mention cadence accuracy somewhere, I think this graph explains it all. They all look just like this:

image

Next, let’s change from some SIM mode workouts to some ERG mode workouts. This is where we see a significant change in how the Stages Bike works. And unfortunately, my least favorite part of it. There’s really two parts to this. The first piece is how stable the bike is, and how responsive the bike is. In other words, if TrainerRoad tells it to set the wattage to 300w (after being at 150w), how long does it take to get to 300w? And then, how well does it hold 300?

Well, in my case I’ve been doing a lot of TrainerRoad workouts the last month, and unequivocally the answer is: It’s not a smooth operator.

It’ll change resistance pretty quickly – basically the same as others. That’s fine. But what’s not fine is just how wobbly it is at a given level. Here’s an example of a workout I was super smooth on, and yet look at how wobbly the power output is:

IMG_1696

The output will typically be +/- 20-25w from my set-point. So if I’ve got a target power of 313w, it’ll range anywhere between ~285w and 335w. Sometimes upwards of 350w+. It’s all over the place. Here’s another workout example:

IMG_1695

Now, the total average power for that set is indeed 300w. But it’s less than ideal to be so variable, because my workout called for 300w which is a specific zone. Not spikes to 330w. Now in talking to Stages, they say part of the trouble is the gigantic Gouda cheese flywheel they have up there, which is sorta like wrestling a bull. But part of it is also software smoothing. While I typically argue against software smoothing, I think in this rare case they need to apply a little bit more so that it’s at least usable to figure out what power levels I hit.

So that first piece covers responsiveness and stability – but what about accuracy in ERG mode?

Let’s look at last Thursday’s 90-minute TrainerRoad session first:

image

Ok, so at a high level with a 5-second smoothing applied (ya kinda have to with the Stages Bike), it looks pretty similar. Let’s dig into an interval:

image

Again, we have to separate target power stability, from actual power accuracy. From an accuracy standpoint, the Stages Bike and Favero pedals are incredibly close at almost all times – usually a couple of watts apart. Every once in a while one of them floats away slightly (upwards of 5-10w on 300w), but then corrects itself. I’ve got no way to know which is the incorrect unit in those situations.

There are two dropouts on the Stages connection, and two dropouts on the Favero connection (to the Edge units). I double-checked the Stages duplicate recording I had on TrainerRoad, and there were no dropouts there. So, looks to be just a random transient connection issue to that specific bike computer.

image

Oh, and cadence too – for fun:

image

In any event, from a power accuracy standpoint, that 90-minute workout looks solidly similar.

Let’s take a look at another TrainerRoad workout. This one is a much more chillax easy week workout, where the power slowly goes up and slowly goes down. But it shows super-well the problem I have with ERG mode currently You can’t even tell/see the stated power chunks (where the blue section changes) if you look at the yellow pieces. It’s not easy to see that at a glance.

IMG_1701

Here’s the power accuracy data:

image

This is one of the ones where the power between the two actually was further apart at first glance. It’s darn-near impossible to tell based on the above chart, which just looks like a giant fuzzy mess of colors.

But, if I graph the mean-max chart, then you see it more clearly:

image

However, mind you that where those two dots are is *ONLY A 3-watt difference* – technically in-spec.

So this is an example where the averages work out, even despite the wobble. But of course, averaging is the lowest common denominator in this situation.

So ultimately, this gets us to the wrap-up here. Having done countless other sessions like this over my time period with it, everything can basically be boiled down to:

A) Power accuracy appears to be identical to the well regarded Favero Assioma power meter pedals – spot on there
B) ERG more stability in terms of maintaining the target power, needs a lot of work

At present, the ERG mode target power stability/smoothness is even more volatile than the Tacx Bike was when it launched last year (and I gave them a hard time too). It’s roughly in the same ballpark as the instability of the Wahoo KICKR Bike at launch in terms of stability.

Stages said that they’re working on the stability/smoothing aspects already (which should just be a software fix), and so hopefully we’ll see that simmer down a bit going forward.

Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Indoor Smart Bike Comparisons:

While I’ve previously done an Indoor Smart Bike Shootout with the Wahoo Bike, Tacx Bike, and Wattbike Atom – that did not include the Stages bike, since the Stages Bike was about 8 months late to the party. Now that it’s here I’ll probably revisit that with the Wattbike Atom V2 (which hopefully I’ll have later this week or next). Until then, you can hit up that previous post here – and then simply cross-reference it with this post. Spoiler: Nothing has changed since I published that previous post. Seriously, nothing.

In any case, here’s a blow by blow spec comparison between them – complete with some new data fields I’ve added into the trainer database to account for indoor bikes. I won’t add the new Wattbike Atom V2 to the chart until I get it in-house – though functionally speaking the only aspect that changes there is internals around the drive system/flywheel.

Function/FeatureStages Bike (SB20)Wattbike Atom V1Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated October 22nd, 2020 @ 2:29 pm New Window
Price for trainer$2899$2,599$3,199$3,499
Trainer TypeIndoor BikeIndoor BikeIndoor BikeIndoor Bike
Available today (for sale)YesYesYesYes
Availability regionsGlobalUK/South Africa/Australia/Scandinavia/USAGlobalLimited Initially
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYesYesNoYes
Flywheel weight50lbs9.28KG/20.4lbsSimulated/Virtual 125KG13bs/5.9kgs
ResistanceStages Bike (SB20)Wattbike Atom V1Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)No (but kinda)NoYesYes
Maximum wattage capability3,000w2,000w2,200w @ 40KPH2,200w @ 40KPH
Maximum simulated hill incline25%25%20% (and -15% downhill)
FeaturesStages Bike (SB20)Wattbike Atom V1Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerYes (actually measured independently)YesYesNo
Can rise/lower bike or portion thereofNoNoNoYes
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)Yes (with compatible apps)NoYES (WITH COMPATIBLE APPS)Yes (with compatible apps)
Can rock side to side (significantly)NoNoNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoNoYesNo
AccuracyStages Bike (SB20)Wattbike Atom V1Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Includes temperature compensationYesYesN/AYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)Cross-references power meter dataNoN/AN/A
Supported accuracy level+/- 1.5%+/- 2%+/- 1%+/- 1%
Trainer ControlStages Bike (SB20)Wattbike Atom V1Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YesYesYesYes
Supports Bluetooth Smart FTMS (Trainer Control Standard)YEsYesYesYes
Data BroadcastStages Bike (SB20)Wattbike Atom V1Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Transmits power via ANT+YEsYesYesYes (added Sept 30th, 2020)
Transmits power via Bluetooth SmartYEsYesYesYes
Supports Multiple Concurrent Bluetooth connectionsNo, just oneYes, 3 Concurrent
Transmits cadence dataYesYesYesYes
Indoor Bike FeaturesStages Bike (SB20)Wattbike Atom V1Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Brake levers or buttonsYesNoBrake LeversYes
Shifting typeButtonsButtonsButton BasedNormal bike levers
Can customize shifting (Shimano/SRAM/Campagnolo)Yes (not yet SRAM)NoIn future updateYes (Shimano/SRAM/Campagnolo)
Can customize gearingYesMininimalYesYes (both cassette and chainrings)
Supported Crank Lengths165/170/172.5/175mm170mm170/172.5/175mm165/167.5/170/172.5/175mm
DisplayNoNoYesSmall display near top-tube
USB PortsTwo Ports (Fast Charging)No2 USB Ports (2AMP)1 USB port
PurchaseStages Bike (SB20)Wattbike Atom V1Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
AmazonLink
Backcountry.comLink
Competitive CyclistLinkLink
REILink
WiggleLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerStages Bike (SB20)Wattbike Atom V1Tacx NEO Bike SmartWahoo KICKR Bike
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Oh, and before you ask why I haven’t included some products into the above – here’s the quick and dirty answers:

Peloton Bike: It’s not a ‘smart’ bike in the sense of the above, it doesn’t allow you to set a specific power level (it does tell you the current power level). But nonetheless, look for my review very shortly! It’s actually written in text, but I’m waiting on a calibration kit from Peloton to see if I can get things just a bit closer accuracy-wise.

