Best Smart Turbo Trainers Guide
It’s wise to have a sense of direction and some form of entertainment whilst sweating it out on your turbo trainer. Therefore, possessing precise information about your power – or even having a good grasp on power that’s required, is a much-needed commodity for training. Smart turbo trainers offer you exactly this. Check out our guide to the best smart turbo trainers available below.
Every company’s definition of “smart” differs. There are units that are ANT+, making them require a dongle to link to your phone, computer or tablet, but can nevertheless connect to the majority of bike computers. There are those that only work with Bluetooth, which makes them able to link to electronic appliances without using a dongle – but are unable to link with the majority of cycle computers. The CycleOps smart turbo trainers are designed for use with either ANT+ or Bluetooth not both. Other smart turbo trainers are so advanced that they have the ability to connect using both protocols making it possible for you to link with the device of your choice.
Smart turbo trainers have two major advantages and they’re both connected to interactivity. They utilize their ability to measure power and cadence to not only animate virtual riding games like Zwift & Bkool, but also to utilize specific training programs like TrainerRoad. Although, all these can also be achieved using a normal trainer and a power meter.
One great thing about smart turbo trainers is the ability of third-party software like Zwift and TrainerRoad to regulate resistance when riding. If you suddenly come up against a hill when using Zwift, you’ll notice that you have to grind out power; likewise, on TrainerRoad the requisite power immediately drops to the level recommended once you come to a rest interval.
What To Put Into Consideration When Buying a Smart Turbo Trainer
1. Trainer Brain
Here, the smart turbo trainers provide everything starting from monitoring accurate wattage to wireless connectivity. It is, however, necessary for you to always be sure of the compatibility with other devices and know if you’ll require additional sensors to enjoy the entirety of its functions.
2. Direct Drive Trainer
Direct drive smart turbo trainers substitute your back wheel with their own cassette and axle. With that, handling is enhanced and problems of tyre wear eliminated. Also, with the larger flywheel, you’re sure of a smoother and more enriched ride. The downside is that they’re often heavy and expensive.
3. Rear Wheel Axle Clamp
The choice of smart turbo trainer is often affected by the presence of several axle standards. Though trainers that are 142x12mm-compatible are still quite scarce, a lot of direct-mount or wheel driven trainers can handle 130 or 135mm QR axles.
4. Wheel Driven Trainer
A metal or urethane roller compressed against the back tyre is what the regular wheel-driven smart turbo trainer utilizes. Though less expensive than the direct-mount designs, they wear out tyres easily and are generally louder and a little bit unstable.
5. Type of Trainer Frame
You should go for a frame that is heavy and stable enough to ensure that your bike is locked down securely enough to prevent it from wobbling when you’re putting down full gas efforts. The downside is that the heavier frames are unavoidably more difficult to store and transport.
6. Trainer Brake
A lot of brakes produce a contract free resistance using a magnet and metal disc. For fluid brakes, what is used is a paddle in an oil tank which builds intensity the harder you pedal. The flywheel essentially determines the smoothness of your pedal stroke.
The Best Smart Turbo Trainers
Best Smart Turbo Trainers No. 1 – Tacx Flux Smart Turbo Trainer
The Tacx Flux Smart turbo trainer can also be referred to as a direct drive trainer; because it substitutes the back wheel of your bike by use of a mounted cassette. This helps eliminate issues such as tire wear, tire noise, and tire slippage, it also holds you and the bike more securely than a regular turbo trainer would.
Even though there are less expensive direct drive smart trainers out there, at present, the Tacx Flux smart turbo trainer is the cheapest currently available one that utilizes complete F-CE smart integration.
At the end of the day, features like the bolted crosspiece which creates a steady but bulky tripod stance, instead of the folding wings of the more expensive Tacx Neo Smart help to keep costs down.
Ever since Tacx created its first interactive turbo trainer 17 years ago, there’s been an array of 3D tracks and films in the free Tacx Cycling app and pay-to-play fourth generation Tacx turbo trainer software which can all be traced back to Tacx’s Cloud storage.
