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Saris Announces New Upgraded H4 Smart Trainer

H4-Left-Angled

Today is apparently new-trainer day, with Saris joining in on announcing a new smart trainer, their H4. This new unit follows in the footsteps of the previous Hammer namesake trainers, most recently the Saris H3 from 2019. This new H4 trainer is mostly a modest upgrade in terms of features, designed to keep the Saris direct drive unit competitive within the mid to high-end trainer market. The big ticket items are increased accuracy, increased incline/wattage, and full 12-speed cassette support.

Now, while I’ve got a test trainer somewhere on the way, FedEx hasn’t quite arrived yet (well, he’s arrived a lot of times the past week, and given all the heavy packages coming in, he’s probably displeased with me at the moment). But till then, this is just a quick placeholder announcement post outlining what’s changed. Once I’ve got the usual slate of test rides on the new Saris H4, I’ll drop a full in-depth review like always.

The Specs & Changes:

First up, let’s dive into the core specs:

– Direct drive trainer: This means you remove your rear wheel
– Flywheel: It has a flywheel weight of 9kg/20 pounds
– Cassette: Compatible with 8/9/10/11/12 speed cassettes from SRAM and Shimano, XD/XDR & Microspline freehubs sold separately.
– Sound: Quiet, but not silent – same as Saris H3
– Handle: The unit has a built-in handle, and can fold the legs
– Protocol Compatibility: ANT+ FE-C, ANT+ Power, Bluetooth Smart Trainer Control, Bluetooth Smart Power (everything you need)
– App Compatibility: Every app out there basically (Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, RGT, The Sufferfest, Kinomap, etc…)
– Skewer Compatibility: All the skewers and adapters you could ask for: Road 130mm, 135mm, 142x12mm, 148x12mm
– Max Incline: 25% simulated grade
– Max Wattage: 2,300 watts resistance
– Stated Accuracy: +/-1.0%
– Power Cable Required: Yes, power block compatible with 100-240v
– Weight: 21.3kg/47lbs
– Pricing and Availability: $999USD, on sale on Saris.com tomorrow Sept 7th.

Of course, it’s probably handy to outline what’s changed from the existing H3:

1) Now supports 12-speed road bikes, whereas the previous H3 didn’t
2) Increased claimed accuracy to +/- 1.0 (was +/- 2.0%)
3) Increased simulated gradient from 20% to 25%
4) Increased wattage resistance from 2,000w to 2,300w
5) Saris says they’ve also improved cadence accuracy
6) Changed color scheme back to a yellow accented one (from grey/black accents)

These are some pretty solid specs for an update version. Sure, it doesn’t have a new external case/shell – it looks the same as before, but I’ll take better specs/features over a new shell design any day.

H4-Front-Angled

Core things I’ll be looking at once I get to riding it in the DCR Cave are:

1) Is power accuracy maintained at the same level as before?
2) Does it maintain its previous “King of ERG Mode” title?
3) Any problems with any of my 12sp bikes?

And then beyond that, ensuring that the trainer continues using all the existing protocols/standards as their previous units, which were ANT+/Bluetooth Smart fully compatible across the board with any app you wanted.

As far as the King of ERG Mode title, I and many others have found that the Saris H3 (and previous units) is arguably the best trainer when it comes to structured workouts in how gracefully and cleanly it changes resistance levels, and then holds those levels. For whatever reason, almost every other trainer on the market struggles in some way here, even if they’re just minor struggles.

For folks that might live in TrainerRoad or primarily just do structured workouts, maintaining that title could be a key purchasing reason – especially if coming from a louder/older version of the Saris Hammer series (like the original Hammer).

Wrap-Up:

(Pictured above, the Saris H3 in my previous testing, which shares the same external body/design)

The Saris H3 was definitely due for an update, and these specs combined with this price will help keep the new Saris H4 in the conversation. While the sales of high-end trainers have slumped over the past 12 months (because everyone that bought/wanted a high-end trainer did so in the past 3 years), companies are setting themselves up for a new wave of bike owners to ideally join the indoor cycling fray this winter. The H4 basically makes itself performance spec-competitive with Elite/Wahoo/Tacx, but at a slightly lower price than those. That pricing gap is fair, since new trainers from those other companies have added features non-performance features like multi-channel Bluetooth Smart (Elite/Wahoo), rocking feet (Elite/Tacx/Wahoo), or integration with riser systems (Elite/Wahoo). Plus a smattering of other features.

Saris says they’re keeping the existing H3 in the lineup with an official price of $799, though frankly, I suspect we’ll continue to see it offered for crazy-pants prices like we have the last few weeks down to sub-$400. That clearance of their glut of inventory is in line with their ongoing sale of the company itself. While Saris hasn’t made any public comments about the sale since early July, I can see from public court filings that some sale hearings are scheduled in a few weeks. While the specifics of those hearings aren’t super clear from the filings, that’d be roughly in line with their plans to sell the company within 60 days of the late June announcement.