SRM Bike: I just don’t see this as a competitor in this space. At $5,000, it’s mostly for various research purposes and is designed in that realm.

True Kinetix Bike: I’ve had this bike for a bit, then returned it while they sorted out technical issues. It’s currently only shipping mostly in the Netherlands, so that’s probably less appealing from a widespread standpoint.

VirtuPro: At present this bike isn’t compatible with any 3rd party apps, and in nearly a year since I last chatted with them, I haven’t seen any concrete evidence that’s changed.

Again, I’m more than happy to add products into the database. In general, my rule of thumb is I want hands-on time (or butts-on in this case), and I want some realistic level of clarity on delivery time frames.

Summary:

DSC_6507

The Stages Bike is a solid entrant into the smart bikes category. No, really, it’s physically very solid. It’s the tank of bikes compared to competitors. You’ll be pedaling this well into the next century. But, it’s also a good bike for working with apps today. It supports all the right protocols to work with every app or device on the market via ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart. And perhaps just as important, given its lineage with Stages existing indoor business – the physical aspects of the bike are unlikely to see as much physical teething pains as both Tacx and Wahoo saw in their bike launches during the early phases.

Almost all of the quirks or competitive shortfalls of the Stages Bike lie in software, mostly in the gear shifting realm. For example, it lacks SRAM shifting configuration, though Stages says that’ll come within the month. It also lacks some of the setup/fit software bits that Wahoo has nailed (though, I’d easily argue it has more physical flexibility in terms of actually getting the right fit for more riders). As for the lack of gear display, I can only hope that Zwift comes through and implements the gear shifting support that’s already available for the Wattbike Atom over Bluetooth Smart. Like with the Wattbike, it’d make a world of difference. Though at least with Stages you can still display it on your phone concurrently.

Ultimately, price is probably the largest factor for most when choosing a smart bike. One can’t pretend to operate in a vacuum when writing a review on that factor. But I think Stages gets pretty close to finding the right balance here for price versus competitive functionality. It’s $600 cheaper than a KICKR Bike, and to me that feels roughly about right in terms of trade-offs. I’d absolutely love to see Stages come out with a different/optional handlebar setup that feels like shifting a real bike from a levers standpoint. But, I’ve said that about all the smart bikes too. It’s a huge differentiator. Until then, their tablet/phone/power situation is easily the best out there. Super functional and stable. Love it.

If you’re looking at a Stages Bike, you won’t go wrong with hardware as it is today. Sure, the software needs to mature a tiny bit more to really sing (let’s be honest, so does everyone’s) – but I don’t think it’s a blocker for day to day usage with any apps or features. And, if there’s one bike out of all of them that I’d trust hardware-wise to be reliable, it’s this one.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Backcountry & Competitive Cyclist, which help support this site when you purchase through them.

Stages Bike (SB20)

For European/Australian/New Zealand readers, you can also pick up the unit via Wiggle at the links below, which helps support the site too! With Wiggle, new customers get 10GBP (or equivalent in other currencies) off their first order for anything over 50GBP by using code NEWGB at check-out after clicking the links below.

Stages Bike (SB20)

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153 Comments

  1. Giovanni

    Hi Ray,really interesting as always (even as I don’t have a budget that could afford me one of those).
    On a side note, do you think you will ever test the new Technogym Skillbike? Or do you think that with that price tag around 4/5 k € it is completely out of the market? (my curiosity is due to the fact that they seem to do something like Peloton, but open also to other systems like Zwift, or importing routes from Strava and so on…, and with the fact that they should have some extensive experience on how to build indoor spin bikes, so the product should be good)
    Thanks
    Giovanni

    • My challenge with the Technogym Skillbike is twofold:

      A) Price – it’s just crazy, and I don’t see any aspect of it that makes it worth that (4,850EUR)
      B) I don’t believe it actually follows standards. I’ve yet to see anything to indicate that it does ANT+ FE-C or Bluetooth Smart FTMS. Instead, they’ve done some one-off integrations with Zwift and such, but nothing sustainable. And they support HR straps via ANT+ (shrug)

      Happy to be wrong there, but it just seems dead out of the water.

    • John

      Having bought a Technogym MyRun treadmill I would not contemplate buying their bike, even if it was sensibly priced. The hardware seems solid but their software is abysmal and they seem to have no interest in updating it with even the most basic of features (like uploading directly to Strava). They take your money then lose interest.

    • Beatrice

      Hi, I just bought a Skillbike one week ago, and will give it back…
      In ZWIFT the crawler gears are not availabe, so for me as a woman no chance to do a hill climb….

  2. Neil Jones

    Hi Ray,

    You say “Like all these bikes, it’ll require power to fully take advantage of all its features – namely resistance control and broadcasting of data”. Does that mean that it’s still viable to use the SB without power (like you can for the Tacx bike, where as long as you keep pedalling, the only functionality you lose is the driven virtual flywheel to assist you on downhills), or are you left with basically a dumb gym bike with power meter cranks once you pull the plug with the Stages?

    • So it’ll broadcast power/cadence just fine without being plugged in because the power sensors are CR2032 powered on the crank arms (just like a normal on-bike Stages power meter). But there’s no ability to shift since that’s tied to the outlet power. In just trying it, that seemed to put me in an easier (useless) gear. Though, perhaps there’s some trick to leave it in a harder gear – similiar to what Elite & Kinetic have for some of their trainers.

    • Neil Jones

      ^Sorry, I didn’t word that very well (oh, for an edit button!), what I mean is because you say “like all these bikes” (i.e. including the Tacx which still pretty much works without power), does that also imply that the SB and others also have some degree of self-powered functionality, enough to still mean they’re usable?

    • Neil Jones

      ^^but you got what you meant an answered anyway 🙂

  3. Zac

    Ray,

    Looks like from the screenshot you may have been on fairly early firmware when evaluating ERG mode. Have you been able to test more recent FW releases? Any improvement to ERG mode you’ve noticed?

    • I’m actually ahead of production firmware-wise. 😉

      I upgrade and downgrade to/from beta to get back and forth and validate certain features enabled or disabled on various builds, hence the variations on screenshots.

      In talking with Stages, they fully acknowledge the challenges I see with ERG mode today are the current state. They’re looking at options in a future firmware update to offer a more restrictive ERG mode type thing.

    • Zac

      Does the resistance seem to fluctuate within an interval or is it just the power as displayed that’s erratic? I assume you weren’t using TR’s Powermatch? What would it look like using the Assioma’s as the power source and enabling Powermatch?

    • Dan

      I have a sb20. You can not feel the variations in power.

    • Zac

      Good to know, thanks Dan

    • For me personally, it’s pretty easy to feel the variations in comparison to most other trainers in terms of ERG stability. One can see it on the charts, so when I’m on my 5th 10-plus minute interval and it’s wobbling at 35-50w over, it’s noticable.

      Now, Stages says it makes it feel more like the road. Which, in some ways is true, but that’s also not the point of ERG mode. It was never to feel like the variations of the road, it was to be super-specific in target power.

      Again, just my two cents.

    • Zac

      That’s disappointing Ray. I spend > 80% of my time in ERG mode, so this may be a deal breaker for me if Stages isn’t able to get it resolved quickly. As you said, 10-15% swings in power change the nature of the intervals and make ERG mode… something else. I wonder if you could “trick” the bike by pairing the Assioma’s and using Powermatch? Or maybe that would just make things worse. Has there been anything you’ve tried in the course of troubleshooting that’s seemed to make any improvement in the experience?

      My SB20 is currently sitting with the freight company waiting to be delivered this week, so obviously your review has me a bit nervous.

    • David Manley

      It’s more like the road feels like a serious cop out. They’ve actually lost a lot of credit there for trying that on

    • D.A.

      Hi Zac,

      How long was it at the freight company? I’m having issues with freight right now getting my order. Held locally at their warehouse over a week now. Ordered the bike near 3 weeks ago.

  4. Phil S

    Thanks Ray
    Will you be doing a quick ‘What’s changed’ style post on the Wattbike Atom v2? I would be interested to know if they’ve added that little resistance bump that gives you a feel for when you have changed gears.
    Phil

    • A unit is set to arrive next week. In the meantime I’m literally on the ATOM X as we speak doing a 90 minute workout. That’s the same internals as the ATOM v2.

