- Build Quality
CycleOps Hammer Trainer Review
2016 has been a big year for direct drive trainers, with new models from Tacx, Elite and Cycleops just to name a few. We managed to get hold of the new Cycleops Hammer trainer, read our long term review below.
Cycleops has been mostly known for their Powertap hub and has made solid performing turbo trainers for years, under its own name and the PowerTap brand.
Cycleops have now released their first turbo trainer into the direct drive market. Direct drive means you can remove your rear wheel and mount your bike directly to the trainer, eliminating the wheel and the tire. The Hammer sits in the same price range as the as Wahoo KICKR at $1,199. Going by this, it seems when Cycleops developed the Hammer trainer they took into consideration the Wahoo KICKR smart as their primary competitor.
The Cycleops Hammer trainer looks like a well-built unit, and some long-term developments have definitely gone into their first direct drive smart trainer.
I’ve spent many hours on the CycleOps Hammer trainer, building up for the 2017 season. So let’s get started and see how the Hammer performed.
Cycleops Hammer Trainer Key Features:
- Noise level measured at 20 mph is 64 decibels
- PowerTap technology tuned for accurate power readings
- Thru-axle compatible for 142mm or 148mm.
- Integrated dual ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth 4.0 technologies.
- Compatible with CycleOps VirtualTraining, Zwift, TrainerRoad and other virtual software.
- 20 lb flywheel
- Up to 2000 watts at 20 mph and up to a 20% gradient.
- Integrated front wheel holder provides stability for the front wheel.
- Internally cooling technology ensures accurate data
- Folding legs provide added stability and easy storage.
- Shimano freehub for compatibility of 8-11 speed cassettes.
- Firmware updates via Bluetooth 4.0.
- The weight of trainer 47 lb (21.3 kg).
- +/- 3% accurate power readings
- Transmits power and speed data
- Cadence sensor stick sold separately
- ANT+ and BlueGiga USB sold separately
- Cassette not included.
What’s Included With The Hammer
The CycleOps Hammer trainer arrived packaged well, similar to that of the Elite Drivo we recently reviewed, it had arrived securely, fixed inside the box and undamaged. However, just like the Elite Drivo, there was no cassette included and nor any quick release.
The cadence sensor stick wasn’t included in the package and neither the ANT+ and BlueGiga USB, which was a disappointment. Both of these are available separately from Cyclops dealers but at an extra cost.
Lifting the Hammer trainer out of the box, unlike the Elite and Wahoo trainers, the Hammer had a nice developed handle which seemed like it was designed to evenly balance the trainer while carrying around. Weighing over 5kg more than the Elite Drivo, it was still a heavy beast to carry around, but the handle did help a lot with this.
The Hammer trainer comes pre-built, with legs pre-connected to the unit. Making it even a quicker install than the Elite Drivo to get started.
The trainer comes with numerous threaded caps that attach to the trainer’s hub working with 130mm, 135mm, 142mm, and 148mm axles. This allows you to directly attach your bike to the trainer, using the existing thru-axle or Quick Release your bike came with. This allows the CycleOps Hammer trainer to fit all modern road and mountain bikes, although don’t expect it to fit a fat bike.
- 130 mm: quick release for road bike
- 135 mm: quick release for mountain bikes
- 142 mm: road bikes or mountain bikes with a thru-axle
- 148 mm: mountain bikes with a thru-axle
Cyclops include a wheel block with the Hammer to provide added stability, keeping the front wheel from moving. The nice design also allows the wheel block for nesting within the trainer when not in use.
Information was included to get started with their Cyclops virtual training app available for Android, Mac and PC versions which are available for download here https://www.cycleops.com/
Let’s get started
Once I had unboxed the CycleOps Hammer trainer and set up the software from their Virtual Training app I was ready to go. To my surprise, as with the Elite Drivo, there is no calibration function. However, they provide a spin test in the app which you are advised to do before you ride. Their Virtual app was easy to find both from the information provided and a quick google search.
Using the CycleOps Virtual Training app, you can ride routes from all around the world. The app tracks your training data and you can also pre-program your workouts, which are customizable and the training app will automatically control the resistance of the trainer. CycleOps offer a 2-week free trial which is downloadable online. It’s a well-designed platform, easy to navigate and setup.
CycleOps VirtualTraining I found can run on multiple devices without any problems, and worked well to set up and perform structured efforts on the smart trainer.
The first thing that struck me about the CycleOps Hammer trainer was the build. It really does feel as though the engineers spent their time on the design. The design was sturdy, and not merely a plastic box to cover the internals like the Elite Drivo. The trainer’s legs provided a reasonably stable platform, but like the Drivo, lacked stability while sprinting out of the saddle, adding an optional extension to the legs would have helped solve the problem on both the Elite Drivo and the CycleOps Hammer. The front wheel stabilizer provided with the trainer worked well even though it isn’t needed, I found myself using this to provide some added stability.
The CycleOps Hammer trainer provides a 9kg flywheel which is around nearly double that of the Wahoo KICKR. While the Tacx Neo is a simulated flywheel. For future note: it’s not the size of the flywheel the counts but how you use it.
