Sunday, September 25, 2016

Trainer Season is Here: Smart Trainer Edition

While there is plenty of opportunity to get some great rides in outside (anybody doing the Hilly Hundred in a few weeks?), many of us will choose to start riding indoors soon.  Indoor training can be a great way to improve your bike fitness during the winter months, and we are seeing some great new products coming out for 2017.

The theme for 2017 seems to revolve around smart trainers - trainers that have the ability to adjust resistance for you, based on software providing commands to increase or decrease the load as the workout or virtual course demands.  The CompuTrainer is the granddaddy of them all, but has a lot of company from the likes of Wahoo Fitness, CycleOps, Tacx, Elite, Kinetic and others.  As a consumer, I love having all these choices!

One note about the "smart" trainer tag:  There are some products that are labeled as "smart", but are not able to control resistance.  An example is the Kinetic Road Machine Smart, which was introduced a couple of years ago.  It has the ability to provide measurements, but not provide variable resistance.  Elite also has a few products labeled as "smart" that are not what we are discussing here.

Also of note, Elite has introduced a few new products at EuroBike, although I have not seen anything from them as far my availability goes.  I can get one of their trainers, so will include that here and add the others if/when they become available.  Elite is an Italian company, and we don't get all of their products here in the U.S.

Here is a quick look at the smart trainer options available from Vector Cycle Works this year (click on any of the images for a bigger view).


CycleOps has one of the more extensive trainer product lines available on the market.  Their product line has been fairly stable for a few years, but have introduced a couple of interesting new additions this year - the Hammer direct-drive trainer and Magnus wheel-drive trainer.  Both the Hammer and Magnus are smart trainers, like the PowerBeam Pro and PowerSync.  They also offer their Silencer direct-drive trainer, but note that it is not a smart trainer - it has 5 levels of magnetic resistance, but is not software-controlled.

CycleOps Hammer

Hammer - $1,199.99

The Hammer appears to be CycleOps' response to the Wahoo KICKR and Tacx Neo direct-drive trainers.  This direct drive trainer will emulate up to a 20% grade or 2000 watts.  It has a 20 pound flywheel, and weighs 47 pounds total.  It incorporates ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0 for connectivity to all your devices.

CycleOps Magnus

Magnus - $599.99
The new Magnus is a pretty exciting option, and I think at under $600, is going to provide some tough competition for the KICKR SNAP and Tacx Vortex in the affordable smart trainer space.  

Not a lot of info is out on this yet, but we do know that it will provide up to 1500 watts of resistance, is both ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0-compatible, and will fit a pretty wide variety of bikes (although you'll need a <2" rear tire on your 29er).

CycleOps PowerBeam Pro
PowerBeam Pro - $999.99
The PowerBeam Pro is CycleOps' first smart trainer, and is still a solid choice with +/- 5% accuracy.  It can provide up to 1000 watts of resistance, and will fit 29ers with 2.25" tires.  It is available with either ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart connectivity, and you can get their Joule GPS bundled with the ANT+ version for an additional $200.

CycleOps PowerSync

PowerSync - $899.99
The PowerSync is available in ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart versions for the same price.  The PowerSync is a bit more affordable than the PowerBeam Pro, although the tradeoff is that it won't fit your 29er.

Read more on the CycleOps PowerSync here.


As mentioned earlier, Elite has introduced a few new products at EuroBike including their Drivo and Rampa interactive trainers.  Elite uses "smart" to describe their trainers that can send data to your devices, and "interactive" for what most manufacturers call smart trainers.  I don't have pricing or availability info on the Drivo and Rampa yet, but will update if I hear anything.  For now, Elite offers their Real Turbo Muin B+.

Real Turbo Muin B+ - $1,149.00
The Real Turbo Muin B+ is a direct-drive smart trainer similar to the Wahoo KICKR, CycleOps Hammer, and Tacx Neo.  It is the most affordable of these-direct drive trainers.  I have not ridden one, so I can't tell you how it behaves compared to the KICKR or others.  It is interesting because it is a hybrid fluid/magnetic resistance unit.  While fluid trainers are nice for their road-like feel, most smart trainers use magnetic resistance in order to control the resistance via software.

Read more about the Real Turbo Muin B+ here.


While Kinetic offered their Smart trainers a year or two ago, these are not the type that can provide resistance via software control like most smart trainers.  For 2016/2017, Kinetic is going all-in with smart trainers and offering their new Smart Control units.  One thing to note is that Kinetic will offer the Smart Control resistance unit by itself, if you want to upgrade your existing Road Machine or Rock 'n Roll.

Road Machine Smart Control - $649.00
Kinetic has taken their tried and true Road Machine frame (which is what I use in the studio) and replaced the resistance unit with the Smart Control unit.  At this point, I don't have a lot of info on the Smart Control as far as max loads, etc.  I like the potential here.  Price-wise, it slots in between the CycleOps Magnus and the KICKR SNAP.