    • Kevin

      Thanks for the review. Looking forward to your thoughts on the Atom v2. That’ll probably help me make up my mind on whether I go for that or the Stages Bike.

      Tacx bike is a non-starter as it cannot be adjusted to fit my vertically-challenged wife. Although the KICKR Bike looks great, I cannot bring myself to spend this amount of money on a gen1 product. I just fear for the longevity it.

      As a side note, although it’s not in stock at the moment, I see Wiggle will apply the platinum discount of 12% to the Stages bike. That’s quite unusual (but welcomed!) for these products.

    • Keith Robertson

      Thanks, look forward to some words on the Atom V2, not so much on the Atom X I guess.

      They are hinting that with the X custom workouts will be possible. Wondering if the iPAd app will also get this feature soon?

    • Hmm, not sure on custom workouts – I tend to focus more on 3rd party app compatibility.

    • Tormod

      Looking forward to hear your comments about wattbike Atom v2.
      Still trustadvisor.uk is not very kind with any of the smart bikes, what is your take on it.

    • I generally don’t find much value in sites like that. They tend to only attract people that want to be upset about something. Those things they’re upset about might well be valid (often though, I find those people never even bother to contact support). But, let’s say they’re all valid.

      What they don’t tend to account for is the other 99% of people who had no issues. Because why would those people go out of their way to a random site to write a review about something they’re happy with? Unless that ‘Review your purchase’ is built into the platform, it doesn’t tend to work.

  5. Chris

    How ‘future’ proof do you think the current smart bikes are? Or are they a risky purchase at the current time?

    Mainly thinking about use with Zwift and when they release a bike do you think they’ll enable features (gear display, steering, changing workout resistance, etc) using a standard that other bikes could implement or do it using a proprietary protocol. Suppose they could even completely ignore ANT+ / Bluetooth completely and use Wi-Fi (or an ethernet cable).

    Guess I need to be happy with what I’d currently be getting if I were to purchase now and not expecting any future enhancements (although they’d be a bonus) but wondering if in two years’ time the current smart bikes will look like a wise purchase or a mistake?

    • It’s tricky. I think you kinda have to divide the future-proofing into different sections:

      A) Software: Most of them have tons of flexibility here. Wattbike seems to have the least (or, executed upon it the least). But the rest in terms of *potential* are all pretty even. I’d argue Tacx probably has more flexibility with their display and software. And Stages has more aux ports. But Wahoo clearly takes the cake today for best software, so they can move to the ‘next stage’ (whatever that may be) sooner.

      B) Accessory hardware: Clearly Stages has the most flexibility here, mostly because they’ve built a lot of this stuff today. Just after I hit the publish button, UPS arrived with the Smart Accessory Shifters for the bike. I’ll wire them up here and give them a whirl. Wahoo has ports, but nearly a year-on, and no cables yet. Tacx has never talked about ports. In terms of adding other accessories, Stages has a beast of a front mounting arm, they do screens for other bikes, and this mounting arm I’ve gotta imagine could easily have a screen added to it. Whether internal power/etc supports that – I’ve got no idea. I don’t see how a screen could be added to the KICKR Bike, too much weight. I suspect one could swap out the Tacx bike front-end somehow, but the devil is in the details there. Wattbike has a screen on their ATOM X, but that’s got a bit different front-end design.

      C) Handlebar upgrades: This is where I think Stages/Tacx/Wattbike should focus 100%. Like, stop doing anything else that’s not re-designing hardware to do what Wahoo does. I can’t keep saying this enough, and the more I use other bikes, the more I like Wahoo’s shifting. It’s just *SO EFFIN GOOD*, and the sooner these companies realize this (actually, they already know it), but the sooner they start focusing on it, the smaller that gap gets to Wahoo.

      Zwift and a Zwift Bike is an interesting thing. I have a short post I might drop today or tomorrow about that, and their recent survey asking questions in that realm – along with some other thoughts. I’m hesitant to say that venture wil end well. I *want* it to end well, but the reality is that Zwift is an exceedingly good community platform/app, and a really really good company in marketing everything about it, and getting people involved. Really, they are.

      But they’re actually not what I’d consider leaders in the foundational aspects of technology. We see that time and time again with integrations into the platform that are just half-baked at best. Again – the game of Zwift is great, but when it comes to the technology side, it’s not advanced at all. There’s nothing I can point to that I can say “Oh, they’re a technological leader there”. As such, I’d be even more hesitant on a smart bike/trainer from them. But, happy to be proven wrong over time.

  6. Neil Jones

    So, I’ve got a Tacx bike but it’s on its final chance – if the belt breaks again and Tacx/Garmin UK still insist in changing the whole bike (with a 6 week delay) rather than just sending out a replacement belt like they do in other parts of the world, then I’ll be pushing for a refund and moving to another brand.

    There’s exclusive features of the Tacx that I’d lose and miss (I do like the road surface simulation), but most of the other bikes offer their own unique features that the Tacx doesn’t have. However, I’m struggling to see what the USP of the Stages bike is – why would I buy this over the Tacx (notwithstanding customer service and aftercare might in itself be the USP here)?

    • It’s a bit trickier depending on pricing. If I’m looking at the UK/EU prices correctly, the Stages Bike is 2799GBP (Wiggle), and the Tacx Bike is 2299GBP (Sigma Sports). I don’t know if those are true list prices, so…yeah.

      In any case, at that price difference, that’s a super tough pitch for the Stages Bike. Not really sure why in that case one would buy the Stages Bike over the Tacx Bike. In the US, it’s the opposite. Stages is $2,899 and Tacx Bike is $3,199 – which, makes sense.

    • Neil Jones

      Fair point – I forgot about the increased price of Tacx stuff in the US. I guess a buying decision in one market won’t necessarily make sense in another.

  7. Rob

    Real interesting area, and I expect a lot of innovation over next couple of years. I find it really strange that folks are implementing changers via little buttons rather than paddles. (Keep the buttons for programmable functions, but use the paddles for default.)

    Following all Tacx, Wahoo, Atom & Stages FB groups for these bikes there are many instances of failure / fault. I know full well that these groups don’t show the full picture & amplify the “bad stuff”… have you any feel for what the failure rates are on each make?

    Any smell of a bike coming from Elite that isn’t the fluoropista ?

    And finally … came across these the other day, I think through some random twitter link. Interesting ?

    link to magneticdays.com

    • Yeah, figuring out failure-rates from groups like that are indeed impossible and definitely over-amplified.

      In general, I get the impression that the Tacx failure-rate was pretty high initially. I mean, I don’t need to get that impression – I know that. After all, Garmin stop shipping them for months to work out production QA issues. Though, I think that was slightly less impacting to customers than not. Meaning, a lot of those products never made it to customers, but were held back. It sounds like things have largely stabilized.

      Wahoo certainly had some issues early on, but frankly, they shipped so few units for so long that it didn’t matter. I mean, crazy low unit volumes. Still low unit volumes, and still can’t order one in the EU.

      Wattbike is definitely a ‘low-maintence’ kinda product. The ‘just works’ factor there is crazy high. In part because it’s a very simple design where there’s not a lot of places things can go wrong.

      Far too early to know on Stages. There’s been a few hiccups here and there. Stages is pretty much on every forum from what I can tell tracking down anything that pops up. I suspect Stages has a massive upperhand here having produced gazillions of bikes before. Of course, where the gap for them is, is the software. That’s always kinda been the gap for Stages. They just need more software developers.

      Finally, as for that Twitter link. Umm…I have no idea what I’m looking at…but I can’t unsee it! I vote Lama gets to try out that one first. 🙂

    • chris benten

      Seems awful expensive for a magnetic trainer. And why battery powered? Does not look portable enough to be battery operated.

  8. JoJo

    Massive review, thanks Ray! Maybe I missed it in the text but how fast can you change the physical setup for multiple users? Especially is there an option to quick change saddles?