You’ll remember at the time, Saris noted that a slew of issues (including chipset lead times), led to the delays of future product launches. While unnamed at the time, that did indeed include this new Saris H4. Still, until a final sale of the company is announced/clarified, I could see how some people might be hesitant to order the new H4. Hopefully, by the time I get my test rides in for a full in-depth review, the details of the sale will be clear. Plus, it’s unlikely Saris would go forth with a new product announcement right now unless they had an agreement from the prospective buyer.

In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing the dust settle – both on this trainer, and the company plans. It’s good to see more high-spec options at slightly lower prices than the existing $1,200+ trainers. Stay tuned for more soon!

With that, thanks for reading!

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33 Comments

  1. Chad McNeese

    Perhaps I missed it with my quick reading, but I don’t see a mention of the multiple BLE channels that seemed to be mentioned in the Zwift Hub debut video.

    Otherwise, this seems largely like a ‘meh’ upgrade to an already long-in-the-tooth trainer. The auto calibration could be nice, but considering you only really need to run a calibration about 1x per month if it stays in place, that’s not the biggest hassle.

    And proper 12-speed function is good for longer term compatibility. But I am still bothered that the shell seems to continue with the likely thru axle conflict that exists for some bikes & axle handles.

    I love my old H2, but the slower rate of progress in this design seems like more of the same and not enough to really differentiate them from the other options.

    • No, there are no multiple BLE channels unfortunately (it’s actually what I was confirming). The press release was quirky on the wording, hence re-validaitng that a bit.

    • Chad McNeese

      OK, thanks for the update.

      I guess we will see what if anything materializes from Wahoo, Tacx and such but this seems pretty underwhelming to me in light of the Zwift Hub info today. If those other companies debut trainers close to the H4 pricing and beat it on the feature set, it’s not a great place to restart with this at least.

      Maybe it doesn’t matter since they are essentially different product levels, but I can’t help but wonder how much the Hub will shift the expectations for new and even experienced trainer users.

    • Brooklyn

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  2. Kyle

    I’m so confused, is Saris going to remain a functioning company an extended amount of time?

  3. Ugh

    Miss step by not having a hardwired connection like Wahoo.

  4. JimmyB

    I’m trying to figure out why an H3 trainer would not be Shimano 12 speed compatible. Cassette spacing is the same and you can use the cassettes on existing 11-spd wheels so there shouldn’t be issues there. I’ve also run my gravel bike with a long cage Ultegra RX derailleur on my H3 so there’s no issue with the cage length. Any ideas (as I’m about to enter trainer season with an H3 and a new 12 speed Ultegra bike)?

    • Peter

      It is compatible with road 12 speed. I have 12 speed ultegra and use it with the 11 speed cassette.

    • Peter

      It is compatible with road 12 speed. I have 12 speed ultegra and use it with the 11 speed cassette.

      Should say hub instead of cassette. Either way, the h3 is compatible with 12 speed road (maybe not mtb)

    • Basil

      Peter,

      Just to confirm, you have run a 12 speed shimano cassette on the 11 speed freehub on an H3?

      Appreciate the help.

    • Peter

      Yes. I have put 12 speed ultegra on my bike that has an 11 speed Shimano hub. I then bought the h3 and the 11 speed hub. Then I bought an additional 12 speed cassette and put it on the h3 with the 11 speed hub. All the Shimano documentation clearly states 12 speed ultegra works with 11 speed Shimano hubs so I went ahead with it all without issue.

    • Basil

      Did you have an clearance issues? I’ve seen reports that it sits very close to the housing and can rub since the largest cog on the 12 speed Shimano systems uses the dish of the wheel and to place the largest cog further inboard.

      Seems like that is not a concern?

    • Peter

      It wasn’t a concern/issue for me. I use 11-30 so maybe if the 30 was larger it could be an issue, if I understand what you’re describing correctly. From a mechanical fit standpoint, JimmyB’s original comment was my thought process on why it wouldn’t be an issue when I went forward with it all – the 12 speed fits on the 11 speed hub and the overall width/spacing is the same. I’ve since put an old 8 speed on the Saris while I use my newer bike outdoors but I definitely did a few 12 speed rides on the trainer without issue.

    • Basil

      So I was able to head to my local shop and try a new ultegra set up on an H3 they had in stock. Yes the cassette will fit and has plenty of clearance but the derailleur cage contacted the housing when in the largest cog. I didn’t adjust limit screws or anything but just wondering if that was something which you noticed.

