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The State of Smart

From integrated data collection to interactive ride simulators like Zwift, cyclists have rightly come to expect much more from our trainers than we did only a few years ago. Where indoor training once meant endless hours of monotony, the current state of indoor training brings fun into the equation in a big way. Connecting with other cyclists the world over injects a friendly spark of competition into this previously mind-numbing exercise, and the upshot is that staying fit in the off season has never been easier or more enjoyable.

Choose Wisely

When taking the plunge into the world of smart trainers, it pays to know what you’re looking for. Many riders will gravitate towards direct drive units for their exceptionally accurate power measurements and superior stability, with the class leaders offering realistic road feel that’s responsive to the variable road surfaces found in many online training environments. For other riders, wheel-on units may be more attractive for their comparative economy and easier storage. Regardless of which you prefer, there is an option that will suit your needs perfectly. Read on to see our picks for the best of the bunch.

Wahoo Fitness KICKR

Wahoo’s pinnacle KICKR is widely regarded as THE standard bearer in smart trainers. This tech packed direct drive unit boasts +/- 2% accuracy, putting it on par with the finest dedicated power meters available. Its neigh-silent operation means your training won’t drive the rest of your household to distraction. And it’s compatible with quick releases and thru axles, ensuring maximum compatibility well into the future. For the ultimate experience, pair the KICKR with Wahoo’s KICKR Climb unit, which adjusts your pitch in response to inclines in your online training environment.

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Wahoo Fitness KICKR Snap

The KICKR Snap may be Wahoo’s entry level offering, but the fact remains that this wheel-on trainer is a genuinely impressive unit and a worthy starting point for those looking to do their winter training in an online environment. The claimed +/- 5% accuracy is sufficient for all but the most demanding users. The wheel-on design makes for easy setup and takedown, and it stores easily for those working with limited space. Wahoo’s user friendly technology package is just the icing on the cake.

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Tacx Neo Smart

Striking as it may be, the real beauty of the Neo Smart is hidden beneath its unapologetically modern exterior. This sleek direct drive unit is arguably most noteworthy for its focus on providing the most realistic simulated road feel available when used in ecosystems that offer the option, such as Zwift. As one might expect, it’s nearly silent and immensely stable, which comes in handy during full gas sprint efforts. And while it is compatible with quick releases out of the box, there are adapters available for nearly any conceivable use. This unit has earned the respect it’s given by those in the know.

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Elite Direto

For those seeking the stability and accuracy of a direct drive trainer at a more modest asking price, Elite’s Direto represents an unparalleled value in the space. Although it’s both physically larger and arguably less aesthetically refined than some other options, its impressive +/- 2.5% accuracy and variable resistance, which simulates grades up to 14%, should reinforce that the Direto gives up precious little to the class leaders. That it manages to do so for hundreds of dollars less will make it an appealing option to riders of any level looking to enhance their training experience.

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CycleOps H2

If you’ve been in the game for any length of time, you know that CycleOps is synonymous with exceptional training equipment. Nowhere is that more evident than the direct drive H2 unit. Capable of withstanding 2,000 watt efforts and simulating grades up to 20%, this burly unit is built to be ridden day in and day out by the most demanding racers on the planet. And we’d be remiss if we overlooked its low profile shape and integrated carry handle, both of which aid in storage and setup, and help to distinguish this premium unit from its very impressive competition.

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CycleOps M2

Don’t mistake the M2 for your father’s stationary trainer. Although its appearance harkens back to the days when trainer choice came down to fluid or magnetic resistance, this reliable wheel-on option brings all of CycleOps’s extensive experience to bear. Built to withstand sprint efforts of 1,500 watts, and capable of mimicking the resistance of a 15% grade, this is an excellent choice for both smart training newbies, as well as demanding riders who prefer the ease of storage and comparative economy that come with the wheel-on territory.

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