    • I’d put the timers at:

      A) Saddle fore/aft: 3-5 seconds
      B) Seatpost up/down: 5-7 seconds
      C) Front end up/down: 10 seconds
      D) Front end foreward/back: If lucky, a few seconds, if not lucky, 30 seconds of @#$@# (it’s sticky)

      There’s no way I can see to quick-change saddles, but perhaps I’m missing something.

  9. Alan W

    Does anyone know if this Kickr bike has the ability, perhaps via a firmware update, to give left/right leg balance at some point in the future? I moved from the Atom which had this feature and, reading about the new Stages bike, it seems this bike also has this ability. It’s quite useful for monitoring and recovering from an injury, when used with Garmin 1030.

  10. Akiva Wasser

    Does the bike have an option for 170mm cracks. From your close up, it seems that there are only three options.
    Also, for curiosity’s sake, is there a way to take off the cracks and use them as a power meter on a regular bike?

    • Chad McNeese

      Yes, it has 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, 175mm options.
      (the 170mm option is visible in the 2nd detail pick showing the pedal and power meter arms)

  11. Changren Y.

    Since the Stages bike is only simulating gearing, does it run into issue with accurately holding the same power in ERG mode when you are in different “gears”, like a direct drive trainer, for example the Tacx Neo smart trainer?

  12. Heinrich Hurtz

    I really like the idea of a dedicated stationary bike rather the a bike-on-trainer, and I’d be sorely tempted to get one if/when it had built in motion, similar to what the Saris MP1 provides. I’m currently on a Saris Hammer trainer and have little to complain about.

  13. Skyewalkr

    Regarding optimal setup with something like a Garmin edge 830, is it better to set it up as a “smart trainer” for full full FE-C control via Ant+ or to pair the power/cadence separately? From your description, it would seem that FE-C is optimal as you get the full suite of data (including speed), but I’m wondering that if you set it up this way with full trainer control are you able to record your workout via the Garmin while also having a separate app control the workout (Zwift, TR, Fulgaz etc)?

    Basically I’m looking to run something like Zwift or TR, have ERG/app control and shifting work perfectly within that app whilst also recording all available data via the Garmin head unit (speed, power, cadence, torque, balance etc). Is it possible with the Stages?

    • Dan

      I connect the SB20 to Zwift for full control and connect my Garmin to the crank arms, or a different app. Nice to have to separate power connections.

  14. Ryan

    Thanks as usual Ray for the informative review.
    After being massively disappointed as an early adopter of a v1 Atom, I’m being cautious before choosing my next smart bike.

    I will be very interested to read your next post about Zwift, but from what I’m hearing from you already doesn’t fill me with confidence.

    Basically, a stages bike with kickr type gear shifting is the ultimate setup. Do you think it would be possible for stages to engineer a new handlebar setup and offer it as an upgrade, or would we be looking at waiting for the v2 bike in your opinion?

  15. Niels

    Thanks for both of the reviews, very helpful in making a choice between different smart bikes (SB20 vs Wahoo). Is it possible that a shifting bump will be added in a firmware update? Or is that hardware related?

    • Kevin

      Torque/current interrupts are all software-based. Same story for road surface simulation. I imagine that the only thing that could stop the implementation are patents.

    • Dan

      Stages has indicated that they intend to use phone vibration when shifting as an indicator. Not sure how well that will work, but that’s their plan.

    • RE: Hardware for shifting vibrations in handlebars

      As Dan noted, perhaps there’s a phone plan. I’d also question how successful that’ll be. Mostly because of the delays there. It’d have to be instant, and typically speaking it’s going to be hard for the Bluetooth side of that to be that quick. But again, we’ll see.

      Realistically, I’d rather just see them focus on a new V2 handlebar with the vibrations built-in, along with real bike-like shifters.

      RE: Hardware for road-feel like stuff

      Just to round out this question, it wouldn’t be possible for Stages to do the road-feel like bits that Tacx does, since they can’t stutter the flywheel since it’s not electromagnetic. Wahoo and Wattbike both could technically (Wattbike on their V2 unit), but I don’t know what patents/etc might stand in the way of that.

  16. Stefan Beyer

    Hi Ray, love Your review and the SB 20 seams to be the smart bike I need. I would use the SB 20 together with my wife but we use totally different saddles. Is there a possibility to change saddles quick like an a normal bike with 2 different seat posts?
    Thanks
    Stefan

  17. Garry

    Enjoying all these smart bike reviews. Add me to the list of people awaiting the Wattbike Atom V2 review / update.
    Contemplating replacing my Wattbike Pro with an Atom with the new resistance.

  18. David Chrisman

    Hoping they can get the ERG sorted out–this really sounds like the winner from a multi rider set up option point of view.

  19. ferdinand R Tomas

    i like tank like built of this, the price of the atom, the shifters of the virtua bike, the software of the wahoo.

  20. Rob Ford

    Hi all,
    Am looking at one of these as my home trainer, but my wife wants to be able to do spin classes as well. I have been looking around the web and don’t really get any great answers. If I subscribe to the Peleton app for my wife what type of interaction can I expect from this bike? Will any wattage/hr data be displayed in the peleton app? Is it easy to follow along with instructors and get the maximum benefit from the class?

    • You won’t get any interaction from a wattage/cadence/resistance standpoint on Peloton, though, that’s 100% the fault of Peloton. With Peloton’s digital app (meaning, you don’t have a physical Peloton bike) they only allow pairing of HR straps and cadence sensors, not power meters/trainers.

      You could though at least pickup a cadence sensor and affix it to it, and then you’d get cadence.

      It’s easy to follow instructors, and you could execute the workout steps on this bike using the Stages App (by just simply matching resistance levels). It might not be perfect, but after a few workouts she’d find her groove.

    • Ian

      Rob’s issue is the same as mine was 2 months back. It was a really tough for me, but I caved to meet my wife more than half way. I wanted the Stages SB20, but we landed and have been using the Stages SC3 now for 2 months. My wife uses the Peloton App and is fine with not having the app record the info for Spin classes, but you could also record all of that with the Stages Flight app. I have been using the SC3 with Rouvy with and without Training Peaks workouts and aside from not having ERG, I settled on saying I’m fine with this setup. Maybe I’ll get a smart trainer down the line or the SB20 in a few years, but I have power like on the actual bike for now and the SC3 is a tank and my bikes get to live free and outside as intended.

    • Rob Ford

      I am going to make my case for the SB20 tonight at dinner. Wish me luck 🙂

    • Ian

      If I had to do it all over again I would say there’s more controllable résistance settings and you don’t have to take your hands off the bars to turn a dial. The Peloton classes are pretty sweet, the variety of classes beyond cycling for stretching, yoga and strength are a nice plus! Hope your luck is better than mine, but you have a stronger case with Ray’s review at your disposal now.

    • “I am going to make my case for the SB20 tonight at dinner. Wish me luck :)”

      Hope it went well!

      If not, then my Peloton review being released shortly probably won’t help your case. So…better get your convincing done before then!

    • Ben Thomas

      Peloton Spin Classes can be linked with zwift for erg mode workout apparently. link to facebook.com

      I assume that would work on all the smart bikes

    • Ian

      Ray when is your Peloton review coming out? It’s been a while since this post. Curious because the wife saw the info about the new Peloton Bike yesterday and well in 2 weeks we will have both a Stages SC3 and Peloton for a short while (unless I keep the SC3, but really would prefer a Kickr or Elite Suito).

  21. Andrew Green

    The main advantage of this bike over the other options (at least from a UK perspective) is that they are in stock and available to buy.

    Sadly that can’t be said of the Tacx Neo Bike (I’ve had one on order since late March, latest estimate for availability is 3rd August although I expect this to change) Wattbike Atom (V1 or V2 with latest estimates mid-August) or Wahoo Bike (SigmaSports briefly had stock recently, but quickly sold out).

    Fingers crossed supply chains open up again sooner rather than later.

  22. Jeffrey Thomas

    Hi Ray/All,

    I just finished setting up my new SB 20 smart bike. All seems to be well, however I’m hearing a high pitch whining noise when I apply even the slightest bit of force on the pedals. The whining noise seems to be coming from down by the flywheel. It sounds like an electrical noise. Not a physical noise, if that makes sense.

