Bike trainer of choice for some of the top professional road cycling teams, Wahoo are synonymous with indoor bike trainers and the Kickr Core brings the American brand’s home trainer know-how into a mid-priced package.
When shopping for indoor cycling trainers, there are three main points to consider: How realistic is it? How accurate are its power measurements? And how quiet and convenient is it for indoor use? The Kickr Core delivers first-class performance in all three of these aspects.
While you can move up the Kickr range for even more realism and a burlier flywheel, the Kickr Core delivers everything you could need for top-class indoor training. The brand prides itself on how connective its smart indoor trainers are too – you can link it with apps such as Zwift and Trainer Road. It can simulate gradients up to 14 percent and is accurate to within two percent.
The Saris CycleOps M2 is a smart, interactive trainer with the feel of a more traditional home cycling trainer. It is a wheel-on smart trainer, which means you simply slot your bike into place, as opposed to direct-drive models that take the place of your back wheel.
It means the M2 comes in at a more budget-friendly price tag, however, while still offering smart features like automated resistance and connectivity to apps like Zwift and Rouvy.
Saris deploy an electromagnetic resistance, which can replicate a 15 percent gradient and withstand up to 1,500 watts of power. Saris claim power measurements are accurate to within five percent, and cadence, speed, and power data are all integrated so there is no need for external sensors.
It is a smart trainer, with all the features you need for interactive indoor bike training, but in a classic A-frame design and a more affordable price.
The Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 is an entry point into interactive, indoor bike training. It is a fluid resistance trainer but, with no add-ons or additional sensors needed, is compatible with a huge range of devices and apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, and Rouvy.
The battery-powered Smart 2 transmits speed, cadence and power data to external apps. Resistance is not automatic, however – that is controlled by the rider and apps do not communicate back to the device.
If you do not want to pay top dollar but still want access to the likes of Zwift, however, the Smart 2 is ideal – and the Kinetic tire-drive trainer is adaptable to fit wheels as small as 16”, making it perfect for limited space too. If you have, for example, a folding bike and a Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2, you have a space-saving, indoor trainer set-up ready to unfold.
Tacx broke the mold when they first launched the Neo in 2016 and a measure of its success is that it remained among the best in the market from then on – until the Dutch firm launched the eagerly-awaited successor, the 2T. Compared to the original, groundbreaking Neo, the 2T is quieter and more powerful, while Tacx have worked on improving an already impressive ride feel.
Tacx have deployed space-age looks and, beneath the surface is their innovative space-age tech. Resistance and ride simulation is served up by a virtual flywheel – the key to the Neo’s immense popularity, given the accurate ride feel it therefore transmits. When set-up, it features a very wide – but therefore very stable – footprint, but it folds neatly away.
Tacx were also one of the first smart turbo trainer brands to ensure widespread connectivity – so you can train with Zwift, TrainerRoad and more.
Wahoo have been trusted by the likes of Tour de France winners Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and Egan Arley Bernal to deliver their indoor training needs and the Kickr is their top-of-the-range model.
This is the same model as used by the pros, outperforming the mid-price Kickr Core thanks to a monster 16lb flywheel, which can simulate some of the toughest climbs.
Compatible with all modern training apps, as well as Wahoo’s own Fitness app, the Kickr can adjust a maximum gradient of up to 20 percent, while a robust construction can withstand up to 2,200 watts of power.
It delivers accurate power measurement to within two percent and, unlike the Kickr Core, it comes supplied with an 11-speed Shimano/SRAM compatible cassette and a cadence sensor. It comes at a cost, naturally, but if you can afford it then why not opt for the best?
Italian firm Elite are another giant of the indoor trainer market and the Direto X is their successful attempt to bring that industry-leading tech to a broader market at a (slightly) more affordable price point.
It is a direct-drive indoor bike trainer and offers widespread connectivity and a good level of accuracy (within 2.5 percent) from its built-in power meter. That is top-end functionality without the top-end cost.
Accuracy is one of Elite’s major selling points – their top-end trainers improve accuracy to within one percent but that means the slightly less-advanced Direto X can still boast a competitive measure. You can pay a lot more for similar accuracy.
Combined with an ability to simulate climbs up to 14 percent, and with a maximum power output of 1,400 watts, the Direto X can rightly claim to be top of the mid-range indoor cycling trainers.
Getting your hands on one of the best bike trainers does not need to cost an eye-watering amount – which is why the Saris CycleOps Fluid2 can boast of being the best-selling indoor bike trainer in the states.
Why is it so popular? It is a fuss-free home cycling trainer which strips things back to basics, while still offering long-serving durability and a smooth ride. Durability is the keyword here, with reviews of the Fluid always pointing to the reliability of its build quality and construction.
Unlike smart trainers, the fluid resistance is not adjustable but increases as your power increases. It is, therefore, best aimed at riders looking for long, steady training rides and, if that is your indoor bike training goal, the Fluid2 gives a natural ride feel.
Though not suited to more advanced, out-of-the-saddle efforts, as an entry point into indoor training, the Fluid2 ticks plenty of boxes.
Now for something completely different, the Elite Arion Digital Smart B+, which proves trainers are not your only smart indoor bike training option.
If you want greater freedom of movement, rollers are a second option – and another popular on the professional circuit for a quick spin of the legs. The problem with rollers when it comes to indoor training, however, is they are usually not interactive – which is where the Arion carves its niche.
These are rollers, but with connectivity to use with third-party apps. They offer automated, adjustable resistance – which communicates with those apps accordingly – and so brings smart, interactive training to those who prefer rollers to turbos.
There are some pitfalls to opting for rollers – noise, for example – and the Arion’s power measurements at high speed are also questionable. As a result, this is a trainer built more for steady indoor training rides.