    • Basil

      After receiving the confirmation from Peter below I did have a chance to test a 12 speed shimano drivetrain on the H3 today. I can say that you can install the cassette, however you will contact the housing of the trainer when shifting into the largest cog. It isn’t by much, but the derailleur cage does hit. The reason for this is that the largest cog on the new 12 speed cassettes is not inline with the carrier of the cassette. In essence it is cantilevered outside of the carrier. This allows shimano the ability to have the 12 gears on the same freehub. So in actuality, the 12 spd cassette is slightly wider than 11 spd cassettes. Hope this helps.

    • JimmyB

      So I put an Ultegra 12-spd cassette on my H3 (11-30T) and there is clearance issues. The derailleur cage hits the body of the trainer when trying to shift into the largest cog and it won’t go up into that gear. Not ideal but workable as there are 11 other gears that still work fine.

  5. Ariel levin

    I wish they’d add a fixed gear adapter for the H series

  6. robertpaulson

    Does it still give you the free saris sprint watts?

    • Chad McNeese

      That sprint data issue was resolved long ago during the reign of the H2 from all I read and experienced. Non-issue for the H3 & H4 and any older trainer on the proper firmware.

    • robertpaulson

      H3 will still give you near +5% after drive train losses for 15s power vs a set of pedals

  7. Indoor Newbie

    H3 or the Zwift hub for under $500?

    • Kyle

      H3’s flywheel is twice as heavy, that’s plenty enough reason to buy the H3 to me.

      I’ve had an H3 for a couple of years, biased.

  8. Luís Monteiro

    Hi all,

    Does anyone know when Wahoo will launch the new Kikcr Smart Trainer? version 6 ou a rebrand one?

    I need to buy a new smart trainer and I already decided I will go for Wahoo Kickr Smart V5 but I don’t know if is the wrigth time to buy or wait 15 days/1 month to have a new version.

    Someone can help me decide?

    • Chad McNeese

      I saw a very short lived leak about the V6 Kickr as shared on a Euro retailer site (Dutch?). It was removed shortly after people saw what it was (I’m guessing Wahoo jumped on them hard), but seems that there is a good chance we will see an announcement of the new model this Fall.

    • robertpaulson

      supposed to launch end aug but nobody can get rid of existing stocks of kickr v5 and bike v1 without massive discounting?

  9. TheStansMonster

    This is the one trainer model that could use a shell update since it’s functionally incompatible with levered thru-axles, requiring you to buy a completely separate tool-installed axle.

    • Chad McNeese

      “functionally incompatible with [FIXED] levered thru-axles”

      – Some axle levers are “indexable” or even “flipable” like the quick releases of old. These mobile options axle levers are functional, but still a minor pain. Your main point is still true, that fixed / non-removable T-A levers hit the trainer case, but it’s not an issue with all axles. Either way, it’s a bummer that Saris didn’t bother to address it, because they know the problem exists and has since the original Hammer.

      I have dealt with it since I use my H2 for bike fitting, and get a number of different bikes on it every year. I’ve used my Saris trainer thru axle as a hack, and even had to remove a fixed lever from the axle in once case when the trainer axle I had didn’t match the odd threads on one bike. Bit of a hassle and lead me to get a different trainer for my fitting needs.

  10. AXS

    Ray, isn’t this a *FREE* trainer? You could simply update the firmware on a Hammer, H2, or H3 and viola, right?

    Also, why did Saris use 12sp AXS bikes in their ads? Ted King, Trek Segafredo (and myself included) used 12 speed AXS bikes on various Saris trainers for years without issue.

    Last question, sorry for piling on, is this a real product? Seems weird that all the images are renderings instead of photos.

  11. Joe

    I literally just bought the H3 yesterday while it was on sale for $384. At first I was ready to throw my mug through the computer screen when I saw the H4 release a few hours later, but after reading the updates I’m relieved there’s really nothing I feel I’ll be missing out on. I don’t care too much about the accuracy increase from 2% to 1% and the max power and gradient improvements also aren’t a big deal to me.

    As long as they continue to support the H3 with any necessary firmware updates I think I’ll still be happy with my decision.

    • Breandan

      I 100% agree. I purchased an H3 a few weeks ago and almost puked when I heard of their financial troubles. I really want at less 4 years use with continued company support (firmware updates, sontunued ability to calibrate the unit through the app etc) or I will be so upset and be done with smart trainers tbh.

  12. Helmut

    Any chance you’ll review the trainer that basic-fit offers with their all-in membership? Seems like a good enough deal, but I’m nervous that the bike is a dud.

  13. Jenn Real

    I have an early H4. There is more clearance between the cassette and the shell than there was on the H3. Should fit 12 speed now no problem. It also runs more smoothly with Zwift, handles the steep gradient changes much better. Super accurate as always. The H3 was great, the H4 is even better!