    The noise disappears when I let off applying any force on the pedals – The flywheel can still be spinning.

    So I don’t think it’s the flywheel. I’m thinking it may be the resistance unit.

    I hear the whining noise in “Simulation”, “Egr”, and “Level” modes of operation.

    Also, the whining noise occurs and starts to get even louder when I squeeze the brake levers, even when I’m barely spinning and applying very light force on the pedals.

    I’ve updated the firmware for the bike to version 1.8.3+850. And I’ve updated the power meter firmware to version 1.6.3.

    Just curious Ray if you, or if anyone else who has the bike, has encountered this issue.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

    • Eeks, no, I haven’t heard that. But, my guess is if you ping the Stages folks, they’ll answer pretty darn quick and sort ya out. Sorry!

    • Eric

      There is a normal high pitched noise from the flywheel area like you describe. May change when you apply the brakes. They all do it. When the fan is on and or music you would never notice it. Only in a quiet room with no other noises

    • Jeffrey Thomas

      Hi Eric and Ray,

      Thanks for both of your thoughts.

      I’ve uploaded an audio file to soundcloud.com demonstrating the whining noise.

      The link for the audio file is:

      link to soundcloud.com

      Does this sound normal to you?

      When listening to Ray’s youtube video review of the bike (above) at the 13 minute mark, I’m not hearing any sort of whining noise on his bike, like the noise I hear on my bike.

      Thanks,

      Jeff

    • Jeffrey Thomas

      Here is a link to an additional audio file demonstrating the whining noise. In this case I’m just spinning the pedals, and I’m not squeezing the brakes:

      link to soundcloud.com

      Jeff

    • Martin Vereecken

      Maybe this FB-group might help you: link to facebook.com – it’s an active community of users sharing successes and issues with the bike. I think Stages support is quite active in it.

    • Weird, I don’t think I hear that on this bike. Either because it’s just resonating/absorbing differently in the cave, or something. Or maybe since I got the clunk-clunk noise I didn’t get the whine? 🙂

    • DA

      Mine makes the same noise. Coincides with the brakes too.

  23. Zac

    Have you happened to try a pair of Assioma/Vector pedals and Powermatch to see if it makes ERG mode more or less consistent? Any info from Stages on when we’re likely to see an improvement via FW? I know you said you’ve tested several Beta FW releases, are you optimistic that this can/will be resolved via FW?

    • No, typically power match makes things worse in oscillation cases like this. Plus, the Stages Bike actually already has that – it has two power meters on its crank arms that it uses. 🙂

      I’m optimistic they’ll be able to implement smoothing, but whether or not that reduces oscillations under the hood (which would show up when compared to other power meters), is more challenging.

  24. JF Smith

    Ray, did you try any of the other apps? I own a SB20 and it does not work with Rouvy. There was promise of firmware upgrades but for the time being mine is collecting dust.

    • I tried TrainerRoad and Zwift via both ANT+ & BLE.

      I don’t think I tried Rouvy this time around.

      That said, which OS version doesn’t work, and via what method? I’m somewhat surprised if it doesn’t work, especially if over ANT+ FE-C.

    • Ron Skyewalkr

      btw i would suggest joining the fb group for the stages sb20. very useful bunch of folks there who can help you to get sorted. i can assure you though, rouvy works perfectly fine on the SB20. it’s one of my preferred apps at the moment (at least during my free trial period)

  25. Lee

    Mine arrived yesterday. As always, your reviews are excellent however they always seem to miss out on the “fun” that us regular retail purchasers get.

    Firstly, the comedy value that is in the build manual. Step5, Step6a, Step6a again, then 6b, 6b again in four pictures, all with arrows to help you guess what they mean when a single sentence would have been easier.

    Secondly, the fact that it took me over 20 minutes to update the firmware on the cranks. Why? Because when the app discovered my bike, it put down ANT IDs for cranks which I dont have – trying to get the app to see the new cranks was impossible, many repeated failed attempts, in the end I used the old stages power app to update the firmwares on the cranks, then paired them using that, then had to remove the bike from the new app, re-add it, and even then, the firmware had to be updated using the new app because it wouldn’t register the fact the cranks were 1.6.8 even though they were. Classic stages app and fech, nothing much changed since my first stages crank some 4 years ago 🙂

    Other than the tech BS, the build quality is excellent and the product looks solid. Very smooth riding. I pre-ordered mine ages ago, the simple fact the competitors have a daft top bar with thigh rub rules them out.

    • Haha…I didn’t even notice the duplicate numbers. But I agree, the manual at times made me scratch my head. You can actually see my repeated ‘Huh’ moments assembling it in the video, especially around the 2:25 marker, since that segment I think was sped up about 20x I think. That said, by time I sat down to write the review 2 months later some of the items seemed sorta petty.

      I had meant to actually send Stages a ‘Here’s my thoughts on the install process’ e-mail after I did it, but never quite happened. In any case…

      I did actually talk about the firmware updater process up above with the cranks. In my mind, that should be just self-contained. I should connect to the bike, and then it should know what the crank arms are, and go off and update them. I shouldn’t have to update three things.

      Of course, I also get that doing so requires more software development time, and I’m sure it’s on the list. And so if I have to choose between a cumbersome firmware update process being fixed, or getting dual BLE shipped, I’m gonna choose dual BLE every time.

    • Lee

      Yep, once you’ve built it, when you go back you can see what they are on about with their arrows and as you say, it seems a bit petty.

      I’m not talking about crank firmwares being done at the same time as the main bike, oh no I would have settled for doing them individually – but the stageslink app showed different ANT IDs for the cranks than the ones on the bike. Unable to change as the stageslink app couldn’t see the correct cranks to do firmwares and pairing. So I had to revert back to the old stagespower app, find and update the cranks, then pair them, then I could find/register them against the bike in the stageslink app. Essentially, had it not been for the fact that guys like us have done battle with stages (and other mfrs) apps/tech for years, it would have been a techsupport issue before you’ve even taken a single ride. I find I spend more time updating firmwares and resolving tech issues than I do performing basic maintenance like swapping chains and rings lol.

    • Oh, that’s weird on crank ID’s. I didn’t have that happen I don’t think. Different ones of course per side, but that’s a normal Stages LR thing.

    • Lee

      It was almost like the bike was built with two cranks, which then got swapped, because I can think of no other reason why “scan for cranks” would bring up 4. And I don’t have any stages cranks within reach before you ask 😉

  26. JF Smith

    From Rouvy support team, “…we have reached out to Rouvy regarding app configuration and SB20 control, unfortunately it appears this is not yet a supported feature.”

    I feel it is VERY misleading to continue to advertise compatibility that doesn’t exist. I would have never purchased the SB20 had I known.

    • Again, that’s weird though. What app OS are you trying to use – mobile or desktop, and then which OS?

      I could see there perhaps being some FTMS issue (semi-common in the industry) over Bluetooth, but I’d be super surprised if desktop over ANT+ FE-C is broken there.

    • JF Smith

      IOS 13.5.1 on my Iphone XR and Ipad Pro 3rd gen.

      SB20 connects to Rouvy just does not control.

    • Gotchya, so in that case it’s using FTMS (via Bluetooth).

      In general FTMS is pretty stable these days, and since it seems to work without issue for both TR & Zwift, my guess here is that this is more of a Rouvy issue (since I can just about guarantee Zwift isn’t doing anything special as a one-off for Stages). But it’s always hard to tell.

    • Ron Skyewalkr

      rouvy works on the sb20 just fine. full trainer control, zero issues (outside of an android specifc bug in the latest rouvy app update)

      a couple of suggestions/things to look out for. in the old stages link app (prior to yesterday’s update), you were not able to have the link app paired to the trainer at the same time you’re paired with another app (like rouvy). so the issue you’re having is that rouvy is trying to control the bike but the link app won’t give up control. either disable bt on the phone that’s running the link app or shut down the app (i’m on android so idk if that’s something you do on ios). the other way to do it is to just shut everything down and power on rouvy and the bike only (NOT the link app). you’ll get paired and everything will work great.

      there was an update to both the SB20 and the stages link app yesterday that eliminates these issues. it enabled dual bt connections and provides an option in the link app to set the app to “external control” meaning you can use rouvy to properly control the bike and just use the app to view your gears. it’s the 2.7.2 update

    • JF Smith

      Thanks Ron, very helpful and will try again today. I’ve been waiting for the updates and will try it again today.

