"Road feel" is what just about every indoor trainer chases in some fashion. It makes sense, as most of us prefer riding outside. Most companies use a weighted flywheel along with some kind of magnetic or fluid resistance to give you that elusive feeling. A few use a computer program to create the magnetic resistance. Only Kinetic by Kurt employs a resistance unit and frame designed to mimic the natural movement of riding out on the open road. They put both parts together in the Rock and Roll Trainer.
Kinetic answers the resistance issue with their Road Resistance Unit. The roller itself is the first part of the solution. It's made of stainless steel and is 2.5in (6.35cm) in diameter, which is a good bit larger than much of the competition. The larger roller means less wear on your tire and it reduces the temperature of the spinning elements. The right side has a 6.25-pound (2.84kg) flywheel, the heaviest around, which is what gives the feeling of momentum when you're spinning up to speed, holding speed, and slowing down. On the left side is a unique two-part resistance unit, which is the heart of their system.
The resistance unit is unique as it's made of two parts. The first is the driver made of a small flywheel embedded with six rare-earth magnets. The other half is a completely sealed cast-aluminum fluid chamber that is bolted to the housing containing the driver. The fluid chamber contains an impeller with corresponding magnets. As you ride, the magnets in the driver spin the impeller through medical-grade silicone fluid to provide the resistance. And since there is no drive shaft entering the fluid chamber, the Kinetic design eliminates a common design weakness of most fluid-resistance units.
Of course, the system builds heat; your energy has to go somewhere (in this case friction). However, the fluid acts as a coolant and the chamber has 80 cooling fins on the outside that act like radiator fins. It's impossible to overheat the chamber or reach a point where performance is diminished. The silicone fluid retains its physical properties, even up to the normal operating temperature of 325˚ F when riding 25mph.
There are several benefits to this system. Because it doesn't overheat, the viscosity of the fluid doesn't change, and that results in a consistent road-like power curve that increases as your speed increases. They've even published a chart to show exactly what speed goes with how many watts. To give you an example, it takes 143w to ride at 15mph, 258w at 20mph, and 25mph will take 430 watts.
You've certainly noticed that the Rock and Roll Trainer doesn't have the traditional dual triangle frame that most stationary trainers have. That's because they want the bike to be free to sway and bob. Instead, Kinetic builds it with an ultra-wide footprint on the bottom for stability. Then the resistance unit and support legs for the bike are mounted atop a beefy set of plates that sandwich two sets of two elastomers. This spring-loaded arrangement allows the bike to sway up to 15˚ laterally and bob up and down a bit, just like you'd feel on the road. Kinetic by Kurt recommends buying their Turntable Riser Ring to go with this trainer. This is, as it suggests, a riser that is mounted on a "Lazy Susan" type turntable so your front wheel can turn or sway.
There are many reasons for wanting "road feel" on your trainer. Seated riding is one thing, but standing on the pedals to accelerate or sprint or stretch your legs are basic cycling acts that are weird and uncomfortable on traditional stationary trainers. Here, you can stand out of the saddle and come very close to the feeling and the power produced when standing on the bike when riding outside. But it's more than just this. Having the bike move underneath you on the trainer will help maintain the core muscles that you use when you ride outside. This way, your first springtime ride will be natural and comfortable, and you'll have the upper body control necessary for long base miles without excessive muscles soreness.
The Rock and Roll Trainer can accommodate 24in to 29in wheels as sold here. The clamp assembly is designed to work with axles up to 160mm in width, and it uses a knob on the left side to dial down the axle adjuster and a cam on the right to lock the wheel in place when mounting the bike.
Kinetic makes a bike computer that can show power as you're riding the unit. It's sold separately, but it's an easy addition if you want to track your wattage as you train inside. The trainer comes with a quick release skewer that's matched against the cone cups that hold the bike in place. And because the Rock and Roll is all about balance, they suggest placing the rear wheel right in the middle of the roller.
Kinetic by Kurt is so bullish on their technology that the Rock and Roll Trainer comes with an unconditional lifetime warranty. In assembled form it is 42in wide, but the legs can be inserted so the width is 36in to better fit in narrow spaces. The legs can be pulled apart and the unit returned to its box (which measures 27in x 24in x 10in) for easier storage.