During some of my long rides and 20min efforts, the resistance adjusted quickly and smoothly with the the Virtual App, while feeling very responsive to adjustments of gradients. I found the trainer lacks any problems with inertia, the sound was slightly quieter than the Elite Drivo, and about half of what you hear from the Lemond (take note the Lemond is an erg trainer). I didn’t measure the sound by a db meter but CycleOps claim 64 decibels at 20mph.
The Hammer trainer handled changes on Zwift very well or at least on a par with other top smart trainers such as the Tacx Neo and Wahoo Kickr. When using the Hammer for racing on Zwift it was excellent at responding to attacks from other riders with minimal power lag, likewise, when performing high-intensity intervals in workout mode the trainer responded excellently. Although, it’s hard to judge this as an exact science entirely since there are numerous things that affect the end result. Such as internet connection, Zwift servers, and your computer. Sometimes the delay of 1sec can affect the response of a trainer for 5-10secs
The CycleOps Hammer trainer has a claimed accuracy of 3% which is slightly less than that of the Elite Drivo and Tacx Neo. I tested the Hammer against my SRM and Stages power meters I had lying around, the claimed averages seem to track with both my SRM and Stages power meters well. I found the biggest difference in tracking was when I pushed over 800watts. The percentage difference was more noticeable. I was disappointed that a trainer with such a high cost as this, was behind other trainers in accuracy when it costs the same amount of money.
The resulting data from the power tended to look more like outside wattage. No smooth geometric shapes and smooth correlation from the intervals I did. Changing the rate of the power recording could help with this but right now I don’t know if this is possible.
Starting at 15usd a month, it sits in the pricing range of most virtual training programs. One stand out function of the software, I was able to allow shared access. Which means it is possible to share your premium membership with another family member or so forth. Just like Zwift, you can connect with training partners online, but CycleOps limit up to four trainers together. The downside is that this is only available on PC and not Apple or Android devices.
The Software provides a database of “PainCave” workouts, which I found synced perfectly for use with the Hammer. Also provided was HD route content which, unfortunately, I didn’t trial out. Overall I found myself using Zwift rather than the CycleOps software as the functionality was much better. Zwift is still the leader of virtual riding software in my opinion.
Since the trainer can communicate with Bluetooth, ANT+ or FE-C. You are able to connect via your Garmin Edge device or other devices such as Garmin Forerunner and Wahoo Element without any major problems.
I recommend exporting the data into Trainingpeaks to get the best out of the power meter. You can analyze the data better than the Virtual software from CycleOps or Zwift. Making the data more useful to analyze and plan your training for the season.
Long-Term Thoughts On The CycleOps Hammer Trainer
I enjoyed using the CycleOps Hammer trainer. I was impressed with the noise level and how noticeable the controlled resistance was to a particular set session. Using the Hammer trainer, the controlled resistance puts you close to the target power, within 20w or so which allows you to fine-tune your effort to match the set power.
Personally, I found the Hammer’s approach feels more natural to outside riding, but then I also feel the Elite Drivo performed slightly better with this function. The Drivo also allowed fixed wattage settings, allowing the user to customize what program suits them best, hence the Drivo slightly outperforming the Hammer.
Compared to the Wahoo KICKR, the data is less controlled but gives the ride a more natural feel.
My first month of workouts I had no noticeable dropouts Via Zwift, only some connection problems when connecting to the trainer. These, most likely caused by the interference of other ANT+ wearables I had going at the same time. All in all, it worked slightly better than the Drivo with Ant+ connectivity.
The Hammer smart trainer gave a very realistic ride feeling and transitions felt good starting a climb, similar to that of the Drivo. Like the Drivo, it was a pleasure to climb but is restricted to 20% gradients. At present this is not a problem on Zwift as, as of yet, there’s no 20% gradient climbs, however, some of the real life rides from the CycleOps virtual training app could take you above the 20% mark.
The folding legs ( once locked into position, into the side of the trainer) provide a very compact 31×18.5 inch footprint which allowed the Hammer to be tucked away out of sight, making the trainer reasonably smaller but still not as compact as a traditional fluid or magnetic trainer.
I was really pleased with the performance of the CycleOps Hammer trainer. It outshone all expectations in both sound and road feel. The build quality was outstanding, and after months of use the trainer held up well, without any expansion of plastic. I was disappointed no cassette was provided, but this by the looks of it is becoming the norm between trainer manufacturers. The lack of provided ANT+ and BlueGiga USB was a bit of a disappointment also, I felt that it would’ve been a nice touch to have provided these with a trainer of this price.
The weight of the CycleOps Hammer was a downside, but the well-placed handle made carrying it a lot easier and the extra weight provided a small amount of more stability than other direct drive trainers on the market.
The power tracked very well below 800watts with my SRM, but floated more during harder all out efforts. For a trainer costing this much, it’s a disappointment to see it not on par with other smart trainers of this value.
You certainly don’t need to use a smart trainer like the CycleOps Hammer to ride on Zwift or TrainerRoad, but it certainly makes the experience a whole lot better and super immersive.
Overall, the CycleOps Hammer trainer is extremely well built with excellent functionality. It maybe slightly over priced compared to other trainers, when you consider the power accuracy, but this trainer is built to last and would be an excellent investment for anyone looking to buy a high-end smart trainer.
Enjoy our CycleOps Hammer trainer review? Read more reviews here.
Read CycleOps Hammer trainer reviews on Amazon below.