  27. Graham Clarke

    Anyone know where can order one in the UK? Stages site won’t allow it

    Secondly if money was no object and zwift is main thing what would you go for? (Currently use wife peleton with garmin vector 3 pedals but a bit fiddly)

    • Lee

      Sigma Sports in UK.

      If money was no object, I’d use a road bike on a KICKR. Thats my setup, the SB20 was for the family.

    • Graham

      Thanks for the reply , Sigma Sports don’t have it, couldn’t find it so rang them, a few places have it on pre-order now.

      Re road bike, the changing back and forth is a bit of a pain isn’t it? Im doing more indoor training at home based on time. Also I get very bad rash from chain oil and weeks of itching..

      I do like the look of Kickr, but then was looking at the bike..

    • Lee

      Hi Graham….

      changing bikes can be a chore I guess. I’m on the (indoor) bike 6 days a week, so I use an older bike permanently setup on the KICKR. It stays there all year apart from when I go to Mallorca as its my “won’t mind too much if the airline crush it” bike 🙂

      Due to illness haven’t yet tried the stages bike on TR or Zwift etc !

  28. Kevw

    Do you think the partnership with Les Mills will go any further?

    link to lesmills.com

    Maybe something to challenge Peloton? My wife already subscribes to Les Mills on demand for their other classes. They do a version of spinning called “RPM” but at the moment its just non-interactive videos.

    • Graham Clarke

      Other have tried this, Nordiktrak do it on the x22i with ifit and now live classes, but not sure how popular it is, I suspect its more brand.

      That would be interesting though as I have Les Mills On Demand, and RPM runs at my local gym and I find them great for VO2 Max training.

  29. Beatrice

    What do you think about ATOMX?
    is ist working properly with ZWIFT? Can you use all the 22 gears in Zwift. ERG Mode working?

    • All those functions work in Zwift today. I have both an ATOM X and an ATOM 2020. They are both similiar and different.

      The ATOM X and 2020 both share the new electromagnetic drivetrain, which makes gear-shifting much faster. I’m going to try and record a simple demonstration of it compared to the original Wattbike ATOM. But, it’s faster. Still, it’s the same 11 or 22 gear option as before. They’re working towards the same gearing flexibility you see in other products, and maybe will have aspects of that later this year.

      Beyond the ATOM X being beefed up for commercial usages, it also has vibrations in the shifters, which the Wattbike ATOM 2020 doesn’t have. That’s a big bummer, as they really help you feel like the shift is made.

      As for ERG mode, that’s definitely a bit rocky right now. It’s worse in variability than the Stages Bike for sure. I had a call with them and all their engineers about it this morning. They know the issue, and roughly know how to solve it (essentially, the new electromagnetic resistance unit is so powerful that it’s overcompensating to even half-RPM differences). It’s basically the same exact problem that Tacx had with their beefed up NEO 2T internals, and to a lesser degree some of the challenges Wahoo had initially too in ERG mode on the KICKR Bike.

      I’d say I’m more confident that Wattbike can fix it’s ERG mode issues than Stages (even though they’re bigger issues), because in Stages case they’re fighting a giant physical flywheel. Whereas in Wattbike’s case they’re just fighting programming.

  30. Lee

    Hi Ray

    I notice today there is a firmware upgrade. Its gone from “1.8.3+850” to “1.9.2+2629”.

    I tried looking/searching online but cannot find any release notes. If you know where Stages have them tucked away that would be useful. Failing that, if you know whats been changed I’m all ears 🙂

  31. DA

    I’ve had my SB20 for several weeks. I had some shipping problems, but that’s to be expected with the current Covid situation. I was able to fix the noise from their FAQ online. I believe some retaining bolts came loose because of poor shipping practices by the freight company. Once fixed, the noise is gone. I speculate some freight companies don’t keep it upright as required and that’s how some fly wheels are being damaged as reported on their FB user group. Either way, Stages support has been exceptional in addressing any concerns. I’m confident they’ll be there if anything goes wrong. My bike is an early SN and the flywheel is fine. I write this comment because the negative are often magnified and not the satisfied users.

    I will say that for me, the drive is not “whisper” quiet as some reviews claim, but it’s decently quiet and quieter than one of the videos I watched for one of the other bikes on DCrainmaker.

    Software has been great. I use Rouvy on an ipad and Stages Link on my phone for shifting. Amazing. No issues at all. Left/right power is very useful to see.

    Adjusting it is a breeze if you have multiple users. Numbers on the seatpost make it super easy.

    IMO, this is the smart bike to get of the 3 big ones out now.

  32. Axel

    Hi Ray,
    my girlfriend and me want to share an indoor bike. However, she’s more into spinning and me into Zwift, Fulgaz and so on. A combination that seems to be quite common outside.
    I now got a KICKR BIKE for testing but … unlike a spinning bike pedals can be stopped while the flywheel is still turning. I guess there’s no chance to change that (at least I found none).
    I’ve read that the SB20 I read has a fixed 5:1 gear, so that means, pedals keep moving as long as the flywheel is turning (like a spin bike). Can you confirm that?
    Thanks,
    Axel

    • Chad McNeese

      The SB20 has a freewheel to allow for coasting, like a normal bike.

      It is NOT a fixed gear setup like most spin bikes.

      The “fixed 5:1 gearing” you mention just means there is only one drive ratio, not adjustable gearing like a bike with derailleurs and shifters.

    • Lee

      You will not find that functionality (fixed gear/pedals spinning whilst flywheel spinning) in any smart bike, only indoor studio spin bikes.

  33. KamalaMala

    Having a bear of a time getting one of these up in Alaska. Clever Training never responded to shipping inquiries. Backcountry just won’t ship it here. Local stages dealer (treadmill, elliptical etc shop) won’t have it until 2021 because the dealer group is pushing to outdoor bike shops first. None in our bike shops though.

    Fingers crossed that Mack Cycle in Miami isn’t going to cancel my order.

    • KamalaMala

      Yep. They cancelled the crap out of that order.

      Ray! Any chance you can help me get Clever Training’s attention? I’m trying to buy a bike and join your VIP program with them, but no love.

    • Hi Kamalamala-

      Yup – will follow-up. I see it’s showing as in-stock, but my guess is that it’s the Alaska address causing issues?

      Out of curiosity, have you tried to place an order with CT?

      Cheers!

    • Kamalamala

      Ray,
      Thanks!! I really appreciate the help. I get the attached message but no love when I try to contact them for a shipping rate.

    • Kamalamala

      CT finally got back to me. Due to size, weight, etc, Alaska gets nada. Suspecting that was the answer, I already made arrangements through one of our local Ikea/Catalog shippers that get things sent to them in Seattle and then fill a container to bring them up. The shipping will be a bit steep at $400 but right to my door. I’m guessing I’ll have the first one in the state! Hope I don’t have a bum unit.

      Thanks for trying to help, Ray!

    • Matt M.

      Whatever you do, don’t purchase from Clever Training. I ordered the SB20 in early August, and it’s been dead on arrival since. For its credit, Stages has been great to deal with although there seem to have been some manufacturing defects related to the flywheel and the handlebars on their first batch of bikes. From my conversations with technical support this is likely a non-issue now, but I’d be careful who you buy the bike from. Stages shipped me out a new flywheel but I’m still unable to ride the bike over two months after placing my order. Stages customer service has been great, but Clever Training has simply stopped responding to me after I asked to return and get a refund. I had to go through my credit card company, and I have still not received a response from CT. I was really bummed the bike didn’t work out, but I’m tired of trying to troubleshoot.

  34. Brian

    I just purchased the SB20 in a large part thanks to this review (plus those of the WattBike Atom, Tacx NEO Bike, and Wahoo KICKR). I’m trying to figure out peripherals/connections while I wait a few weeks for it to get here.