The Flux is actually remarkably accurate once you get it started with only a few peculiarities that can easily be overlooked. Overall, it bridges the price gap between regular and smart turbo trainers and at the same time offers all the benefits of a direct drive smart turbo trainer. At present, it’s the only unit within its price range to do so.
Best Smart Turbo Trainers, No.2 – Tacx Vortex Smart Turbo Trainer
The Tacx Satori’s easy set-up, stress-free connectivity, and user-friendly apps are what the Tacx Vortex Smart turbo trainer builds upon, by electrifying the brake. What this means is that you can alter resistance using the gradient settings or adjustable power on the free and brilliant Tacx app or other third party training software.
One downside is that riders that are very powerful will overrun the Vortex smart trainer because the resistance tops out at 7% slope or 950W, it will, however, be okay for the rest of us mere mortals. The power data is extremely accurate and the Vortex smart trainer produces an extremely smooth feeling along with road-like momentum that is indeed very realistic. The settings though accurate, are a bit slow to update, however, this is a common feature among non-direct drive smart turbo trainers. When the Vortex is not activated as a smart turbo trainer, you can also use it as a fluid feeling turbo trainer that offers progressive resistance.
Best Smart Turbo Trainers, No.3 – Tacx Satori Smart Turbo Trainer
If your desire is to have the latest training software or you just want to make your turbo training sessions more tech-friendly, the Tacx Satori Smart turbo trainer is the right choice. Like a lot of affordable smart turbo trainers, it can be quite loud when at high speed and if you don’t get the right tension, the metal-sheathed roller can cause annoying slippage when sprinting. The Satori’s wide spread leg base is steady, the axel lock and roller engagement is fast and secure, and it is also designed to be used in conjunction with a riser block on the front wheel. It produces a smooth and balanced feeling when riding, and it also comes with a mechanical lever to beef-up resistance.
It doesn’t require a mains hook-up because it generates its own ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart signals. In addition, it can easily sync power, speed and cadence data to Android, iOS, and Windows PCs. It has a free training software that is not only intuitive but also fairly well matched with Zwift or any other online simulator.
The Best Smart Turbo Trainers, No.4 – Tacx Neo Smart Turbo Trainer
Although the multi-colored LED light underneath the Tacx Neo smart turbo trainer might come across as a clever sales gimmick, it shouldn’t distract from the high functionality of this fantastic smart turbo trainer. Some of its strong suits include; its ability to work without being plugged into a mains supply, its smooth and noiseless setup, and precision accurate power. The Tacx Neo smart turbo trainer is a wonderful option, the only real negatives being the cost and that it has to be used with a front wheel riser block.
The Best Smart Turbo Trainers, No.5 – Wahoo Kickr Smart Turbo Trainer
The new Wahoo Fitness Kickr smart trainer is just as sturdy as the previous one and can connect rapidly through ANT+ or Bluetooth to PCs, smartphones, and bike computers. The updates, which include 11-speed compatibility, an ergonomic grip, and comfortable plug-in location, are welcome developments.
Wahoo states that the new unit is less noisy. According to my tests, I would be inclined to agree with this statement.
The Wahoo Fitness Kickr smart turbo trainer comes equipped with an inbuilt power meter that not only lets you measure your efforts precisely but to also have control over them, which can be done using a couple of methods.
When it comes to hardware, the Wahoo Fitness Kickr has a quick adjustment to fix heights for 700c, 650c, and 29in bikes, and the spacing of the hub allows for use with road or mountain bikes. The hub height of the unit matches that of the preferred wheel size which makes front wheel riser blocks unnecessary.
The Wahoo Fitness Kickr smart turbo trainer though costly is an outstanding tool. Its ability to dial in exact wattage resistance, which is lab-like, is a big training advantage and when combined with structured workout software like TrainerRoad, it can take indoor solo training to a whole new level. Likewise, when used with Zwift it offers an awesome turbo training experience.