Read more on the Road Machine Smart Control here.

Rock 'n Roll Smart Control - $849.00
This could be a really interesting option.  The Rock 'n Roll challenges you a bit more than most stationary trainers, and now they've added the power resistance unit.  Like the Road Machine Smart Control, I don't have a lot of info on this right now, but it is expected to be available soon.

Read more on the Rock 'n Roll Smart Control here.


Tacx offers 7 different smart trainers, if you count the new Magnum bike treadmill (sorry, I can't get these yet).  New this year is the FLUX Smart direct-drive trainer.  The rest of the lineup is unchanged.  At some point soon, I hope to take a look at the Tacx software offerings, which look like a lot of fun.

FLUX Smart - $899.99
It's probably best to just start with DC Rainmaker's hands-on review of the FLUX.  Some interesting notes from there is that it is more accurate than it is rated, can provide 1500 watts of resistance, and it won't be getting here before late October or early November'ish.

Read more on the FLUX Smart here.

Bushido Smart - $799.99
I've been riding the Bushido Smart for over a year now.  This is unique because it doesn't have to be plugged in to provide resistance - it is completely wireless, yet can provide up to 1400 watts of resistance.  I will try to do a long-term review on this in the near future.

Read more on the Bushido Smart here.

Genius Smart - $849.99
For $50 more than the Bushido, what advantages does the Genius Smart offer?  It is no longer wireless and offers a bit more resistance than the Bushido at 1500 watts.  What is interesting is that it will simulate a -5% grade, so it will actually accelerate your rear wheel to simulate descents for a more realistic experience.  This is where Tacx's software is going to be especially fun.

Read more on the Genius Smart here.

i-Genius Multiplayer Smart - $1,199.99
OK, so this looks like a lot of fun.  With the Tacx software, this will simulate 20% uphills, 5% downhills and offers steering input, too.  Join up with some friends for some virtual reality fun, like riding your tri bike on mountain bike trails.  DC Rainmaker has reviewed the Genius system here.

Read more on the i-Genius Multiplayer here.

Ironman Smart - $1,099.99
Honestly, I'm not sure why this unit exists.  Throw the Ironman name on the Genius and bump the price up $200 and you're there.  Oh, it adds a controller and a Kona course DVD.  I guess I'd rather spend an extra $100 for the i-Genius and have more of the virtual reality stuff.

Read more on the Ironman Smart here.

NEO Smart - $1,599.99
The NEO was introduced just last year and is Tacx's first foray into direct-drive trainers.  It's an impressive unit on paper, able to simulate uphill grades to 25% (2200 watts) and downhills to -5%.  It is extremely quiet, and will also simulate different road surfaces for enhanced realism.

Read more about the NEO Smart here.

Vortex Smart - $549.99
Last but not least, the lowest-cost Tacx smart trainer is the Vortex.  I like to think of this as the "not wireless Bushido", as the features are similar.  It doesn't provide quite as much resistance (950 watts), but it's still plenty for most riders.  At $549.99, this is the most affordable smart trainer here.  Pricewise, it competes with the CycleOps Magnus, KICKR SNAP, and Kinetic Road Machine.

Read more about the Vortex Smart here.

Wahoo Fitness

Wahoo currently offers two smart trainers - the KICKR and KICKR SNAP.

KICKR - $1,199.99
The KICKR has been recently refreshed.  The new version has an updated drivetrain, flywheel, and software to make it quieter and more accurate (+/- 2%).  Wahoo also added a handle which, if you've ever picked one of these beasts up, you'll appreciate.  The MSRP is unchanged at $1199.99.

Read more on the KICKR at this link.

KICKR SNAP - $699.99
The KICKR SNAP is unchanged for this season.  I've set up quite a few of these, and they are a good, solid trainer.  They are not quite as accurate as the KICKR, but for the price, that can be forgiven.  The new competition in this price range will certainly put some pressure on Wahoo.  The price remains unchanged at $699.99.

Read more about the KICKR SNAP here.


We are seeing more competition in the smart trainer market, with more affordable options starting to arrive.  With smart trainers priced as low as $549.99 for the Tacx Vortex Smart, we've come a long way since the days when the CompuTrainer was the only game in town.  There are 4 smart trainers in the sub-$700 range - the Tacx Vortex Smart, the KICKR SNAP, Kinetic Road Machine Smart Control, and the CycleOps Magnus.  If direct-drive is your thing, the KICKR, Tacx NEO, Tacx FLUX, CycleOps Hammer, and Elite Real Turbo Muin B+ will give you options starting at about $900.  As consumers, we should be happy to have choices!

If you are interested in getting a new trainer, these are all available from Vector Cycle Works.  With any trainer purchase, I will deliver it to your house (within a reasonable distance) and help you get it set up, including setup with any training software (TrainerRoad, PerfPRO Studio, The Sufferfest, Zwift, etc.) that you may be using.

Call Travis at 317-833-0702 or e-mail at if you are interested!

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