    I’m thinking of mounting a 16″ USB powered monitor (landscape), and hooking it up to a fire TV stick (also powered off the USB). The fire TV stick will be used as a steam remote play client for a Windows box (for zwift et al), and for its usual video watching capabilities. I have two questions related to this possible setup that I hoped you might be able to answer.

    I saw in the user guide that a 12 × 8.68 × 0.27 inch tablet is the max size supported. Obviously 0.27 is depth, but which of the other numbers is the actual maximum extension length of the tablet holder arm? If it’s 12″, it should fit no problem. If it’s 8.68″, it might be a close call.

    My second question relates to the USB ports. The monitor I’m looking at requires 2 amps. The fire TV stick requires 1 amp. You mentioned here that there are two 2 amp USB ports. My question is whether that’s 2 amps per port, or for both ports combined.

    Thanks a lot!

    • Mark @ Stages

      A direct reply from Stages. Our tablet holder was designed for iPad Pros, which has an opening of 270mm and will fit any iPad model in landscape, and even some in portrait such as the 11in and smaller ones. New 2020 model of the 12.9in measures 280mm in height, so this version will only work in landscape. Over time their bezels are getting smaller, so it’s possible future 12.9in models will fit in portrait mode.

      A 16in tablet sure would look nice on this bike, and most models out there will be ~230mm in landscape mode and fit well. I like your thinking here, and I’m sure more will follow suit down the line!

      On the USB question, the USB-A ports are 2.1A each. You should have no problems.

      Mark

    • Brian

      Thanks Mark, I’ve got everything set up now and it works like a charm! I appreciate the help optimizing the display options.

  35. Richard

    Hi Ray, did you get the TT bars and have a look at them?

  36. Andrew

    Purchased and performed first ride. So smooth and quiet. I was lucky enough to find a bike shop where I could trial the kickr and the stages and the kickr was like a toy in comparison to this machine. The only and I mean only thing that is better and only because we as cyclists are used to it is the gear change. Other than that i found the kickr to be gimmicky. The only thing I can’t seem to get connected is my Fenix 5x to show speed. Power and cadence are fine. This dream set up that it has is awesome.

    • struggling_with_SB20

      How smooth is it? Mine was adjusted by a technician and it seems to grind still. I wish I could try one at a local store to compare. I would not call it smooth or quiet though. My road bike with conventional chain is much smoother. Probably quieter too.

    • Skyewalkr

      could you describe the “grinding”? the belt is a toothed gates carbon belt which has a feeling/sensation kind of like riding with a chain. it’s hard to describe but there’s definitely a feeling to it, which is perfectly normal

    • struggling_with_SB20

      Actually, you can hear a similar noise in Ray’s (when he’s not talking) review at 13:28-13:35. It’s a whir whir noise. Gets louder as he pedals faster. It’s not a constant grind, but sort of pulses with the pedal stroke. Mine’s louder than that, but very similar in fact. It doesn’t sound smooth either.

      13:28
      link to youtube.com

  37. Andrew

    Unable to get stages sb20 bike to record speed to my Fenix 5x. Any others out there with similar issue. My watch picks up left and right crank as does my edge 1000 but not the flywheel. Really annoying as you cannot have a ride upload through Garmin connect and give you intensity data

    • But the power is the cranks – that’s what you pair to.

    • Andrew

      Yes but they don’t give speed so when you want your intensity minutes etc uploaded to garmin connect there is nothing to upload

    • Hmm, maybe that’s something that Stages can add in to the non FE-C channel.

      That said, intensity minutes, calories, etc… all come from HR (or power if there), so you should actually be getting those added in.

    • Andrew

      Will check that out…thanks DC

    • Andrew

      There has been talks that you don’t need the Fenix watch actually recording an activity to track IM but I rode for 20 mins to test this. I had the HR hooked up, power and cadence and my watch did not record the fact that my HR got elevated. So still no IM but I found a way to get speed and that was to use my Garmin 1000 head unit and it found the trainer but of course that does not upload any intensity minutes…come on Garmin sort your shit out. It’s pathetic that IM does not stream across all their devices. One day one company will put all these to shame and come out with a device that does it all properly

  38. tdufour

    Any firmware update to address the questionable ERG mode quality? It is a big show stopper for me as it is my preferred training method…

    • Trevor

      Curious about this too. Would hope to have seen some improvement over the last month or so.

    • Charlys

      Please provide update

    • Brian

      I’ve had mine for a couple weeks now, and ERG mode is still pretty unstable.

      As of right now the latest firmware is still v1.9.2, which was released toward the end of July, and didn’t include any updates related to ERG mode:
      link to manuals.stagescycling.com

      So despite the wait, I suppose there’s still hope that it will improve, since an update hasn’t been released yet that claims to have addressed it.

    • tdufour

      Brian can you confirm if ERG mode is improved with latest firmware update? Thanks!

    • Brian

      Oddly it won’t let me update to the newest firmware release. The app just tells me my firmware (which is still at v1.9.2) is up to date. I wonder whether they fat fingered the version number (seems like it should be v1.10.0 instead of v1.1.0). I contacted support to see why I can’t seem to update. I’ll post here again once I’ve been able to install and try it out.

  39. Alex

    Hi Ray-

    Thank you for the review! Yours has been the most informative from all sources I could find online. I am very close to pulling the trigger on this bike to start my indoor set up – but I was hoping if you could comment a bit more on the noise levels of the smart bike.

    I live on the top floor of my apartment building – so my primary concern is the noise level and not disturbing my downstairs neighbors. In your opinion, do you think this is quiet enough so as not to get my neighbors knocking on my door? Thanks!

  40. marmi

    I can’t decide which would be a better purchase for the Stages SB20 or the Tacx Neo Smart Bike. Which would be your choice? The worst side of Stages is probably the software and, for example, the ERG mode, mechanically the device seems durable and the adjustments faster to use. Tacx would be a functional transmission, but mechanically weaker and if bad luck happens then there are problems with the belt and so on. The software side is better (?). Tacx’s weakness is still poor availability in Europe when Stages is available with a moderate delivery time.

    • Kaspar

      Hi. I am in the same situation, in my case for setting up our “mini-gym” between neighbours. I could convince them to get a “real cycling” bike instead of a spin bike or “old people ergometer” but which one to choose? Probably about 10-20 users. Tacx advantage: No power needed (important in our setting), shifters, road feel. Stages advantage: Durability, no leg rub. Tacx is about 100-200 CHF (=$) cheaper here in Switzerland. Wattbike Atom is unavailable and Wahoo WAY too expensive (same as Wattbike Atom X).
      Most important points for us: Need for mains power and durability.
      P.S. and Off-topic: There will be a second bike, probably Nohrd or potentially Peloton if I can manage to get it here. Anyone know if there are French language classes on Peloton (Canadian?)

  41. Tinus

    Hello Ray,

    The shifters don’t seem to work when using sufferfest although they are properly plugged in. The stages link app is on my iPhone open and the sufferfest on my iPad. In trying to find a solution I looked at the sufferfest and they don’t support the stages bike sb20, the same I saw on Zwift by the way. The other thing is that when I spin the flywheel to the max, the bike starts to vibrate. Is this normal? doesn’t to be ou

  42. Mark (Australia)

    Hi Ray,
    Did you resolve the noise coming from the flywheel?
    I purchased a new Stages SB20 this week. Third session on the bike it has developed an annoying clicking noise from the flywheel, it’s definitely not from the pedals or belt as the noise also continues when freewheeling.
    All of my time is on TrainerRoad using ERG mode, so far the experience is disappointing with the high levels of drift above and below the target power.
    The rest of the bike is solid.
    Feedback appreciated regarding the noisy flywheel.
    Thanks
    Mark

    • Matthew ralph

      I have this issue now after about 3 weeks. I’m going to send an email to stages. See what they say. Have you found out the problem?

    • Mark

      Unfortunately still waiting on a response from Stages. At this point in time it’s likely I’ll be seeking a full refund. The after sales support so far is disappointing.

  43. Colin Gray

    I don’t like Zwift but I have used the Wattbike at a local gym. However because of my age that is not a practical option at the moment so I am looking to but a suitable exercise bike. What I like about the wattbike is the structured sessions on the Wattbike App on my smartphone. Do stages provide anything similar for the SB20?