The Best Smart Turbo Trainers, No.6 – Elite Drivo Smart Turbo Trainer
Before now, Elite’s turbo trainer line up already offered maximum power output and accuracy Pro rider proof turbo trainers, but with the new Elite Drivo smart trainer, you’re being introduced to another level of lab quality level data and accuracy.
Though the Elite Drivo smart turbo trainer is extremely heavy to carry around, but with its pre-fitted cassette and only the legs to swivel into place you’re good to go straight out of the box.
The pre-calibrated wattage power reading is super accurate and has multiple sensor sources, which when used with an optional strap on cadence sensor it will even offer up an examination of your pedal stroke.
With a butter smooth spin and 2,200 watts max resistance, you can survive any sprint and still get 950Watts of resistance at 20kph for 25% gradient simulationsns. There’s a probability of the three point stance wobbling if you get excessively wild, and although the large plastic Star Wars AT-AT style casing prevents free-range pets and toddlers from getting crushed by moving parts, you’ll have to take care with the bike and chain to prevent it from appearing grimy.
Elite’s Myetraining software and apps have amazing data and an array of virtual rides/tests/simulations, and even though this is great software, it still requires a lot of patience to decipher. The Elite Drivo Smart turbo trainer really is a top notch Pro level bit of kit but as expected this is reflected in its eye-watering price.
The Best Smart Turbo Trainers, No.6 – Kurt Kinetic Rock n Roll 2.0 inRide Turbo Trainer
The Kurt Kinetic Rock n Roll 2.0 possesses a lower frame that is excessively heavy and bulky which attaches to bike and brake mount, and is placed on a huge rubber block that helps you lean when cornering and swing from side to side when performing out of the saddle efforts. However, a dedicated swiveling front wheel mount (extra cost) is required for the Rock n Roll 2.0 to perform correctly. It does however, feel unexpectedly realistic, especially when you use it with a POV ride simulation or race footage. Through in a massive flywheel and fluid brake, and you’ll discover an extremely smooth turbo trainer offering one of the most natural ride feels on test.
Kinetics inRide sensor pod, which also costs extra, utilizes the free kinetic app or other synced software and turns it into a smart turbo trainer with accurate wattage reading, cadence, speed, and data.
The Best Smart Turbo Trainers, No.7 – Wahoo Fitness Kickr Snap Smart Turbo Trainer
For a lot less money, Wahoo Fitness’s Kickr Snap smart turbo trainer mounts a smart brake very similar to the revolutionary Wahoo Fitness Kickr on a regular frame that is roller-driven. The Kickr Snap smart trainers maximum resistance is a bit lower and it’s a bit more noisy when compared to the original direct drive Kickr- although it is still a lot less noisy than many trainers. Though the inertia caused by the massive flywheel leads to tire slippage on standing starts, it also helps to maintain speed.
Even though it comes with the same frame design that can be found in some of the inexpensive trainers tested, it’s still very stable during sprints. Wahoo’s free, multi-screen app is not difficult to use and has an all-inclusive data. It can also connect directly to virtual ride or any other software through Bluetooth.
Best Smart Turbo Trainers Overall Verdict
With the vast differential in prices, it’s hard to directly compare all these units. However, if we take money out of the equation, then for me, the one smart trainer that stands clear at the top, is the Elite Drivo. The Tacx Neo is a close second, but the Drivo manages to match or exceed the Neo in all departments. It truly is a staggeringly awesome bit of kit, offering users the pinnacle of turbo training performance. The best budget smart trainer has to go to the Tacx Vortex. This is a tried and tested trainer that’s been around a few years now. It offers great value for money and for the price, the performance can’t be faulted. It’s one of the best selling, most popular smart turbo trainers available and there’s plenty a reason for that. You won’t go far wrong purchasing any of these smart turbo trainers, so maybe it’s time you ditch the ‘dumb’ trainer and smarten up your indoor training experience.
Check out the best smart turbo trainers available at Amazon.