  44. MacCroat

    Hi Ray, I read your and other tests on various smart bikes. In the end it became the Stages SB20.
    I’m not a pro and I’m very overweight, the bike is supposed to help me get back into shape physically.
    One of the most important things in long training sessions is to make the right ergonomic adjustments.
    Unfortunately there are almost no instructions for this.
    Do you have a tip how to create a bike fitting for the SB20?
    An online source would be good.

    Thanks,

    MacCroat

    • Lee

      I think possibly you are over complicating this. As someone who also started out cycling from a very overweight perspective I can tell you that its likely the saddle/soreness will be your limiting factor. Provided you have a small bend left in your legs when the pedal is down, that will be fine. Even if you had a fit done, you would find that in time it would no longer be relevant. I started out with a 52 frame on a 70mm stem because i couldnt stretch/get low, now i’m on 54 frame with 130 stem.

      The SB20 has enough adjustment in all of the important areas to be comfortable; well as comfortable as any indoor bike can be.

      I bought the SB20 for my wife, she has been using it two weeks and currently 30 minute sessions are her limit before saddle soreness kicks in.

  45. Michael

    Thanks for the super helpful reviews. I’m weighing up the Stages vs the Wahoo. Price isn’t so much an issue – i just want to get the right bike, but it seems impossible to test ride them in the UK. Key downsides to the Wahoo to me seem to be the thigh rub (which would really bug me) and it just looks really rickety under load in all the videos I’ve seen. Positives are the shifters and the tilt, although the latter again looks a bit rickety. For the stages, the downsides to me just seem to be the shifters, although in practice this doesn’t seem a huge deal, and you mentioned it doesn’t power the flywheel on descents. In your experience, does the wahoo feel shaky, and are the shifters and lack of flywheel drive on the stages annoying or just a minor downside? And is the flywheel thing something they could hypothetically update in future via a software update?

  46. Ronald

    Bought it today, did some nice testruns.

    But have a weird issue.
    When I connect the bike to Zwift via Apple TV (BT)
    And have the shifting screen on my Apple phone (BT)
    And connect the bike to my Garmin forerunner 945 (ant)

    Than I’m only able to have half of the power in Garmin, it seems that when above applies my watch (or 530) only wants to connect to a single sided powermeter.

    When I lose 1 of the connections, everything works perfect. So with a watch and Zwift, the shifting screen won’t work.

    Everyone else got this issue?

    • Kamalamala

      Bought it?? As just walked in and walked out with one? I’ve been waiting in Alaska since August. Such a CF to get it up here.

    • Ronald

      I did read a lot of reviews and choose this one, and then with a lot of surfing on the web I managed to locate a couple at a local small dealer. I reserved one last tuesday, and today they were al sold out.

    • Ben

      Only had mine a week. I’ve sometimes only had half the power display on my Garmin sometimes. I think, which is what I’m going to try next, is if you only pair the left power meter as that gets the data from the right one and transmits all of it. I recommend joining the owners group on facebook. All the problems like this have been covered and is a good source of information.

      Also think the link app is a bit dodgy at the moment. I only use it for calibration and updates. Never have it open when in zwift. Apart from racing, everything I’ve done has been in erg mode so far. I have the Ant receiver strap to the cross bar on the bike with a 3m usb cable to the mac to make sure I don’t get any dropouts as had some on my first ride. There’s a lot to learn but I’m enjoying it so far.

    • Lee

      Hi Ben….

      so – you “should” be pairing to the ANT ID of the bike, not the left power meter. To say that using the left PM is “better” just shows there is something wrong. Fix, not workaround 😉

      The bike does seem to be hit or miss when it comes to how the PMs integrate with the main bike. Today I noticed an upgrade for the crank PMs, but it took multiple attempts before both cranks showed the same 1.71 version. I also find that powering off the bike and back on is required in order to get it to accept resistance control changes.

      In my garmin I can only see ANT IDs broadcast for the bike, and the left PM. But it should be the bike one you use really. Esp if you want control of the bike through ERG/SIM etc.

      And generally its a very good idea to have nothing else paired or running whilst you’re using an ANT/BT device with an app. With dual BT functionality these days its less of an issue but it can be maddening sometimes when your app won’t see a device, all cos your phone in your pocket is holding onto a connection 😉

    • Ben

      I have a Garmin 935 so will not be able to control the bike from it. I pair the bike with zwift and that works fine. Only need power and cadence on Garmin to get my training load. Which is why I think just the left will work.

    • Ronald

      I think I’ve sorted it.

      Don’t touch the Garmin so that you know for sure it ins’t searching any sensors.

      First connect to Apple TV, than connect to stages app on your phone. And when everything is running, connect to your Garmin.

      Then the smart bike is working and your Garmin is logging al the details. When I connect to my Garmin in the first step, one BT connection won’t happen.

  47. Jean-Michel L

    thanks for the great review. I am really looking at this bike vs the tacx mostly because of fit and also issue with thigh rubbing with tacx
    I am just wondering if there is any feedback about the ERG power stability issue that was raised and if this is resolved? I am heavy user of sufferfest so this is quite important to me. thank you

  48. Matthew ralph

    The knocking which rainmaker talked about in his review has started happening and is getting progressively worse. I’ve just taken a video to send to Wahoo support.

    Anyone else had this? Do they know what caused it?

    • Mark

      Unfortunately still waiting on a response from Stages. At this point in time it’s likely I’ll be seeking a full refund. The after sales support so far is disappointing.

  49. Dominic Donald

    I just invested in an SB20. Your review was a valuable part of my decision! I’m very happy with the bike.. you’re right. The bike itself is super-solid and easy to keep clean. One major advantage of the SB20 over the Tacx bike for me, was the range of adjustability – my partner (4’11”) can ride it with ease, which is great! It’s also incredibly quiet, even compared to my Tacx Neo smart trainer. Don’t even need earphones now! The tablet holder is very convenient, and the USB ports are essential.

    The only two relative downsides, compared to my Tacx Neo are:

    1) It does struggle with Erg Mode – as you noted in your review, the power does fluctuate around the average quite a bit. The other thing that you didn’t mention / notice, is that the bike is not responsive to big power changes. If I am riding at 250W and then the Erg goes to 400W for an interval, the SB20 can barely get there. The algorithm seems to struggle especially if you try to maintain or increase cadence at the same time. It only manages to increase the power properly if you slow down the cadence. Then, at the end of the interval, it take a good 10s or so to figure out how to get down to the prescribed power. It has trouble with the balance between varying cadence, actual power and target power from the three on-board power-meters.. as well as dealing with the flywheel.

    2) Probably related to this, it has trouble with setting the power as controlled by Zwift. If you’re on a hilly course, it doesn’t feel very responsive to gradient changes. With the Tacx Neo I could shift a gear, get out the saddle and go straight up to 420W (say) on a short climb. With the SB20, I get out of the saddle and it responds in a strange/unrealistic way.. I still haven’t figured it out, but the transmitted power seems to be much lower than it feels, and then it gradually creeps up.

    The feel of the bike is very smooth, which is great. It pedal stroke does feel ‘heavier’ than the Tacx Neo. Similar to when I moved from Wahoo Kickr to Tacx Neo, something felt different about the way you need to apply power around the pedal stroke. With the SB20, it really feels like you have to push the pedal more from 10-2 o’clock, whereas the Neo’s flywheel seemed to ease that part of the stroke. As a result, the load has shifted to different muscles and I notice the fatigue! the optimum cadence seems higher on the SB20 (around 98-100) as opposed to the Neo (90-95). Again, perhaps it’s the flywheel effect.

    The good thing is, all this could probably be fixed with firmware.
    The relatively poor shifter buttons could also be upgraded in future as an accessory, I imagine!

    All that said, it’s a great bit of kit and it works very well for training purposes. Well recommended.

  50. Kasper Bech-Zimmermann Kristensen

    Thanks for a great review:)

    Can The Dual power meter go as an dual recording in zwift? Meaning, can you use the crank as main, and the flywheel A second on a garmin head unit?